21 September, 2006
By Anwaar Hussain
THE MONTH of Ramadan is here again. We Muslims will once again launch headlong into starving ourselves every day from dawn to dusk. In all our religious obligations we have become so ritualistic that the substance is almost forgotten and the form has been kindled into worship itself. We have become past masters at missing the woods for the trees.
Like all the Ramadans before, the prices of daily commodities are sure to sky-rocket. One is led to believe as if on a cue the fields have started to yield less, the cows to hide their milk and the hens to lay fewer eggs. The common man is left with just enough skin by the traders to re-grow for the next Ramadan.
Yet the same traders will go back to their Iftaars (breakfast meal) and prayers with a solemnity the like of which is not seen the year round. After each prayer they will implore Allah for forgiveness and prosperity for self and their brethren. Refreshed from heavy Iftaars, they will get on with renewed vigor to add tap water to milk, used engine oil to edible oil and ground bricks to spices. They will sell what they can without a qualm and hoard the rest to exact a telling price from their customers in the days to come. That leaves them with just enough time to be present for Taraweeh (nightly prayers) and once again beseech Allah for mercy. Their consciences, of course, look on through the eyes of a dead fish all this while.
To be fair, though, the traders are not alone in this.
The rest of us are not much different the year round and in the month of Ramadan? No amount of prayers has been able to instill discipline, harmony, genuine piety and a quest for knowledge in us. We continue to inconvenience others by miss-parking our cars, throwing refuse out in the streets, honking horns at each other, jumping red lights at the traffic signals, slamming doors in peoples faces, telling blatant lies for petty profits, disrobing women by unashamed ogling, spitting huge globs of saliva in a to-whom-it-may-concern fashion, never turning up on time for appointments and keeping taped sermons on the whole night blaring at full strength from Mosques’ minarets long after the Maulanas (priests) themselves have gone into a deep snooze.
One rarely sees any one imploring others to stand in line, run to give a helping hand to a disabled, get up to vacate a seat for ladies or the elderly, take care of personal hygiene, or keep his immediate surroundings clean and pollution free. We are busy instead in quibbling over the length of facial hair, where to tie our shalwars (Pakistani trousers) for offering prayers, and our hands while in prayers, the number of Rakaats (prayer parts) in certain prayers, digging up relevant Ahadeeth (Sayings of the Prophet PBUH) to suit our purposes, declaring more Muslims as non-Muslims, pronouncing non-Muslims as Wajeb-ul-Qatal (liable to be slain), issuing Fatwas (religious decree) on non-issues, finding short-cuts to heavens, declaring Jihad on every thing but on purification of self, illiteracy, poverty, backwardness and hunger.
We continue to think of ourselves as God’s chosen people while our conduct shows any thing but. We are busy instead in looking down upon all other religions and people with a royal contempt, censuring the West for all our ills, finding a Jew at the root of all our miseries, blaming every one but our own selves for our wretched state and conjuring up conspiracy theories out of thin air to validate our gripes. Some hypocrisy---self included.
If cleanliness is half the faith then the West of today, the Viking brutes of yester-years, have beaten us to the claim hands down. If the other half is the rights of others on us then again we need to turn our heads westward to behold the sight.
Islam is not just about prayers and worship. A significant number of Ayahs (verses) in the Holy Koran deal with purification of self, interaction with others, knowledge of the universe and what is contained therein. The West is busy conquering the same universe, solving its riddles, harnessing the nature for the benefit of mankind and finding that time is their only competitor. From medicines to cure our diseases, to the cars we drive and the airplanes we fly in to visit our holy places, we are dependent for all our systems on the same West.
Yes, a handful of powerful Western leaders holding the reins of brute political and armed power have indeed unleashed a war on Muslims. And yes, as a result innocent human beings are surely being trampled upon ruthlessly. And yes, even genuine liberation struggles now stand deluged by the dam burst of venom against Islam. And yes, terrorism certainly has become a whip with which Muslims are now being flogged the world over. And yes again that Muslim countries are undeniably being either invaded or threatened with invasion on the flimsiest of pretexts.
But how does the Muslim world propose to counter that? Can we restore ourselves to our glorious past by suicide bombing or beheading of innocent human beings? Or by issuing Fatwas to that effect? Or by continuing to pray for Divine intervention? Or by hating the whole West for the stupidity of a just a few of their leaders? Has it occurred to us that the only, repeat only, way to walk tall and strong in the comity of nations is to come at par with the West in education, technology and economy?
Look at the Muslim world today. We cannot complain of being barren of resources. One fourth of the world population is Muslim and sits on nearly seventy percent of the world energy resources. Yet the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the entire Muslim world taken together comes to a measly twelve to thirteen hundred billion dollars. Japan’s GDP, by comparison, stands at five thousand five hundred billion and Germany’s at two thousand five hundred billion dollars. In other words, Germany’s GDP alone is twice and Japan’s is four and a half times that of the entire Muslim Ummah (nation).
Islam teaches us to seek knowledge, even if it involved travel to China. Quite evidently the Prophet (PBUH) was actually referring to worldly education, and not religious, as the Chinese were always non-Muslims. While from the 7th to 15th century AD, transfer of technology took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world, we have been in a horrendous downslide ever since.
The once wonderful madarasah (seminary) was supposed to be a prestigious seat of learning. It was a bastion of knowledge and a guiding light to the world. When Islam was at its pinnacle, every order of learning from mathematics to science, from medicine to astronomy, from philosophy to jurisprudence were taught at these institutions.
Great Muslim luminaries such as Al-Beruni, Ibn-e-Sina and Ibn-e-Khuldoon were the products of these same very madaris (seminaries). Sects and different schools of thought in Islam have existed side by side since long. There was nothing wrong with intellectual differences flowing from freedom of thought as long as such differences remained confined to academic debates. Embedded in the walls of these madaris are echoes of great scholarly dialogue between various luminaries of the time.
Take a look at the state of education today. In the entire Muslim world, there are only about 380 universities, of which just 25 are counted as world ranking. The entire Muslim world produces a total of 500 PhD’s every year. By comparison, in Japan alone one thousand universities award PhD degrees. In England, three thousand do PhD and in India five thousand every year.
And about the state of technology of the Muslim world, the less said the better. At the time when the US invaded Afghanistan, there was only one factory in Kabul manufacturing earthen crockery. No wonder then that an international correspondent called the US invasion of Afghanistan as “Technology Vs God”.
Now the same madaris are being used to mislead innocent Muslims by promoting intolerance, hatred and violence. Modernistic thought is termed blasphemous. The syllabus has been honed to instill sectarian loathing resulting naturally in fratricidal killings. The subject of “Haqooqul Ibad" (obligations towards fellow human beings) has been confined to scriptures and an occasional lip service.
From the podium and the pulpit, the so called Ulema (clerics) have declared more Muslims as Kafirs (infidels) than motivating these so called Kafirs to embrace Islam. Adherents are being incited to kill innocent people in mosques and their places of worship, while audaciously claiming Islam as a complete way of life. Muslims’ consciences are now being put to sleep here with sweet lullabies of their marvelous past as the world goes by at a breath taking speed. We are told to keep hugging past splendors to our chest and remain prostate in prayers waiting for a Salahuddin Ayubi to appear and restore us to our rightful destiny.
Is this the way of life that Islam teaches us? That we fight amongst ourselves and others and take innocent lives in their places of Worship? And all in the name of Allah? True Islam is nothing but kindness, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, fair play, goodwill and accord. There is no place for extremism, militancy, violence, fundamentalism, hatred, intolerance and anger. Mosques, Mandirs, Synagogues, Churches and Temples are all supposed to be sacred places of worship where we seek the blessings of God Almighty and where we must allow others to seek the same from whatever entity they call God.
There is a race for progress among all nations. The world is busy in development of human resource, mental enlightenment and technological growth. We have to wake up from our self-imposed slumber and join the race. The alternate will for sure condemn us to crawl on all fours eating the dust of the beaten path trailing leaders who are even now well past the horizons.
Let us pause this Ramadan and ask ourselves a few questions. Who were we? What happened to us along the way? Where do we stand today? Which way are we headed?
What do we think the great Allama Iqbal had in mind when he said?
Lay gaey taslees kay farzand meeras-e-Khalil,
Khisht-e-bunyad-e-kaleesa bun gayee khak-e-Hijaaz
Copyrights : Anwaar Hussain