Between substance and symbolism

The cause of vanity is ignorance; the cure for it is knowledge

Tajamul Hussain

If the increased attention to religious observance—praying, fasting, performing Umra/Hajj, publications, and places, more emphasis on Islamic dress— are the indices of an Islamic awakening evolved through religious/moral ingenuity and honest toil, let us face it, chips are down, that had it been so, then courtesy, decency, politeness, honesty, sin and virtue, care, and sacrifice; tolerance, selflessness, compassion, etc won’t be ruthlessly mutilated by us. The religious mentors would have been highly bothered that people spoke the truth. They’d have tried hard to institute morality into the devotees and got rid of corruption. The cause of vanity is ignorance; the cure for it the knowledge. Gradual deterioration in the moral-spiritual fiber, as a result of extremism in regard to ritualism and legalism is why people, with half-baked knowledge, wear religion on their sleeves and are very particular about looking pious but least caring about Taqwa.

Religious zealots deserve respect for they always served Islam to keep masjids filled up with faithful. As zealots shout Azaan to invite faithful to attend to the masjid, they’re up onto their version of Islam… to read physical namaz, wear trousers high up the ankles, ensure you put in the right foot and left foot while out; use right hand and so on. They make their own presence by instituting their kind of institutions, churning out students untouched by the devilish modernity and manufacture their replicas…… they, whose attire, way of delivering dialogues and living life isn’t of the common man’s….jargonful, lyrical, kind of sound coming out of the lower level of the pharynx. Their gait isn’t like you and me, a different kind ….someone that’s to be honored. Their beards, their makeup, turbans/skull-caps, robes …all signal, they’re celestial in origin, angelic in demeanor.

Religious bigots have known Quran and Sunnah in their literal form without much insight and understanding of the inner meaning. They dominate our social circles (and the masjids that have proliferated). As they claim to be the authority on religion, intolerance isn’t limited to their relations with people of other faiths. They’ll never cease to fight even among themselves as to the ‘real’ Islam. As if each of them considers his own sectarian interpretation of Islam to be the sole true one, trivial differences, to them weigh more as per their convictions. People attach greater importance to the correct pronunciation of the words of the Quran than to an understanding of its true meaning. The purity of heart not yet understood, the outward of the people is religious, but without getting them moved. Words of God don’t shake them, the knowledge keeps increasing but ego in private also keeps increasing. Fear of Allah should shake them. Religion becomes routine and it doesn’t move the heart.

The utterance isn’t sufficient when it doesn’t reach the audience. The repertoire (of the pulpit-singers) isn’t that minuscule though. Voices emanating from masjid-speakers, the silky voices of zealots resonate with the melody that emerges nothing short of ethereal. People keep speaking, some on the dais, some in the masjids’ niche, some on social media because they consider themselves religiously pious/experts. As they feel that they’re quoting Hadith and Quran, the misconception that ‘I-know-religion-you-do-not-know-let-me-teach-you-Hadith-shariah-how-to-do-this-and-how-to-do-that’, so many of them see themselves better than the others, though they do this all humbly. They’d exempt themselves from acting according to the knowledge they’ve acquired believing that the possession of knowledge itself is sufficient for them to receive eternal happiness.

For bigots, you’re a flock of sheep who know nothing. And they’re your shepherds. They privately admire people standing up for them. They may not walk except with someone walking behind them. Let you dare correct them. They’d fret and fume. ‘How can you say it to me…… who’re you to correct me?’ Alternatively, they’ll interject you vehemently and dismiss your opinion. They’d walk out in protest if their opinion wasn’t taken. Someone among them may show pride and arrogance in public sittings through such acts as proving how he’s more excellent than his counterparts and devaluating him who doesn’t show him respect. People fight for positions tooth and nail…. for the religious title; for being listened; and for their opinion to be acknowledged. Vying for religious authority is a disease. Imagine someone saying……‘Thank God, had I not been there they’d have deviated from dheen.’

As knowledge increases the people indulge in inventing their kind of sects, with the intentions, flight of fancy & weird new ideas, to raise their separate identity, their flag, and the resultant competitive mad-race to let others down. In the religion that propagates one God, one Prophet, and one Book and a lucid way of life, they know they won’t have any chance to have any separate niche, leadership, pride, and vanity. People won’t gather around them nor will people supplicate before them in honor, leaving them with their coffers empty. Redefining beliefs, philosophies, rituals, and ways of worship and living life, distract believers from the real spirit of religion. Complexities created can’t be understood by common people, the aim is to leave them confused. Religious fanaticism doesn’t suggest that those afflicted appear wild-eyed or deranged; quite the contrary, they present themselves as thoughtful and responsible people inspired by the loftiest of ideas. Nevertheless, their absolute confidence in themselves and their cause, their willingness to do anything for a supposed higher good, and their dehumanization of their opponents, are indicative of kind of ‘imbalances’.

The core of religious fanaticism is actual, valid, transpersonal, or spiritual experiences. Such a transpersonal identification can lead to attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors based on this strong valuation and even idealization of the higher (and these may over time develop into a coherent personality founded on the assumption that this higher level of experience is the trust, real, or ideal, coupled with a tendency to dismiss other, more mundane) levels of experience as inferior or illusory. When one admires oneself because of his learning, one regards oneself as superior to others. He becomes careless; doesn’t consider his sins to sin. He hopes to be excused by God for his smaller sins. He isn’t afraid of God. Once vain of the correctness of his opinion, his acts, his intellect or wisdom, he ceases to make progress in knowledge. He doesn’t ask anybody about anything.

Greater Kashmir