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Islam and Sectarianism ( 17 Jan 2013, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Let’s Mourn Together


Editorial in the Sawt al Haque, Karachi

January 2013

(Tr. New Age Islam Edit Desk)

On the occasion of Muharram, it was announced that there will be a ban on motorcycles and mobile phones till evening. It sent waves of anxiety among the people.  The reason is that in general the rush in Karachi is so huge that there are more passengers on top of the buses than inside them.  The ban on motorcycles would have created troubles for the students and the office-goers. Fortunately, the Sindh judiciary suspended the ban. Actually it was done to prevent any terrorist attacks.

Though I was not a grown up during the British rule but riots, bloodshed, skirmishes and rebellion were unknown to us. In our small town (Naushahrah—Peshawar) Muharram processions were taken out. I would watch the festivals of Dussehra, Holy and Diwali. Pashtuns would watch these from a distance but no one ever thought of creating an obstruction to their festivals. The reason was that the rule of law was strict. The rulers would take the culprits to task impartially. Hadhrat Umar would say that one who assumes the post of Ameerul Mumineen of the Muslims should bear the characteristics of the shepherds apart from being honest and sincere.  If the shepherd is lazy, ignorant and complacent, his herds would be preyed upon by wolves. Qaid-e-Azam (Jinnah) did not get much time to give a shape to the nation and we did not get any other grand personality like him.

Since the inception of Pakistan, a trend has been rising.  As the Muharram approaches every year, there is a chaotic and emergency like situation in the country. As inflation, shortage of commodities and storage mark the approach of the budget session, so is the situation as Muharram approaches.  The religious atmosphere gets tense. The government prohibits certain ulema from making statements while prohibits some other from visiting certain areas.  Article 144 is imposed and the administration is put on alert. This acrimony, enmity and ill-feeling did not exist before the partition of India.

Formation of peace committees gets underway. Then there meetings are held and warnings and threats are exchanged between the Sunnis and Shias. This trend is incomprehensible as well as surprising at least for a simple and general Muslim. It seems as if some flood is imminent for which precautionary measures are being taken. If the banks are not strengthened, dams are not constructed, erosion is not prevented, and the direction of the flow is not fixed, God forbid it will cause heavy destruction.

Why is it so on every Muharram? Why does the government become so much shaky, nervous, panicked and livid? The simple reason behind all this communalism whose poison has polluted the minds and the hatred has filled the heart. The occasions or events that otherwise might have become an opportunity for strengthening harmony and a matter of pride turns out to be the cause of rifts, bloodshed and hatred. It seems that when God had said after creating Adam, “When God said to the angels I will create a vice-regent of mine on earth, the angels had said ‘will you create such a creature that will cause bloodshed on earth, are we not sufficient for your worship?” (2:30) was obviously hinted at us.

God had said to us, “You are the best nation on earth who has been created for the welfare of the mankind, you will preach good and prevent evil and will persist on faith.” (2:143) and that that you are the most prominent like the middle finger as you are guided by the Prophet (pbuh) and other nations are guided by you”. But alas!


The nation who is naked cannot cover others. We consider ourselves better than and superior to the Muslims of the world. The words Muslim and Islam promise peace and security. A Muslim is one who believes in live and let others live in peace and security. We should have an exemplary character. We should have exported peace and security. But on the contrary, we ourselves are wretched and disintegrated.

We should not expect anything from God in this matter as He has already said that “He does not change the condition of those who themselves do not strive to bring a change in themselves. (13:11). It is impossible that God will change his rules for the sake of us. God has closed this door saying “No change in the words of God.” (48:23) If we continued with this behaviour, any one could enslave us taking advantage of our disunity, weaknesses and wretchedness because God has said, “If you do not turn towards the rules of God, he will replace you with others who will not be like you.” (47:38)

Ashura of Muharram is a painful chapter of Islamic history. It is the tradition in all the communities of the world that even if there are differences, they are sidelined for the time being on the occasion of common grief and loss and they share the pain with each other. But unfortunately, in our community, it is on these occasions, that the differences become more acute and the gulf is widened. There are many reasons for this situation which needs serious analysis. But we should emulate other Muslims countries in this regard.

What will happen if communalism disappears? In my view and in the light of the experience from history, something positive will only happen. With the disappearance of communalism, the barriers of bias and prejudice will be removed across the Islamic world. The campaign for declaring every other Muslim out of Islam will be weakened. The division of mosques will stop. The business of hatred in the name of religion will shut down. No issue of social and philanthropic importance will be influenced by communal bias. The pulpits of mosques will not be used for pitching Muslims against each other. The situation for the arrests, curfew, bloodshed and army’s intervention will not arise. Kafir-manufacturing machines will stop popping out fatwas. The young generation will not drift away from religion. Ulema will abstain from pulling each other’s leg. The tradition of creating differences on every issue from birth to funeral prayers will die down. The publication of incendiary literature will stop. The habit of gauging of others’ faith will die gradually. The world will have to recognise the power of the Muslim ummah. The Muslim will shun groupism and sectarianism and will seek the pleasure of God in His obedience and the soul of the Prophet (pbuh) will rest in peace seeing the unity of the ummah. Why is it said that communalism is inevitable? What arguments do we have to support this belief? Why can’t we live without it? If the holy Prophet (pbuh) could live without being termed Shia, Sunni, Hanafi, Jafri, Malaki, Shafi’i, ahle hadith, Deobandi, why can’t we followers?

Were the rightly guided caliphs Sunni or Shia? How did they manage to live? What were the imams or the jurists themselves? Were they Hanafi, Maliki or Shafi’ee? Or were they only the slaves of God and the followers of the Prophet (pbuh)? How could they live their lives without this communalism? If the imams could live without this why is it a problem for us followers?

Aren’t you aware of this historical truth that Farah bin Barquoque who has been called the worst king by the historians had set up four prayer sites at Kaabah for the followers of the four imams due to the perpetual sectarian infightings among the Muslims? Due to this, the followers of the same religion prayed behind four different imams in Kaabah for almost five centuries and no one had the courage to do away with this deviation though many ulema and jurists were born during this period until the emergence of the Najdi reformist movement in the beginning of the twentieth century after its conquest of Hijaz and brought all the four sects under one imam. Now when more than one third of a century has passed since the folding in of the sectarian divide, no one thinks it has caused any difference in our prayers. Therefore, there is no reason why other less important differences cannot be done away with.

It is beyond understanding what interests of the ummah are lying in the arguments given in favour of the continuation or the inevitability of communalism or sectarian divide or what contribution it makes to the reputation and prosperity of the Islamic nation. It is just beyond our understanding. God said, “Do not become like the polytheists who created groups among themselves and every group takes pride in its own. “(30:32). He said to the Prophet (pbuh), “Those who created groups in the religion are not among you.”96:159). So, when you do not belong to the prophet, how can you belong to God? The reason of our ruin is that God has taken His hands off us. In the end I would like to quote Perween Shakir’s couplet with some variation:

Kaise kahdoon ke hame chhor diya hai rab ne

Baat to sach hai magar baat hai ruswai ki

Source: Sawt al Haque, Karachi, January 2013

URL for Urdu article:اداریہ/let’-s-mourn-together-آیئے-مل-کر-ماتم-کریں/d/10059

URL for this article:,-tr-new-age-islam/let’s-mourn-together/d/10061