Lifting the veil....

Lifting the veil....

...........over human minds

Abhi tak hai parde mai aulaad-e-adam

kisi ki khudi aashkaara nahi. 

(Allama Iqbal) 

Abhi tak hai parde mai aulaad-e-adam,  kisi ki khudi aashkaara nahi. – Allama Iqbal 

(The offspring of Adam even now are behind a mask, that their true self hasn’t peeped out of the casque).

The beauty of poetry is that it could be subject to several interpretations, and perhaps even the poets would leave their craft open to the varied comprehensions, so as to lend immortality to their works and cement them to be of relevance for various ages and times. The interpretations of poetry, the understanding of mathematics, sciences, language and history must be taught to elastic young minds by teachers receptive to all interpretations, however contrary to their personal beliefs. A teacher teaching Darwinian evolution, and questioning its authenticity owing to the religious belief that all of humanity is the offspring of Adam (aulaad-e-Adam), or a teacher invalidating established history, citing mythological texts should be condemned. No doubt, young minds must be taught to question established beliefs, customs and dogma, yet the burden of the final fight towards reason, must be borne by the student alone.

This is the precise reason why seminaries of all kinds for toddlers must be discouraged. Religious education may be important for the preservation of culture or foreign languages, however a student should be subjected to such a specialized education much later in life, when he has a choice, and only when the most basic education in mathematics, sciences, extensively used languages, writing and reading is complete.

Secular education is the need of the hour. A school, championing such education, was in the news lately for terminating a teacher who wore an Abbaya to school. Amidst all the chaos it became hard to gather, whether the Abbaya constituted a veil over the face or only a long black cloak, where the teacher’s face was visible to the students. It is essential, that teachers not only teach but also express, and the face is the most important, if not the only source of expression. So a termination after ample warning to shed the facial veil while teaching is not worthy of agitation. Though, in the second scenario, where the veil was only a long black cloak with a scarf covering the hair, despite it being a dress not inherent to Kashmiri culture and in most likelihood borrowed from the Middle East, the excuses to terminate aren’t as strong. For, if an Abbaya sans the face veil is a problem, then so should a Turban, or vermillion in the parting of the hair. Having said that, if I were in place of the teacher who wore the Abbaya, also therefore assuming that I was a woman, I would make it a point to start all my classes, not with a greeting, but with a disclaimer that, “I wear the Hijaab out of my own choice and freewill, and it is the business of none to make it obligatory upon any woman. I wear it freely and shall be free to shed it as and when I please.” 

It was while this article was being penned, that I received the extremely sad news of Qawwal Amjad Sabri’s death. Uncanny as it may sound, the 45 year old Qawwal was gunned down by those, who by reason of their restricted interpretation of scriptures, decided that Amjad’s Qawwalis were blasphemous.

It is a Jewish conspiracy to defame Islam, read one of the comments under the news of his murder. The easiest and most often heard answer to all the problems Muslims face worldwide today, and even the problems that are a product of over-sensitive religious ideology. Women are being subjugated – It is a Jewish conspiracy; Saudi Arabian economy is failing; most countries following an Islamic code are in turmoil; the summers are really hot – Jewish conspiracy.

One that makes the child question, if the veil referred to by Allama Iqbal in his poetry means the veil worn by oppressed women, the veil worn by murderers and criminals, or the veil over the minds, which clouds all reason, and considers music, art, love and life to be blasphemous. Again, just like the student, the burden of the final fight towards reason, must be borne by the believer alone.

Junaid Hussain Nahvi is Kashmir-born, Delhi based Lawyer, working at the Delhi High Court.