By Tawqeer Nasir
When the beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) publicly announced his arrival as a prophet for the first time and replenished the Abrahamic faith, the message attracted a few people irrespective of their stature, creed, color or gender. That is the reason we find Bilal’s (RA) journey from a slave to a person revered by assigning him the duty to call all the believers to prayer and the reason Sumaya (RA), turned out to be the first martyr of Islam. The message attracted the people on the basis of their character and Quran refers to people of such character as ‘muttaqeen’, which roughly translates to virtuous or pious. To quote the holy word, in the first two verses of the second chapter God says, “Alif, Laam, Meem. Dhaalikal kitaabu laaraybafeeh, hudallilmutaqqeen”, which translates to, “Alif, Laam, Meem. This is the book about which there is no doubt, a guidance for those conscious of Allah (pious or virtuous).”
It’s intriguing that God says that the book is a path to salvation but only for those who qualify to be the ones-muttaqeen. Here arises an important question about how a person, who is yet to go through the holy word, can be a muttaqee prior to his encounter with the book. This is an important cue for us to retrace our paths and question ourselves regarding whether the Quran is for us or we simply don’t fall in the set of the people. Is that the reason we see people translating each and every verse as per their own will. We see people justifying anything and everything they do by cherry-picking a handful of verses from the Furqan.
It is, however, clear that to be a Muslim one needs to qualify as a muttaqee first. The word has a deep meaning but what does it mean to be pious before having gone through the Quran? In a set of simple words, it just means that there are only two kinds of people in the world, as Joe’s father tells him in Nadeem Aslam’s The Blind Man’s Garden, the first of them being ‘ahl-e-dil’ and the rest of them ‘ahl-e-hawas’. While the former is a class of people who possess an innate will to be virtuous, who in the language of Islam are referred to as ‘Saleem-ul-fitrat’, where as the latter is a class of cunning people who worship their ego and are the real infidels. Idolatry isn’t just about worshipping idols one can grasp hold of or fix his/her gaze upon, there is a more dangerous form of idolatry in practice and most of us, if we pay attention to ourselves and our conduct, may find ourselves very well into it. The worst form of idol worship is to worship one’s ego. And that’s where Islam, negating all forms of self-aggrandizements, comes up with a sign, “La ila ha illallah- Muhammad ur Rasoolallah”, which if consciously repeated has the power to relieve humans of everything that burdens them.
The first message that Islam brought was the negation of creation and assertion of creator. Our egos are created. In order to comprehend it, Islam’s veiled message admonishes us to shun our ego in front of the supreme ego, Allah, and submit ourselves to the him. That is perhaps what the most important lesson of often-discussed term ‘tawheed’ is all about. ‘Tawheed’ is not about quantifying God into numerals like one, two, three and so on; it is about acting through the will of God, the only supreme authority, who begets not, neither is begotten.
The best explanation of ‘Tawheed’ to my understanding can be comprehended by having a look at what Sheikh Abdul QadirJeelani (RA),Gous ul Azam Dastgeer, upon his encounter with Shaitaan did. It is reported that as the Shaitaan approached Hazrat Gous ul Azam, he stated that God had removed the barriers of Halal and Haram for the Sheikh to which our beloved friend of God replied in negation and sought refugee from Shaitaan in Allah. As this happens, Shaitaan tries to lure him againby telling him that his knowledge had saved him from a great calamity to which Hazrat Sheikh’s reply, that it is his Lord’s mercy (fadl) that saved him from erring not just his knowledge, sums up the entire discourse on ‘tawheed’.
Islam spread across the world on the basis of these tenets. Islam never fragmented itself but with time people as per their tastes and interests cherry-picked certain aspects of it and developed their own version of Islam. I strongly believe that the people who try to fit themselves in their version of Islam should question their heart and simply ask it if they are doing something just because they find themselves inclined towards it due to their position in the society, their monetary gains or any other reasons that each one of us has. As long as we do not question our faith we are not testifying it.
This is the reason we find Islam that had spread across the world on basis of its principles of equality before God finds itself deeply fragmented. Day after day, we keep coming up with number of individual groups simply because we all accept only that part of the message which doesn’t foment our social and political reality. We simply do not want to touch our egos and do not want to feel belittled. We thus worship our ego and are the worst kind of practicing infidels.
There are a quite lot of examples that by quoting will hurt a lot of us just because it will stir up our socio-political reality and make us feel belittled. For instance, if we look around us, how many of us take our decisions on the basis of the basic principles of Islam? If we go around counting, we’ll hardly find a few. For example the racism once practiced on the basis of color has dressed itself up in new cloaks, the cloak of caste, of social status, of economic condition and a lot more.
These things might not be obvious when we deal with our fellow citizens momentarily but come up when we have to strike deals, the deals of friendship, marriage, etc. We see a clear-cut reservation among ourselves when we look for a match. We want the socio-economic status of the two families to be of relatively same order, which is done by ensuring the two families belong to a particular class, describing themselves by a particular caste, and the education these days has resulted in the creation of another idol.
It is worth it to have a look at our ego before we claim to be true muslims and ask ourselves a simple question before committing any act, “By doing this am I worshipping my Lord or my ego”, and if the answer is latter, then we ought to reflect upon ourselves and if we are doubtful about the answer just as some people like the self aggrandizing Syeds, Muftis and Mirs of our society think that they are doing a particular act, like rejecting a marriage proposal, just because they are of a particular caste or class, that God has reservations about, they should better go through the last lecture, “Khutbah-e-Hajat-ul-wida” of the beloved messenger (PBUH), which leaves no distinction between an arab and a non-arab, a black and a white, a rich and a poor except on the basis of his conduct, and try to find the basis for their argument. They should ask themselves, if they are the true heirs of the prophetic message.
—The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org