Thursday, July 17, 2008

They are Harry Potter Books with Difference

They are Harry Potter Books with Difference
Syed Ali Mujtaba

Muslim parents are always trying to figure out how to raise their children in a multicultural society while maintaining their religious identity. In such struggles some parents either overdo their part, and make their child a total misfit for the outside world, or keep them totally ignorant about their faith and let them fall prey to the dominant social milieu. In such a complex situation, some parents who may like to impart religious education to their children in a modern way find it difficult to source quality children’s books that can provide a clear understanding of Islam.

Understanding this dilemma, a New Delhi based publisher, Saniyasnain Khan has come up with the splendid idea to bring out a wide range of children’s books on Islam in English. Published under the banner Goodword Books, its popularity is slowly climbing the charts, and distributors call them the Harry Potter books on Islam.

The birth of Goodword Books

The journey for the inception of Goodword Books began with a humble attempt by the noted Indian Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan whose endeavor to present the peace-loving message of Islam has led to a widespread acceptance and popularity of his books. His son Saniyasnain Khan, carrying forward his message, has taken the initiative to produce high quality children’s books on Islam and started Goodword Books in 1996 and Goodword Kidz in 1999. Currently there are 35 people working at its head office in New Delhi, India.

Originally known as Al-Risala, Goodword Books boasts a wide range of children’s products: Islamic children's books, Islamic story books, board games, puzzles, gift packs, coloring books, mazes, crosswords, word searches, Quran stories, seerah stories, and many more exciting and fun-filled ideas and activities. With a hundred distributors in 20 countries its main markets are the UK, USA, India and Pakistan.

Saniyasnain Khan - Inspiring Muslim children

Goodword’s moving spirit, Saniyasnain Khan, is a well known author of children’s books on Islamic subjects. He has over 100 titles to his credit.

Some of them; Tell Me About the Prophet Muhammad, Tell Me About Hajj, Tell Me About the Prophet Musa, Tell Me About the Prophet Yusuf, My First Quran Storybook, and many more are very popular. His books have been translated into French, Danish, Turkish, Urdu, Arabic, Malay, and Uzbek languages.

Talking to DinarStandard Saniyasnain Khan says Islam is essentially a religion of peace and harmony but there are two main reasons why some people dislike Muslims and Islam. One is violence that has been associated with it, the other is the perceived bad treatment of women by Muslims.

‘I felt that there was a pressing need to educate the new generation about the real Islamic values so that they become little ambassadors of Islamic goodness and they also stimulate them to learn about Islamic ideals as they grow up,’ said Mr. Khan, whose first book “Tell Me About Hajj” has sold over 30,000 copies.

"Children get a lot of negative information about Islam. There is a big need to give them the right picture so that they grow up to be peace-loving individuals” said Mr. Khan who often contributes articles on spirituality to the Times of India.

A trustee of CPS International, a non-profit organization working towards peace and spirituality, the 48 years old Mr Khan says “my endeavor is to present books for children that provide a solid foundation of Islamic moral values. The basic purpose of these books is to teach themes carefully chosen from the Quran and other Islamic sources so that the children not only learn its ethical values but also embody them in their lives.”

Success of "Tell Me" series and quality production

Talking about the popularity of his books, he said the “Tell Me" series is very popular among parents and showed a letter from a Malaysian gentleman that said; "I believe that in the current condition of the world, stories from the “Tell Me" series are very important and its my hope and desire that these stories may reach out to non-Muslims as well and become as popular as Cinderella stories!"

Similarly, a teacher from Priestmead Middle School in Middlesex, UK, wrote him: "I am trying to make our Muslim children feel that their faith is accepted in school and would like to seek your permission to use ‘Little Hearts’ books as part of the discourse for the school assembly.”

Mr Khan who often participates in inter-faith initiatives towards peace and non-violence says these books are for children of all faiths. Recently a school in Delhi prescribed some of the books for its library and there is mention of their book ‘My First Quran’ in the catalogue recommended to teachers in British schools.

“It is a well-known fact that words and pictures together are most effective when it comes to teaching children. Goodword’s books combine simple language with imaginative illustrations so that children are attracted to them,” says Mr Khan adding “we are trying a more reasonable and simple approach so that children of all faiths find them attractive.”

Goodword’s area of specialization is Islamic stories for children based on the Quran and Hadith. There are more than 500 plus titles to its credit. These books are completely dedicated to developing meaningful and wholesome Islamic and moral values. There are more than 20 distinguished writers associated with Goodword Books. Sr. Nafees Khan (Canada), Tahir Kassam Ali (USA), Luqman Nagi (Saudi Arabia), Harun Yahya (Turkey), Dr. V. Abdur Rahim (Saudi Arabia), Fawzia Gilani-Williams (USA), Salma Umm Zainab (USA), Maryan Kinte (UK), Sajda Nazlee (UK) are but a few.

Goodword Books are available at most Islamic bookstore in more than twenty countries including the UK, USA, Malaysia, India and Pakistan. The Online Holy Books Shop India offers an extensive range of Goodword Books and other products like audio, CDs, and DVD. The Goodword Book’s website contains a wealth of information at

Besides children’s books, Goodword also publishes books for adults. These range in subject matter from history, religion and philosophy to dawah and Arabic learning. It has already produced a vast body of well researched books on Islam and Islamic history, all written by noted scholars and academicians. The rich collection of books presented by Goodword makes it a leading name in the publication of meaningful, authentic books on Islam. It has also started selling Urdu translations of its books.

Mr. Khan, sums up his dream saying the long term vision of Goodword is to generate the love of Islam in children and young people so that when they grow up they spread its beauty around them.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

India Obsessed with Nuke Deal and Murder Mystery

India Obsessed with Nuke Deal and Murder Mystery
Syed Ali Mujtaba

In New Delhi there are two dramas that are currently being staged. One of course is the nuclear deal and second is the twin murder mystery that rocked the neighborhood of the national capital some two months ago. Thanks to the national media the entire country is forced to follow the two dramas scene by scene frame by frame. It seems both the media and the government are consciously engaged in diverting the peoples attention of the people on controlling the prices of essential commodities that’s hitting the roof.

As far as the nuke deal is concerned it has become plain and simple politics. The ruling Congress party that’s piloting the nuclear- civil deal with the US has come to loggerheads with its own allies; the left, who are oppose to the deal. The left by pulling out of the government has reduced the ruling alliance into a minority. The Congress party, the dominant partner in the ruling alliance, instead of seeking truce with its left allies, is hobnobbing with other political parties to muster political majority. It’s resorting to horse trading to reach the magical figure of 272 to pass the floor test in the Lok Sabha.

There seem to be a sense of desperation in the current dispensation that’s keen to override the domestic agenda for foreign policy consideration. This political wisdom is logic of a rare kind. There are so many issues that are left out hanging due to lack of consensus in India and government is going ahead with other pressing issues. However, the desperation for the clearance of the nuke deal is something unprecedented as if the national existence is in jeopardy if the deal does not get through at the stipulated time. This is something intriguing and some one has rightly commented what‘s the deal behind the deal?

However more then the nuke-deal, it’s the Arushi-Hemraj murder mystery case that’s gathering a huge TRP rating on the TV channels. Even though it doesn't concern any common Indian, the TV channels have been selling this story like a hot potato for two months now. The entire country is forced to solve this murder mystery of a minor girl Arushi Talwar and a domestic help Hemraj that was committed at a home in Noida town in the state of Uttar Pradesh, adjoining Delhi.

The TV channels try to force down the throat a concocted story that the father of the deceased Mr. Talwar when found that her minor daughter was having sex with the domestic help Hemraj killed the two in a fit of rage. A simple honor killing theory leaves many question a begging. Can a father kill his own daughter? If the father is the killer, could the mother remain silent; whether she is a mother first or a wife first?

The TV channels are not answering these simple questions and making a killing out of their concocted honor killing story. The channels conducting media trial on the television screen have shown no respect to the mental agony of the parents they might have been undergoing due the murder of his daughter. Imagine if the murder suspect would have been some political bigwig of country. Can the TV channels sell this juice uninterrupted for two months in a row? Can any one imagine how many TV channels may have been up in flames by now? Poor Mr Talwar, who is neither Ram Sevak nor a Shiv Sanik and can no way gather a mob to silence the canard on the TV, has little option then to quietly suffer the humiliation.

The big question is who has given a license to the TV channels to conduct such media trials and play with the sentiments of an individual. Can they be pulled up for such crime or will it become an order of the day and carried on forever in the name of providing entertainment?

If the TV channels are stupid, the Central Bureau of Investigation is equally callous in handling this case. Willy-nilly the premier investigative agency of India too have fallen prey to the concocted story of honor killing and picked up the father of the deceased on grounds of suspicion. Talwatr a middle aged dental doctor was kept in confinement for 50 days to be released on bail when no evidence could be mustered against him. It was the same CBI that initially claimed to crack this case basing on the confession made by the suspect during the polygraph test evidence that has no locus standing in the court of law. After 50 days, its same CBI that saying…You find him I will fix him… we are still clueless about this murder mystery.
However, this case brings out some very hard questions that the people of the country may like to know the answers. Is every Indian guilty till the police exonerate him/ her of the charges? Can the investigative agencies have such sweeping powers that it can detain a person for indefinite time on mere grounds of suspicion? Can it retrieve its action without any accountability? Who will compensate the tarnished moments of the person that comes with such arrest?

Imagine, the arrests that are being made in bomb blasts and communal riot cases, where people are arbitrarily picked up on grounds of mere suspicion. I am aware of a case where one person was picked up and had to languish in jail 12 yrs to come out proven innocent. This case is of Kolkata where a bomb blast had taken place some time in 1970s. The guy in question who was in his 20’s then was having his hair cut in a barber’s shop when the balst took place. The police when came looking for the suspect found the identity of this guy who was wearing a sleeveless singlet and a Technicolor lungi identical to their imagination and thus picked him up. The poor mother of this guy who lived in a remote village in Bihar could hardly afford any money to travel to Kolkatta to fight for his son’s case. Unfortunately, there were not many human rights activists who could take this up or the TV channel that could conduct a media trail. In the end the poor chap had to be in jail for 12 long years for a crime that he never committed. His name is Bharati, and I know him well.

To cut the long story short, the Union Minister Renuka Chowdry has spoken on the Arushi Talwar murder case and advised Mr. Talwar to sue the Uttar Pardesh police for tarnishing his image. Why not the honorable minister herself files a public interest litigation case against the UP police, the CBI and the TV channels for misrepresentation of facts in this case? Where are the professional PIL filers, who jump in at slightest pretext to overburden the courts with public litigations? Why don’t they come out and fight against such injustices in the country? Well in India to give advices is very easy job the most difficult is to fight for a cause. This seems to be true about the Arushi Talwar murder case as well.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Tales from the Raj- Nostalgia at its Best

Tales from the Raj- Nostalgia at its Best
Syed Ali Mujtaba

On my way back to Chennai after the last Christmas holidays, I boarded the train for Kolkata at Jamalpur, a sleepy railway junction on eastern railway in Bihar, that once use to hub of railway activities when steam and coal driven iron horses use to crisscross the country.

Jamalpur still is an important place on the map of eastern railways because it boasts of one of the earliest railway locomotive workshop in the country established way back in 1862. It has also a railway engineering collage that produces top class mechanical engineers for the Indian railways.

The eastern side of Jamalpur has row of independent houses for the officers working in the railway workshop and other important railway establishment in Jamalpur. During the British rule, the East colony looked almost like a little England and was an exclusive white zone. The church and the cemetery there tell the story to even to those who are not looking for one.

Any discussion among the passengers boarding the train from Jamalpur invariably takes to the talks on the heydays of the Raj and some old-timers my recall the activities in the east-colony with great enthusiasm, now a thing of a past.

Mr Sinha, a police inspector and two young people working at the railway workshop in Jamalpur was my companion in the train journey to Kolkata. While Sinha was traveling to Sahibganj, a three hours journey to join his duty, spending his weekend in Jamalpur, the others were traveling with their families to attend a wedding at Kolkata.

Sinha, a potbelly, thick mustached man had fudged his date of birth and was still serving the Bihar police even getting close to 70. His retirement was due in two months and he was lamenting about it. He wished to die in office at the ripe age enjoying all the facilities that men in police uniform enjoy in that backward state that sits at the bottom of developmental index in the country.

A great fan of the Raj, Sinha had the first hand experience of the ‘White Sahibs.’

He kept every one captivated with stories about the life in the east colony of Jamalpur.Sinha’s uncle worked as a domestic help at the bungalow of one Henry saab, an officer at the railway workshop. As a young boy Sinha used to frequent Henry Saab’s house and had fond memories of those days.

The conversation actually started with the sorry state of Jamalpur workshop. The guys working there said why can’t the railway minister pump in some funds and make Jamalpur once again the railway hub. Every thing is there that one can ask for as far as infrastructure is concerned as it requires just some funds. India had three railway ministers Ramvilas Paswan, Nitish Kumar and now Lalu Yadav, all in quick succession from Bihar but none have given any thought to develop Jamalpur. The other guy replied him saying all the railway ministers who took interest in the rehabilitation of Jamalpur have lost their ministry and it’s a jinxed case.

Sinha, immediately jumped into the conversation and took us to the flashback of the Raj. It was different days, English people were ruling country. Every thing was in order. Jamalpur was a bubbling with activities. More than 25,000 people use to work at the workshop. There use to be three shifts and the coolie train use to chug out of the workshop and transport the workers to quite far of places. Many people in the surrounding areas were depended on the Jamalpur workshop, Sinha said.

Sinha, upping his narration took us to have a peep into the life and times of Hennery Sab. My uncle worked at the bungalow of Hennery Sab. I used to go with him to that house sometimes, Sinha said nostalgically.

What a house it used to be, a big lawn full of flowers and Hennery Saab and his Memsab use to sit under the garden umbrella. They had two Alsatians dogs, a horse, a cat, a parrot and some other birds, hens and a green jeep in the bungalow.

I had seen Memsaab riding horse at the east end road and saab use to play golf in the golf course Sinha relished telling that as if he had an exclusive copyright over it.

Both Hennery Saab and memsahib were found of hunting, they had a few double barrels and rifles with them. I use to help my uncle clean the guns. There were three rifles, two DBL (double barrel) and one sleek pistol that I think belonged to memsaab. Once I accompanied them to a hunting expedition in the Bhimband Lake that’s in Kharagpur jungles of Monghyr district.

Such expeditions were usually in winters when the lake was full with ducks, cranes and other migratory birds. A lot many birds flew over the lake and others rested in waters, their chirping filled the atmosphere and it was an unforgettable sight, Sinha said.

An advance party would normally go and pitch up tents near the lake. There use to be chairs, table, garden umbrella and folding beds use to be put up there. There were separate tents for servants. The coal stuff ovens were carried there for cooking and make shift toilets was erected.

Hennery Saab, memsaab with their friends use to come in the jeep and stayed overnight in the tents and the shooting session use to begin since the morning. Hennery memsaab was a sharp shooter and her rifle shots were remarkable Sinha said. There use to be competition and invariable she uses to beat every one as she could shoot a duck in a cluster of birds.

Henry Saab use to go after the wild boar in jungles and all this fun filled activities lasted for the entire day. While the Sab and memsaab use to return before the sunset, the other staff left the place only by next day.

As Sinha was narrating this hunting expedition, every one sitting in the moving train listened to him patiently. To me it was the reels from the movie ‘A Passage to India’ by David Lean.

When Sinha said, goodnight folks have a pleasant journey to Kolkata, I realized the three hours of journey had already flew past. Although the train had stopped at many stations it for first time I could figure the slowing down sound of the moving train.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at