Her mother died when she was eleven, and she remembers vividly the commotion that followed. The argument, she recalls vaguely, was of religious nature, something to do about burial. Farzana wanted those people, those angry voices to go away, leave her in peace. This encounter with religion was not a happy one. It seared her… Read More


I vividly remember the day, some 30 years ago, when the cover story by Asghar Ali Engineer was published in the Illustrated Weekly of India. With Sayedna Moahammed Burhanuddin’s picture on the cover and the title “A Law Unto Himself”, the article created a sensation. Nobody had dared to challenge Sayedna Saheb so openly so… Read More


On a cool December morning I knock on the door of a house in a posh Los Angeles county. A diminutive man opens the door. He is Ismail K. Poonawala, former professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at UCLA. There is renovation going on in the house, Prof. Poonawala apologises for the mess. We make… Read More


It was small hours of the morning. A boy of 16-17 was poring over his books, engrossed in his studies. There is a knock on the door. A man in a simple Muslim garb enters, tells the boy that Hazur-e-aali wants to see him. They exchange a few words, and the boy is driven to… Read More


Two great souls departed this world this week. One, Howard Zinn, had a deep and lasting influence on me, and the other, J.D. Salinger, missed me by a decade or two – if only I had discovered him in my youth when I was too much of a nice boy for my own good. These… Read More