23 March, 2010

Nai Subh - Corrective Strategy

In our earlier issues the author reviewed the condition of the Ummah and of Muslim nations, exposed how we are fed on a diet of myths creating a delusion of self-grandeur and of a perceived global conspiracy to subjugate us. Then he began a discussion of the contemporary global realities, so that a realistic action plan may emerge from this framework.

This issue – and a few that follow – take this campaign of reckoning further. In so doing it continues to indicate areas where we lack behind, areas that must be addressed in any coherent corrective strategy.

This series is largely based on the author’s Urdu audio presentation, KHITAB, available from SPRAT .
In later issues we shall be discussing the specific areas for recognition by the Muslim liberals, the politicians, the wealthy amongst us and our clergy. There are, however, a lot of common areas for all of us to recognize. This issue discusses some of these.

Modern management education highlights the importance of MBO – or Management By Objectives. It implies that all actions and strategies must address clearly defined objectives. Let us remind the reader that the objective of this column is not about making Muslims pious Momin. Rather it is about empowering the community as a global human grouping.
The temporal effect of most religious practices, in general, is to elevate the human race, to civilize him and to make him more productive as a team member in an evolving, real world. Just this recognition can go a long way in empowering Muslims. Fortunately progressive application of Islamic practices can come handy to achieve this objective.

Namaz - a Social Discipline

One can rarely cite a religious practice, globally, that is as punctual, as unifying as the namaz. What secular teachings can it offer – and is not imparting to us?
Punctuality, cleanliness, humility and unification appear to me as some major achievable objectives from namaz. Logically, therefore, Muslims must be the most punctual employees at public offices and factories and Muslim meetings start and conclude on time. Do we recognize that namaz has failed to make us punctual?

Muslims must be amongst the cleanest, too. The emphasis on taharat [cleanliness] and Wazoo [ablution] dictates this. Unfortunately, however, this essence of wazoo is lost in the milieu of rituals. Picture the traditional hauz [water tank] of the mosque. Nothing deterred me, as an adolescent, from the mosque more than this piece of mass filth, what with namazis even dipping their feet inside the tank right next to you while you are gargling the same water! How one wishes the modern soap or face-wash was allowed to play a part in cleaning one’s face, hands and feet.

Several of our most popular Dargahs, specially at Delhi and Ajmer, negate Islamic injunctions for cleanliness. It will be difficult to find a ten square metre patch of truly clean space at these revered places. The squalor, the eateries and the professional beggars aggravate the indignity.

[Mercifully, as individuals, Muslims score better in toilet hygiene. A GIDR research report points out that, for a given level of income, Muslim households maintain better toilet management than Hindus in rural Gujarat, thanks to the emphasis on taharat.]

Another secular outcome of namaz should have been humility and good etiquette. “Allah-o-Akbar” at least five times per rakaatnot the greatest, that courtesy is both good religion and good humanism. Ek hi saf me khade ho gaye mahmood-o-ayaz / na koi banda raha aur na koi banda nawaz [how the king Mehmood and his slave Ayaz stood together in the prayer] takes leave of us outside – and increasingly inside – the mosque. doesn’t still remind us that regardless of our status as the boss, landlord, teacher, lender.. we are still

The Power of Knowledge

We need to recognize that the real power today flows more from the PC than from the bomb. And that knowledge is growing by the day. Education is the chief source of knowledge and knowledge is the chief source of power. Power typically flows from people [votes, ministries], from wealth, from muscle or health and from weaponry.

Wealth comes to the person who has knowledge of science and technology, of markets, of raw materials and labour, of economics, finance and accounts. Surely the more knowledgeable a doctor or lawyer is the better his practice.

Modern weaponry is sheer science [the principles] and technology [the manufacture] – again a matter of knowledge.

Health is also a function of knowledge – of better hygiene, medicine, techniques. Notice that the most knowledgeable nations also fare very high on health index. And produce better champions, Guinness and Ripley’s record breakers.

Political power is undoubtedly a matter of knowledge. Knowledge of laws, people’s psyche, society and public issues, of how institutions work; and the ability to articulate them effectively before people and legislatures.
Alongside we must recognize that knowledge is rapidly changing, evolving. While literacy and basic education have become highly affordable – almost free – technological and professional knowledge is becoming very expensive and competitive, thanks to privatization, with capitation fee ranging between Rs 20-50 lakh. So let us recognize that either we must nurture a community culture of learning and pursuing educational brilliance – right from childhood – or be content becoming plumbers, mechanics, fitters, welders, carpenters, kite makers, drivers and maid servants. No wonder current trends indicate Muslims will become the new Dalits of India.

Knowledge and Islam

Two of my favorite Hadith are talabal Ilma fareezatun ala kulli muslimin wa muslimatin [learning is obligatory for Muslim males and females] and Utlubul Ilma lau kana bisseen [learn, even if in China]. Clearly Muslim female illiteracy ratio and bigotry of our ulema have little religious sanction here. Some more are:

* The ink of the learned is holier than the blood of the martyr
* Those who respect the learned respect me
* The one traveling in search of knowledge, his path leads to Allah
* The superiority of a learned person to the worshipper is akin to mine to your most ordinary servant

Syed Ameer Ali presents some inspiring Ahadith on learning and science [see Tajdare Madina]:

· Acquire knowledge: for its aquisition is an act of piety, speaking of knowledge is praise to Lord, seeking of knowledge is adoration of God, dispensing of knowledge is giving of alms, imparting of knowledge is sheer devotion to God.

· One hour’s meditation in contemplation is better than 70 year’s prayers

· Listening to science and learning for one hour is more meritorious than attending funeral of 1000 martyrs, more than praying 1000 nights

· Seeker of knowledge will be greeted in heaven by angels

· To listen to the words of the learned, lessons of science, is better than religious exercises

· He who favours learning and the learned, will be favoured in the next world

The Spirit of Knowledge

In Islam's first few centuries seeking of diverse knowledge was considered a cherished, indeed very godly, pursuit. Over the years its acquisition has become a kind of measure of one’s irreligiosity. This distancing is particularly damaging in the area of sciences, what to speak of cutting edge technologies. Doesn’t it beat logic that the seekers of truth [talib-e-haq] should resist probing nature and its mysteries? Truth seekers must seek knowledge and discover truth, for ignorance breeds falsehood. The less literate and less informed we are, the farther from the truth we recede.

It is bewildering that Muslims who bill Quraan as the Kitab-e-Hidayat [book of guidance] can scarcely understand it. Indeed, the Quraan was not translated in India for 900 years until Hazrat Shah Waliullah rendered one in Persian. Surely for most Muslims it is merely Kitab-e-Tabarruk [holy]. The emphasis is on reciting – not unlike the statutory notice for mutual funds read in TV advertisements – with the bewildering practice of shaking the neck! The Quranic verse claimed as the first revelation [96.1] instructs: Iqra bismi rabbikal lazi.. Wish “Iqra“ was interpreted as more than merely reciting.
Let us recognize, too, that the most powerful nations today are also the most literate and informed, specially in the sciences. Israel, US, France, UK, Germany and Japan are amongst the most knowledgeable nations. No wonder they also hold a sway on global technology, money and weaponry. Conversely the least literate nations are also the most impoverished. Any surprise, then, that 200 Israeli companies – highest from outside America – are listed on the Nasdaq? Several Muslim nations have none.

Imagine, on the other hand, the impact of a Muslim culture, preferably fostered by the clergy, of watching National Geographic, Discovery or History channel on TV! Ask, why did – and can – this not happen? Do these channels present anything but truth as best humans can? That we have no Muslim equivalent to these magnificent sources of knowledge is another tragedy.

In this background if seeking of truth – absolute truth – is essentially Islamic, then why do we destroy the spirit of inquiry, introspection, free-thinking? Well, the logical outcome of placing fetters on learning is obviously fanaticism.

Please watch this space for further recognition that is prerequisite to an agenda for action.



? Some of your suggestions, though very logical, appear to challenge the teachings of Ulema. What do we do? £ Which Ulema? Even the translations of Quraan by Asad, Malik, Pickthall and Yousuf Ali present critical departures from one another. Besides, please note that neither I claim to preach Islam nor am I capable of it. I discuss Muslim empowerment, quite like Puniyani, Shukla, Setalvad. Readers must exercise their discretion.

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