By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander
20 December 2019
Morality in our post modern and post industrial society is a contested and relative concept. Something can be moral for few people while for others it can be completely immoral or even amoral. Few realists and pragmatists try not to invoke the moral paradigm and justify all actions on the yardstick of interests whether it is individual, collective or national. Enlightenment, Modernity and Colonialism did throw up a new definition of morality trying to subdue the traditional one that was deeply inspired by religion.
In most developing and under developed countries the tussle between tradition and modernity has resulted in the birth and growth of skewed parameters of morality. The yardstick of morality has been reduced to mundane affairs while leaving the broader questions and issues out of its scope. It has resulted in trifling the small matters whereas the greater affairs remain immune from its considerations. It was the same situation that made Prophet Jesus (pbuh) condemn the Jewish theologians in these words, “You Pharisees, hypocrites and blind guides-who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). The situation with Muslims is not anyways different from Pharisees whom Jesus condemned.
The universal moral values are nonexistent in Muslim politics, economy, social life and even families. The Muslim politics in most countries comprises of military dictatorships, authoritarian ruling cliques or monarchs, who deny even the basic human rights to their citizens. The common people have very little role to influence the policies that shape their future. They have the right to exist only and that too can be snapped at a mere whim of the rulers. The ruling elite still remain immune from public criticism. As far as the economy is concerned its fruits again are encashed by few powerful elite who cap its gains while only a little percolates down to the masses. The social life and public institutions are full of corruption. It is difficult to get some work done without greasing the palms of government officials. It is something that has now attained a level of sanctity. Bribery is taken as being self evident and it does not raise any eyebrows. Most of Muslim families are oppressive when it comes to the rights of women as wives, daughters and sisters they face discrimination particularly when it comes to the inheritance rights. The Principle of gender justice is mostly missing in Muslim families and Islam along with the cultural practices and norms are used to suppress any demands of equality and egalitarianism. Very few women are aware about their denial of rights and they have internalized it as they have been conditioned since childhood to accept it as something normal.
Muslim education system is suffering from dichotomy. Two parallel systems are preparing two different mindsets that are antagonistic to each other. Madrasas uphold a redundant, sectarian and exclusivist interpretation of Islam whereas modern educational institutions prepare students with herd mentality and instincts with hedonistic tendencies. For madrasa educated cadres converting Muslims to their sect is the greatest cause to struggle for and for those educated in modern stream, crass individualism and hedonism is the epitome of life. The real values of life remain oblivious to both groups with certain exceptions indeed.
All these flaws and shortcomings remain anathema for Muslims. They don’t seem to matter or contradict the Quranic and Islamic values of morality. Morality among Muslims has been confined to the eating, drinking and dressing habit particularly of women. If a Muslim is not concerned about Halal or Kosher meat, drinks alcohol he is a bad Muslim. The length of skirt and size of scarf for women is important ‘article of faith’ that Muslims love to debate about. If a woman is not properly dressed, according to Shariah norms questions are raised on her character. She is decried as bringing a bad name to Islam, her tradition and ethos. These issues have come to define the concept of morality for Muslims today. Being concerned about Halal food, avoiding Alcohol and adhering to norms of dressing is prescribed in Quran but cherry picking them only to sideline other bigger injunctions and principles is sheer injustice and hypocrisy of highest order. Not eating Halal food, drinking alcohol and adorning western dress is an individual act whose implications are reserved to a single person, about whom there is still optimism that Allah will offer salvation in the Hereafter.
Indulging in corruption, taking bribes, dealing with usury, oppressing people, denying them universal and divine rights is something that Islam condemns and abhors more vociferously. They are collective criminal acts that influence huge number of people and set a bad example in society. But now these ills have been internalized so deeply by Muslims that they have become a part of their DNA and subconscious. So there is a little resistance against these evils. One way or the other all of us are implicit in these crimes that go against the very nature of Islamic morality. It can be very easily illustrated through a real life example.
One of my cousins was witnessed smoking by father of his friend. He debarred his son from continuing friendship with my cousin citing that he is indulging in a bad habit and chances are that he too may fall prey to smoking in his bad company. It is a good decision by a concerned parent. But the parent happens to be a corrupt engineer. By using illicit means he accumulated huge wealth that according to him is not wrong as he looted the state exchequer. But his moral sense about smoking is clear as he has the audacity of calling a smoker wrong who smokes from his own money, destroying his own health with no third party harm. This type of skewed sense of morality is prevalent among most Muslims. They indulge in open violations of principles of Islam related to financial transactions, usury, bribes, oppression and corruption but then are quite sensitive when it comes to personal choices of people that include eating, drinking and dressing habits. Halal source of income should be a cause of concern than Halal food. Empathy for poor should be prioritized than drinking habit of an individual. Gender Justice should be advocated instead of demanding women to ‘dress properly.’
The issues that should be taboo and where Muslims should be most sensitive are neglected and accepted as normal but regarding the issues that can be described as personal are put up for public scrutiny and judgment. This dichotomy is hurting the real message of Islam with Muslims indulging in the worst form of hypocrisy. To overcome this hypocrisy, a new paradigm shift in the thinking about what constitutes as moral needs to be initiated among Muslims. Till such a reformatory and revolutionary step is not undertaken Muslims will continue to exist as a hypocritic lot whom Quran condemns in strongest terms. Morality and its values cannot be cherry picked to suit ones interests. Collective behavior instead of individual preferences should be made topics of public debate, only then can be the real universal values of Quranic morality be accomplished and realized in letter and spirit.
Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir
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