Rediscover Religiosity

In response to Ajaz-ul-Haque’s video lecture “when religion becomes problem”.
Rediscover Religiosity
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He, the wonderful wordsmith, writes concrete, clear and crisp sentences. Being his mentee in the world of writing, I enjoy listening his sharp, slow and soft words. We discuss writing coaches and popular authors.

From Anne Lamott to William Zenniser, Stephen King to Sadat Hassan Manto, his recommendations beautify my bucket list. Sometimes, I may not subscribe to his viewpoint and I don't think like his disciple. Disagreement doesn't mean disobedience. His only YouTube lecture "when religion becomes problem" is a sensation on virtual world, nowadays. I would like to substantiate certain key issues and simplify it for wider audience (since it is delivered in Kashmiri language). This 35 minute speech is insightful.

Our orchestrated belief and bragging is a problem forreligion. We are fractured and fragmented. We have different versions of Islamavailable with us.  Islam was class-less.We created divisions/sects and started following whatever suited our comfortzone. We tend to stay in our imaginary islands and make religion a ghetto. Weactually harm it. When fanatics take control of religion, kill in the name ofGod, religion turns poison.

Ajaz-ul-Haque states that we need not to be hyper-religious. I endorse his point since faith is a personal discovery. When pulpits are used for prodding and provoking, religion scares. Many of us can't stand the arrogance of self-serving platitudes of angry Imams. Preachers proselytizing can't win over our code of belief. When we take religion as hostage, it turns hostile.

We see Daid inch Ki Masjid after every 1000 meters bombarding devotees with high decibel invocations. Loudspeakers are used to hurl accusations, politically charged speeches with scripted motives. When some Imams blame jeans clad-girls and clean-shaven men for floods and earth-quakes and brainwash tender minds, they portray Islam as if it all lives in the exterior.

We need not to broadcast our belief. God runs in our blood, lives in our hearts. Our 'welfare committees' have hijacked the affairs of Mosques and they use donations as per their choices without taking anyone on board. The 'Masjid head' pokes nose in localities' dark secrets, pillaging the privacy. It is highly problematic for religion.

Mr. Haque suggests further that we should be "silently religious, not violently religious."  I agree. Quran clearly instructs not to compel anyone. The oppression by fundamentalists presents a negative side of Islam. It can turn into a dangerous dogma. Pestering your colleague in office whether he/she is fasting or not, asking uncomfortable questions about particular fabric we put on is being violently religious.

This intrusion in private affairs with God is gross. Players prostrating on playground is a show-off, not an act of faith. Faith is private. Don't flaunt it. Using government land or water-bodies to build religious Institutions and seeking donations from students is unfair.

Religion becomes problem when fake WhatsApp forwards are quoted on podiums to instigate and make the speech more jingoistic.  We should approach God through unlikely channels. When we don't let our tunneled vision knit together different disciplines to synthesize, then religion divides, muddles, creates fear and hatred. Religiosity is chaotic and messier.

The esteemed speaker talks about titles. I second him. Religion becomes problem when we associate ourselves with one particular discourse. Prefixing and suffixing 'Madani, Salafi, Mudzillahu, damat barakatuhum' etc is problematic.

The sooner we abolish these titles, the better it is. Even our names should not sound religious. These attributions are viewed from a narrow prism. We pretend to be religious. Don't be a hypocrite. Don't wear multiple faces. Show your default colors. Don't manipulate. Don't be diplomatic. Don't cheat. The mask of insouciance will fell away someday. It reminds me of the relevant couplet in Corona times:

Koi tou Jurm Tha Jis Mein Sabhi Mulawwis Hain

Tabhi tou Har Shaks Munh Chupaye Phirta Hai.

Ajaz-ul-Haque mentions that Religion is indoctrination. Whenit becomes intoxication, it becomes burden. Correct. There could not be betterexplanation. We stare, scan, scrutinize, and hunt to find faults in othersforgetting our own. At the top of our lungs, we issue fatwas, the certificatesof heaven and hell are distributed in Masjids. Sectarian rifts have deepenedthe crisis. Our default setting of blame game and futile discussions on theirrelevant matters have tarnished the true Image of Islam. Islam is a religionof love.

 We have absolutely no right to judge someone's connection with the creator. Judges judge. Philosophers don't. It is quite stressing to be judged. When we scratch the surface underneath, we realize we are intolerant in public spaces. 

A girl veiled from tip to toe and a boy with flowing beard can't necessarily be devout Muslims. What we preach doesn't sync with our actions. Profanities refuse to wither. I remember a young hijab-clad girl filed a bogus-case of sexual harassment in a local police station to score brownie points.

He was unwilling to marry her. She was forcing him. God doesn't bother whether you wear leggings or loose trousers. Are we honest in our daily dealings? Loyalty is the bedrock of any relationship. On the day of resurrection, God will be stricter with Huququl Ibaad.

When drugstores sell spurious medicines in nexus with companies and doctors for fringe benefits, these stone-hearted sadists put poor in trouble and play with the lives. It angers God.

Religion is perfume. Religiosity is obnoxious. Mr. Haque draws our attention to an important aspect. "A disbeliever lives in every believer and vice-versa". There are two reasons for it. One, the prayer has to be pure, monophonic, but we see unwanted images flooding in our mind. Impure ideas take hold. Obscenity and nudity flashes in the laboratory of our minds. They taint our prayers.

This shows how much junk we carry with us. Second, vacillating between doubt and faith is normal. It is an eternal dance. Faith swings between fear and hope. Certainty strips us of the ability to think critically. Element of curiosity is a blessing.

Curious, confused and complicated minds are expected to read, research and ruminate on and respect others. Angry and aggressive can't study God. Science and Faith are happily married. We just need to remove clutter from religion. Islam is rational and realistic. In our lives, there are acts of faith. Following your intuition and gut-feeling is the secular act of faith.

At the fag-end of the speech, Ajaz-ul-Haque notes that the foundation of our conclusions is ignorance and irrational emotions. Yes, we think less, react more. Religion has a reason. The nature of religion is free.

In religion, you can't be a status-quoist. We should not wear religion on our sleeves. It must not dominate everything and everyone. It has a vast and wider canvas.

We need to think beyond Beard and Burka. Fellow humans have no authority to define the yardstick or the scale of spirituality. Ours is the age of anxiety, distress and bitterness.

In our cocooned camp, we assume we are solid, safe and stable. We must not be custodians of faith. The sun shines and sets on humanity equally. This is the flawless scheme of God. God is Rabbul- Aalameen. Let's respect the humanitarian principle of "Live, Love and Learn".

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