The present state of Muslims in India and elsewhere in the world is so beautifully captured in the following poignant words of one of the most celebrated contemporary Muslim intellectuals, Ziauddin Sardar in one of his books:
“Muslims are sundered, divided and factional within, as much as they cherish a sense of superiority over other societies that they lack within themselves; not racing to do good deeds, but chasing all forms of human frailty and perversity with steadfast determination”.
Woe betide this self-defeating belief system that by espousing it, the misery and pain that the Muslims are suffering everywhere has been stupendous. This fall from grace and glory of the bygone centuries when they were calling the shots on the strength of their character and a superior level of excellence in education and science ought to be pinned down precisely to the ills as so tellingly delineated in the words of Ziauddin Sardar above.
That having been said, the need arises that as opposed to a natural human desire for being rewarded in this life and in the hereafter in return for performing religious obligations (and in some cases a bit of good deeds), there is in witness this life-denying spectacle of “compulsive obsession with the exclusive emphasis on the idea of paradise and the other-worldliness” occupying the consciousness of large sections of the Muslim community. As with other religious communities, the Muslim community stands out for its strong but thoroughly unreasonable belief in the idea of the janna’t (swarag, paradise) being exclusively reserved for them, with all other communities being fated to be consigned to the hellfire. One is led to suspect that among other factors, the most plausible reason for such a mindset has to do with the ugly reality that for the most part, the community does not seem to have much to look up to as a source of hope and happiness beyond a dull, drab life that, by design or accident, the community has chosen to live on earth. In an effort to emerge from this self-imposed state of ignoble existence and ignorance, the need has never been greater for bidding adieu to a supremacist sense of being part of a religious community that, according to its perverse logic, entitles them to a privileged position in the eyes of God. And the only bulwark against such self-defeating worldview is the will to aggressively pursue education and to excel in it at the highest level. It’s plain and commonsensical that the hope for a meaningful and fulfilling life shall elude the community as long as education shall continue to receive short shrift from the community and its self-styled leaders, both religious and political, if only because these leaders have since long been known to have a vested interest in having a sway upon the generally uneducated poor Muslim masses as long as it is ensured for them to remain fixated on the ‘other-worldliness’ and thus be led astray from the path of modern education. In its own interest, the community would do well to let the two worlds be pursued together with utmost dedication and commitment, beyond the rigmarole of ritual devotion, without compromising one world for the other!
On the positive side, however, an unintended but a welcome fallout of the climate of ‘othering’ of the community which has manifested itself during a long regime of gratuitous violence being targeted upon them has been a subtle, but a growing realisation, though only among certain tiny sections of the Muslim community about the need to part ways with what has been a regressive mindset marked by indifference towards modern education coupled with a diehard allegiance to the word, as opposed to the spirit of religion. When viewed in the backdrop of how the community has suffered as a result of its approach towards religion and education, what is currently in evidence are the visible, though feeble signs in those sections of the community of revisiting its old habits marked by ennui and mental inertia that have led to its present status as an entity of little consequence in the world of today. Incidentally, all this is happening at a time when large sections of the majority community in India have set themselves precisely on the same self-destructive path as their Muslim counterparts have been treading over a long period of time. Regardless of whether one likes or not, it is natural and only a matter of time before the same state of decay and statis may overtake the majority community, and with a vengeance, unless they stop replicating actions which, as the Muslim community has learnt- and learnt the hard way – have been their worst undoing! Those who have been feting themselves on Islamophobia and Muslim bashing would do well to know that in such situations, the judgement that history would pronounce upon them shall be final and inexorable: that those – or at least vast sections of them – shall be doomed to meet the same fate as the other community unless they are willing to rein in their wayward ways which include a propensity to play into the hands of those who are using them as pawns to advance an agenda that derives from the politics of hate, malice and malevolence. Now is the time for them to realise that the damage that these merchants of hate politics have caused to the country and its people has been enormous and that a further capitulation to this brand of politics would exact a price that the country shall ill-afford at a time when it’s already on a downward trajectory on a number of important progress and performance metrics. It’s about time that both the communities wake up and set their priorities right as determined by the need to look within and to identify the grey areas that are in crying need to address, so that the two communities would work to bring the best of them and to live happily and peacefully with each other. Obviously, the same logic would apply to the peoples living on the two sides of the border.
Prof. M A Sofi, JK Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Srinagar