Waaz 1 Ashara 1439H - Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS broadcast link. #Ashura https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcrLs90ZhGw&feature=share …
Waaz 1 Ashara 1439H - Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS broadcast link. #Ashura https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcrLs90ZhGw&feature=share …
Twenty of our scholars met in Chicago for their final working group meeting to discuss their work in progress with each other across the disciplines of psychology, theology, and philosophy.
Find more photos on our Flickr page.
More photos from this session can be found on our Flickr page.
Not on Twitter? Here’s a sampling of our live-tweeting from our final day:
This article originally appeared in Tableau, the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago’s quarterly publication, as Scholarship of Self-Transcendence: Candace Vogler leads a search for the meaning of life by Courtney C. W. Guerra.
Candace Vogler, the David B. and Clara E. Stern Professor in Philosophy, is invested in her fellow human beings, and she’s determined to help them—us—find fulfillment. To tackle such a complex issue, she proposed the collaborative research project Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life, the aims of which are every bit as ambitious as its name implies. With major support from the John Templeton Foundation, this multiyear initiative—jointly led by Jennifer A. Frey, a philosopher at the University of South Carolina—explores self-transcendence: a feeling of connection to something beyond the individual self.
Of course, there’s no single way for human beings to attain self-transcendence: it can happen through spiritual practice, professional drive, familial bonds, or any number of commitments to a higher cause. Vogler’s group includes psychologists, philosophers, and religious thinkers from a variety of traditions. Many are UChicago colleagues: assistant professor Marc G. Berman and professor Howard C. Nusbaum in Psychology, associate professor Tahera Qutbuddin in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, and, in Philosophy, assistant professor Matthias Haase and Josef Stern, the William H. Colvin Professor Emeritus. The 30-scholar cohort represents institutions throughout the United States, Middle East, and Europe; they have been meeting and teaching since October 2015.
When she devised the project, Vogler says, “The ambition was to get a kind of deep integration between people working in very different disciplines” without relegating their work to the margins of less widely read, explicitly interdisciplinary publications. And it worked: the participants are “doing disciplinary work, they’re publishing in the disciplinary journals, and the inspiration for it is coming out of the frame of the project.”
These discussions have informed 10 published or forthcoming articles—a figure that “pretty dramatically exceeded” her initial expectations—with many more on the way. One essay that encapsulates the spirit of the project is being developed by Notre Dame theologian Jean Porter, about studies by Cornell University psychologist Katherine Kinzler on early childhood food preferences. Porter finds parallels between contemporary psychology and the views of Catholic philosopher Thomas Aquinas on the influence of group identity on what children choose to eat. (A draft is available on the Virtue Blog, along with other writings and filmed lectures.) This video helps to introduce and contextualize the group’s scholarship.
Like Porter’s essay, much of the project is “built on things that ought to be super interesting to people who are not academics,” says Vogler. She hopes a broad audience will attend the culminating conference at UChicago over the weekend of October 14–15. From there, Vogler plans to share her team’s findings with educators—from early childhood through MBA programs and beyond—to help promote self-transcendence at every stage of development. “There’s a big difference,” she points out, “between leading a life that’s super busy and leading a life that’s full.” Her hope is that the group’s work, as it reverberates out into the broader world, will help people achieve the latter.
We’re presenting a short series of abstracts of the work-in-progress our scholars will present and discuss at their June 2017 Working Group Meeting.
Tahera Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago.
1. Chapter on “The Sermon of Pious Counsel,” from my monograph project currently underway titled Classical Arabic Oratory: Religion, Politics and Oral Aesthetics of Public Address in the Early Islamic World.
Abstract: Showcasing a unique outlook on the purpose of human life in the early Islamic world of the seventh and eighth centuries, the sermon of pious counsel was one of the four major types of Arabic oration. Rooted in the pre-Islamic desert-dweller’s deep consciousness of cosmic cycles and human mortality, it was channeled toward priming for the afterlife by the monotheistic vision of Muhammad and the Qurʾan. Pious counsel also permeated the other three categories: Friday sermons were an obvious repository of devotional material, but battle speeches and political orations were also frequently framed in a pietistic vein. The orator concentrated on reminding his audience of the inevitability of death, the necessity of leading a pious and principled life preparing for an imminent hereafter, and remaining at all times conscious of God. The chapter I am submitting for our Workshop examines these key themes and their religious and ethical subthemes with copious textual examples. In addition, it outlines the sermon’s historical development, formulae and patterns, and briefly describes concurrent non-oratorical genres of pious counsel. It ends with the text, translation and analysis of an illustrative sermon attributed to a commander of the Kharijite “Seceders,” Qatari ibn al-Fujaʾah (d. ca. 698).
2. Short paper titled “Imam Ali’s Preaching of Peace and Pluralism: Five Categories of Exhortations to Justice, Equity and Compassion from The Path of Eloquence (Nahj al-balaghah) and A Treasury of Virtues (Dustur maʿalim al-hikam )”—expanded write-up from presentation originally prepared for UNESCO World Philosophy Day, 2014, Paris, at a conference titled: The Contribution of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s Thought to a Culture of Peace & Intercultural Dialogue.
Abstract: Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib’s (d. 661) strong advocacy of peace and pluralism is well known and works on multiple levels of individual, society and state. In this paper, I present five broad categories of these early Islamic teachings through a selection of Ali’s sayings, sermons, letters and verse: (1) seeking justice and abstaining from vengeance; (2) pluralism; (3) focus on the hereafter, not worldly gain; (4) personal ethics: respect and sanctity of living creatures; and (5) the role of government.
The Hon’ble Justice Gautam Patel of the Bombay High Court allowed Chamber Summons No. 1290 of 2016 in Suit No. 337 of 2014, whereby His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS has been substituted as the Plaintiff after the sad demise of the Original Plaintiff His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb will now continue the suit against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to establish that Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb is the 54th Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra Community after establishing that Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin was the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his respresentatives had claimed the suit had abated and that he had won the Suit after the sad demise of Syedna Khuziama Qutbuddin. The Hon’ble High Court has also fixed a timetable for carrying out the amendments, the Defendant to file an additional written statement, and has listed the Succesion Suit for directions in May 2017 itself. This is a very positive step towards resolving the issue of the rightful successor to the 52nd Dai His Holiness the Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA and for the future of the Dawoodi Bohra Community.
These remarks correspond to our latest Virtue Talk podcast with Tahera Qutbuddin, which you can listen to here.
I grew up in Mumbai, India, studied Arabic at Ayn Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and came to Harvard University in the US for my PhD, which I completed in 1999. After that, I taught for a year at Yale University, then for two years at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. In 2002, I joined the University of Chicago, where I’m currently Associate Professor of Arabic Literature in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC). At the University of Chicago, I’m also affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), the Committee on South Asian Studies (COSAS), and the Divinity School. And for the past six years, I’ve chaired a non-traditional major in the College named Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities (IS-Hum).
My work centers on classical Arabic literature. I have a deep interest in literary materials of the early Islamic period that preach virtue, which is my connection with the Virtues group of scholars. Overall, my scholarship focuses on intersections of the literary, the religious, and the political in classical Arabic poetry and prose. My areas of research are classical Arabic oratory and Islamic preaching (khutba); the Quran, traditions of the Prophet Muhammad, and the sermons and sayings of the first Shia imam and fourth Sunni caliph Ali ibn Abi Talib; and Fatimid-Tayyibi history and literature (the Fatimids were a Shia dynasty who ruled North Africa and Egypt from the 10th through the 12th centuries, and the Tayyibis are a Muslim denomination in Yemen and India, who look to the Fatimid legacy). I’ve also worked on Arabic in India.
My first journal article, which I published in 1995 while I was a graduate student at Harvard, was titled “Healing the Soul: Perspectives of Medieval Muslim Writers.” I discussed the ideas of certain key scholars in the Islamic tradition who used the metaphor of the physician and healing to promote virtue and faith. I found that the earliest accounts were based in either Greek ethics or the Qur’an, and the Greek aspects were rendered over three centuries into an Islamic matrix.
In my first monograph—published by Brill in 2005 titled Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi and Fatimid Da’wa Poetry: A Case of Commitment in Classical Arabic Literature—I combined material and approaches from several disciplines to analyze the poetry of the 11th century scholar, al-Muʾayyad al-Shīrāzī, who was chief missionary for the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt. Al-Mu’ayyad is acknowledged as a giant in the Fatimid philosophical tradition, but none had worked on his poetry before. Because it is underpinned by esoteric doctrine, its true significance cannot be decoded without careful perusal of its philosophy and history. I found and used manuscripts of his poetry housed in private collections in India, and I also used an eclectic package of literary, historical, and theological primary sources, many of them also in manuscript form. I argued that al-Muʾayyad flew in the face of the rival Abbasid court’s conventional panegyric to create a new, very personal, “committed” form of Arabic poetry, with themes, imagery, and audiences consonant with his religio-political cause.
My currently ongoing monograph project is tentatively titled Classical Arabic Oratory: Religion, Politics and Orality-Based Aesthetics of Public Address in the Early Islamic World, for which I’m honored to have been awarded fellowships by the Carnegie Corporation and the American Council of Learned Societies. In the 7th and 8th centuries AD, oration was a crucial piece of the Arabian literary landscape, reigning supreme as its preeminent genre of prose. It was an integral component of pre-Islamic and early Islamic leadership, and it also had significant political, military and religious functions. Its themes and aesthetics had enormous influence on subsequent artistic prose. Little has come forth on the subject, due to substantial challenges posed by an archaic lexicon (these are hard texts to crack!), a vast array of sources, and the sticky question of dating. But I believe an approach sensitive to its oral underpinnings can meaningfully delineate key parameters of the genre. I’m analyzing the texts and contexts of these earliest Arabic speeches and sermons, and I hope to construct thereby the first comprehensive theory of classical Arabic oratory.
In the past five years, much of my intellectual energy has been directed to a new publication series titled “Library of Arabic Literature,” and it has been a joy and a privilege to be part of this emerging venture. In 2010, I was invited to its newly-forming Editorial Board, whose mandate is to produce facing-page Arabic editions and English translations of significant works of Arabic literature, with an emphasis on the 7th to 19th centuries, encompassing a wide range of genres, including poetry, religion, philosophy, law, science, and history. The project is supported by a grant from the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute, and its volumes are published by NYU Press. Its Editorial Board comprises a team of Arabic/Islamic professors at educational institutions in the US and UK. We meet twice a year in New York and Abu Dhabi, and in the first five years, we have produced a resounding 35 volumes. In 2015, our grant was renewed for another five years, and in this second phase we aim to bring out an additional 40 volumes.
Many of the really important texts of early Islamic literature remain in manuscript form, and many have not been translated into English, or have been translated in less than lucid renderings. In addition to my analytical research work, I’m also committed to making these masterpieces of Arabic literature available in reliable editions and engaging translations, especially those among them that promote virtue and contemplation.
In this context, I edited and translated a volume of Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of Ali ibn Abi Talib, whom I mentioned before, who was the cousin and son in law of the prophet Muhammad, and the first Shia imam and the fourth Sunni caliph. (Library of Arabic Literature, NYU Press, 2013). The volume was compiled by al-Quda’i, who was a judge in medieval Cairo. The book is titled A Treasury of Virtues, and in beautiful desert metaphors and brilliantly pithy Arabic, it enjoins universal human virtues such as justice, wisdom, and kindness, presenting them in an Islamic and Quranic framework. For example, “ The best words are backed by deeds” “Oppressing the weak is the worst oppression” “Knowledge is a noble legacy” “The true worth of a man is measured by the good he does” “There is no treasure richer than contentment” “A just leader is better than abundant rainfall.”
I’ve recently completed editing and translating another volume for the series, this one being a compilation of the ethical and doctrinal sayings of the prophet Muhammad titled Light in the Heavens, by the same compiler, al-Quda’i. In a happy coincidence, its release date is today, November 8. The prophet Muḥammad (d. 632) is regarded by Muslims as God’s messenger to humankind. In addition to God’s words—the Qurʾan—which he conveyed over the course of his life as it was revealed to him, Muḥammad’s own words—called hadith—have a very special place in the lives of Muslims. They wield an authority second only to the Qurʾan and are cited by Muslims as testimonial texts in a wide array of religious, scholarly and popular literature—such as liturgy, exegesis, jurisprudence, oration, poetry, linguistics and more. Preachers, politicians and scholars rely on hadith to establish the truth of their positions, and lay people cite them to each other in their daily lives. These hadith disclose the ethos of the earliest period of Islam, the culture and society of 7th century Arabia. Since they also form an integral part of the Muslim psyche, they reveal the values and thinking of the medieval and modern Muslim community. Most importantly, they provide a direct window into the inspired vision of one of the most influential humans in history. These are a few sample hadith from the volume, which list traits that God loves: “God loves gentleness in everything,” “God is beautiful and loves beauty,” “God loves those who beseech him,” “God loves those who are virtuous, humble, and pious,” “God loves the believer who makes an honest living,” “God loves the grieving heart”.
Among the recent articles I’ve published, some are on Ali’s preaching. In one recent article I examine Ali’s melding of core Islamic teachings of the Quran enjoining piety and good works, with the oral, nature-based cultural ethos of seventh-century Arabia. Another recent article—and this is the one I shared with the Virtue scholars’ group in December—looks at Ali’s contemplations on this world and the hereafter in the context of his life and times. I argue that Ali encourages his followers to enjoy a happy life on earth and be grateful for God’s innumerable blessings, yet always keep preparing for the imminent hereafter, by cultivating virtuous traits and performing virtuous deeds. I’d like to read out to you a short excerpt from one of his sermons from this article:
O you who reproach this world while being so willingly deceived by her deceptions and tricked by her falsehoods! Do you choose to be deceived by her yet censure her? Should you be accusing her, or should she be accusing you?! When did she lure you or deceive? Was it by her destruction of your father and grandfather and great grandfather through decay? Or by her consigning your mother and grandmother and great grandmother to the earth? How carefully did your palms tend them! How tenderly did your hands nurse them! Hoping against hope for a cure, begging physician after physician for a medicament. On that fateful morning, your medicines did not suffice them, your weeping did not help, and your apprehension was of no benefit. Your appeal remained unanswered, and you could not push death away from them although you applied all your strength. By this, the world warned you of your own approaching end. She illustrated by their death your own.
Indeed, this world is a house of truth for whomsoever stays true to her, a house of wellbeing for whomsoever understands her, a house of riches for whomsoever gathers her provisions, a house of counsel for whomsoever takes her advice. She is a mosque for God’s loved ones, a place where God’s angels pray, where God’s revelation alights, where God’s saints transact, earning his mercy and profiting paradise.
In addition to the publications I’ve talked about, I always look to avail of opportunities to reach outside the ivory tower, and have lectured over the years on general topics related to Islamic history and Arabic literature, particularly on topics that promote goodwill among the human family. Two years ago, I gave a talk on “Imam Ali’s Preaching of Peace and Pluralism” at a UNESCO conference in Paris organized by its Iraq office titled “The contribution of Ali ibn Abi Talib’s Thought to a Culture of Peace and Intercultural Dialogue.” Just recently in September of this year I helped organize a conference in Kolkata, India, on exemplars of communal harmony in pre- and post-Independence India, that was hosted jointly by my father’s educational foundation Qutbi Jubilee Scholarship Program (QJSP) and the University of Calcutta, and was attended by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Calcutta, and the West Bengal Minister for Higher Education, and widely covered by the local media.
I’m very pleased to be part of the Templeton Foundation’s project Virtue, Happiness, and the Meaning of Life. I’m grateful to the Templeton Foundation for funding it, and to Candace Vogler for inviting me to participate. This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to expand my horizons, and bring my work into conversation with the major Western philosophical and theological traditions. I’ve especially enjoyed the practical perspectives of psychology and economics brought by the social scientists in the group on questions of virtue and happiness. It’s been a privilege to listen to these amazing scholars.
I’ve found many parallels with the classical Islamic traditions I work with, and hope to make use of these new insights and apply them to my own work. For example, many of the group’s scholars work on Thomas Aquinas, and the harmony of faith and reason that is expressed in his teachings resonates with several schools of Islamic thought, especially one that I work with, the Fatimid-Ismaili school. Others work on Aristotle, and his cardinal virtues of justice, temperance, wisdom, and courage are strongly reflected in the early Islamic aphoristic material, and in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Ali. The material my colleagues on the Virtue Scholars team work on is itself fascinating, and the questions and methodologies they bring to bear on it are equally illuminating.
I’m also happy to have the opportunity to present some Islamic approaches to virtue, to these scholars who may not have engaged with the Islamic tradition in any depth before.
A significant prompt that has come out of this workshop for me is a renewed emphasis on the importance of harnessing ideas to promote virtue and happiness on the ground. This is academic work, but it’s also very personal. The research on the hows and whys of a meaningful life discussed at the workshop is really valuable. For me, the natural corollary to the expert analysis is how to translate this information into becoming a better human being myself, and to work toward promoting kindness and virtue in the many communities I’m part of. The research, both individual and collaborative is important. But it’s equally important to think about how to use that practically to be a nice, kind person oneself, and to promote niceness and kindness among the people we live. I’m delighted to be part of this ambitious project, and I hope that together we can make a difference, and offer some contribution to a better and more peaceful world.
Tahera Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the University of Chicago and Scholar with the project Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
Click the link below to hear our scholar and Professor of Arabic Literature Tahera Qutbuddin discuss her research and recent books A Treasury of Virtues: Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of ‘Ali, and Light in the Heavens: Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, and how her research is impacted by working within our project.
The text of these remarks will be available on our next blog post.
The date for hearing the Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court has been fixed for 7th December 2016 by the Hon’ble Justice K. R. Shriram.
The Chamber Summons seeks the substitution of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as the Plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.
The Hon’ble Gujarat High Court has pronounced an order (Civil Application No. 5650 of 2016) granting the applications filed by Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS and permitting Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb TUS to be substituted in the place and stead of his predecessor Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb RA in pending petitions and dismissing Civil Application No. 4339 of 2016 filed by Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. On 10.11.2016, all the applications were listed for pronouncement of judgment before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court. The Judgement is available to view on the Gujarat High Court website
Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb sadly passed away in the USA on 30th March 2016. Upon his passing away, his successor Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb filed applications before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court praying for substitution as petitioner in his place. In the applications, Syedna Fakhruddin Saheb stated that immediately after the passing away of Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb, Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his men had filed applications/affidavits/purchis before Assistant Charity Commissioners with the objective of getting their Change Reports allowed ex-parte by falsely stating on oath that the Hon’ble Bombay High Court had dismissed the suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin and his men were trying to take advantage of the passing away of Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb with the objective of getting their Change Reports allowed ex-parte.
Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin had also filed Civil Application No. 4339 of 2016 before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court praying for an order that the petition filed by Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb be disposed of as abated and praying that the Charity Commissioners be directed to proceed with Change Reports.
Upon the sad passing away of the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq of the Dawoodi Bohra community Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb in January 2014, a succession dispute arose between Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb, Mazoon for 50 years and Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb filed a suit in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court for a declaration that he was the anointed successor of the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq and, therefore, the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq. Syedna Qutbuddin Saheb also filed petitions before the Hon’ble Gujarat High Court pertaining to a large number of Waqfs and Trusts of which the Dai is the Sole Trustee.
Syedna Taher Fakhruddin Saheb’s Chamber Summons in the Hon’ble Bombay High Court to be substituted as Plaintiff in the Suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin is scheduled for hearing and final disposal by the Hon’ble Justice Shriram on the 7th of December 2016.
Our Scholar Tahera Qutbuddin gave this public lecture in September 2015 as part of “Sayings, Sermons, and Teachings of Imam Ali: Islamic Wisdom and Universal Values,” an invited talk in the public lecture series “Islam in Conversation” for the Office of Religious Life: Muslim Life Program at Princeton University.
Tahera Qutbuddin is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature, The University of Chicago, and a Scholar with Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.
The Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS was listed to be heard by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court on October 19, 2016. The matter did not get heard for paucity of time during the day, and on October 20, 2016 our advocates mentioned the matter before the Hon’ble Bombay High Court, when the Hon’ble Court directed that the chamber summons be listed for Directions on November 15, 2016, after the Diwali vacation.
The date for hearing the Chamber Summons filed by His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, in the Hon’ble Bombay Court has been fixed for 19th October 2016 by the Hon’ble Justice K. R. Shriram.
The Chamber Summons seeks the substitution of Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as the Plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.
His Holiness Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS, the 54th Dai al-Mutlaq has filed a Chamber Summons on the 27th of June 2016 in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay to be substituted as plaintiff in the Suit filed by his predecessor His Holiness the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA, the 53rd Dai al-Mutlaq against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin.
Syedna Qutbuddin sadly passed away to his heavenly abode on 30th March 2016 in California, USA. Before his passing Syedna Qutbuddin had appointed his eldest son Syedna Taher Fakhruddin as his Mansoos (successor) on 8th November 2015.
Prior to filing the Suit in Hon’ble High Court the Late Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA had made repeated attempts to resolve this unfortunate issue internally within the Community, inviting Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to a debate to establish the truthfulness of the nass conferred on him by His Holiness the Late Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb RA , the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq. Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin did not respond to that call. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin also invited Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin to a debate according to the precedents of the community, and in the interests of resolving this matter, which affects the whole community. But Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin has not responded to that invitation either.
To ensure that the path set by the previous Dai al-Mutlaq’s is followed, and the Community is not torn asunder by false claimants, and having full faith in the Indian Judiciary, Syedna Fakhruddin has approached the Hon’ble High Court for appropriate remedies.
In a statement Syedna Fakhruddin said “Since Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin is unwilling to resolve the matter internally through a debate to establish the truth, we have approached the Hon’ble Court, in which we have full faith, with evidence that will expose the falsehoods being perpetuated by Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin. I will continue the fight that my revered father Syedna Qutbuddin started, for truth, justice, and the future and well-being of the Dawoodi Bohra community”
The Suit 337 of 2014 was filed by His Holiness Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin Saheb against Shehzada Mufaddal Saifuddin in the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay in April 2014. Cross-examination of Syedna Qutbuddin started on 27th April 2015 and was ongoing when His Holiness sadly passed away.
We were thrilled to have our 2016 Working Group Chicago Meeting at the University of Chicago’s Neubuaer Collegium, and extend the conversation during meals at restaurants all over the South Side of Chicago.
For more photos, visit our Flickr album.
Our 2nd working group meeting of scholars met June 6-10, 2016 at the University of Chicago in the beautiful Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society. Although the sessions were closed, you can read our scholars’ abstracts for their June Meeting Topics here and see more photos up in our Flickr album for the week.
This coming week (June 6-10, 2016, at the Neubauer Collegium at the University of Chicago) is the second of four meetings for our scholars (the first was December 2015 at the University of South Carolina). These meetings are immersive experiences for these scholars, who are philosophers, theologians, and psychologists; the meetings are aimed at generating systematic and integrated knowledge, including ultimately a new construct for empirical research on self-transcendence, new instruments of assessment, and new data.
Here are summaries of the questions and research our scholars will be discussing with each other in the coming week.
Matthias Haase: Can virtue be cultivated like a habit?
Tahera Qutbudden: Can one enjoy a happy and pleasurable life in this world while also preparing for the next?
Jennifer A. Frey: Is selfishness a particular kind of vice, or the nature of vice?
David Schatz: Is ignorance always a vice, or can it also be a virtue?
Heather C. Lench: Can boredom lead us to virtue?
David Carr: Does spirituality have a material dimension, and if so, can it be developed and educated?
Mari Stuart: Can the indigenous knowledge reflected in a moral ecology worldview teach things that climate science cannot?
Jean Porter: Can malice, like virtue, also give meaning to life?
Erik Angner: Is social well-being the same thing as happiness?
Paul Wong: Is it possible to measure Self-Transcendence?
Katharine Kinzler: Can infant food preferences teach us about the social world?
Mark Berman: Do ugly surroundings encourage criminal behavior?
Angela Knobel: Can the notion of virtue as a gift from God have broad appeal?
Father Thomas Joseph White: Can Aquinas help us understand Nietzsche’s ideas about truth and moral freedom?
Michael Gorman: Is a meaningful life also necessarily a good life?
Nancy Snow: Is magnificence—expenditure for the public good—virtuous, or vicious? Can it be both?
Tal Brewer: Are human beings irreplaceable, and due special forms of regard and good treatment?
Dan McAdams: What is the difference between habit and character? Do we narrate these things about ourselves in different ways?
Reinhard Hütter: How do we overcome the lure of self-sovereignty that surrounds us and attain true self-transcendence?
Father Kevin Flannery: What is the relationship between intention, choice, and virtue?
It is hereby clarified that the Hon’ble High Court has not passed any order declaring that the suit filed by Syedna Qutbuddin has abated. The Hon`ble High Court has merely cancelled the dates which were reserved for hearing of the suit.
As per the legal advice received by us, the scheme of the law is that the legal representative of the original plaintiff (in our case the legal representative of Syedna Qutbuddin RA) can make an application to be brought on record as plaintiff within 90 days. The law provides that the suit abates only on the expiry of the 90 days from the date of the death of Syedna Qutbuddin RA if no such application is made.
Today the Hon’ble High Court cleared the planned dates of cross examination due to the sad passing of His Holiness Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin RA, on March 30, 2016. Syedna Taher Fakhruddin TUS will consult with his legal advisors and then guide us on the path forward.
Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin TUS, the Plaintiff in the Declaratory Suit filed in the Bombay High Court, will appear in the Honorable High Court for his testimony on the 22nd of April 2016 (16th Rajab 1437H) and the 2nd of May 2016 (26th Rajab 1437H) inshaallah.
An article was published in the Times of India about the new court dates. A copy of the article is published on FatemiDawat.com
Due to the recent structural problems in the Bombay High Court building, Courtroom No. 46 was not available on the 27th and 29th of October. Therefore the Honorable Bombay High Court has postponed the further cross examination of the Plaintiff, Syedna Khuzaima Qutbuddin TUS. The matter is listed for further directions (dates) on November 16th, 2015 after the Diwali vacation.
Aqa Maula jiware paachha padhaara safar par si toh Shabab ye souvenir tayyaar kidi hati. Jema Aqa Maula ni safar na photos hata. Shabab ye souvenir Aqa Maula ne Saifee Mahal par araz kidi jivaare aap airport si padhaara.
[Contributed by Abdealibhai Haji in Oct-Dec 2013]
Ane Mazoon saab ni aa barakat chhe ke Shabab ne Ramadaan na iftaar ni ziyafat karta sikhaayu, gamme te hoi ziyafat toh thai. Aam toh akhu varas ziyafat thai Taher Saifuddin Aqa ni ane aap na wafaat na baad Burhanuddin Aqa ni. Ziyafat thai ehma iftaar thai Burhanuddin Aqa ane tamam Qasre Aali nu. Potay ye wajebaat aapva nu sikhaayu. Bhalay youngsters hoi Shabab ma toh pun wajebaat toh aape jitna bhi rakam hoi. Toh iftaar ane wajebaat nu potay ye sikhaayu chhe. Hamay Founders Day bhi celebrate karta Shabab no every year.
[Contributed by Fakhribhai Kagalwala in Dec 2013]
Mazoon Maula chhe ane ek rutba na saheb chhe ne Maula chhe, havay mojiza toh chhe ghana, pun potani intelligence ni bhi vaat karu, aap na alfaaz, apnu thinking kitnu sharp chhe. Potay kitnu dhyaan raakhe chhe ane potay kem alfaaz ada karay chhe. I am not talking of mojiza now, mojiza toh aap karej chhe ane aapni shaan chhe. Manay hajin bhi yaad chhe kitna Shabab ma involved hata aap, Shabab pachhi toh worldwide thai gai. Bombay Central par ek varas sudhin sports no program thayo, every raate badminton ane table tennis. Mazoon saab koi vaar padhaare ane shehzado sahebo bhi padhaare, vahaan bahar lakhelu ke lawn tennis and badminton no program chhe. Mazoon Maula ek vaar raate padhaara, badhu joyu ke badminton ane lawn tennis kem organize thaase, ane pachhi bahar padhaara toh hamaare bulaavi ne farmaayu ke “tamay circular ma toh lakhu chhe lawn tennis. Aa lawn tennis nathi aa toh ground tennis chhe.” Toh aa intelligence dekhai chhe ane kitnu vaachu hasay. Nai toh kitna kaaghaz aave, Shabab ni arazo aave, koi baaju ziyafat thai, koi baaju kai function thai. But he remembered even to the detail that lawn tennis is different and ground tennis is ground, jamin. Toh tamay lawn tennis lakhu chhe ane aa chhe ground tennis. Aa ek ke kitnu khayaal rakhta hata ek ek detail no ke tamay circular ma bhi aa lakhelu chhe. Nai toh kaun joi chhe ane kaun mark karay chhe.
[Contributed by Fakhribhai Kagalwala in Dec 2013]
Ek zamaan aayo tivaare dushmano youngsters ne bekhaave ke Sayyedna Taher Saifuddin Aqa toh education na khilaaf chhe. Toh youngsters ne samjhaava ne Shabab Mazoon Maula na sabaq organize karay. Series of lectures bhi organize kariye of influential people like Shaykh Nooruddin Bandukwala, Taiyyebi Diwanji and Shaykh Saleh Kapadia at homes of Shabab members. Russian professor Zoy Ansari ke je ghana jaankaar hata ane Sayyedna Taher Saifuddin paase ghana aave ehnu bhi ek lecture Saifi Boys High School ma organize kidu ane Fatemi history ni ek kitaab apne lakheli ehna naam si publish kidi taake vadhaare youngsters ne affect thai ke apne haq par chhe ane education na khilaaf nathi.
[Contributed by Abdealibhai Haji in Oct-Dec 2013]
Manay ek personal incident yaad aave chhe, ek vaar funds ni shortage hati Shabab ma ane manay fikar ke activities kem continue thaase Shabab ni? Mazoon Maula saathe tivaare mein Babji Maula na roza ma hato, ane vichaaru ke Babji Maula kai rasto bataave funds vaaste. Mazoon Maula ye hamay sagla Shabab members ne Babji Maula na turbat na phool aapa, jivaare mein phool leva gayo toh phool khatam thai gaya hata, ane fakat chadar no doro haath ma aayo ane Mazoon Maula ye manay aapo. Manay thayu aa doro Babji Maula no javaab chhe. Mein Shabab na sagla paisa aa doro ma muka ane te din pachhi koi ek bhi Shabab ni activity funds na shortage na sabab cancel nathi thai.
Mazoon Maula ye manay Rozat Tahera ma si ek chaadar aapi hati, je Taher bs na salgirah par chadawi hati, ye chaadar hajin mein sambhaali ne barakat jem raakhi chhe. Aaje fakat ye chaadar no doro baaki chhe.
[Contributed by Abdealibhai Haji in Oct-Dec 2013]
Mazoon Maula, Khuzaima bhaisaheb ni milad par bhi ziyafat thai ane Aqa Maula tashreef raakhta hoi toh Aqa Maula ni ziyafat kariye. Shuru ma ghani vaar em banu ke Aqa Maula ma ziyafat ni araz kariye te pehla ye tareekh already koi bija bhai ne aapi didi hoi ziyafat vaaste. Mazoon Maula khafa bhi thai ke Shabab na members ne pehle Shaykh Ibrahim bhai paase known karaavi joiye ne ziyafat ni tareekh. Ek vaar toh em banu ke Ivan-e Husaini bhi booked hatu toh ziyafat Tambawala Hall ma thai. Aam banu shuru ma toh hamay fix kari didu ke Mazoon Maula na milad ni ziyafat Shabab aape ane biju koi nai. Ane Aqa Maula ye bhi misaal jaari kida potani sign saathe ke aa 4 tareekh (4th Muharram, 16th Muharram, Sayyedna Taher Saifuddin Aqa ni milad ane Sayyedi Mazoon Saheb ni milad) ni ziyafat Shabab aapse ane te bhi Ivan-e Husaini ma, toh Hall bhi aa 4 din ma koi bija ne nai malay. Aqa Maula ye farmaayu hatu aa misaal Anjumane Shiate Ali na office ma aapjo toh eh logo Hall ni booking na lai aa 4 din vaaste.
[Contributed by Abdealibhai Haji in Oct-Dec 2013]
Pachhi jivaare Aqa Taher wafaat thaya toh Aqa Maula na farzando (Shehzada Qaidjohar bs Ezzuddin) Shabab ni acitivities ma involve thaava laaga ane saglu potana na haath ma lai lidu, ane Mazoon Maula ne sidetrack kari naakha. Te zamaan ma Mazoon Maula Queen Elizabeth cruise par padhaara thoda mahina vaaste toh Qasre Aali na sahebo Shabab no control karva laaga.
Mazoon Maula ye Shabab no letterhead noto banaayo kem ke pachhi letterhead koi na bhi paase jai ane kai bhi chhaapi le. Mazoon Maula jivaare aa safar par hata toh sahebo Aqa Maula ma si letterhead ni raza lai aava, Shabab na membero ye kidu bhi ke Mazoon Maula no opinion lai ne raza lete toh, Dawat no nizaam toh emmaj chhe ke je ehna za’eem hoi ehni raza pehla lai. Pun koi sunu nai.
Shuru na zamaan ma koi wajebaat araz na karay barabar si. Toh Shabab na members ghare ghar jai ne Sayyedna Taher Saifuddin Aqa ane Mohammed Burhanuddin Aqa na iftaar ni ziyafat na cards 5 rs. ma aapta ane kehta aa ziyafat ma aavi ne wajebaat araz kari jaajo. Ehni je last ziyafat hati ehma Shehzada Qaid Johar bs ne aa system ni khabar padi. Toh Abilfazal bs ne Aqa Maula ni baithak paase ubha kara ane kidu, tamay badha ne em poochhjo ‘tamay Shabab na member chho?’ Havay 114 thaal nu jaman ma 60 thaal na members hata ane bija cards si bulaaya hata. Toh ghana em kehta hamay Shabab ma nathi. Toh chelle sahebo ye akho fiasco kari ne Aqa Maula ne em araz kidi ke aa sagla misrepresent karay chhe, Shabab ni ziyafat bolay chhe, ane bija ne bhi bulaave chhe. Pun em na araz kidi ke ziyafat na sabab logo ne Aqa Maula na haath par wajebaat araz karta kari dida.
[Contributed by Abdealibhai Haji in Oct-Dec 2013]
Mazoon Moula started Shabab in Surat. Shabab took the initiative to organize all the major programs. Aap Moula ashara ma padhara to aap na jaman ni khidmat pun Shabab ye kidi. Pachhi next year it was decided that other organization other than Shabab will do this khidmat of jaman, Qadarbhaisaheb had come for Ashara. The jaman provided by other organization was so spicy and hot that he could not eat, so again Qadarbhaisaheb told daddy [Yusufbhai] that Shabab should do this khidmat.
Once Aqa Moula tus did safar of Ranala by road and Mazoon Moula also accompanied him. After Ranala there was a program to visit Ukai Dam, but Jamaat did not do any arrangements. Mazoon Moula ma araz thai, pote daddy ne farmaayu ke Shabab should do this khidmat and arrangements for Ukai visit. The program was organized, Aqa Moula tus Ukai padhaara and the officers welcomed him. Mazoon Moula on that occasion gave a speech. The officers granted permission to visit the restricted areas of the Dam, and Aqa Moula stayed there for one night. Jamaat members and other mumineen also came from Surat.
Shabab also gave ziyafat of Aqa Moula tus at Revolving Hotel. Aqa Moula tus prayed namaz in that hotel and also arranged for ‘ponk’ (a green jowar very famous in Surat during the winter) party at Rander. Another ziyafat was at Zaini Bungalow, and once at Badri Baug, Dumas. All this was done under the guidance and doa of Mazoon Moula tus.
[Written for Shk Yusufbhai Haidermota by his son on 4 Jan 2014]
Zahabi credit society na naam ni bachat sanstha shuru kidi Shabab na andar ke jema logo savings kare ane fixed amount of rupiya jama kare on a monthly basis, ane end of the year ehna akha paachha malay toh ehne savings dekhai ehni. Ane je jama thata hoi paisa round the year eh karzan bhi apai, je ne zarurat hoi, toh itni raqam idle na rahe. Aa society jivaare qayam thai toh society nu ek constitution draft karva ma aayu hatu. Constitution ma em lakhelu ke ‘interest free kaam thaase sagla.’ Aa constitution jivaare registrar paase lai gaya ehni sign leva ne toh registrar em kidu, ‘though it is against the law to grant permission to interest free societies I will sign it.’ Aa registrar Aligarh University na student hata jivaare ke Aqa Taher Aligarh University na Chancellor hata. Shabab na members ye aa bhai ne pachhi Rozat Tahera na iftetah ma invite kida, ke je 2 din pachhi hatu.
Shabab sports na ghana programmes organise karta. Burhani college ma bhi ghana programmes thaai. Qusai bs, Huzefa bs, Malik bs, Idris bs, ni shaadi ma Shabab ye ghani khidmat keedi. Shabab na 1000 members hazir thaya khidmat vaaste. 17 din lag jaman thaya ane all 17 jaman ma saglu Shabab ye manage kidu. Paan gulab ma chaos thayo pan ultimately Shabab ye barabar sambhali lidu. Shabab ane Bunaiyaat were the only sansthas operating then.
Syedna Taher Memorial trust ma funds nota toh Mazoon Maula TUS yeh funds jame’ keeda.
[Contributed by Munirabai Arsiwala, daughter of Shk. Ebrahimbhai Arsiwala in Oct 2013]
There is a lot of buzz about the new ITS Broadcast Android app, which upon debut has received hundreds of 5-star reviews. I don’t have an Android phone so I won’t comment on the app features or lack thereof, but from my understanding this is a tool that ITS wants to use to broadcast messages to its’ users.
ITS Broadcast is a messaging tool for ITS dept (E-Jamaat).
After installation you will have to provide ITS (E-Jamaat) ID and password to register.
This app can be configured only for Single ITS (E-Jamaat) ID.
Once registered future communication will be made by using this App.
Given that ITS already has a unique identifier for all users and a listed contact email, reviewing the app permissions with the above stated purpose in mind seems to raise some concerns. Importantly, the application asks for permission to Find Accounts on the Device:
Allows the app to get the list of accounts known by the tablet. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed. Allows the app to get the list of accounts known by the phone. This may include any accounts created by applications you have installed.
Why does the ITS application need to know what other accounts its’ users have on their phones? Is it necessary for ITS to be able to know what Google, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Flickr, and other accounts are active on your phone? How will ITS use this data?
Those are some questions to ponder before you go ahead and click the Install button…
The Apple Maps fiasco on iOS 6 needs no introduction, but it’s of interest to note that the data sources that Apple pulls map data from differ not only based on the location being viewed, but also based on where the user is viewing the data from (I don’t know how widely known this is). For example, when I’m in Hong Kong, I get data from an unknown source, but when I’m in China, I get data for the entire world provided by AutoNavi.
Ironically, the maps I get for Hong Kong are better when viewed from China than when viewed from Hong Kong itself!
Here are a few comparison shots (left side view from China/right side view from Hong Kong):
Hong Kong’s High Court has ruled that foreign domestic helpers can become Permanent Residents of Hong Kong, after staying here for 7 years. This, no doubt will be appealed to the Court of Final Appeal, and possibly even the National People’s Congress, thereby causing yet another constitutional crisis. However, I honestly can’t think of a better way for domestic helpers to shoot themselves in the foot.
The current pay for a domestic helper is HK$3740 per month, and the pay for someone earning the a minimum wage in Hong Kong would be much higher. Foreign domestic helpers are not entitled to a minimum wage. So lets say that one applies to become a permanent resident – they are immediately no longer employable as a foreign domestic helper and need to be paid minimum wage.
As an employer, would one pay them the significantly higher minimum wage, or would they just make such a person redundant and hire a fresh immigrant at the fixed foreign domestic helper contract rates? It’s a no brainer really, especially with the economy in free fall.
I think that domestic helpers will quickly understand that the economics of becoming permanent residents of Hong Kong simply don’t make sense, and excepting the handful who are qualified for other jobs, they would soon find themselves out of work with poor prospects.
Update: It has been pointed out to me (thanks, Taha) that live-in domestic workers are not covered by the minimum wage ordinance. This changes the situation quite significantly, in that there is no economic barrier to taking up PR.
However, I still think that the fearmongering that is being propagated here in Hong Kong is probably unwarranted. According to the current immigration system, there is no right for PRs to bring their family members to live in Hong Kong. I have been through the process three times, and I know from my own experience (and that of others) that in order to bring one’s dependents (including spouse), one needs to show sufficient income to support them, as well as having adequate housing in which the dependents can reside.
The vast majority of domestic helpers would be unable to satisfy those criteria.
Finally, for the avoidance of doubt, I will just mention that no foreign domestic helper will become a PR automatically. This is a status that must be obtained by making an application to do so, having satisfied the relevent criteria.
In today’s South China Morning Post, my letter appeared, the text of which is reproduced below:
Explain aim of national education
With the heated debate regarding the government’s proposed national education curriculum, too many people are jumping to knee-jerk conclusions without really understanding what shape a national education programme might take.
Indeed, the government prematurely asks the public for feedback without explaining to the public what, in fact, national education means.
China, as one of the world’s oldest civilisations, has much to offer us from studying its history. A truly comprehensive national education curriculum would not only celebrate this history but also critically analyse it, offering students the opportunity to arrive at their own conclusions and affording them a forum to share these conclusions in a discussion-based setting.
If fostering patriotism is one of the goals of this curriculum, this should be applauded. However, let us be clear that true patriotism creates a desire for continuous review and improvement of governance.
The government must make clear its intentions.
Are we seeking to enrich the next generation and provide them with the necessary tools to become the leaders of tomorrow or is the administration acting on instructions to cultivate conformity in thinking?
The latter will inevitably lead to political regression and intellectual stagnation.
Ali Ebrahim, Mid-Levels
In today’s South China Morning Post, a letter of mine appeared in the Letters section (page A12), the text of which is reproduced below (with some links added, for easy reference):
Crack down on telemarketers
Today, with so many different channels of communication, we are deluged with unwanted marketing. I wholeheartedly welcome the news that Hongkong Post is launching an opt-out sticker scheme for certain unaddressed circulars (“One way to stop some of that junk mail”, August 25).
However, the real menace is not mail, but telemarketing calls. Telemarketing is the most inconvenient type of marketing because it requires active participation by the receiver, at a time that is convenient to the caller. Why should the public be expected to adjust to the schedules of telemarketers who are selling a product that they most likely do not want or need – and one which they certainly did not solicit?
A few years ago the telecoms watchdog OFTA launched the “Do-not-call” register for pre-recorded messages. It is now high time that it extended this register to include non-recorded – that is, live – calls.
This would cause a hue and cry from telemarketers, who would claim they provide a useful service that brings benefits to consumers. Yet that is nonsense; the only beneficiaries are the telemarketers themselves and the companies they represent.
The theft of property is an offence punishable by a prison sentence. I wonder if telemarketers could provide a convincing argument why we should tolerate the theft of our time.
Ali Ebrahim, Mid-Levels
For those who are interested, I’ve uploaded a scan of the relevant page.
The email on ebrahim.org is currently hosted on pair Networks, a great webhost, but one whose email solutions are lacking in flexibility. I want to move to a solution where I can sync Email/Contacts/Calendar over multiple devices, for a domain with 7 mailboxes.
I’m considering two options:
Pros: Has all the features I’d ever need, excellent support, even for small customers.
Cons: Relatively small quota, and completely out of budget (at least US$13/user/month), email migration into Rackspace is difficult for large datasets.
As Rackspace is out of budget, I didn’t really spend much time looking into it in too much detail.
Google Apps Premier
Pros: Within budget (US$50/user/year), wide ranging feature set.
Cons: Technical support lacking (mainly DIY), doesn’t care about small customers, only compatible with old software, and import into Google Apps is a nightmare scenario due to lack of compatibility of migration tools.
However, there are significant issues which block my migration to Google Apps at the moment, most of which are shocking, given Google’s desire to capture the enterprise messaging/collaboration market.
Let’s make a list of missing features:
Sales of Windows 7 began in October 2009, and Office 2010 was made available to volume licensing customers in April 2010. When everybody else already supports Windows 7/Outlook 2010, Google lags far behind and lose all credibility when they claim they are the best solution for enterprise customers.
Enterprise customers rely on predictability, but yet, when asked for a timeline for when the above configurations will be supported, Google replied “we do not have a release date as yet”.
I’m ready to spend money with Google, if only they’d deliver support for modern software. A year in the software world is an eternity, and for Google to not support Windows 7 is akin to a wannabe top-tier airport telling pilots to land using VFR because they’ve not installed an ILS yet.
After five long years using my trusted (and now extremely out of date) laptop, I’ve finally moved along to something better.
Dell Latitude E6510, Intel Core i7-820QM (1.73GHz, with Turbo Boost to 3.06GHz), 8GB RAM, 250GB HDD (using Seagate hardware-based FDE), 15.6″ 1920×1080 LCD, built in 3G HSPA modem for use when travelling, backlit keyboard, Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit.
Mini Review of Dell Latitude Series
I’m not one to replace my laptop hardware often, but it was time, as I had less than a month of my 5 year warranty remaining and I was out of hard disk space. Plus, the old laptop was breaking down a bit too often for my liking. Motherboard replaced 4 times, LCD replaced 3 times, keyboard replaced 2 times, and HDD replaced once. To Dell’s credit, they never made any fuss and always promptly sent out replacement parts without making me run irrelevant diagnostic tests, but it was all getting a bit too much. I think the main reason I had so many problems was the poor placement of the exhaust vent on the Latitude D-Series chassis, which was on the back and always blocked by the port replicator, causing constant overheating. I was happy to see that on the E-Series chassis, the exhaust vent has been moved to the side instead.
I have yet to try out all of the new features of my new laptop, but I will say that it’s Fast (with a capital F). Especially compared to what I was using before. The screen is amazing and the backlit keyboard is icing on the cake, because these days I use the computer with the lights off a lot, due to having small kids around. Not that I need to look at the keyboard whilst typing, but it’s still cool to have nonetheless.
However, I now have an old laptop in working condition which is sitting idle, and I don’t know what to do with it. First, I considered repurposing it as a training computer for my 3 year old daughter and installing a netbook OS as those should in theory be pretty basic and easy to use.
First I tried Jolicloud (PreFinal release), a netbook OS that seems to be getting generally good reviews in the blogosphere. I tried the LiveCD and was disappointed to find that the Intel wifi card in my laptop did not work (nor was I able to find any information online about making it work). So I just gave it a look-through offline, enough to get a feel about what it offers.
Then I tried Ubuntu Netbook Edition (version 10.04), where the wifi did work on the LiveCD. Overall a pretty similar experience to Jolicloud, which was not a huge surprise given they share the same foundations. Jolicloud seemed to offer a better out of the box experience (rather it would have, had wifi been working), but Ubuntu’s UI polish was much better.
However, finally, both options seemed somewhat underwhelming and I kept on thinking to myself, “What if I just put XP back on this thing?” After all, XP is now almost a decade old, very stable due to years of bugfixes and patching, and pretty snappy too. Jolicloud and Ubuntu, as netbook-optimised OS’, stand out when dealing with real netbooks which have very limited vertical real estate. However, with 1050 pixels on the Y-axis, the appeal of screen real estate saving features was pretty minimal.
After all this, I also gave up on the idea about using my old laptop as a training machine for my daughter. Makes more sense just to use the home desktop with Windows 7 and a regular keyboard and mouse rather than using Windows XP with a relatively confusing trackpad.
I think most likely, I probably will install Windows XP on the old laptop. The alternatives are underwhelming. Though, I still have no idea what I’ll do with it.
Glossary for non-Indian readers: PAN – Permanent Account Number
The geniuses at the Income Tax Department in India have set up a website called:
In reality, it should be called Know Anybody’s PAN because that’s what you’re able to do, as long as you know their last name and birthdate, neither of which anybody would consider a secret these days. You don’t even need to know the first or middle name, the website will give it to you.
I can’t fathom why anybody would think that this website is a good idea because it effectively facilitates identity fraud. Besides forgetting one’s own PAN, I cannot think of a single legitimate reason why anybody would need to use this website. And let’s be clear; allowing people to check their own PAN is not a good enough justification to make this information public.
There are plenty of illegitimate reasons why this website would be used. First and foremost would be identity fraud. Knowing someone’s PAN is crucial if you want to engage in fraudulent transactions on their behalf.
While the internet can be a useful tool, sometimes people need to think about why a tool is really necessary and think about the implications before putting it online.
However, I suppose in India, a country where privacy laws don’t exist, and the concept of personal privacy is alien, it should not come as a big surprise that the government itself is facilitating identity fraud.
Just to try out the system, you could look up one of many common Indian personalities’ names and dates of birth on Wikipedia and the website will give you their PAN.
A couple days ago I had mentioned that Lord Avebury had asked the UK Government about their usage of IE. The UK Government has now answered and I am reproducing the full text of the question and answer below:
Asked by Lord Avebury
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with the governments of France and Germany about security risks of using Internet Explorer; and whether they will encourage public sector users to use another web browser. [HL1420]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): UK government officials and subject matter experts are in regular contact with their counterparts in France, Germany and other countries on both a bilateral and multilateral basis to exchange technical information and opinions on many aspects of cyber security, including software vulnerabilities. For example, the UK’s Government Computer Emergency Response Team (GovCertUK) and Combined Security Incident Response Team (CSIRTUK) are members of the group of European Government CERTS (EGG), as are their French and German equivalents.
Complex software will always have vulnerabilities and motivated adversaries will always work to discover and take advantage of them. We take internet security very seriously and we have worked with Microsoft and other suppliers over many years to understand the security of the products used by HMG, including Internet Explorer. There is no evidence that moving from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure. Regular software patching and updating will help defend against the latest threats.
Microsoft issued a patch to fix the recent Internet Explorer vulnerability on 21 January. Prior to this, government departments had been issued with a GovCertUK alert on how to deal with this particular incident and to mitigate vulnerabilities in relation to particular versions of IE.
A government user, operating on government systems, such as the Government Secure Intranet (GSi), will benefit from additional security measures, unlikely to be available to the average home computer user. These include tools which actively monitor for evidence of any malicious attacks.
While the UK government contends that “there is no evidence that moving from the latest fully patched versions of Internet Explorer to other browsers will make users more secure”, there are many others who would disagree.
Also, although IE8 has significantly improved security models as compared to IE6 and IE7, there is still evidence that IE6 is being heavily used by UK government departments, including the armed forces. I think most people would agree that a “fully patched” IE6 is still relatively more vulnerable to attacks.
Lord Avebury to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, in the light of the recent announcement by Microsoft that Internet Explorer was used to carry out the cyber attacks which prompted Google to say it will withdraw from China, they will review the use of Internet Explorer throughout the public sector. HL1505
Lord Avebury mentions that the Parliamentary IT authorities are actively discouraging the use of alternative browsers such as Chrome so it is great to see that he is holding the government accountable for their policies.
According to UK parliamentary procedure, the government is obliged to provide a written response to his question on or before 8 February 2010. I think it will be interesting to see what they have to say.
Lord Avebury is an active campaigner for the rights of ethnic minorities in the UK and also those who are British nationals living abroad. He is also a member of the EU Select Committee which considers EU policy on protecting Europe from large-scale cyber attacks.