Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Islam spin

Conversations with a new breed of Pakistani Muslim

In August-September, 2009 I found myself having an argument with supporters of the Caliphate – Khilafat, Khilafah – movement and self-styled jihadis. They seemed obsessed with destroying the existing structures of government and society and replacing them with a ‘Caliphate system’, which would unite all Muslim countries under a single Caliph/Khalifah. The person with whom I mostly exchanged e-mails was fond of quoting extensively from the Qur’an and from a subjectively defined concept of Sunnah imported from an Arab Sheikh. The Quraanic quotations were often misapplied, having little relevance to the topic under discussion. These people tended to assume that anyone who opposed their views was an American sympathiser. Therefore, the first thing they do is to seek one’s views on the USA government’s adventurism in the Middle East and Asia. Relevant extracts from the e-mail correspondence are given below. 
My views on the USA government’s involvement in Pakistan and the Middle East, and the situation in Pakistan generally:

The writing is on the wall in CAPITAL letters - everyone can see it very clearly. My comments are of little use as they will merely state the obvious: that Pakistan is now little more than a colony of the USA, which had installed the current Pakistani government in power to serve American interests.

The USA invaded Iraq on the pretext of that country possessing weapons of mass destruction. It staged the farce of 9/11, an 'attack on the USA by a group of Muslims living in Afghanistan' and invaded that country. The then government of Afghanistan had offered to try Osama bin Laden in a court of law of a neutral country but the USA had ignored that offer because it was busy destroying the evidence of the stage-managed attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon (all traces of the aircraft that supposedly took part in the attack have mysteriously disappeared - a criminal and illegal action for which the USA government ought to have been tried under USA laws). The USA government has since studiously avoided court proceedings against those it falsely accuses of terrorism because a trial in a court of law will uncover the shameful deeds of the USA Establishment. So far America has killed more than 2 million Iraqis and Afghanis - fewer than 3 thousands had died in the 9/11 self-inflicted wound - and it has now extended the killing spree to Pakistan.

Pakistan's national inferiority complex

It is not just that our government is composed of toadies and yes-men, the sad truth is that the whole Pakistani nation is suffering from a deeply ingrained inferiority complex in relation to the Americans and the British. Their language has become the de facto national language in which affairs of the state are conducted while our own language is treated with contempt. This has resulted in power being concentrated in some 5% of the population of the country, which has managed to arm itself with an ‘English education'. We are thus keeping Pakistan as a developing country in perpetuity through wanton neglect of 95% of our intellectual capital because people educated in Urdu are denied the opportunities to utilise their inborn talents fully. This gives rise to gross injustice and inequality of opportunity. There is an easy solution: let us conduct all our affairs in elegant, graceful Urdu and stop expressing ourselves comically in English (it is never easy to master a foreign language - and it shows in the graceless, incorrect English which plagues our national life). 

Just look at this e-mail exchange. Can you imagine the Koreans and the Chinese sending e-mails back and forth in a foreign language? Sixty two years after independence we have failed to develop our language sufficiently to meet the demands of the modern age. Is it because our national inferiority complex has tied us too closely to the language and culture of our past and present colonial masters?

Our self-loathing extends to our cultural heritage as well. Do we know what Iqbal said about patriotism in relation to our country of birth and the requirements of the larger Muslim ummah? Iqbal's thoughts were an interpretation of the Quraanic Guidance - to understand that each of us just has to read and ponder over the Message of the Qur'an. There is no need to look for a Sheikh far and wide to tell us what we need to do. Our Guidance is within an arm's reach! Discover the treasure trove in your own backyard before you go hunting abroad.

Let us first deal with the evils that are to be found in our country of birth before we go looking for the utopia of a Khilafat. And don't forget that the Khilafat ended with Hazrat Ali - what came after was just dynastic monarchy, the son succeeding as king on the death of his father.

In a separate e-mail I had to elaborate further on the role of language in Pakistan because my references to Urdu were taken to be too ‘nationalistic’; I also had to clarify my understanding of Islam:

All I will say is we should sincerely try to understand the Guidance in the Qur'an according to our capacity and then put our understanding into practice to the best of our ability. Our understanding will remain subjective, depending on our character and inherent wisdom. Therefore, we should refrain from claiming that the way we have understood the Message is the only right way.

My references to Urdu are all in the context of providing justice and equality of opportunity to the 'have nots' of Pakistan. How do you expect 95% of Pakistanis to compete with people who first impose an alien language on them and then shamelessly rub salt into the wounds they have inflicted on the nation by having their children educated in the USA and the UK? The fact is we are criminally, insanely wasting 95% of our intellectual resources and, worse, turning the whole nation into robot-like slaves of the Americans. 

Allah has created different racial groups with their own languages. So long as we continue to live in the material world bounded by time and space, we derive much earthly pleasure from our local language and culture - to annihilate our essential characteristics as a nation will lead to subjugation, not freedom. Certainly, when we die and leave this world of matter our earthly differences will cease to exist. However, so long as we remain on earth we have to acknowledge the constraints under which we live. Once we learn to live as free and proud men and women it is possible for us to reach out to the rest of humanity and learn to live in harmony as one large human community. That, in my view, is what the essence of Islam is all about. It is a SYSTEM OF LIFE, it is NOT a mazhab. 

Take a look around you and try to improve the quality of life in your own community. When enough people have undergone an inner transformation, and changed their communities for the better, those communities will gradually draw together and coalesce seamlessly. For example, if Pakistanis and Afghans can somehow free themselves from subjugation to the Americans and become truly free men and women, I can foresee a time when those two countries may form a single political unit. 

Let us be realistic and proceed gradually. At the present time talking about the utopia of a Khilafat may make people feel good but that is about all, in my opinion.

Our views evolve over a lifetime and they are never static. The 'treasure trove in our backyard' from which I have gained much includes: Iqbal, Jinnah, Ghulam Ahmad Parwaiz (do read his 'Saleem ke naam khatoot' if you haven't already read it), Qudrat Ullah Shahab's 'Shahab Nama', Mumtaz Mufti ('Labbaik', 'Talash', 'Ali Pur ka Aeli', 'Alakh Nagri', etc ), Dr Shabbir Ahmed, and many more.

My interlocutor came back with an extremely long e-mail with all sorts of quotations and references, relevant and irrelevant. Below is a short extract from his e-mail:

Now Jihad is not just killing, for the war and battles Allah uses the word 'Qitaal' . Jihad is wider. Its the jihad of ideology , its the jihad of words and speech and mindsets . Why does our youth prefer being called a nigger from the west side , rather than a muslim or a millat e ibraheemi. A true Jihad would be like the division of labour. Some factions would be working to improve the knowledge of Quran in the Ummah. Some would be working against foreign ideas by fighting their ideologies through the power of pen and words . Some would be fighting physcially the army of taaghut. Some would be raising the funds for the activities etc.

You know this language issue that you have raised. I have hosted shows about it on Geo channel called urdu bol and lafanga, when i was a part of that system . But that is just the surface of the problem, muslims are always adviced to prefer hikmat and crush the stems rather cutting the leaves. Talking about language is akin to speaking about why people wear jeans and pants and not shalwar kameez . Kindly nullify the concept of a nation state, or being Pakistani from your mind, because that concept is alien to Islam. We are one nation. Zionists planned for more than 400 years to attain greater israel and were persistent in it . Remember they didnt have the help of ALLAH with them. If we want to establish a true Khilafah, we would have the help of Allah with us and the economically , socially and morally oppressed people counting 1.8 billion, why does this goal seem so far fetched . 

I can write volumes about these issues because they are personal to me and Allah is my HAADI, who has guided me to this path.”

My response was:

Your long reply to my last e-mail to you has an eerie quality about it, which defies common sense. I think it also contains statements which are inconsistent with the basic principles of Islam. The gulf between the worlds you and I inhabit is so vast that it cannot be bridged by means of an exchange of e-mails between us. My comments on your most recent e-mail are given below. I am also circulating my replies to your e-mails more widely in the hope that it will open up the discussion and draw in other participants.
I do not know why you have quoted from aayat 2:216 relating to ‘qitaal’. You should not quote selectively from the Qur’an – the full aayat or more than one aayat must always be quoted so that the context of a particular statement of the Qur’an is clear. So, would you please state the context in which you think your selected Quraanic statement applies.
Let me make it quite clear that, based on my understanding of the Qur’an, I consider suicide bombings for ANY purpose to be an unmitigated evil. On the other hand, to take up arms in defence of Allah’s Deen (His system of life), if it is attacked, is necessary. That is what the aayat is about. Now will you tell me where in the world today Allah’s Deen is practised? The vast majority of so-called ‘Islamic’ countries are steeped in corruption, exploitation, lies, deceit, rank injustice – in other words, these are all non-Islamic societies where a minority of pious Muslims survive one way or another. The wars that are fought today are not for DEEN – they are merely political wars.
In my last e-mail I commented on how Muslim communities can grow and unite. What I had said was: “Take a look around you and try to improve the quality of life in your own community. When enough people have undergone an inner transformation, and changed their communities for the better, those communities will gradually draw together and coalesce seamlessly. For example, if Pakistanis and Afghans can somehow free themselves from subjugation to the Americans and become truly free men and women, I can foresee a time when those two countries may form a single political unit. Let us be realistic and proceed gradually. At the present time talking about the utopia of a Khilafat may make people feel good but that is about all, in my opinion.”  Surely you have a responsibility towards other members of the community in which you live? 
In my last e-mail I had shown how the exploitative Pakistani society uses the language as a tool to keep the vast majority of Pakistan’s citizens in permanent subjugation. The language that all Pakistanis understand is Urdu but to make worldly progress they need to educate themselves in an alien language, which is beyond the capacity of most Pakistanis. Pakistan is thus deprived of some 95% of its talent that could have been used in nation building - which is the primary reason for the country being economically backward. Your reply is very odd indeed. You have made the following points:
·      “We learn English only for economic reasons”.
·      “Urdu is a lashkari language, it has adapted words from different languages to sustain”.
·      “Most of the people speak Minglish to express themselves”.
Yes, we learn English for SELFISH economic reasons to enrich ourselves at the expense of people who lack the resources to learn this alien language. There is no such thing as a ‘pure’ language. English has a huge number of foreign words: Latin, Greek, French, German, Italian, Spanish, etc – and yes, Arabic, Persian and Hindi as well. Urdu has evolved enormously and it has absorbed many words from other languages, including English. The fact that so many people speak ‘Minglish’ merely reinforces the point I made about exploitation: poor downtrodden Pakistanis have been conditioned into thinking that upward mobility is only possible through the medium of English. Therefore, when they speak ‘Minglish’ they are actually letting others know that they, too, possess some knowledge of English. Do we need more evidence to tell us that we have not been able to free ourselves from mental bondage to foreign masters?
Finally, you make the point that it is better to teach ‘Science’ in English rather than in Urdu. This is a sure recipe to keep Pakistan permanently incarcerated as a developing country. Learn from the experience of South Korea which rapidly developed its language to meet the needs of the modern era. Our inferiority complex kept us chained to English and we neglected to develop our language.  For the time being we must perforce carry on with English while making vigorous attempts to make Urdu a viable scientific language as soon as possible. That, in my opinion, is the only way to bring justice, equality of opportunity and long term prosperity to our people.  There is indeed an urgent need to reform our educational system and to create a level playing field for all.
At the risk of arousing your ire I would say that we can also learn much from the example of Israel, which breathed life into a dead language – Hebrew – and set it up as the national language. Unfortunately, that sort of pride and self-esteem is missing from us Pakistanis.
Our national inferiority complex has made us a laughing stock for foreigners. When Zardari was last in the USA no one took him seriously as he went about grinning from ear to ear and delivering such gems as ‘my democracy will deliver’. It would have been far better if he had proudly spoken in refined Urdu – of which he is quite capable – and let an interpreter translate for him. The unspeakable Karzai was actually given greater prominence than Zardari and this showed very clearly in the seating arrangements made for these two clowns.
Your reading in Urdu appears quite limited. I doubt if you understand the greatness of Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam. You can at least read the latter’s speeches in English. Because of his noble character and the high ethical standards he followed, he stood head and shoulders above people like Mountbatten, Gandhi and Nehru (who initially ingratiated himself with the Mountbattens but ended up becoming much too familiar with his benefactor’s wife, Edwina – I’ll spare you the sordid details).
You have given me a lecture about the evils of nationalism! Why? Certainly, ‘my country right or wrong’ is an evil sentiment which all Muslims should abhor. However, Allah has created different nations and different languages – which is an undeniable fact. This has nothing to do with ‘internal divisions’ mentioned in 3:102-103, which you have quoted. You are misapplying Quraanic verses to support your own particular agenda. To derive enjoyment from the good things that Allah has given us – the beauty of our language, our music, our poetry – is perfectly natural. Not to do so is wrong because Allah does not like exaggerated piety.
Again, the quotations you have given from books of Rivaayaat (traditions) relating to ‘asbiyyat’ (prejudice) are misplaced and quite out of context. By the way, some of your quoted rivaayaat are offensive and extremely disrespectful to Rasul-e-Akram. You don’t seem to be aware that the enemies of Islam in the past – the Zoroastrians, the Jews and the Christians – and also the Muftis of pleasure-seeking Muslim kings (who called themselves ‘khalifah’) had forged many ‘ahadith’ and mixed them with genuine rivaayaat. In light of the lavish praise heaped on the character of Muhammad Rasul-Allah in the Qur’an, how can you possibly attribute the following vulgar statements to him?
"He who calls for `Asabiyyah’ is as if he bit his father's genitals"
“but in the sight of Allah they are more contemptible than the black beetle that rolls a piece of dung with its nose”
“If they do not give this up Allah (swt) will consider them lower than the lowly worm which pushes itself through Khara (dung)”
The books of Rivaayaat compiled by men who came from the conquered Persian empire contain many stories which contradict the verses of the Qur’an. You must exercise great care when quoting from these books. The Muslim world today has regressed into the pre-Islamic era of Jahiliyyat (Ignorance), but that is now called Islam! When will we emerge from this darkness?

Another extremely long reply came back. Extracts from my response are given below:  

I see that you have quoted a single aayat [2:216] dealing with ‘qitaal’ and ignored all the other jihadi aayaat. Let me quote what you said in a previous e-mail: “Now Jihad is not just killing , for the war and battles Allah uses the word 'Qitaal' . Jihad is wider, its the jihad of ideology, its the jihad of words and speech and mindsets”. OK, Nabeel, if you now want to concentrate on ‘qitaal’ then let us see what the Qur’an says about it.

Al-Hajj, [22:39]: Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is wrongfully waged. And God is indeed Most Powerful for their support.

Al-Baqarah, [2:190]: So, fight in the Cause of God those who wage war against you, but do not commit aggression. Indeed, God does not love aggressors.
[2:191]: Subdue them regardless of their tribal affiliations, and drive them out of where they drove you out. For ‘fitna’ (persecution, terror, torture, oppression) is a crime even more grievous than killing. Do not fight against them near the Masjid of Security (a haven of amnesty) unless they attack you therein. But if they attack you there, then you shall fight against them. Such has to be the rebuttal of those who reject (the Standard of Peace).
[2:192]: And if they desist, then, remember that God is Forgiving, Eternal Source of Mercy.
[2:193]: Hence, fight them only until there is no more harassment, and Deen may be adopted for the sake of God alone. And if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against those who replace peace with aggression.
Now you can go back to [2:216] and ponder on its meaning afresh!
In the verses above Allah is speaking to you, Nabeel. Isn’t the meaning quite clear? Why do you ignore the words of Allah and listen instead to al-Jalalayn and Ibn Kathir? They were fallible human beings, we do not follow them, we obey Allah alone. You have claimed in your e-mail, “I am using the Quran only, because all other knowledge can be wrong” – I am sorry to say that, so far as I can see, you are following Messrs al-Jalalayn and Ibn Kathir, who are putting their own particular spin on the Quraanic Message.
So, the moral of this discussion is that we should never pluck out a verse from the Qur’an and run away with it. It is our sacred obligation to study all the verses which shed light on a particular subject and then come to a conclusion accordingly.
Next, let us look at the life of Rasul-e-Akram. For 13 years he and his companions quietly suffered intense persecution at the hands of the people of Makka but the Muslims did not hit back. Rasul-Allah was ‘Nazir’ and ‘Bashir’ and he carried on delivering the divine Message. Later, when Allah’s Deen had been established in Madina, and it was under threat from the Quraish, Rasul-Allah took up arms to defend the Muslim state.
My question to you is: where have you established a truly Muslim society which needs to be defended? You need to have the patience to undergo a period of inner purification and to establish Allah’s Deen (see my article on Islam for a definition of Islam/Deen) before you can start talking glibly about killing fellow human beings. You are only interested in imposing a ‘khilafat’ by force which, l am afraid, will create a fitna, leading to much bloodshed.
Point 2: Establishment of Deen/Islamic state
I am broadly in agreement with the earlier part of what you say. My introductory article was concerned with the essence of Islam. When it comes to implementation of Islam as a system we need to be careful. Remember that there is no compulsion in matters of Deen and each person living in the Islamic state has the freedom to pursue whatever system he/she prefers. If people are unable to see the excellence of Islam over other religions then we leave them alone – they remain our fellow citizens in an Islamic state.
Your swipe at Iqbal is quite uncalled for. Do point out to me where you consider Iqbal’s message to be deviating from the spirit of Islam.
Thereafter, it is difficult to follow your reasoning in the great mass of words that you have laid out.
Point 3: Pakistan and Afghanistan
You are attributing things to me which I have not said. Let me repeat my words for the SECOND time for you: “Take a look around you and try to improve the quality of life in your own community. When enough people have undergone an inner transformation, and changed their communities for the better, those communities will gradually draw together and coalesce seamlessly. For example, if Pakistanis and Afghans can somehow free themselves from subjugation to the Americans and become truly free men and women, I can foresee a time when those two countries may form a single political unit. Let us be realistic and proceed gradually. At the present time talking about the utopia of a Khilafat may make people feel good but that is about all, in my opinion.”
If we have patience and proceed gradually, we may find that more and more nominally Islamic countries are able to implement justice and equality for their people and they, too, may want to join any political union of truly Islamic countries that may have taken place. The desire has to come from the people, not imposed by know-alls who decide what is best for everyone. I repeat, that will lead to ‘fitna’ and much bloodshed.
Point 4: Emancipation from debt and foreign influence
So far as Pakistan is concerned why do you need ‘qitaal’ for this? The answer is simple. We need to learn self-reliance and put up with hardship for a period of years while saying ‘no’ to foreign debt. Also, tell the Americans in our country that they are not needed and they should leave. Our real problem is the corrupt politicians and military commanders. This is an internal problem, which can be solved with patient efforts over a number of years to educate and inform the ignorant Pakistani population, and implement justice and equality of opportunity (since most of our people do not understand English – which modern thinkers such as yourself have imposed on the country - they remain despised and in a state of terrifying ignorance).
There are foreign occupation forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no justification for that presence which, in turn, justifies armed action for political reasons. Don’t drag Islam into it because, at the time of American invasions, neither Iraq nor Afghanistan could be described as an Islamic society as defined in the Qur’an.
Point 5: Khilafat
I reiterate: if you try to implement it by force you will create a ‘fitna’ and blood will be shed. Just let it evolve gradually over a long period of years as truly Islamic societies emerge in the world. To bring about khilafat eventually, you will need to work very hard with great patience in the meantime. You will need to emulate Rasul-e-Akram in your character traits, not outward appearance.
I am amused to read your claim that “these proletariats of the Ummah ardently desire that they join together and shatter the differences and be united so they can prosper collectively.” Really! When did you carry out a survey to ask their opinion? I can tell you that if you will care to go out and mix with the poor, downtrodden people of Pakistan, you will find that they are merely concerned with daily survival – they have neither the time nor the inclination to philosophise in such grandiloquent terms.

That was more or less the end of our discussion as a vast gulf appeared to separate our respective viewpoints.


Ayesha said...

All the things happening in Pakistan are being caused by foreign intelligence agencies.

Sakib Ahmad said...

Yes and no. Others simply take advantage of our weakness and of our subservience to Western powers.

A nation becomes great because of its inner strength of character, its capacity for ceaseless effort and its adherence to moral values. We do not become great by imitating and absorbing into our lives such superficial symbols as other people's language and culture. That merely confirms our status as a slave nation and blinds us to the treasure trove in our own backyard.

Search This Blog