Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Which Islam are we talking about?

By Saeed Qureshi
I am not an Islamic scholar but I can quote three Suras from Quran that explicitly emphasize Muslims all over the world as one united and monolithic fraternity. In one Sura it is stated that “all the Muslim believers are brothers”
In another Ayah it is ordained to “hold fast to the rope of Allah and not to fall into divisions or sects”. Yet in another Ayah it is decreed that to kill a human being is to kill the entire humanity. There should be another one that stipulates that a Muslim cannot kill a fellow Muslim believer.
The above quoted Suras and their contents look frivolous and useless when we delve into the history of Muslims and also look around us in the present times. Ever since the demise of the holy prophet Muhammad (SAWS) some 1475 years ago, the Muslims have been killing fellow Muslims on racial, regional and sectarian grounds. Banu Hashim the clans of Prophet Muhammad were sidelined by the shrewder Umayyads who took the reins of the caliphate barely after 30 years or so. Three caliphs died at the hand of the assassins.
Two wars were fought between the son-in-law of the prophet and the third caliph Hazrat Ali on one side and prophet’s youngest wife Hazrat Aisha (RA) on the other. Another civil war (6 years) between Hazrat Ali and the Umayyad governor of Syria Amir Muawiyya entailed a huge number of causalities. The Omayyad under Amir Muawiyya snatched power from Banu Hashim Clan through a ruse of arbitration. Later  Abbasid through an uprising snatched the caliphate from the Ummayd in 750 AD. The Ommyads dynasty was established in Spain in 756 A.D. by Abdul Al Rehman who absconded following the onset of the Abbasids’’ rule in Baghdad.
In between the tragic massacre of Imam Hussain, the grandson of prophet and his companions happened at Karbala. The Omayyad dynasty in Spain and that of Abbasid in Iraq and Syria were bitter and irreconcilable enemies although both professed the same faith. Scores of governors appointed by Abbasid in the Berber areas were killed by the Umayyad rulers of Spain and their heads returned.
The successive Islamic dynasties were not even remotely models of the state or society as Islam ordains. From Omayyad to Ottomans in the Middle East and Central Asia, Africa, Maghreb and India the more ruthless powerful Muslim invaders occupied the land and territories already being ruled by Muslim rulers.
The Tulunids, Fatimid, Ayubi, Mamluk, Seljuk and Ottoman dynasties were all Islamic yet they seized the power from their Muslim predecessors by sword and bloodshed. In India the Muslim invaders from the north deposed the already established Islamic states by use of force and intrigues.
Did you ever ponder that the Muslims are the most rigid in observance of their religious rituals yet they are the most backward and downgraded? Presently the Muslims are the most miserable people on earth. All over in Islamic world, there is an unrelenting turmoil with raging civil wars prompted by race, region and divergent faiths. 
Is this the way of God or observance of the injunctions given in Muslims guiding book holy Quran? The argument by the religious zealots that the Muslims will have good life in paradise is least convincing. Why can’t Muslims have a happy life here in this world? I am also not ready to buy the argument that God is annoyed with Muslims for their sins and negligence toward observance of religious obligations and thus the Muslims are suffering. 
If we Muslims believe that our God is beneficent and merciful and we are his preferred people in comparison to non-Muslims then God with infinite compassion and mercy can shower his blessings on the Muslims and they should be the most prosperous and dignified nations. But the tormenting fact is that the Muslims are primitive and poor while the bounties of God descend preferably on non-Muslims.
As stated above it is a convoluted logic that since we are sinful therefore, God is not kind to us and that the devout Muslims would be rewarded in the hereafter and not in this material world. According to our faith man with innumerable drawbacks and infirmities is like a lamb for the Satan to prey upon. According to scriptures has infinite powers to misguide us every moment while God simply watches from the heavens and does not stop him to save the poor humans especially Muslims from his wicked machinations.
If Satan can defy and argue with God at the time of the creation of Adam, is he not in a position to hoodwink and misguide the weak humans? Even if the humans ward off the Satan’s evil intrigues with constant praying, fasting and fulfilling other religious obligations, no one is still certain if we would still earn the reward on the Day of Judgment unless the watchful angels sitting on out two shoulders as well as our limbs would not favorably testify for our righteousness.
Would a God who runs the atoms at a terrific speed of 196000 miles per second and keeps the earth rotating in its track around the Sun at 66000 miles per hour and not to move a fraction of a centimeter from its orbit would need physical witnesses to reward or punish a faithful who would already be roasted in the sweltering heat of the dooms day. On that horrific day each person would be handed over judgment by God himself. Isn’t like the court of a king although the courts of the worldly kings have always been cozy, comfortable and cool. There should be billions of recipients till the judgment day arrives.
Yet God would administer his indictment or reward while sitting on a couch in an open ground while the sun would be above only by the length of a pole. Scientifically, if the sun comes down by a fraction of a millimeter the earth and all the heavenly bodies revolving around it would burn. 
A lord of the universe administering the universe on immaculate scientific principles could have devised a system by which the good or bad deeds would be automatically recorded and a person after the death immediately goes to heavens or the hell. The humans have devised computers that store the limitless information and data in seconds.
The fact is that the religions were evolved at times in the human history when societies were very primitive and lacking in rational or scientific explanations for this huge phenomenon that is mind boggling and is an eloquent testimony to the power and intelligence of its creator or the system. 

Yet our religious demagogues want us to believe God in the image of a human being who is extremely sensitive and gets annoyed or pleased every moment by our each and every action or movement and maintains a record of that through two angels sitting on our shoulders.
The stark fact is that Islam as an enlightened religion has always been a captive in the hands of biased and ignorant religious guides and preachers. They keep emphasizing the fear and enticement dimensions of religion and binding the ordinary Muslims in more suffocating rituals and obligations.
It all depends on the nature of the interpretations of Islamic injunctions according to one’s liking to inculcate fear or allurement as personified by hell and heaven. And that has led to the divisions of Islam into countless sects hampering and undermining its doctrinal unity. One such glaring division is between Sunnis and Shias.
The Shia- Sunni conflict has cost the Muslims grievous harm, incurable instability and persistent chaos down the centuries and which unfortunately is still wrecking the Muslims societies. This conflict can be resolved if all the Shias die or all the Sunnis become non- existent which either way is not possible. As such the coexistence between them is the only way-out.
The western societies have separated the role of religion from the state and society. Religion in those societies is now a personal obligation of an individual which a citizen may fulfill or not. The Muslims societies should follow the way the western societies brought about a rapprochement and reconciliation between the irreconcilable Catholics and Protestants. The Church with countless denominations is independent in religious domain but remains out of the state affairs.
Let us take a look at the Muslim Spain (756-1492) where there has been laudable peaceful coexistence not only among the Muslims sects but between Muslims, Christians, Jews and other minorities. They all contributed towards shaping Spain into one of the most progressive and civilized Islamic state in those times.
Instead of fighting for a radical Islamic system in Islamic lands and also throwing challenges to the non-Muslim societies through a kind of crusade as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are waging, the Muslims should give utmost priority to excel and delve in scientific and technological fields.
They should follow the advanced societies in matters of good governance, galore of civic and social amenities, establishment of democratic order, flowering of a secular culture, freedom and openness for building up modern and progressive states with tolerant Islam as its religion.
By sticking to the past and reviving it in the primitive and orthodox form cannot work or succeed in an enlightened world of today that is drastically different from those of the past. Islam allows modifications and changes as needed by the changing times.
The American constitution drafted in 1776 is a beacon of guidance for countries like Pakistan towards ensuring human rights, personal liberties and human dignity. It incorporates a solid system of checks and balance, accountability and separation of powers.
It is time for a giant leap for Pakistan and other Muslim polities to emerge as nation states so that our coming generations can stand side by side with the people of modern, prosperous and intellectually advanced societies. We have a lot of human talent that needs to be unfurled. I wonder if this miracle can happen. For that the initial breakthrough would be tolerance, secular outlook, equality and eliminating the religious fanaticism and factionalism, which is a recipe for disaster and backwardness for any country worth the name. Muslims have to reinterpret the Islamic injunctions in the light and in accordance with the needs and imperatives of the current times and conditions. They should make Islam compatible with the needs and contours of the modern enlightened societies. If the Muslims excel in scientific domain, allow religious freedom for all sects, remove poverty and illiteracy, they would prevail.