By Mujahid Kamal Mir
September 17, 2012
Why have we left religion to those who breed visceral hatred, concoct history, fabricate Hadiths and devise ways to control us for their own vested interests and survival?
In the last few days, I have been privy to a few heated debates among the social literates regarding Quaid’s sect (him being a Sunni or Shia) as well as a recent research where half of Pakistani population considers Shias as heretics. Firstly, it really makes me wonder why does it matter if he were a Shia or a Sunni? Had it made an iota of a difference to his greatness as a leader and more importantly as a human being, even if he were not a Muslim? Why is it that in our beloved homeland a person’s greatness is not measured by the virtue of his achievements but rather his beliefs? Pakistan’s treatment of its only Nobel Laureate Dr Abdul Salam is a prime example. Secondly, how the collective consciousness of our society has had such a decline making ours as one of the most polarised on the planet?
Of course, this has not happened overnight and has taken close to 35 years of relentless efforts and financing, as I wrote in one of my earlier articles. Someone like myself who had his schooling in Zia’s era has been bred on much distorted history glorifying the Muslims conquerors and their ‘invaluable services’ for the propagation of Islam in the subcontinent and undermining all other rulers of the past sans Chandragupta Mauriya. There are the sterling examples of Mohammad bin Qasim, a Muslim saviour in pursuit of the heretic Hindu king, Raja Daher, who had captured an Arabian vessel and imprisoned all aboard. He was sent by his uncle, Hajjaj bin Yousaf, who saw Muslim women prisoners bellowing for the ‘Son of Islam’s’ help in his dream. The venerable idol-wrecker, Mahmud Ghaznavi made 17 expeditions for the ‘glorification’ of Islam to India, destroying not only the revered idol of the Somnath Temple and looting all wealth each time but also slaughtered 50,000 Muslim ‘heretics’ on his exits, including the likes of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Aurangzeb was an apex of piety and a model of an ideal Muslim ruler as he made his living by scripting the Holy Quran as well as sewing praying caps and dealt with deviants ruthlessly. The list goes on and on. The kind of impregnable generation that has come into effect with this kind of literature seeped into them over the years should not be surprising for those wondering about the causes of public garlanding of killers by the lawyers in judicial courts, which is just one example of the prevalent bigotry in our so-called literates.
Ironically, the most intolerant breed of our society is the ‘religious intellectuals’, many when put through the wringer of their own preaching with limited historical evidence and logical understanding turn hostile. A common rebuttal is references from books written not far back in history by the scholars of their own faith claiming theirs is the only faction adherent to the principles of the ‘true’ Islam and views not congruent to their own beliefs are the promulgation of heretics and a conspiracy of deviants.
Someone who rubbish the other person’s point of view or beliefs despite admitting that he had not read them and only know what has been ingrained into him/her by the forefathers or religious mentors is considered an ‘intellectual’ or an ‘Aalim (religious scholar).’ It is just because he/she wears religion on his/her sleeve, prays regularly, supports a beard or a hijab, act pious and has memorised the Quran even without understanding it. These are revered and followed by unassuming masses that have never made a serious effort of reading a book or two themselves to confirm what is being rooted into their brains has valid and reliable sources. Most of these simpletons will wear a cap, sit with their arms clasped to their chests, heads bowed in complete surrender, rock back and forth some even with moist eyes, if ‘Arabian nights’ is recited to them in Arabic.
Aalims oppose other’s beliefs on principle, not because they have taken the intellectual trouble to actually study what the opposition has written or believe but mount repeated attacks on other’s position without knowing what their position is. How in the world could one be refuted without knowing its position? In a very few cases, a limited courtesy is afforded to the other sects while mostly they are ridiculed by the ‘ulema’ who do not accept the rather basic notion of knowing what it is that they are attacking. For brevity, those interested in the stance of the globally renowned and revered Sunni scholars should read Al bidayah-wa-Nihayah’ by Ibn-e-Kaseer, Muqaddimah, Tareekh-il-Arab and Tareekh ibn al Khuldoon’ by Ibne Khuldoon, Taqlia din by Ibn e Taymiyya, ‘Taareekh e Tibrih’ by Allama Tibrih and an account on Islamic history ‘Khilafat o Mluukiyyat’ compiled by Maulana Abul Al’a Maudoudi (Founder of Jama’at-e-Islami). Then compare that to the literature that is being fed to the public by the prejudiced clerics who give fatwas every day declaring Shias as heretics. One such aalim on a talk show recently had brought a book containing fatwas by 1100 ulema declaring Shias as infidels.
These opinion makers are not attacking other’s position but rather bashing a chimera of their own inventions. They are bound to be supremely bigoted and prejudiced because it is fine to be bigoted against a position once you know what that position is, but you must never move straight to the bigotry phase without bothering to know what you are bigoted about. No enlightened and educated person takes offence to criticism by rivals but he/she does mind a pseudo-intellectual assaulting him/her.
The tragedy for a common Pakistani is that he is fighting for survival on daily basis trying to keep his head above water and has virtually no energy for the quest for discovering truth on his own. He takes the word of the one behind the pulpit as the divine gospel however irrational, superstitious, and ignorant it is in reality.
Unfortunately the education system of most seminaries is designed to churn out smug, know-it-all droids and drones who do nothing but parrot the warped views that have been drilled into them by their teachers whose prime objective is to prevent anyone from becoming intelligent (The Cassius Principle — he thinks too much. Such men are dangerous) resulting in clerics who are devoid of ingenuity, creativity or independent thinking as their innate curiosity is nipped in the bud by the conventional wisdom. These are sprayed across the length and breadth of the country to unleash their influence and views, varying from vapid and trite to hostile and belligerent, on the inconspicuous masses resulting in today’s Pakistan where intolerance begets intolerance.
Freedom of expression has always been a question of might in Pakistan and sadly, religion has served as a concubine for those who thrive on our ignorance. Why have we left religion to those who breed visceral hatred, concoct history, fabricate Hadith and devise ways to control us for their own vested interests and survival? Let there be open debates on history and what initiated the great divide. Let us be receptive to wisdom, logic and knowledge. Let us not refute the truth and be adherents of the comfortable established paradigms and intolerant of enlightenment because the clergy, whose identity is invested in the paradigm they so slavishly worship, tells us so. The fact remains that the truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.” — Schopenhauer
Mujahid Kamal Mir is a businessman and a social activist based in Lahore.