By Aiman Reyaz, New Age Islam
16 June 2012
Majority of the Muslims all around the world are considered to be too much inclined towards religion; they are called fundamentalists, both in the positive as well in the negative sense. In the positive sense, a fundamentalist Muslim is one who offers five time prayer every day, fasts in the month of Ramadan, gives Zakat (charity), if possible goes for hajj (pilgrimage) etc. In the negative sense, a fundamentalist Muslim is one who is ready to kill the infidels and be killed, who wants to turn the whole world in to Dar ul- Islam (house of Islam).
In either sense Muslims are seen as a ‘community’ which follows what it considers Islamic teachings, never mind the teachings are correct or misinterpreted, staunchly. This staunchness has made the Muslims world separate from other ‘communities’. Muslims want to live in a shell, hoping and aspiring that the ‘golden days’ of Islam will come back. They live a world that has got no reality. Whenever a common Muslim man is cornered in a discussion he, most often says, ‘Just wait, the triumph of Islam is a reality and it will come very soon’. If a fanatic is cornered then he will not say anything, he will plan to harm him, if not kill him. We live in the 21st century but we want to sail into the 7th century period.
It is necessary to distinguish between religion as an ideology or a belief system and the ideology of religious identity, which is communalism. Religion as an ideology says that these are the principles of this religion and a good person will follow it; while the ideology of religious identity says that a particular ‘community’ must work in such a fashion so as to be able to strike a stark difference between his religion and other religions; and his religious identity is different and in hostility with the religious identity of other religions and their religious identity. Religion is neither the cause nor the end of communalism- it is only its vehicle.
The religious difference is used to ‘mask’ non-religious social needs, aspiration and conflicts which are the products of the interplay of forces released by the society or the social surroundings. The arguments put forward by them are like this: earlier, the Muslim interests are in danger, now Islam is in danger; earlier Muslims faced oppression, now Islam faced extermination etc.
While religion is not responsible for the origins and growth of communalism, religiosity is a major contributory factor. Religiosity may be defined as a deep and intense emotional commitment to matters of religion and as the tendency to let religion and religious emotions encroach into non-religious or non-spiritual areas of life and beyond the individual’s private life and to refuse to separate religion from politics, economics and social life. This means to be over-religious or to have too much religion in one’s life.
Too much religiosity enables the religious factor to come into play in the world affairs. It has made the people susceptible to emotional appeals by the communalists in the name of Allah and Muhammad (pbuh). Moreover, religiosity tends to get out of hand for it has no defined boundaries. Without religiosity, religious fervour cannot be aroused; and without religious fervour, communalism cannot acquire the character of a mass movement.
The rise in religiosity in recent years is basically because of the psychology of fear- ‘attack or you will be killed’. Wherever we go, we find this psychology of fear spreading like a wild fire: in the mosques, the Imam says ‘The Jews and Christians are conspiring against the Muslims’, ‘USA is bent on destroying Islam’ etc. In the internet we find numerous sites that are spreading hate and intolerance. Mostly they show video clippings of the Quran being burnt by some Americans or Israelis, and depict this in such a fashion as if the whole non-Muslim world wants to do the same thing. The communalists spread fear in to the hearts of their religious ‘community’ and this leads to retaliation, i.e., violence against the so-called infidels.
When deep and intense emotions are aroused then rationality is usually lost. The more one feels, the less one thinks. The same thing happens with the Muslims, they have blinded themselves from seeing anything new, and they have deafened themselves from hearing anything new. In short they want to live a covered life, not wanting to hear or see new things, as it might go against the Quran or the Shariah. They want to listen to the same Maulana over and over again, and they want to see the same TV. Channel over and over again.
Muslims must shun their religiosity. First of all they are financially, economically, and educationally backward (I am not just talking about the Gulf countries, where some ruling elites have the money; my focus is on the common Muslims who merely follow like a herd). Instead of blaming themselves they blame other ‘communities’ for their seclusion and their overall backwardness. They want to have it both ways- they want to live the 7th century life and they also want to be advanced in every field. This is not possible.
Religiosity is good only when it is restricted to religion and spirituality; it turns an irritant as well as evil if it invades the space of non-religious or secular activities. For example offering prayer in the office is good, but it becomes an irritant when you tell others to stop their work and pray as well.
Excess of anything is bad, religion is a private matter, and it must not interfere in non-religious matters. The way out to religiosity is to wage an ideological battle against it; it is just an ideology, and wrong or weak ideas can be destroyed only by a correct or a superior idea.