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From Pakistan to Copenhagen to test the waters

PhD student applies Sufi wisdom to ground water

She almost knows the book by heart. On the S-train to the office, during breaks, she opens it at random, reads, and is happy and relaxed. The Sufi Book of Life.

»My friend said I should stop: ‘You have probably read it 500 times’,« she said. »But I am not obsessed. »It is just that every time I open it, it gives me a new message«.

This University Post reporter, uncomfortable with religion, sneers: Has anyone recommended you a psychiatrist?

»The psychiatrist talking to me would need his own psychiatrist!« she laughs.

Blessed with water

Kinza Haider, originally from Rawalpindi in Pakistan, is now doing her PhD at the Department of Geology and Geography at the University of Copenhagen.

She is measuring the amount of ground water seeping into Ringkjøbing fjord on the west coast of Denmark. Now and then, she and her colleagues sail out in a rubber dinghy. In one experiment, they stuff pipes into the soft ground at the bottom of the shallow waters.

In another, the researchers measure fjord water temperatures. Ground water is always eight degrees Celsius, so if it seeps, it leaves a temperature imprint.

Coming from a country like Pakistan, just devastated by the Indus River, serene Ringkjøbing fjord experiments seem somehow out of place. But her research is vital, she assures me.

»Europe is blessed with water, and in Denmark you have loads of good quality ground water. Ultimately I would like to bring my work and expertise back home to take care of some of my own country’s problems«.

Karachi for example, Pakistan’s largest city, has huge problems with brackish water coming through the water pumps.

No extremes

Sufism, the other object of Kinza’s interest, is a mystical practice in Islam.

Has living in a non-Muslim country changed your own perspective on being a Muslim?

»I am a progressive Muslim« she says. »I was a strong Muslim before, just like today. But I guess I read more about it now. Basically I think that all religions are variations on the same message,« she says, adding that she has both the Bible and Quran at home.

»You need balance. Many youngsters have too extreme a religion. But every religion, I think, should teach humanity,« she says.

So how about reading something else?

»A friend recommended me to read the Quran. I will start reading it when I find an edition that has the right size for the train«, she laughs.

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