23 March, 2010

Nai Subh - Pledge By Indian Muslims

The last of the Nai Subh Series published in Milli Gazette

With this issue we conclude this 10-month long introspective series that traced our journey from glory to gloom ending in an action plan to herald a bright morning.

The author recapitulates the essence of his argument in this issue for the benefit of the late-comers. However, he recommends such readers to go back and read the series from the beginning seeking back issues from MG.

He concludes with a draft pledge that can lay a reliable foundation for nurturing a culture of learning and advancement.

As he bids adieu the author craves readers’ forgiveness for his criticism and assures them that nothing but concern for the community motivated him to do so. He welcomes reader’s continued comments and interaction.

The author’s Urdu audio presentation, KHITAB, available from SPRAT, formed the backbone of this series.

2002 saw some of the worst barbarities Muslims suffered in Gujarat. Not new to communalism – of both Hindus and Muslims specially in Southern and Western India – I was yet dumbstruck at the scale and length of the mayhem. It was natural that I responded by winding up my material pursuits and plunging into social service fulltime. With some distinguished persons of goodwill I formally set up a NGO, SPRAT to address to promoting communal harmony and empowerment of the less privileged, specially Muslims. However, soon my belief was confirmed that true empowerment would only emerge from a rational, cohesive action. My campaign of speeches organized under the banner of Nai Subh was later summed up in an audio presentation called KHITAB that provides the raw material for this series.

As we conclude our journey of introspection and reformist agenda, let’s recall the major points of our argument.
From globally reliable databases we realized that poverty, illiteracy, disease and insecurity define the condition of the bulk of ummah; how Muslim life worldwide has become cheaper and dispensable. Even nature seemed to discriminate against Muslims – as evidenced by the massive destruction wrought by hurricanes, earthquakes and Tsunamis.

We encountered a culture of hypocrisy that threatens to tear us within with guilt. Whether it is about emigration, educational pursuits, economic quest, deferment of death or in everyday use of products and processes, we are no different from other human beings, but we believe we are.

We found that much of our burgeoning population residing in the Muslim monarchies, dictatorships and other controlled regimes is virtually enslaved through curtailment of basic freedoms that people in advanced countries take for granted. The condition of Muslim women appeared particularly pathetic.

Our wealth generation as reflected in GDP of Muslim nations and the number of inventions and discoveries to our credit, and our contribution to the realm of knowledge as evidenced by the number of scientific papers contributed by Muslim universities, and Nobel prizes won by us painted a dismal picture. We noticed that there was no Muslim equivalent of Oxford, Harvard, MIT, BBC, the Times, Natural History, National Geographic, Discovery, Encyclopedia Britannica, the Reader’s Digest, Disneyland or Hollywood.

But we also recalled that the fate of Muslims wasn’t this always. We recalled with legitimate pride how from the seventh century through 13th century we made notable contributions to science, mathematics, chemistry and astronomy. “Hakeem” – not “maulana” – symbolized Muslim scholarship then. The world remains indebted to the legacy of Abul Hasan, Jabir Ibn Afiah, Al Idrisi, Ibn Yunus, Kutbi, Ibnu-r-Rushd, Al-Ghazali, Ishraqi, Ibn-i-Taimiyya, Abu Bakr Razi, Ibn Haitham, Jabir Ibn Hayyan, Zakariya Razi, al-Kindi, Banu Musa, Beruni and Abdar Rehman
As we completed the fact-sheet we realized the validity of Iqbal’s rebuke: tumhe aaba se apne koi nisbat ho nahin sakti [no, you couldn’t be heir to your worthy predecessors!]

Our resistance to change that began in the 13th century AD made us continuously more intolerant and extremist, leading some of us to actually monopolize the term “Terrorist”. Constructive service and action gave way to false pride and fallacious glory. Myth became our staple diet and “Pidram sultan bod” [my father was the king!] our consolation.

We painfully realized that, in this sense, those who wrought havoc on innocent Muslims of Gujarat – or in Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan or Chechnya – are essentially Muslims themselves.

It was with this candidness that we proceeded to chalk out strategic plans. Before that, however, we needed to correct our perception to reckon with ground realities. We, therefore, came to recognize that

* There is no “strength” in numbers, and that it is the quality, not quantity that matters, as shown by UN’s numerous HDI reports or back in India by the Rajinder Sachar Committee
* Religious piety need not necessarily determine our stock in the World and that those of us that appear pious are not necessarily productive citizens of earth. However much we may boast of our “Iman” it is our “Aamaal” that determine how the world treats us.
* Religion and Culture are two different sources of our code of behaviour. Much of our religious heritage comes essentially from Arab, Turk or Persian culture and need not be so sacrosanct.
* As the world changes rapidly, with scientific discoveries and technological advances the context changes drastically, making it necessary to reinterpret and adapt our religious teachings.
* Tadbeer [strategy executed through perseverant and sustained action] is needed to brighten our Taqdeer and that action, not prayers alone, held the key. We recalled how Napoleon’s forces attacked Egypt while Al-Azhar organized Khatm-e-Saheeh Bukhari or how the Russians plundered Bukhara while Muslims busied with Khatm-e-Khwajgan
* We have no business to condemn or decree other people’s fate, much less of the fellow Muslims whether with Mufti’s fatwa, state decrees or personal innuendo.
* We recognized the importance of Huqooq-al Ibad which we had neglected at the altar of Huqooq-al-Lah, contrary to the Islamic teachings.
* And we learnt to distinguish between the core and the peripheral aspects of our religious injunctions. We also realized how ignorant of our contemporary world our “ulema” and the clergy in general are.
* Finally we recognized the massive power wielded by Knowledge, specially knowledge of science and technology.

Armed with this realism we chalked out a practicable action plan. This chiefly involved the following:

* Developing and respecting social and professional leadership.
* Not being unduly apologetic about things Muslim.
* Legitimizing normal banking interest as a productive tool of economic empowerment
* Managing public perception and effectively using political organization, democratic tools including strategic voting and sustained lobbying
* Empowering our women through promoting women’s education and freedom of decision making, including urgently checking our burgeoning population.
* Reinterpreting and adapting the Shariah by our clergy to face contemporary challenges
* Ushering in personal, individual reform [further reiterated in the pledge that follows]
* Promoting a culture of learning, scientific temperament and a spirit of inquiry.
* Promoting community institutions such as NaROM, social leadership development initiatives, professionalism, arbitration and cooperation.
* Ensuring secular education of our clergy and offering to them worthy compensation
* Optimizing the use of our rich religious infrastructure and resources for our advancement
* Actively promoting patriotism
No discourse will be useful unless it results in some action. To remind our readers of their individual responsibility and commitment I take the liberty of proposing an illustrative pledge that Indian Muslims may do well to undertake.

Pledge by Indian Muslims

I do hereby make a pact with myself and publicly undertake to uphold in letter and spirit the following declarations:

That I am a part of a grand cosmos with endless possibilities of life. Even earth itself has a bewildering variety of life forms including birds that swim and fish that fly, “fathers” that bear and “mothers” that abandon their offspring.

That all human beings have an inalienable right to complete security of their life and property, to protect and advance their culture and ideology peaceably while respecting other’s right to do so.

I recognize that there are valid reasons for such diversities and differences in ideas, beliefs, habits, practices and traits. I will respect such diversity as integral to nature.

Human beings behave differently because of their genetic coding and varying circumstances. I shall avoid being too judgmental, and when I have to judge people I shall try to understand their circumstances.

I recognize that I lack in several aspects but also that I am good at some. I shall constantly endeavour to overcome my deficiencies and empower myself by conscious efforts.

Similarly I recognize that no one is perfect. Hence I shall try to make the best use of whatever anyone has to offer, rather than insist on and wait for his perfection.

Hate, anger, ego, greed are human frailties that deserve to be moderated and overcome. I shall try to substitute these with love, understanding, humility and contentment.

I regard lies, back-biting, character-assassination, sycophancy, cunning, hypocrisy, malice, fanaticism and unreasonableness as serious social ills. I shall avoid these ills myself and resist them wherever I encounter them.

It is my right to live well, in dignity and with honour. Equally it is my duty to facilitate my fellow-being’s prosperity and dignity. Towards the fulfillment of this duty I shall contribute a part of my time, talents, finances and other resources consciously, dutifully and carefully so as to enforce this pledge.

I am fortunate in many respects and have much. There are many unfortunate brethren who enjoy far fewer privileges. I shall always empathize with the less-endowed and try to help them by my conscious acts, rather than be content with praying for them. I recognize that children, women and the elderly are more vulnerable and deserve greater accommodation.

I shall not in my mind discriminate between one human being and another except on the basis of their conduct towards me and other human beings. But I recognize that Muslims of India and Dalits are amongst its weakest sections and, therefore, deserve more of my attention. I shall work for their empowerment.

I recognize that science in its essence is but the search of truth. It is yet to unravel many mysteries but its approach is honest and reasonable. Science is altering virtually the entire paradigm of life including birth and death and, therefore, I can ignore it only at my peril. Hence I shall promote scientific temper and spirit of inquiry in my own life and in the lives of my family members, students, employees and others under my care.

I shall as far as possible take all decisions by gathering facts, taking counsel of better informed sources but after reasoning out for myself. I shall not let prejudice, bias, heresy and false pride cloud my judgment.

My Islamic heritage has endowed me with the foundation of my moral values including equality of mankind; seeking and upholding absolute truth; resistance against oppression and jihad against my own weaknesses and ignorance; and compassion for the needy and the vulnerable;

India is my motherland. It has sheltered me and endowed me with many privileges that no other country has. I owe to work for its advancement and for that of all its people. I feel as glad to be an Indian as to be a Muslim.

I shall make at least ten new Hindu friends every month and build active bridges with them. Through my sincerity I shall propagate the egalitarian values of Islam and the Catholicism of Muslims, even while trying to understand their religion and culture.
From the reactions I received to my Nai Subh campaign I firmly believe that there are many amongst Muslims that are yearning for rational action. But, Alas! They are not united, networked or organized. SPRAT will be glad to promote a network of such Muslims that think rationally and are committed to serve the community.

For my young readers apprehensive of effects of communalism, here is my parting message: Yes, there is communalism. But India’s democratic set-up largely manages to check it within certain limits. You can beat it by setting higher target. Assuming you aim to score 90%, target and work for 100% reserving 10% for communalism.

As I take leave of the readers of this series, let me conclude with this injunction: Wa man yutial hikmah faqud khairan kaseera. Maulana Hali’s famous couplet rings loud in our ears, too: Khuda ne aaj tak us qoum ki halat nahin badli – na ho jisko khahal aap apni halalt ke badalne ka. May we together through concerted action herald a bright, new morning that we so richly deserve.

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