Why did Iqbal eye Jinnah to lead Pakistan movement, and not some ‘practicing Muslim’!
INKSIGHT BY MEHMOOD-UR-RASHID
Before commenting on what it was like watching NDTV discussion titled ‘Being Muslim in today’s India’ my memory harkens back to a debate on one of the premier Pakistani TV channels. The topic was broadly about Islam and politics. One of the participants was Ahmed Javaid; a captivating presence in his eloquence, content and delivery, yet completely ‘Muslim’ in his appearance. He made a wonderful comment on how politics and Islam establish a connect. Unlike copycats of Western secularism who out rightly, and sometimes clumsily, secede religion from politics, he didn’t project Islam as a ‘private affair’; something having nothing to do with politics. Equally he did not thump about ‘Islam being a comprehensive religion meant to dominate all religions’, the bedrock of political Islam. He, instead of tossing to these extremes, hewed a wonderful path. Islam gives us an individual and that individual later tells us how to do politics. Apparently it sounds like a balancing act, but curiously looked into, it’s an ocean of wisdom. Ahmed Javaid neither referred to any chapter nor quoted a verse, but he left everyone thinking. And that is the hallmark of a genuine scholarship.
In a mixed audience point is made only when the language and sense commonly shared by all, is followed. Unfortunately those who are considered as representatives of the subject like Islam or Muslim, at a popular level, fail (this failure finally leads to rejection, hence isolation) to share this common ground. They stand on the fringe, talk their own way, and produce content that is alien, sometimes bizarre. The larger audience fails to understand them and consequently the disconnect deepens. People end up with a derisive grin on their faces, deeply disappointed, and discouraged to hear them again. This is what happened to Dr Zakir Naik on the day when many were glued to the screens to hear him. His fans sound angry over he being allowed too little time to make his point; compared to others sitting on the podium. With all respect to Dr Naik sharing this impression would be upholding inappropriate, and doing great injustice to common sense. It’s not the anchor alone that steers the discussion; it’s the participant that holds it and compels others, by the force of his wisdom and beauty of presentation, to follow his point. In an angry fit, mixed in a brew of complexes, we might consider this offending. It has now stayed with Muslims that they shift the burden of their failure on the shoulders of the presumed adversary. That is one impression about the NDTV debate; no insistence that this is true and correct, never to speak of this alone. It can be easily rubbished, for impressions are highly personal.
Up ahead; since Dr Zakir Naik started off with his usual style of speech, which he makes in front of unquestioning millions, it did not take off. He automatically could not stay in the discussion. Further he wanted to sound ‘different’ on an issue that is more than obvious; he faltered not to recover again. It never means that it has diminished his person. Not at all. He is what he is, all in spite of this. But it sure underlined one big reason of our failure to reach out to the wider audience. It’s the absence of desire to be in the middle of things. Since for long being Muslim is emphasized by not being a part of ‘heathen’ world , our journey to isolation continues unabated. We created seminaries, parties, even countries, but all to compound the problems. Instead of creating our own minority institutions and go into ‘intellectual hiding’, better if we had participated in the academies of the world. Jinnah did not come from AMU, neither did Iqbal from Deoband. Just a change and something like Peace TV could develop into as formidable and influential an institution for Muslims, as is NDTV for India.
Beyond this, the academic question is that of Muslim identity. How can Muslims communicate to the word about who they are? What does it mean and feel being a Muslim in today’s world, not just India. This question of identity existed everywhere for everyone. Problem is that we often raise this question wrongly in a warped context. It helps strengthen the Muslim stereotype. Sometimes it is worth not accepting the question at all than be encyclopedic in our answers.
About explaining Islam to others Muslims can draw from the material that is around them. As an individual and society if we share the knowledge and experience of the world we can put our point comfortably. Quran spoke in the language that was known to its audience. It drew on the content that was shared by the Arabs. The biggest thing that it did was to leave the matters of faith to God for decision. It didn’t concretize what is essentially diffused in individual experience. It even categorically discouraged the anxiety to see the entire world follow the faith that it so abundantly spoke of. It was not a project to proselytize. It was extremely democratic, to the limits that it accepted man’s denial of God as his choice. God given choice.
Today we find bundles of speeches and pamphlets produced over topics like ‘What is Islam’, and ‘Who is a Muslim’ ; most of it, most of the times is share wastage of time and resources. In this search for something hidden we miss the obvious. We as individuals can do the job more efficiently if we are not needlessly made conscious of our Muslim identity. In doing this, the distinction between community identity and faith is to be maintained. Faith is beyond identity discourse.
And the categorization of practicing, non-practicing and partially practicing Muslims is not just ridiculous, but appalling. Who is to devise this scale and place people at various calibrations! And looking for the definition, who is a Muslim? It’s simply devastating. Now who has the right to define it? How is that definition to be applied, and by whom? And if we have multiple definitions, a man can be a Muslim and not-a-Muslim at the same time! What to do with such Muslim-non-Muslim creature!
It ultimately comes down to this: Anyone who says I’m a Muslim is a Muslim. Is he or is he not, it pertains to God. Faith is not defined from without, it’s experienced from within. There can’t be a more ruinous stupidity than asking for a definition of faith. That is like asking God to come down and join Facebook.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Mar 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 10 Mar 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 11 Mar 2010 00:00:00 IST
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