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Dealing with Indian Law Enforcement: The Motherland – Part IV


Prelude | Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI

“The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.

. . .

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After the Accident

When the car that hit me started to run away, I quickly wrote down the license plate number. I kind of understand why the driver ran though. In India, when it is pretty obvious who is at fault in a car accident, the public beats that driver up, to teach him how to drive. Now I do not know how beating someone senseless will make them better drivers, but who am I to judge? Anyway, I went up to the driver as he sat at a standstill after hitting my scooter. I pleaded and begged with him to pull over and not run. I guaranteed his safety, and it worked. He pulled over and no one  tried to beat him up, but I guess instincts are instincts, so he decided to run. There was a patrol officer present who called his colleagues ahead to see if they could catch him, but sadly they were not able to do anything.

Officers examining my FIR.


Afterwards, the patrol officer told me “my job is to save your life, that is it,” and then he walked away. I took out my phone and dialed 100 – the 911 equivalent in India. I called the number five times in half an hour, but no police officer showed up to receive me or even bother taking my information over the phone at the least. Instead, I got a text message from them saying ‘Thank you for calling Lucknow police’. I ended up calling the Qidwais who picked me up and took me to a doctor, in the back of their car. After partially recovering, I filed a First Information Report (FIR-the equivalent of a police report) at a local police station in a district known as Gomti Nagar and reported the accident.

After almost seven months, the police finally contacted me to let me know that they had found the car that hit me. Yes, seven months! The law enforcement system is beyond slow in getting work done, so now I am figuring out how I will approach the whole situation from a legal standpoint. I ended up meeting the owner of the car who disassociated himself from the whole situation. We will see what happens as I only met him two days before leaving to the states. The owner happens to be a retired police officer, so I guess my mafia friends from New Jersey could not help me (that was a joke in case you were planning on incriminating me. For the record, i do not actually have any mafia friends.)

I was taken to the side in four ‘regular’ traffic stops in Lucknow. All of the four situations were similar. A cop stepped in front of my scooter to slow me down and had me park on the side. He approached me and asked for my license. I have an international license, so I was not concerned, but seeing how police brutality had skyrocketed in America,  just in case ,I exercised my American privileges and spoke only in English–even though the cop only spoke Hindi. I also refused to speak in Hindi nor acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. The junior officer then said I have to pay a ‘fine’ (which was actually a bribe) of Rs. 1000 and then directed me to the senior officer. I refused to acknowledge that I understood him nor was I planning on coughing up any of my hard earned money. The junior officer told his senior in Hindi that I do not have any paperwork (which I did) and that I only spoke English. The senior officer, who also did not speak English,told his other colleague to look at my license and see what the status of the situation is. The colleague looked at my license and asked only one question in his broken English: “Which country you from?”

The Bara Gumbad Masjid and madrasa in New Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens.


I responded by saying ‘the United States’, the officer’s face changed, he quickly gave me my license, and said I could go. He then told the junior officer something to the extent of not putting them in that situation again and to kindly escort me to my scooter.

In regards to the bribes that most police officers usually officiate, corruption is a huge problem in India. According to this India Times article, political parties and police are the most corrupt institutions in India. So much so that a little more than 1 out of 2 Indians have admitted to paying bribes to police officers–which is usually in exchange of not getting a court summons.  Current affairs show us that these are two areas which Indian citizens are actively working on fixing.

. . .

Stay tuned for Part V of this series!

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Nihal Ahmad Khan is currently a student of Islamic Law and Theology at Nadwatul 'Ulama in Lucknow, India. He was born and raised in New Jersey and holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a minor in Business from Montclair State University and a diploma in Arabic from Bayyinah Institute's Dream Program. He began memorizing the Qur’an at Darul Uloom New York and finished at the age of seventeen at the Saut al-Furqan Academy in Teaneck, New Jersey. He went on to lead taraweeh every year since then. Along with his education, Nihal has worked in various capacities in the Muslim community as an assistant Imam, youth director, and a Muslim Chaplain at correctional facilities and social service organizations. Nihal is also an MA candidate in Islamic Studies from the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut.



  1. M

    October 27, 2015 at 11:47 PM

    Salam brother. It’s really brave of you to go to a foreign land in search of knowledge, even if that foreign land is one’s motherland. Specially in a city where you didn’t know anyone. What was your family’s response to all this? They must have been really worried.

    • Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      My family was fine as long as I was fine :).

  2. Khan

    October 28, 2015 at 2:31 PM

    I am really curious about the islamic knowledge you gained from this experience. And any other lessons you may have learned from your stay there, empathy/sympathy for muslims living there, maybe sabr?

    Also if you know Urdu, why would you lie and say you don’t?

    • Nihal Khan

      October 28, 2015 at 3:15 PM

      What I learned will be shared in the subsequent articles in this series. Be sure to follow along!

      The officers spoke to me in Hindi and I responded in English. I didn’t say that I couldn’t speak English, I simply refused to acknowledge that I spoke Hindi. And in that situation one’s options are limited as to what one can do to save themselves from having to pay a bribe, be sent to jail, beaten, or some other horrendous form of police treatment. If you have not done so, then read the India Times article I posted closer to the end of the article and also my comments as to why I chose to only speak in English.

      • Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:18 PM

        The picture “officers examining my FIR” indicates that, at least this encounter was not a “horrendous” situation.

        • Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:17 AM

          That’s not from when I got stopped and has nothing to do with any traffic stops. It’s when I walking in on crutches with a broken foot to report the person who hit me.

    • Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:40 AM

      The brother did not lie and say he didn’t know Urdu. But even if he did lie, then that lie would have been a good deed. Please study Usul ul-Fiqh and the various ahadith pertaining to lying under different circumstances to understand why.

  3. safiya

    October 28, 2015 at 5:55 PM

    Nihal, definitely we have sympathy for your first time away from mother’s lap experience ! I read that the state of Uttar Pradesh for which Lucknow is the capital, has a population of 300 million and counting, which is probably higher than any muslim country in itself ! India and China are mammoths, and are a world of their own with their ways of life, yet being the beacons of progress for this century.
    I will say my disappointment here is,this seems to be a series that any tourist in any third world country goes thru.That people go to meditate in the Himalayas or the shaolin temple for martial arts in the mongolian mountains, is because, acquiring mastery requires patience and humility. Perhaps you should have waited a few years for maturity, to be able to imbibe the spirituality that comes with acquiring knowledge, from the East.My best wishes for your physical safety and soundness of mind before your return to the comforts of the west.

    • Abu Kanafa

      November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

      Al Salamu Alaykum,

      A few things :

      1. I am pretty sure brother Nihal has been ‘away from his mother’s lap’ before this. He’s graduated from Uni, done Bayyinah and other Madaris, held multiple jobs, etc. I am sure he’s not void of the experience any grown man would have.

      It seems quite rude to start off your comment subtly addressing him as a child.

      2. One can only consider these places you mentioned to be beacons of progress for this century on a theoretical level. If you, for example, lived in Lucknow you would vomit on that sentence (probably from the industrial age amount of dust that covers these streets).

      3. Please don’t be condescending in expressing your ‘disappointment’. Brother Nihal is not a tourist – despite having been through what most people would consider a nightmarish hell, he is still persevering through it for the sake of gaining Ilm. Why in heck would you be disappointed in that?

      4. Please don’t romanticized the pursuit of knowledge to that of practicing ‘martial arts in the shaolin temples of the Mongolian mountains’. This is not a Jackie Chan movie, nor is brother Nihal trying to become some sort of a drunken master. Stop living in a fantasy world where the pursuit of Ilm is a 2 hour long movie with a black and white plot. Where the Talib ul-Ilm is the unsung and disrespected hero that has to take on the world to prove himself and get the girl too.

      Reality is, this is far more difficult than a movie. When you realize exactly what is entailed in this journey can you truly respect the reward mentioned for it in our sacred tradition. It’s not for nothing that trekking this path is a road to paradise itself. And this road is littered with trash of all sorts which will prevent you from that ultimate goal.

      Which is why, unless you’ve been in the thick of it yourself, it would be best to refrain from criticizing someone who is on that path – lest you be held accountable for it on the Day of Judgement. Who are you to analogise the need for patience and humility with br. Nihal’s journey? I don’t know if I would be able to be patient through what he has gone through and still continue. I don’t know if most people would. I also don’t know if I would remain as objective as he has in expressing his journey. I don’t know if most people could have that humility.

      5. You state that people go through these trials in order to gain mastery, and then advise the brother to have waited to attain this maturity before taking such a journey. Then you question his spirituality – something entirely between him and His Lord. Are you serious? Can you even perceive the seething hypocrisy in those words?

      You have a warped definition of what spirituality is, and you have a warped definition of what maturity entails. To be frustrated at the injustices you see around you is not an expression of immaturity or a lack of spirituality. It is, in fact, the opposite. It is a testament to one’s spirituality and his or her maturity to be able to recognize and be disgusted with that. And it is an even greater testament of their maturity and spirituality that they have patience through it and continue on this path for the sake of Allah as brother Nihal is doing.

      My best wishes to you and your mental soundness of mind before you return to the comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen.

      • Khan

        November 12, 2015 at 3:14 PM

        I can see where safiya’s comment are coming from. Br Nihal sure is a grown man and been through a lot.

        But, this series came off to me (too) as a complaint journal and this-is-what-I-endured mindset. Vast numbers of muslims have journeyed to far away difficult places probably in worse conditions. They produced research on Islam and ahadith, some even passing away before reaching home.

        I am sure Br Nihal gains were much more than his troubles.

        With due respect to Abu Kunafa’s reponse/defence, Br Nihal’s descriptions of his troubles are frankly (still) immature.

        And Abu Kunafa, the references to “mental soundness” and “comforts of criticizing others on the path of Allah from behind your computer screen” were harsh and unjustified.

        • Nihal Khan

          November 13, 2015 at 11:32 AM

          I’m sorry this series came off to you as a complaint journal, but I am happy to report that the feedback received actually shows the opposite. Part of it is definitely going over what-I-endured, as that is mentioned at the beginning of every series.

          What one reads here are narrated facts that people can interpret however they find based on their own biases. Yes, there most definitely are people that have traveled farther and went through worse than anything I experienced. One can probably find much more benefit in reading about their struggles compared to mine.

          The purpose of these memoirs was a personal insight into what life is like for someone that travels into a third word country to study their religion. It is supposed to be a noted explanation of experiences I personally encountered.

          I’m pretty sure it wasn’t “immature complaining” when Shaykh Anwar Shah kashmiri wrote about how his caravan was looted and he felt sad that he lost many books in the process or when Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal spoke about how he used to sell written manuscripts to fund his studies.

          There are other some other assumptions here that could be addressed, but it’s all good :).



  4. M

    October 28, 2015 at 9:41 PM

    I am wondering, you must have made friends with the local people at the Islamic Institution you were attending, didn’t they offer you help through out all these situations? Specially considering the fact that you were not local.

    • Nihal

      October 29, 2015 at 10:23 AM

      Yes, locals helped me. It’s in the article.

  5. Pingback: » Self-Revelations: Discovering Your Limits in India | The Motherland: Part II

  6. Nabil

    November 1, 2015 at 10:32 AM

    This is getting funnier, sorry.

    It is easier if you go with the flow. The quicker you adapt to local ways, the better it gets.

    And this may sound ironic, but enjoy the agony. I miss it now.

  7. Khalida

    November 15, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    As-salaamu ‘alaikum Nihal,

    JazaakAllahu khairan for sharing snippets of your experiences in India. I’m sure it’ll be of great benefit to anyone visiting foreign or only somewhat familiar countries. I applaud you for how you acted with the police officers. This scenario is probably more common than we’ve seen in Central and South Asian countries.

  8. SP

    August 26, 2019 at 8:05 PM

    Assalam Alaikum Brother Nihal,

    It was very interesting to read your experiences in India, more so because it was in UP. I am from Mumbai, India but have spent a significant part of my life post bachelors in Engg in US for MS and PhD. I have lived in many cities in and around US. Its refreshing to see an American born and raised in US and his experiences to pursue deen in one of the premier institutions of ISLAM in the world.

    Coming from Mumbai, I do not have as much experience of the daily lives of people in UP/Bihar (your parents’ native place). Hence I was curious to know as to what your daily struggles and insights from these interactions have been. It would be great to know as to how curriculum helped you understand Islam, fiqh, usul and if possible to put them in some perspective with the rest of institutions in the world (specially the arab world or even in places like Pakistan/Malaysia etc) even if its secondary understanding via your friends/colleagues/teachers/or your personal take after researching about them.

    It seems you have not written anything after 2015. I dont know if you did not return to India at all after this or you simply discontinued writing or something else. I hope you have never ceased from pursuing ilm-e-deen, be it in India, US or anywhere else you were destined to live. Jazakum ALLAH Khairan.

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