Let us pause this Ramadan and ask ourselves a few
Who were we?
What happened to us along the way?
Where do we stand today?
Which way are we going?
THE MONTH of Ramadan is here again. We Muslims will once
again launch headlong into starving ourselves every day
from dawn to dusk. In all our religious obligations we
have become so ritualistic that the substance is almost
forgotten and the form has been kindled into worship
itself. We have become past masters at missing the woods
for the trees.
Like all the Ramadan's before, the prices of daily
commodities are sure to sky-rocket. One is led to
believe as if on a cue the fields have started to yield
less, the cows to hide their milk and the hens to lay
fewer eggs. The common man is left with just enough skin
by the traders to re-grow for the next Ramadan.
Yet the same traders will go back to their Iftaars and
prayers with a solemnity the like of which is not seen
the year round.
After each prayer they will implore Allah for forgiveness and prosperity
for self and their brethren. Refreshed from heavy
Iftaars, they will get on with renewed vigor to add tap
water to milk, used engine oil to edible oil and ground
bricks to spices.. They will sell what
they can without a qualm and hoard the rest to exact a
telling price from their customers in the days to come.
That leaves them with just enough time to be present for
Taraweeh and once again beseech Allah for mercy. Their
consciences, of course, look on through the eyes of a
dead fish all this while. To be fair, though, the
traders are not alone in this.
The rest of us are not much different the year round and
in the month of Ramadan? No amount of prayers has been
able to instill discipline, harmony, genuine piety and a
quest for knowledge in us. We continue to inconvenience
others by miss-parking our cars, throwing refuse out in
the streets, honking horns at each other, jumping red
lights at the traffic signals, slamming doors in peoples
faces, telling blatant lies for petty profits, disrobing
women by unashamed ogling, spitting huge globs of saliva
in a to-whom-it-may-concern fashion, never turning up on
time for appointments and keeping taped sermons on the
whole night blaring at full strength from Mosques’
minarets long after the Maulanas themselves have gone
into a deep snooze.
One rarely sees
any one imploring others to stand in line, run to give a
helping hand to a disabled, get up to vacate a seat for
ladies or the elderly, take care of personal hygiene, or
keep his immediate surroundings clean and pollution
free. We are busy instead in quibbling over the length
of facial hair, where to tie our shalwars for offering
prayers, and our hands while in prayers,
the number of Rakaats in certain prayers, digging up
relevant Ahadeeth to suit our purposes, declaring more
Muslims as non-Muslims, pronouncing non-Muslims as
Wajeb-ul-Qatal (liable to be slain), issuing Fatwas on
non-issues, finding short-cuts to heavens, declaring
Jihad on every thing but on purification of self,
illiteracy, poverty, backwardness and hunger.
We continue to think of ourselves as God’s chosen people
while our conduct shows any thing but. We are busy
instead in looking down upon all other religions and
people with a royal contempt,
censuring the West for all our ills, finding a Jew at the root of all our
miseries, blaming every one but our own selves for our
wretched state and conjuring up conspiracy theories out
of thin air to validate our gripes. Some
If cleanliness is half the faith then the West of today,
the Viking brutes of yester-years, have beaten us to the
claim hands down. If the other half is the rights of
others on us then again we need to turn our heads
westward to behold the sight.
Islam is not just about prayers and worship. A
significant number of Ayahs in the Holy Koran deal with
purification of self, interaction with others, knowledge
of the universe and what is contained therein. The West
is busy conquering the same universe, solving its
riddles, harnessing the nature for the benefit of
mankind and finding that time is their only competitor.
From medicines to cure our diseases, to the cars we
drive and the airplanes we fly in to visit our holy
places, we are dependent for all our systems on the same
Yes, a handful of powerful Western leaders holding the
reins of brute political and armed power have indeed
unleashed a war on Muslims. And yes, as a result
innocent human beings are surely being trampled upon
ruthlessly. And yes, even genuine liberation struggles
now stand deluged by the dam burst of venom against
Islam. And yes, terrorism certainly has become a whip
with which Muslims are now being flogged the world over.
And yes again that Muslim countries are undeniably being
either invaded or threatened with invasion on the
flimsiest of pretexts.
But how does the Muslim world propose to counter that?
Can we restore
ourselves to our glorious past by suicide bombing or
beheading of innocent human beings? Or
by issuing Fatwas to that effect? Or by continuing to
pray for Divine intervention? Or by hating the whole
West for the stupidity of a just a few of their leaders?
Has it occurred
to us that the only, repeat only, way to walk tall and
strong in the comity of nations is to come at par with
the West in education, technology and economy?
Look at the Muslim world today. We cannot complain of
being barren of resources. One fourth of the world
population is Muslim and sits on nearly seventy percent
of the world energy resources. Yet the Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) of the entire Muslim world taken together
comes to a measly twelve to thirteen hundred billion
dollars. Japan’s GDP, by comparison, stands at five
thousand five hundred billion and Germany’s at two
thousand five hundred billion dollars. In other words,
Germany’s GDP alone is twice and Japan’s is four and a
half times that of the entire Muslim Ummah.
Islam teaches us to seek knowledge, even if it involved
travel to China. Quite evidently the Prophet (PBUH) was
actually referring to worldly education, and not
religious, as the Chinese were always non-Muslims. While
from the 7th to 15th century AD, transfer of technology
took place from the Muslims to the rest of the world, we
have been in a horrendous downslide ever since.
The once wonderful madarasah was supposed to be a
prestigious seat of learning. It was a bastion of
knowledge and a guiding light to the world. When Islam
was at its pinnacle, every order of learning from
mathematics to science, from medicine to astronomy, from
philosophy to jurisprudence were taught at these
Great Muslim luminaries such as Al-Beruni, Ibn-e-Sina
and Ibn-e-Khuldoon were the products of these same very
madaris. Sects and different schools of thought in Islam
have existed side by side since long. There was nothing
wrong with intellectual differences flowing from freedom
of thought as long as such differences remained confined
to academic debates. Embedded in the walls of these
madaris are echoes of great scholarly dialogue between
various luminaries of the time.
Take a look at the state of education today. In the
entire Muslim world, there are only about 380
universities, of which just 25 are counted as world
ranking. The entire Muslim world produces a total of 500
PhD’s every year. By comparison, in Japan alone one
thousand universities award PhD degrees. In England,
three thousand do PhD and in India five thousand every
And about the state of technology of the Muslim world,
the less said the better. At the time when the US
Afghanistan, there was only one factory in Kabul
manufacturing earthen crockery. No wonder then that an
international correspondent called the US invasion of
Afghanistan as “Technology Vs God”.
Now the same madaris are being used to mislead innocent
Muslims by promoting intolerance, hatred and violence.
Modernistic thought is termed blasphemous. The syllabus
has been honed to instill sectarian loathing resulting
naturally in fratricidal killings. The subject of
“Haqooqul Ibad" (obligations towards fellow human
beings) has been confined to scriptures and an
occasional lip service.
From the podium
and the pulpit, the so called Ulema have declared more
Muslims as Kafirs (infidels) than motivating these so
called Kafirs to embrace Islam.
Adherents are being incited to kill innocent people in
mosques and their places of worship, while audaciously
claiming Islam as a Deen or a complete way of life.
Muslims’ consciences are now being put to sleep here
with sweet lullabies of their marvelous past as the
world goes by at a breath taking speed. We are told to
keep hugging past splendors to our chest and remain
prostate in prayers waiting for a Salahuddin Ayubi to
appear and restore us to our rightful destiny.
Is this the way of life that Islam teaches us? That we
fight amongst ourselves and others and take innocent
lives in their places of Worship? And all in the name of
Allah? True Islam is nothing but kindness, forgiveness,
compassion, honesty, fair play, goodwill and accord.
There is no place for extremism, militancy, violence,
fundamentalism, hatred, intolerance and anger. Mosques,
Mandirs, Synagogues, Churches and Temples are all
supposed to be sacred places of worship where we seek
the blessings of God Almighty and where we must allow
others to seek the same from whatever entity they call
There is a race for progress among all nations. The
world is busy in development of human resource, mental
enlightenment and sound technological growth. We have to
wake up from our self-imposed slumber and join the race.
The alternate will for sure condemn us to crawl on all
fours eating the dust of the beaten path trailing
leaders who are even now well past the horizons.
Let us pause this Ramadan and ask ourselves a few
questions. Who were we? What happened to us along the
way? Where do we stand today? Which way are we going?
cortesy: Jafar Siddiqui, Seattle, WA