23 March, 2010

Nai Subh - Causes for the Plight

In the first three parts the author presented a fact sheet on the condition of the ummah. He showed, quoting authoritative data, how badly Muslims as a human grouping, and how Muslim countries as nations perform, how much they produce and consume vis-a-vis others. In varied human pursuits ranging from academics, medicine, finance and banking to sports and entertainment he painted a bleak picture of the Muslim world.

Feeling hurt is different from being cheated. On the contrary, we actually cheat ourselves by living in delusions of grandeur. If things went wrong, as they clearly did, we must honestly – and courageously – probe the causes. Neither meaningless accusations, nor endless lamentation can help. In this and the forthcoming few issues the author analyzes these causes that, which will lay the foundation of a new dawn.

This series is largely based on the author’s Urdu audio presentation KHITAB available from SPRAT.

"How much lower can we sink?" This cry in the wilderness raised by the late Edward Said is echoed repeatedly. Presenting a thought provoking address to the 10th OIC Session, Dr Mahathir Mohammed of Malaysia lamented, “Some [of us] believe that poverty is Islamic, suffering and being oppressed are Islamic. Ours are [solely] the joys of Heaven and the afterlife..”. He philosophically concluded that Muslims are more concerned with the form than the substance of Islam”.
The Glorious Muslims

Was the Muslim condition always this pathetic? In his seminal work, "Making of Humanity", Robert Briffault assures us otherwise. According to him the seeds of the European renaissance lay not in the Christian Italy, but in Muslim Spain, not in 15th C, but from 8th to 12th C, under the Arab influence.

It was to Muslim’s credit to replace the old speculative thinking of Greek with experimental method, which laid the foundation of scientific investigation. From the seventh century through 13th century Muslims made notable contributions to science, mathematics, chemistry and astronomy. “Hakeem” – not “maulana” – symbolized Muslim scholarship then.
If Abul Hasan’s genius led to a later day telescope, Jabir Ibn Afiah supervised construction of the first European observatory in 1190 in Spain. Making bold experiments Muslims developed mathematics as a science and applied Algebra and Trigonometry to higher purposes. If Al Idrisi made a matchless contribution to Logarithmic tables, Ibn Yunus improved upon Ptolemy’s work on Pendulum. Muslims led by Kutbi made matchless watches. Indeed, French emperor Charlemagne is said to have been wonderstruck when Harun-ur-Rashid gifted one to him. It was a Muslim that invented the Mariner’s compass. Muslims helped measure the earth accurately.

Ironical that it may seem today, it is a Muslim, Ibnu-r-Rushd – Averroes for Europe – who is widely regarded as the founder of modern day rationalism. Men like Al-Ghazali, Ishraqi, Ibn-i-Taimiyya, Abu Bakr Razi and Ibn Haitham made pioneering contributons to logic and philosophy. If Geber [Jabir Ibn Hayyan] and Rhazas [Zakariya Razi] made significant forays in chemistry, al-Kindi, Banu Musa, Beruni and Abdar Rehman made tremendous advances in physics. Similarly in medical science and biology, defense sciences, botany and horticulture, chronicling and travel writing et al Muslims contributed a legacy that West readily acknowledges its debt to. Akbar the absolute emperor encouraged secular debates. Indeed, the ruins of Muslim history still bear the footprints of a learned and knowledge seeking community.

Narrowed Vision

Contrast this with our fundamentalism, fanaticism, intolerance and narrow-mindedness. Science, per se, appears anti-Islamic to us. Our method, our public discourse today is anything but scientific. Spirit of inquiry is curtailed. Questions our children ask are snuffed before being spelt.

We find Islam and Muslims endangered with every advance that science makes. We instinctively receive such news with skepticism if not ridicule. No wonder, virtually everything we freely use today – from automobile and camera to even electricity – was once banned through fatwa. Yes, we do accept change, albeit fifty years too late.

When Americans landed on the moon, our ll-informed leadership brazenly accused them of falsification from the pulpits of our mosques. Many Galileo’s are extinguished in the Muslim household everyday.

Wasn’t, therefore, Iqbal entirely right in asserting: tujhe aaba se apne koi nisbat ho nahin sakti – ke tu guftar, woh kirdar, tu sabit, woh sayyara! [unworthy of your ancestors, you merely talk while they delivered, you are static while they were dynamic.]

But are we truly ashamed? No. We manage to feel grand any way. We claim with undisguised pride the fastest conversion to Islam, hoping to dominate the planet soon and flaunting the “English speaking” ones amongst them. Wish we checked the percentage of achievers amongst neo-converts. That Muslims in Gujarat now take ambiguous names [Raja, Sameer, Sahil..], or that several daily-wagers have shaved off their beard to conceal Muslim identity doesn’t shame us.

Incidentally, conversion is hot business in the industry that religion has been reduced to. Even non-proselytizers vie for converts. ISCON, Maharishi, Osho, Satya Sai Baba, Shri Ravi Shankar and Baba Ram Dev command world-wide following. In fact, not long ago some Pakistani Muslim followers of the so-called Art of Living vainly tried to convert yours sincerely!

Diet of Myths
Myths! This is the staple diet of the archetypical Muslim mohalla. Consider one: “Ek momin hazar kafiron per bhari hai” [one Muslim powered by Iman can tackle a thousand kafirs]. This fell flat in the Gujarat genocide when numerous innocent Muslims were slain and brutalized in the most despicable ways at the hands of an organized and powerful enemy. Or take another: “universal brotherhood of Muslim ummah”. The front page of MG laments the shameful lack of our concern for the Palestinians. In Gujarat it was not the Malaysians or Saudi Arabians that came to our succour; this was left to the good Hindu neighbourhood.

How many of our MPs did go on strike, quit their seats or otherwise pressured the Indian government to arrest the marauders, award honourable compensation to victims and try Modi? Couldn’t a 150-million strong “ummah” unseat the architect of a genocide that was universally condemned, whom US denies its visa even today? Isn't it still left to a Teesta Setalvad or a Mukul Sinha to pursue Hindutva fanatics relentlessly? How one wishes Muslims began to distinguish the substance from the form, that Mahathir exhorted them to. For myths that seriously threaten our future, watch this space.

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