1.1 Understanding U-Turn against a religious backdrop:
Taking a U-turn to the future is like beginning again, from the beginning. It may be like pressing the ‘refresh’ key to reload a page on a computer screen. Ironically the ‘back to basics’ call sometimes comes from reformers who dream of moving forward into the future. No wonder that some of the greatest challenges that cultural systems face are not from any new phenomenon, but from their own earlier versions. When this tussle enters the religious arena the old face has to combat numerous new faces. Most of the latter don’t even resemble each other. Quite often people understand and practice the same faith differently. Over a period of time wanderings of the ‘experts’ of religious systems, make multiple pathways of ideologies. This process wraps the core of a religion in numerous layers of interpretations and interpretations of interpretations. In such a scenario the masses lose their way in a mental maze of confusing and even contradictory ideas. Mostly over burdened by the demands of day to day chores of life, people don’t or can’t go beyond the top-most layer of interpretation that touches them directly. The impact of an interpretational touch is often amplified by the peculiarities of time and space in which it was made. Say for example, in a distressed area, where people feel dejected due to socio-economic or political crisis, interpretations professing violent self-assertion to fight perceived injustice might gain quick popularity. Or in a scenario where youth are going through an identity crisis it is easy to lure them into an identification that makes them feel immediately empowered.
A single seed of spirituality is potent enough to breed jungles of belief systems. Rituals come up as boundary riders to maintain exclusivity. People mentally reside in these jungles. Some chose their space and others are simply born into them. Despite the in-house issues within every jungle, they have an urge to outgrow other jungles. Rigorous missionary activities could be seen as planting of saplings in another’s jungle. This is okay as long as there is no compulsion involved. The problem begins when jungles set fire to one another. The zeal to do so is fuelled by bigoted propaganda of having a monopoly of truth. Violence becomes a tool to cement one’s loyalty to one’s ‘faith’. This is a blindness of sorts, because, scientific developments have ensured that, the jungles have no effective-physical boundaries. Thus when the mental fires manifest themselves in physical forms they can easily blast the world to powder.
Interestingly religions have inbuilt systems to trim negativity which threatens humanity and humanism. They are born with sprinklers to douse sparks of hate. However, when left unused or underused for centuries, these mechanisms rust and jam. Professors of hate ensure that they rot in the ideological junkyard as impractical props of the past.
Even though the necessity of peace is self-explanatory it doesn’t have many takers. On the other hand unrest seems to have an instant fan following. When merchants of war collaborate with political and economic manipulators the idea of hate is sold and bought in the name of religion. Drugged by manufactured emotionalism and pseudo religiosity the masses fail to notice that money and power drive the greedy propagandist of twisted religious ‘knowledge’. As their soldiers, men turn into unthinking-unfeeling zombies. Every act of hate triggers more hate and the fire catches on. It is therefore important to find the dousing devices, unclog and de-rust them. This might entail confrontations with coreligionist besides multiple other agencies including the distractions of the more immediate personal commitments.
God didn’t create a world full of super genius scholars. Therefore He kept His words, commands and demands simple. The core text of every religion is enough to prove this assertion. It is only when the connection with the original word is lost that that minds are jostled in an ocean of secondary words. The latter push, pull and even drown them to breathlessness. Thus holding on to the original dialogue is important. Assertion of spiritualism and a personal relationship with the Creator are critical. There is extra-ordinariness in each and every human being. That needs to be respected and valued at all cost.
1.2 The journey of Islam:
The word Islam is an inflected form of Silm (safety) and Salamah (deliverance). It is attributed various meanings like submission, attaining deliverance, safety, establishing mutual security and peace etc. Peace is so central in Islam that the recommended word for a greeting in it is salaam (peace).
From its very inception Islam had given a goal to its followers: To be the best humans in the world. A challenging task, something that would keep them engaged in good work right through. It may be noted here being the best human doesn’t entail being the richest or the most powerful. The Quran literally means ‘recitation’ and many of its passages begin with the command qul(say). However, it swears by the Pen and that they write (68:1). It clearly doesn’t expect people to read without understanding or to forget what they read. It is not about memorizing the Quran verbatim by heart, but about implementing its instructions in daily life.
Islam, like all institutionalized religions is oil in water as far as the theoretical mix-up with other faiths is concerned. However, whether religions mix or don’t, the lives of their followers and also that of the atheists are totally mixed up. Scientific development has ensured that the modern world is indivisible. The ideal of a Muslim ummah (community) governed by Islamic laws was initially challenged by the Muslims themselves. Fault lines which had been compressed by Muhammad’s magnanimity broke loose even before he was buried. It became clear quite early on that Islamic idealism was set to slip as the Muslims climbed the equiangular spiral of power. The dilution of Muhammad’s dreams was only a matter of time. The battle between Ali(Muhammad’s cousin, son-in-law and the fourth of the Pious Caliphs) and Ayesha (Muhammad’s wife and daughter of the first caliph Abu Bakr) was an early indicator of where the ummah was headed to. However none of this was comparable with the tragedy of Karbala in which Muhammad’s great grandsons, Ali Akbar and Qasim were killed together with many other men who had accompanied his grandson Husain on his journey to Kufa. The armies of the Umayyad caliph Yazid I had the audacity to cut off the water supply to the camp of Husain. Injured and painfully thirsty Muhammad’s grandson, son of his daughter Fatima and his cousin Ali rode out to die fighting. The Quran in one hand and the sword in the other he exclaimed: “We are for God and to God shall we return.” The men who had officially sworn loyalty to Muhammad killed him.
The Karbala didn’t just see the end of Husain, it saw the beginning of an impassable gap between the Sunni and Shia Muslims, the latter being the lobby which always felt that Ali was the rightful heir of Muhammad’s legacy. Once personal hurt grew into a political movement healing became impossible. Power vampires kept the wounds raw for political and economic reasons. Sects multiplied as the Muslims grew in numbers. The four schools of Islamic jurisprudence floated different interpretations of the Quran. The caliphs and the later sultans and baadshahs added their own whims and fancies to the legal procedures. The result was a ticket to future reinventions by self proclaimed, ‘pure Muslims’ and even caliphs of imaginary ‘Islamic’ states. They routinely rejected each other. The medieval Sufi mystics and some modern mystics of everyday, tried to combat them. And are still trying.
1.3 Heirs of Muhammad: The young Muslims
The young Muslims of the modern world are trying to figure out why the world suspects them of being ‘different’ from the other communities. Are they really different? Is it okay to be happy about being a Muslim? Is Islam against the idea of secular nation states? Is Islam regressive? Is it un-happening to follow Islamic rituals? One thing is clear that most of the Muslim youth hates the terrorist outfits which make their life on a day to day basis difficult. Muhammad has a lot to say to their conscience. In fact he had always offered the easiest and the simplest way to think through human interactions; personal or political. In his code of conduct a good word or a smile to a passerby was also counted as charity. Like charity wasn’t about money, in the same way religiosity was not only about rituals. He always asserted that rituals cannot make up for moral irresponsibility.
Muhammad by his personal example and his interpretations of the revelations had granted a grand position to women. He discouraged the instant Triple talaq. Women were allowed to pray in his mosque. Muslim women were not supposed to change their name after marriage because remarriage was always a possibility. In case if a marriage was being annulled the husband was not supposed to take back anything that he had gifted to the woman, even if it was a whole treasure. The Hijab was meant to be a matter of choice. Muhammad had more to say about how people should behave rather than what they should wear.
According to Muhammad neighbours had a right over a muslim’s earnings and his time. He defined neighbours as people living in up to forty houses in each direction of a place of residence. Thus practically he was not talking about neighbours, he was talking about neighbourhood. The relationship with the neighbours had nothing to do with their religion. Thus he was professing a moral code which would help his followers survive in a modern society where they would interact with all kinds of people. He was not training the Muslims to live with only Muslims or to respect only Muslims. Young Muslims in liberal societies need to be told this in as plain words as possible. They need to walk away from every bigoted and fanatic individual and organization that calls humanism and human emotionalism, anti-Islamic. The lovers of Muhammad have to spread love, period.
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