Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Few Questions: Moonis Elahi

A few questions have been giving sleepless nights to countless Muslims across the globe in recent times.

Firstly, while they strongly believe that Islam is a message of peace, progress and harmony, the Muslims of the world desperately want to know that why they are currently steeped in the worst kinds of ignorance, intrigue and ignominy?

Secondly, they also want to know that while Islam emphasizes on the maximization of the best in human nature, why today some of them are capitalizing on the worst in human nature to the detriment of mankind?

Thirdly, they are now seeking to find out the answer to this vital question that why despite abundant human and natural resources, oil for instance, the majority of today’s 1.5 billion Muslims living in 55 Muslim countries of the world are pitted in abject poverty and forced to live in extremely trying social, economic and political conditions?

Pakistan is no exception to the rule. As a matter of fact, the worst conditions that can prevail in any present day Muslim land are all at their full foul play in the Land of the Pure. Another sordid truth is that while Pakistan’s present reputation as the hot-bed of terrorism precedes all its earlier claims to fame, the thinking Pakistanis have always been haunted by Pakistan’s reputation as being a country surviving essentially on foreign pittances since birth. The fact remains that if terrorism has recently become synonymous with Pakistan the flip side of the Pakistani coin has always featured the “green begging bowl”. We have been known as a nation of charity seekers through out our 62 years history. Today, the Pakistanis have the right to know that while the Holy Prophet (PBUH) enjoined upon all Muslims to seek knowledge as an obligation even if that meant going to China, why instead of knowledge we only look up to China for financial support? And not just to China, why have we been trotting the globe from Saudi Arabia to Libya and from Europe to the United States of America busy begging for riyals, yens, pounds and dollars? Here by “we” the obvious allusion is to the respective Pakistani governments since 1947 which have always taken pride in their success of wining charity and alms in the form of aid and loans from richer countries. In fact, foreign borrowings are the barometer of a government’s success even today. The false rule of higher the borrowing, stronger the government is what the Pakistanis have been made to appreciate all along. The people of Pakistan are now questioning the true merit of this fallacy more than ever before. Destined for greatness, they want to know that why have they been reduced to a nation of borrowers?

The quality of religious education currently being imparted in the Muslim world is also a matter of grave concern for the present day thinking Muslims. There are many of them incessantly searching an answer to questions like why religious education in Muslim societies instead of nurturing has blocked intellectual and material growth? They are desirous to find out that why today’s religious education is not helping them in the attainment of material success. Muslims are keen to know that why instead of making them self reliant and bringing them at par with the knowledge and technological standards of the developed societies today’s religious teaching is making them further dependant on the west for almost every thing? From modern textile machines to F.16s there is nothing any of the Muslim countries can proudly claim to have become self-sufficient in. Today, every thinking Muslim wants to know that why has the true Islamic knowledge base been over-shadowed by the debate between belief and disbelief and why are we so behind the West?

Another strange contradiction scarring Islamic values today is the presence of a mindset that on one hand persuades the followers to lay down their lives in the name of Islam and on the other hand itself falls miserably short of the great Islamic moral and social codes and ethics. I see examples of this dichotomy spread all around us. While driving in Lahore city, I often come across posters, banners and bill-boards of religious groups declaring their unflinching love and loyalty to the Holy Prophet (PBUH). As a Muslim I also share the same feelings but then I ask myself that are we following in deed what we are claiming in word? I ask myself that if we were truly following the teachings of our Holy Prophet (PBUH) then would the vices of food adulteration and an unbridled squandering of time and resources be as rampant in our society as they are today. I ask myself that why are our cities and towns infested with filth and rubbish while our Holy Prophet (PBUH) has taught us that “cleanliness is half faith”. I ask you that had we been the true followers of the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) as we claim to be then would we be as divided and resource less as we are today and could our lives be as undisciplined as they are today?

Who are those who have restricted the pursuit of knowledge and free inquiry in Muslim societies? Who are those who have eclipsed the light of true Islam from reaching and enlightening our lives? Are we to continue groping in this enforced darkness thrusted upon us? Why the Holy Quran, God’s final message to mankind and the world’s most recited book, is only presented to us as a book of atonement and not of enlightenment? Why are the so-called custodians of God’s final message not allowing us to rationalize our lives and find our answers in the light of true Quranic teachings? Such and similar other questions are looming large in the minds of thinking Muslims of the 21st century.

The startling truth is that Muslim thinking was rendered a strong blow a few centuries back when reason was made subservient to blind faith. It is also true that since then Muslim thinking has not been able to retrace its way back to its glorious past and the retrogressive forces have not let free enquiry play its role in the re-ascendancy of reason in the Muslim world.

The first word with which God began His communication with the Holy Prophet (PBUH) was “Iqra”…Read, yet is it not true that for centuries the Muslim world has been deliberately kept away from following this divine injunction? Can we deny the fact that amongst the top 500 universities of the world there is not a single university belonging to the Muslim world considered worthy of a place in the coveted list? Can we question the veracity of the charge that let alone American and European universities there is not a single university in the Muslim world which can parallel even some of the more known Indian universities of today. Similarly, as opposed to an innumerable number of American, European and even Indian Nobel laureates what is the number of Muslim recipients of the world’s most prestigious award conferred on men and women of outstanding knowledge?

An undeniable truth of our times is that the world we today live in has been crafted by Western thought and we are only recycling the knowledge transferred to us by the West. Here, allow me to categorically state that I am not among those who believe in the supremacy of modern science and technology over human spirit. On the contrary, I am of the firm belief that there is no conflict between the two and that the minds which refute religion for science and otherwise are both “Baatil”…. False and Untrue.

To sum it up, I believe the time has come for the Muslim world to make a fresh journey with in and find answers to some basic questions, a few of which I have dared to put forth.