Paradise in Agony

By: Usama Naeem Toor

If you have ever been to Banff, Alberta or British Columbia’s Yoho National Park, you’d only claim that the serenity and tranquillity overwhelms one into believing that they have reached Paradise. In such an atmosphere, you’d never want, neither expect, chaos and mayhem. However, in a similar setting but a different location, South Asia’s Heaven, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), is under siege right now. J&K, about which the Great Mughal Emperor Jahangir confessed that “If there is paradise on the face of the earth, it is here..” (Page Number 15 of the document, not the pdf, First Paragraph, Last 4 lines.), is currently facing severe tribulations, for 42 days now (2). The world, unfortunately, remains distant from it.


The subject of J&K has been a contentious one between both India and Pakistan since their independence in 1947. Being a disputed territory, mostly under Indian administration, J&K was protected by the Article 370 and 35A which granted it a “special status” within India and prevented a demographic shift of J&K (Line 2 – 5,Page 14, Paragraph 2 and line 3-10). The rationale being that if the UN-mandated referendum were ever conducted, it would be solely the Kashmiri population deciding the matter. However, with the rise of Hindu-Nationalism in India, and rising tensions against Pakistan, the BJP, India’s governing party, scraped both Articles on 5th August 2019(5). The scrapping was swiftly followed by the arrest of the Kashmiri political leadership, and Kashmir was placed under a severe curfew, rendering no-flow of information into or out of Kashmir (6). 


The provisions of Article 370 permitted the State of Jammu and Kashmir to be an autonomous state within India, having its own parliament, laws and even a flag (Page 1, Paragraph 1, Line 3-5). However, the scrapping now means that they are under Indian central government’s control, indirectly confirming that J&K is not a disputed territory, as its residents would characterise it, but rather a state within India. On the other hand, the scrapping of Article 35A, which designated as to who could claim to be a resident of J&K, and allowing only those people employment, landowning and settlement in J&K, also invoke serious consequences. (Page 14, Paragraph 2 and line 3-10) With the scrapping, vast amounts of Indians are now sanctioned to settle in J&K, which, as feared, might trigger a demographical change (7). 


Unfortunately, for the Kashmiris, the world has and will remain indifferent to the atrocities being committed. India, being a huge market, has the support of major powers within the United Nations (8), with the United States declaring it as India’s “internal decision” (9). Worse, the Muslim-majority Kashmiri population is not even supported by the Muslim Nations, with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) awarding India’s Prime Minister UAE’s most prestigious honour in the aftermath of this terrible act (10). Pakistan, with few of its supporters, only remains in the battlefield to contend for the Kashmiri people(11). However, in the face of such overwhelming support for India, it seems a rather futile endeavour. Ultimately, it appears that the salvation for South Asia’s Paradise, and also of its dwellers, remains a far-fetched prospect, for now. 


Usama Naeem Toor is a student of Economics and Business at Simon Fraser University. Born and raised in Pakistan, Usama’s main interest is understanding the central intricacies of the socio-economic situation of Pakistan, and to find its solutions. However, Usama possesses an interest in a wide range of subjects including World History, Islamic Philosophy and Jurisprudence, and current affairs. In his free time, Usama likes to read books, play videogames and sports such as Football, Cricket and Table Tennis, and hang out with friends.



  1. Numani, M. A. (2013). The Ecological History of Kashmir Under Emperor Nur-Ud-Din Muhammad Jahangir (1605-1627) (Doctoral dissertation, Aligarh Muslim University).
  2. Reuters. (2019, 16th September). Day 42 of Kashmir shutdown: Restore normal life to Valley, India’s top court tells Delhi. Retrieved from
  3. Wani, A., & Noorani, A. (2014). Article 370: A constitutional history of Jammu and Kashmir. Race and Class, 56(2), 93-95.
  4. Rai, M. (2018). The Indian Constituent Assembly and the Making of Hindus and Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir. Asian Affairs, 49(2), 205-221.
  5. Article 370: What happened with Kashmir and why it matters. (2019, 6th August). Retrieved from
  6. Desk, I. T. W. (2019, 5th August). Kashmir turmoil: Restrictions imposed in Srinagar, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti put under house arrest. Retrieved from
  7. Indians are Looking for Property Agents in J&K after Govt Scrapped Article 370. (2019, 6th August). Retrieved from
  8. ‘Sovereign decision’: Russian envoy backs India on Kashmir move. (2019, 28th August). Retrieved from
  9. Dutta, P. K. (2019, 26th August). Kashmir: Donald Trump and US govt speak different languages. Retrieved from
  10. Al Jazeera. (2019, 24th August). India’s Narendra Modi gets top UAE honour amid Kashmir crisis. Retrieved from
  11. Thakkar, C. (2019, 15th September). Why Pakistan Needs a New Strategy for the Pending Political Gulf Crisis. Retrieved from

Reflection on the event ”Islam and the Big Questions” hosted by MAC Youth Vancouver and SFU MSA

By: Hamza Malik


I had a proper wake-up call yesterday. Well, more like a full-on affirmation of something I had initially felt in my gut a few months ago. We do a great disservice in how we frame the potential of the everyday young Muslim. Let me explain what I mean. You know how so many Islamic preachers/du’aat and scholars/’Ulema today will rail on about how Muslims have left the teachings of the religion and stopped caring to the point where they don’t even care to learn the basics? How we’re so far gone and off the path of guidance, that it’s no wonder our mosques are empty? That it’s no surprise, due to our complacency, that the current and coming generations of young Muslims are having identity crises which in turn may or may not lead to them to leave Islam? Among other things. Now, they’re not entirely wrong of course. But they’re not entirely fair in these sorts of passe assessments either. Yesterday evening, I attended a program hosted by the SFU MSA. The topic itself was titled ‘Islam and the Big Questions’ by bro Bassam Abunnadi and covered a host of critical foundational questions relating to the existence of God, the critical role of rationality in arriving to truth and even covered the epistemic limits of the scientific method. The event itself was really an introduction to the subject of kalaam and the philosophy of science. For a 90 minute talk to condense all of these themes in one sitting was no small undertaking. So Masha’Allah, overall, the event and content covered was rock solid and well explained. May Allah SWA bless the organizers and Ustadh Bassam for his time. What truly surprised me was the turnout. The room was jampacked (left side snapshot below) I’d say it may have been in the ballpark of over 100 students. Primarily young people. The classroom could only accommodate 60-70 students. For an SFU MSA event on its secondary campus, with minimal advertising? That’s a massive turnout. I want to share another short account with you before I get to the main thrust of my idea, so as to drive my point home: Last December, myself and a few other local du’aat were invited to speak on what we felt were some of the key relevant issues ailing the Muslim community at a local masjid. The turnout that masjid got just for that 1 event was apparently some of the highest they’ve ever seen for a halaqa/youth gathering. 300-400 people between both men and women. (I’m sure part of the reason was the free food). And the topics we covered? Dealing with doubts, why we believe, a conversion story to Islam and clearing basic misconceptions on some apparently violent verses of the Qur’an. In terms of actual content, it was honestly really basic material in a very short period of time. After repeated instances and events of this nature, I came to the bittersweet realization that I had alluded to above: 1) the bitter: An overwhelming turnout for events of this nature, speaks to a deeper issue within our communities. What I am about to say is nothing new and has been pointed out by an increasing number of our du’aat and scholars: A large reason why so many adolescent and young Muslims feel disconnected from the masjid, from typical halaqas and religious gatherings/institutions is because rarely are they exposed to an in-depth critical, relevant overview of Islam that can ground their practice beyond blind faith. Rarely are Muslims actually engaged at an early age and in adolescence, on how to navigate and deal with challenging counter-philosophies, religions, Western thought, and other competing truth claims and worldviews. How to ground our emaan (belief) in Allah, in sufficient reason from first principles (not to be conflated with popular Christian apologetics). There is little incentive placed on us at an early age to go out of our way to want to learn about our Deen. Its strictly protocol because parents said so (in the cases where they even care to teach the basics to begin with). All we are left with secularized, ritualized Islam that’s only manifested in Ramadhan and in the confines of ones home. Is it any surprise people become disengaged and apathetic? Our masaajid and most of our Ulema and madrassa graduates frankly just don’t possess the background let alone even a basic understanding on how to tackle serious existential crises, ideological challenges and social issues in a principled, substantive way. Whether it be naturalism, materialism, secular humanism, evolution, homosexuality, sex ed, Islamic ethics, Islam and politics, the miracles of the Qur’an, contending with popular arguments posed by agnostics/atheists, etc. In a nutshell, a large reason for such a disconnect and apathy towards our religious institutions is the fact that most youth don’t see the relevance of the masaajid or their Qur’an/maktab teachers beyond fulfilling a basic ritualistic conception of Islamic practice, relegated to recitation of the Qur’an, wudhu and Salaah. All done because our parents said so. Usul al-Jahiliyya, the ways of the ignorant. Maybe a learning of the 5 pillars of Islam and the articles of faith. But *nothing beyond that*. It’s all reduced to khutbahs on the importance of obeying ones parents, the greatness of Allah, stories of the Prophets, other minor polemical issues (I.e. is music halal? Should we follow a Madhab?! The virtues of fasting, etc). You know exactly what I mean. All of these themes are important no doubt. These are the faraa’idh. But that’s all we’re left with. Which nicely transitions me to my second point: 2) the sweet: bearing the above considerations in mind, people really are yearning to connect with Islam, with the truth in a meaningful way. With real depth and profundity. Events like the one we had yesterday are almost always extremely well attended and well received (if done well) because we are THIRSTY for forums like these in an environment where these kinds of programs are in such shortage. Our knowledge production in these sorts of fields has been largely abysmal, so we’ll take any chance we can get to make it out to anything that seeks to dig deeper beyond the standard fare of grade school level Islamic pedagogy.. We are starving for these sorts of discourses in our circles. Balance your programs, your halaqaat, your events between the ritualistic and the relevant (not a true dichotomy but you get what I mean). Give the generation a reason to connect in substance. In content. People WILL come. Don’t underestimate the collective zeal of our generations to want to learn and understand. We don’t need snazzy marketing. We don’t need long, eloquent speeches. We don’t need AAA celebrity preachers. We don’t need bitesized motivational reminders. We don’t need comedy da’wah and edutainment. Some of my most cherished moments as I learned the Deen and those with the most profound impact on my growth were those teachers and intellectual heavyweights who are hidden from the public eye. Who go unnoticed but have done great things in service of the Deen. Give the fellow laypeople a chance and they will yearn for the substance. The ‘real stuff’. Why? Because seldom are these themes ever tackled outside of the halls of a university setting or the odd YouTube debate featuring some prominent Islamic personality. I’m talking grassroots stuff. If we want to keep telling our youth and kids that ‘Islam is a complete way of life!’ but never take an active effort to demonstrate or showcase WHY, don’t be surprised when you get apathy in return. If you want to ram into youth and kids that the Qur’an is infallible, that Allah necessarily exists, that Muhammad (sws) was indeed a Prophet of Allah, that the story of Yusuf (as) was the best of all stories, don’t just TELL them, show them why! Show don’t tell. Belief in the fundamentals of truth was not meant to be blind. So that is why we should come to realize that the problem ahead of us is a longstanding one. Uneasy to overcome but possible nonetheless. We need to *stop* writing off our current generation of Muslim youth. That’s not to say that apathy among the general public doesn’t exist. Of course it does. But it’s a two way street. WE should make a collective effort to work with one another to ensure that we can have such forums/gatherings and see an improvement in our institutions for the coming generation. Like I said, with the right mindframe, the youth can be reached. It’s entirely possible. All it requires is a reframing in our approach and our thinking and a geared cognizance of the pressing issues that afflict the every day Muslim on the ground. PS excuse the length as always. Just some passing Saturday morning thoughts.                                      *** Hamza is a 4th year political science student who possesses a keen interest in philosophy, religion and politics as a whole. When he’s not working or at school, he enjoys spending his free time reading, gaming and partaking in a variety of grassroots projects in his community.

War Zones

By : Rabia Siddiqui

I lie 
In the field 
Ready to die 
Not out of weakness
But to defend my own 

In the depths of the night 
My wounds bleed with my eyes 
Praying for peace 
As the bombs fly

Striding tall to hide the weak
Armour, guns, weapons and all
Walking with my heart so small

Suppressed are those feeling that deem me sane 
For this is not a place for those 
Sadness and sorrow
Weakness and wounds 
Not the time for those 

Walking miles in dusty boots 
With stains of blood
From those we knew

My heart will forever ache for those 
The ones who’s innocent lives were taken 
Blood spilled over 
Hate, fear, injustice and no truth 


Rabia Siddiqui is a first year student at UBC and an aspiring architect.


By: Ahmed Khan


Death is something that everyone agrees will happen to them. There will come a day where you will be buried by your loved ones and you will soon be forgotten. I guarantee you that day will come. When death arises to a loved one, questions begin to linger within our minds. What’s going to happen to them? Why did I ever disrespect them? Why would this happen to them? What exactly am I here for? What is the purpose of my existence? These questions require serious contemplation and force us to reevaluate ourselves.

It says in the Quran, “Competition in worldly affairs diverts you. Until you visit the graves (Quran 102:1-2). It is only once death hits us, that we are found contemplating the meaning of our existence. Death is what gives us a reality check that indeed all of us are here for a finite period of time and what matters to us now is how we used that finite period of time and what we did with it.

When you lose a loved one, it is common to experience depression and sadness to some extent. For some, this may be serious and for others its seen as a temporary state. When coping with this loss, it’s easy for one to lose their mind and go insane. “I’m never going to see or even hear them again. How am I supposed to move on from someone who played a vital role in my life?”. I myself began to seriously contemplate these questions.

I thank God for instilling a sense of faith in my life. For my family and others who deal with death, our faith is what keeps us going. Our faith is what brings us peace and contentment during these times. We fall back onto verses from our scripture to answer the questions that linger. “O you soul who is at peace. Return to your Lord, with Him being pleased with you. Come and enter my servant. Come enter my paradise (89:27-30)”. These verses were constantly recited by myself and my family which brought peace to us knowing our beloved is with our Lord and with Him being pleased with her. These soon became our favorite verses.

Without our faith, my family would have gone crazy reflecting on our loss and serious mental health issues would have arisen for us. My faith is something I cherish tightly because its something I can rely on whenever I am tested with hardships and tribulations. My faith is what keeps me going.


Ahmed Khan is currently the President of the SFU Muslim Students Association. He is a History Student but takes electives on everything. Ahmed loves reading in his spare time about Philosophy, Islam and contemporary issues. He is active within the community and hopes that his work inspires others to better themselves.