Maulana Wahiduddin Khan | Islam and Muslims | Al Risala, October 1988
In his article published in the Times of India, August 22, 1987, entitled ‘A Reality Muslims Ignore,’
Mr. K. Subramaniam analyses the present state of Indian Muslims with special reference to movements which are obsessively concerned with their ‘cultural identity.’ These he sees as playing an exaggerated role.
“A community, as a constituent of a larger entity like a nation, can sustain its identity in two ways. It can either make its own unique contribution to the overall culture of the larger entity or it can insist on cutting itself off from the rest. While the former leads to integration, the latter leads to conflict.” (The Times of India, New Delhi, August 22, 1987)
The phrase, “cultural identity” denotes the recognised value of an individual, or a community, to society and the nation at large. It is something, which is not conferred upon lightly. It must first be earned. The most shining model we have is that of the Prophet, who earned for himself the title of As Sadiqul Amin – “the truthful and the trustworthy.” The way in which his reputation played an important role is illustrated by the following anecdote.
Five years before the commencement of his prophethood, the Quraysh, in Mecca, decided to reconstruct the Kabah after a sudden flood had shaken its foundation and cracked its walls. The work began, and new walls were built. As the walls rose from the ground and the time came to place the sacred black stone in its place in the east wall, they differed as to who should have the honour of laying it in place. Competition was so keen that it almost led to a civil war. Four or five days passed in this unsettled state. Then Abu Ummyyah, son of Mughirah al Makhzum, suggested to the Meccans, “While we are standing here, let the first one to pass through the gate of al Suffah be our arbitrator in this dispute.” And the first one to pass through the gate was Muhammad. When the people beheld him, they called out, “There goes al-Amin (the trustworthy)! We shall agree with his verdict.” (Al-Tabaqat al-Kubra by Ibn Sa’d, Vol. 1, p. 116(
The Prophet’s honesty and trustworthiness had become bywords in Mecca, for his own consistently correct behaviour had been his greatest distinction. His had been the healthy way to achieve an identity. Anyone wishing to attain to such moral eminence in the eyes of society must be equally principled and constructive in his relations with others.
Those who wish to build up an identity by separating themselves from others in every respect will find, on the contrary, that they have rendered themselves little better than “untouchables” in relation to other segments of the population. Having an identity of this nature will lead to the decline and death of their community, not to its progress and uplift.