By Dr Aslam Abdullah,
Don’t view the title as an indictment of religious clergy. The article refers to only those who misuse their religious authority to serve their political, sectarian or financial interests. One does not have to name them. You can discover them when you meet them. Their level of intolerance will expose them to you.
A number of young Muslims in the age group of 16 to 20s are joining ISIS ranks to fight for what they claim an Islamic state. They are putting their lives at stake and fearing no consequences they are joining the ranks of those who call them Mujaihedeen, a group that in Islamic theology is said to be blessed by the divine. They are ready to die to be known as martyrs to achieve the highest status with the Creator in the jannah or paradise that He has created for pious and virtuous people.
But does the path to jannah have to be strewn with the human blood and bones? Is Allah so violent that he grants jannah or paradise only to those who kill others in his name. One of the leaders of an Islamic Parties in Pakistan, perhaps, believes so. This ideology is the product of a culture that does not know how to handle opposition effectively and that seeks death for everyone opposed to the killer.
Islam does not promote it and the Prophet did not advocate that. But our youth, in the name of Allah and His messenger, are forced to take this path by a clergy and a religious leadership that has violated every principle of the Quran. That does not mean that every member of the religious leadership is guilty. But what it implies is that if those who claim to be religious leaders do not take up a stand, the nihilistic ideology would become widespread and cause damage to the community immensely.
Our youth are most vulnerable to this ideology.
They are told that God will be pleased if they grow an untrimmed beard visible from behind their shoulder and many blindly follow the dictates.
They are advised that God will be pleased if they wear a long dress with turban covering their body and head and they accept it.
They are told that it is useless to read modern sciences as the religious sciences of Islam are superior and they shun the modern world even though they use the gadgets created by the sciences they are being asked to shun.
They are told that it is useless to pursue this world and they withdraw from it.
They are told that everyone other than those who believe in their faith are profane and they accept it.
They are told the entire world is conspiring against them and they believe it.
They are told that in order to rid the world from impurity, they may have to use violence, and some show readiness to do that.
They are reminded day in and day out that unless they establish the word of God on earth, he would not be pleased and in order to do that they have to offer their lives and they come forward to offer their lives readily.
They are told that their scholars who lived some 1000 years ago have done all that needs to be done to understand their faith, and they should simply follow them without and questioning and they heed to the advise.
They are told that the Quran is a book to be read only in Arabic without the ability to understand its meanings and they believe in this.
They are told that even if they do not have Arabic as their language they must marvel at its linguistic beauty without understanding it and they accept it.
They are told if a Muslim changes his faith, he is a sinner and he has no right to be alive and they theologically accept it.
They are told theirs is the best religion and the best community and the rest are filthy, deviant and fodder for hellfire and they all rejoice it.
They are told that men are superior and the purpose of the creation of women is to serve men in every possible way and they accept it.
They are told that women should not be allowed inside the places of worship and if they are there, they should be segregated so that no one could see them and they all believe in that.
They are told that one should not ever greet or pray for a non-Muslim, otherwise they would violate their faith and they accept it.
And so on so forth….
These are the innocent souls of Islam whose heart is as pure as a diamond and whose intentions are as sincere as the natural stream water. They have the ambition to live a decent life and they have the desire to follow a discipline in their life that is built around the guidance of a higher, neutral and objective authority and not by any man or woman. They are the Muslim youth and whatever they believe of the above , they believe in all their sincerity and honesty. They do not have nefarious designs, they do not have criminal mind. They want to lead their lives meaningfully on the basis of what they are told is true Islam.
But a clergy that is not supposed to be part of their faith, and a clerical system that is not even approved by the one who introduced them to God has somehow convinced them to believe in all that is stated above not by Allah or His messenger but a leadership that has often served the rulers and the power hungry monarchs and army generals to serve their interests. This class that justifies its existence on the authority of God and His messenger has convinced the youth and the Muslim masses that they are the gatekeepers of Islam and without their seal of approval none can find the true essence of their religion. They have declared them the representatives of God on earth and the heirs of the messengers. Every messenger offered life in support of the ideals he stood for. Yet, most of them hide their personal lives from the people they claim to serve and then use Islam to serve their sect, faction, school thought regardless of the consequences on others.
This class of so called religious people who often describe itself as scholars of their faith have convinced the youth and the masses that their salvation lies in their ability to follow the gatekeepers of Islam without developing the tools to empower them individually. This class has convinced the youth not to think independently and connect with the divine guidance directly. If you want to join the ranks of the faithful people abandon critical thinking, and independent inquiry and follow everything that has been handed down to them in the name of religion blindly. They want blindness to overshadow a faith that came to remove darkness.
Every issue has been resolved and every question has been answered, hence there is no need to open it again reinvent the wheel and corrupt one’s religion. There is no need even to question the status quo. There is no need to learn from others. There is no nee to positively engage with others in making this planet a better place. Only they on the basis of their understanding of everything in the universe can guide the people. Once people do all that has been suggested to them, things will improve and they would be successful in this world and in the life hereafter.
Majority of youth and masses has accepted this. They unable to improve a mosque or an institution they claim is inspired by Islam, yet they want to meddle in every aspect of human life on the basis of their biased and subjective understanding of Islam.
Many do exactly what they have been told, yet the situation does not improve and misery and humiliation of Muslims abate and increase. The gatekeepers of Islam tell them to have patience because Allah is putting them through trials. Generations have passed and the trial continues with deterioration at every field.
These people have been sedated with an understanding of faith that is not supposed to be there. Yet under the mask of piety, religious garbs, and appearances, this class has continued to survive and thrive without contributing anything to the growth and development of individual or collective personality.
Islam in our times has been reduced to an ideology of isolation and alienation. It has been turned into a faith of thoughtless robots who perform a task based on the programing their manufacturer puts in their system.
A nation of 1-6 billion intelligent, dynamic and living people has been rendered useless by a class of people who hide their egos behind a beautifully created mask.
Islam was and is a call to liberate human beings from the tyranny of fellow human beings, It was and is a call to believe in those universal values given by a higher authority that sustains the entire universe and that promotes an environment of dignity, freedom, justice and peace.It was and is supposed to provide a sense of security to each and every individual regardless of his or her background, gender, class, faith and ace. Islam’s five pillars reinforce these values. The life of the Prophet demonstrates the practicality of these values and the Jihad or struggle is primarily to protect and sustain and cherish them.
These universal values of Islam has been pushed in the background with each group of Muslims promoting its superiority over the other. Look at the issues the Muslims are engaged in their public life. Should a month begin on the basis of the observable pattern that humanity has known for millions of years or must a naked eye sight the moon before a new month can be declared a new month? Should the traditions of Prophet Abraham be lived through sacrificing millions of animals annually while over one billion people sleep hungry or should the resources be spent on sacrificing animals. Should the religion be used to promote despotism or be used to change the conditions of the helpless and powerless. Should one remain focused on one’s spiritual growth or should one stand for justice for all? Should one insist on the validity and legitimacy of shia over sunni or Hanafai or Shafai, Maliki or Hanbali over each other or should we all make an effort to find common grounds in living their faith. Should non-Muslims be terrorized to believe in the authenticity of Islam or should love and compassion be the norm? Should women be evicted from the places of worship or should proper arrangements be made to secure their dignified participation in community affairs? These and many others are the issues that the gatekeepers of Islam do not want to get resolved. They want to perpetuate the differences and prove their superiority over the other. They avoid real issues by focusing on the patterns of wudu or the perfectness of prayer or the proper donning of hijab etc or even the correct pronunciation of the Quran without understanding its message. This class of leadership has imposed an agenda on the community that is neither real nor complete.
Rather than making efforts to address critical issues and involve people in process of decision making, they tend to impose their subjective will.
No one should confuse the pattern of such leaders with the genuine contribution great scholars of Islam has made. However authentic and profound their contribution was, it was not the final word on the subject. They did not say so, but their blind followers have turned it like that. The prophet himself warned against this class of people and Allah described such people not only an enemy of people but any enemy of God also.
It is this situation that has been taken advantage of by groups like ISIS and al Al-aeda and their backers to create more confusion among Muslims and lure young Muslim mind to a path of destruction. Rather than exploring the world and understanding the universe to secure a brighter future of humanity, the young Muslims have been given verbal explosions to destroy them and others. Rather than increasing knowledge and making it more beneficial for the humanity, they are told to shun the world. Rather than being humble, they are told to be arrogant in believing in what they believe in.
It is a critical time for Muslims. If they continue to blindly follow the clergy, or clerics or those who describe them as religious scholars, they would not be able to come out of the depth of abyss they are in. Every idea presented to us by anyone must be critically examined on the basis of its legitimacy and usefulness. People should be educated rather than preached. They should be empower with the knowledge objectively of their faith and be explained properly to serve humanity as a whole, They are the most productive sector of human society. Their qualities should not used for trivial causes to promote a sect or a faction. Rather, they should be involved in the mainstream based on one’s own abilities with full integrity and commitment to those universal values that are eternal and that alone would secure the future of the world.