Sharique N Siddiquie
A certain political party of India in a recently concluded election tried to polarize the voters by spreading a SMS that read “Har Musalman aatankwadi nahi hota magar har aatankwadi Musalman hota hai”(Every Muslim in not a terrorist, but every terrorist is a Muslim). Though this sentence is factually wrong and a slap on the face of secular Indian society, it compelled me think of my position as a member of secular Indian society.
Islam is a word that is derived from the Arabic word “Salema” or “Salaam” meaning peace purity and obedience. It is also derived from the word ‘aslim’ which means to submit. In spite of this, the religion in recent times has become the target of all sorts of criticism because some people have misinterpreted its teachings according to their own convenience and used them to forward their political interest.
Now, Islam no longer stands for a religion of peace, rather, in the perception of general people of the other communities, it is a religion of terrorists. One needs to ask as to why such a perception persists.
The answer to this question lies within the religion itself and all we need to do is find the answer through introspection. But introspection should be done with a rational bent of mind and an unbiased approach.
Islam, the second biggest religion of the world after Christianity is followed across the world by billions of people. In spite of it being the newest of all religions, Islamic laws date way back to the 6th century; and Muslims today continue to follow the same rules.
Before we talk of the changes and controversies, let me make it amply clear that these laws are still equally relevant in the current scenario and perhaps all that we need to do is to make them a bit more rational to accommodate certain amount of modifications.
Times are changing, so is the society. People and their approach towards life and society are also changing. So it is time that we acknowledge this change and accommodate certain laws that are more relevant in today’s context.
The Language Bar
The first in line for changes, especially in the Indian context, is teaching of the Holy Quran in Urdu, Hindi and English as these are the languages of the masses.
Its not that I have a problem with Arabic as a language; but my point is, what is the use of reading a great book without understanding the teachings? So, in order to make the teachings of the Quran reach the masses, they should be taught in the people’s own language. This can be done by teaching to read the original Arabic version followed by its exact translation and meaning in their native language.
This will also help in countering those who misinterpret the Quran and Hadith to misguide the ignorant common man for their own political gains.
An incident comes to my mind that will help drive home the point. There is a practice of offering “Taraawih” which is a special “Namaaz” (prayer) offered during the holy month of “Ramazan”. In this Namaaz, the Hafiz(cleric) recites the whole Quran to the masses.
At on such Namaaz, I saw quite a few people yawning as they didn’t understand a word. Now, my point is since Taraawih is not “Farz” (Compulsory) so we can easily accommodate a language change well within of the existing laws.
Madarsas, the educational institutions of Muslims are often attacked as the breeding grounds of terrorism. This is a blatant falsity. I don’t deny that some stray elements do indulge in violence, but by and large I refuse to acknowledge that people send their children to these Madarsas for turning them into terrorists.
My concern is a bit different. After studying in Madarsas, which are meant basically to impart religious knowledge, one can get the basic degrees of Hafiz, Aalim, Faazil and Quari.
These are religious degrees and it is not possible to get a government or private jobs on their basis. There are thousands of students studying in these Madarsas, who upon completion of their studies will have to settle for some measly job where they will not be paid enough money to sustain a family; or they would remain jobless altogether. Then the other alternative would be business, for which it is not easy to arrange funds.
This is a very disturbing scenario as it can divert these people towards wrong ways in the absence of a permanent mode of earning livelihood.
To stop this we can take some steps which will not only serve the purpose of eliminating unemployment among the Muslim youth, but also to an extent help in removing the misconceptions about Madarsas.
An immediate solution to this problem could be setting up of a Madarsa Board on the lines of CBSE and regularizing all the Madarsas. And the syllabus could include other subjects like English, Mathematics, Computer Science etc. This way, students will get a blend of religious and secular education. This will help the students in developing a rational approach towards life and religion.
This in turn would make the students eligible for government jobs as well as other private jobs and technical education. This way, one can hope to see a Madarsa student becoming a Doctor, Engineer, and Scientist or go into the administrative services.
Another purpose that will be served by doing so is that when the Madarsas will come directly under government supervision nobody would accuse them of being involved in anti-national activities. They will also be entitled to grants and facilities that the government provides to educational institutions thus solving the problem of perennial needs for funds.
The process of divorce that is “Talaaq” is another matter of concern. Islam was the first religion to treat men and women equally. Ever since the beginning of this religion, women were given equal rights. They had the right to property and they could obtain divorce from their husband. Her consent was made necessary before a marriage could be solemnized.
A woman has the right to say ‘no’ during her marriage if she has a problem and nobody can marry a woman against her will. But in spite of having these rights, the condition of Muslim women, especially in rural areas remains dismal.
The reason behind this is that a man still holds the power of divorce. All a man has to do to divorce his wife is to say the word Talaaq thrice and the marriage is over. This is very unjust towards women and to make matters worse, they cannot divorce their husbands directly. Rather, they have to go through a lengthy process of “Khula”.
The ‘Fatwa’ Syndrome
“Fatwa” the buzzword of our times is another matter of concern. We can easily hear a non-entity issuing a Fatwa over a certain film, book or person. Who are these people? What is their problem? Who gave them the authority to decide what common Muslim masses will read, see or hear?
Take for instance the case of India’s tennis sensation Sania Mirza. She drew flak for wearing short skirts on the court. Now, this sounds totally idiotic. She is a sportswoman and wears the attire that suits her game. I want to ask these people that rather than watching her legs why don’t you concentrate on her game. Rather than appreciating her playing skills and achievements, people are creating controversies over her dresses.
My point is, isn’t it disgusting to attack a female swimmer for swimming in a swimming costume. Before issuing something as serious as a fatwa, one should consider its pros and cons and its long lasting effects.
We are the part of the one of the most tolerant and rational religions of the world and it is our duty to remove misconceptions about our faith. I am a firm believer in Allah, the supreme authority, and I know that he has himself advocated secularism in Quran. In Surah al-Kaafirun, He says “Laqum deenuqum waliya deen” which means “Your religion is for you and my religion is for me”.
As the second biggest religion of the world, it is our duty to bring peace and harmony to the world so that our future generations don’t have to face the world as a member of a faith on whose name most if not all the terrorists operate. Aameen!