Simple Wisdom

By
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

The book, Simple Wisdom, by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan collects, in one immensely rich compendium, more than three hundred and fifty short articles, which have been arranged for easy reading on a daily basis. In the book, the author shares wisdom of life regarding God realisation, piety, modes of divine worship and such spiritual knowledge as will help the reader become acquainted with the Grace and power of God and His Creation Plan. As you turn over the pages day-by-day, your soul will touch new spiritual heights of wisdom, peace and understanding.

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan (1925-2021) was an Islamic scholar, spiritual guide, and Ambassador of Peace. He received international recognition for his seminal contributions toward world peace. The Maulana wrote a commentary on the Quran and authored over 200 books and recorded thousands of lectures sharing Islam’s spiritual wisdom, the Prophet’s peaceful approach, and presenting Islam in a contemporary style. He founded the Centre for Peace and Spirituality—CPS International in 2001 to share the spiritual message of Islam with the world.

 

Simple

Wisdom

A DayBook of spiritual Living

 

 

 

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

Foreword

The Prophet of Islam said that wisdom is the lost property of the believer. He should accept it wherever he finds it. (Sunan al-Tirmidhi, Hadith No. 2687) This hadith explains the universality of knowledge. It means that knowledge, wherever it may be belongs equally to all human beings. It is not the monopoly of a particular person or group. It can be likened to the sun. Everyone has the right to receive light from it. Without this concept of the universality of knowledge, the progress of knowledge would just not be possible.

Wisdom is the ability to judge or discern what is true or right. Wisdom, the greatest asset of all men and women, is likewise a common treasure house. The treasure house of wisdom is so vast that however much it is used, its reservoir will never be exhausted. Knowledge is a vast lake which satisfies the thirst of every seeker.

I have spent my entire life extracting wisdom from the Quran, the life of the Prophet of Islam, from human knowledge, from observing the universe and by interacting with others.

In this book I have collected more than three hundred and fifty short articles regarding God realization, piety, modes of divine worship and such spiritual knowledge as will help the reader become acquainted with God’s Grace and Power and His Creation Plan. These have been arranged for easy reading on a daily basis.

As you turn over the pages day-by-day, your soul will touch new spiritual heights of wisdom, peace and understanding.

Wahiduddin Khan

January 1, 2002

New Delhi, India

 

 

 

JANUARY 1

God:
The Light of the Universe

We have been told in the Quran that ‘God is the light of the heavens and the earth.’ (24:35) That is, all the light in the entire universe emanates from God’s Being. If the Almighty did not create light, it could not be derived from any other source.

If there were no sun, the earth would be surrounded in darkness. But our Lord has spread throughout His domain countless extremely bright moving bodies to shed light continuously on all parts of the universe. In the absence of this all-encompassing order, the universe would be reduced to a dreadful abyss.

Here we speak of material light. But the same is true of intellectual and spiritual light. All the inhabitants of this earth are in need of a guiding light to enable them to think rationally and to find the spiritual sustenance, which will fill their hearts with divine wisdom and inspiration. The source of this intellectual and spiritual light is God and God alone. It cannot be obtained from any other source.

When man truly and sincerely believes in one God, he establishes a link with Him on a spiritual level. His whole being is subsequently illumined by this spiritual attachment. He begins to find God in His remembrances. He begins to find God reflected in the tears that well up in his eyes. God is so instilled in his thoughts and feelings, it is as if he has come very close to Him, as if he is leading his life in the shadow of the Almighty’s blessing.

Idolatry has been described in the Quran as “an abominable sin” or zulm (31:13). Zulm means the placing of something in the wrong situation. That is, idolatry (associating something with God) is totally alien to the universe. In this world, believing in idolatry and practising idolatry are completely out of place.

Only one God is the Creator of this world. He alone is its Lord and Sustainer. He is possessed with all power. That being so, believing in something other than God, or associating anything with the godhead, amounts to according the status of an actual reality to a self-concocted supposition. This presupposes the existence of something, which has no existence at all.

The idolatrous way of thinking is the greatest of all evils. One whose mind thinks along idolatrous lines, in whose heart idolatrous thoughts are nurtured, has as it were, opted for something baseless and unreal. The universe with its whole existence refutes it.

Idolatrous beliefs and concepts can never provide intellectual nourishment to their adherents. They will not flood them with that spiritual light without which the whole of human existence is rendered meaningless.

 

JANUARY 2

Patience and Dawah

The moral character of the da’i must be marked by patience. It takes patience to wait for the right opportunities for da‘wah work to arise, and it also takes patience for the right sets of conditions to be created. Those who are unwilling to remain patient in the face of ignorance, obduracy and unpleasantness can never fulfill the true calling of the da’i.

Sir James Jeans, the renowned English scientist, once stated in the foreword to a book he had written on physics and philosophy in 1941, that the scientific study of the universe had led us to the point where it seemed to suggest that “the door may be unlocked, only if we could find the handle.” (p. 16)

This notion was put into words by this English scientist at a time when Muslims the world over, provoked at the domination of English, were waging bloody war against them. When the Muslims looked at the English, they saw in them only hateful enemies. Had they displayed patience—even only temporarily—at their political domination, they would very soon have discovered that the “handle” the English sought to the door of Reality, was already available to Muslims in the form of the Quran.

With this knowledge their entire attitude towards the English would have drastically changed. Soon they would have come to regard the English as their madu (congregation) and not as rivals. And then instead of praying for their doom they would have prayed for their guidance, and reformation. As their well-wishers they would have told them that what they (the English) required to reach the destination of reality had already been sent by God in the form of the Quran.

Patience is the necessary condition of da‘wah—where there is no patience there can certainly be no da‘wah.

 

JANUARY 3

Two Methods
Aiming at Eternal Truth

There are two ways of launching a movement, one by demands and the other by revolution. The former, exemplified for all time by the life of the Prophet Muhammad, has regrettably had to yield pride of place to the latter which is the more favoured, not only by communists, but also by present-day Muslims. Today, it is not only those of communists’ persuasions who rely on the revolutionary method, but also Muslims, who are everywhere to be found in armed encounters with their supposed rivals. Although many make their point by organising media protest campaigns, those who have access to bombs and bullets are quick to use them.

Why is it that Muslims are so enamoured of the revolutionary method, to the point of forgetting that there is such a thing as the da‘wa method? Why should they favour the ideology of Marx and Lenin when they have the Sunnah of the Final Prophet to show them the way?

The revolutionary path is that of reaction, and just explaining it in Islamic terms does not transform it into an Islamic method. Da‘wa, on the other hand, calls for patience and avoidance of confrontation. This method, as opposed to that of reaction, is doubtless the more difficult of the two, but, in the long run, is the best calculated to bear fruit.

The revolutionary method is negative in that it has its roots in hatred and is guided by mere human desires; it calls for instant action, and it is always the others, the non-revolutionaries, who are pelted with stones. On the contrary, the da‘wa method is positive in that it grows out of love. Where revolution calls for precipitateness, da‘wa advises patience, caution. Where revolutionary acts earn one popularity, da‘wa leads one into self-obliteration and the readiness to be the target of others’ stones.

Revolution is material in that it centres on human wants. Da‘wa is spiritual in that it is inspired by the Quran and the hadith. Revolution aims at an external target. Da‘wa aims at eternal truth—a wholly internal matter.

 

JANUARY 4

The Reality of Monotheism

Monotheism means to believe in one God; to believe in the fact that all power lies in the hand of one God alone; that He alone deserves to be worshipped. No act in the nature of worship is lawful unless directed towards God. It is God alone who fulfills all our needs. It is God alone who is behind the functioning of the entire universe. Superiority is the prerogative of the one and only God. No one enjoys real superiority in this world. All such concepts are false as associate anyone or anything with any of the aspects of God’s sovereignty. The concept of God has been stated in the following verses of the Quran:

God, there is no god but Him, the Living, the Eternal one. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. His is what the heavens and the earth contain. No one can intercede with Him except by His permission.

He knows all about the affairs of men at present and in the future. They can grasp only that part of this knowledge, which He wills. His Throne is as vast as the heavens and the earth and the preservation of both does not weary Him. He is the Exalted, the Immense One. (2:255)

Worshipping God is to express reverence for one’s God and Creator, a Being who truly deserves to be held in awe. On the contrary, when man bows his head before anyone else, he exalts one who is no better than himself—and as such, having no right to be worshipped. Adoration of God glorifies Him, while worship of anything other than God degrades the worshipper. Veneration of God makes man a realist, while prostrating himself before a non-God turns him into a creature of superstition. Bowing to God opens the door to the realization of the truth, while the worship of something other than God closes this very door in man's face.

The focus of a monotheist is only one, while idolatry has myriad objects of worship. That is why the centre of attention and worship of a monotheist is the one and only God. In all circumstances and throughout his entire life, he makes the one and the same God his all in all, but an idolator has no central point on which to focus. That is why shirk, that is, idolatry, is directed towards so many different things—the stars, the earth, man, the grave, the self, wealth, power, interests, children, etc. This entire practice, coming under the heading of worship of things other than God, has been openly condemned by the Quran.

 A monotheist is one who accords the supreme status to the one and only God. He asks Him alone to meet his needs. He does obeisance before Him; he trusts Him implicitly and above all others, reserving for Him the supreme status in all respects. Worship is the ultimate stage in any relationship: that is why, whatever its form, it must have God as its object. Any gesture in the nature of adulation is not permissible except when meant for God.

When an individual makes God the object of his worship, he bows before an entity, which really exists. On the contrary, one who makes a non-God the object of his worship, bows before something which has no actual existence, even although he may have set up before him some material image of his ‘god.’ While the former has found the true source of power, the latter has simply associated himself with crass superstitious notions, which have no basis in logic. God’s worshippers are graced with eternal blessings; the worshippers of things other than God can expect nothing but eternal deprivation.

 

JANUARY 5

Mission of the Prophets

All the messengers of God sent in ancient times came only to admonish man not to commit idolatry and to teach him to worship the one God alone, so that he might accordingly reform his life in this world and share in God’s blessings in the next. But throughout the centuries of human history, almost all the prophets were rejected by the majority of their contemporaries, particularly those highly placed in society, who never showed any willingness to follow these divine messengers. This recurrent event in history is thus described in the Quran: ‘Alas for the servants! They laugh to scorn every apostle that comes to them’. (36:30).

The practice of ignoring God’s prophets went to the extent of depriving these ancient messengers of their rightful place in the annals of human history. That is why we can find detailed stories of kings and generals in the chronicles of the ages, but we do not find any mention of these prophets. The Prophet of Islam is the only exception. And that is because he received special divine succour. Therefore, for the first time in human history, the determination to repudiate shirk and affirm monotheism became a living movement and reached the stage of practical revolution, turning over a wonderful new page in human history. Now the question arises as to why this movement of rejection of shirk and acceptance of monotheism could not in ancient times culminate in revolution. There were two main reasons for this. One was that it was the age of kingship and the other was that superstitious thinking dominated. These were the two basic factors, which continued to be permanent stumbling blocks for the mission of the prophets.

The age prior to the advent of the Prophet of Islam was that of sacred kingship. Today is the age of democracy, in which political leaders gain the right to rule through the votes of the people. In ancient times, on the contrary, the king’s interest lay in convincing people that they were God’s representatives, even that they were God’s offspring or that they were the children of the sun and moon. While today the basis of government is secular democracy, in the days of old governments used to thrive on some idolatrous belief or the other. This has been mentioned in the Quran with particular reference to Pharaoh. When Pharaoh confronted Moses he felt threatened by the spiritual powers of God’s messenger. So he assembled his people and sought to reaffirm his position in these words. “I am your Lord, most High.” (79:24).

Thus it was in the political interest of these kings that such superstitious beliefs should prevail throughout the world. Under their special patronage, right from the rituals of the birth of a baby to the funeral rites, the entire system of life was based on shirk.

This idolatrous system remained predominant all over the world for several thousand years. Due to royal patronage, this system had become so powerful that it acted as an effective check against spreading the monotheistic message of the prophets. It was as a result of this that in ancient times the Prophet's mission remained limited solely to the communication of the message; it could not enter upon the vaster stage of practical revolution.

Another obstacle to missionary activity was what may be called the superstitious thinking of the age. In ancient times when scientific discoveries of the modern kind had not yet been made, man was not able to understand the true essence of natural manifestations. He found an astonishing diversity in the objects of nature—sun, moon, stars, mountains, sea, earth, heavens, trees, animals, etc. Thanks to this diversity, the misunderstanding developed in man that there must also be many creators, or that these phenomena must be incarnations of different gods. The many-sidedness of nature thus produced the concept of a multiplicity of deities. Even the sun and the moon, because of their extraordinary character, began to be regarded as gods. It was unthinkable for man to conceive of one God in the face of the burgeoning plurality of nature.

It was to this reality that Prophet Abraham alluded:

“Lord, they (the phenomena of nature) have led many men astray.” (14:36)

That is, these outstanding manifestations of nature, the sun, the moon etc. led to man’s deception. People began to worship their greatness and hold them in reverence, though they ought to have considered them all to be creatures of God. On the contrary, they deified these creatures and began to worship them. The scientific thinking of the present age has shattered the myth of these objects of creation being gods. A major role has been played too by democratic thought, which ushered in a powerful political revolution throughout the entire world, giving a death blow to such kingship as was based on the idolatrous thinking of ancient times. Now, in the world of today, such kings as ruled in former times do not exist. They have been swept away like straw in the flood of modern democracy. As a consequence of this modern political revolution, idolatrous beliefs and systems have been deprived of effective patronage. It was this system which was the most powerful obstacle to the rejection of shirk and the establishment of monotheism in its place. Now, the possibilities of issuing the call of the prophets are unlimited. All obstacles in the path have been removed forever.

 

 JANUARY 6

In the Age of Science

The emergence of modern science has meant the uprooting of shirk in all its aspects. In modern times, scientific discoveries have forever destroyed the myth that there is any inherent diversity in the manifestations of nature or that they have any greatness of their own.

Modern science, through observation and experimentation, has proved in the last analysis that all the phenomena of nature, despite their seeming diversity, were composed of atoms. And the atom is a component of electric waves. This discovery has dealt a death blow to the myth of diversity in nature.

Oneness has been proved to be a reality in all things, notwithstanding apparent differences. That is, a more advanced stage of knowledge having rejected idolatrous concepts has provided an established basis for the concept of monotheism. Furthermore an important point established by modern science is that all the things on the earth or in the vastness of space are equally helpless entities. All are bound together in an eternal, immutable law of nature. In no degree do they possess any power or will of their own.

Another scientific factor has been established which favours monotheism over idolatry. That is, the entire universe, with all its varied components, is functioning under one and the same law of nature, called by scientists the single string theory. In other words, according to the discoveries of human knowledge itself there is only one God of the universe. There is no other deity or any other being worth worshipping save God.

The root of shirk lies in superstitious thinking. In present times, scientific research and investigations have held the superstition of former times to be baseless. In this way, the roots of shirk in modern times have been deprived of any purely academic foundation. No scientific mind is ready to believe in shirk as a reality. However shirk is still prevalent in certain parts of the world.

In ancient times, man held that so and so gods and goddesses were responsible for air, rains, crops and different human affairs. They thought of different gods and goddesses as being at work behind the diverse events in the world of nature and of human beings. But scientific investigation has proved that all these events, taking place in accordance with the laws of nature, are not the miracles of an array of gods and goddesses. In the face of these findings, the old type of shirk has, to a large extent, lost ground.

Once there was an illiterate person who, for the first time in his life, saw a car travelling along a road. In his ignorance, he thought it was a magician who was causing a room to move by the sheer power of his magic. But any educated person would consider such a supposition ludicrous, because it does not take a scientist or an engineer to know for sure that such magic does not in reality exist.

In this way idolatrous beliefs and concepts or the system of supposed deities have become utterly ridiculous to the educated mind. For now everyone knows that the coming of rains, the yield of crops and all other such seasonal events are based on the principles of nature.

 In the old superstitious age, the creed of shirk might have been acceptable, but today, in the age of knowledge, the whole structure of shirk, from belief to practice, has been thoroughly discredited. In the age of modern science, the fate shirk has met can be compared to that of a darkened room, which was supposed to harbour a dangerous, long-horned demon, but which, when opened up and flooded with light, was seen to contain nothing of the sort.

Before the emergence of science the world was dominated by superstitious beliefs. Due to an inadequate fund of knowledge, people were deceived into believing in shirk. But now with the spread of the light of science, it has become impossible for shirk to find a place once again in the minds of the people.

However, the superstitions themselves have not been entirely laid to rest. In their personal lives people all over the world still hold beliefs of mysterious kinds. Although the majority of the educated class do not believe in deities, they have not yet arrived at belief in one God. The only difference is that if the past generations were irrevocably devoted to gods and goddesses, nowadays people have set up another “deity”, called the law of nature, to which they accord the same importance as was formerly shown to pagan deities.

The course of human history has followed many pathways, but now a stage has come when all obstructions have been cleared away, so that a movement, based on the teachings of the prophets, could well be revived. Today, such a movement to reject shirk and affirm monotheism could freely and effectively be launched. In this modern age the political and international atmosphere is also entirely favourable, and all academic arguments are in support of it. It would not be an exaggeration to say that today any movement based on monotheism would be in a position of unopposed victory. No obstacle is now in its way. The need of the hour is for the monotheists to rise with all their will and determination and communicate with unstinted zeal and vigour the divine message—the life-giving reality of tauhid.

In ancient times a number of evils had crept into human society, with the result that man had been divested of his natural greatness. It was the movement of tauhid, launched by the Prophet of Islam and his companions, which led the world out of a pitiable age and caused humanity to enter upon an age of progress in the real sense. For the first time in human history, man received the blessings which had been destined for him, and of which he, had deprived himself on account of his self-styled superstitious beliefs. Humanity emerged from a prolonged age of darkness and entered the age of light. Now, despite all material progress, man is beset by insuperable problems. Trapped in the glitter of civilization, he is deprived of real peace and happiness. The greatness bestowed upon man by nature has again fallen into a new abyss of degradation.

Now the need of the hour is to revive the call of tauhid with renewed force and vigour. The task is twofold: tauhid has to be made more acceptable by means of new and forceful arguments and, by using modern means of communication, it has to be spread all over the world. As recorded in the historic prediction made by the Prophet, the time will come when God’s religion will spread all over the world, and not a ‘home or a tent’ will be saved from entering God’s word of monotheism.

 

JANUARY 7

Inna Lillah

It often happens in this world that man loses something, or suffers some calamity. On such occasions, Islam teaches us to willingly resign ourselves to our misfortune, taking that to be God’s decree. On all such occasions the sufferer should utter the words: ‘We belong to God and we shall return to Him.’

God has made this world for the purpose of putting mankind to the test. Here, receiving and losing are both designed as a trial for man. Therefore, when man receives something, he should prove himself to be a thankful servant of God. And when he loses something he should adopt the attitude of patience. Only one who can do so will pass God’s test.

In this world man cannot save himself from experiencing unpleasant things. Sometimes he will suffer from the pangs of hunger and thirst, at others, a life very dear to him will pass away or he will incur a loss of wealth. On all such occasions these words must come to his lips...‘We belong to God and we shall all return to Him.’

Through these words man acknowledges his status of servitude vis à vis God’s all-powerfulness. He expresses himself in words such as these: O God, You are the giver. If You have taken something out of what You have given me, You had the right to do so.

Saying Inna Lillah is a form of worship. This is to adopt the attitude of surrendering to God’s will instead of complaining against fate. It is to convert the loss into a new discovery.

This phrase, ‘We are from God and to God we shall return’ is, in short, an acknowledgment of God’s godhead on the part of His servants.

 

JANUARY 8

The Awakening of Man

Just over a year ago when I was in Jabalpur, a town in India, I met a middle-aged gentleman by the name of Abdus Salam Akbani from the town of Nagpur. In the course of conversation, he told me an incident in his own life, which gives us a great lesson.

It seems that four year prior to an encounter, he had arranged to buy a piece of land in Nagpur from a Hindu landowner, one Prabhakar Hazare, for the sum of six lakhs of rupees. It was settled that Abdus Salam would pay two lakhs in advance. Then after a period of six months, the land would be registered in his name, at which time the remainder would be paid in full. But after just two months, the landowner asked for and received a further two lakhs, so that now four out of the agreed six lakhs had been paid to him. During this period, the price of the land went up, and the landowner could not resist the temptation of making more profit from that piece of land

When, after six month, Abdus Salam asked Prabhakar Hazare to arrange for the registration of the land, the latter kept postponing it on one pretext or the other. Hazare was a lawyer, and he thought if Abdus Salam went to court, he would so complicate matter for him that he would finally be compelled to meet his demands.

One day Abdus Salam went to see Mr. Hazare, and found the latter’s father-in-law, Mr. Sawarkar, also present. Mr. Sawarkar who was a member of the RSS, was very provocative in his manner. Finally, he said, “What can you do after all? Go to court? If you do, we’ll see to it that you wear out a lot of shoe leather!”

Abdus Salam replied that that would happen only if he went to court. And if he didn’t go to court, how would they make him run back and forth. Mr. Sawarkar asked him what he actually proposed to do. Abdus Salam replied that he would appoint him (Mr. Sawarkar) as his arbitrator. On the one side you have your son-in-law, and on the other your nephew (meaning Hazare and himself). “Now you can decide as it seems befitting to you.”

Mr. Sawarkar’s wife, who had overheard the conversation from an adjacent room, now beckoned to her husband to come and talk to her privately. When Mr. Sawarkar returned, he appeared to be a changed man. In the meanwhile, Mrs. Sawarkar brought tea for them. Mr. Sawarkar sipped his tea in silence. Then he asked Abdus Salam to come the next day, saying that the matter would then be settled.

The next day, when he reached there, he was taken by Mr. Sawarkar himself to the court in his car. Being a man of influence, he was able to get the land registry done the same day. Mr. Abdus Salam paid the same price as had been fixed earlier.

Mr. Sawarkar was so impressed by Abdus Salam that afterwards, whenever he saw him passing by anywhere, he would stop his car to greet him and inquire after his health. One day they met by chance at the Housing Finance Board where Abdus Salam had gone on business. When Mr. Sawarkar  saw him, he introduced him to the Director of the Board and said, “I have met many Muslims, but I have seen only one young father of an old man. And this is he—Abdus Salam. He has given me an important lesson, namely, that if one does not go to the court, one’s shoes won’t get worn out!”

Although Mr. Sawarkar was associated with RSS, he was first and foremost a human being. The moment Mr. Abdus Salam had said, “I am your nephew and he is your son-in-law. Now you yourself become the arbitrator and decide for yourself,” the “man” in Mr. Sawarkar was awakened.

When the inner man is awakened, you can be sure that the person concerned will always give a just verdict in his dealings with others. It is no longer within his power to be cruel or unjust.

 

JANUARY 9

The Matter of Life

All the things in the market are available on the payment of necessary price. The principle of the market, to be precise, is: you receive as much as you give neither more nor less. This principle is true for the entire human life as well. Someone has aptly said: ‘give the world the best you have, and the best will come back to you.’

If you are a well-wisher of others, others will also respond the same way. If you talk to others gently, others too will return gentle words. If you honour others, others too will honour you.

This is a world of give and take. Here man finds only what he has given to others. In short others will behave with you just as you behave with them.

This means that in order to lead a life in this world, finding good atmosphere is in one’s own power. You become friends of others and everyone will become your friend. You bear with the unpleasantness of others then you will find people around you who bear with the unpleasant thing from you. You benefit others and then you will find a world where everyone will be busy benefiting others.

If you want to live like a flower you will find your way to a bed of flowers. But if your existence is replete with thorns, you will find a world full of thorny shrubs.

 

JANUARY 10

The Difference Between
Monotheism and Idolatry

Monotheism enables man to discover God in his passage through His creation, whereas idolatry causes him to become enslaved by the mere things of God's creation. Monotheism permits him to lead his life on the plane of reality, whereas idolatry shackles him at every step in his life with superstition. Where monotheism is the result of the discovery of one's own human nature, idolatry is the result of ignorance of that very nature. Monotheists are the truly desirable inhabitants of this world, as it is they who fulfill the word of God.

According to the Plan of the Creator of this world, monotheists fulfill the divine scheme of God for man on earth. They unflinchingly follow His plan. It is the monotheists therefore who are held to be desirable by God, for they are carrying out God’s will on earth.

Idolatry and idolatrous people are totally different matters. Idolatry is an alien concept in this world of God. It is the monotheists who are the wanted people; the idolaters are, on the contrary, the unwanted people, for the Creator and Sustainer of this world has given no endorsement to idolatry either as a creed or as a way of life.

If we try to place a square object in a round compartment, it will not fit into it. The same is the case with monotheism and idolatry. By his very nature man has been created to be a monotheist. That is why the concept of monotheism and the monotheistic way of life are exactly in accordance with nature, while the very reverse is true of the concept of idolatry.

With the idolater, objects other than God become the centre of his attention. Hence his responses to various situations in life are also determined in relation to the objects of his worship. He looks up to them in his successes as well as seeking refuge in them in his failures.

His heart and mind are absorbed in these non-godly things and beings at all times. Where the monotheist continues to draw the nourishment of monotheism from his day-to-day experiences, an idolator’s day-to-day experiences provide him only with further food for idolatry (that is, he becomes more and more confirmed in his way of life).

More often than not, man's general condition is affected by different sets of circumstances, some favourable and some unfavourable. But whatever his state—that of happiness, grief, difficulty, success, failure, power, powerlessness, domination, subjugation—the essence of his response to those circumstances must be either monotheistic or idolatrous.

For a monotheist, who lives constantly in God’s glory and majesty, every happening in his life continues to remind him of God. His response in all situations is in accordance with his monotheistic belief. In all circumstances, he proves to be a true monotheist, never losing his balance in the ups and downs of life. In whatever condition he is, he never breaks his association with God. With God as the centre of his attention, he never goes off the course.

A feeling of attachment of one human being for another is generally a source of deep satisfaction to the individuals involved. But there is no greater source of satisfaction and no greater elevation of the spirit than in man's strong attachment to God. This, in essence, is what monotheism is, both in principle and in practice. As such, it is of the highest value in the eyes of God. Any other kind of attachment of a worshipful nature is shirk, and as such, is valueless.

This deep attachment for God takes two forms—love and fear. The Quran tells us that it is in the monotheist (2:165) that the love of God is at its most profound, and that it is God alone that he fears (9:18).

Such extreme dread and extreme love should be inspired solely by that Being who has created man, who is his Lord and Sustainer. One who associates these special feelings with someone other than God is guilty of committing shirk. It is to bestow on others the adoration that is due to God (2:165).

Human beings may feel strong attachments for many kinds of things,—for other people, for animals, for ideas and so on. When an individual is strongly attracted to something, it is normal for his thoughts to centre on the object of admiration. He can become so engrossed in it that his entire happiness seems to depend on his finding it and keeping it. When he succeeds in doing so, his enthusiasm knows no bounds, yet he is always beset by the fear that he may be deprived of this highly valued object. This fear makes him really sad, for he has high hopes that so long as he possesses it, it will yield untold blessings. Just thinking about what he has and what he may lose can fill his eyes with tears. But all such emotions pale into insignificance beside the feelings, which the true devotee has for the Supreme Being. What he feels for Him is an unbreakable bond of affection and a deep, unalterable veneration. It is to Him and Him alone that all his thoughts are directed, and it is to the Almighty alone that he surrenders himself.

God looks with extreme disfavor upon this feeling of profound reverence being focused upon anyone or any thing besides Himself, for it is the special prerogative of God to have human beings remain in awe of Him. No other being deserves this ultimate degree of reverence.

 

JANUARY 11

Hypochondriasis

Hypochondria is a psychological disease. One who suffers from this disease imagines that he has one or more physical complaints, although he is not actually ill. The hypochondriac becomes convinced that he is afflicted by disease, even although it is absent.

A resident of Pune, India, Mr. Farhat Haroon Khan, once told me of such an instance. He had become acquainted with a 20-year old Arab student, who had come from Bahrain to Pune to pursue a course of higher studies. During his stay in India, the latter began to imagine that his health had been ruined by Indian food and that he was suffering from some fatal disease.

He asked Farhat Haroon to take him to a good doctor and Mr. Haroon obliged him by taking him to a Dr. S.M.H. Modi. Dr. Modi examined the student thoroughly and prescribed certain tests. Then after seeing all the reports, he asked Mr. Haroon to tell the Arab patient that he was ‘as fit as a horse.’

After the doctor’s thorough examination, the young Arab’s worries immediately evaporated, and he began to live a normal life, just as if he had never taken ill.

This type of disease is not confined only to individuals. Sometimes an entire nation or community may suffer from it. This can be traced to wrong guidance by leaders who induce a fear psychosis in their followers by causing them to believe that they are surrounded by danger on all sides. The key to progress for such a nation is the ability to see such dangers for what they are—imaginary; and then to root out all fear from the national psyche. Then nothing can stand in the way of the country’s success.

 

JANUARY 12

Training and Education

By August 1945, Japan had been totally ruined having lost its political freedom as well as its economic stability. What Japan did subsequently was to refrain from touching the problem of political freedom and give its full thrust to economic stability. This policy proved so successful that Japan is today reckoned as an industrial super power. By 1990 Japan had already given five billion dollars credit to the world. It is estimated that by 1995 the amount of this credit will have increased to ten billion dollars. While in 1945, Japan was under the political subjugation of America, today America has been brought under the economic subjugation of Japan.

Mr. Abu Zar Ghefari, a Pakistani columnist, went to Kabul in May 1992, where he met a Japanese journalist. He asked him the reason for the breathtaking and incredible success of Japan, how it had actually happened that the impossible could be turned into the possible.

He replied that the secret of Japan’s striking success lay in the sterling character of the Japanese nation. He explained, moreover, that since they were not rich in natural resources, they considered their  children to be their greatest resource. Each Japanese house had been turned into a training ground for the children. The Japanese spent their best resources on the education of children. That is why their nation of today is wholely literate. Illiteracy just does not exist in their country. If it is the head count of scientists, which makes a nation scientific, then the Japanese nation can be truly called a scientific nation.

This training and education has produced high national character among the Japanese, for instance, the Japanese are truly a nationalist nation. If the nation suffers from a one-rupee loss, a Japanese will be willing to incur a 100-rupee loss to save the nation from loss, and he would be proud to do so. (Nawai Waqt, Lahore, July 12, 1992)

Japan completely shunned the path of confrontation with its opponent. Only then did it become possible for it to bring into existence a highly scientific society. This is the only way to success and progress in this world.

 

JANUARY 13

No End of Opportunities

Abdur Rahman ibn Muawiya ibn Hisham (113-172 A.H.), an Umayyad prince, having shown early signs of talent and intelligence, was given royal training and a superb education to groom him, right from early childhood, for his future role of Caliph.

But in 132 A.H. the Umayyad dynasty was dealt a fatal blow by the Abbasids. When the Abbasid army entered Damascus, the capital, they were given orders to exterminate the Umayyads. At this point, Abdur Rahman was fortunately absent from the city. He had gone to a village on the banks of Euphrates where he had his farms and orchards. At the time of the genocide, the young prince was just twenty years of age.

When Abdur Rahman learnt that the Ummayyads had been the victims of a general massacre, he hid himself in a camp under the trees. One day when he was in his camp his four-year old son came running to him in a terrified state. The Abbasid soldiers had almost reached the orchard in their pursuit of him. He immediately picked up the child, ran to the river and swam across to the other side.

Although Abdur Rahman managed to flee from Damascus, the next few years proved very difficult for him. Always on the alert for his enemies, he would move, hungry and thirsty, from place to place, across rivers and through jungles. In this state of helplessness he came to Sabta, a place situated at the north coast of Africa. His future looked bleak. The prince had become a pauper and where, in his childhood, the crown of the Caliphate had awaited him, there was now not even a corner where he could take shelter in peace.

Yet, ultimately, into this state of utter frustration, there shone a ray of hope. It seemed that Andalusia, in the South of Spain, had become semi-independent. Damascus, the seat of the Caliphate, had lost its hold over it, thanks to communications taking months to cover the distance between Damascus and Andalusia. Now in the absence of a strong leadership, the Muslims had started fighting amongst themselves.

This state of affairs in Andalusia turned out to be a piece of good fortune for Abdur Rahman. Hearing that the Muslims were badly in need of a leader, he crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to reach Andalusia. His extraordinary capabilities and the fact of his being a crown prince immediately attracted attention. The people rallied to him and he was able to establish a firm rule in Andalusia. A man whose history had come to an end in Damascus now became the founder of brilliant cultural and academic progress in Andalusia. If he built this most illustrious career for himself in Cordova the seat of the Andalusian emirate, it was entirely due to his own courage and determination.

It is a fact that there is no end to the opportunities in this world. When one opportunity ceases to exist, some other opportunity always arises elsewhere. When one stage in a man’s career comes to an end, there will always be the opportunity to enter a new phase.

But new opportunities will bear no fruit if they are not at once seized and availed of. Nothing ever happens on its own. But it takes a man of courage to grasp the opportunities that present themselves. He must also have the endurance and the determination for the struggle, which necessarily ensues. And if he possesses those essential qualities, there is no question of his being a failure.

This world has been devised by God so that man may succeed—but with a struggle. One who is too faint-hearted, too lacking in determination, or too impatient will give up the struggle sooner or later, and that is what will ultimately spell failure. He shall have to pay the price of his own shortcomings.

“For men, opportunities will never cease.” This is just like saying the sun will never cease to rise. Just as morning is always followed by night, so does success inevitably follow failure. However, just as the earth must revolve unceasingly if morning is to follow night so must man be unremitting in his struggle to reach his final goal.

 

JANUARY 14

The News of an Earthquake

On June 21, 1990, the north-western part of Iran was hit by an earthquake so severe in its intensity that it left 80,000 dead and 200,000 injured in its wake. A comment frequently heard at that time was that this was God’s chastisement on the Iranians.

Such remarks are absurd. Any tragedy befalling this world is designed to make God’s servants tremble in fear of their Maker, and are not occasions for righteous castigation of supposed wrongdoers. The truth is that this earthquake related neither to Iran’s iniquity nor to God’s chastisement. An earthquake is a geophysical event; it is meant as a lesson for everyone, and not just for the people of Iran, or any other country for that matter.

Every severe earthquake causes a similar amount of devastation. According to the Times of India of June 23, 1990, not a single house in the affected area had been left standing. In reality, an earthquake’s true significance lies in its being a reminder of Qiamat (Doomsday). What happens before, during and after an earthquake is simply a miniature version of what will actually happen on a horrendous scale on the Day of Reckoning.

God has built this world as a temporary testing ground. When this period of trial is over, God will cause a severe earthquake to take place. Under its impact all structures will collapse, all bastions of human greatness will simply vanish from the face of the earth, and civilization as we know it will cease to exist. Then God, in His omnipotence, will create a new world in which He will reward each of His creatures according to his or her deeds.

The correct attitude to natural calamities is that one should learn a lesson from them. Attributing them to the misdeeds of others will only bring down God’s wrath upon one’s own head.

 

JANUARY 15

After Eating and Drinking

O

ne of the teachings of Islam is to praise God, after satisfying one’s hunger and thirst, in words such as these: All praise is due to God who provided me with food and water, and who made me one of the believers.

Man cannot survive without food and water. He requires these things continuously throughout his entire life. For man’s requirements God has made perfect arrangements. On the one hand, He has provided water in abundance on the earth, on the other, He has provided ample nourishment which man can obtain with the minimum of effort.

When a believer is hungry and thirsty, and he eats and drinks, he is overwhelmed with the feeling of how great that God is who has made such splendid provision for him. If God had not done so, he would have suffered the pangs of hunger and thirst, having had to go without food and water. His whole body expresses his acknowledgment of God’s bounties and he calls out: Praise be to God for all of His abundant provisions!

On receiving bodily sustenance the believer is reminded of the spiritual sustenance provided for him by God. Through revelation God gave man the knowledge of what He wants from him, thus enabling him to lead us life according to His will and ensuring his success in the next eternal world. Man then remembers God with even greater adoration.

Every moment of his life, man ought to keep praising God,—God, who has made the most superb provision for him, both physical as well as spiritual.

 

JANUARY 16

The Life After Death

The Prophet of Islam likened death to sleep and life to the state of wakefulness after sleep. When he awakened in the morning, he would say: “All praise and thanks are due to God who gave us life after death.”

For the rest of mankind, waking and sleeping are likewise symbolic of life and death. Going to sleep is like dying and waking up in the morning is like rising from the grave. Our inevitable awakening after sleeping foreshadows with certainty how we shall arise after death to give an account of our deeds on the Day of Judgement.

Man has to pass his life in this world in such a way that every happening becomes for him a reminder of the Day of Judgement. His sleeping and rising should also serve as reminders of life after death.

The most delicate aspect of man’s life is that his existence does not come to an end after death. He has to be reborn in another world. The present world is the world of action, while the world to come will be one in which he reaps his reward. That will be the beginning of a new and eternal life—either eternal heaven or eternal hell.

Man is reminded daily of this most important reality when he goes to sleep and when he rises from sleep. In this way, actions of this world come to remind man of the hereafter.

The Prophet of Islam used to lead a very simple life and laid great stress on believers doing likewise. Once he said, “O people, don’t you hear me, O people, don’t you hear me, O people, don’t you hear me, ‘Simplicity is undoubtedly a part of faith.’ ‘Simplicity is undoubtedly a part of faith.’

When man has discovered the greatness of God, his own-existence in comparison appears quite insignificant. This feeling makes him into a truly modest person. His whole being is coloured in the hue of servitude. His manner ceases to be aggressive and his voice becomes gentle. Even his gait expresses his modesty. His whole attitude comes to reflect a new seriousness.

All this inevitably results in his preferring simplicity in everything, in food, drink, living arrangements, and so on. He avoids luxuries, pomp and show. His soul finds pleasure and contentment in leading a life of simplicity instead of indulgence.

True faith leads man away from artificial things to nature, where simplicity is the rule. He develops a liking for a simple way of life, which is more natural. This naturalness behoves the believer. Naturalness is in accordance with his modesty and humility, themselves great virtues in the eyes of God.

 

JANUARY 17

Nature’s Teaching

Teak is a hard wood used in building and furniture making. It is produced mainly in Burma, but is also grown in India, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. In India, it has been in use for over two thousand years.

The most important property of teak is its extraordinary durability. In ancient times boats and bridges were built of this wood and in buildings as old as a thousand years, teak beams are still found to be in excellent condition.

The main cause of the durability of teak wood is that, it is not eaten away by white ants. Wood serves as a food for white ants, and, once they have made inroads, it quickly disintegrates. Yet, foes as they are of wood in general, they pose no threat to teak.

What is the property, which keeps teak safe from the danger of white ants? The answer is quite simple. Teak has a bitter taste, which is not to the liking of the white ant.

This example of an inherent quality acting as a life-preserver shows us the way of nature. Nature wanted to preserve teak from the depredations of the white ant. To achieve this end, it did not formulate demands or utter protests. It simply endowed teak with such a property as would keep its insect attackers at bay.

Just as wood has an enemy in the white ant, so do men have their human enemies in this world. Now what should a man do to save himself from them? Taking a leaf out of nature’s book, he should strive to produce in himself such qualities as will keep his enemies away from him, make them refrain from indulging in injurious courses of action.

 

JANUARY 18

The Pure in Heart

The Quran tells us that man’s sole mainstay in the Hereafter will be the pureness of his heart (26:89). That is, only the pure in heart can gain entrance to paradise. Different commentators on the Quran have worded their explanations of this in a variety of ways, but the gist of what they say is largely the same. Here is what Ibn Kathir has written:

The sound heart is one, which knows no impurity or idolatry. According to Ibn Seerin, the sound heart is one which has fully realized that God is Truth and that Doomsday will certainly come—there is no doubt about it—and that God will certainly raise the dead from the grave. According to Ibn Abbas, a sound heart is one, which has borne witness that there is no god but God. According to Mujahid, Hasan and others, a sound heart is one to which idolatry is unknown. According to Sayeed ibn Musayyeb, a sound heart is an upright heart. It is the heart of the believer; the heart of an unbeliever and hypocrite is a diseased one. According to Abu Usman Nishapuri, it means a heart free from bid‘a (inventions in religion) and content with the sunnah of the Prophet (3/339).

It is not just the aggregate of a man’s good deeds, which provide the criterion for entrance into heaven, but rather his inward state. What will be of real value on Doomsday is the character a man has developed in this life. Those in possession of a divine (rabbani) personality, who are enlightened and aware, who are free of psychological complexities and negative attitudes, who have proved their ability to lead their lives on the level of divine nature, will find their entrance into heaven made easy.

 

JANUARY 19

A Lesson from History

The Abbasids wrested control of the Islamic Empire from the Umayyads in 750, and Baghdad replaced Damascus as the seat of the caliphate. Ill-equipped for this gigantic task, they had sought the support of Iranians, and it was through the latter’s active military involvement that the Abbasids came to power. But the support given by the Iranians was neither short-lived nor without repercussion. It inevitably resulted in the Iranians making deep inroads into Muslim society and politics. While government policy under the Umayyads had focused on Arabization, with Islamization in its wake, now, under the Abbasids, it turned to Persianization as a result of the Iranian influence. This gave rise to a great number of problems, not the least of which the Caliphate’s change of orientation.

In the words of a historian:

‘Under the Abbasids the caliphate entered a new phase. Instead of focussing, as the Umayyads had done, on the West—on North Africa, the Mediterranean, and relations with southern Europe—the caliphate now turned eastward.’(1/7)

The seriousness of this situation will be realized if we think for a moment that had the Abbasids succeeded fully in their campaign, against Umayyads, the brilliant chapter of Islamic history known as ‘Muslim Spain’ would never have existed.

Not only did the Abbasid Caliphs give less attention to the western countries, but they also became the deadliest foes of those who were intent on the expansion of Islam. The Abbasids began killing each and every individual belonging to the Umayyad family. Had the conquest of Spain not been made under the Umayyads, and had the Umayyad prince, Abdur Rahman ad-Dakhil, not succeeded in saving his life and finding a refuge in Spain, the chapter of Islam’s entry into Europe and Muslim Spain would perhaps never have been written.

A somewhat similar situation developed in India when the Mughal King, Humayun, was defeated by Sher Shah Suri, and thus deprived of the throne of Delhi from 1540 to 1555. During this period he fled to Iran to seek help from the Iranian emperor Tahmasp. The ruler of Persia helped him with a force of 14,000 men, with the assistance of which he was able to recover the throne of Delhi and re-establish the Mughal empire after a lapse of fifteen years.

But again, this resulted in strong Persian political and cultural influences spreading throughout the Mughal empire. The Persians were not interested in sciences. That is why during the entire Mughal period no advancement in the field of science was made. They were not even aware of the great progress made in this field during Muslim rule in Spain. Enamoured of the fine arts, they brought large numbers of artists, painters, sculptors and poets to India. This influx of talent had a profound effect upon the Muslim society, which consequently took on many of the hues of Persian civilization.

These historical events teach us that whenever you succeed by seeking the help of another your success is no longer exclusively your own. The influence of the person or group from whom you sought assistance will certainly intrude, if not sooner, certainly later. In spite of your best efforts, you will not be able to distance yourself from this invasion.

To obviate such a situation, the proper way to proceed is to deal independently with one’s undertakings, starting on a small scale and then endeavouring to advance in a gradual manner. That is the sole way to achieve true success.

Success must be attained slowly and steadily and not by leaps and bounds.

 

JANUARY 20

Internal Development

How does the Islamic way of life set off inner activities in man? In this, the mainspring is the concept of accountability. Islam brings man to the realization that God Almighty is omnipresent and omniscient so that he has the feeling that for all his words and deeds—even intentions, he is accountable before Him. And after death he will have to face the divine court of justice, where the whole record of his life will be examined. And then, according to its verdict, he will be sent either to eternal hell or eternal Heaven. This feeling surging within him is so powerful that it shakes the entire human personality. A hadith thus admonishes the individual: Reckon yourself before being reckoned with. Weigh yourself before being weighed. And prepare yourself for the Great Appearance on Doomsday (Al-Tirmidhi).

The consciousness of the presence of God activates all of the brain cells of the individual. A hunter once remarked: If you are walking through a jungle, and all of a sudden you notice a live tiger standing in a nearby glade, your blood stream will turn into a blood storm.

This is what happens when we stand in the presence of a tiger. At every moment Islam brings man to the realization not only of the Creator of the lion, but also of the Creator of the entire universe. One can judge when the thought of the presence of a tiger turns man’s blood stream into a blood storm, how great a storm the thought of the presence of the Creator of the lion, that is, God Almighty, will be produced within a believer.

Therefore, by his own inner compulsion, the believer becomes a man of character and a staunch believer. For him it becomes impossible to be immoral or unjust or dishonest in his conduct to his fellow men.

This concept of the presence of God is no negative matter. This is a wholly positive reality. This is because God is not simply a source of power. He is also a source of mercy. The storm brought about by the awareness of the presence of God awakens not only the feeling of fear, but a strong feeling of hope as well. Similarly, the feeling of the presence of God becomes a perpetual incentive for the positive development of the human personality. This, in Islamic terms, is called a spiritual revolution. In short, belief in Islam makes accountability to God man’s greatest permanent concern. The potential of spirituality latent within man is activated by his belief to the ultimate extent; this turns him into a spiritual superman. But the feeling of the presence of God Almighty also cuts man down to size. ‘And man cut to size’ is the ultimate phrase in the spiritual dictionary. Such a man succeeds to the utmost degree in finding all those things that he ought to experience at the spiritual level. He becomes a man of God through and through.

External Activities

The Islamic man is one who, in consonance with his spiritual development, experiences constant intellectual activity which results in the most intense brain storming. The intellectual awakening, or intellectual development of an Islamic man is so extensive that he becomes cerebrally activated to the highest possible extent. What is that external factor which stimulates this kind of intellectual activity in the Islamic man? It is da‘wah work.

According to the Quran, Prophet of Islam is the final Prophet. Although no Prophet is going to come after him, the mission of the Prophet must continue. The Ummah of the Prophet, charged with carrying on this mission for posterity, is thus addressed in the Quran: And thus We made you an intermediary nation so that you might bear witness against the people and the Prophet might testify against you. (2:143)

A commentator of the Quran has interpreted this as follows: Muslims are intermediary between the Prophet and the nations of the world (Al-Tabari). In conformance with this, da‘wah work is obligatory for the Muslim Ummah. It is their essential duty to receive the divine message of the Prophet and convey it to the rest of humanity. It is not simply an act of annunciation. It is the most important struggle. Because of this the Quran says: Do with them the great jihad by the help of the Quran. (25:52)

The Quran is a book, not a weapon. “Great jihad with the Quran” means a great religious endeavour; da’wah work is thus a great ideological struggle. It is a supreme intellectual effort which stretches to the utmost the mental capacity of the human being.

 

JANUARY 21

Finders, not Losers

One can sum up the state of the Muslim community today by saying that they are afflicted by a persecution complex. Wherever one looks, one finds Muslims haunted by a feeling of having lost something. Everywhere they are complaining of persecution by other nations, of having had something taken away from them.

Closer scrutiny will tell one the nature of those things that Muslims complain of having lost. One will find that it is political power, government posts, economic resources, social influence and material gain that Muslims feel they have been deprived of. To their mind, they have been done out of these things by other nations of the world.

But, in fact, the Muslims have only themselves to blame for the losses they have incurred. It is their own neglectfulness that has taken them where they are. It is not a question of their having been deprived; it is a question of they themselves having failed to come up to the required mark. Still, what is even more important is that, even along with all these losses, there is still one thing that no one can take away from them. They may have lost worldly wealth, but they are still possessors of great spiritual wealth. The religion of Islam is still with them, fully intact. They still have the final divine scripture, preserved in its original state. They are heirs of a Prophet whose teachings still retain the vitality of the days when he first imparted them to the world. What the Muslims have, then, is greater than what they have lost. How strange that they should feel their losses, mere trifles though they are, and be unaware of the much greater treasure that they still retain.

To say that the path to worldly progress is barred to the Muslims is a highly debatable point. But even if one goes along with the general consensus of Muslim opinion and admits that it is, then still they have the chance to excel in the next world, and success there is better and more lasting than worldly success. Why then should they be so concerned about worldly loss, when they still have access to the much greater gains available in the Hereafter?

Muslims may not be able to find what they seek from men, but they can still find it with God. If they concentrate on serving the divine cause, then they will find that God will provide them, in much greater measure than men could ever do, with all that they seek.

 

JANUARY 22

Intellectual Development

Da‘wah is a strictly non-political mission. But it is an extremely difficult task to perform, because it invites challenges from virtually all sections of society. The da‘i says: “Here is the truth with a capital T, and success in this world as well as in the world hereafter depends on the acceptance of this truth, so man has no choice but to accept it.” This kind of claim is highly provocative, eliciting reactions from every ideological group—religious, materialist, secular, atheist, etc.

The man with a mission throws down a challenge which provokes a response. A challenge-response-mechanism becomes operative which stimulates continuous interaction, involving questions and answers, discussions and dialogues. It is during this interaction that the process of intellectual development begins.

As a mission, da‘wah work by its very nature is divine. Because of this, people with a mission are bound by their code of ethics to respond in a positive manner to their audiences regardless of the latter’s misconduct. At all costs, they must, as a matter of principle, avoid all friction. As the Quran says: “Certainly, we (the Prophets) would bear with patience your persecution of us.” (14:12)

This positive behaviour on the part of people engaged in the da‘wah mission prevents them from succumbing to hatred for and violence against the other party. That again ensures that their intellectual growth and development will go on uninterruptedly. No situation whatsoever will halt this process of peaceful da’wah and, subsequently, the inner progress of those involved in it will continue ceaselessly.

The Prophet Muhammad once said: “Beware of the wisdom of mu’min (a believer), because he sees with the light of God.” How is it that a mu’min becomes a man of wisdom, in such a superior sense? It is because his faith makes him pious and God-fearing. In his state of piety, he undergoes the inner experience which psychologists call brainstorming. This helps activate his potential to the full extent. The result is miraculous: if, before, he was a man, now after this brainstorming, he becomes a superman.

Then comes da‘wah, that is, the call to Islam. According to the Quran, da‘wah is the great jihad. Why is da‘wah the great jihad, or great struggle? Because it is a universal mission. It is a most serious task. It engages one’s entire capacities throughout one’s whole life. Every time one is faced with intellectual challenges, one is bound to give a strong response.

Thus, da‘wah becomes an extensive course of action through which one’s personality develops day by day, until one reaches the highest level of intellectual and spiritual development.

Iman (faith) and da‘wah are two basic levels of Islam. If iman is a superior ideology, da‘wah is a superior course of action. Iman purifies one’s mind and soul, while da‘wah imbues one’s personality with a sublime probity. One who adopts Islam as a universal mission, in both the ideological and practical sense, is morally activated to the maximum possible extent and this course, slowly but surely, leads him to reach the highest pinnacle of humanity.

Stating the relationship between man and true religion the Quran says:

So you set your face towards the true faith uprightly, the upright nature with which God has endowed man, and let there be no alteration in God’s Creation. That is the right religion, although most men may not know it. (30:30)

This means that every human being is created by God to be capable—as a matter of his natural constitution—of accepting the religion of truth. The Unity of God is a truth, arrived at intuitively, and is plain to every man of common sense, unless he perverts himself by the different prejudices which he receives from his environment. Islam is thus the natural religion that a child left to itself would develop. A western writer, Lady Cobbold, has rightly described it in these words:

Islam is the religion of common sense.

When this potential is realized, it results in the emergence of a new man. What kind of character is possessed by this new man is made clear by the following hadith:

Nine things the Lord has commanded me:

Fear of God in private and in public;

Justness, whether in anger or in calmness;

Moderation in both poverty and affluence;

Joining hands with those who break away from me;

and giving to those who deprive me;

and forgiving those who wrong me;

and making of my silence meditation;

and my words remembrance of God;

and taking a lesson from my observation.

                                                                       (Razin)                       

This hadith gives a complete picture of the man Islam wants to build.

 

JANUARY 23

Towards a New India

When an enraged mob of Hindus demolished the Babari Masjid of Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and replaced it with a makeshift mandir, this act was both climactic and terminal. It was not the peaking of an upsurge, but its end. Every destructive activity has an outer limit, and when this limit is reached, no further destruction can take place.

Those gifted with farsightedness realized on December 6 itself that this destructive movement, in accordance with the laws of nature, would lose momentum and come to naught. However, there were many who failed to come to a timely appreciation of history’s verdict. They continued to fear another “December 6.” Now, when the actual state of affairs has become an open book, there is no room for anyone to doubt that as from now, this dark chapter is finally closed, making way for brighter and more hopeful prospects in the history of India.

When it comes to the crunch, no such movement can proceed successfully without an enthusiastic response from the public. Once the public becomes apathetic such a movement loses ground and simply peters out. Events have shown that this is a dead issue. Neither Hindus nor Muslims have any zeal left for further action, it is no longer possible for leaders to whip either community to a frenzy on this score. This being so, why should there be any residual element which still expects this movement to continue?

After the demolition of the Babari Masjid, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board held a meeting in November 93 in Bombay, at which a resolution was passed that all the Muslims of India must assemble in the mosques on December 6, 1993, to pray for the recovery of the Babari Masjid. However, opinions differed on the date to be fixed, as the majority of the members felt that the Muslims would not, in fact, gather at the mosques on December 6. A via media was found by changing the date to December 3, three days in advance of the demolition date, because, December 3 being a Friday, the Muslims would, of their own accord, be gathering in the mosques to offer their Friday prayer. In this way, there would at least be the outward appearance of the Muslims having observed that day, as a day of prayer for the Babari Mosque at the behest of their leaders.

December 6, 1994, was the second anniversary of Babari Masjid demolition. However, this time the All India Muslim Personal Law Board did not attempt to make any such announcement, even to make a show of there having been a demonstration. They had learnt with their very first experiment that Muslims had very soon dismissed the Babari Masjid issue from their minds. It was just not possible to mobilize them.

However, certain other leaders, who were not shrewd enough to acknowledge this, proceeded to announce the second anniversary of the Babari Masjid’s demolition in grand style. Having formed the All India Babari Masjid Rebuilding Committee—an organization which existed more on paper than in actuality—they announced that along with four thousand Muslims, they would march to Ayodhya on December 6, 1994, in order to say their Zuhr prayer in that mosque.

But the so-called Babari Masjid Rebuilding Committee failed miserably to arouse any fervour among Muslims on this issue. What in fact happened was that on December 5, 1994, a mere 50 Muslim zealots boarded a bus in Delhi, and when they were prevented by the police from going any further than Ghaziabad, they all quietly came back to Delhi without having clashed with the police. (Qaumi Awaz, December 6, 1994)

Certain Hindu leaders for their part announced that they would launch a campaign to assemble five lakh Hindus, who would celebrate the ‘victory day’ by entering into Ayodhya on December 6, 1994. But they too failed to rally their own people to the cause. All that happened was that just a few hundred Hindus reached Ayodhya and, after performing their routine pooja, they went back. The extremism of just a few Hindu leaders had had no appeal for the masses.

It is an undeniable fact that both the Hindu and Muslim public have already put the issue of Ayodhya behind them. It is high time now that both communities diverted their full attention to more constructive activities.

The editorial of the Hindustan Times of December 8, 1994, entitled ‘Hope on Ayodhya’ points out that it is to the credit of the nation that the second anniversary of the demolition of the Babari Masjid passed off without any untoward happenings in any part of the country. Time has been a great healer. The bitterness and bad blood generated two years ago in the wake of the Ayodhya tragedy seem to be disappearing. It is evident that the public are no longer willing to follow their leaders on this issue. They are not going to allow themselves to be led into excess in the name of religion. There seems also to be a parallel change in the attitude of the Sangh Parivar, if the very conspicuous absence of the V.H.P. supremo, Mr. Ashok Singhal, from Ayodhya on December 6, 1994, is anything to go by.

It would be wholly accurate to say that the reason for the present low-key approach of the leaders to this issue is the poor response from the people to their aggressive stance. Where the participation of the public had bloated the matter out of all proportion, its present non-cooperation will deal it a death blow. It is seldom that the public can be aroused more than once on issues of such intense emotionalism. With the passage of time, the pressure of the actual problems of life comes into play as a check on any such arousal. No nation can fail to see the error of attempting to make a non-issue into an issue over a long period of time.

It is human nature to look towards the future and consign the past into oblivion—a law of nature to which Indians would do well to bow. It should be appreciated that present circumstances—with all obstacles cleared from the path—are now fully ripe for non-partisan action of a positive and constructive nature.

The majority of people in India are either illiterate or semi-literate. Approximately half of the country’s population is suffering from poverty and unemployment. Corruption of all kinds has led the country to the verge of ruination. Nowhere is justice obtainable in the courts. The goals of sterling character and national unity are yet to be attained. A number of problems of increasing gravity are still facing our country. The plight of our nation simply cries out for new solutions and freshness of approach.

It is, therefore, the duty of all concerned persons to identify and grasp whatever opportunities present themselves for the construction of new India.

 

JANUARY 24

Sheer Hard Work

Ms Bapsi Sidhwa, a Parsi lady from Pakistan, is at present teaching at the University of Houston, Texas, in America. Her novels, written in English, are published by international publishing concerns.

The amazing thing is that Bapsi Sidhwa had no formal education. A polio victim at an early age, she was removed by her parents from the primary school she was attending in Lahore. For some time, she studied with the help of a tutor, but this was only for a very short period.

It was only her keenness which spurred her on to become proficient in her studies. She started to study books in English on her own, becoming, as she put it herself, a voracious reader. Ultimately, by dint of continuous effort, she was able to write in English. She submitted her work to various magazines, but got no response from them except rejection slips. The manuscript of her first book lay on her bookshelf for eight long years. She was reduced to a state of despair.

Finally, events took a turn for the better and her articles started to be welcomed by foreign magazines. Despite having no formal degree, she has become known at the international level as a writer in English, and teaches the subject of creative writing at an American University (Times of India, February 25, 1990).

All learning is acquired in the school of hard work; all progress is achieved at the price of unflagging effort. Perseverance is a virtue which can be practised at all times, even by one who is crippled by a disease, and even by one who had failed to get a degree from a university. Hard work, in fact, is the brightest jewel in the crown of human virtues.

 

JANUARY 25

Success Out of Failure

The Prophet Joseph was thrown into a deserted, dried-up well by his enemies. This, apparently, was a disaster. But the Quran says that no sooner had he been cast down into this dark pit than God revealed to him that he would emerge from it to a new life, and that he would soon reach such heights that even his own brothers would fail to recognize him. It was as if, instead of judging Joseph’s predicament from the outside, God saw its inner reality. Viewed from such a standpoint its whole complexion changed. That is why God revealed to Joseph at that crucial point in time the fact that his worst moments were about to become his best moments. Where antagonists had intended to put a sudden end to his life’s history, a whole fresh chapter was about to unfold.

There is a hadith which says, “Beware of the believer’s wisdom, for he sees things by the light of God.” Seeing things “by the light of God” is tellingly illustrated by God’s prediction about the future course of Joseph’s life. It means looking not at things, but into things in order to find their hidden potential. Looked at from this angle, what at first appears to be the worst of fates soon takes on the aspect of a stepping stone to better things. One who sees things by the light of God can see advantage in disadvantage, bright prospects in murky situations. He can then plan for the future, with a greater guarantee that he will be able to surmount all obstacles in his path. The strength of this planning is such that it cannot be thwarted by those who, failing to see the reality, judge only by appearances.

In present times, Muslims have suffered, and are still suffering on many counts at the hands of other nations. This is undoubtedly a deplorable state of affairs. But if we look at this issue only on the surface, we shall have no option but to regard certain nations as oppressors and then waste a great deal of precious time in repeatedly registering protest against them. Sadly, most Muslims today are perpetually engaged in such activities; they have yet to see their own situation by the light of God. Had they ever perceived it in this way, they would have known that every cloud has a silver lining. They would have known that what appears to be the worst dilemma can bear the best of fruits.

Here, I should like to refer to an aspect of human history which has been particularly emphasized by Arnold Toynbee in his well-known book, The Study of History. In this book Toynbee has examined in depth twenty one civilizations of the old and new worlds. What has struck him as truly remarkable is that the creators of the great civilizations were mostly those nations which had suffered some major defeat, or which had had to face conditions of great adversity. This unexpected assessment would clearly indicate that favourable developments are born from the wounds inflicted by unpropitious circumstances. Indeed, the modern civilization produced by the western countries provides a clear example in support of Toynbee’s theory.

Before the rise of the western nations, Muslims ruled over a large part of the globe. They had even conquered Syria and Palestine, which were holy places for the Christians. In order to recover them the Christian nations launched a united assault on the Muslim world. These wars are known in history as the Crusades and were waged intermittently for almost two hundred years from 1095 to 1271. But finally the western nations had a crushing defeat inflicted on them by the Muslims, after which they lost their military aspirations. With no further hope of challenging the Muslims on the battlefield, they began to aspire to better things in other spheres. This situation was marked by a new way of thinking which came to be called the spiritual Crusades. That is to say that they were now facing up to their opponents in non-military fields.

They set about learning Muslim sciences, and academic books began to be translated from Arabic into English. After the first stages of imbibing Muslim learning, they began to add to this body of knowledge, and persisted in their efforts for several hundred years to the point where human history entered into a new era: the traditional age was now replaced by the scientific age; handicrafts now gave way to the machine. From the wounds of a crushing defeat, modern civilization had begun its ever-accelerating evolution, leading its creators to eventual world dominance.

The tremendous success of the western nations emerged from an abysmal failure. It was the defeats they had suffered in crusades which led them to the victories of the modern age.

In this world of God, defeat is also the door to victory. The secret of success lies hidden in failure. It is for us to realize this and to avail of it.

 

JANUARY 26

Religion and Politics

With the independence of India in 1947, two countries—India and Pakistan—came into existence on the subcontinent. In both these countries there was a secular group and a religious group. The secular group held that the system of the country’s governance should be run along purely secular lines, independently of religion, whereas the thinking of the religious group was quite the contrary. They insisted that the political system of the country should be governed in accordance with the dictates of religion.

This religion-based system was called Nizam-e-Mustafa in Pakistan, and Ram Rajya in India. Although in both of these countries political power fell into the hands of the secular group, in neither country did the religious group remain silent. Rather, they pursued the path of confrontation in order to attain their goal of establishing the system of government on the basis of religion. To put it in another way, they opted for the path of force in order to replace the secular system with the system of government of their choice.

This struggle culminated in Pakistan in April 1979 with Bhutto’s execution, which was termed judicial murder by Bhutto himself. Pakistan’s religious class felt that Bhutto’s existence presented the greatest obstacle to introducing Nizam-e-Mustafa. He had, therefore, to be eliminated. But the experiment revealed that Nizam-e-Mustafa could not find a place in the life of the nation even after the removal of Bhutto. The hold of the secular group persisted.

The Ram Rajya movement in India culminated in December 1992 with the demolition of the Babari Masjid at Ayodhya. Even after a period of two years, subsequent to the demolition, the Ram Rajya movement has not been able to move even one step ahead. The secular group continues to dominate the political arena.

Whether it be right or wrong, from the ideological point of view, to subordinate politics to religion, the experiment of the last fifty years tells us that our present course is certainly not the right one. It would be more true to say that the present course, in terms of non-achievement of goals, has been counter-productive. What has come into being, and what is going to be achieved in the effort to consolidate the position of religion is in no way a religious system, but is rather a course of destruction. This destructive element has only added to the general ruination of the country.

How did all these efforts on our part backfire? It can be traced quite simply to our violation of realities. Innumerable natural causes have to cooperate in this world in order to bring about a significant event. Someone has said very pertinently: ‘Politics is the art of the possible.’ That is, only when conducive factors are present is a leader able to realise a political event. It is not possible even for the greatest of leaders to bring about a political revolution simply by dint of his own efforts without the cooperation of external elements.

The Islamization of Pakistan and the Hinduization of India simply failed to take shape; despite a 50-year bloody struggle neither could Pakistan be Islamized nor India Hinduized.

As a result of the intellectual development of the last several hundred years, the world mindset is now entirely against a state based on religion. This world-wide intellectual revolution is known as secularism. While religion is founded on faith, secularism is based on reason. The majority of the educated classes in modern times has accepted that matters of state should be kept independent of sacred scriptures, and that they should be dealt with on the basis of reason. That is to say that world opinion is in favour of the secular rather than the religious state.

India presents no exception to this rule. As a result of the modernization of education over the last two hundred years, the new Indian generation thinks along the same lines as the rest of the world. Like all other countries, India too is a part of the global village.

Given this reality, if a state based on religion had to be established, a sea change in world thinking—on a purely ideological plane—should have to be effected. Without a universal, intellectual revolution, it would be impossible to found a religious state in the manner of a political island even at the level of one’s own country.

The only practicable course to follow in this matter is to acknowledge the reality. Besides this, there is almost no other choice. Now the time has come for a true patriot ultimately to change himself in the interests of his country. Accepting his limitations, he should mould himself in accordance with the reality rather than waste time in pursuing the unattainable goal of a reality moulded to suit his own purposes.

Having given due consideration to all aspects of this issue, I have come to the conclusion that without going into the ideological discussion of what is right and what is wrong, all the concerned parties should come to agree in this matter on a practicable formula in the wider interests of the country.

What is most important in this connection is to set the election process in motion without any hindrance. Elections should be free and fair. Whichever group is subsequently elected to power should be given full freedom to complete its term.

During this period, the defeated group should never launch a campaign to oust the victor group. It should, on the contrary, direct its efforts to impressing its ideology upon the public which is later to vote it to power. The five-year period should be devoted to bringing about changes in public opinion by peaceful methods. If the defeated group succeeds in influencing the voters, it will automatically be voted to power in the next elections. It will then find the opportunity to reconstruct the country’s political and administrative systems along its own ideological lines.

Wholehearted acceptance of election results, followed by the adoption of a waiting policy, while one’s own ideology continues to be propagated in a peaceful manner, is the only practicable course. This is the only way to influence the minds of the voters, without running counter to the genuine interests of the country.

 

JANUARY 27

Thoughts of
an American Muslim

Three years ago David Miller embraced Islam and became Yousaf Omar. This transition had a great deal to do with his disillusionment from his society. Here he reflects on the nature of American culture through the worldview that has transformed him.

Whenever I think about myself living in the United States these days, two stories come to mind. The first is from Maulana Rumi and the other, although a joke, is very revealing of the viewpoint that prevails here.

In the first book of the Mathanavi, Rumi tells a story of a man who lived in a desert and who, urged on by his wife, agreed to take an offering to the King in the city. The offering was a pitcher of rain water, which the man and his wife had laboriously collected. They considered this water precious because it was sweet compared to the brackish water of their well, their only major source.

Meagre though the offering was, the King received it in the spirit in which it was offered and, emptying the pitcher, filled it with gold. The King also arranged for the man to return to his home on a boat. Seeing the vastness of the river on which he travelled, the man marvelled at all the water the King had at his command and at the way he took the poor man’s meagre offering and rewarded him.

It is one of Rumi’s renditions of the Islamic ethos. In fact, it is so rich in implications that Rumi himself narrated it with more than the usual splendid digressions which enrich his work. The King, Maulana makes clear, is God and His bounty is as boundless as all the water on earth.

What enchanted the story was the understanding that prevailed throughout, an understanding of an Islamic umma, of compassion, of knowledge of the world, of tolerance and of the recognition of the different kinds of people which constitute the Muslim world.

I must admit, however, to one question which continued to bother me until most recently. Was Rumi’s society an ideal or did it really exist?

Then, a couple of weeks back, I read in a special travel supplement to The New York Times of an American author, Annie Dillard, giving a short description of her ‘sojourn’ in North Yemen. She was there during an earthquake and she described how people shared their possessions with the victims and gasoline station owners ‘opened their tanks’ so that the gasoline would be free and how wage earners contributed one month’s wages.

A Yemeni told her of some of his people’s responsibilities: ‘If someone is sick, or old, or poor, well, we give our food; we get that person clothes; we build for a widow a new house if the old one is falling down.’

The remarkable thing about Dillard’s description is how full of appreciation it is. Most American travellers, returning from Islamic countries, do not give positive reports of Muslims, even of those who have been hospitable to them. They were unable to see any women, these travellers complain, except those who were heavily veiled. They mention how exasperated they became because of the constant references to God and the frequent addition of Insha’ Allah to statements about the future. Even writers sympathetic to Islam often reveal a bias. They describe the tasbih as ‘worry beads,’ without any regard to what dhikr is and how serenity is achieved through the remembrance of Allah.

Rumi’s story presupposes a vital aspect of the Islamic ethos, the presence of a moral understanding among all the people. The trust the wife places in the King, the treatment of her husband at the palace gates, the ready acceptance of his meagre offering, the fact that those with the King also took this acceptance in stride, the way the husband was treated in the King’s city.

A world, in short, so conspicuous by its absence in this narcissistic country called the United States. There is a moral aridity here which parches the throat and lips and which also parches the soul. It is best summed up in a joke.

There was a rich girl in a class who was assigned to write on a poor family. ‘Once upon a time’ she wrote, ‘there was a poor family. The father was poor, the mother was poor, the children were poor, cook was poor, the maid was poor, the butler was poor and the chauffer was poor.’

The United States is that girl, unable to see beyond a very limited set of assumptions it holds dear. After all, its people insist that their country is the epitome of civilization by virtue of its abundance of wealth and weapons (their only criteria for judging whether a country is civilized). There is something drastically lacking and that is a commonly understood sense of either morals or ethics.

The United States today is, in short an amoral world. Not immoral, which presupposes the existence of morals, which in turn means that the people are fully aware that they are doing wrong when they do, but amoral. A ‘people’ as the Quran puts it, ‘without any awareness (of right or wrong)’ (11:29).

One might argue that there is a resurgence of religion here in the United States and point to the rising number of churchgoers. But figures are deceptive. Religion has become a ritual confined to the sabbath. What people do the rest of the week appears to have no connection with what is expressed in church. And yet national leaders insist on calling America a Christian country.

What people say and what people do are two completely different thing. Reagan was, some months back, described as a great Christian, despite the fact that he doesn’t attend church. Ironically, while this statement was being made, a former president, Jimmy Carter did not concern himself with labels. With his Christian service group, he came to New York, renovated an apartment complex to be used by the poor, and left without seeking any publicity.

Religion here is at best lopsided. One watches with fascination a fundamentalist Christian church service in a huge auditorium filled with impeccably dressed people listening to a group of teenagers singing a song relegating everyone else to hell.

More often than not the Americans appear to be a people who are as the Quran puts it, lost in darkness (zulmat) after their ephermeral light has disappeared. ‘Whatever became of sin?’ asks William F. Buckley, Jr., who shares with the fundamentalists much of the conservative ideology, in a recent issue of The New York Times Magazine. It is, not surprising, precisely the question Karl Meninger of the Meninger Clinic asked in his book published in 1973, Whatever Became of Sin?, a volume aimed at solving all kinds of social problems through ‘an ethical system for today’s world.’ The book sold more than 125,000 copies in hardcover alone and about twice as many in paperback.

The question these authors should be asking is, ‘Is anyone listening? Is anyone listening to those who remind the people of vital necessity of values to keep society together?

The majority of Americans simply do not know that they are committing some wrong. And when the very few do, they do not know what to do about it.

A fine, recent example is a school’s attempt to cut down and eventually eliminate promiscuity. It forbade the holding of hands within the school buildings. Evidently, educators still have to learn about the youngsters they have to deal with. The students reacted with the way they usually do, by overdoing what has been forbidden.

How did all this come about? The reasons should be of special interest to Muslims all over the world, especially to those attracted to the glamour of things American.

One of the chief reasons is not far to seek—Hollywood. It is difficult—to believe nowadays that at one time amorality was largely confined to cinema screen. People then had a moral ethical sense. One has only to compare crime figures to those of today. Nowadays, movies and television shows are so highly emulated that at times it is difficult to distinguish between what is happening on the screen and what is happening in real life. Show business dominates this country. Movie and television stars are worshipped.

Another important reason is one that created an enormous chasm between what happened before and what happened afterward World War Two. It was a war then, to quote Nietsche ‘everything was permissible.’ It was, as everyone knows, the most brutal war ever fought.

It was during that period that compassion disappeared. Other countries might have recovered it, but not the United States. In addition, that brutality and that freedom to do anything one wanted without any restraint whatsoever did not disappear in this country with the end of the war. Both persisted and, worse, increased.

The Americans were basking in what then appeared to be a perpetual and luxurious sun. The United States had gone into the war a debtor nation and it emerged a creditor nation, with all the allies owing it millions upon millions of dollars. The war effort had also helped to enrich the country.

With affluence came an increase in the two other factors that helped sunder human relationships, the automobile and the telephone.

The automobile gave individuals a power they did not otherwise possess, a power that enabled them to do a number of things unabated. It enabled them to disappear from the scene where they had done wrong. If a person didn’t like a neighbour, he or she moved, to another part of town, to another town, to another part of the country almost a continent away.

The ensuing mobility became a habit, most often in its worst aspect. More and more Americans moved away from their parents and, equally significant, away from their roots.

The telephone further exacerbated what was rapidly becoming an American way of life, fragmentation. Personal visits became a thing of the past. People talked with even the closest relatives only over the phone. This, too, became widely accepted. As a result, practically everyone overlooks the irony of a telephone company’s television commercial, which asks people to use their long distance service to ‘reach out and touch someone.’

If there is one person who typifies the direction the United States was heading for as far back as World War One, it is Hemingway. His life and his books parallel the road to amorality. In the beginning of his career he profited from those days when the dollar was king and Europe was the ‘playground’ for Americans.

In Hemingway’s early stories and novels, the absence of morality was clear, depicted as a consequence of the brutality of war and concomitantly expressed in brutal terms.

But soon, Hemingway’s name became synonymous with the playground and later with hedonism and eventually with amorality. His heroes indulged in sheer pleasure—bullfighting, big game hunting, big game fishing—all of them filled with violence of one kind or another.

Hemingway eventually became the most famous writer in the history of the United States and one of a very few who made the front pages of newspapers. He was therefore widely read, thus becoming an exceptional writer in one other respect. He, too, joined the very few authors whose books were avidly read both in the public world and academia.

One of the major reasons for his popularity in the university world was that his amorality—characteristic of almost all his later works—appealed to professors and students alike. Here was a world they aspired to, one without any restrictions whatsoever. As a result, without intending to, there was a tacit support for what was already taking place in society.

So that when American society achieved its peculiar kind of freedom—an amoral ethos—it did so because the upholders of the most vital part of culture sanctioned it. Without that underpinning, there might have been some hope for this country. Right now there isn’t any hope and the most tragic thing about all of it is that the American people are not aware of it.

 

JANUARY 28

God-Given Hope

If a misfortune befalls you, it is the fruit of your own labours. He forgives much. (42:30)

This verse of the Quran tells us that whenever a man is afflicted by some misfortune, it is necessarily the result of one or more of his own actions. Complaining against others in this world is meaningless. When everyone must suffer the consequences of his own actions, making protests and complaints against others is only a waste of time. It will in no way solve the problem.

This is a system devised by nature itself. It has good tidings, and great hope for us, in that it has placed our problems in our own hands. It has not left us to be dependent on the charity and compassion of others.

If the problems faced by us had been caused by others, then we should have been dependent upon others for their solution. We should have had to wait for others’ kindness. But God has devised the system of world in such a way that He has made everyone’s concerns his own personal affair. That is, everyone can construct his life by dint of his own efforts. Everyone’s future is in his own hands.

Sometimes one has to incur a loss due to one’s own foolishness; much harm can be avoided by adopting wise ways. Sometimes an initiative goes awry for lack of planning. But there will always be other chances to work in future in a planned way so that the mistake may be rectified. Sometimes by being hasty a man invites trouble, but then he always has the possibility of turning the situation to good account by adopting the ways of patience and fortitude. Sometimes people bring ruin upon themselves by being too emotional, but they too have the chance to reach their goal of success by remaining cool and rational in their approach on subsequent occasions.

 

JANUARY 29

Facing the Court

Mr. Manohar J. Pherwani, a government officer, rose in service to become Chairman of the Unit Trust of India and of the National Housing Bank, both highly rated posts in the Indian economic sphere. In 1991, the Reserve Bank of India issued a circular which stated that bank funds should not be transferred to the stock market. Disregarding this circular, Mr. Pherwani issued a cheque for Rs. 3,078.63 crores to a broker. He was later brought to book for flouting government regulations. He resigned from his post on May 9, 1992. This chain of events was reported in the Hindustan Times of May 22 and June 3, 1992.

His case was handed over to the C.B.I. for investigation, a development ultimately proved disastrous. He so feared being unable to exonerate himself of all blame in court, that only twelve days after resigning, he complained of severe chest pain around 2.25 a.m., and within five minutes he had collapsed. He was only 58 years of age.

The trauma of having to appear in a man-made court proved too overwhelming for Mr. Pherwani. But if he felt afraid of having to account for his actions in a court set up by human beings, how would he feel about appearing in a court set up by the Almighty? When having to face a human court proves so unnerving, what will a man’s condition be when he finds himself standing trial in the divine court?

Death may spare a man from facing human judges, but it will immediately set him before his Maker, the greatest Divine Judge, which will be a much more terrifying experience. This is a matter of the utmost gravity. Were man to ponder upon it, he would be shaken to the very core.

 

JANUARY 30

The Construction of Life

Reviewing modern, scientific civilization, a commentator has made the very pertinent observation that it is not invested with ideological permanence. This seems quite true when we consider that Copernicus replaced Ptolemy, Newton replaced Copernicus, and Einstein replaced Newton.

The culture of the modern age has come to be called the ‘culture of technology’. But this is a contradiction in terms. Culture, by its very nature, suggests permanence. But science and technology are sadly wanting in this quality. Ergo, any culture based on technology will always have the characteristics of impermanence. It can never meet the eternal requirements of human nature.

Technology is of material service to man. As such, it cannot be the total basis of human culture. It can certainly take us from the age of the plough to the age of the tractor or, from the bullock-cart to the aeroplane. But technology cannot give man a culture or a civilization in the real sense of those words. Technology can serve man but it cannot be expected to provide man with the spiritual mainspring of his life—a religion.

Technology, in short, is the servant of man, whereas culture is his life’s religion. If technology is life’s conveyance, it is culture which determines man’s destination. The changes taking place in things like conveyances do no real harm. But when the very bases of culture begin to be shuffled human life will lose its meaningfulness.

The right way is to make technology life’s servant, while adopting religion as the basis of culture. Now when we find that of all religions, Islam is the only one which has been properly preserved and established it goes without saying that the only basis for the construction of life on a foundation of culture is that of Islam. Islam provides a stable base for the construction of human life in which there is no question of change.

 

JANUARY 31

The Importance of Time

Lord Chesterfield was born in London in 1694 and died there in 1773. His letters addressed to his son, which were later published, described the art of success. In one letter, for instance, he writes, ‘I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for the hours will take care of themselves.’

That is to say that if you can save your minutes, your hours will of themselves be saved. Taking care of the parts is just as good as taking care of the whole. This is because the whole is made up of parts.

Mostly people tend to neglect the part in favour of the whole. This mentality ultimately results in failure at some later stage.

Never waste a moment of your available time. By availing of your moments you can be the possessor of your months and years. Wasting minutes will cause you to lose months if not years.

If you are wasting, daily, just five minutes of your hour, this will amount to wasting two hours in twenty four hours. This will eventually come to 60 hours in a month, and 720 hours in a year. This is how the majority of people have been wasting most of their available time. A man whose life span is eighty hardly makes full use of 40 years of his time.

Time is your greatest asset. Be meticulous about saving it.

All great success ultimately boils down to an accumulation of small success. Once you are ready to achieve a small success, a big success will of itself come your way. Here is a practical example of how this apparently trivial piece of advice can have great results.

Molvi Lutfullah, born in 1802 in Dharagar (an ancient city of Malwah) was an ordinary tutor. He had not received any of his education in an English school even for a single day, yet his autobiography was published in 1857 by Smith Aldara and Co., London. It was titled: ‘Autobiography of Lutfullah: A Mohammedan Gentleman.’ This book included a foreword by Mr. East Weck who in commending the excellence of the English written by Molvi Lutfullah, expressed his amazement at how an Indian could write such an exhaustive book in a foreign language.

How did Molvi Lutfullah come to be capable of writing a book which was not only published in London, but which was held praiseworthy for its language by the English publisher? The secret is expressed in this saying: “Little by little becomes great.”

Molvi Lutfullah learnt English by his own efforts. He used to teach Hindustani, Persian and Marathi languages to the English employees of the East India Company. The number of his students is put at 100. It was this contact with the English that made him feel interested in learning the English language. He began studying English privately. By working hard continuously for eight years, he managed to have full command over it. He has written in his book that during those eight years, not even a single night passed without having committed to memory 10 words of the English language, or without having thoroughly learnt a few pages from Dr. Gilchrist’s Grammer. A ‘ten words’ appear to be of no significance, but when multiplied over eight years this step can turn a man into a foreign language writer capable of claiming appreciation even from native speakers who are masters of the language.

 

FEBRUARY 1

Gratitude

According to Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet once said, “One who never expresses his gratitude to other human beings will never be thankful to God.”

Thankfulness is a state of mind which cannot be compartmentalised. If it manifests itself in one place, the chances are that it will do so in other places too. If a man shows gratitude to one person, he will surely show it to others likewise.

When a man does someone a good turn, it is something quite obvious—a tangible direct experience. On the contrary, God’s kindness, being an indirect experience, is not at all obvious. One has to be perceptive, and reflective to be able to realise what favours are granted to man by God. While the favours a man does are observable, God’s favours can be realized only by thinking about them.

One who fails to perceive an event which is directly observable cannot be expected to grasp something which can be apprehended only after a great deal of cogitation.

If the recipient of a favour fails to acknowledge it for fear of belittling himself in the eyes of his benefactor, he does himself nothing but harm. It is more a question of being belittled in the eyes of his own conscience than falling down in others’ eyes—a course by far the more injurious.

An even greater disadvantage of an ungrateful attitude is that it produces a mentality of non-acknowledgement. Failing at first to acknowledge the favours of one’s fellow men leads one to failure to give wholehearted credence to the Lord of the Universe. There is no greater loss in this world than one who has failed to acknowledge his Creator.

 

FEBRUARY 2

The Greatness of Humility

I once happened to meet a gentleman who had neither a proper education nor a sound economic position. His greatest asset as he saw it, was the fact that his grandfather, who lived in a palatial house, had been one of the Nawab’s close associates and had had an honourable title bestowed upon him. He went on at some length, and with great pride, about his grandfather’s exalted state.

I had the impression that the cause of his own destitution was his pride in his ancestry. The psychology which went with being one of a noble line had prevented him from either acquiring a good education or engaging himself in some profitable business. Out of sympathy for his down-at-heel condition, I tried to make him understand the importance of adopting a humble and realistic attitude, as opposed to that of continuing pride in his forefather’s achievements. To support my arguments, I narrated many telling incidents, but it was all to no avail. He was beyond understanding. It was as if I were conversing with him in a totally alien language.

The same is true of present-day Muslims who draw their emotional sustenance from the religion of pride. If this is happening on an ever-expanding scale, it is because they fail to understand the religion of humility.

Islam, for the believers of the early stages, was just such a religion—a religion of humility. This psychology of humility, which marked their thoughts and deeds, was produced by their keen awareness of the greatness of God. For them God’s law became a reality, for God elevates all those who adopt the posture of humility. From there, by the grace of God, they went on to emblazon their deeds and their virtues on the pages of human history for all time to come.

The Muslims of the present day are the successors of the Muslims of those early stages. It is unfortunate, however, that they have inherited from them not their humility, but only the recollection of the great heights to which their remote ancestors rose. Devoid of humility and its resultant virtues, they are carried through life on a flood of grandiloquence.

The need of the hour is to awaken in them the true spirit of their faith so that they may be brought closer to religion based on humility. God elevates the humble: the proud and the vain are cast by Him into oblivion.

 

FEBRUARY 3

Understanding

Once on a train journey I overheard a conversation between two gentlemen who were sitting opposite me, one a Hindu, the other a Muslim. The Hindu said, “It seems that Islam is an intolerant religion.” The Muslim replied, “That is a complete misunderstanding. Islam, on the contrary, teaches tolerance.” Both advanced arguments in favour of their separate viewpoints. The Hindu cited an instance of Muslims in his locality becoming provoked by the preparations being made by Hindus to take out a procession. There had been a clash and the procession was stopped. The Muslim passenger, however, simply recited verses from the Quran to prove his point.

It occurred to me that both of them, judging by appearances, were serious and sincere. Neither seemed biased. Then why was it that their views differed so widely? After considerable reflection, I came to the conclusion that it was traceable to the difference in their outlook. The Hindu formed his opinion of Islam by judging the behaviour of Muslims. The Muslims, on the other hand, quoted extensively from the Quran, presenting the content of the verses as if Muslims actually followed the code of ethics enshrined in the holy scriptures.

A more proper and more sincere approach would be to engage in thorough self-appraisal before sitting in judgement on others. Before attempting to correct other’s faults, one should set about rectifying one’s own. It is the gap between principle and practice that is the main reason for misunderstanding. Once this gap is eliminated, misunderstanding will of itself disappear. Moreover, if one wants to be certain of not being misunderstood, one must be ready to show restraint in the face of provocation. One must not react negatively, even if it means some initial sacrifice of one’s self-esteem.

Imagine what happens if someone abuses you and you retaliate by throwing a stone at him. Later, while reporting this incident, the wrong doer will mention only the fact that you threw a stone at him. He will leave out all mention of his own bad behaviour. The misunderstanding truely created is then well-nigh impossible to set right. If you want to avoid having your behaviour misinterpreted by others, you must refrain from reacting altogether in negative situations, even if you feel that you would be completely justified in so doing. In that way, no one can make the kind of spiteful allegations against you from which misunderstandings can so quickly arise.

 

FEBRUARY 4

The Language of Hadith

Dr. Maurice Bucaille has brought out many books and articles on the subject of the veracity of the Quran. He has proved by scientific argument that the Quran is the Book of God.

He does not, however, place the Hadith on the same plane as the Quran. Expressing his doubts regarding the authenticity of the hadith, he holds that some traditions are authentic, but that others are either dubious, or should be rejected outright. (p. 243)

This comment is based on a misunderstanding. There is a hadith, for instance, which explains that the intense heat of summer is due to blasts of wind from hell. He failed to understand the meaningfulness of this hadith, because he took it quite literally. Actually, this hadith is only one of the many that are couched in symbolic language.

Let us take just one instance for illustration. It was the custom among Arabs for people of rank to follow funeral processions on horseback or camelback. When the Prophet once saw some people riding on horses alongside a cortege he asked: “Are not you ashamed that the angels are walking on foot while you are riding on horses?” (Sunan ibn Majah)

This does not mean that the angels have feet like ours, and were literally walking on foot. The Prophet in fact wanted to stress the point in a symbolic way, that when a man has completed his term of trial, and is on his way to the Hereafter, it is a time for humility and modesty. In keeping with this spirit, it is only proper to walk on foot with the funeral. That is to say, it is a time for the humble servants of the Lord to walk on foot rather than indulge in the luxury of conveyance.

The simile in the hadith are all meant for illustration. They should be understood as figures of speech and not taken literally.

 

FEBRUARY 5

The Result of Reaction

Mr. G.D. Birla (1894-1983), besides being one of the topmost industrialist in India, was also a very close associate of Mahatma Gandhi in the freedom struggle.

How the idea of national freedom took shape in the mind of Mr. Birla, is reproduced here in his own words: “When I was 16 years old, I started my independent business as a broker in Calcutta. During this period, I came in contact with many Englishmen, who were either my customers or my superior officers. I also saw  their organisational capability and other qualities. But one thing I could not bear was their racial pride. I was not permitted to use the elevator to reach their offices. Neither was I allowed to sit on their benches, while waiting. This humiliation was very painful. As a result of this, I got interested in politics, which started in 1912 and continues till today.”

The editor of The Hindustan Times (12 June, 1983) comments on this event: “This was the beginning of his nationalism.” Mr. Birla’s nationalism was inspired by intense feelings of dislike. Similarly the Islamism of the present-day Muslim leaders is born out of hatred for an opponent or enemy, whether real or imaginary. Both these sentiments are the results of reactionary forces, even though they speak in different languages. Neither of them could be termed a positive case.

To act on the strength of a positive incentive is one thing. But to be spurred on by a negative incentive is quite another thing. The former is ‘action,’ the latter ‘reaction.’ A satisfactory result can flow only from right action. Reaction being negative in itself, no positive result can be expected from it.

 

FEBRUARY 6

Paying the Price

On the insertion of a one-rupee coin, an automatic weighing machine at the airport ejects a neatly printed card showing one’s weight.

Fascinated by this machine, a little boy stood on its footplate, reached up and dropped a one-rupee coin into the appropriate slot. The machine made a rattling noise, then the card, with the child’s weight printed on it, came out of another slot.

The little boy found this amusing. He demanded more coins from his parents and kept repeating the process, just as if it were a game. And the machine never failed to oblige him. Every time he put in a coin, a card would come out. But, finally he ran out of one rupee coins. He only had a 50 paise coin left. So he just put that in the slot. The machine made the same rattling noise as before, but no printed card appeared. With no response from the machine, the little boy started to cry.

But this was the occasion not to cry but to learn a lesson. The machine’s failure to oblige was a silent reproach to both the child and his parents. Its significance was that everything had its price, and that without paying in full, no one could receive what he wants.

This is a law which applies equally to our present world and to the Hereafter. It is only on payment of the full price that we can receive anything in either of the two worlds. One who is not prepared to pay should have no expectations of receiving anything. This law is immutable and eternal, and no amount of wishful thinking or voicing of protests will ever put an end to it.

 

FEBRUARY 7

The Antidote

In a statement made to the Indian Parliament in July 1991, Mr. M.M. Jacob, Minister of State for Home Affairs, put the number of suicides in Delhi alone during the three and a half year period from January 1988, to June 30, 1991, at 2,700. He said that the basic reason for taking this step was extreme frustration. (Hindustan Times, August 1, 1991)

It is only very rarely that a handicapped person kills himself. Most of the people who die by their own hands are physically quite healthy. There are many reasons, however, for their taking the extreme step of suicide: failure to gain admission to post-graduate courses, or to secure a good job after completing a university education, postponement of promotion, inability to marry the person of one’s choice.

Most of these people had everything in their favour, including good health. They lacked none of the necessities of life. But because one thing, which seemed of great importance to them, eluded their grasp, they fell a prey to such an overwhelming sense of frustration that they decided to end it all.

One thing—the greatest thing in the world—was absent from all of their lives: hope. Man lives on hope. Where it evades him, life appears so meaningless that he sees no sense in continuing with it. That is when he takes his own life.

The mistake all suiciders make is to look only at the present and not at the future. Because the present has not been blessed with abundance, that does not mean that the future will not change for the better. If a man contemplating suicide were instead to turn his attention to exploiting his own capabilities and seizing whatever opportunities came his way, it is very likely that he would come to possess all those things, absence of which makes him so miserable today.

The man whose gaze is fixed on the present may find much to depress him. It is only when he looks to the future that he will find the courage to act.

 

FEBRUARY 8

Silence

Ernest Psiachari (1883-1914), a French writer, was in his youth a free-thinker and an atheist. But later he reverted to Christianity. Grandson of the famous historian, Ernest Rinan, Psiachari is ranked among those who made an effort to bring about a spiritual awakening in France at the turn of the twentieth century. One of his sayings has been rendered in English in these words:

Silence is a bit of heaven that comes down to earth.

Silence is the language of nature. When one observes silence one finds oneself at one with nature, and surely there is no higher plane on which the human soul may exist.

Man cannot, of course, remain silent in the absolute sense. When he appears to be silent, he is so for others, not for himself. Remaining silent as far the external world goes, he starts conversing with his internal world.

Observing silence is a great act. When one is silent one’s attention is diverted more to ‘heavenly’ matters than to ‘worldly’ ones. One’s ears are turned more to the whispers of angels than to those of men. Man’s focus becomes his own self rather than extraneous matters. He eschews superficiality and engages himself with deeper realities.

When man speaks, he is in a limited domain, but when he is silent he finds himself in the unlimited vastness of the world.

 

FEBRUARY 9

Christianity and Islam

Despite recent improvements in global communications, there is still widespread ignorance and misinterpretation of different faiths, (vide recent articles in the Wall Street Journal) and this leads to religion being a divisive rather than a cohesive force. There is, therefore, an ever-increasing need to promote a better understanding of all major faiths, so that inter-religious harmony may prevail. Given our multi-religious world, we must—rather than denigrate others’ faiths—cultivate the transcendent genius of spirituality, so that conflicting religious loyalties do not cause a disintegration of the socio-political framework of any nation or wrongly channelize national energies.

The basic truth about different religions needs to be emphasized, so that superficial interpretations of each other’s scriptures may not be used, wittingly or unwittingly, to aggravate communal tensions. Scriptures should be read not to fault them, but to grasp their underlying spirituality. Religious traditions must be understood in depth. They must be lived in order to be known.

Moreover, we must avoid judging any Holy Book by the conduct of its adherents. Rather than judge the Quran or the Bible by what Muslims or Christians do, we should go by what their scriptures prescribe. The same should strictly apply to all other faiths. Above all, we need to respond to each other’s scriptures and communities with considerable tolerance.

The initial mutual goodwill and understanding which existed between Islam and Christianity has, most unfortunately, been eroded over the centuries. Perhaps a perusal of the accounts given below of early encounters between adherents of the two faiths will encourage a return to that enviable state.

Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, (570- 632A.D) was twelve years old when he accompanied his paternal uncle, Abu Talib, on a caravan journey to Syria. When they camped at Busra, he met a Christian monk known as Bahira, who was well-versed in Christian scriptures. One day, as the latter emerged from his cell, he saw Muhammad, in whom he recognized the signs of Prophethood, as recounted in Christian books. After some conversation with him, he advised Abu Talib to hasten back to his land with his nephew and to protect him against enemies, for a great future lay in store for him. Somewhat alarmed, Abu Talib took him back to Makkah soon after he had finished his trading in Syria. Much later, at the age of forty, when the Prophet was meditating in a cave called Hira, situated near Makkah, he was visited by the Angel Gabriel, who came to him with the first revelations contained in the Quran in chapter 96: “Read in the name of your Lord who created, created man from clots of congealed blood. Read! Your Lord is the Most Bountiful one, who taught by the pen, taught man what he did not know.”

After this extraordinary experience, he rushed back home to his wife Khadijah, to whom he said, trembling, “Cover me with a cloak, cover me with a cloak.” Then, having recovered a little, he told her of his experience and said: “I feel my life is in danger.” She responded, “No, never! God will never bring you to grief.” Then she took him to her cousin, Waraqa ibn Naufal, who had become a Christian. Waraqa’s comments were: “The One who came to you is the same Namus (the specially appointed Divine Messenger) who came to Moses. I wish I were a young man and could live till the time when your people will expel you.” The Prophet asked, “Will my people expel me?” Waraqa replied: “Yes, no one has been before, who brought the same thing that you have brought, without the people turning hostile to him.”

The third encounter took place a few years after Muhammad’s attainment of prophethood. During this period Makkah was dominated by idolaters who, rejecting monotheism, set about persecuting the Prophet and his Companions. The Prophet therefore advised his followers to leave for Abyssinia (now known as Ethiopia), a justly ruled Christian kingdom, “until God leads us to a way out of our difficulty.” About eighty Muslims then emigrated to Abyssinia, where they lived under the protection of the Negus, until after the Prophet’s emigration to Madinah.

The Makkans, upset at this Muslim exodus, immediately sent a delegation to the Negus to ask for the emigrants’ extradition to Makkah. But the Negus refused to yield to their appeal until he had heard the refugees plead their own case. This was ably done by Jafar ibn Abi Talib, who briefly described the teachings of Islam. At the request of the Negus, he recited certain divine revelations. When the patriarchs heard the first part of the chapter entitled ‘Mary’, confirming the Message of the Evangel, they were pleasantly surprised and said: “These words must have sprung from the same fountainhead from which the words of our Lord Jesus Christ have sprung.” The Negus then said, “What you have just recited and that which was revealed to Moses must have both issued from the same source. Go forth into my kingdom; I shall not extradite you at all.”

In the classical literature of Islam, there are many appreciative references to Christ and Christianity. The Quran calls Christ the ‘Spirit of God’ (4:171) and of Mary says: ‘We breathed into her of Our spirit, and made her and her son a Sign to all men.’ (21:91)

Of Christ and his followers the Quran says: ‘We gave Christ the Gospel and put compassion and mercy in the hearts of his followers.’ (57:27)

In another chapter the Quran states: ‘The nearest in affection to the Muslims are those who say: “We are Christians.” That is because there are priests and monks among them; and because they are free from pride.’ (5:82-83).

In conclusion, here is a hadith of Sahih Muslim or saying of the Prophet Muhammad which demonstrates the Muslims’ positive evaluation of Christians.

Mustaurid, a companion of the Prophet, reported that the Prophet said: “The Day of Judgement will not come until the Christians outnumber all other people.” Amr ibn al A’as, a senior companion of the Prophet, endorsed this:

“You are indeed right. The Christians have four characteristics. They are the most forbearing in times of adversity; they do not allow their spirits to be broken, but promptly recover from every setback; they are the first to charge again after retreat; and they are the best of all in caring for the deprived, downtrodden and the weak. Amr then added that there is a fifth feature, which is the best of all. It is that they restrain their kings from perpetrating injustice and oppression.”

 

FEBRUARY 10

On Islam and Jihad

A perusal of the Quran followed by a study of latter-day Muslim history will reveal a blatant contradiction between the two—that of principle and practice. Where recent developments in some Muslim countries bespeak the culture of war, the Quran, on the contrary, is imbued with the spirit of tolerance. Its culture is not that of war, but of mercy.

At the very beginning of the Quran, the first invocation reads: “In the name of God, the most Merciful, the most Beneficent. Throughout the Quran, God’s name is thus invoked no less than 113 times. Moreover, Quran states that the prophets were sent to the world as a mercy to the people (21:107).

The word ‘jihad’ has nowhere been used in the Quran to mean war in the sense of launching an offensive. It is used rather to mean ‘struggle’. The action most consistently called for in the Quran is the exercise of patience. Yet today, the ‘Muslim Mujahideen’ have equated “God is Great” with “War is Great.”

In the light of on-going conflict, we must ask why so great a contradiction has arisen between the principles of Islam and the practices of Muslims. At least one root cause may be traced to historical exigency.

Since time immemorial, military commanders have been accorded positions of great eminence in the annals of history. It is a universal phenomenon that the hero is idolized even in peace time and becomes a model for the people. It is this placing of heroism in the militaristic context which has been the greatest underlying factor in the undue stress laid on war in the latter phase of Islam’s history. With the automatic accord in Muslim society of a place of honour and importance to the heroes of the battlefield, annalists’ subsequent compilations of Islamic history have tended to read like an uninterrupted series of wars and conquests.

These early chronicles having set the example, subsequent writings on Islamic history followed the same pattern of emphasis on militarism. The Prophet’s biographies were called ‘maghazi’, that is ‘The Battles fought by the Prophet,’ yet the Prophet of Islam in fact did battle only three times in his entire life, and the period of his involvement in these battles did not total more than one and half days. He fought, let it be said, in self-defense, when hemmed in by aggressors, and he simply had no option. But historians—flying in the face of fact—have converted his whole life into one of confrontation and war.

We must keep it in mind that the Prophet Muhammad was born at a time when an atmosphere for militancy prevailed in the Arab society. There being, in their view, no other path to justice. But the Prophet always opted for avoidance of conflict. For instance, in the campaign of Ahzab, the Prophet advised his Companions to dig a trench between them and the enemies, thus preventing a head-on clash.

Another well-known instance of the Prophet’s dislike for hostilities is his cessation of the campaign of Hudaibiya with a treaty which made more concessions to the enemies than to his own people. In the case of the conquest of Makkah, he avoided a battle altogether by making a rapid entry into the city with ten thousand Muslims—a number large enough to awe his enemies into submission.

In this way, on all occasions, the Prophet endeavoured to achieve his objectives by peaceful rather than by war-like means. It is, therefore, unconscionable that in later biographical writing, all the events of his life have been arranged under the heading of ‘battles’ (ghazawat). How he managed to avert the cataclysms of war has not been dealt with in any of the works which purportedly depict his life.

Ibn Khaldun, the celebrated 14th century historian, was the first to lay down definite rules for the study and writing of history and sociology. He followed the revolutionary course of attempting to present history as a chronicle of events centering on the common man rather than on kings, their generals and the battles they fought. But since war heroes were already entrenched as the idols of society, the caravan of writers and historians continued to follow the same well-worn path as had been trodden prior to Ibn Khaldun. When people have come to regard war heroes as the greatest of men, it is but natural that it is the events of the battlefield which will be given the greatest prominence in works of history. All other events will either be relegated to the background or omitted altogether.

In the later phase of Islam, there came into existence a powerful group of Sufis—many of them great men, who exerted their influence on a multitude of people, their goal being to put an end to this contradiction between the tenets of Islam and Muslim conduct: they at least wanted to strike a balance between the two. But the Sufis failed in this, the principal reason being that they expressed themselves in terms of dreams and the realization of inspiration. The militant interpretation of Islam, on the contrary, was ostensibly based on history and knowledge. Dreams and personal realizations could, therefore, never adequately counter what had come to be regarded as hard facts. Objective reasoning cannot be bested by subjective postulations, and so the Sufis failed to establish the equilibrium between precept and practice which they so ardently desired.

In the past when the sword was the only weapon of war, militancy did not lead to the mass-scale loss of life and property as modern warfare brings in its wake. In former times, fighting was confined to the battlefield; the only sufferers were those engaged in the battle. But today, the spear and sword have been replaced by megabombs and devastating long-range missiles, so that killing and destruction take place on a horrendous scale. It is the entire human settlement which has now become the global arena of war. Even the air we breathe and the water we drink are left polluted in war’s aftermath.

Hence people in the West find Islam outdated and irrelevant precisely because of its militant interpretation. Demands for a reform in Islam are on the increase, as the ‘old’ version of Islam cannot apparently keep pace with the modern world.

But, in reality, it is not reformation which is urgent, but revival. What is needed is to discard as superficial and erroneous the militant and political interpretation of Islam, and to adopt the original, ‘old’ version of Islam based on peace, mercy and the love of mankind.

The so-called Muslim Mujahideen have been exhorting their
co-religionists to do battle all over the world. But the Quran says:
‘...and God calls to the home of peace’ (10:25). It is up to right-thinking people everywhere to disregard the Mujahideen call, and to start seeing and accepting Islam as it is truly represented by the Quran.

 

FEBRUARY 11

The Tragedy of Muslims

In the Delhi based Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz of November 15, 1994, a Muslim intellectual wrote that the Indian Muslims suffered from a persecution complex. Theirs was a psychology of deprivation which demoralized them, and rendered them unfit for any positive struggle.

Most of us would concede the truth of this statement. Just before reading this analysis, I had occasion to ask a student of the Aligarh Muslim University how his fellow students felt about this state of affairs. He replied that everyone was haunted by the fear of there being no scope for them in India. It was a fear which loomed large on everyone’s horizon. During the previous two years, on extensive travels throughout the length and breadth of the country, I had heard the same tales. Everywhere Muslims were in the grip of fear and despondency.

Despondency is held unlawful in Islam. The Quran is explicit on this point: ‘No one despairs of God’s mercy except those who have no faith’ (12:87). According to early commentators on the Quran, in particular, Qatada and Zahhak, despondency is counted among the major sins (Tafsir-e-Qurtubi 9/252). Yet, here, we have an entire community falling a prey to frustration. How do we explain a community, which has successfully distanced itself from major sins—even in the world of today—being caught up in this particular sin?

Having thoroughly mulled over this question, I have to conclude, ultimately, that it is, in fact, our incompetent Muslim leaders who are to blame for this uncalled for tragedy. These so called leaders have repeatedly led Muslims in the direction of goals which were unrealistic and unattainable. With such a goal placed before them, Muslims would rise with great zeal and fervour to the task. But they would finally discover that, despite their struggles and their sacrifices, they had achieved nothing. Continuous failures on every front pushed them to the extremes of despondency. Consciously or unconsciously, they came to feel that they had no future in this country. A close examination of the actual state of affairs will reveal, however, that it was in fact their own attitude and approach to problems which were out of place in God’s world. If they lacked opportunities, they felt that they were being denied them because of discrimination and prejudice. They came to the conclusion that there were no opportunities for them in this country, without stopping to consider that this might only seem so as a result of their own misguided or ill-considered course of action.

A major contributor to this mindset was Iqbal, the poet. His were the flights of poetic imagination which encouraged Muslims to slip into unrealistic thinking. In thrall to his guidance, appreciative leaders and intellectuals began with great zeal to disseminate his poetic message. Thrilled by the eloquence of his words, a gullible public heard and accepted a ‘message which bore no relation to reality.

Iqbal’s message to the people was: “Allah ke sheron ko aati nahin rubahi” (God’s lions know no cowardice). Statements like this caught the imagination of the people, without their realizing that no such lions existed in the world of God. They did not pause to consider that the lions of the jungle created by God never spared even a thought for the heroic deed, for all their instincts led them along the path of avoidance—call it cowardice, or call it good sense. However, by setting up Iqbal’s imaginary lion as an ideal,—“Well said, Iqbal!”—Muslims have opted for the path of conflict and confrontation on the mistaken premise that this is what is meant by bravery, and that what they are doing amounts to a jihad (crusade).

For instance, when Hindus lead processions through the streets, there are generally certain aspects of them which are displeasing to Muslims. A sure solution to all this unpleasantness is the pursuance of the policy of avoidance as a wise strategy. But under the influence of Iqbal, Muslims feel that such a policy smacks of cowardice. So, holding up their imaginary lion as an ideal, they set themselves on a collision course with the processionists. The result is bloody, communal rioting.

Muslims adopt the way of the “lion” on the assumption that their action would boost the morale of the whole community. But such an action always proves to be counter-productive, because now we have a situation in which Muslims feel that their lives and property are no longer secure in their own country. And the degree of frustration they suffer on that score has been intensified.

The most notorious experiment along these lines was their demand—at the urging of their great leader Jinnah—for the division of the country in 1947, so that the separate state of Pakistan might come into existence. They were told that once a powerful Muslim state was in position at the Indian border, it would act as a strong safeguard for all their rights in India.

At the cost of enormous sacrifices on the part of Indian Muslims, Pakistan came into being. Instead of decreasing, however, their problems only increased. This was because their lawyer Leader was blissfully unaware of the fact that the emergence of a strong Muslim state across the border after independence would necessarily be parallelled by the emergence of a strong Hindu state. It was this fatal miscalculation of the development of future events which brought Muslim expectations tumbling to the ground. Even then, incompetent Muslim leaders failed to learn their lesson from this tragic experiment, and continued to make mistakes of the same nature.

A whole horde of Muslim leaders, led by Dr Abdul Jalil Faridi, came on the scene in the wake of 1965-66 general elections. By making fiery speeches, they succeeded in rallying Muslims under the banner of the “politics of agreement.” Muslims thronged to join this political campaign, and after entering into electoral agreements with opposition parties, they gave them their vote. In this way, the Congress was ousted. But when these newly elected governments were formed, Muslims found to their horror that they were even worse off than they had been under Congress rule. This entire edifice of hope—barely erected—soon collapsed.

Similarly, when the Babari Mosque issue came into the limelight in 1986, Syed Shahabuddin conceived the far-fetched idea that it should be projected beyond its local significance and turned into an all-India issue. He thought that in this way the problem would be solved. Almost all of the religious and secular leaders extended their full support to Mr. Shahabuddin on this score. The entire country reverberated with public meetings and processions designed to achieve this goal.

What happened, in fact, was that once the entire Muslim minority had been aroused over the Ayodhya issue, the entire Hindu majority became united in their repudiation of Muslim demands. In the ensuing confrontation, the scales were bound to tilt in favour of this overwhelming Hindu majority. Forcing their entry into the Babari mosque, they razed it to the ground. No Muslim leader dared enter Ayodhya to put a stop to the destruction, and if failing to emerge victorious, be martyred.

The tragic incident of December 6 has pushed Muslims back into the deep dungeon of despondency. What is worse is that this time their feelings of frustration are accompanied by a deep sense of humiliation.

Now a new group of the so-called Muslim intellectuals has emerged on the horizon of the Muslim community. Their gambit is to make an issue of reservation for Muslims in government services, as if that were some kind of master card which would solve all Muslim problems. Urdu dailies have been publishing their articles and statements to this effect couched in high flown language, and once again, Muslims are thronging to listen to their rabble-rousing speeches.

Muslims form fifteen per cent of the country’s population. So they demand that Muslims should be given the same percentage of reservations in government services. I have no doubt that this is asking for the impossible. Even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the government, by legislation or presidential decree, ensured fifteen percent reservations in government jobs for the Muslim community, it would, in practice, be  impossible for enough Muslims to come forward to fill these posts.

What is actually going to take place is the massive rallying of Muslims to the chant of high-sounding reservation slogans. There will be a demonstration of the rhetorical power of the leaders. Then, after a long period of hectic activity, it will ultimately dawn on these Muslims that they have given time, energy and money to support these feverish campaigns, but that they have in no way benefited from them.

To lead the community in pursuit of unattainable goals is a dastardly and inimical act: such hot pursuits lead not to the heights of success but to the depths of despair.

It is high time that Muslims understood the bitter truth. They should carve out their future on the basis of facts and reason, and not in a welter of emotion and sentiment. They should live like real lions created by God and not like the imaginary lions of poets’ creation. What solved their problems in the past is what will solve their problems as a community today. No alternative solution is forthcoming in the reality of today’s world.

 

FEBRUARY 12

The Master Key

An article in an Arabic magazine headlined Al-Miftahul Azim (Master Key), citing da‘wah power as the greatest of all Islamic strengths, says that if in the past, Islam achieved its universal victories through da‘wah, today, it can turn its defeats into victories by the same method.

Da‘wah is very much under discussion these days among Muslim writers and speakers. Its exponents, however, spend more time unraveling the plots and conspiracies hatched against them by non-Muslim nations than in practising what they preach. That is to say that, on the one hand, they exhort Muslims to assume the role of da‘is while, on the other hand, they assure them with great vehemence that as far as the Muslims are concerned, all the nations of the world have turned into rapacious wolves and, as such, must be fought against and annihilated.

Both these utterances are made in the same breath, without any awareness of their contradictory nature, the one spelling peace and the other spelling war. And who are these nations who, day in and day out, are labelled oppressors and conspirators? They are those very non-Muslim nations who are the potential recipients of da‘wah. They are our mad‘us. The Muslims are the da‘is and their neighbouring nations are the mad‘us. Now, when da‘is are constantly having it dinned into them that the mad‘u is a cruel predator, there can be no arousal of any sincere missionary spirit as described in the Quran: the da‘i is truly a well-wisher of his mad‘u.

Da‘wah is wholly an experience of love. The da‘i must be fully committed to guiding his mad‘u. Only then can the process of da‘wah be meaningful. The da‘is must ignore the antagonism and combativeness of the mad‘u; he must erase all adverse impressions of the mad‘u from his heart, so that he may spontaneously begin praying for the mad‘u’s guidance.

People talk of da‘wah without ever realizing its prerequisites. They want the credit for being da‘is without ever fulfilling its demands. They want the credit for communicating the divine message to man without paying the price for it.

This is true not only of the weak Muslim minority in non-Muslim countries, but also of the Muslim majority living in Muslim countries. The only difference between these two categories is that the former have endless grievances against the local non-Muslim authorities, while the latter blame their woes on international non-Muslim powers such as the Jews, Christians, Orientalists, and so on.

In Islam, the most important consideration of all is da‘wah. All other considerations, no matter how serious and important they may be, can be legitimately passed over in its favour. The Sunnah of the Prophet gives such clear guidelines on this subject as leaves no doubt in the mind of a lover of Truth.

Shortly before his migration to Madinah, the Prophet visited Ta’if. There, scorned by the inhabitants, he was subjected to the worst kind of humiliations details of which can be had from Sirah books. The Prophet later told his wife, ‘Aishah, that he had never had a harder day than the one in Ta’if. It was when the Prophet left Ta’if in great grief and sorrow that he was visited by the angel of the mountains at God’s command. He said to the Prophet, “God has heard what your people had said to you. I am the angel of the mount. If you ask me I can crush their settlement by these mountains”.The Prophet replied, “No, I am still hopeful that there will arise people among their following generations who will worship God without associating anything with Him.” (As-Sirah an-Nabawiyya li Ibn Kathir vol. II, p. 153).

It is quite plain that da‘wah is the master key. But it takes a great heart to make use of it. It takes a character of the utmost sublimity—khuluqin azim, as it is described in the Quran. Only those who possess such qualities can recognize and utilize such opportunities as come their way.

God has made da‘wah the master key for believers for all time. Whatever the Muslims gained in the first phase of Islamic history was through da‘wah. Any future gains will likewise be through da‘wah, for the revolution brought about by the Prophet and his companions in world history is still making its impact. It has facilitated the process of da‘wah and invested them with great power. It is still the super key to meaningful achievement in the world of religion.

In modern times, the latest methods of communication have provided new avenues for the propagation of Islam. But even more important is the development of various branches of scientific research which have quite finally established the veracity of Islam. What was formerly achieved by our predecessors in circumstances fraught with great difficulty because of poor, or non-existent communications, and a lack of scientific proofs, can now be accomplished with comparative ease.

Da‘wah is certainly the master key for believers. But it will prove to be so only when true Islamic prerequisites are kept in mind.

 

FEBRUARY 13

Suffer in Silence

“When one’s ego is hurt,” says a contemporary psychologist, “it turns into super-ego, and the result is breakdown.’ Umair ibn Hubaib ibn Hamsha, in his final days, gave this piece of advice to his grandson, Abu Jafar Alhazmi:

“One who will not bear the minor evils of a foolish person shall have to bear greater evils from him.”

Both these quotations, although differently worded, imply that there is only one sure way to avoid the malice of others—keep out of the line of fire.

Every man is born with an ‘ego’ which is normally dormant. Our safety lies in our allowing it to remain so. But if through ill-considered action it is somehow dealt a blow, it will rear up like a serpent and wreak all kinds of havoc.

It is not uncommon in social living for suffering to be inflicted upon us by mischief-makers and fools. The best way to deal with such situations is to refrain from reacting to the initial hurt which frequently, at that stage is not particularly severe, for if we promptly retaliate, the troublemakers will be provoked in turn, and there will be no end to the dispute. The result will be that having refused to suffer in silence when the first pebble was cast, we shall have to endure being pelted with a whole shower of stones.

 

FEBRUARY 14

The Secret of Success

In a letter published in the Daily Qaumi Awaz (April 21, 1991), Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad, an advocate of the Supreme Court of India, comments on ‘minority’ attitudes: “In the days when I was a student at the Aligarh Muslim University, Mr. Iftikhar Ahmad Khan, Head of the Department of History, told me of an incident which had taken place in his student days at Cambridge University. It was at the time when the Jews, persecuted all over Europe, had been forced to flee from Germany. Iftikhar Ahmad noticed a group of students on the university campus who stood out from the others. They would always rush through their meals then immediately go back to their studies or other related matters. One day

Mr. Ahmad asked them why they were working at such a frenzied pace. One of the students replied, “You see, we are Jews. Our people are being exterminated in Germany. Here, we are in a minority, so that if our rivals are fair, we have to be good, and if they are good, we have to be excellent.”

The secret of the Jews’ success lies in their having made excellence their way of life and in working harder than their competitors. To have the peace and concentration which real, hard work requires, one has to stay away from all strife, whether serious or trifling, from all protest campaigns and slogan raising, and refrain from all attempts to blame others for one’s own weaknesses. The Jews realised that, being in a minority, they had to shoulder a great social and historical responsibility. And that meant working twice as hard as the majority. (p. 3)

This is a world of competition. The secret of success lies solely in hard work and wisdom, whether one is a Jew or not, and no matter whether the community to which one belongs has any special features which make it stand out from other communities. Everyone has to go through the mill. There is no exception to this rule.

The Jews are so particular about this that they make no concessions to their young people, even in their own institutions, so that their incentive to work hard is never dampened.

I once asked an acquaintance of mine who was educated at an American university, and who is now working in an American academic institution, whether he had met any Jews there. He said he had. There were some Jews working in the same institution, and even its director was a Jew, I asked him the secret of the Jews’ success in America, where they form a tiny minority. He said it was due to their notion of excellence. They made excellence their target, and once they had earned distinction in their work and qualified themselves for their careers in a superlative manner, no one could stand in the way of their success.

He said, moreover, that the academic institutions set up by the Jews in the U.S.A. observed what seems to us to be a very strange principle. That is, they awarded scholarships to non-Jewish applicants with even as few as 40 per cent marks, while making the criterion for Jewish applicants much more strict. To be eligible for a scholarship, Jews had to have 75 per cent marks. If they failed to come up to this high standard, their applications were simply not considered.

Why do Jews follow this principle in their institutions? This appears to be a very unjustified procedure but, in actual fact, it is of the greatest benefit to their own young people, because it encourages them to work really hard, it inspires them to forge ahead, leaving all others behind.

Here, in this competitive world of today, those who want concessions will always find themselves in the back seat. It is only those who make every effort to earn excellent qualifications who will ever come to the fore.

 

FEBRUARY 15

Missing Zeal

The Holy Prophet commenced his mission in Makkah with the determination to convey the word of God to mankind at all costs. But there were many in Makkah who became antagonistic to him and his cause, and in the first twelve years of his Prophethood there, it appeared that the history of Islam would end at its starting-point in Makkah. Then, quite unlooked for opportunities were created for the Prophet and his followers to emigrate to Madinah and to carry on their mission there.

This new direction which his missionary activities took was the direct result of the efforts made by the Muslims to preach the word of God in Madinah. In this, the Prophet, aided by his companions, was zealous in following the injunction: “Apostle, proclaim what is revealed to you from your Lord” and in heeding the admonition: “...if you do not, you will surely fail to convey his message.” It was their earnest belief in the last part of this injunction: “God will protect you from all men,” which gave them the courage to carry on (5:67). This message to the Prophet, recorded in the Quran, was spread to the whole Muslim community, that is, that Muslims can only earn God’s protection on earth if they communicate the word of God.

It is related in biographies of the Prophet, that the Muslims who went from Makkah to Madinah were so unflagging in their efforts to propagate Islam, that “there was not a house belonging to the Ansar (the inhabitants of Madinah) in which there were no Muslim men and women.

 

FEBRUARY 16

Religious Harmony

What the world needs today—perhaps more than anything else—is an acceptable formula for the attainment of religious harmony. This being currently one of the most important topics under discussion, I shall attempt to present here, in brief, the Islamic viewpoint.

Let us begin with a verse of the Quran which reads:

He that chooses a religion other than Islam, it will not be accepted from him, and in the world to come he will be one of the lost (3:85).

In the opinion of certain interpreters, this verse implies that salvation according to Islam is destined exclusively for Muslims. Islam thus appears to uphold the superiority of the Muslim community. But this is an out-of-context interpretation and is certainly not correct.

Let us take another verse of the Quran which serves as an explanation of the above-quoted verse. It states that:

Believers, Jews, Christians, and Sabeans—whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does what is right—shall be rewarded by their Lord; they have nothing to fear or to regret (2:62).

This verse rules out the concept of community superiority for any given group: even Muslims have been bracketed here along with other religious groups. The content of this verse makes it very clear that salvation, by Islamic standards, depends upon the individual’s own actions, and that it is not the prerogative of any group. No man or woman can earn his or her salvation by the mere fact of associating with a particular group. Salvation will be achievable only by a person who truly believes in God and the world hereafter, and who has given genuine proof in this life of having lived a life of right action.

Another important aspect of Islam is that it does not advocate belief in the manyness of reality; on the contrary, it stresses reality’s oneness. That is, according to Islam, reality is one, not many. That is why, in describing monotheism, the Quran states:

Such is God, your rightful Lord. That which is not true must needs be false. How then can you turn away from Him? (10:32)

This verse makes it clear that monotheism (i.e. one Lord being the Creator, Sustainer and object of worship) is the only truth. All other paths lead one away from, rather than towards the truth. The fact that certain religious thinkers believe in the manyness of reality is of no concern to Islam. With oneness as its ideal, it cannot accept manyness even as a hypothesis.

Both of the above points—(a) the oneness of Absolute Reality, and (b) Salvation as the prerogative of the true believer in this oneness—form a major part of Islamic ideal. Just being born into a certain group or community, or associating oneself with others of similar persuasions, does not entitle one to salvation, be one a Muslim or a non-Muslim.

Now let us deal with the fact that; in practice, different kinds of religious groups do exist. Then, given the various kinds of differences separating them, let us consider, how to bring about harmony between them.

Islam’s approach to the entire problem is much more realistic in that it accepts ideological differences. Once having accepted these differences, it then advocates the policy of tolerance and respect for one another in everyday dealings. This is on a parallel with the principle expressed in the English saying. ‘Let’s agree to disagree.’

In this connection, one of the commands of the Quran is that, in principle, ‘there shall be no compulsion in religion’ (2:256). At another place it declares that ‘you have your religion and I have mine’ (109:6). It was as a result of this commandment that, when the Prophet Muhammad migrated to Madinah, he issued a declaration reaffirming his acceptance of the religion of Muslims for the Muslims and the religion of Jews for the Jews.’ In order to perpetuate the atmosphere of mutual harmony, the Quran commands the Muslims in their dealings with unbelievers not to ‘revile (the idols) which they invoke besides Allah, lest in their ignorance they should spitefully revile Allah.’

This principle formulated by Islam is best described not as religious harmony, but as harmony among religious people. This is a principle whose utility is a matter of historical record. It is evident that in the past as well as in the present, wherever religious harmony has existed, it has been based on unity despite differences, rather than on unity without differences. It is not based on agreeing to agree, but on agreeing to disagree.

 

FEBRUARY 17

Man and Opportunity

Pubilius Syrus, a Roman writer of the first century B.C. who wrote in Latin is recorded as having said: “A good opportunity is seldom presented and is easily lost.”—An observation which may well be taken out of the Roman context and universally applied.  For it is a matter of common circumstance that chances to make progress in this world do not conveniently present themselves at every juncture. They are few and far between. But most people, unconvinced of how imperative it is to realize their special importance, fail to grasp them in time. Thus golden opportunities are lost forever, and all that remains is regret at having so foolishly missed them.

The same is true of the Hereafter, but on a scale barely appreciable by human beings. There are the wholly different dimensions of eternal bliss or eternal damnation to be taken into consideration. Everyone, of course, has been given opportunities in the present world to act in the interests of his own salvation in the life after death. But these are opportunities which very seldom present themselves. And then death—the great cut-off point—comes and puts an end to opportunities for all time.

After death, when man’s eyes are opened he receives a severe shock. Now he finds himself doomed to eternal regret at having squandered unparalleled opportunities, thanks to his own ignorance, foolishness and lack of any sense of timeliness.

Everyone in this world should behave as a morally responsible servant of God and everyone is given equal opportunities to do so. Yet, in the Hereafter, there will be some who will flounder on the question of missed opportunities, while there will be others who will pass the divine test because of opportunities seized and turned to good advantage. It will be quite obvious on that Day which of God’s servants availed of opportunities to serve Him, and which of them did not.

This ultimate reckoning should make us examine our lives with greater earnestness. As we are sufficiently aware of the fact—considering that none of us are immortal—that we cannot go through life allowing one opportunity after another to slip through our fingers? We cannot surely expect to be offered unlimited chances for our own salvation. And once death intervenes, looking for alternative possibilities beyond the grave becomes meaningless. There we are ineluctably faced with an eternity of success or an eternity of failure.

 

FEBRUARY 18

The Making of the Indian Nation

Almost half a century has passed since India gained its independence, but it has yet to join the ranks of the developed countries. That is a dream still to be realized. And this is in spite of India being a large country with all kinds of potential.

One reason for this tragic failure is the Indian people’s lack of national character. The majority of the deficiencies we find in the country today can be traced to this basic shortcoming. Bereft of this sterling quality, we have fallen short in taking the country towards progress and prosperity.

What is national character? It is, to put it simply, the capacity and the will to hold the interests of the nation supreme in every sphere. Whenever there is a clash between individual and national interests, it means individual concerns being subordinated to the greater good of the nation. Whenever a nation has made any progress, it has been due to this spirit of nationalism. Without such a spirit, no nation can advance itself either internally or externally.

Now the question arises as to why, during this period of just under 50 years, many countries have succeeded in fostering a strong, national spirit in their people, and now stand alongside developed countries like Singapore, Korea, Malaysia and Japan, etc., while India still lags far behind. There is one basic reason for this: attempting to achieve the possible by means which are impossible. Producing national spirit or character in India is certainly possible. It is just that we have set off on the wrong track, and once on it, it is difficult to retrace our steps and get on to the right track.

After independence, an “Indian nation” had come into existence in the political and geographical sense. But, at the psychological level, the level of feelings and emotions, our position was still that of a nation in the making. For the desired national reconstruction to take place, our leaders proposed a recipe based on the concept of a common heritage with three main parts: religious unity, historical unity and cultural unity.

Religious unity implied that all religions were essentially one. It was believed that if this concept could take root in people’s minds, it would produce a sense of unity all over the country. Historically, of course, this assumption was wrong; there is a long, sorry record of co-religionists fighting fiercely among themselves. For instance, in the war of Mahabharat, the warriors on both sides were of the Hindu religion. In the first and second world wars, the combatants on both sides were of the Christian faith. Babar had armed confrontations with his own co-religionists, finally inflicting decisive defeats on them. And so on.

The attempt to bring about religious unity in India has had active support right from the time of Akbar, who bolstered it politically, to present times, when intellectuals such as Dr. Bhagwan Das (a contemporary of Jawaharlal Nehru) attempted to solve the problem with their encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject. But this goal could never be achieved for the simple reason that the assumption that all religions are one and the same is incorrect; and no durable structure can be erected on false premises. It is an undeniable fact that there are differences between the various religions. Given these differences, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the adherents of one religion to reach the point of agreeing that the tenets and practices of another religion have an equal value. However, if the adherents of different religions see each other, first and foremost, as human beings, as members of the same human race, they can certainly accord each other equal respect. Through mutual respect, many social benefits can accrue which would be rendered impossible in the wake of futile attempts at mutual recognition of religious beliefs.

Let us now look at how history comes into the picture. It is assumed that even where there are people of different persuasions, a common sense of history will produce a common sense of nationhood. And where this is seen to be lacking, it is advocated that such a sense be inculcated. But this would again be an attempt to achieve the possible by means which are impossible. All countries, be they as small as Singapore, or as large as the U.S.A., are inhabited by varied races and ethnic groups. In this respect there are several different strands to their historical heritage. But in none of these countries has there been any attempt to bulldoze people into sharing a common sense of history. Instead, there has been an acknowledgment of each citizen’s individuality. That is why, albeit imbued with different historical feelings, the various groups lead harmonious lives and are engaged in the common cause of nation building.

The third point concerns the acceptance of a common culture. This is wholly impracticable. Culture inevitably evolves a long historical process. It can never be imposed upon a group through any external agency.

After the second world war, a movement was launched in the USA to produce a common culture throughout the country by a process of Americanization. A similar movement was launched in Canada, but in both countries, these initiatives were a failure. Ultimately both had to abandon the idea of uniculture and come to terms with multi-culture. In India, as elsewhere, this is the only possible solution.

The truth is that the only practicable basis of nationhood is patriotism. That is, the feeling on the part of the individual or group that their future is linked with one country and one country alone; that individual success is inextricably linked with the progress of the country; that the interests of the country must be held supreme, and that if sacrifices are required for the safety or advancement of the country, they must be willingly made. Without such feelings of patriotism as are here defined, no country can be successfully run.

If the tasks of constructing the nation is to be successfully accomplished, we must rid ourselves of our obsession with such impracticable concepts as unity of religion, history and culture, and should forge ahead on the same lines as Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Britain, France and America.

Our prime target should be the generation of patriotism in our country. And it should be a patriotism which is based not on the past, but on the present and the future. The only way to do this is to instill in each and every individual a deep-rooted love of his country. Instead of wasting time on the impossible, we should concentrate on building the kind of national character to be found in developed countries. If we set ourselves sedulously to such tasks as these, we should, within the span of one generation, be able to create for ourselves the ideal nation.

 

FEBRUARY 19

The Change of Strategy

The only way to arrive at a practicable solution to the problem of communal riot is to have a change of tactics, that is, there should be a change of the arena in which efforts are being made, that is migration of the field of effort. To date, all our writers and speakers have been attempting to solve the problem of riots by targetting others, that is, protesting against communal parties; demanding that the government and the administration check the riots. But these efforts, though on a large scale, have not resulted in even a one per cent improvement in riot control.

Now it is time for Muslims to become self-reliant on this issue, that is, to think and plan independently to find a solution by their own efforts.

A self-based solution does not in any way mean planning a defence-strategy, or giving a counter challenge. So-called defence would only escalate the matter. It would never solve it. By a self-based solution, I mean the adoption of a policy of patience and avoidance. This is the only sure solution, and it lies entirely in Muslim hands. In this, no one can obstruct or nullify our efforts.

According to a tradition recorded in Sahih Muslim, the Prophet said, “You will prevail over your enemies as long as you never swerve from my path. Once you stray from it, God will let others hold sway over you, who will neither fear you nor have mercy on you until you come back to my sunnah (path).”

The present state of Muslims is not, in fact, the result of an enemy plot but of abandoning the Sunnah. Against the backdrop of riots, the Sunnah which should have been followed by Muslims is that of patience and avoidance. If the present state of affairs is the result of rejecting this Sunnah, it is only by re-adopting it that the present condition of Muslims be improved. No other strategy or policy can ever solve this problem.

It is incumbent upon Muslims to revert from impatience to patience; from the path of confrontation to that of avoidance. They must withstand provocation instead of giving in to it. This is the Sunnah of the Prophet of Islam, the sole path to success.

Muslims have today to go on a ‘migration.’ But not a physical migration. A migration from one field of strategy to another. In this lies the veritable secret of success.

 

FEBRUARY 20

Paradise and Its Inhabitants

What is Paradise? Paradise is the supreme reward which God gives to His special servants for their deserving actions. Paradise is a world of unique blessings, admission to which is reserved for the chosen few in the second stage of life, the Hereafter.

God’s special servants are those who have demonstrated in ample measure their ability to live on the plane of realities in this present stage of life—the stage of trial. They are the ones who have discovered God’s existence from His signs; who have found that the messenger of God is a human being just like themselves; who, without having seen God, have prostrated themselves before Him in all humility.

These are unique human beings who, having been created with an ego, have nevertheless divested themselves of it in the interests of truth; who, having been given complete freedom of word and deed have voluntarily placed constraints upon themselves; who, having apparently achieved everything by dint of their own hard labour, have nonetheless given complete credit for all of their achievements to God.

These are unique souls who, living amongst human beings, are constantly remembering God. They are the ones who have had power over all others, but who now exercise it out of fear of God; it is they who have agitated to take revenge, but who have had the fire in their souls cooled by the fear of God’s chastisement.

These are the worthy individuals who relish taking the back seats while others scramble for the front rows. These are the people who give their lives to lay solid foundations while others rush to find places right on tops of the domes.

These are the people of great spiritual refinement who rise above personal prejudices before sitting in judgement; who, in order to deal with others purely on the basis of principles, eliminate their own selves; who budge not one inch from the path of justice even at the most crucial of moments, when complaints and differences seem insurmountable. They do so by adopting a path for themselves which accords exactly with the path of truth and justice, and by overlooking all worldly considerations.

Paradise is God’s garden. Only those human beings deserve it who can live in this world with the blameless innocence of flowers.

 

FEBRUARY 21

Nation Building

“Politicians are to be blamed for all corruption.” “Politicians have failed in fulfilling the expectations of the people.” This is the gist of what is being said everywhere. The question is, who are these politicians? These are the very people who have been glorified as freedom fighters for the last fifty years. Before independence, these freedom fighters played a heroic role for this country, but after independence, they have plunged the nation into a morass of iniquity.

Directly or indirectly it is these freedom fighters who are in control of all important political offices, hence it is they who are responsible for all the attendant evils. This was destined to happen after the country began to slither down the wrong course in 1948. As we know, Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, peeping into the future, had suggested that the Congress as a political party should now, after gaining independence, be dissolved.

Why did Gandhiji have to make such a suggestion? Some commentators have pointed out that he was motivated by the fear that these freedom fighters, already waiting to be compensated for their sacrifices, might turn into exploiters in post-independence India. (The Hindustan Times, May 24, 1995)

As it happened, Gandhiji’s worst apprehensions came horribly true. After assuming the rule of political leaders, the freedom fighters of the past began to recoup the price of their sacrifices with interest. Even their friends and relatives joined with them in their campaign to ensure for themsleves a never-ending compensation. Consequently, the nation is now in a terrible pall of darkness, as is visible to all and sundry.

At the point we have reached today, no superficial reform can bring salvation to the country. It is possible to expend one hundred crores from the state treasury by holding to the condition of identity cards for elections, but such superficial plans can never ameliorate the body politic. We shall have to carve out a far more serious plan of action.

After independence we should have done exactly what the British people did. For them, Winston Churchill’s position was one of a super freedom-fighter who had successfully saved Britain from being vanquished by Hitler. But in the 1945 elections, they voted this same Churchill out of power, and instead brought in Clement Attlee, a social reformer who as a member of the Fabian Society, had quite actively participated in the non-political field.

The same task needed to be performed after independence in India. The freedom fighters should have been awarded pensions and other facilities in acknowledgement of their services, but when it came to assigning political power, such persons should have been sought out who had already established their reputations in social service in the field of education, social reform, scientific research, etc.

Those who emerged as heroes in the age prior to independence had well-developed warlike qualities which were essential in a period of clash and confrontation, whereas after independence we needed heroes possessing just the opposite qualities. At that time as now, it was necessary to have people who believed in love instead of hatred, in peace instead of confrontation; in short, in a constructive rather than a destructive approach. By making the team of freedom fighters into leaders of the second phase, the nation took the wrong turning at the very outset.

By reason of the psychology of their rise to power, the main concern of freedom fighters was to maintain the superior political position they had come to acquire. This mentality produced all sorts of abhorrent forms of evil, such as we have been experiencing today.

It was thanks to the extraordinary glorification of the freedom fighters that we were unable to see any of their acts in a critical light. For instance, the involvement in the Bangladesh war in 1971 was undoubtedly a wrong decision, but since this decision had been taken by a freedom fighter government, it came to be regarded as having been right without anyone having given the matter any real thought.

A similar, ill-considered involvement, stirred up the dormant problem of Kashmir and resulted in enormous economic losses. It is a fact that after a long period of time the Pakistanis had actually consigned the problem of Kashmir to oblivion. The issue of Kashmir was no longer, actively, on their political agenda. But when the involvement of India broke Pakistan into two, all Pakistanis were set to avenge this division of their country. In revenge, they re-opened the issue of the closed front of Kashmir. Sooner or later, nothing could have stopped Bangladesh from being separated from Pakistan. But our involvement caused this break to be wrongly attributed to us and thus a chapter which had already been closed was unnecessarily reopened.

What we required in New Delhi was a team imbued not with fighting spirit but with wisdom, who could run matters of state not on the basis of strength but with sagacity and understanding. True statesmanship means accomplishing 99 per cent of one’s tasks with wisdom and one per cent with other factors. Today there is much talk of change and reform in the constitution. Articles are being published on this subject. Seminars are being held. But to me, this matter is being examined at a superficial level. No one reflects upon why the constitution, which has set up a record in the history of constitutional documents had to be amended eighty times and why, despite this the problems, for which these changes were made, remain unresolved. It is apparent that after these repeated experiments the actual problem is now not one of change in the constitution, but of changes having failed to achieve the desired results. It is in record that Dr. Rajendra Prashad in his valedictory address to the constituent Assembly, said that everything cannot be written in the Constitution, and stressed the need for healthy political conventions. But again the enthusiastic “freedom fighters” failed to adhere to this advice and everything was written down in the constitution.

As a result, the constitution no longer remained a simple document; it became instead a bundle of fanciful, romantic wishes. The attempt to include everything in the constitution rendered it unrealistic. It became an aggregate of contradictory and unattainable goals. Instead of becoming a practicable document, it assumed the form of a legal monolith.

Many examples can be cited of how our present constitution overreaches itself. For instance, the article on our national language declares that “For a period of fifteen years the English language shall continue to be the official language of the Union. Thereafter the official language shall be Hindi in Devnagari script.”

To make such an announcement was simply wishful thinking, for matters of language are decided by historical factors rather than by legal articles. Since historical forces were not in favour of this article, it has remained totally ineffective. It amounted to dictating history, and no one is powerful enough to do so.

Similarly, article 44 relating to a uniform civil code, clashes with article 25 which establishes religious freedom. It is totally impracticable to have contradictory articles. If we wanted to enact article 44, we should have to delete article 25 from the constitution. And vice versa.

1. Such issues should tell us that attempt to make the constitution more comprehensive by making amendments to it must be abandoned. Instead, it needs to be reduced in size to make it into a more condensed and practicable legal document, just like the constitutions of the developed countries.

2. Another point to ponder is what had been advised by Dr Rajendra Prashad in his capacity as Chairman of the Constitution Assembly, that is, instead of heaping article upon article, stress must be laid on establishing healthy traditions in political and national life.

3. By healthy political traditions I mean, establishing one’s base on political work and not on political stunts; setting up a free and fair election process; accepting defeat after losing in the elections; keeping national interest above personal political interest; resigning from office after major blunders (scams, etc.); endeavouring to win elections on the basis of principles rather than on the basis of money; respecting the law at all times, even when it is against oneself. The opposition should be a vehicle of healthy criticism rather than an agency out to down the ruling party; it should show willingness to run a coalition government, avoiding differences, etc., in case where there is no majority of a single party in the Assembly.

4. At this moment there are two prominent parties on the political scene in the country, Congress and the BJP. But to my way of thinking, both have outlived their usefulness as  regards the larger interests of the country.

Congress leaders must know that by remaining in power for a long period of time they have exhausted the public’s patience. Lord Acton said: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” It should be added that remaining in power over a long period of time renders a person or a party unfit to rule. Congress should admit this and voluntarily opt for retirement. Otherwise, future historians will record its role in dismal terms.

The elements composing the BJP from the very outset have demonstrated a negative mentality. These are the people who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi in 1948. In the words of one of my Hindu friends, next feat they performed was the demolition of Ayodhya’s historic mosque. In this way, they have shown themselves up as being unsuitable for constructive work in the country.

The BJP leaders point out that the secularism of the Congress is pseudo-secularism and to replace it they have offered the concept of Hindutva. Perhaps they do not know that Hindutva is not the alternative for pseudo-secularism. It is this error in thinking which has caused the BJP to fail as a party. No significant work of national construction may be expected from it.

In a large country like India only those who possess a universal outlook are capable of governing. Individuals who think along sectarian lines instead of being broad-minded, are not suitable for India’s leadership.

5. Now the hour has come to form a fresh political party composed not of “freedom fighters” but of educational and social activists. It is only such people who can save India from ruination.

In the last three years I have travelled extensively all over the country. During my tours I have found that there are tens of thousands of individuals in our country who are capable of positive thinking, and are actively involved in the field of educational and social reform. They pine for the welfare of the country. All these people can be gathered at the platform of a new political party.

Today we stand at the most critical juncture of our history. To build a new and brighter future for our country, we have to work, on the one hand, for mass education, an outline for which I have already presented in The Hindustan Times of May 19, 1995. An equally important task is the formation of a new political party on the lines discussed above. To me the future of the country rests on the rigorous performance of these two tasks.

6. As a first step in the right direction I propose that a political meeting be convened at the All India level; this should not include those whose political records are marred in the eyes of the public. Only those should be invited to it whose records are clean and who are actively, practically involved in some field of national construction. This political convention can become the basis for a party with fresh vigour, capable of providing the right leadership to the country.

 

FEBRUARY 22

The Inner Reality of Fasting

“In the month of Ramadan the Quran was revealed, a book of guidance with proofs of guidance distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore, whoever of you is present in that month let him fast. But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on.

“God desires your well-being, not your discomfort. He desires you to fast the whole month so that you may magnify Him and render thanks to Him for giving you His guidance” (2:185).

The above verse explains not only the importance of the month of Ramadan as being the month in which the Quran was revealed, but also the significance of fasting during the month in terms of giving thanks to God. The Prophet is recorded as having said that God rewards good deeds from ten fold to 700 fold. His reward for fasting, which is undertaken especially for Him, will be infinite.

Food and drink are man’s most basic necessities. When he is consumed by hunger and thirst, he understands how weak he really is; he realizes how much he is in need of God’s succour. In the evenings, after a whole day of fasting, people eat and drink their fill: that is when their hearts are flooded with a sense of gratitude to God for His having made complete provision for their needs. That is when they praise God and offer up their thanks to Him. This feeling of dependence on God’s bounty also makes them adopt a properly cautious attitude to life. Verse 183, which states that “fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you,” goes on to say, “perchance you will guard yourselves against evil.”

But there is much more to fasting than the caution and gratitude induced by the purely outward, physical forms of abstention. Its greater significance lies in its symbolism of an inner, spiritual eagerness to make all kinds of sacrifices. Obviously, one who refrains from taking food and water on specific days, but who goes throughout his life without any qualm about telling lies, persecuting his fellow men, thwarting justice, and so on, has missed the whole point of the fast of Ramadan. He has concerned himself all along with outward forms and not with inner realities. Such a man cannot expect to find favour in the eyes of his fellow men and will certainly incur the wrath of God, his Maker.

One who fasts in all sincerity takes care to cast his entire life in the one consistent mould. In all of his affairs, he applies the constraints laid down by God. He checks himself from abusing others, stays his hand from persecution and halts in his steps towards injustice. As the Prophet said, “Such a man can be likened to a tied-up horse which can go only as far as its rope permits: in that way, he cannot transgress.”

 

FEBRUARY 23

All Praise is Due to God

One of the important teachings of Islam is that on receiving anything, we should be grateful to God in acknowledgment of His bounty, and utter these words ‘All praise and thankfulness is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds.’ Praise of God, in its true spirit, is the essence of the Quran. After having accepted Islam, a believer’s inmost feelings find expression in these words of praise.

Man’s existence is a blessing of God. Man’s extremely balanced body is a blessing of God. The entire world created so favourably for man is a blessing of God.

When this reality dawns on man and he realizes God’s immeasurable blessings upon him, his soul is filled with a feeling of gratefulness to God. His heart and mind are overawed by His greatness. At that moment words of acknowledgment of God—‘Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds’ spontaneously come to his lips.

God the Almighty is too great for man to give Him anything. The only thing man can offer in His presence is acknowledgment. The moment of man’s greatest worship of God is when his soul is pervaded by God’s glory and greatness; when he recognizes God’s divinity as compared to man’s servitude; when, in full awareness of his own helplessness, he comes to acknowledge God’s bounties in the true sense of the word.

When man discovers God with all His attributes, his soul lies prostrate before Him. His whole being turns towards God. The feelings inspired in him by God’s bounties surge within him like the waves of the ocean. When all these feelings find verbal form, they are called praise and gratefulness to God.

God is the greatest Being, yet in the universe, God remains invisible. But His supreme glory is visible in His creation. Therefore, the realisation of God can be attained through discovering His greatness in the signs visible everywhere. This realisation finds expression in words such as ‘praise be to God’– Lord of the worlds.

 

FEBRUARY 24

The Return to Religion

The nineteenth century was the century of atheism. But with the arrival of the twentieth century, the whole course of history changed, with religion again becoming a major force in human life. Although more in potential than in reality. The obvious causes are discontent with science and the continuing existence of religion as an inherent part of human nature.

A hundred years ago even thinking against science was considered a sign of ignorance. At the end of the 19th century a well-known scientist said that he was not able to understand anything unless he could make a scientific model of it. But now, at least at the academic level, man’s conviction of the usefulness of science has been shaken. The whole spate of books on this subject, which came out after the second world war, was an indication of the extent of the human dilemma. The article on the history of science in the Encyclopaedia Britannica (1984) begins with these words:

‘Until recently, the history of science was a story of success. The triumphs of science represented a cumulative process of increasing knowledge and a sequence of victories over ignorance and superstition; and from science flowed a stream of inventions for the improvement of human life. The recent realization of deep moral problems within science of external forces and constraints on its development, and of dangers in uncontrolled technological change has challenged historians to a critical reassessment of this earlier simple faith.” (16:366)

Modern science has offered man innumerable facilities, but along with this it has brought in its wake such great dangers as have rendered all its gifts meaningless. The greatest menace is that of a third world war. In the event of this happening, it will be a nuclear war, which will reduce most of the big cities to ruins in a matter of hours. Moreover, the whole atmosphere will be engulfed in thick smoke, which will prevent sunlight from reaching the earth. This will in turn produce a terrible nuclear winter, which will bring all human, animal and vegetable existence to the verge of the most tragic annihilation.

The progress of science has not only produced material problems, but has also created intellectual and spiritual problems of a very grave nature.

1.   Science and scientific resources had vastly expanded human knowledge. It not only gave man microscopes and telescopes to observe things which had till then remained unseen, but it also opened up innumerable new ways and means of making it possible to add greatly to information in every field.

All this gave man the self-confidence to feel certain that he could arrive at the final reality through science alone. But the only thing that the increase in knowledge has told man is that he has how entered into a new phase of ignorance. In the words of a scientist: “We know more and more about less and less.”

By the end of the 19th century scientists believed that with the increase in knowledge they had been heading towards the final reality. But new research by the end of the first half of the 20th century proved that man cannot reach the ultimate reality unaided. His limitations are decisively obstacles in his path. It is now an accepted fact among the scientific community that science gives us but a partial knowledge of reality.

2.   With the emergence of modern science it had become fashionable among intellectuals to hold that the universe could be explained without God. Therefore, every fact that came to light was explained in a way that would prove that there was no mind or consciousness behind the universe. But this bid to explain the universe atheistically failed.

The Indian scientist, Dr Subramaniam Chandra Shekhar, who won the Nobel prize in Physics (jointly) in 1983, is a self-avowed atheist. He has briefly stated the present position of science on this subject:

There are aspects, which are extremely difficult to understand. A famous remark of Einstein—and other people have said similar things, Schrodinger in particular—that the most incomprehensible thing about nature is that it is comprehensible. How is it that the human mind, extremely small compared to the universe and living over a time span microscopic in terms of astronomical time, comprehends reality in ideas, which spring from the human mind? This question has puzzled many people from Kepler on. Why should mathematical description be accurate? Mathematical description is something the human mind has evolved. Why should it fit external nature? We don’t have answers to these questions. One is not saying the world is orderly and therefore must be ordered. But why should we understand the world in terms of the concepts we have developed? (The Hindustan Times, May 31, 1987)

T.S. Eliot has said:

Where is the wisdom that we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge that we have lost in information?

A book called (published in 1989) Wisdom, Information and Wonder, by Dr Mary Midgley, elaborates—as its title suggests—on the above rhetorical questions, and makes a significant contribution to the new thinking of the latter half of the 20th century.

In his book, The Secular City, Professor Harvey R. Cox (published in 1965 in the U.S.A.) showed that people had lost interest in religion. But the same writer in another book titled, Religion in the Secular City, published in 1984, has shown that religion in the U.S.A. has seen a revival. The same has been found to be true of the western countries.

God wants the message of His religion to be communicated to all human beings; Islam being the final religion, He has taken special care to safeguard it from all human additions and interpolations. Islam is thus the only totally preserved and genuinely historical of all the religions; as such, it deserves pride of place as the sole reliable guide to pious living.

This attribute of Islam has rendered its communication very easy. If believers in Islam do not, by their own foolishness, create problems unnecessarily, they can continue the work of Islamic da‘wah without any hindrance. And then, no intellectual hurdles have to be surmounted to understand Islam. That is one of the qualities that has made Islam such an acceptable religion. The only task now is to introduce Islam to people in a purely positive way, so that on their own they will feel attracted to it, and will adopt it in response to their own desires.

The return to religion, in respect of its potential, is a return to Islam. Who will rise to convert this potential to reality? Who will join us in this Plan of God?

 

FEBRUARY 25

Social Aspect of Islamic Mysticism

Mysticism is generally called tasawwuf in India and irfan (realization) in Iran. To me irfan is the most appropriate word, for mysticism, in actual fact, is another name for the realization of inner reality.

The word mysticism has been variously defined in academic works. By way of a simple definition, it means to penetrate one’s inner soul and to enable it, by developing it, to establish contact with God, the Greater Soul.

This process purifies the human personality, and the soul comes to realize itself. The latent natural potential of the soul is ultimately awakened; in the words of the Quran, it becomes the serene (89:27) or pure soul (87:14).

It is but natural that the personality developed by the mystic (or the Aarif) in this way does not remain enclosed within a boundary. His inner state also having its external manifestation, his personality finds expression in his social relations.

One who has realized himself will, at the same time, place a higher spiritual value on other human beings too. One whose heart is filled with God’s love, will necessarily be filled with the love of human beings—the creatures of God. One who respects the Higher Reality will surely respect other human beings. It is this aspect of mysticism, which I have called its social aspect.

A Persian mystic poet has expressed the mystic code of behaviour in these most beautiful words:

“The stories of kings like Alexander and Dara hold no interest for us. Ask us only about love and faithfulness.”

Another mystic poet has this to say:

“The comforts of both the worlds are hidden in these two things: Being kind to friends and according better treatment to foes.”

When a sufi or mystic is engrossed in the love of God, he rises above the mundane world and discovers the higher realities. He becomes such a human being as has no ill-feelings for anyone. In fact, he cannot afford hatred, as hatred would nullify his very spirituality. He cannot divest himself of feelings of love as this would amount to divesting himself of all delicate feelings.

Islam is the answer to the demands of nature. It is in fact a counterpart of human nature. This is why Islam has been called a religion of nature in the Quran and Hadith.

A man once came to the Prophet Muhammad and asked him what he should do in a certain matter. The Prophet replied, ‘Consult your conscience (heart) about it.’ By the conscience the Prophet meant his finer feelings. That is, what one’s conscience tells one would likewise be what Islam would demand of one as a matter of common sense.

What does human nature desire more than anything? It desires, above all, peace and love. Every human being wants to live in peace and to receive love from the people around him. Peace and love are the religion of human nature as well as what Islam demands of us. The Quran tells us, “...and God calls you to the home of peace” (10:25).

One of the teachings of Islam is that when two or more people meet, they must greet one another with the words, Assalamu-‘Alaikum (Peace be upon you). Similarly, Salat, or prayer, said five times daily is the highest form of worship in Islam. At the close of each prayer all worshippers have to turn their faces to either side and utter the words Assalamu-‘Alaikum wa rahmatullah (May peace and God’s blessing be upon you).  This is like a pledge given to people: ‘O people, you are safe from me. Your life, your property, your honour is secure with me.’

This sums up the spirit of true religion, the goal of which is spiritual uplift. It is the ultimate state of this spiritual uplift, which is referred to in the Quran as the “serene soul” (89:27).

Thus a true and perfect man, from the Islamic point of view, is one who has reached that level of spiritual development where peace and peace alone prevails. When a person has attained that peaceful state, others will receive from him nothing less than peace. He may be likened to a flower, which can send out only its fragrance to man, it being impossible for it to emit an unpleasant smell.

An incident relating to a Muslim saint very aptly illustrates the spirit of the mystic individual. The story goes that once a Muslim sufi was travelling along with his disciples. During the journey he encamped near a large grove of trees upon which doves used to perch.

During this halt one of the sufi’s disciples aimed at one of the doves, killed it, cooked it, then ate it. Afterwards something strange happened. A flock of doves came to the tree under which the sufi was resting and began hovering over it and making a noise.

The Muslim sufi, communicating with the leader of the birds, asked them what was the matter with them and why they were protesting. The leader replied, ‘We have a complaint to make against you, that is, one of your disciples has killed one of us.’ Then the Muslim sufi called the disciple in question and asked him about it. He said that he had not done anything wrong, as the birds were their foodstuff. He was hungry, so he killed one for food. He thought that in so doing he had not done anything wrong. The sufi then conveyed this reply to the leader of the doves.

The leader replied: “Perhaps you have failed to understand our point. Actually what we are complaining about is that all of you came here in the garb of sufis, yet acted as hunters. Had you come here in hunter’s garb, we would certainly have remained on the alert. When we saw you in the guise of sufis, we thought that we were safe with you and remained perched on the top of the tree without being properly vigilant.”

This anecdote very aptly illustrates the reality of a true mystic or spiritual person. One who has reached an advanced stage of spiritual uplift, having found the true essence of religion, no longer has the will or the capacity to do harm. He gives life not death, to others. He benefits others, doing injury to no one. In short, he lives among the people like flowers and not like thorns. He has nothing but love in his heart to bestow upon others.

 

FEBRUARY 26

Tolerance!
Its Significance Today

On January 1st, 1995, the newspaper flashed the news that “the United Nations has proclaimed 1995 as the “Year of Tolerance,” saying that the ability to be tolerant of the actions, beliefs and opinions of others is a major factor in promoting world peace. Amidst the resurgence of ethnic conflicts, discrimination against minorities and xenophobia directed against refugees and asylum-seekers, tolerance is the only way forward, said the statement of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO). It is said, racism and religious fanaticism in many countries had led to many forms of discrimination and the intimidation of those who held contrary views. Violence against and intimidation of authors, journalists and others who exercise their freedom of expression, were also on the increase along with political movements, which seek to make particular groups responsible for social ills such as crime and unemployment. Intolerance is one of the greatest challenges we face on the threshold to the 21st century said the UNESCO Statement. Intolerance is both an ethnic and political problem. It is a rejection of the differences between individuals and between cultures. When intolerance becomes organised or institutionalized, it destroys democratic principles and poses a threat to world peace. —The Hindustan Times, January 1, 1995.

This proclamation of the U.N. is most apt and timely. The prime need of the world today is indeed tolerance.

One of the stark realities of life is that divergence of views does exist between man and man, and that it impinges at all levels. Be it at the level of a family or a society, a community or a country, differences are bound to exist everywhere. Now the question is how best unity can be forged or harmony brought about in the face of human differences.

Some people hold that the removal of all differences is the sine qua-non for bringing about unity. But, this view is untenable, as it is not practicable. You may not like the thorns, which essentially accompany roses, but it is not possible for you to pluck out all the thorns and destroy them completely. For, if you pluck out one, another will grow in its place. Even if you run a bulldozer over all rosebushes, new plants will grow in their place, which will bear roses ineluctably accompanied by thorns. In the present scheme of things, roses can be had only by tolerating the existence of thorns. Similarly, a peaceful society can be created only by creating and fostering the spirit of tolerance towards diversities. In this world, unity is achievable only by learning to unite in spite of differences, rather than insisting on unity without differences. For total eradication of differences is an impossibility. The secret of attaining peace in life is tolerance of disturbance of the peace.

There is nothing wrong in diversity of opinions. In fact, this is a positive quality, which has many advantages. The beauty of the garden of life is enhanced if the flower of unity is accompanied by the thorn of diversity.

An advantage flowing from this attitude is that it builds character. If you are well-mannered towards those whose views are similar to yours, you may be said to exhibit fairly good character. But, if you behave properly with those holding divergent views from you or who criticise you, then you deserve to be credited with having an excellent character.

In the same way, a society whose members hold identical views and never have any controversial discussions, will soon find itself in the doldrums. The intellectual development of the members of this society will be frozen, because personal evolution takes place only where there is interaction of divergent thinking. So where there is no such interaction, how can there be intellectual development?

The adoption of a policy of tolerance in the face of controversy and opposition is not a negative step. It is undoubtedly a positive course of action.

Divergence of views plays an important role in the development of the human psyche. It is only after running the intellectual gauntlet that a developed personality emerges. If in a human society, this process ceases to operate, the development of character will come to a standstill.

Nobody in this world is perfect. If a man is endowed with some good qualities, he may be lacking others. This is one of the reasons why differences crop up among people. But, for life as a whole, these differences are actually a great blessing: the good points of one man may compensate for the shortcomings of another, just as one set of talents in one man may complement a different set in another. If people could only learn to tolerate others’ differences, their very forbearance would become a great enabling factor in collective human development.

The habit of tolerance prevents a man from wasting his time and talent on unnecessary matters. When negatively affected by another’s unpalatable behaviour, your mental equilibrium is upset. On the other hand, emotionally untouched by such behaviour, your mind will fully retain its equilibrium and, without wasting a single moment, you will continue to perform your work in the normal way. The policy of tolerance or forbearance enhances your efficacy, while intolerant behaviour reduces it.

Tolerance is not an act of compulsion. It is a positive principle of life, expressing the noble side of a man’s character. The existence of tolerant human beings in a society is just like the blooming of flowers in a garden.

 

FEBRUARY 27

The News of the Last Day

A high-intensity earthquake lasting 45 seconds and epicentred at Almora, U.P., rocked northern India at a quarter to twelve, midnight, on October 20, 1991. With the same jolts, which could be felt even as far away as Delhi, hundreds of houses collapsed, about a thousand people were killed and more than three thousand were injured.

Although so devastating in its effects, in comparison with that supreme, world-shaking event, the Qiamah (the Day of Resurrection) an earthquake is but a very minor affair. Nevertheless, it gives us an idea of what will happen on that day on a much vaster scale. The Times of India of October 21, 1991, reported an incident, which took place on that very night which provides a telling parallel. It seems that at 2.30 a.m. just ten minutes before the earthquake began, certain Punjab militants opened fire on the Sirsa (District Bareilly) police station with AK-47 rifles, where the few police personnel on duty at that time were ill-equipped for effective defence.

However, the militants had not reckoned with the forces of nature. Instead of just dealing with a small police post, they now found themselves battling with a vastly superior enemy. Like all the other people in the vicinity they fled in terror, no doubt thinking that the heavens were falling on them.

The helplessness experienced in the face of an earthquake is nothing compared to the state of desperation man will be reduced to on Doomsday. Then he will be confronted with the biggest imaginable earthquake, and will be powerless to control it.

When possessed with power, man tends to become haughty and over-confident. But when the earth is so shaken that the mountains come tumbling down and it is engulfed by the mighty waves of the ocean, he will flee in utter bewilderment, leaving all his possessions behind him. To his horror, he will find that there is no escape route whatsoever.

 

FEBRUARY 28

The Concept of God

We have the entire universe before us. We see it, we experience it, and so are forced to believe in its existence. Even when a man rejects the godhead, he still believes in the universe. But when and how did it come into being? Explaining its existence as the creation of God is no final answer—so it is generally held—since the very next question, which arises, is if God made the universe, then who made God?

Can we believe in a causeless universe and a causeless God? Belief in a causeless God as the Creator of all things has more logic to it, in this world of cause and effect, than belief in a causeless universe and a non-existent God. It is by believing in a causeless Creator that we save ourselves from believing in the impossibility of a causeless universe.

Belief in God seems to many to be a very strange thing. But disbelief is even stranger. Sometimes it is argued that belief must rest on proof. But, from the purely scientific standpoint, nothing in this world can be proved or disproved. So far as believing in anything is concerned, the option is not between the proved and the unproved, but between the workable and the non-workable.

For instance, scientists in general believe in the concept of gravity. They do so, not because of proof of its existence, but because of the demonstrable predictability of effects. They do not know why gravity has the effect it has, or how it came into existence. They simply accept its existence as a useful theory.

This is the case with all scientific concepts, and belief in them does not mean uncritical acceptance of established as opposed to unestablished ideas. It simply means believing in a working hypothesis as opposed to an unworkable theory. Exactly the same principle is applicable to the concept of God.

In the matter of gravity, the choice for us is not between matter with gravity and matter without gravity, but between matter with gravity and non-existent matter. Since the concept of non-existent matter is untenable, because unworkable, we have opted for matter with gravity. From the purely academic angle, the same is true of the concept of God.

The universe itself does not have the ability to create. It can neither increase nor decrease itself by so much as a particle. As with all other scientific concepts, we must choose not between the universe with God and the universe without God, but between God and a non-existent universe. Since a non-existent universe is inconceivable, we must perforce opt for the concept of the universe with God.

 

FEBRUARY 29

The Problem of Riots

A regular reader of Al-Risala, Mr. M. Sajid of Delhi, once told me in the course of conversation that he agreed with all of the viewpoints expressed in al-Risala, except for one, and that was holding the Muslims responsible for riots that took place from time to time. He baulked at the idea that Muslims started riots. He felt that this ran counter to the facts.

I explained to him that he must have misconstrued my words. What I actually said was that Muslims were responsible for not preventing riots from taking place. In the context of dealing with opponents, the Quran says: “If you persevere and guard yourself against evil, their machinations will never harm you” (3:120).

That is, if you remain patient and adopt a God-fearing attitude, the plots of your opponents cannot harm you in any way. This verse tells us that the actual problem is not the existence of plots, but the absence of patience and piety: if riots occur, it is not because of hostile conspiracies, but because of our inability to adopt the path of patience and piety in countering them.

I further explained to him that whether these problems pertained to India or to any other country, there would always be people who indulged in activities, which injured others’ sentiments. The solution to this problem is not to stop others from indulging in such activities, but to control one’s own feelings. Wherever Muslims have fallen a prey to provocation, their reaction has caused matters to escalate into full-scale riots. But where they have adopted the path of patience and avoidance, rioting has been nipped in the bud.

We must fully grasp the fact that the administration is unable to prevent the outbreak of rioting. If riots are to be prevented, it will only be by right action on the part of the Muslims. The only viable strategy for Muslims to adopt is to remain unruffled in the face of provocation, and to exercise patience in the face of unpleasantness. And there is nothing to prevent their seeking police assistance whenever a situation is about to take an ugly turn. This is something, which needs to be done at the very outset. If Muslims can accept that this should be their role, the phenomenon of rioting could be banished, once and for all, from this country.

 

MARCH 1

Human Tragedy

The reality of life is sadly reflected in one of the sayings of the Jewish leader, Abba Eban (b. 1915). “Men and nations do the sensible thing only after they have exhausted all other options.” (Liberty’s Nation)

It is true that no individual or group seems willing to act seriously or sensibly unless and until all irrational and superficial options have failed.

Our world is marred by injustice and dishonesty and all kinds of atrocities at both the individual as well as the communal level. This is because people feel free to do as they please quite unfettered by moral considerations. The wrongdoers renounce such ways only when there is no other option. The freedom—which they abuse—has been given to mankind, because our world is a testing place. And on Doomsday, all without exception will be called to account for how they have used the freedom. If they have ignored and denied the truth in this world, they shall be obliged to accept it on the Day of Reckoning, because all of their options will have run out and subterfuge and pleas for mercy will be of no avail; by that time it will be too late either to beg for forgiveness or to attempt to make amends.

Why do people wait until they are forced to submit to the truth? If one accepts the truth because one is forced to, one’s acceptance has no value. Why again do people wait until they are forced to treat others with justice? Being just to others because one is forced to is likewise an action bereft of honour or human kindness.

Why wait until we are on the brink of Doomsday before we act with human concern for individuals and a proper respect for society? Why wait until the Day of Judgement before we act as bidden in the Quran, as honest, upright, responsible individuals?

 

MARCH 2

Towards Reconstruction

In his book ‘Victory without War’, former American President Richard Nixon, commenting on the scene in India, made this observation: “Those who believe India is not governed well should remember how miraculous it is that India is governed at all.”

Richard Nixon’s remark on the Indian social set-up is no doubt harsh. We would be wise, however, to take this as a challenge rather than just simmer with resentment over it. Instead of venting our anger on Nixon as an unfair critic, we would be well-advised to devote our entire attention to the internal construction of our country. We must struggle to raise our country so high that never again will any Nixon dare pass such remarks against us. Japan could be our model in this matter. At the end of the second world war Japan had reduced itself to insignificance in the eyes of the world. But after a hard struggle lasting forty years it eventually raised itself to such heights that no one now dare cast aspersions on it.

The need of the hour is to give fresh thought to our national problems. Then, without the slightest delay, we must begin our journey in the right direction so that our future may be better and brighter as compared to our present.

A senior Indian journalist, S. Mulgaonkar, has made some very penetrating observations on the Indian situation in his article entitled ‘Can systemic changes provide the entire answer?’ (Published in two installments in the Indian Express of February 7 and 14, 1987).

He pointed out that forty years had passed since we gained our freedom. We had made progress too in many fields, but our problems were many and serious, and on balance, appeared to outweigh the progress we had made.

Mr. Mulgaonkar did not subscribe to the views of those who talked of a change in the system. To him, ‘in the final analysis, a system is only as good as those who operate it.’

I entirely agree with Mr. Mulgaonkar on this point. I would like to add that it was Mahatma Gandhi who gave our country its political base. Later, when power came into the hands of Pandit Nehru, he gave the country its industrial base.

Now the third urgent task is to provide the country with a moral base. To me, this third base—the moral base—will be the decisive factor in the course, which our national life will take. This is a reality admitted by almost every right-thinking person.

 

MARCH 3

The Exploitation of Islam

A Time magazine report of February 15, 1993 carrying pictures of Indian Muslims, states that persecution of Indian Muslims by Hindus is due to the latter’s hatred for the Muslims on religious grounds. It says:

Hindu hatred for Muslims dates back to the 10th century, when Muslim invaders first began looting the subcontinent and destroying Hindu temples (p. 25).

The Muslim invaders, the targets of blame over a long period of time, found a powerful defence in the superbly written works of Maulana Shibli Nomani (1857-1914). Popular in British India, his writings set the subsequent trend and Muslim writers and speakers followed in his footsteps. All, without exception, began to defend the Muslim kings.

This style of defence was greatly to the Muslims’ liking, but did little to bring about a change in the Hindu mind. On the contrary, there was a hardening of Hindu attitudes, which, in terms of religious antipathy, reached its culminating point in the twentieth century. Shibli’s approach had clearly been counter-productive. That was because his writings, which should have aimed at putting an end to Hindu hatred, were more calculated to win applause from fellow Muslims.

Now, the need of the hour is for Muslims to change their entire attitude. Rather than defend the Muslim kings, they should admit their mistakes and distance themselves from their wrongdoing. That is, they should cease to associate themselves from any of their deeds, which were not carried out in the true spirit of Islam.

Along with our assertion that Islam is the religion of truth, we must also concede the Muslims are quite a different matter. Today, there are many Muslims who exploit their religion for their own personal interests—as indeed happened in the past. Right-thinking Muslims in general should now refuse—be they kings or commoners—to have anything to do with the un-Islamic acts of their forebears.

 

MARCH 4

Fasting and Quran

The Quran makes special mention of its revelation in the month of Ramadan, while making it obligatory upon the followers. This indicates that there is a close link between Ramadan and the Quran. In the words of the Quran:

In the month of Ramadan the Quran was revealed, a book of guidance with proofs of guidance distinguishing right from wrong. Therefore whoever of you is present in that month let him fast. But he who is ill or on a journey shall fast a similar number of days later on. (2:185)

The revelation of Quran started in 610 A.H., in the month of Ramadan according to the lunar calendar. The first revelation was made to the Prophet when he was in the cave of Hira, and it continued for the next 23 years, finally reaching completion in Madinah.

The guidance given in the Quran is the best blessing to the mankind from God, because it shows man the path to ultimate success. It tells man how to conduct himself so that in his eternal life he can gain entry into paradise. Paradise is the goal of man. Fasting is the path to it.

The month of Ramadan is the annual reminder of this blessing. The celebration of the revelation of the Quran is not observed in the usual way but by abstinence and being thankful to the Almighty. Fasting in this month is acknowledgment of the divine blessings. It is like saying, ‘O Lord I have heard and I accept it.’

Also this is a month during which the Quran should be read and understood. The Quran is specially recited in this month. In the night the Quran is also recited during Tarawih. This month has been made special so that the blessings of God may be counted even more.

When the Quran is read during the month of its revelation, it reminds us of the time when the divine light from heaven fell upon the earth. Man remembers this and cries out, ‘O Lord, fill my heart with your divine light!’ He cries out, ‘Make me among those who are near you!’ When he reads about Hell and Paradise, his inner self cries out, ‘O Lord, save me from Hell, and let me enter Paradise.’

In this way the Quran becomes a guiding force in man’s life. He earns his livelihood according to its dictates. He bathes in the ocean of its life to cleanse his soul.

The Quran is a reward to His servants from God. And fasting is acknowledgment of the reward. Through fasting man makes himself worthy of being thankful to God. He obeys the command of God and thus revels in the supremacy of God. Having gone through a month’s fasting, he creates an ability in himself to lead a life of piety as ordained in the Quran.

Fasting is a special deed. It makes a man kind-hearted, and enables him to awaken his finer feelings. He is then able to feel and experience what God desires of a man in this world.

Fasting, a form of training to create the capacity in a man to become the most devoted worshipper, makes him most grateful to God and creates a fear of Him, which makes him shiver. The very hardship of fasting carries a man from the material world to the plain of spirituality.

 

MARCH 5

The Construction
of the Mind

One of the important points made in the UNESCO constitution is as follows:

Since war began in the minds of men it is in the mind that the defence of peace must be constructed.

This is an indisputable fact. Whether the quarrel is between two people on the street, or between groups or nations, the origin of all such incidents lies in the mind. It is in the mind that feelings of hatred, revenge and anger are produced, and when these spill over into provocation, the result is some measure of conflict, ranging from petty squabbling to full-scale war.

Largely speaking, negative thoughts arise in reaction to untoward behaviour on the part of others. Someone insults us and we become angry. An unpleasant situation is created by someone, and we are provoked by this. Someone damages our prestige and we therefore seek revenge. All these vengeful impulses take shape first of all in our minds and when they are externalized, they wreak havoc. If peace could be established at the level of the mind, before there is any physical escalation of strife, the world would be a much better place to live in.

The only effective way to prevent quarrels, whether at the individual or at the national or international level, is to train people’s minds: patience should be emphasized as the greatest of all virtues.

Such a mentality can be developed only if negative thinking is replaced by positive thinking. This should be directed at resistance to provocation and the avoidance of all unpleasantness and consequent entanglements. It must provide the basis for cool and unemotional decision-making, and, above all, for return of love for hatred.

Such a reform of the mind would lead to the most positive reconstruction of human affairs ever witnessed in human history.

 

MARCH 6

A Purposeful Creation

Why was this world made? Why was man born into this world? Why, after a certain period of time, does he pass away? What will happen after death? These are the most important questions concerning the origins and fate of mankind, and they should never be far from people’s minds. Finding the correct answers to these questions has always been one of man’s most important quests.

Pondered over for thousands of years, these questions have been variously answered by different people. However, these answers can be placed in two broad categories: one, which holds the great array of wonders in this world to be purposeless, and the other, which asserts that man was created with a purpose and that he has a definite goal.

While the first view tends to be subscribed to by poets, philosophers and secular scholars, the second view is firmly upheld by that very special class of beings called prophets, or messengers of God. The most authentic testament to the second view has been provided by the Prophet Muhammad.

Many arguments can be put forward in support of the answers in both of these categories. It is very obvious, however, that the notion of purposelessness is not in keeping with the structure of life and universe. The idea, on the other hand, of purposeful creation, falls exactly into place, for the simple reason that it contains no inherent contradictions.

The world into which man is born is fraught with significance. There is nothing, which is of a meaningless or random nature. It is quite unthinkable that man, with his meaningful life, born into a meaningful universe, should find no purpose in creation. Where there is meaningfulness, there will, of necessity, be purposefulness. This aspect of the universe is a clear verification of the Prophet’s answer.

 

MARCH 7

The Spiritual Goal of Islam

What is the spiritual goal of Islam? That is, what is that spiritual target which Islam sets before man? The answer in the words of the Quran is: ‘A soul at rest’ (89:27). Thus the spiritual goal of Islam is to attain this state of peace in the soul.

According to the Quran this is the ultimate stage in a man’s spiritual development. When he reaches this stage of progress, he qualifies himself to be ushered into Paradise, the perfect and eternal world of the Hereafter. The Quran addresses such souls in these words: ‘O serene soul! Return to your Lord joyful, and pleasing in His sight. Join My servants and enter My paradise’ (89:27-30).

In this world man has to lead his life in circumstances in which he experiences various kinds of situations: there are times of gain, times of loss; times of happiness and times of grief. Sometimes he receives good treatment at the hands of others, at other times his fate is quite otherwise.

The ideal human being of the Quran is one who undergoes all these experiences without losing his integrity. Under no circumstances is his inner peace disturbed. However untoward the occasion, he can maintain his natural balance. Success does not make him proud. Power does not make him haughty. No bad treatment by others drives him to seek vengeance in anger. At all events, he remains serene. It is such a man who is called ‘a peaceful soul’ in the Quran. And it is this man who, according to the Quran, has achieved the highest spiritual state.

The realization of God joins man to his Maker. Such communion with the divine brings about a state of spiritual elevation. Having been thus raised to a higher plane of existence, man becomes a ‘sublime character,’ (68:4) as it is expressed in the Quran.

This can be illustrated by an example from the natural world: The process of conversion of a substance from the solid to the gaseous state, is called boiling. The boiling point of a liquid varies according to atmospheric pressure. At sea level, water boils at 100 degrees centigrade. At a higher altitude, as on a mountain, the atmospheric pressure is less, so the boiling point is lower. This shows that it is the altitude that makes the difference.

The law of nature governing this world accounts for the difference made by altitude. Islam’s aim is to foster human beings whose altitude has changed. The superior qualities desired in him will come later, on their own.

Just as the Prophet of Islam was God’s messenger, so also was he a perfect example of the peaceful soul. By studying his life, one can learn the nature of God’s ideal man, that is, a peaceful soul. In the Quran the Prophet Muhammad is described as an example of “sublime character” (68:4).

When is it that a man’s spiritual progress brings him to the state of peace? The best way to describe the soul being at complete rest is to give certain examples from the life of the Prophet of Islam.

The Prophet’s name was Muhammad, meaning the praised one or the praiseworthy. But when the Makkans became his most dire opponents, they themselves coined a name for the Prophet, ‘Muzammam,’ on the pattern of ‘Muhammad,’ Muzammam meaning condemned. They used to heap abuses on him calling him by this epithet of Muzammam. But the Prophet was never enraged at this distorted version of his name. All he said in return was: “Aren’t you surprised that God has turned away the abuses of the Quraysh from me. They abuse a person by the name of Muzammam. Whereas I am Muhammad (Ibn Hisham, 1/379).

This meant that abuses were being heaped on a person whose name was Muzammam. Since the Prophet’s name was Muhammad, not Muzammam, their abuses did not apply to him. Such a reaction can come only from a person whose intellectual level is very high; who can rise above praise and criticism.

One day the Prophet was sitting with his companions in Madinah when a funeral procession passed by. The Prophet stood up. His Companions pointed out that it was the funeral of a Jew, that is, a non-Muslim. The Prophet replied: ‘Was he not a human being?’ (Fathul Bari, 3/214).

This incident shows that the Prophet was looking at the matter by separating two different aspects of the Jew, that is, his being non-Muslim, and his being a human being. At that moment he overlooked his non-Muslim identity and saw him simply as a human being.

It is only a man who, in the words of the Quran has acquired a sublime character who can show such respect for every human being. It is only one whose spiritual progress has elevated his mental level who can do honour to one of another creed.

On another occasion the Prophet of Islam was in the Masjid al-Nabi in Madinah, the second most sacred mosque in Islam, when a Bedouin, that is, a desert Arab, entered the mosque and urinated inside it. It was obviously a very provocative matter. But the Prophet was not at all provoked. After the nomad had urinated, the Prophet simply asked his companions to bring a bucket of water and wash the place clean (Fathul Bari, 1/386).

This is a clear example of the kind of behaviour one may expect of a man with a peaceful soul. The Prophet’s keeping cool at such obvious provocation was possible only because he had attained the highest state of spirituality. He had risen above all negative feelings.

These examples make it clear what a peaceful soul is. The peaceful soul is one which being on a higher spiritual plane, can live in tranquillity, regardless of the circumstances. It subsists within its own self. No external event can disturb its inner peace.

Nowadays people often tend to look at the history of kings in order to understand Islam. But this is not the proper way to study it. One needs only to study the careers of today’s political leaders to be able to understand the nature of the Muslim kings of bygone days. Today’s political leaders are, in reality, exploiters. In a similar way most of the Muslim kings of the later phase of Islam were also exploiters. To achieve their political ends, they exploited the name of Islam. As such, these Muslim kings were in no way the true representatives of Islam.

 

MARCH 8

Seeking the Pleasure of God

According to the Quran and the Hadith, a good deed is one, which is essentially intended to seek the pleasure of God (57:27). Devoid of this spirit, any deed will be as good as worthless when the final reckoning comes.

God does not go by appearances. He sees the inner motive called ‘intent’ in the Shariah. Looked at from this angle, deeds could be of two kinds, those that are committed to seek the pleasure of God, and those aimed at pleasing human beings.

The focal point of the man whose aim is to seek the pleasure of God will be his Creator. He seeks to find out whether or not his actions will meet with the approval of his Lord. His dealings are always determined by the principle of truth. His speech and movements are always directed by the will of God. Even if all other human beings have turned against him, or he is shunned by them, he is not deterred from following the path of truth.

On the contrary, the focus of attention of the man whose aim is to please human beings is man instead of God. He looks up to his group, his party and his human patrons in all matters. His language is couched in such terms as to please men, and his actions are calculated to win popularity among human beings.

However, the individual whose aim is to seek the pleasure of God becomes sensitive in the highest degree to all matters relating to God. He can ignore anything but divine dictates, whereas those who seek the pleasure of men become extremely sensitive in matters relating to men. They begin to show such consideration to men as only God deserves.

The former will find their abode in heaven, while the latter will be consigned to hellfire.

 

MARCH 9

Liberalism and Fundamentalism

I should like, first of all, to define the terms liberalism and fundamentalism. To arrive at universally acceptable definition has never been an easy task, but I think that good, workable definition of liberalism and fundamentalism should be, respectively, reason-based thinking, as opposed to scripture-based thinking.

Once we accept these definitions, we have a set of criteria by which to judge the actions of both liberals and fundamentalists. However, what we find, in the light of these criteria, is that neither group has truly adhered to its professed doctrines. Neither have the liberals been guided by reason, nor have the fundamentalists been by the scriptures.

In the Indian context, the Shah Bano case provides a telling example by which to judge the validity of the respective stands adopted by these two groups. During this case, such emphasis was laid on the fact that, according to the Islamic Shariah, a divorced wife was entitled only to temporary provision by her husband; she did not have the right to ask for permanent maintenance. This point was seized upon and highlighted by the liberals in order to prove that Islamic Law was in need of revision, without which it was not practicable in modern times.

To my way of thinking, in this case, the liberals neither thought nor acted reasonably. Had reason been appealed to, the liberals ought surely to have accepted the reality of the western world having already tried—and found wanting—the system of permanent maintenance for a divorced wife. Western laws, in obliging the ex-husband to pay permanent maintenance to his ex-wife, placed the man at an irreversible disadvantage. It is hardly surprising then that divorce having proved so costly time and again, attitudes to marriage began to change. As a result, more than fifty per cent of the young couples living together today are unwed, so that when they separate, the man does not have to pay for the maintenance of his former partner. Seen in the light of reason, the option, in reality, is not between permanent or temporary maintenance, but between any kind of provision and complete sexual anarchy. This being the reality, is it proper for liberals to ignore the experience of the west and blindly ridicule Islamic Law? The adoption of such a stance runs counter both to reason and to religion.

The position adopted by the fundamentalists in the Shah Bano case was flared in much the same manner as that of the liberals, in that it did not derive from or conform to the principles propounded by them. When the verdict in favour of maintenance was given, Muslim fundamentalists raised a great hue and cry against the Supreme Court’s decision, completely ignoring the fact that to do so was quite against the teachings of the Quran.

Consider the almost parallel case, which took place in Madinah during the lifetime of the Prophet. A Muslim, called Basheer, who once had a dispute with a Jew, could have referred his case to the Prophet and been given a verdict based on the Shari’ah. But he chose, instead, to take his problems to a Jew by the name of Kaab Bin Ashraf, who used to settle any disputes referred to him. The Quran comments on this incident, but has nothing to say against Kaab Bin Ashraf. On the contrary, the Quran only condemned the Muslim for taking his case to this Jew instead of the Prophet. That is to say that the scriptures condemned the verdict-seeker rather than the verdict-giver.

Notwithstanding this Quranic example, the Muslim fundamentalists of India, without exception, kept silent on the subject of the verdict-seeker. Their entire animus was directed against the Supreme Court, in so doing, the Muslim fundamentalists were following, not their Scriptures, but personal whims.

According to the Quran (46:4), there are two sources of knowledge, one established, the other revealed. It would be correct to say that, in principle, the liberal group bases its judgement in established knowledge, while the fundamentalist group stands by revealed knowledge. But if the fundamentalists had genuinely adhered to the Scriptures, they would have diverted their campaign against the verdict-seeker rather than against the verdict-giver (i.e., the Court). Similarly, if the liberals had been true to their own professed doctrines, they would, as a matter of principle, have admitted the veracity of Islamic Law in this particular instance, rather than get about discrediting Islam.

 

MARCH 10

Understanding India

1993 has been a year of meetings for me. During this period I have travelled extensively throughout the country in order to attend a number of conferences and seminars and in the process have met people from a broad cross-section of society. Most of the people I met seemed to have lost their optimism about the way this country is going to develop. But I differ from them. I am still full of hope for India’s future.

It is my firm belief that despair runs counter to nature’s overall system and that like any other kind of negativism it is unworthy of serious consideration. Have we forgotten, perhaps, that even the blackest of nights is followed by the sunrise? This sequence of events is so totally and perfectly predictable that an astronomer can tell with confidence the exact moment the sun will rise one thousand years from today. In a world, therefore, in which day will quite unfailingly follow night every twenty four hours ad infinitum, how is it possible that the darkness of despair will not be dispelled by the light of hope?

Here is an illustration of this point. On December 6, 1992, when the Babri Mosque was demolished, many newspapers made the assertion that this would turn out to be only the first of a long series of such incidents, anything from 300 to 3,000 mosques having been targetted by extremists for demolition. But my interpretation of the situation was quite the reverse. I said that no other mosque was going to be demolished, for what we had witnessed was not the beginning of anti-masjid politics but the end.

This may appear strange today, but both communities very soon gave their tacit approval to the idea that Muslims should forget about their one mosque and Hindus should forget about the many mosques that, in the heat of the moment, they felt should be demolished. Though there is still some talk, on both sides, in the former antagonistic vein, passions are definitely cooling over what is, after all, an anachronism, which cannot continue indefinitely.

What underlay my own personal conviction about how this situation would develop was substantial historical evidence that destruction having run its course, must ultimately abate and come to an end. The entire history of mankind abounds in such instances.

However, a welcome panacea to cut short present ills would be the general acceptance of pluralism. But upholders of this principle have first to contend with the problem—nay, threat—of ‘cultural nationalism’. The proponents of this latter movement insist that India’s composite culture must be moulded into a uni-Indian culture, being of the view that it is only through such endeavour that social harmony can be produced.

Serious-minded people regard this movement as a genuine threat to the integrity of the country. This is because any attempt to replace the existing cultural set-up with an artificially formulated ‘culture’ would bring in its wake a fresh spate of strife and dissension. Such steps, disruptive as they are of the status quo, can never produce social harmony.

I do not, however, see any real danger in such a movement, for the simple reason that those who set themselves up against nature are bound to fall far short of their objectives. Their goals, could they but grasp this fact, are unrealizable.

Those who advocate changing the ‘composite’ culture of the country show their ignorance of the fact that culture is almost always of an inherently composite nature. Culture is not something, which can be formulated in some office, or in some meeting or conference: it is invariably the result of a long and natural process of social action, reaction and interaction. Far from being the instant fallout of some political resolution, it is the culmination of a time-honoured, historical accretion. This being so, I regard cultural nationalism, or uni-culturalism as being against the laws of nature. Not even a super power can fly in the face of nature.

Besides, where uni-culture smacks of narrow-mindedness, multi-culture stands for broadmindedness. I cannot believe that my countrymen would be so foolish as to prefer to be narrow-minded. In July, 1993, a meeting was held in New Delhi in memory of Mr. Girilal Jain, the former editor of the Times of India. Speaking on this occasion, the present editor, Mr. Dilip Padgaonkar, made the point that because the human identity is composed of so many elements, it can never be thought of as being limited in form. According to influences which had shaped his own life, he mentioned being born into a particular family and growing up with a particular mother tongue and having the religion of his social background. When he went abroad to different countries, there were other influences, which went into the shaping of his identity. Many of these elements became inseparable parts of his psyche. Describing the vastness of the human personality, he said, “I am large enough to contain all these contradictions.”

I think these words convey the spirit not only of India but also of humanity in its broadest sense. In terms of the sense of identity, which a language confers, there are still complaints about the non-fulfillment of promises made by Indian leaders prior to 1947, that ‘Hindustani’ written in both Persian and Devnagri scripts would be the national language of liberated India. The later decision to make Hindi the official language of post-independence India is still regarded as an affront and a deliberately limiting factor. But, in the context of the present day, I regard all this lamentation over Hindi’s predominance as having little or no relevance.

Language may be an important part of a composite culture, but it is not minted by a handful of people. It comes into being after centuries of development. When Muslims came to India, they brought with them Arabic and Persian. At that time many languages were spoken in Delhi and the surrounding areas, such as Haryani, Punjabi, Khadi Boli, Brijbhasha, Rajasthani, etc. With the interaction of Muslims and the local people, a new language began to develop. This language came to be known as Hindustani. It was a common language formed by deriving words from both foreign and local languages. Even today, it is the language of many people in India, although Muslims remain more Urdu-oriented, while Hindus, generally speaking, are more Hindi-oriented. It is significant that all the major Hindi dailies use Hindustani written in Devnagri script, that being the only really understandable language for the majority of the Indian people.

Muslims, however, still make a grievance of this use of Devnagri script. But they are wrong to do so. If they were simply to apply themselves to learning this script along with Urdu script they would find that they could have easy access not only to news and journalistic commentary but to a much wider field of literature and general information that is available to them at present. Devnagri script, being phonetic, is easy to learn, and its acquisition would bring it home to Muslims, once they began to make use of it, that the prevalent national language in actuality is Hindustani rather than Hindi, a language with which they have been familiar all their lives. They should learn a lesson from the many Hindu Punjabi officials who were schooled in Persian and Urdu, but who, after independence had suddenly to make the transition from Urdu to Hindi in their official work, without their ever having had any previous knowledge of Devnagri script. No one says that this changeover was easy, but the fact remains that it was successfully accomplished by dint of personal endeavour. Muslims must begin to see linguistic change as the need of the hour.

Whatever the concomitant pressures on the national identity, it should be borne in mind that the future of a nation, inevitably shaped as it is by historical forces, is never carved out by just a single individual, or a single group. And India is no exception to this rule.

 

MARCH 11

The Policy of Peace in Islam

According to the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, a believer is one with whom one can trust one’s life and property. That is because Islam is a religion of peace. The Quran calls its way ‘the paths of peace’ (5:16). It describes reconciliation as the best policy, (4:128) and states quite plainly that God abhors disturbance of the peace (2:205).

Yet, in this world, for one reason or the other, peace remains elusive. Differences—political and apolitical—keep on arising between individuals and groups, Muslims and non-Muslims. Whenever people refuse to be tolerant of these differences, insisting that they be rooted out the moment they arise, there is bound to be strife. Peace, as a result, can never prevail in this world.

One recent example is the ever-recurring conflict over Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a very ancient, historic city with a unique value for all the millions of people of different religious persuasions who believe it to be their very own Sacred Place. Jerusalem is, indeed, a symbol and centre of inspiration for the three great Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. For Jews, it is a living proof of their ancient grandeur, and the pivot of their national history. For Christians, it is the scene of their Saviour’s agony and triumph. For Muslims, it is the first halting place on the Prophet’s mystic journey, and also the site of one of Islam’s most sacred Shrines. Thus, for all three faiths, it is a centre of pilgrimage, while for Muslims it is the third holiest place of worship.

Now the question arises as to how, when it is a place of worship for all three religions, it can be freely accessible to all. How can the adherents of all the three religions have the opportunity there to satisfy their religious feelings?

What is the solution to this problem? Its solution lies in a practice (sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad: to separate the religious from the political aspect of the matter. This would enable men of religion to solve the problem by applying what is called ‘practical wisdom,’ that is, to avoid the present problems and grasp the available opportunities. By following this process, they would be able to fulfill their cherished religious desire of which they have been denied unnecessarily so far. In the process, they would be able to avoid confrontational situations. Here are some telling examples of this sunnah of the Prophet.

1. The Prophet Muhammad emigrated from Makkah to Madinah in July 622. For the first year and a half in Madinah (i.e. till the end of 623) he and his companions prayed in the direction of al-Bayt al-Maqdis in Jerusalem. At the beginning of 624, the faithful, were enjoined, by Quranic revelation, to face in the direction of the Sacred Ka‘ba at Makkah to say their prayers (2:144).

When this injunction regarding the Qiblah (direction of prayer) was revealed, 360 idols were still in position in the Ka‘bah, at that time a long-established centre of polytheism. The presence of these idols must certainly have made Muslims feel reluctant to face in the direction of the Ka‘bah at prayer time. How could believers in monotheism turn their faces towards what was, in effect, a structure strongly associated with polytheism? It is significant that along with the change of Qiblah came the injunction to treat this problem as a matter requiring patience, and not to hesitate in facing the Ka‘bah: “O believers, seek assistance in prayer. God is with those who are patient” (2:153).

As history tells us, this state of affairs continued for six long years, till the conquest of Makkah (630) when the Ka‘bah was cleared of idols. This establishes a very important principle of Islam, which may be termed as Al-fasl bayn al-qaziyatayn, that is, the separation of two different facets of a problem from each other. According to this principle, the Ka‘bah and the idols were given separate consideration. By remaining patient on the issue of the presence of the idols, believers were able to accept the Ka‘bah as the direction for prayer.

2. Another such example is the above mentioned heavenly journey (Isra or Mi‘raj) undertaken by the Prophet before the emigration in 622. At that juncture, Jerusalem was ruled by Iranians, that is to say, by non-Muslims. The Iranian ruler, Khusroe Parvez, attacked Jerusalem in 614, wresting it from the Romans, who had governed it since 63 B.C. This political dominance of the Iranian empire ended only when the Roman Emperor Heraclius defeated the Iranians and restored Roman rule over Jerusalem in 629.

This means that, before his emigration, the Prophet Muhammad entered Jerusalem on his Mi‘raj journey to say his prayer at the Masjid al-Aqsa at a time when the city was under the rule of a non-Muslim king. From this we derive the very important sunnah of the Prophet that worship and politics practically belong to separate spheres, and, as such, should not be confused with one another.

3. The third example took place after the Hijrah in 629. At that time, Makkah was entirely under the domination of the idolatrous Quraysh. In spite of that, the Prophet and his companions came to Makkah from Madinah to spend three days there to perform Umrah (the minor pilgrimage) and the circumambulation of the Ka‘bah. This was possible solely because the Prophet did not mix worship with politics. If the Prophet had thought that Umra could be performed only when Makkah came under Muslim political rule, he would never have entered Makkah for worship along with his companions.

In the light of this sunnah of the Prophet, the solution to the present problem of Jerusalem lies in separating the issue of worship from that of political supremacy. Muslims belonging to Palestine, or any other country, should be able to go freely to Jerusalem in order to pray to God in the Aqsa Mosque. Worship should be totally disassociated from political issues.

To sum it up, the only practical solution to the problem of Jerusalem, in present circumstances, is to apply the above principle of Al-fasl bayn al-qaziyatayn to this matter, that is, to keep the two aspects of a controversial issue separate from one another. There is no other possible solution to the problem of Jerusalem. We ought to keep the political aspect apart from its religious aspect so that no ideological barrier comes in the way of worship by the people, and the faithful are able to go to Jerusalem freely in order to satisfy their religious feelings.

 

MARCH 12

Defining Secularism

The basis of the partition of the country in 1947, at least implicitly, was that India was to be declared a Hindu state, and Pakistan a Muslim state. And it did happen in Pakistan. It was declared a Muslim state. So the logical parallel was to declare India a Hindu state. But one thing in India, prevented such a declaration being made. That was that Hindus had gone sufficiently ahead in modern education for a majority of their educated class to think along non-religious lines, Pandit Nehru being at the apex. It was due to the pressure of these educated Hindus that India was declared a secular state instead of a Hindu state.

This state of affairs was indeed a boon for the Indian Muslims. Unfortunately though, due to the misguided leadership of certain Muslim leaders, they could never place secularism in its correct perspective. Their leaders had told them that secularism meant an anti-religious system. That is why they were never in a position to think about it with clear minds. They could never adjust to this idea.

The interpretation of secularism, quite simply, means ‘a worldly or non-religious system.’ As such, in a pluralistic society secularism entails a political settlement, whereby religious freedom is granted in private spheres, while the ordinary, everyday worldly spheres of life are dealt with on a non-religious basis. This obviates the kind of dissension, which can arise in a society where people of different persuasions exist side by side.

According to this interpretation, secularism cannot be called an anti-religious system. To put it more precisely in the Indian context, secularism can be termed a system of non-interference. That is, the State maintains a policy of non-interference in the religious affairs of various groups, while attending to practical matters of concern to all the groups, on a non-religious basis.

As a result of this misunderstanding by the Muslims, they failed to participate fully in secularism. Those Muslims who openly participated in the secular system were never respected, and never gained credibility among the Muslims. This is the basic reason for secularism not being a complete success in the country.

Although Muslims are numerically in a minority, due to their large numbers they are in the position of being next to the majority in the country. A community in this position has an extremely crucial role to play. It is because of this special position of Muslims that no system in India can be successfully established unless Muslims accept it and extend to it their full cooperation.

All the known records prove that Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and his colleagues were secular in the best sense of the word. Had they received the full support of the Muslim community, they certainly would have succeeded in establishing a secular system in the country.

Whatever the system, secular or Islamic, it can never be perfect in this world of ours. It will always have some shortcoming or the other. India being such a vast country, something or the other will always fall short of the ideal, even if it were an Islamic state. Failing to understand this situation Muslims have repeatedly pinpointed the supposed or real shortcomings of the system and regularly make fiery speeches and write barbed articles, which denigrate the system. They accuse the Congress of functioning under the banner of secularism without actually practicing it. As a result, Muslims have continued to give a negative vote, thereby seriously undermining the stability of the Congress, the stability that was necessary to establish a secular system.

For instance, take the question of government service. Seeing that the Muslim ratio was much lower in government jobs, Muslims alleged that the government talked a great deal about secularism but that, in fact, most of the jobs were given to Hindus, not Muslims. This was not the case. The actual reason for the greater number of Hindus in government jobs was to be found elsewhere. When Muslims in Govt. jobs migrated to Pakistan in large numbers before partition the Hindus who had left their jobs to come to India were naturally given first preference. Automatically, they came to exceed the number of Muslims in government jobs.

Another reason for the smaller ratio was that Muslims were 100 years behind Hindus in modern education. There were, therefore, far fewer degree holders among Muslims than among Hindus.

For instance, at the Aligarh Muslim University, when the Muslims opened their own medical college, using their own funds, they were forced to employ Hindu professors. The reason being that the Muslims themselves had lagged too far behind in medical education in particular to apply for such positions.

This is traceable to Muslims’ lack of awareness of modern imperatives. Their negative response to the opening of the first medical college in Calcutta in 1835 is a matter of history. While Muslims were taking out processions for its closure, Hindus were at the same time seeking admission to it. Muslims in fact could not separate the English from their sciences. Since they were launching movements against British rule, they thought that even their sciences had also to be discarded. It was for reasons such as these that Muslims have suffered in the past and are still suffering the consequences. However, they were quick to lay all the blame at the door of the government, even in places where the government had no hand.

No system can work efficiently without the cooperation of the public. The government can undertake only 50 percent of the task. The other 50 percent has to be undertaken by the people.

But instead of pulling their weight, which would have meant correcting their own attitude, they ranged themselves against secularism, of which they felt profoundly suspicious. Their failure to improve their own condition in terms of education only made them more rigid in this stance.

Now this state of affairs was exploited by the fundamentalist Hindus. They may not have been the creators of this state of affairs, but I would stress that they have exploited the situation.

Since secularism was upheld by the Congress, and favoured by educated classes everywhere, fundamentalist groups found themselves relegated to the background. The theocratic state was in the process everywhere of being rejected by the enlightened minds. But Muslims did not play their role. This is what is largely responsible for the erosion of secularism. There are certainly other factors, but Muslims’ failure to realize the actual meaning of secularism is the most decisive one.

Muslims failed to play their 50 percent part, thus encouraging the rise of Hindu fundamentalism. If the BJP seats in Parliament rose from 2 to 119 the direct responsibility for this must be attributed to the ill-advised leadership of Muslims.

Pandit Nehru had an excellent team of individuals, imbued with the spirit of secularism, in the best sense of the word, but Muslims failed to support them. There were certain Muslims both inside and outside the party who favoured secularism but since our leaders had implanted the wrong idea in people’s minds that secularism was anti-Islam, these individuals were never respected in the community, hence they failed to gain the credibility among Muslims, which was necessary for them to play an effective role.

Now Muslims will have to change their thinking. They must realize that secularism is not anti-Islam or anti-religion, but that it is the best possible principle on which to run a pluralistic society.

 

MARCH 13

Discovery of God

When persecution at the hands of the Quraysh became insufferable, the Prophet asked some of his Muslim followers to emigrate from Makkah to Abyssinia. There, they were given refuge and found peace and security. When the Quraysh heard about this, they sent two envoys to the king of Abyssinia to demand that the Muslims be returned to them. Najashi, the Abyssinian king, refused to give up those who had sought his protection until they had been allowed to explain their case. Ja‘far ibn Abu Talib came forward on behalf of the Muslims: This is what he said: “We used to be an ignorant people, worshipping idols, eating carrion-flesh, committing indecencies, cutting off relationships, and neglecting our neighbours. The strong amongst us used to devour the weak. We remained in this state until God sent us a prophet from our own people: one whose lineage, truthfulness, integrity and chastity were known to us. He called us to One God, urging us to worship Him alone, and to forsake the stones and idols, which we and our forefathers had worshipped besides Him. He enjoined us to be truthful and trustworthy; to be kind to relatives and neighbours; to refrain from that which is forbidden to us, and not to spill the blood of others. He forbade indecency and all falsehood, the misappropriation of the property of orphans and the defamation of honourable women. He called on us to worship one God, and no other besides Him. He commanded us to pray, pay the poor-due and fast. (Ja‘far then listed all the commandments of Islam). So we believe in him, and follow him in the religion that has come to him from God. We started worshipping One God alone, refraining from that which he forbade us, and considering lawful only that which he declared so. But our people turned against us, persecuting us and seeking to entice us away from our religion, and turn us back to worshipping idols instead of God Almighty. They attempted to make us indulge once again in impure things, as we used to. When this persecution and oppression became unbearable, and they came between us and our religion, we emigrated to your land. We preferred you above all others, noble king, and sought your refuge, in the hope that we would not be wronged in your presence.

Najashi then asked Ja‘far to read to him some of the Book, which had been revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Ja‘far recited the beginning of the Surah entitled ‘Mary’. When Najashi heard these verses, he wept. “This is the same word that Jesus brought to the world,” he said; “it emanates from the same source.” He then sent the envoys of the Quraysh away, saying that there was no question of his handing over the Muslims to them.

From Ja‘far’s words we can tell what a momentous impact the discovery of God had made on his life, and how his faith had permeated every corner of his being. When Najashi heard this faith expressed in Ja‘far’s words, he could not but accede under its impact.

The truth is that with the discovery of God, a new personality grows which is reflected in every action. Religion becomes inseparable from the person it has entered. The full force of his faith is borne out by his every word and action. They are outward expression of the deep faith that has saturated his inner soul.

 

MARCH 14

Limits of Tolerance

According to Voltaire, “Tolerance is a law of nature stamped on the heart of all men.”

Nothing could be truer than this statement; tolerance is, indeed, a permanent law of nature. But it is not something, which has to be externally imposed, for the human desire for tolerance is limitless. Just as truth and honesty are virtues, so is tolerance a virtue. And just as no one ever needs to ask for how long one should remain truthful and honest, so does one think of tolerance as having an eternal value. The way of tolerance should be unquestioningly adopted at all times as possessing superior merit.

A man who is intolerant is not a human being in the full sense of the expression. To become enraged at antagonism is surely a sign of weakness. Of course, there are many who do not want to recognise the principle of tolerance as being eternal, for, in conditions of adversity, the temptation to retaliate becomes too strong. The feelings of anger, which accompany negative reaction, must somehow be vented, and those who think and act in this way are keen to retain the illusion that, in hitting back, they are not doing anything unlawful.

Such thinking is quite wrong. In reality, when a man is enraged at anything, which goes against his will, tolerance as a priority becomes paramount. Many men strive to become supermen. But the true superman is one who, in really trying situations, can demonstrate his super-tolerance. Just any act of antagonism does not give us the license to be intolerant. Rather, such occasions call for greater tolerance than in normal circumstances. In everyday matter, where there is none of the stress and strain of opposition, no one has difficulty in being tolerant. It is only in extraordinary situations, fraught with conflict, that the truly tolerant man will prove his mettle.

One of the stark realities of life is that divergence of views does exist between man and man, and that it impinges at all levels. Be it at the level of a family or a society, a community or a country, differences are bound to exist everywhere. Now the question is how best unity can be forged or harmony brought about in the face of human differences.

Some people hold that the removal of all differences is the sine quanon for bringing about unity. But, this view is untenable, for the simple reason that, it is not practicable. You may not like the thorns, which essentially accompany roses, but it is not possible for you to pluck out all the thorns and destroy them completely. For, if you pluck out one, another will grow in its place. Even if you run a bulldozer over all rosebushes, new plants will grow in their place bearing roses, which are ineluctably accompanied by thorns. In the present scheme of things, roses can be had only by tolerating the existence of thorns. Similarly, a peaceful society can be created only by creating and fostering the spirit of tolerance towards diversities. In this world, unity is achievable only by learning to unite in spite of differences, rather than insisting on unity without differences. For total eradication of differences is an impossibility. The secret of attaining peace in life is tolerance of disturbance of the peace.

There is nothing wrong in diversity of opinions. In fact, this is a positive quality, which has many advantages. The beauty of the garden of life is actually enhanced if the flower of unity is accompanied by the thorn of diversity.

An advantage flowing from this attitude is that it builds character. If you are well-mannered towards those whose views are similar to yours, you may be said to exhibit a fairly good character. But, if you behave properly with those holding divergent views from you or who criticise you, then you deserve to be credited with having an excellent character.

In the same way, a society whose members hold identical views and never have any controversial discussions, will soon find itself in the doldrums. The intellectual development of the members of this society will be frozen, because personal evolution takes place only where the interaction of divergent thinking provides the requisite mental stimuli.

The adoption of a policy of tolerance in the midst of controversy and in the face of opposition is not a negative step. It is undoubtedly a positive course of action.

Divergence of views plays an important role in the development of the human psyche. It is only after running the intellectual gauntlet that a developed personality emerges. If, in a human society, this process ceases to operate, the development of character will come to a standstill.

Nobody in this world is perfect. If a man is endowed with some good qualities, he may be lacking in others. This is one of the reasons for differences cropping up between people. But, for life as a whole, this disparateness is actually a great blessing: the good points of one man may compensate for the shortcomings of another, just as one set of talents in one man may complement a different set in another. If people could only learn to tolerate others’ differences, their very forbearance would become a great enabling factor in collective human development.

The habit of tolerance prevents a man from wasting his time and talent on unnecessary matters. When negatively affected by another’s unpalatable behaviour, your mental equilibrium is upset, whereas when emotionally untouched by such behaviour, your mind will fully retain its equilibrium and, without wasting a single moment, you will continue to carry out your duties in the normal way. The policy of tolerance or forbearance enhances your efficacy, while intolerant behaviour reduces it.

Tolerance is not an act of compulsion. It is a positive principle of life, expressing the noble side of a man’s character. The existence of tolerant human beings in a society is just like the blooming of flowers in a garden.

 

MARCH 15

Towards a Glorious and Invincible India

In its editorial ‘Neighbour’s Neighbour’, The Times of India (April 21, 95) wrote: “Though India is the second largest Islamic country in the world [recent estimates show that India’s Muslim population is now the largest] it has been subjected to hostile propaganda in the Organization of the Islamic Countries. It is, therefore, necessary for India to cultivate leading Islamic countries and explain to them, the realities of the situation in the country. It is on record, for example, that although Mr. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad was deputed by Mrs. Indira Gandhi to attend the first meeting of the Organisation of the Islamic Countries held in Morocco in 1969, this mission was not a success because of Pakistan’s opposition to India.”

It needs to be emphasized far beyond the borders of India, that in addition to constituting the largest Muslim population in the world, Indian Muslims have made extraordinary progress since 1947. Most Muslim families are now far better off than they were prior to that date. (For details, please refer to Indian Muslims by the author).

There can be no doubt that Muslims are a great asset to their country. When it comes to holding the banner of India high on the world Muslim map, they make a solid contribution. Our neighbour, Sri Lanka, having grasped this reality, has assigned its foreign ministry and many other important posts to Muslims. Sri Lanka is now benefiting greatly from the relations thus established with Muslim countries. I feel that India has yet to fully tap this precious opportunity.

Today the country is beset by serious problems to solve for which new blood is required. And this new blood, according to the predictions of Swami Vivekananda, can be found among the Muslims. On June 19, 1898, he wrote:

I see in my mind’s eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.

(Letters of Swami Vivekananda, p. 380).

To put it quite plainly, this would mean having a Hindu president and a Muslim prime minister for our great democratic system. Today the formation of such a government has become an inescapable necessity. The Swami’s dictum of one hundred years ago would appear to be an ideal proposal in terms of present circumstances. It is not just playing with ideas, it is rather making a cool assessment of the country’s present condition. More than eighty percent of the problems faced by our country today relate directly or indirectly to Muslims. Would not an able and patriotic Muslim prime minister deal with them with greater insight and efficiency?

Let us look at what India’s most serious problems are, given its central position in a huge chain of Muslim countries stretching to its east and west. The most difficult problem to be solved is that of Kashmir. Then there is the normalization of relations with the west Asian countries, with whom innumerable matters of national interest are at issue. Other problems include securing the support of the Muslim members in the United Nations; the normalization of relations with Pakistan, which for us is of prime importance, the establishment of a corridor through Bangladesh to join northern India with the rest of the country by road or rail, and the formation of a federation of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as a permanent political solution to the problems of the subcontinent, besides the internal normalization of Hindu-Muslim relations, and so on.

Serious problems like these have become obstacles in the path of our progress. Our journey as a nation has reached a dead end. In such circumstances, an able Muslim prime minister may effectively lead the caravan of national progress out of its present state of impasse.

The number of Muslims in Malaysia is less than that of India (about 12 crores). Although the ratio of Muslims to adherents of other faiths is greater than in India. Malaysian Muslims are still numerically in a minority. Even so, for almost the last twenty years, Malaysia has had a Muslim prime minister in Maathir Mohammed. And this is without there being a Muslim majority in parliament. The number of Muslim members of parliament is actually less than fifty per cent, so that it is not a Muslim parliament, which Maathir Mohammed heads, but a coalition government.

During a tour in Malaysia in July 1984, I had occasion to meet Maathir Mohammad and was able to form my own personal estimate of him. I came to the conclusion that the quality, which has enabled him to head a coalition government for the last twenty years, was the realism of his approach.

Unlike our Muslim leaders, he does not indulge in wishful thinking, but makes an in-depth study of circumstances and then makes plans of proven feasibility. It is this quality in him which is responsible for Malaysia’s extraordinary progress. It is significant that even with a minority in the Assembly, he has been able to form a government for four successive terms.

Indian Muslims are generally regarded as the downtrodden objects of social and religious persecution. But to my way of thinking, if old attitudes could be shaken off, there should be nothing to present them playing the same role in this country as is played by Mr. Maathir Mohammad in Malaysia.

It would be ridiculous to suggest, of course, that a few articles published in the newspapers should suffice for a Muslim to be offered the post of prime minister. Prime ministership is not something to be conferred on demand. The aspirant should first have to prove his mettle, and then the post should be given to him on the basis of outstanding personal merit. Swami Vivekananda meant just this when he made the above-mentioned observation. If meritorious Muslims go forward at the national level where, by virtue of their excellent performance in the country’s mainstream, they come into public’s eye, and emerge as national figures, they can certainly reach the highest political offices in the country.

For this to happen, Muslim intellectuals and leaders shall have to adopt a totally non-communal approach. They must concentrate on what is in the general interest of the nation and not just on the welfare of their own community. They shall have to develop national thinking instead of sectarian thinking and should have the guts to say: “I am proud to be an Indian Muslim.” Their approach must be secular in the best sense of the word, and, without differentiating between Hindus and Muslims, they must show their love for all Indians in equal measure.

While in Kuala Lumpur, I said my prayers at the official residence of the Prime Minister. As a devout Muslim, Mr. Maathir Mohammad joined us. But when it comes to public life, he adopts an entirely secular approach, for, in a country with a diverse cultural and religious background, no system other than secularism is practically possible.

If a high-calibre secular, realistic, patriotic, nationally-minded Muslim were to appear on the Indian political scene, and, most important, if his character remained unaffected by malign pressures, there is no doubt about that he would make an excellent choice of becoming prime minister of India. Had Kashmiri Muslims not waged a senseless separatist war in 1989, thereby discrediting themselves in the eyes of our countrymen, I am certain that the first Muslim prime minister of India could very well have been a Kashmiri.

Even today if the Kashmiris, severing all connections with the separatist movement, joined the mainstream they would astonishingly find that the India which proposed them the post of the Prime Minister of Kashmir was willing with great pride to offer them the post of the Prime Minister of India.

 

MARCH 16

A Silent Revolution

To a cross-section of educated, socially conscious Kashmiri Muslims (with whom I have had recent contacts), it is a matter of gravest concern that the violent jihad, unleashed in Kashmir in the name of freedom in 1989, not only failed in its objective, but caused the people of that country to suffer irreversible losses. More than fifty thousand people lost their lives, and all economic and educational institutions were destroyed. Peace seems to have vanished forever from Kashmir, and without peace, there can be no smooth functioning of day-to-day activities, nothing even approaching normality.

However, there is another aspect to this matter. Many Kashmiris have been forced by the pressure of circumstances to uproot their families and re-settle beyond the borders of their own land. At present, about fifty thousand Kashmiris are living in various Indian cities. These emigrant Kashmiris—hard workers, as emigrants tend to be—are fast becoming an affluent community, running prosperous businesses and owning big houses and Maruti cars. Their children, too, are receiving a proper education. For these Kashmiris, the change in their circumstances has turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It has revealed to them a reality, which had not been apparent to them in Kashmir, namely, that despite the supposed tyranny inflicted on them and other political problems, there was still the genuine possibility of their thriving in India. This is a discovery, which has brought about a total revolution in Kashmiri thinking. Now, deliberately detaching themselves from the so-called freedom struggle, they have successfully plunged into normal economic activity both in India and abroad.

Now—albeit at a late stage—they have realized that their progress had never depended upon the resolution of Kashmir’s political problem, and that, as such, these problems have now become a secondary issue for them.

The same is true to a large extent and, of course, on a large scale, of Muslims in general. The fault lies with unwise Muslim leaders, who had enmeshed their followers in matters, which bore no relation to reality, tyrannising them into thinking that the solution to all their problems lay in Pakistan. This explains why they remained blind to the great opportunities elsewhere, which were open to all and sundry after 1947. Their blinkered vision caused them to persist in seeing India as a “problem country”; unrealistically, they looked beyond its borders for a solution to their problems. This rationale did, however, crumble when, in 1971, Pakistan itself was dismembered as the result of a bloody war. Even this cataclysm brought about only a fifty percent shift in Muslim perspectives.

Since that time, it has taken repeated acts of violence in Karachi and other Pakistani cities—in the course of which emigrant Muslims were ruthlessly looted and murdered—to bring them to the realization that, except in India, there was no alternative place for them. It took all these years, all these dastardly events and all the dashing of their hopes to make them emerge from the state of ignorance into which they had been plunged by yellow journalism and the fulminations of unwise leaders. Only then, after all this, did they discover that by seizing the golden opportunities offered them by India, and by working hard, they could be as resoundingly successful there as in former times in Kashmir. That is why, wherever one goes, one finds them prospering in business and acquiring the material symbols of wealth.

The same is also true, but in greater measure, of the Hindus. For the last fifty years, ill-informed and unwise Hindu leaders have been impressing it upon members of their community that Muslims pose a threat to them, and that so long as they tolerate their presence, avenues of Hindu progress will remain blocked. They insist, moreover, that Hindus erase all traces of the Muslim period, and that all possible steps be taken to ensure that Muslims remain as backward as possible. These leaders have even gone so far as to argue that unless the Muslims are crushed, Hindus will never make progress in their own country.

However, the fifty years of baneful activity, which culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, brought the Hindus a different kind of reward from what they had expected. After the Babri Masjid had been torn down, the riots that took place in different parts of the country caused losses amounting to ten thousand crore rupees— all these were losses which were borne by the Hindus. Where they had expected the automatic opening of doors to economic progress, they now found that this backlash had placed obstacles in their path.

These events, paradoxically, had the effect of causing both communities to arrive at the same conclusion. That is, both realized the futility of negativism, and, setting aside such thinking, re-engaged themselves in business and allied activities. The Hindus, too, found that not only did the presence of Muslims in the country do them no harm, but it actually proved to be a positive advantage. For instance, today, millions of Muslim craftsmen and workers are engaged in the manufacture of a variety of goods in many Indian cities. Hindus, for their part, supply them with the raw materials, then market the finished products within the country and abroad. In this way, Muslims have become an indispensable part of the Hindu economic machine. The Muslim in making one lakh rupees, gives the Hindu the opportunity to make one crore rupees.

This has demonstrated to Hindus that, by adjusting themselves to the ‘Muslim problem’ (as they see it) they remove all bars to their own advancement, albeit sharing the same territory. This has resulted in former staunch supporters of the plan to demolish the Babri Masjid turning against extremist leaders when they wanted to have a repetition of this incident in Kashi, on March 27, 1994, and in Mathura, on August 22, 1995. Ultimately, fanatical Hindu leaders, deprived of the necessary support, were forced to beat a retreat, leaving unfulfilled their plans for further destruction.

The upshot is that a new India has emerged from the debris of the past, the common people having extricated themselves from the clutches of self-serving and incompetent leaders. They have learned that the secret of success in life lies not in groups clashing with each other, but rather in the avoidance of friction and in making full use of whatever opportunities present themselves for individual advancement.

This is a basic, intellectual volte face, which is clearly visible in the people. It is a transformation which has effectively altered the direction in which the country is moving. Now, the people, possibly more as a matter of instinct than of ratiocination, are forging ahead along positive lines. Once the country is well launched on this healthier course, such a revolution will necessarily produce two results: peace and prosperity—the prerequisites for progress. The country is now poised to achieve these goals. Now, not even a horde of wrong-headed leaders should be able to deflect the nation from this path.

In normal circumstances the guidance of nature is sufficient to set mankind on the right course. But this will take place only if the lesson the public has learned about ignoring yellow journalism and the rantings of so-called leaders is a permanent one. At the moment, there are high hopes that the de-railing of the country over communal issues was only a temporary phase.

Again, the checks and balances lie in the system of nature itself. Each wrong course is righted by nature, because horrible consequences prove to be eye-openers to the people. In India, this eye-opening event has already taken place. Its reverberations had barely died down when our countrymen began to abandon the path chalked out by incompetent leaders in favour of the path of nature. This is a silent revolution—a revolution which holds out the greatest hope for the future of this country.

 

MARCH 17

Distinctive Quality

Islam, being a preserved religion, possesses the distinctive quality of being in perfect accord with human reason and human nature. No level of rational thinking and academic progress clashes with Islam. That is to say, at no stage do Islam and reason contradict one another. No believer is faced with the problem of accepting religious dogmas at the expense of science and reason.

Acknowledging this characteristics of Islam, George Bernard Shaw writes:

When the Mahommedan reformation took place, its followers with the enormous advantage of having the only established religion in the world, in whose articles of faith, any intelligent and educated person could believe.

It is due to this special characteristic of Islam that people have been regularly embracing Islam before as well as after the age of science. The modern educated mind finds no difficulty in accepting Islam. That is, the potential convert is not confronted with the difficult question of having to make a choice between Islam and reason. That is, he will not have to divide his mind into the artificial compartment, one for religion and one for science.

What George Bernard Shaw has termed an enormous advantage for the Muslims of the first phase, exists equally for the believers of today. But it is not being availed of. The only obstacle to this path is the general ill-will existing at present between the da‘i and the mad‘u. Once this obstacle is removed, nothing can stop Islam from entering human settlements with the force of a mighty flood.

 

MARCH 18

Persian Influence
on Indian Culture

Persian influence on Indian Culture is a vast subject with many sides to it. Here I should like to deal very briefly with just one aspect of it, that is, the role of Persian sayings and poetry on Indian society, and in particular their moral impact.

Last November on a return journey from Baroda to Delhi by a morning flight of Indian Airlines I happened to make the acquaintance of a fellow passenger, an elderly Hindu. He turned out to be Mr. Muchkund Dubey, formerly, of the Indian foreign service and now living in Delhi. As usual on such journeys, I had taken my pen out of my bag and had begun to write. Mr. Dubey asked, “Are you writing in Urdu or Persian?” I asked him whether he knew Persian. He replied in the affirmative and said that he had been to Iran. I asked him if he could quote some Persian saying from memory. He thereupon wrote down this saying of Shaikh Saadi: Cheguna shukr nemat guzaram, ke mardum Azari nadaram. (How can I ever thank God that I am bereft of all power to torment people.)

This small anecdote reminds us of a whole generation of literate Hindus and, Muslims who, in days gone by, were generally acquainted with Persian. Wise Persian sayings and couplets were always on people’s lips, and were repeated in gatherings, just as happens today with English sayings.

Persian had been dominated in India for about 700 years before it was ousted by the English language, soon after the arrival of the British. This dominance was due to Persian being the language of all the Muslim conquerors who came to India, with the exception of Mohd. bin Qasim. Since, perforce, the public followed the example of the kings, Persian language and cultured flourished.

The influence of this historical process can still be seen even today in different forms. For instance the words of greetings, like ‘Khush Amded’ or the phrases used in parting like ‘Khuda Hafiz’ are direct legacies of Persian culture.

During this period, Persian culture became so popular that people memorized innumerable sayings and couplets, which had the effect of strengthening and perpetuating Persian influence. This was to have both a cultural and moral impact on Indian society.

At this point, I should like to present certain sayings and couplets which illustrate our indebtedness to the Persian influence in reinforcing high moral values in India. I think you will find that these are self-explanatory.

1.     Follow the right path, even if it is longer.

2.     Musk speaks for itself, not the salesman.

3.     Opt for a path and stick to it.

4.     Food is for the sake of life, not life for the sake of food.

5.     Richness is in the heart, not in wealth.

6.     One who digs wells for others, will find a well before him.

7.     Sometimes the best answer is not to give any answer.

8.     Kill the cat the very first day.

9.     Better late than never.

10.   Seeing is better than hearing.

11.   Seek and you will find.

12.   One quintal of knowledge requires ten quintals of wisdom.

13.   An elder is one who is wise, not one who is older.

14.   Patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet.

15.   Like for others what you like for yourself.

16.   A hint suffices for a wise man.

17.   Drops of water make the river.

 

MARCH 19

Woman’s Role in Islam

The Quran calls Islam a religion of nature. This is because Islam is, in actual fact, based on the laws of nature. The commands of the Quran are a direct expression of those laws which have operated in the world of nature since its creation.

The teachings of Islam regarding women are based on the same laws of nature. Acceptance of these laws is not akin to the acceptance of general human laws, where both acceptance and refusal are possible. The rejection of Islamic laws as regards women is actually a rejection of the laws of nature and by doing so, man can never successfully construct his life in the present world.

Study of the Quran and Hadith tells us that one of the laws of nature is that all the things in the world have been created in the form of pairs. The Quran states:

And all things We have made in pairs, so that you may give thought. (51:49)

The scientific study of the universe has further corroborated this law of nature. As discovered by science the primary unit of the universe, the atom, is composed of negative and positive particles. In the absence of any one of the two, the atom cannot come into existence and even trees have male and female characteristics. Just as human beings are born in the form of males and females, animals are likewise male and female. The whole world is said to exist in pairs. In this way, nature’s entire factory has functioned all along on this dual basis.

The duality of existence shows that if anything in this world is to function properly, it must first recognize its true position and adhere strictly to the limits set for it by nature itself.

For instance, if the negative particles of atoms tried to change themselves into positive particles, or vice versa, the entire structure of the atom would be shattered. In a similar way, if men, animals and trees wanted a change in their position—and particularly in the animal kingdom, if males and females opted for a change in their roles—the entire system of nature would be disrupted.

Islamic law regarding women is rooted in this system of nature. According to Islam, men and women are equal as regards honour and status, but physically and psychologically they are different. In order to maintain the system of nature between men and women socially, Islam advocates a division of labour, which entails separate workplaces. Islam stipulates that woman’s workplace should basically be the home, vis-à-vis man’s workplace in the outside world.

The system of the human world is divided into two departments of equal importance: one is represented by the ‘home’ and the other by the ‘office.’ Just as an office in this context is not confined by four walls but represents a centre of activity, similarly ‘home’ is not marked by a boundary, being also a complete practical centre of activity.

Under the division of Islam, man has been assigned to the ‘office’ so that he may successfully manage all departments external to the home. Similarly woman has been put in charge of the home so that she may successfully manage all domestic affairs. Both these tasks are of equal importance, neither being superior or inferior.

This system of nature has functioned successfully in the world for many thousands of years. With the emergence of western civilization in modern times, it happened, for the first time, that in the name of equality an intensive effort was made, by declaring male and female to be identical and interchangeable, to repudiate it. But the 200-year experiment showed that this self-styled equality could not be established in any part of the world.

Many reports and surveys have come out in the western press in this connection. Here I would like to refer to a recent report concerning the USA, the most developed part of the world. This report was published in the December 94 issue of Span under the heading “Feminism’s Identity Crisis”:

Polls suggest that a majority of women hesitate to associate themselves with the feminist movement, not wanting to identify themselves as feminists... The polls also adumbrate unarticulated ambivalence about feminist ideals, particularly with respect to private life.”

Feminism is a non-issue, says Ellen Levine, the editor-in-chief of Redbook. Women don’t think about it. They don’t talk about it. And they seem not to be particularly interested in politics. Feminism, however, is popularly deemed to represent the belief that men and women are equally capable of raising children and equally capable of waging war. Thus feminism represents, in the popular view, a rejection of femininity. According to a survey by Redbook, feminism has made it ‘harder’ for women to balance work and family life.

However, I would admit that just as western woman has failed to find her real position, being caught in the lure of unnatural freedom, similarly a woman in the present Muslim society has been largely denied rights that Islam has given her, for instance, a woman becoming a victim of a man’s maltreatment or her failing to receive her share in her parent’s property, and so on.

Now the question arises as to the solution to this problem. In my view the only solution to it lies in education. It is a fact that present-day Muslims, both men and women, have been lagging far behind in education. There was a time when, during the Abbasid period, (751-1258 A.D.) the highest point in Muslim culture, literacy was almost one hundred percent. Not only men but all women received the education prevalent at that time. It is at this point—the point of education—that we should begin a new Islamic life. If Muslims were to concentrate on this, and strive towards the goal of one hundred percent literacy, that alone would suffice to bring about their overall reformation. Once that goal was attained, all other problems could be set right. Intellectually as well as practically, the Muslims would become a developed community. Ellen Levine believes that wage-earning mothers still tend to feel guilty about not being with their children and to worry that “the more women get ahead professionally, the more children will fall back.”

Women can play a great role in this campaign for education. For instance, educated women can coach their children at home. The literate woman’s ability to read to her young children, and the example she sets in her own quest for knowledge are the most powerful stimuli in their educational progress. Furthermore, women can be better teachers than men as far teaching children is concerned. For women this will not amount to a change of workplace, but will simply be an extension of the home, a broadening of the practical activity centred on child-rearing assigned to her by nature.

By playing this role effectively, Muslim women can prepare the next generation, which is the greatest need of the hour. In this way, they will hasten the time when an entire generation will be equipped with standard education. They would then have every opportunity to receive education in the higher institutions of their choice, and would be more certain of finding productive employment thereafter.

 

MARCH 20

World Religions and
the Spirit of Tolerance

In its declaration the United Nations held the year 1995 as the year of tolerance. Now we have come close to the end of the year. Tolerance is a permanent human requirement.

All the great religions of the world can be broadly divided into two categories: Aryan religions and Semitic religions. So far as I have studied I have found that tolerance has been given equal importance in both these types of religions. Religion makes a man a spiritually developed human being. One who has elevated his spirituality can not afford intolerance. The behaviour of a truly religious person is always one of tolerance.

So far as I have studied the difference between the two types of religions is that of rationale of tolerance instead of tolerance itself. The philosophic ground of tolerance in the Aryan religions is derived from their belief that truth is an all-pervading reality. According to this concept, the psychology of a religious person is that ‘If I am in the right, you too, according to your own tradition are in the right.” That is to say, tolerance in Aryan religions is based on the concept of manyness of reality.

The philosophic base of tolerance in Semitic religions is different from this, as these religions believe in the principle of oneness of reality. However, so far as the question of human respect is concerned, Semitic religions lay equal emphasis on this value. That is to say, the difference in this respect in both the branches of religions is one of philosophy not of practice.

To put it differently the basis of tolerance in Aryan religions is on mutual recognition, while its basis in Semitic religions is on mutual respect. This difference is only one of philosophic explanation. So far as practical behaviour is concerned, there is no difference in either religions in this respect.

To sum it up, the spirit of tolerance is the essence of all religions. The man produced by religion can never be divested of the spirit of tolerance. Intolerance appears to be directed at others, but it is akin to killing man’s own religious personality. Then how can a sincere person be willing to kill himself by his own hands.

 

MARCH 21

Creating Harmony
Amidst Cultural Conflict

There is no denying the fact that cultural conflict does exist in reality. However, this is a blessing in disguise. Conflict between different cultures has always existed in human history. The only thing new about this phenomena in our times is that the modern means of communication have greatly accelerated the pace of this process.

The second point I should like to make is that cultural conflict per se poses no danger. It rather denotes a healthy process. Arnold Toynbee’s theory that challenges act as a spur to take the nations forward, applies to cultural conflict too. Challenges in fact are the only ladder to the ongoing progressive journey of human history.

In ancient time, the confrontation of Roman and non-Roman culture resulted in the emergence of Muslim nations, bringing history forward. Afterwards, Muslim and non-Muslim culture, came into conflict resulting in the emergence of renaissance in Europe. History further moved forward.

In the twentieth century European and non-European cultures faced challenges. As a result of which the USA emerged on the scene with the greatest of progress ever made in history.

However this is in no way the final phase in human history. Now the collision is taking place between American and non-American culture which would result in a better, more advanced culture, and it is quite possible that this might be Indian or Asian culture.

The actual task to be performed by India and other under-developed countries is not to engage themselves in protest against the so-called cultural invasions. What is more important for us is to devote our attention to educating our people. Increasing the percentage of literacy among the people amounts to making them an aware, enlightened people. Once we have managed to make them an enlightened people, it is quite possible that those who are lagging behind today may become pioneers of a new cultural age, as has often taken place in history.

 

MARCH 22

The Message of Pilgrimage

Prior to 1982, my knowledge of hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah) had been limited to what I could gain from books, and so, when at last in that year I had the privilege of performing this religious duty I felt myself singularly blessed. Although the rites of hajj are spread over only a few days, as symbolic guidelines they stand a man in good stead for the rest of his life. The message of hajj, as I now comprehend it from the study and performance of it, is that man should make the Almighty the very pivot of his existence, hastening at His call to do His every bidding.

When a man leaves his home and country to go on such a pilgrimage, he brims over with all the emotions aroused by the thought that he is embarking on a course which will lead him directly to God. He is, in effect, sloughing off his own world, leaving it behind him, and reaching out for the world of the Almighty. He is on his way to the House of God, a place where the great deeds of God’s messengers and his followers have been preserved for all eternity; where we find the hallowed impressions of the lives of those who lived and died for the cause of God. The haji is then filled with the realization that he is bound for that very destination which God has specially chosen for His Last Revelation. Once launched on this course, the pilgrim is imbued with the awareness of God and His truths, as well as the feeling that it is imperative that he become God-oriented. If, up till then, he had been self-centred in his thinking, he now turns his thoughts to God, and his entire behaviour is moulded and transformed by these new thought processes.

Once the pilgrim’s train of thought has become God-oriented, he begins to ponder over major issues: God’s act of creation, particularly His creation of himself. His affording him diverse opportunities of bettering himself in this world, His very benevolence which makes it possible for him to set forth on this journey to the House of God. The pilgrim also gives his mind to the day when he will meet his death and be summoned to the court of God. This trend of thought turns the ostensible physical journey of the pilgrim into an intense, spiritual venture.

When the time nears for his entrance into the haram (sacred territory), every pilgrim divests of his clothing in order to don a new kind of ‘uniform’—an unstitched, plain, white garment which serves to heighten his consciousness of entering a new world. The very act of shedding his normal clothes (and with them all signs of status and ethnicity) signifies that he is separating himself from the way of life peculiar to his environment, and is now ready to become suffused with such emotions as are desired by God. In this way, thousands of men, in casting off their own hues, take on the hue of the Almighty. After clothing himself in ihram (godly raiment), the pilgrim finds his tongue of itself beginning to utter godly words—‘Labbayk! Labbayk!—and he continues, as if hastening to answer God’s call, to repeat the word ‘labbayk’—“Oh God, I am here, I have come!”

Labbayk (I am here) does not mean just that the pilgrim has come to stay in Makkah. It means that in leaving his normal abode, he has cast aside his whole way of life. It means, ‘I am here, at Your command, and, with all my heart and soul, I am ready to obey You.’ While on their pilgrimage, pilgrims simply give utterance to the word labbayk, but when they return to their own countries, they must put it into practice in their everyday lives.

On reaching Makkah, the pilgrim must peform tawaf (circumambulation). To do this, he enters the House of God (Baitullah), the great mosque in whose spacious central courtyard stands the Ka‘bah, which was erected by the Prophet Abraham in ancient times. Then he goes round the Ka‘bah seven times to demonstrate his willingness to make God the pivot of his whole existence.

After the tawaf, there comes the ritual of sa‘i, which entails brisk walking from the hill of Safa to the hill of Marwa and back again. This procedure is repeated seven times in symbolic enactment of a promise, or covenant, to expend all of one’s energies in the path of God. The form which this ritual takes, can be traced back to the Prophet Abraham’s wife, Hajar, running from one hill to another in a frantic search for water for her young baby when they first arrived there.

The most important period of worship during hajj is the day-long sojourn on the plain of Arafat. It is, indeed, an awesome spectacle, with people from all over the world, clad in identical, simple, white garments, chanting, “Lord, I am present, Lord, I am present.” This serves to impress upon the mind of the pilgrim how great a gathering there will be in the presence of God on the Last Day of Reckoning. Once he becomes aware of its true significance, all his problems fall into their true perspective, and his life cannot but take a turn for the better.

Another practice during hajj is the casting of stone at Jamrae-Uqba. This is a symbolic act through which the pilgrim renews his determination to drive Satan away from him. In this way, he makes it plain that his relationship with Satan is one of enmity and combat. The next step for the pilgrim is to turn his piece of symbolism into reality, so that he may be purged of all evils, for all the evils besetting man are there at the instigation of Satan.

After this, the pilgrim sacrifices an animal to God, an act symbolizing the sacrifice of the self. (This is referred to in the Quran as sha‘airullah—signs of God). His faith is such that even if it comes to giving his life—the last thing that he would normally be ready to part with—he will not hesitate to do so in the service of God.

 

MARCH 23

Islam and Peace

Islam aims to build a peaceful society at all cost. It is because higher human objectives cannot be achieved in the absence of peaceful circumstances. The spiritual as well as moral progress of the individual is possible only in peaceful atmosphere. Hence the atmosphere of peace is essential for the building of good society. Academic research too is possible only in peaceful circumstances. The task of the propagation of truth too can be performed only in peaceful atmosphere.

That is why one of the teachings of Islam is ‘reconciliation is the best’ (4:128). In this regard Islam enjoins us to establish peace even at the cost of unilateral sacrifice and patience. An event of the first phase of Islamic history provides us with an example of this unilateralism. This is known as Sulh Hudaybiya (Hudaybiya Treaty). This was in actual fact a no-war pact which was secured by accepting all the demands of the rival group.

To bring about an atmosphere of peace within the society Islam has given a number of commandments. For instance, the Prophet of Islam observed ‘A believer is one from whom people feel secure as regards their lives and property (At-Tirmizi). Another hadith has this to say: By God, he is not a believer from whose nuisance his neighbour is not safe. (Al-Bukhari)

Islam aims at making all individuals peace-loving to the ultimate extent. That is why we are enjoined to greet one another by saying ‘Assalam-o-Alaikum’ that is, peace be upon you. According to another saying of the Prophet, the best Islam is to greet everyone you come across, whether or not you are acquainted with the person. (Fathul-Bari 1/103).

The frequent reiteration of this phrase ‘peace be upon you’ is in actual fact an external manifestation of the desire for peace within. Islam wishes to inculcate this feeling within every individual that he should become a true lover of peace, to the point that this feeling starts welling up in his heart, finding expression whenever he meets a person.

Islam is a peace-loving religion from beginning to end. And it is but natural that it should be so, as all the best results it aims to achieve, can be achieved only when an atmosphere of peace is maintained at both national and international level.

This path of peace is followed by the entire universe. It is known in science as the law of nature, which is imposed upon it by God. Whereas man has to adopt this path of peace of his own free will. This has been expressed in the Quran in these words: “Are they seeking a religion other than God’s, when every soul in heaven and earth has submitted to Him, willingly or by compulsion? To Him they shall all return” (3:83).

When peace is the religion of the entire universe, it should, therefore, be the religion of man too, so that, in the words of Jesus Christ, the will of the Lord may be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

In a similar vein, the Quran tells us that: “The sun is not allowed to overtake the moon, nor does the night outpace the day. Each in its own orbit runs.” (36:40)

When God created the heavens and the earth, He so ordered things that each part might perform its function peacefully without clashing with any other part. For billions of years, therefore, the entire universe has been fulfilling its function in total harmony with His divine plan.

Peace is no external commodity to be artificially imposed upon man. Peace is inherent in nature itself. The system of nature set up by God already rests on the basis of peace. If this system is not disrupted, it will continue to stay the course set for it by the Almighty. It is true that the only condition to maintain the human system on the path of peace is to keep it free from the elements of corruption. That is why the Quran states:

And do not corrupt the land after it has been set in order. (7:85)

In order to preserve the peace, established by nature, from disruption, two important injunctions have been laid down by Islam. One at the individual level, stresses the exercise of patience, and the other, at the social level, forbids taking the offensive.

1. Negative reaction on the part of the individual is the greatest factor responsible for disrupting peace in daily life. It repeatedly happens that in social life one experiences bitterness on account of others. On such occasions, if one reacts negatively, the matter would escalate to the point of a head-on collision. That is why Islam repeatedly enjoins us to tread the path of patience. The Quran says: Surely the patient will be paid their wages in full without measure. (39:10)

The reason for the rewards for patience being so great is that patience is the key factor in maintaining the desired system of God. In the words of the Quran the patient man is the helper of God. (61:14)

2. The other injunction, designed to maintain peace in human society is to forbid the waging of an offensive war. No one in Islam enjoys the right to wage war against another. There are no grounds on which this could be considered justifiable. (2:190)

There is only one kind of war permitted in Islam and that is a defensive war. If a nation by deviating from the principles of nature wages war against another nation, then, a defensive war, with certain conditions, may be waged by the country under attack.

To sum up, Islam is a religion of peace. The Arabic root of Islam is ‘silm’ which means peace. The Quran states: ‘…and Gods calls to the home of peace’ (10:25). It is thus God’s will that men and women should jointly establish a society of peace in His world.

Peace is basic to all religions. Let us all strive then to establish peace in the world, for that is the bedrock on which all human progress rests.

 

MARCH 24

The Sir Syed Formula

Today, Sir Syed is highly acclaimed in all circles, be they religious or secular, as a pioneer of the Muslim nation. But, in his own times, he was branded as heretic, an enemy of the Muslim community and an enemy of Islam. When Maulana Altaf Husain Hali joined forces with Sir Syed, both were ridiculed by Akbar Allahabadi:

Syed ki dastan ko Hali se poochhiye

Ghazi Mian ka hal Dafali se poochhiye

What is the reason for the difference in past and present attitudes? It is simply that those who nowadays extol his virtues, do so in retrospect, having had the opportunity to see the results of his guidance, whereas his own contemporaries were so lacking in foresight that they could not imagine any good arising from his teachings. This has been the fate of every reformer. There is no revolutionary who has not suffered from the short-sightedness of his contemporaries and who has not, as a result, had to face stiff opposition. Even the prophets were not spared this fate. It is only when the reformer’s efforts ultimately bear fruit that people begin to sing his praises.

Sir Syed lived in the days of British rule in India—a period looked upon to by all our senior religious leaders as an age of slavery. Maulana Mohd. Ali Jauhar, Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, in short, all our leaders of that time hated the British. In their view, British rule afforded no possibility of Muslim progress. Maulana Mohd. Ali was not ready even to die in an enslaved India. Iqbal went one step further when he said:

Ke ghulami mein badal jata hai qaumon ka zamir

(slavery even drastically affects the conscience of the nations)

However, Sir Syed’s thinking was totally different. He discovered favourable aspects of those same British rulers who were regularly depicted as the enemies of Islam. In the ‘slave nation,’ as Muslim intellectuals would have it, he pointed out that certain freedoms did exist. In support of Sir Syed, Maulana Altaf Husain wrote in his Musaddas:

Hukumat ne azadiyan tum ko di hain

Taraqqi ki rahen sarasar khuli hain

(The government has given you full freedom.

All the roads of progress are open to you.)

What did his pointing out freedom in slavery really mean? It meant that even under the political subjugation of the British, Indians still had educational and economic freedom. Notwithstanding the political problem, the country still offered them the opportunity to carve out an honourable, affluent life by working in non-political fields.

The opponents of Sir Syed, on the other hand, concentrated on the problem of British usurpation to the exclusion of all else. In their eyes, no progress could be made unless British rule came to an end. But with his deeper insight, Sir Syed saw that if there were problems, there also existed opportunities, side by side with them. In very simple terms, he gave the people a viable formula:

Ignore the problems, feed the opportunities, and, by availing of opportunities, build your life.

In Sir Syed’s time, even those who had eyes failed to see the wisdom of this dictum. But now, after the experience of a hundred years, even sightless people can see that Sir Syed’s way was the wisest and most appropriate.

In Sir Syed’s own time, his approach had appeared to be one of cowardice and inaction. But its subsequent results showed its wisdom, and what its potential had been for positive action. In fact, it was the only possible strategy to adopt. Had his advice been heeded in the initial stages, the Muslim condition would certainly have been very different from what it is today.

But the inability to learn from the past is an ever-present human weakness. Hence the prevalence today of the same short-sightedness as existed in Sir Syed’s time. People, of course, have now begun eulogizing the Sir Syed of the past, but if anyone speaks of applying Sir Syed’s solutions in the present, they again turn hostile to him as his own contemporaries did.

The most pressing reality of this world is its competitiveness. In such a set-up, it is inevitable that one group or the other will be left behind. This state of affairs has existed since the days of Abel and Cain (the sons of Adam), and it will continue to exist till Doomsday. This system—created by God Himself—will never change.

What needs to be done in this world of competition is not to keep protesting against the prevailing circumstances, but to make a careful study of them. Instead of reacting against the way things are, some method of adjusting to realities must be sought. Sir Syed’s formula is the key to such an adjustment.

This world, being one of competition, is bound to be problem-ridden. It has been so throughout the ages and it is still so today. But it must be borne in mind that problems stem from nature’s own system and not from the oppression and prejudice of others. What is even more important to grasp is that according to this system devised by nature itself, problems in this world are always followed by opportunities. Given this state of affairs, both reason and wisdom make only one demand.’

Ignore the problems; avail of the opportunities.

This is the only way to succeed in this world. Whenever an individual or a group has achieved success in this life, it has been done by adhering to this principle. Those who attempt to fight problems are more likely to fail than succeed, while those who avail of opportunities have every chance of doing well for themselves. There is no other path to self-improvement in this world, either in India or in any other country. And what holds true for the present, holds equally true for the future.

 

MARCH 25

Patience:
The Superior Solution

Patience, the focus of about 200 verses of the Quran, and referred to indirectly in many others, may be termed the core subject of the scriptures.

The verses directly relating to patience are quite explicit in their content. For instance,

And seek (Allah’s) help with patience and prayer. (2:45)

And endure patiently whatever may befall thee. (31:17)

And exhort one another to be patient. (103:3)

And heed not their annoyance, but put thy trust in Allah. (33:48)

A very pronounced and direct instruction to behave with patience and endurance is apparent in these verses.

The majority of the other verses are also intensely concerned with patience. The very first verse of the Quran begins with “Praise belongs to Allah.” (al-Fatihah) This shows that Allah expects mankind to express its gratitude and admiration to Him. But this is a very trying expectation! We know that this world is full of unpleasant experiences and nobody can be insulated from them. According to the Quran “Man is born in toil.” Indeed, it is not possible for anyone to create a life of absolute bliss for himself.

How then a person can become grateful and appreciative of Allah’s grace in the real sense? The only way to be so is through patience. It is only when a man patiently endures worldly problems that it is possible for him to express his feeling of gratefulness to Allah. It is for this reason that the Quran associates gratefulness with patience. (31:31)

Patience makes a person capable of finding a positive and successful solution to any problem. When someone explodes with anger while facing his adversary, he loses the faculty to respond effectively or to think of well-planned action. But when he applies patience and tolerance, he finds himself competent to make a rational move instead of an impulsive reaction. History testifies that one who acts on impulses and emotional reactions, invariably fails; and one who responds rationally, always succeeds.

Patience is undoubtedly the superior solution to all problems. (5.SS/9.95)

 

MARCH 26

Islamic Culture

The Quran addresses God as “Lord of the Universe.” It does not mention Him as “Lord of the nation.” This shows that Islam believes in unbounded universality and not in limitation. It is the same Quran which hails the Prophet as a “Blessing for the World” and not as “trouble for the world.” This demonstrates that Islam is the religion not of hatred but of love. Again the Quran proclaims: “Peace is good.” It does not say, “War is good.” This means that Islam wishes to create an atmosphere of peace and conciliation and does not condone war and confrontation.

The Quran commands “Read!” It does not say “Shoot!” This reveals that Islam is the culture of knowledge and not the culture of the gun. The Quran stresses tolerance; it does not preach intolerance. This signifies that Islam implores us to endure the pains inflicted by others instead of reacting impulsively and entering conflict. The Quran praises a magnanimous outlook, not the attitude of tit-for-tat. This implies that Islam expects a sublime disposition toward others, which overlooks and ignores their faults.

These few references give an idea of what Islam is and what Islamic culture stands for. Islam is the exposure of the divine existence of God. It is the religion of the whole universe. It represents an exalted humanity. A correct interpretation of Islam is that which agrees with these precepts: anything contradicting these values can never explain Islam.

The real Islam is that which inculcates the fear of God in the people, which diverts their attention from this world to the Hereafter, which fills the people’s hearts with love for mankind, which generates the feeling of being well-disposed towards all without any discrimination and which, in its fold, teaches one to become more particular about his duties than his rights.

Those whose hearts are enlightened by Islam become the embodiment of compassion, seeking the welfare only of others. Hatred and hostility cannot be fused with Islam and Islamic culture. (7.SS/9.95)

 

MARCH 27

Adjustment in Marital Life

Under the directions for marital life, the Quran enjoins as follows:

Consort with them honourably; for even if you dislike them, it may well be that you dislike a thing which God has meant for your own abundant good. (4:19)

This Quranic teaching does not concern only husband and wife, but all human relations in general. In this world of God the only effective principle by which to lead a successful social life is for every man and woman to realize that if one does not appreciate some trait in the other, it is just possible that there may be some other quality in the same person which would be to his or her liking or advantage. It is, therefore, prudent for everyone to scrupulously overlook the disagreeable feature of the concerned man or woman and accept him or her on the basis of appreciable qualities.

Realistically, nobody in this world is perfect. Everyone has some inherent shortcoming or the other. The man or woman who comes into direct contact with us gets exposed to us and has no means of concealing this shortcoming; whereas one who remains out of our practical life, is less vulnerable because he escapes this scrutiny. Thus we imagine and presume that all the others are good except the one associated with us, though on closer acquaintance with others, it becomes evident that the latter are not very different from our partners in marriage.

The attitude of leaving one and grabbing another is not correct, and, in any case the quest for perfection is unlikely to succeed. The right approach is to inculcate the mentality of adjustment, for it is this quality of adjustment which makes a person capable of surviving with all kinds of people, and permits him through a fruitful association with others to shape a successful life for himself.

 

MARCH 28

Political Realism

Prior to 1947, it was taken for granted that all that was needed to set India on the right path was the gaining of its independence, and that subsequently a socialist economy would be an automatic guarantee of national progress. That these were patently misguided and shortsighted views becomes more glaringly obvious as the country staggers from one debacle to the next. And now, in 1996, we are on the brink of a fresh set of elections. Do we have any guarantee that the results of these elections will even be relevant to the future progress of the country as a ground reality?

In this context a number of meetings are being held in the name of vital electoral and political reforms, and there is the inevitable spate of critical articles in newspapers and journals. I myself have participated in several of these meetings and have been reading the relevant journalistic commentaries.

After listening to fellow participants and duly taking stock of what the press has to say I have formed the impression that there is a nationwide acceptance of the existence of two distinct political entities—the clean and the corrupt. It is held that the corrupt community is entirely made up of politicians, while the clean community is composed of their critics. This premise, however, is basically flawed, even the most cursory appraisal of events is sufficient to demonstrate the error of this supposition.

After independence, our political team, which came to power in 1947, consisted of the members of Mahatma Gandhi’s “clean community.” But once these individuals were perched on the pedestals of power, their behaviour was such that Gandhiji felt constrained to ask, “Who is going to listen to me now?” there was even a book published on Gandhiji with the title “Ab meri kaun sunega?”

Many years later, in the 1966 elections, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia made his entry into the political scene. With great fervour and enthusiasm he launched a movement which he called ‘non-Congressism.’ And in the field of election he did defeat the members of the “corrupt community,” at least in the states, so that the members of the “clean community” came into power. However, it very soon became apparent that this had simply been a matter of replacement—the exchanging of one corrupt community for another.

After the general elections of March 1977, this scene was re-enacted, only on a larger scale. In this historic election the supposedly corrupt community had met with a stunning defeat. All those who now came into power belonged to the supposedly clean community. In the words of Lok Nayak Jaya Prakash Narayan, this was ‘a total revolution.’ But it very soon became evident that this entire supposition was quite wrong. The clean community, the Janata Party, soon fell a prey to corruption, a state of affairs which led to the collapse of the government in August 1979, even before the completion of its term.

The truth is that this notion of there being distinctly separate corrupt and clean communities is entirely baseless. Corruption, far from being a vice peculiar to one community or another, stems from the human weakness of individuals. As Lord Acton very aptly observed: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

In this world there are certain things which have to be tolerated as necessary evils. Imperfect government clearly falls into this category and, as such, should be borne with. This is a piece of realism which is inescapable if there is ever to be an end to the political unrest which threatens to place stability beyond our reach. Over and above this, we must also realize that a government cannot do absolutely everything for us. Even if it so desired, it could perform only in certain restricted spheres, for it has its limitations. It is thanks to our lack of political awareness that we vote governments into power and then, before they have even completed their terms in office, we set about toppling them. If we want political stability in our country, we shall have to curtail our expectations of the governments we elect. Without this, no progress will ever be made.

As a matter of history, our form of government is based on the British model. But if you go to Britain during the elections you will find no excessive furore among the people, as happens in our country, the reason being that the British consider their government to be just one of the many institutions in their society. They know that the government’s contribution to national construction can be only partial. We, on the contrary, have come to regard the task of national construction as something which falls entirely within the purview of the government. It is such misguided and inflated expectations which give rise to unnecessary excitement before the elections and the subsequent unnecessary despair.

During his term in office, in the course of the second world war (1939-45), Sir Winston Churchill inspired his people with the watchword: “Go to it!”

We, on the other hand, have adopted as our motto: “The government will do it!”

This realistic approach of the developed countries, which entertains only limited hopes of the government’s performance, is what has enabled them to involve themselves in non-political fields in the full conviction that it is they themselves who must perform the necessary tasks. Unlike them, having come to regard every task as the government’s responsibility, we have failed as a people to shoulder the burden of national reconstruction. This is a matter of the utmost importance, but we have allowed our attention to be diverted—in the political process—to matters of infinitely less importance. This shift in emphasis has resulted in our paying dearly for the many lacunae in the building of our nation.

Those of us who travel to Germany or Japan are amazed to see the progress that has been made in these countries. And we would do well to consider what the key is to such success. It is, in fact, that there the people are far less interested in elections and government than they are in non-governmental organizations for national construction—those, for instance, which are concerned with educating people, bringing awareness to them, particularly about consumerism, inculcating civic sense, organizing public sanitations, inducing respect for the law, checking adulteration of food and medicine, etc., and eliminating noise and air pollution. There are innumerable other social arenas in which the people of the developed countries engage themselves having set up efficient organizations and associations to this end.

The satisfactory performance of these tasks at the social level provides us with the foundation on which to build the system of a better government. Prior to 1947, we used to lay the blame for all evils at the door of the British. With this lingering tendency to fasten the blame on others, we began to expect all reforms and progress to stem from the post-independence government. This is the principal reason for the rot which has set in this country in the present day.

A study of developed countries’ newspapers reveals much less coverage of political news and commentaries as compared to economic and scientific news. By contrast, in our country, political events are given the maximum coverage, our press having become almost totally politicized in its orientation. The need to correct this lopsidedness is something which cannot be over-emphasized.

As mentioned above, Gandhiji—after 1947—lamented: “who will listen to me now?” Mahatma Gandhi had concluded that there would be no response to his admonitions, but that was because they were addressed to those leaders who had reached the seats of power after independence. If, however, his life would not have been cut short so ruthlessly and he could have the opportunity to address himself to the average citizens of India, the result would have been quite the opposite. Then he would have found people giving him their rapt attention.

The truth of the matter is that when the national movement was launched in India, our entire energy was channelized towards gaining political freedom, while the task of educating the people was almost totally ignored. After independence, the chief task which should have been taken in hand by the Mahatma’s followers was the cultivation of this long-neglected field. They were in a position to launch a campaign of intellectual awakening through the media. They could have had statements and articles published in newspapers and journals throughout the country which would have inculcated awareness and reformed public thinking. Had such a concerted, continuous struggle been waged through the media, a whole new generation of socio-politically conscious people would have come into existence within the space of just a few years. A country possessed of such a well-informed population cannot fail to make progress.

But to return to present day government, regardless of what I have written above on the tolerance of its demerits I must emphasize that I am in no way advocating status quoism. We must proceed with our efforts towards the rectification of our political institutions, which will entail, inter alia, electoral reforms, because our democracy, as yet immature, is still far from perfect. Our democratic system must be at least brought to the standard prevailing in Japan, Korea, Singapore and Malaysia. However, we should not concentrate on the amelioration of political institutions to the exclusion of all else, for the total relegation of non-political issues to the background would cause the country to suffer in many other ways.

The need of the hour is to remedy former neglect. To this end, a team of competent persons should engage itself immediately in the task of mass education by exploiting whatever means are at the disposal of the media. This should continue until India turns into an ‘aware nation’, and our society comes to consist of individuals who can think on the national scale and who have come to acquire what Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru called “the scientific temper.”

I am not, I repeat, in favour of status quoism. I write only to stress what our starting point should be if we want a real future for our country, and along what lines we must continue our efforts on the political front. In principle, we have opted for democracy as our political system. But our democracy is still in its infancy. It has yet to ripen and bear fruit. If this is to become a reality, we must launch our reform campaign on a long-term rather than a short-term basis.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of independent India, once observed: “Freedom is in peril—defend it with all your might.” Seeing the political rot that has set in our country I would say: “Democracy is in peril—save it with all your might.”

On this note, I should like to make an appeal for freedom and fairness in the coming elections, freedom and fairness being necessary conditions of true democracy. After independence, we may have had freedom in our elections, but fairness is something which has been sadly lacking—the horrendous results of which are there for all to see. Now that the country is going to the polls, I appeal to the people to decide unanimously to do their utmost to give the country fair elections, so that it may be saved from further erosion and so that it may be taken forward on the path of progress as would be expected in any civilized country.

If an election is to be really fair, election campaigns must be launched on the basis of truly national issues and no attempts should be made to misguide voters. Moreover, while votes are being cast, vote rigging should be refrained from at all costs. And so on.

Another important point is that the winning party must place itself at the service of the nation, rather than use its success merely to ensure its victory at the next election.

By the same token, the defeated party must accept its defeat with equanimity, and wait until the next elections before attempting to come to power. It should refrain absolutely from launching negative campaigns directed at ousting the victorious party.

The progress of the country is your own progress. Make the country your concern. It is in your own hands.

 

MARCH 29

Fasting and Self-purification

Fasting is an exercise in self-discipline. During the month of Ramadan, the believer abstains in the daytime from food and drink of his own free will. It is only after sunset that he satisfies his hunger and quenches his thirst. In this way, he builds up his self-control. By practising restraint for one month in a year, he is able to lead a life of self-discipline in all matters for the rest of the year.

Apart from man, there are in the universe innumerable other things, all of which—having no free will of their own—adhere strictly to God’s law. Man, however, is not in the same category as these things, for God has given him the freedom to choose which path he will tread. Notwithstanding this divine gift of freedom of will, it is still the desire of the Almighty that man should, by his own choice, tread the path of obedience.

It is therefore to condition him to follow the path of restraint that the rule of fasting has been laid down. No mere annual ritual, fasting is a form of training undergone every ninth month of the Muslim year. It is not just a matter of temporarily enduring hunger and thirst; it is a lesson in the permanent practice of patience and tolerance throughout one’s entire life.

While on a fast, a man may have food and water before him but, despite his hunger and thirst, he will make no move to eat or drink. He exercises self-control. God desires that he should also exercise the same restraint whenever he has the opportunity to display his ego and his arrogance. He must not fall into unjust ways just because the bait is tempting and all doors have been opened for him. If man is to earn God’s favour, he must eschew the path forbidden by Him, and set his feet firmly on the path of modesty and humility.

The path followed perforce by the universe has to be adopted by man of his own free will. That is why it is desirable that he should lead a life of self-imposed curbs. The unflinching self-restraint, which prevents him from eating or drinking while on a fast, is the virtue which will guarantee moral behaviour throughout his life.

Moral Piety

In the Hadith, Ramadan is called “the month of patience” (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). This month is meant to serve as a training course which will enable the individual to lead a successful life in this world by keeping his negative feelings under control. Negative feelings, it must be remembered, present the greatest obstacle to human progress. Fasting is the pious way to solve this biggest of human problems.

As the Hadith says: “There is a Zakat for all things, and the Zakat of the body is fasting. (Mishkat Al-Masabih, 1/639). Here, the expression Zakat is used in the sense of purification. There is, indeed, a way of purifying everything. Just as bathing purifies the body, so fasting purifies the soul.

According to a Hadith, the Prophet Muhammad observed: “Whenever one of you is invited to a meal while he is on a fast, he should inform his host that he is fasting.” (Mishkat, 1/651). According to another tradition the Prophet gave this very sound advice: “Whenever one of you is on a fast, he should be soft in his demeanour. In the event of being abused or provoked, he should simply say that he is on a fast.” (Mishkat, 1/611).

Leading a life of restraint for a whole month produces a transformation in one’s thinking. It enables one to offer a positive response even to another’s negative behaviour. Even strong abuse and other types of provocation will not goad the fasting believer into retaliating in the same coin. Rather than sink to that level, he will simply explain that he is on a fast. His own heart tells him that by observing a fast he has pledged himself to piety and that, in view of that, he cannot contemplate any evil action.

In this way, fasting inculcates in man the necessity to abstain at all costs from anti-social activities, and from all ungentlemanly words and deeds. He is thus brought to a life of moral restraint in this world.

A Month of Sympathy and Compassion

According to a tradition, the Prophet Muhammad observed: “The month of fasting is the month of compassion.” (Mishkat al-Masabih, 1/613). That is, it is a month in which people are helped and shown compassion. This is the human aspect of fasting. That is why the Prophet and his followers used to be generous in giving alms to the poor and needy during this period. No one who asked for anything was ever turned away without his needs being met. One Hadith is to this effect that whoever feeds the hungry in the month of Ramadan will be forgiven by God on the Last Day. According to another Hadith, one who feeds the fasting person at the time of breaking his fast will share his spiritual reward.

One very significant thing about the month of fasting is that it affords a personal experience of the nature of hunger and thirst. Rich and poor alike go through this trial. And it is not a temporary, one-day rigour; it amounts to a special training course which one has to go through, without a break, for a whole month.

In this way, through fasting, one experiences what it is like to be in need. One finds out what hunger and thirst are like. The well-off who, in normal circumstances, are never obliged to suffer the pangs of hunger and thirst undergo this experience personally in the month of Ramadan. In this way, fasting brings everyone to the same level. The rich, for a time, descend to the level of existence which is the normal lot of the poor. Ramadan, as a training course, awakens the sense of humanity in all human beings. People are then able to share their feelings and have the urge to do the utmost to assist their fellow-men in distress. In this way, fasting for the month of Ramadan produces a general awareness of the necessity to extend a helping hand to others. This consciousness lasts for many months until, on the completion of the year, another month of Ramadan is before us once again to renew and refresh our humane inclinations.

To sum up, fasting produces an atmosphere of generosity. Well-wishing and compassion—an atmosphere in which people’s needs in society may be happily fulfilled. It is a means by which society may be turned into a truly human brotherhood.

 

MARCH 30

An Islamic Principle

Huzayfah relates a tradition that the Prophet once advised, “It is not proper for any Muslim to disgrace himself.” People enquired as to how someone might disgrace himself? The Prophet replied, “By challenging an evil he is not competent to fight with.” (Musnad, Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, 4/405)

This Hadith of the Prophet reveals an important principle of Islam, that whenever, in a composite society, an evil or unpleasant situation arises, it is not prudent for the law-abiding man to have an impulsive confrontation with wrong-doers. Instead, he should decide pragmatically as to which of two options would be appropriate.

One is that he should see whether he has enough strength to fight the miscreants and compel them to desist from their wrongdoing. If so, he must fight with great determination so that the trouble is eradicated and social uplift becomes possible.

The second option is to make a cool and realistic assessment of the comparative strength of the two sides and if it is found that the odds are too great for any favourable result to be achieved through confrontation or that a disadvantage which initially had been insignificant could turn into a major setback, it will become necessary to adopt the policy of patience and tolerance, and avoid any confrontation with the wicked.

The policy of avoidance does not mean cowardice. It simply means refraining from wasting time and energy in a futile conflict. By following this course, one gains the respite to prepare oneself adequately for future action. It provides the opportunity to become so strong and dominant that no one would dare do any harm to one. In the event of attempted injustice, there would be enough accumulated force to effectively repulse any wrong-doer.

The approach of patience, tolerance and avoidance is undoubtedly one of the most important principles of Islam. (8.SS/9.95)

 

MARCH 31

Gerard of Cremona

Gerard, who was born in Cremona, Lombardy, in 1114, was a medieval scholar who translated the works of many major Greek and Arabic writers into Latin, there being a great body of scientific and philosophical literature in these languages which were well worth making available to all the known world at that time. In this sense, he performed the same service for his countrymen that Hunain Ibn Ishaaq had done for eastern Arabia. He went specially to Toledo, in Spain, to learn Arabic so that he could read the Almagest by Ptolemy, the Greek astronomer, geographer and mathematician who lived in the second century A.D. The Almagest was a vast computation of the astronomical knowledge of the ancients, and was accepted as authoritative up to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. As such, this was one of Gerard’s most significant translations. He was assisted in his task by two other scholars, one Christian and one Jewish. With this, and other such books, the gates of Greek and Arabic sciences were opened for the first time to the west. In the field of medicine, he translated books by Buqrat and Galen, almost all of the books by Hunain and Al-Kindi, Abul Qasim Zuhravi’s book on surgery and many other books on the physical sciences, including the pamphlet on fossils which is attributed to Aristotle. Besides these, he rendered into Latin Avicenna’s massive volume on law and many other books by Al-Kindi, Al-Farabi, Ishaaq and Sabit, etc.

Many other purveyors of knowledge were later to follow in Gerard’s footsteps. In the words of Dr Maz Mirhaf, ‘He was the founder of Arabism in the western world.”

In 1187, in Toledo, Gerard fell ill, and felt that his end was near. He wondered what would happen when he was gone. “These books in Arabic are so precious,” he thought, “and who is going to translate them into western languages?” His reflections moved him profoundly and he was fired with a new zeal and energy. In spite of his rapidly failing health, he then succeeded in translating the remainder of his valuable collection of books. Legend has it that in the space of one month before his death, he had completed the translations of no less than 80 books.

When one feels sufficiently inspired to perform a task, one undertakes it at all costs, even on one’s death bed, and even when one’s external circumstances are totally adverse. It is one’s will and one’s motivation to work which are of prime importance. Health and strength are secondary.

 

APRIL 1

Gratitude and Ingratitude

Right from a glass of water to political power, whatever we receive in this world is a gift from God. Everything is a direct blessing of the Almighty. Man receives everything in this world by His will. If God does not so desire, no one can succeed in anything, no matter hard he may try. This is a truth which is made very clear in the Quran and the Hadith.

We learn, moreover, from the Quran and the Hadith that there are two kinds of divine gifts, one a special gift and the other a general gift.

Political power falls into the first category, for as the Quran explains, political power is not given to everyone. Neither can it be received by launching a political movement or subscribing to a gun culture. It is, in fact, directly dependant upon the Sunnah of God. One such sunnah or law of God, according to the Quran, is His promise to believers and the doers of good works “to make them masters in the land as He had made their ancestors before them.” (24:55)

That is to say, even when our aim is political power, our task, rather than the launching of political movements, will be to strive to bring people back to the true Islamic faith and good actions.

The general gift of God, received by all the people to a greater or lesser degree consists, in principle, of two things—peaceful circumstances and plentiful supplies of food. By withholding such a gift, Allah could punish the wrongdoers:

“Allah has made an example of the city which was once safe and peaceful. Its provisions used to come in abundance from every quarter: but its people denied the favours of Allah. Therefore, He afflicted them with famine and fear as a punishment for what they did.” (16:112)

 

APRIL 2

Unlimited Reward

Say: ‘My servants who believe, fear your Lord. Those who do good works in this life shall receive a good reward. Allah’s earth is vast. Those that endure with fortitude shall be requited without measure’ (39:10).

It may seem extraordinary that God should give an unlimited reward for any action. But it is only one action—that is, patience, that is so singled out.

The root of Sabr, (that is, patience) means ‘to refrain from privation.’ There are two kinds of actions: in one, certain limits, are observed; in the other, no such restraint is shown. For instance, if someone is good to you, he receives good treatment from you in return. People of quite ordinary character behave in this way without feeling it necessary to exercise any patience or forbearance. Even the adherents of a religion which does not demand any personal sacrifice are unconscious of the need to practice restraint.

However, one inclined to embark on the second kind of action is required to adhere strictly to religious guidelines which enjoin restraint, and he must do so whether the circumstances be favourable or unfavourable to him. This is the path of patience.

That is, even when someone is unkind to you, you are good to him. Even if he adopts a provocative stance, you remain moderate in your behaviour. Even if observance of the truth will be detrimental to your interests, you continue to adhere to the path of truth and justice. Even if the adoption of an unprincipled stand appears advantageous, you continue to be a man of principle. It is the practitioners of that aspect of religion which demands patience who will be ‘requited without measure.’

 

APRIL 3

Fasting—A Means of
Spiritual Purification

The month of fasting is a period of spiritual purification. A time of proximity to the Lord, it is a special month of training meant to engender all those qualities desirable in Islam. The Encyclopaedia Britannica has this to say in the chapter on fasting:

The month of Ramadan in Islam is observed as a period of penitence and total fasting from dawn to dusk. (IV/62)

Penitence, undoubtedly an important part of Islam, so permeates the entire Islamic system, that no Islamic act, including fasting, is devoid of this spirit.

However, while enjoining fasting, the Quran tells us that its special significance in the month of Ramadan is thanksgiving as well as penitence.

It was in the month of Ramadan that the first revelations of the Quranic verses came down to the Prophet. It was a great blessing of God that He revealed this guidance in the form of the Quran so that it might be a true guide for man. That is why this month came to be held as one of thanksgiving for the believers.

‘Taqwa’ (God-fearing life) means a cautious life. Success for man in both worlds lies in his invariably adopting the path of caution in all matters of life. It is taqwa, a guarded, disciplined life, that is the goal of fasting.

Fasting, an experience of powerlessness despite the possession of power is an annual exercise in self-discipline. And only that person has fasted, in the true sense of the word, who emerges from the experience not only a thankful and pious devotee of Allah but also a human being in complete control of his thoughts, words and deeds.

 

APRIL 4

A Congregational Prayer

According to Abdullah ibn Umar, the Prophet Muhammad observed: A prayer in congregation is 27 times superior to a prayer performed individually. (Muwatta Imam Malik)

The desired states of prayer are increased when the prayer is performed by a congregation of worshippers. That is why its reward is more than that of a prayer said individually.

For a congregational prayer the individual has to think of it ahead of the appointed hour, as he has to set out for the mosque in good time. In this way, his mind is already occupied with thoughts of worship. Then, on the way to the mosque, he is reminded at every step that he is heading towards the house of God. It is as if, even before the prayer starts, he is busy with prayer.

In the mosque, there is an unalloyed atmosphere of worship, and the devotee feels that he is not the only person at prayer: he has joined a vast brotherhood. If, at an individual prayer, he was a worshipper in the simple sense of the word, he now shares the status of a preserver of the ritual of namaz for succeeding generations.

Then the congregational prayer in itself is a source of great reward. In an individual prayer, the worshipper is like his own leader (Imam) at prayer. But by saying his prayers in congregation he gives proof of greater modesty and reverence for Allah. In individual prayer he had renewed his consciousness of Islam individually. In congregational prayer he experiences this more intensely along with his fellow men.

In individual prayer he had received divine provision at the level of an individual. In congregational prayer he shares in God’s provision descending on the entire congregation.

Another significant aspect of congregational prayer is that through it he imbibes with his brothers the sacred atmosphere of the mosque. He learns from them and they learn from him. He is both a giver and a taker. If formerly he has simply performed namaz in private, he now becomes in congregational prayer a standard bearer of Islam.

 

APRIL 5

An Exemplary Tale

Last summer I met Mr. Abdul Muhit (a retired Joint Director of technical education, now living in Faizabad in U.P., India) who related some of the experiences he has had during his service tenure. The following is one which struck me as being of particular interest.

Mr. A.M. Khan did a B.E. degree in electrical engineering at Banaras Hindu University in 1955. Some years later, in 1963, a vacancy for a Senior Lecturer was advertised in the private polytechnic of Chandauli (Distt. Varanasi). The successful candidate was expected to function as the head of the department of electrical engineering.

The interview for this post was to be held at the official residence of J.B. Tandon, the Commissioner of Varanasi, who at that time was the President of the Managing Committee. In his capacity as President he was present at the interview.

Professors Ram Saran and Garula were the other members of the interview board. The latter had taught Mr. Khan at the Banaras Hindu University.

Prof. Ram Saran started by putting this question to Mr. Khan:

“Do you know what an instrument transformer is?”

Mr. Khan had not even begun to answer the question when Prof. Garula, addressing the commissioner Tandon said: “He is the best candidate. There is no question of interview.

Then he said to Mr. Khan:

‘Mr. Khan, you can go.’

Prof. Saran kept quiet. Mr. Khan took his papers and left the room. After one week he received his appointment letter, appointing him as the Senior Lecturer of the Chandauli Polytechnic and the Head of the Department of Electrical Engineering. Subsequently, he continued to receive promotions until he retired as Joint Director, Technical Education.

Often we come across youths who tell us that no employment is available. But the truth is that there is an absence of worthy candidates. Mr. Khan received such an unexpected response only because he had worked very hard at his studies, always securing good marks. His performance and character throughout his studies were highly commendable. Prof. Garula and others thus formed a good impression of him. This was why he had become the first choice.

Every institute and office wants good workers, because without competent persons offices cannot be run satisfactorily. No one is an enemy to his own self. That is why no one can ignore a good worker.

Good, dependable workers are generally in demand. If you fulfill the needs of others, you will be sought out by them.

This world runs on the principle of give and take. Here no value is placed on grievances, protests and demands. The simple rule observed by this world is receiving and giving in equal measure. If you want employment, you must make yourself useful. You must develop the skills needed by other people. Then you will have no complaints to make against them. And they will have no complaints to make against you.

Then you will see that you don’t need to pursue employment. Instead employment will pursue you.

 

APRIL 6

Losing One’s Home

On the 28th of March, 1995, a Mrs. Indu Vahi committed suicide by jumping from the 8th floor of Asia House, a building situated on Kasturba Gandhi Marg, quite close to Connaught Place, in New Delhi. As the chief newsreader in the Hindi Department of All India Radio, she had been allotted a two-room residential flat on the first floor of Asia House, which is a government building. When she retired last year at the age of sixty, she was required to give up this flat where she had lived for the last twenty years. The last date for vacating was the 31st of March.

Mrs. Vahi, widowed in 1989, became very depressed after retirement, even although she had the company of her daughter Sonia and her son-in-law, Ashok Kumar. According to The Hindustan Times of 29 March, 1995, she had acquired a house in Radio Colony of the Trans-Yamuna area before her retirement, but somehow she had felt very dejected at having to move there. This was possibly because of the paucity of civic amenities there as compared with her government allotted home, which was very centrally situated and near the elegant shopping centre of Connaught Place. This feeling so obsessed her that she climbed up to the top floor of the Asia House and leaped to her death.

When I read this news item, I felt that it was indeed a tragic incident. Then I said to myself, “there was someone who could not bear the thought of shifting from a comfortable flat to a humble dwelling. But what of one’s condition if one were to be totally deprived of shelter?”

Even if people do not commit suicide, they still have to die. After death, the realization will come to them that all their possessions have suddenly been snatched away. On that day, all houseowners will become homeless. On that day, it will be only those upon whom Allah looks with favour, only those to whom He will grant an abode in Paradise, who will ever again be householders. (1.SS/9.95)

 

APRIL 7

Dawah Hotline

“Hello! Is there anyone to answer me? I am an American Jew, and I want to learn something about Islam. I rang several mosques in the USA, but failed to get a satisfactory answer. Please give me some information about Islam.”

It was a telephone call received at the office of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) in Jamaica. The person present at the office answered the call, giving the caller the required information as best as he could. Later on it came to my knowledge that such calls are often received in American mosques. But with no competent person to attend to the telephone, the callers often fail to get proper and satisfying answers. At times even there is no one present in the office at all.

Ultimately this incident at the ICNA Islamic Centre resulted in the installation of a Hotline telephone in this centre. It is called the Dawah Hotline and its number is 1-800-662-ISLAM. A well informed person is always present in the office to provide the necessary information on Islam to the caller. For the time being, this centre has secured the services of two competent persons with a good command of English and a proper knowledge of Islam. The initial cost was one lakh dollars. (Dawat Daily, July 13, 1995)

In bygone times, the da‘i had to travel long distances to communicate his message to the mad‘u. Now modern times have seen such revolutionary changes, that the mad‘u himself is coming to da‘i. Clearly, the need of the hour is to arrange for such centres in all the cities in the world so that people may receive the desired information on Islam.

 

APRIL 8

The Study of Hadith

According to a hadith, Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr said: ‘My foster mother came to me in Madinah. She was still an idolater, and an ally of the Quraish (the dire enemy of Islam and Muslims). Then I told the Prophet that my idolatrous mother had come to me in need of assistance and asked if I should help her. The Prophet replied, “Yes, you must.”’