Friday, April 29, 2011

Cupping Therapy (Al-Hijama) in Karachi

Hijama is an Arabic alternative treatment to medicines and surgery. There are numerous Hadis mubaraka (sayings of Prophet Hazrat Muhammad salahu alihi wasalam) about getting hijama done to cleanse blood from the system. Following are some I was able to find over internet with due reference, which may be cross checked from sources mentioned:

"Oh Muhammad, order your Ummah (nation) with cupping (hijama)." [Saheeh Sunan Tirmidhee (3479)]

Hazrat Muhammad (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, "Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure." [Saheeh Muslim (5706)].

Hazrat Muhammad (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, "Whoever performs cupping (hijama) on the 17th, 19th or 21st day (of the Islamic month) then it is a cure for every disease." [Saheeh Sunan Abi Dawud (3861)].

and another version of this hadith / hadis:

Anas ibn Maalik (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, "When the weather becomes extremely hot, seek aid in cupping (hijama). Do not allow your blood to rage (boil) such that it kills you." [Reported by Hakim in his 'Mustadrak' and he authenticated it and Imam ad-Dhahabi agreed (4/212)].

Therefore, it is very clear that indeed the leader of all Prophets, the last Prophet of ALLAH, himself got hijama, with or without any disease. It is also clear that blood circulation always does not pass all the areas of the body thus worsening some parts or organs. Due to this problem with blood circulation hijama looks very appropriate instead of taking heavy medicines or getting surgeries.

Hearing about hijama for the first time positively shocked me into disbelief. I could not fathom that such a hadith was available. And if it ever was, then I wasn't surely aware of it. After searching internet for no more than 12 minutes I got loads of websites dedicated to this brilliant yet simple procedure.

I soon found myself, along with my good father, at the doorstep of Doctor Asif's clinic deep in F.B Area, Karachi. There, to my horror, I found men sitting half naked, their backs towards a bearded, young, energetic doctor wearing gloves and holding a surgical blade. Men were bleeding, some were confused others calm; there was also a boy with semi paralysis getting his blood sucked out. And doctor moved from one patient to another with no assistant. It was clear to me that this doctor was having a wonderful practice.

Hijama's procedure is as follows:

1) You tell your doctor your ailment, if any;
2) Doctor then suggests the points where he will suck the blood out;
3) You remove your clothes;
4) A glass cup is taken, a burning tissue is placed inside and this cup is then squeezed onto your skin. This creates a vacuum thus holding the glass cup in place;
5) After 10-15 minutes, when the skin has popped out due to vacuum, the cup is removed and small cuts with surgical blades are made on the popped out skin;
6) Then again the cup is filled with burning tissue and put in place and squeezed;
7) Blood trickles into the cup and you wait. Please no turning, I was told.

Later, perhaps after 20 minutes of blood sucking activity (literally) the cups are removed and the colour of blood shown to you. (Dr. Asif loves to show around darker shades of blood, just in case). Then, honey is applied on the cuts, tissue affixed. You pay the bill and you move away to make space for another patient. My fee for first time visit was Rs.600. And today he charged me Rs.450 for 3 points on my back. The most painful point is surely the one just behind where the neck ends. It is the first point doctors should treat and there is evidence from Hadith that this is a very important part where cupping / hijama should be performed.

Please also note that before you go to doctor for hijama your stomach should be empty (that you must not have eaten for min. of 3 hours, as recommended to me by Dr. Asif). Following hadith is also ample proof that hijama is best performed on an empty stomach:

Ibn Umar (may Allaah be pleased with him) reported that the Messenger (Sallallaahu Álayhi Wasallam) said, "Cupping (hijama) on an empty stomach* is best. It increases the intellect and improves the memory. It improves the memory of the one memorising. So whoever is going to be cupped then (let it be) on a Thursday in the name of Allaah. Keep away from being cupped on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Be cupped on a Monday or Tuesday. Do not be cupped on a Wednesday because it is the day that Ayub was befallen with a trial. You will not find leprosy except (by being cupped) on Wednesday or Wednesday night." [Saheeh Sunan ibn Maajah (3488)].

Unfortunately, my doctor sits only on Fridays and Saturdays, both of which are not recommended for in the hadith just quoted above. Next time I will surely ask my doctor about this.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Published: Inside Cover

Published: Inside Cover
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Yesterday got this email from my editor in Italy. My photograph taken at a wonderful mountain site of Fort Munro, one of the outposts of the Raj, was published in an Italian magazine. I am not sure about the story this photograph covers.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Suicide bombing at Sakhi Sarwar, Punjab

Sakhi Sarwar, Punjab
Originally uploaded by Ameer Hamza
Today's bomb blast at the Shrine of Hazrat Sakhi Sarwar Lakh Data (RA), a small town named after this Muslim Saint, has brought vivid memories of this place back to my mind. Memories which I had relegated to the back of my mind until today.

I and my friend, Adeel, had travelled to DG Khan, last major town on western side of Punjab (a border which touches the province of Balochistan) at the height of summer with little money, a camera and lots of contacts and enthusiasm. Our plan had been to see as many places in the shortest possible time period and with only little expense to ourselves. Hence, we had landed at one of Adeel's uncles in the city made famous by the capture of Aimal Kansi. There, we had eaten our hearts out. Next day, we booked our seats on a 16-seat Toyota van and dropped at a mountainous, rugged place called Sakhi Sarwar. It was dusty and there was some indication of sandstorm blowing our way. It was perhaps of a milder nature. I was enchanted and so was Adeel. This place, otherwise unknown, is the final resting place of a Saint whose name is taken and respected in far off places. I remember receiving an email from a Sikh requesting photographs of Sakhi Sarwar's Tomb so that he may paint. Adeel's cousin took us to the shrine, a building which was clearly modern but a culture which dated back centuries. There were the usual faqirs crying out 'Allah key naam per, Rasool key nam per...' and there was this intense smell of incense all over the place. Devotees were pouring in, caps over their heads, eyes lowered and they marched into the main chamber where Saint was resting. It was all similar to my eyes. For I believe in the miracles of these Saints, who brought Islam to the otherwise Hindu dominated Sub continent. They spread Islam not by sword but by their love and piety and respect for all living beings. Today's bomb blast reminds me how our society as a whole has been disoriented by the hatred imported from Salafi-Wahabi brand of Islam, which hates everything related to Sufism. They regard all Tomb goers as kafirs (Infidels), hence this series of suicide attacks.

On that trip I had told Adeel that he must see all these things very clearly and must try and photograph them for we must not be sure whether they will remain next time we visit or not. Well, my predictions were not based on Saudi-exported religious hatred but unfortunately they are coming true.

Here is the link of today's newspaper regarding bombing:

addendums and clarifications… by Sami Shah

Here is the response from Sami Shah to my comments on his blog.

I normally don’t respond to the death threats and hate mail I get with regards to my weekly Tribune column (which is actually a great deal less than the amount of people who have complimentary things to say, but my insecurities and self-loathing tend to focus on the one guy who heckles instead of the 10 who laugh), but after this weeks rant on the blasphemy issue, one particular comment posted caught my attention.

Written by a Ameer Hamza, it said:
“We are not sure about this Bibi, whether she committed blasphemy or not. It is for our courts to decide, not us. But then why did Salman Taseer say what he did. Why did he call this a black law? It is not a black law and I condemn anyone who calls this law a black law. Salman Taseer may have been a liberal but it does not allow anyone to call the law of ALLAH as black. As far as your contention that we as a nation have become more and more bigoted, there can be no two opinions about it. We have turned into extremists but to call love of Prophet as extremism is not proper.”

Now the inherent ludicrousness of a man criticizing extremist behavior while getting riled up about the blasphemy issue aside, it highlighted my anger at people on the other side of this debate. A lot of otherwise rational and intelligent people seem to lose their sense of coherence when it comes to the blasphemy issue in Pakistan, made all the more evident by the upper and middle classes of the country having simultaneous orgasms over the assassination of a vocal critic of the Blasphemy Law. It is the first time these two socio-economic groups have agreed on anything since the advent of the Benjamin Sisters and it seems to be an agreement founded on a lack of information and ignorance that goes beyond lazy and into the realm of destructive.

I’ve been accused of blasphemy myself a few times by people misunderstanding stand-up bits of mine. The fact that I dared to make fun of anything related to religion was enough for some people to declare me blasphemous in the past, fortunately just not in any public forums. It’s an issue I’ve even directly addressed in stand-up shows just before organizers asked me to never again “go down that route”. After my last column family members asked me to not say anything more on the issue because the reaction tends to be violent and irrational. I haven’t decided where I stand on that. As a father I should shut the hell up because her life would be worse without me (despite what my critics say), but as a citizen of this wretched country wouldn’t my silence just make me morally as guilty of the prosecution of Aasia Bibi as the people who are actively campaigning for her death?

I don’t know.

What I do know is that in all the rhetorical and polemic frippery of my last column, I missed out on something important and that is a simple clarification of my stand point. So here it is. A response to Ameer Hamza and everyone else who calls the Blasphemy Law “Allah’s Law” and demands the death sentence for transgressions committed against it.

(I originally posted this in the comments section of my article but given the generally devolved level of debate that ensues there, I am reproducing it here)

“Normally don’t respond to these but Ameer Hamza’s comments have put me in a bit of a mood, so this is largely addressed to him and anyone else who reads this without having taken the time to understand the details of what is happening.

@Ameer Hamza: It’s not Allah’s law. Explain what that is please? The Quran doesn’t state any punishment for blasphemy and the few Hadith cases used as vague justifications are actually more focused on not questioning the authority of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) by people during his lifetime. But that is still irrelevant to the point at hand. Truth be told, if someone wants to twist the words of the Quran and Hadith to justify their intolerance then they probably will.

The second issue that comes up is, can you condemn a non-Muslim for blasphemy? A Christian, whether you like it or not, does not believe in any the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Is then their entire existence blasphemous? Is everyone other than a Muslim committing blasphemy just by existing?

There is also, of course, the sheer audacity involved in presuming you can decide who is and is not a Muslim (as have many of the Mullah-league). Such a judgment is God’s to make and one of the definitions of blasphemy is “the crime of assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God”. So haven’t those who called Salman Taseer and Sherry Rehman non-Muslim then committed blasphemy themselves.

Unfortunately these discussions are inherently academic because the law already is in place and its enforcement has already resulted in many innocents being victimized. I say “innocents” because I refuse to believe anyone would rationally dare to insult Islam or it’s Prophet in Pakistan. It just beggars belief.

The real issue here is what do the critics of the Blasphemy Law, in its current incarnation, want? Maybe some of them, in an ideal world, would like it gone altogether since they see the lack of sense in it. But no one is currently saying this. Everyone knows that such a change is not possible without serious, open discussion by the religious and legal authorities. Something unlikely to ever occur in Pakistan. Even Salman Taseer wasn’t asking for this. Sherry Rehman still isn’t. What everyone is asking for is that the law be amended. That it be written in a way that it protects against the possibility of misuse and puts the burden of proof on the accuser, nor the accused. That is what Salman Taseer meant when he called it a “black law”. That it is a law which is open to misuse and abusing the rights of citizens of Pakistan. Should he have been more careful in his phrasing? Probably. But then it was his opinion and shouldn’t there have been debate with him over his use of the phrase as opposed to just shooting him dead?

No one is calling “love of prophet” extremism. What they are saying is enshrining the oppression of minorities and suppression of free and fair justice through a systematic campaign of violence and fear-mongering is extreme.

I hope that clears things up for you. Sorry for droning on like this but I would much rather there be a concerted effort to clear up misunderstanding, instead of the usual mud-slinging that goes on in these comments pages.”