By Fasil Hussain Rather
It can be argued that in the contemporary world, Muslims have failed in developing a positive dialogue with other communities. Then, there is also a conflict within Muslim society as well. Muslims are divided into many sects and organisations. However, this in itself is not a problem, but the way each group considers itself to be righteous and others to be on the wrong track is a great debacle. Unfortunately, these sects or organisations have developed a method of outright denial of others, claiming themselves to be the best and others to be the worst. This has developed an atmosphere of hatred towards each other. The absence of mutual respect and cooperation between these groups has kept them away from doing anything constructive. The tragedy is that while these groups claim to be working for the betterment of Muslims, they end up making the situation worse.
By design or default, people are trapped in conflicts. The preachers only preach what their organisation is and what others are, instead of focusing on the core message of Islam. Instead of leaving it to Allah, these preachers now themselves decide the fate of people in the hereafter and they spare no one, except their own sect, from hell! Some preach that those who do taqleed (follow an imam) can never be Muslims while others believe that those who do not follow any imam can never enter paradise. The preachers ruthlessly criticise the people of other beliefs and often call them Kafirs.
The use of the word Kafir has become common nowadays. One can just use it for those who seem to disagree. This creates tension and hate, and the real problems of the people are never addressed. If we look at the traditions of the Prophet (SAW), this is wrong. The sensitiveness of the issue can be understood by the way the Prophet (SAW) dealt with even the hypocrites of his time, leave aside calling them Kafirs, he never even named them publicly. The tragedy is that not only ignorant people, who are not aware of the Quran and Hadith, but those who are well aware of scriptures indulge in these unislamic activities.
In contrast to the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet, every preacher of any school of thought at the end of the day wants to say: “Only we are the real Muslims.” While interacting with a well reputed imam of a certain school of thought in our mosque, the preacher asked me why, instead of keeping the calendar of his organisation, there was a calendar of some other Islamic organisation hanging in our mosque. I replied that the paper quality was better. In a very serious mood, he said that those who do taqleed can never be Muslims.
Sermons and lectures of hatred and abomination have divided people and programmed them with extreme hatred and antipathy towards each other. Unfortunately, the clergy now invite people towards their own sect instead of Islam. Most of the clergy now uses the name of their respective sects as a substitute for Islam.
Though Islam teaches love and positive engagement, we end up with the opposite because of this. The question is: if we find anyone diverting from the way of Islam, what is the Islamic way to address them, what are the prophetic traditions to deal with them? Do we need to admonish them or deliver judgments about them and their destination in the hereafter? We need to follow the prophetic way of dealing with them. The Quran teaches us to address people with proper preaching, argue with them in the ways that are best and most gracious (al-Quran 16: 125). If every sect or organisation worked according to these principles of Islam there would have been no room for fighting or hating each other on the basis of religion itself.
Unfortunately, bad practices have kept Muslim minds away from thinking about the real challenges of the Muslim world. These sects indulge in fights with each other, use all their resources and energies in combating each other rather than any constructive purpose. And as a fact of matter we are trapped in a situation where we can’t focus on the central issues or problems, but tragically end up tearing into each other, accusing each other of being kafirs, mushriks etc. The tragedy is that Islam, which should have been a binding force holding us all together, is made the only point of difference. The irony is every sect adopts the auxiliary differences as their identity while the central similarities are forgotten.
One is surprised beyond belief while analysing the contributions of these sects towards overall development of education and educational institutes of Muslims, which is the prime challenge for the Muslim world in the current scenario. A magazine recently carried a survey of education among Muslims; it stated that only 27℅ and 15℅ of the Muslim population in India has completed secondary and higher secondary education, respectively. One wonders about the contribution of these sects towards educational growth of Muslims in Kashmir, or any other part of the world for that matter. How developed are our institutions and public libraries to engage our youth in reading and writing? Do we not need to contribute towards development of education and educational institutes of Muslims? It is our responsibility to pull our society out of such educational backwardness.
I remember a person asking a well reputed preacher of an organisation in our mosque, what their contribution was on education of Muslims. He replied: “We really want to contribute but the government is not allowing us….” The question to be asked is should we leave it there or try to at least modernise and reform our existing institutions and madrassas? The government is to be blamed, but does that mean we are relieved of our duties? If the energy and resources used on building separate mosques and organising frequent ijtimas is instead used on institutions and madrassas, what a good state they would be in!
We need to direct our efforts, resources and economy towards a constructive cause rather than utilising them merely for criticising and denouncing people of other thoughts. We seriously need to introspect that if we are accusing others of intolerance are not we acting the same way? Instead of addressing the problems in a constructive way, are we not making the situation more complex by merely criticising people or questioning their faith? We are creating an atmosphere where healthy criticism and discussions are not possible, where anyone at home, on the internet, in mosques, can label anyone as kafir. We should contribute by ‘providing oxygen’ to internal debates on diverse issues, wherein problems of other groups as well as ours are addressed with love and compassion.
We should ponder whether are we following the way of the Quran and that of the Prophet (SAW) while addressing people. One can only dream of a time when the clergy will settle their differences and we, as a Muslim Ummah, will work for the betterment of all mankind.
—The writer is a student at S.P College, Srinagar