Muslims under siege
Way back in 1980s, masjids (we’d only few) would largely remain unattended, except of course during Ramzan and on Fridays. Bey-nimazees nonetheless formed a God-fearing lot, who lived a life of virtue and were largely contented with their ‘haakh-batta’. They won’t normally lie. Deception was their pet aversion. Corruption was almost non-existent.
Enter a masjid (we’ve them everywhere) during a prayer time now and you’ll be surprised. It’s almost always filled to overflowing with believers. People make it a point to say prayers five times. Performance of Hajj/Umra, attending religious congregations of wa’az-u-naseehat are as common as air. As if the indices of an Islamic awakening in personal life, increased attention to religious observances, (masjid attendance, prayers, fasting, proliferation of religious programming and publications, more emphasis on Islamic dress and values) are accompanied by Islam’s assertion in public life. A spurt in islamically oriented governments, organizations, laws, banks, social welfare services, and educational institutions, is considered (by zealots) as the sign of the reinvented piety in the Muslim community.
If we believe we’ve evolved all this transformation through religious/moral ingenuity and honest toil, let me tell you it owes more to something else. Had that not been the case then courtesy, decency, politeness, honesty, understanding ‘halal’ and ‘haram’, sin and virtue, care, and sacrifice; tolerance, selflessness, compassion etc won’t be ruthlessly mutilated by us Muslims. Look at our community, anywhere in the world; commission of sins and seeking a wash-off are merely a way of life. Unscrupulous practices used to rake in heaps of money and power is kind of legitimized by the society. In the name of religious extremism Muslim brethren are vapourised.
Paradoxically speaking, the reinvented sensitivity and the religious bigotry in us are, symptomatic of the ‘identity-crisis’ that we Muslims are confronted with. In the Islamic world there has been a continuous pressure towards persuading Muslims to adopt ways of living based on the Islamic ideals. Given our dismal performance and the zero-say in the world affairs Muslims want a tag. With the inherited colonial structures of administration, politics, and education disintegrating, new ones yet supplant and with old identities being challenged, Muslim society is in flux. The massive urbanization, dramatic demographic changes, migration to the west, the gap between rich and poor, the widespread corruption and mismanagement of rulers, the rampant materialism coupled with the low premium on education, & the crisis of identity all make us worried of ‘asabiyya’ being in danger.
The collapse of ‘asabiyya’ implies the collapse of ‘adl’, justice, and ‘ihsan’, compassion and balance. The consequence isn’t only the disenchantment with the rulers but also disillusionment with the society itself. As it creates conflict, violence, chaos and conflict in the society, in the place of scholars advising, guiding and criticizing the rulers of the day we’ve the sycophants and the secret services. The wisdom, compassion are replaced by the paranoia and neurosis of the latter.
Gradual deterioration in the moral-spiritual fiber of Muslim societies, have led to our loss of key positions in the power hierarchy world over. As a large percentage of Muslims is young, illiterate, mostly jobless, the net result is the difficulty of creating a society based on justice, knowledge, and compassion as also denying their society honor and dignity. A community that falls behind in the competition for economic advancement tends to cling all the more to its activisitic identity, in turn accentuating its seperatedness from the rest of the world.
The modernization ideologue’s response to assimilate is responded by us Muslims to assert our distinctiveness rather than assimilability. Most governments of Muslim nations are seen today as unrepresentative, undemocratic and evasive about the needs and demands of the community, the Ummah. During the 18th century the Islamic empire began to decline and this time it found it particularly difficult to rise again to new life. Its decline and fall coincided with the rise of the west with a type of society which had never been achieved in the world before and which was therefore difficult to combat. This has not just been a political humiliation but has touched the core of the Muslim identity.
The success of Ummah under Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his successors had proved that such a society worked; its success had sacramental value. Muslims (Huntington’s challenger civilization) try to discover a new identity and return to our roots as we feel humiliated and degraded before the developed world, as also disoriented and lost because our own traditions seem to be swamped by the dominant western culture. Where as in the past we’re able to rise again after our various disasters and crises, this time it’s proving to be a great deal harder, and a certain frantic despair seems to have entered the religion. However when we look at the developed societies we see no light, no heart and no spirituality.
Nearly every single major religious and literary development in Islam has had its origin in a desire to return to the original vision of the Prophet (SAW). For young people in particular the search for identity is part of the process of defining one’s relationship with the world that usually takes place without necessarily leading to radicalization. The Muslim crisis of identity is linked to the inability to redefine ourselves in today’s world. Our Muslim nations lack both political and economic stability. Countries like Turkey and Malaysia, though steadily moving towards economic and political stability, are yet to serve as role models for others.
While others progress we keep remaining laggards, characterized by a series of ‘F’ word; failed, frozen, flexible & flourishing. The billion and half Muslims, caught in the dilemma whether or not we remain forever in the rear of human technical advance need identify and explore ourselves and understand that our victory is our identity as a community which is morally strong, and knowledge, creativity, and literacy are its métier. Ghettoizing in the name of religion, blaming others for our miseries and then window dressing religious performances without actually upgrading our religious/moral-selves (this-worldly or that-worldly) won’t solve our (identity) problems.