Aisey Imam Sey Guzar
I have never heard a sermon in any Kashmir mosque that tries to explain a contemporary problem
Suleiman the Magnificent ruled the Ottoman Empire, between 1520 and 1566 AD. During that period the position of the Imam for the Jamia Masjid of Istanbul, the capital of the caliphate was advertised. Some of the qualifications prescribed for the job in the advertisement notice were as follows. 1) Complete mastery over Arabic, Latin, Turkish and Persian 2) Good knowledge and understanding of Qur’an, Torah and Bible 3) Knowledge of Shariah and Fiqh 4) Such knowledge of physics and mathematics as to enable him to teach with facility 5) Should be handsome 6) Must have an attractive and impressive voice.
Suleiman became a prominent monarch of 16th century Europe, presiding over the apex of the Ottoman Empire's military, political and economic power.
On the occasion of Eid al Azha last year my uncle received a request from a local Darul Uloom to donate the hide of his sacrificial animal to it. The gentleman agreed with pleasure as most of us do. When he received the donation the student who had come to collect it wanted to give my uncle the receipt and handed over the book to him for entering his name. My uncle asked the boy to write it down himself which incidentally is the most misused name in South Asia. The student who was completing the hifz (memorization of Qur’an) that year end said he could not. “Jenab I don’t know how to write Urdu or any other language, I am only a hafiz”. The boy must have led the faithful in Qur’an taraveeh this year after his dastarbandi.
God has promised to preserve His word in its original form and He will. This boy is another means for that for the next Sixty years. A wonderful feat indeed! Hide collection for the religious instruction in institutions that have served Islam well for centuries or donations are inescapable but the instruction itself leaves a huge knowledge gap in today’s world of information explosion. Suleiman the Magnificent would have pointed it out as a serious disqualification to ascend the pulpit.
It would be silly to build a contrast between the Ottoman Sultanate and Kashmir of today. But the two instances of Imams’ qualifications would serve to define the difference between civilizational magnificence and decadence. In Kashmir and most Muslim societies in fact the decadence is in the state of putrification. The mosque that served to provide in today’s lingo software to glory has stopped to be so and needs to be rediscovered as an institution for personal awakening, self realization, God consciousness and duty towards fellow human beings. Islam revolutionized the world because Qur’an addressed the mind and heart on the basis of logic. All sciences known now to man were employed to communicate to mankind. Superstition that had taken over the genuine religious space was replaced by Islam with scientific rationale. And pulpit remained a source of rejuvenation through the first 10 centuries of the faith.
Since the scope of this essay is limited to Kashmir it should suffice to say that we have failed in our duty to benefit from Islam as a live message rather than follow it as a dead culture. Qur’an indeed provides guidance to most day to day issues and has rightly been likened to a flowing river that provides fresh water wherever you lift it. But unfortunately its reach has been severely restricted due to our inability to contemporarize its application.
I have never heard a sermon in any Kashmir mosque that tries to explain a contemporary problem or a news headline in the light of Islam and guide the ordinary people rightly in finding a solution. Most of the sermons are unfortunately either divisive or around the trivia. It is an irony that each one of us has a misinformed reason to call another Muslim a Mushrik or an apostate. Islam, as someone so pithily said has become the only circle (Daira e Islam) from which every body is expelled by rotation. This is so painfully becoming the way in Kashmir which was known for its catholicity. Almost every mosque carries a tag of the sect (maslak) that it follows. The degradation to this ghettoization within the Ummah is reflected by a notice on the entrance of a major mosque that looks like a forced relaxation in apartheid. It declares the place ‘open to all Muslims’ with the positions of Imam and Muezzin ‘restricted to followers of that sect’. The soul of Imam Shafa’i must be uncomfortable for when he visited the mausoleum of Imam Abu Hanifa he offered Nimaz as the later recommended because the differences between the greats of Islam were only academic and they knew it. Would Imam Abu Hanifa be feeling differently? Could we make a worse actualization of Iqbal’s pangs of pain dripping from this line: Ummat e Ahmad e Mursal ko Maqami karlo?
As the fissures along sectarian differences become sharper, the pulpit turned increasingly angry and fire spitting. Processions and conferences, protests and demonstrations are order of the day. Iqra, the revolutionary call from Mount Hira might have changed the world for ever opening new and unknown avenues of learning and leading to the signs of nature being probed rather than worshipped as the world did till then. But the followers of Mohammad (SAW) continue to be the most ignorant. In this country the only Muslim majority state J&K ranks 23rd in literacy percentage thanks mainly to the better performance of the non Muslim districts. Otherwise left to us alone it would be worse. I have never heard a voice in the mosque on this crisis. Instead the indignation will be about the use of cell phones by those who go to college and school and to scandalize them.
Kashmir shocked the world with its scandalous gender ratio indicating a clear falling rate of females largely attributed to sex determination. Qur’an has a clear view on this inhuman practice. It warns; ‘And when the female (infant) buried alive is questioned; for what sin was she killed’ (Al Takwir). Are we any different from Arab pagans if the suspicions about killing the baby girls in womb are correct? Qur’an obviously is a book for all times but we refuse to apply it in real life. Otherwise the religious discourse would have been around this crisis, of all the places in our mosques. But the pulpit sadly has no space for it.
J&K achieved the dubious distinction of being the most corrupt state in this country of ‘non believers’. Qur’an is clear about bribery like many other evils even as its general moral emphasis is in conformity with the Divine Law of good and bad. ‘And eat up not one another’s property unjustly, nor give bribes to officials that you may knowingly eat up a part of the property of others sinfully’ (Al Baqarah). We all know how we eat up one another’s property whether it is land, public space, roads, right to employment, electricity or water the shared resources of society by ‘paying bribes to the officials’. Qur’an clearly visualized the kind of official vested interest that might not have even existed at the time of its revelation in that part of the world. But is there a single discourse ever on the scourge of corruption in our religious spaces? I have never heard one.
Srinagar has been rated as one of the filthiest cities in the country. In one of the earliest (generally believed to be second after Iqra) revelations Allah addresses the Prophet (SAW) in brief 2-3 word verses. Mermaduke Pickthall’s literal translation for verse 4 and 5 goes as: Thy raiment (garment) purify; Pollution shun! That is for every Muslim to follow as a command. The Prophet’s famous saying “cleanliness is half the faith” obviously makes all of us morally accountable for the degradation we have brought to our environment. It is perhaps rightly said ‘God made Kashmir and we made Srinagar out of it’. Shameful, but no lead by the religious leaders!
The intellectual credentials of Kashmir have been no mean. For its small size it can boast great names of outstanding spiritual and intellectual accomplishments both from pre Islamic and Islamic eras. This is not the occasion to name them. But Turkey’s soul nurtured by Imams like Suleiman appointees survived the decadence and from the ashes of a decimated empire the tradition of all round intellectual development has helped them rise again. From the sick man of Europe diagnosed Islam as its affliction and prescribed stringent de Islamization as its treatment it is emerging as the China of Europe. A small giant is coming to life on the peripheries of Europe across Bosporus on the strength not of Mustafa Kemal’s atheistic state but the application of Islam’s social message, courtesy the likes of Imam Futhullah Gulen. ( Gulen’s father was an Imam of a village mosque in Turkey!) Modern Turkey is an important statement about Islam’s ability to grow honorably in a world defined by secular considerations of nation state era without a clash of values. By contrast the soulless western capitalism seems to be facing nemesis.
We in Kashmir will unfortunately for quite some time have to do with the hide collecting scholars (honorable exceptions apart) who are employed by mosque management committees with less respect than we have for domestic helps. The help from Jharkhand has better job security than the boys we have assigned the place that was first occupied by the Prophet of Islam.
We too have men and institutions of distinction whose predecessors have held the soul of this place together but sad they are consumed by multiple goals that exactly are neither realistic nor worth the effort when our society is in a terminal state of degeneration. Drugs, spying for money on fellow citizens, selling our youth for fake encounters, moral free for all, illiteracy, crime; where would all this lead and should there be any concern right now other than the quality of our human resource? Masjid and pulpit alone can and must decide for it continues to be the only organized institution for social revival.
Unless that happens Iqbal’s words ‘Aisee Nimaz sey guzar, Aisey Imam sey Guzar’ will hold true.
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Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Aug 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 2 Aug 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 3 Aug 2012 00:00:00 IST
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