- INTERVIEW WITH AKHTAR LODHI
QUESTIONS…PART ONE…GOD AND
you believe in God? If you do Why?
I believe in God because of two reasons. First, I just cannot imagine
that such a wonderful universe could come into being by itself. My
observation is that nothing, which is systematic and orderly, gets done
without any intelligence. The idea that this whole universe came into
being by an accident or a trial and error just does appeal to me. I
believe in the proverbial monkey, not being able to create a piece of
Shakespeare if given a pen and paper and millions of tries.
because I feel it is in our nature to believe in a super-being. It is no
accident that humanity since time immemorial have believed in such a
being and historically very few, if any, communities have exited which
did not believe as such. The signs of His existence are too overwhelming
is your concept / experience of God?
believe that God created this universe, according to certain rules and
by and large it runs by these rules, except where He chooses to
intervene (which is rare). Having given humans the ability to choose
between good and bad, He will take an account of how these intellectual
and physical abilities were used in the life hereafter. This, I,
believe, makes a lot of sense. For, otherwise, I do not see how justice
can be served to either reward or punish people who have done immense
good or bad; e.g. can death be a fair punishment for a person like
Hitler who caused so much suffering to so many people?
is your belief system different than the belief system of your family
and community of origin?
in detail, not in concept. I believe that God manifests itself in
different ways to different people. In this respect, I see all religions
having the same objective, as long as the adherents believe sincerely to
the best of their knowledge, and that is why I believe that competition
between religions to convert others zealously is pointless and
counterproductive. God being Magnanimous cannot be petty and partisan.
I, therefore, am not comfortable with everyone’s claim of
self-righteousness, to the total negation and falsification of the
did you become an Atheist / Agnostic / Free Thinker / Humanist?
am not one. I am a Muslim and believe that it gives mankind the best
shot at being liberated and be a humanist.
do you believe in a Religion?
humans have two sides to our existence – physical and spiritual.
Science, gradually over time, has been successful in helping us improve
our physical life (although some aspects of scientific achievements have
been very devastating for humanity, in my opinion). However, science
cannot address our spiritual needs, being completely based on physical
aspects of life only. With their limited knowledge and short life span,
it is difficult for humans to find out, by trial and error, a path which
will lead to gratification of their spiritual needs. The Creator, being
aware of these limitations, has, very Kindly, arranged to bring this
knowledge to humans, thru His chosen persons – the prophets.
subset of this divine guidance is also evident in sudden bursts of
revelations to poets, scientists, etc. (remember, Ghalib saying “aatay
hain ghaib say yeh mazameen khiyal mein”, or Newton’s sudden inspiration
from a falling apple). To me, these are clear indications of God’s
guidance or inspiration (wahee, in our terms) on a smaller scale.
do you practice your preferred religion [Islam / Christianity / Judaism
/ Hinduism / Sikhism / Native Spirituality etc] as opposed to not any
other religious or spiritual tradition?
to the best of my knowledge and understanding, Islam seems to be the
most logical and the simplest of all the faiths. It appeals the most to
my intellect and genius.
you believe in giving Religious Education to children at home and in
I believe that we must impart this knowledge to our children.
can’t we teach our children different religious and spiritual and
secular traditions as part of history and let them decide when they
must teach our offsprings about different faiths in a positive way. We
should also try to explain the rationale behind our beliefs and why have
we chosen this faith in preference to any other. They must know that our
faith is not by an accident but rather because of a conviction. Being a
parent, I must show my children the True Path, as I know it to be. Just
like it is my duty to teach my children about their civic duties, love
of my culture and country, poetry or even say, cricket. By the same
token I must educate them about the faith as well, that being the most
important aspect of their life.
are your views about the relationship between Religion and State?
am not very clear on this issue myself, any more. Sometime ago, I would
have said that State should be guided by Religion – thinking in terms of
an Islamic state. However, realizing the pervasive nature of the state
and its all-encompassing power over its citizen, given multitude of
possible interpretations of islam, and above all the human greed for
power which makes this open for abuse (particularly its abhorrent
manifestation in Pakistan), I am uncomfortable with that idea. The truth
is that the subject needs much more reflection on my part, before I can
answer this question.
Where you do get your
guidance about your moral and ethical values?
the Quran and the traditions of the holy prophet (peace be upon him).
The writings of Islamic scholars are also helpful but one has to
remember that their interpretations are not binding. I normally weigh
their opinions/rulings and accept or reject in light of what satisfies
my mind to be logical and reasonable in light of Quranic teachings..
TWO…LOVE, SEX AND MARRIAGE
Are you single or married?
If you are single is it out
of your own choice?
What are your views about
believe that celibacy is entirely against the human nature. In a way, it
is fleeing from the real life. In the end, most who profess to believe
in celibacy, end up cheating (tired of fighting their instinct,
Why did you get married? Was
it an arranged or a love marriage?
wanted love in my life and I wanted to have children, which is God’s
biggest gift to humanity. It (having children) is also society’s due on
an individual that he/she contributes towards the growth, existence and
indeed the survival of the institution which gave birth and protection
a life partner was my own decision, which I exercised through the
approval of my mother and other members of the family (including my
wife’s). This, I believe, is the best way in which personal choice of
the concerned person (s) and elders input helps make a better decision.
Do you believe in platonic
relationships between men and women?
theoretically may exist, as a man and a woman can be just good friends.
Certainly most platonic relations, in an innocent way, do start that
way. But, in practical life I have seen far too many “platonic”
relations gradually and eventually converting into, let us say, somewhat
more intimate (read sexual) and less platonic in nature.
Are you gay or lesbian?
Have you shared your gay /
lesbian lifestyle with your family and community?
What was the reaction of
your family and community?
What do you think of
legalizing gay and lesbian marriages in Canada?
think that is a contradiction of terms. Marriage essentially, by
definition and by tradition has been a heterosexual phenomenon. I do not
see why Gays and lesbians insist on using a term for themselves, which
does not relate or apply to them at all. I am not talking of gay/lesbian
rights – just the term ‘marriage’ as it may apply to a gay/lesbian
relationship. The gays/lesbians have been given their civil and basic
rights and they can call their union whatever they feel fit. But I don’t
understand why do they want to use a term which denotes a heterosexual
Do you have a gay or lesbian
friend or relative?
What do you think different
Religions and Scriptures say about gay and lesbian lifestyle?
behavior, at best, has always been seen as an aberration, malfunction or
abnormality. While we should understand this condition sympathetically,
as it may not be a matter of choice, any society cannot encourage and
promote this lifestyle, unless it wants to commit an eventual collective
suicide. To the best of my knowledge, Quran condemns gay/lesbian
behavior if used as a form of licentiousness and a matter of choice as
done by the people of Lot.
Are you an immigrant? For
how long have you been living outside your motherland?
I am an immigrant and have been outside of my country of birth for last
What do you consider the
cultural differences between the two cultures?
are numerous differences between the cultures of, say Pakistan and the
west. Some of these stem from disparate religious backgrounds of the two
cultures while others are caused by diverse environment and historic
experience. Some of these differences :
West tends to value
individual freedom and choice much more than we practice at home. Hence,
individuals in west tend to act in a more independent way when it comes
to dealing with elders, society norms (taboos??), convention and
authority, whether religious or political. They have much less tendency
to be cowed in and would be their own masters in making a decision.
By contrast, people from Pakistan, are generally slaves to traditions
(religious or cultural) and in face of pressure from elders or in a
position of authority they are very likely to forgo their own opinion to
conform, rather than make their own mind. This leads to their being
prone to manipulation and abuse, which is evident throughout Muslim
Another aspect of this : I
find that people in west generally are more honest and are more likely
to speak the truth while Pakistanis tend to be hypocrites and would
rather lie than be embarrassed to speak their mind or go against the
Sadly, I find that a
positive effect that should have accrued from being more
society-oriented in Pakistan is missing. That is, we should have seen
more things being done for the good of the society rather than for the
good of an individual.
The other major difference
lies with the attitude with regard to women. The current outlook of west
is less patriarchic in nature than in Pakistan where women are
considered more a personal property or a source of personal pride and
honor. This manifests itself, on one hand, with the traditional utmost
respect and love shown to mothers, daughters and sisters while on some
other matters treating them with cruelty and denying their proper
How do you deal with your
try to reason and balance my opinions between tradition and my own
reflections. Giving-in to new way of thinking is always difficult, but
one has to strike a balance, unless one lives in a stone age where
hardly anything changes. One reason for most people to stick to
tradition in Pakistan and their unwillingness to change is that cultural
practices are confused with Islam. The reality is that Islam has given a
lot of freedom of choice for all nations, races and ages to develop
their cultures and traditions according to their own genius and
historical backgrounds. One must develop criteria to identity what is
mandatory and what is not when looking at a tradition.
PERSONALITIES AND EMOTIONAL PROBLEMS
Are you a Creative Person?
that means an artistic person, no. I am more an artisan.
How do you express your
creativity [ write, paint, act or make films or in other forms] ?
doing things using a computer.
Do you share your Creations
with your family and community?
What are the reactions of
your family and community about your Creative Expressions?
appreciative, sometimes indifferent.
Did you experience emotional
and social problems because of your Creative Personality and Lifestyle?
How do you cope with those
emotional and social problems?
sharing these problems with my immediate family. They are a great source
Thank you for
sharing your philosophy and lifestyle.