Viewing the Emerging Order through Glasses of Islam
Were it that Muslims really evoked, not provoked! But the truth remains that they have, as if it is inherent in their nature, always been getting provoked when what was required from them was to have evoked. The world is truly uncertain, as it has always been. But the uncertainties of today’s world are much more the creation of man than they have ever been in the past. The world today is being ruled by what I call ‘Economic Fundamentalism’ the ideology that seeks to rule the world with the reins of economics. The think-tank of the world of economic fundamentalism has taken innumerable steps to strengthen their hold. They have sacrificed the goddess of justice before the eyes of the Statue of Liberty. They have transformed through political manoeuvres the state into their estate. They have incessantly and relentlessly been trying to organise a grand farewell for religion. They have captivated the people’s imagination through the media. They have got the attire of society redesigned so that it looks gorgeous and inviting to their eyes. They have industrialised sex, in which they have discovered the hen that always lays golden eggs. They have relocated the entire educational set-up on the Wall Street. They have monopolised the tree of economy whose fruits and shadows are only theirs; others can only admire its beauty from a safe distance. They have taken science and technology as their mistresses who are always keen to offer their glorious best to them. They have nipped all the challenges in the buds by masterminding popular movements. They have lynched the ‘civilisation’, which has been given a new incarnation; and now Bohemians are called civilised. Last but not the least, they have been busy colonising the good earth in the name of globalisation.
It is the civilisation of human existence that anoints humans with the status of the superior-most among all the creatures. Man is superior because he is not always concerned with his own needs and desires; his heart thumps at others’ grief or joy, too. In contradistinction to humans, animals mostly derive pleasure only in their own attainments. Human beings tend to socialise and live together in villages or cities, animals vie with one another in the jungles. 'Survival of all' is the motto of human society; 'survival of the strongest ' is the law of the jungle. Animals do not generally have any feeling of shame and roam nude, mating without following any specific set of social principles; man has learned to cover himself and prefers to make love in surroundings hidden from others’ view. Animals enjoy rights and follow duties only as their nature; their excesses against one another are not judged by any rule of law, for they are not expected to have any sense of conscience or knowledge of law. Man has to work within the boundaries set by society; he is expected to know the law and obey it.
Let us examine the present civilisation in the light of the above observations. The economic fundamentalists want the world to believe that the present human society is at the zenith of civilisation. Their claim emanates from the fact that humans can now boast of more worldly splendour than was the case at any other time in the past. Man resides with comfort in palatial surroundings; has variety of colourful dresses to don; travels in high-speed vehicles on splendid roads; can fly in the air or sail the sea with dazzling velocity; has tools to confront the vagrancy of weather; has advanced technology providing him with thousands of items of luxury; can communicate within seconds with any person living anywhere in the world; can watch with delight in his own bedroom the events organised at the farthest places on earth; is better acquainted with the secrets of life and of the universe; possesses thousands of medicines to treat illnesses; and can remove, with or without knife, malformations from inside the human body. They also claim that the world of today has the most developed political, economic and social systems. The big industries, the lavish hotels, the multi-storey stock exchanges, the sprawling, lush-green picnic spots, the bars and casinos and the busy beaches are presented as symbols of civilisation. By making these claims the votaries of modernism aim to give a new meaning to civilisation. To them, civilisation is synonymous with development and prosperity. This is an absolutely materialistic description of civilisation that has no place for moral and spiritual excellence. It is not that the connoisseurs of economic fundamentalism are not aware of the hollowness of their belief; they very much are. This, in fact, is a conscious, motivated and deceptive attempt aimed at diverting public attention from the dangerous consequences of their strategies and perpetuating their empire. They seek to keep the populace and the intelligentsia bemused. It is for this reason that they assiduously glorify status symbols in society. These status symbols are projected as indicators of one’s 'sophistication', the word that is being planted as replacement for 'civilisation'. As soon as a new item or an updated version of the old one comes into the market with a fanfare that immediately captures imagination of the people, it becomes a new status symbol. These symbols modify not only with time but also with the various strata of society. A man or woman’s ability to attend parties, smartness in mixing with the members of opposite sex, readiness to dance on the floor, ken at organising such functions, boldness to crack naughty jokes and keenness to share bed are signs of 'modernity'. Promiscuity, gambling and drinking are no more sins but pointers to one’s high lifestyle.
The net result is that peace eludes the modern civilisation; and it is not only peace at the social or international level that is non-existing; man has grown even more devoid of peace at the individual level. He has all the luxuries at his disposal; still happiness has divorced his soul. He has numerous means of entertainment; still tension and anxiety terrorise his mind and heart. Socialism aimed at converting the world into a factory and humans into machines. Market economics has transformed the world into a bazaar environed on all sides by jungles; it has converted humans into wild-animals, who know only their rights not duties nor prohibitions. When the modern man feels throngs of anxiety, he opts for either a tablet of a sedative or a peg of whisky. When he is sick with boredom, he finds solace in gambling, flirting with women and watching the vulgarities on big or small screen. And when his problems become intolerable he often decides to seek refuge in the valley of death. Everyone is ready to exploit everyone else. Friendship has lost its meaning; relationships are governed by selfish interests. Nobody wants to help others. Neighbours do not even recognise one another. None is concerned about the sentiments of fellow beings; every one is seeking fulfilment of one’s own desires, whatever the consequences for others. One kills another for the sake of a few thousand bucks. Money is important, man not. The great thinker, Emerson, in his essay, “Napoleon” says: “As long as our civilisation is essentially one of property of fences, of explosions, it will be marked by delusions. Our wishes will leave us sick. There will be bitterness in our laughter and our wine will burn our mouth."
‘Freedom’ is the catchword for the megalomaniacs of modern “civilisation”. This augurs well for them because it opens a great number of avenues for their business. This is also a tool in their hands to create a fantastic image of the present civilisation vis-à-vis the “black ages” when men and women used to love under “severe restrictions” and “unnecessary inhibitions”. Free man tends to do whatever he feels like doing at a particular moment of time, irrespective of its consequences on his own life or on the lives of others. The rationale behind this, according to the liberalists, is that man is himself responsible for the consequences of his acts, and others have no business to interfere in his personal matters and to teach him morals. If one wants to drink, it is one’s right, even if it causes severe mental anguish and financial burden to one’s dependants and well-wishers and makes one vulnerable to several life-threatening health problems. If one wants to lie with a person of one’s choice, one must have full liberty to do so, even if it destroys one’s family and leads to several other unforeseen problems including fatal or incapacitating illnesses. If one wants to roam in minimal or no clothes, it is one’s prerogative to dress as one likes, even if it blazes the passions of onlookers and drives them mad to rape unwilling women. One must be free to commit suicide, even if one’s hara-kiri brings intolerable pain and suffering to one’s relatives and friends. What sort of freedom is this that kills people, maddens men, women and children, leads to sexual assaults, destroys families, makes parents and children alien to one another, turns the old into destitute and kids into orphans and gives people sleepless nights? It is absolutely nonsensical to call the modern civilisation ‘civilisation’. It is barbarism at its worst. Today’s men and women are not humans but another species of animals, the Homo sapiens whose animal instincts are always positioned in the driver's seat. They are in fact even worse than the beasts, as the beasts do not manufacture weapons, drinks and eatables for their own destruction, and their actions are simply the result of impulses and reflexes that ensure their survival. Whatever the animals do is without the foreknowledge of the consequences of their actions. Man is mostly prescient of the possible adverse consequences of his actions on himself and on society. And yet, his knowledge does not desist him from indulging in evil acts. The king of jungle rules only due to his sheer physical force and commits “excesses” on fellow-animals only to fill his empty stomach, having no other option to satiate his hunger. Neither do lions exploit the other inhabitants in their territories nor prevent them from availing themselves the products of nature. The rulers of the world of Homo sapiens commit excesses, oppress and cheat their species-fellows for their own nefarious designs. They are worse than the carnivores and saprophytes. It is not the compelling necessities but their covetousness that makes them ruthless dictators. They kill people not to fill their hungry intestines but to perpetuate their rapacious hold on the economic or political power; their intention is not just to survive but not to let others survive.
If there is one field in which the modern civilisation may claim to have actually benefited mankind, it is the field of medicine. Certainly, there are many diseases that have now become treatable or preventable, namely, the infectious diseases like Tuberculosis, Cholera, Leprosy, Meningitis, Smallpox, Measles, Poliomyelitis, Diphtheria, Pertussis, etc. But economic fundamentalism has largely undone the great work done by the medical scientists by making the people adopt a lifestyle that makes them susceptible to a large number of ailments -- Chronic Bronchitis, Buerger’s disease, Ischaemic Heart Diseases, Hypertension, Peptic Ulcer, Diabetes mellitus, Cancers, especially of lung, mouth and breast, Arthritis, Spondylitis, Cirrhosis, Syphilis, Gonorrhoea, AIDS, Psychoses and neuroses, and many others. It is indeed difficult to infer if man today actually faces less threat to his health than in the past. Whatever an increase in the average age has been noticed in the last few decades, it is chiefly due to reduced Infant Mortality Rate. This reduction is counterbalanced by the high rate of feticide; more children are killed every year by way of abortion than are saved by vaccines and antibiotics. Take abortions in consideration and the average age will nosedive.
Thus the balance sheet of the achievements of the modern world is not at all encouraging. It is in fact greatly depressing because, with the scientific knowledge and technical know-how that the world possesses, man must have been physically healthier, socially safer and mentally more peaceful. But he is not. And this is because economic fundamentalism has been rapidly destroying whatever the world has been gaining through the labour and dedication of scientists.
It is true that human beings are animals. But it is equally true that human beings are human beings. They may eat, mate and die like animals. But, in addition, they possess an extraordinary healthy relationship with fellow humans, a highly sensitive conscience that censors their activities and supreme spirituality that seeks to instil divine virtues in them. Liberty, in the modern era, has only become an iron chain prepared by the economic fundamentalists for the purpose of shackling the conscience and spirituality of human beings. These must now be liberated and allowed to function without fear. Once the conscience and spirituality are set free, humanisation of mankind will rapidly progress. Man will then not only enjoy the fruits of material developments but will also ensure that this is done in a way as would not disturb his mental peace and social order.
It is in the backdrop of this universal disharmony that Islam has to play its role. It is unfortunate that most Muslims seem to have forgotten the real objectives of Islam. Islam is being equated with Muslimism. Islam is for all, not for Muslims. But Muslims are generally insensitive to the needs of others and the needs of the mankind as a whole. The so-called Islamic and Muslim organisations have been unable to recognise their role. Either they have been busy in reforming the individuals, or they are trying to strengthen Muslims as a community. There is no attempt whatsoever in influencing the direction the world is traversing. The whole social, legal, economic, administrative, scientific, health and educational set-up all over the world is founded on un-Islamic premises. Yet Muslims seem to be in a permanent somnolence. Everything that the Qur’an expressly prohibited is destroying the social fabric everywhere. The polytheism of various kinds is prevalent all over the world; even those that are not pagans have become slaves of money, addiction or sex. Alcohol has become the water of life for the majority. Early marriage is banned while premarital sex is promoted. Promiscuity is glorified while polygamy is mocked. Sex has become one of the biggest industries with the result that it has become as much associated with death as it has been with life. The economic system is based on exploitation and marketing of evils. Crimes are ever on the rise. For a few hundreds or thousands of deaths caused by “Islamic terrorists”, the whole world is being terrorised; for millions of deaths caused by the modern sexuality promoted by the merchants of sex, criminal silence is maintained. All international organisations including UN, WHO, WTO and Amnesty have been dancing to the melody of globalisation trampling, in the process, individual’s physical, mental and spiritual health, family peace and social order.
It is high time Muslims rose to the occasion. They must clearly know that Islam aims to achieve a comprehensive peace throughout the world. The Qur’an has clearly outlined the objectives, which are as follows (all translations of Quranic verses have been taken from Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation):
(1) To work for the common good
“Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good, enjoining what is right, and forbidding what is wrong. They are the ones to attain felicity.”
(2) To endeavour for the unity of mankind
“O mankind! reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, His mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women.”
(Quran, 4: 1)
“Mankind was but one nation, but differed (later).”
(Quran, 10: 19)
“And verily this Brotherhood of yours is a single Brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore fear Me (and no other). But people have cut off their affair (of unity), between them, into sects: each party rejoices in that which is with itself…”
(Quran, 23: 52-53)
“Verily, this brotherhood of yours is a single brotherhood, and I am your Lord and Cherisher...”
(Quran, 21: 92)
(3) To work for peace at every level
“The Religion before God is Islam.”
(Quran, 3: 19)
(Islam, literally, means Peace and is defined as total submission to God.)
“But God doth call to the Home of Peace: He doth guide whom He pleaseth to a way that is straight.”
(Quran, 10: 25)
“Therefore if they withdraw from you but fight you not, and (instead) send you (Guarantees of) peace, then God hath opened no way for you (to war against them).”
(Quran, 4: 90)
“There hath come to you from God a (new) light and a perspicuous Book,- wherewith God guideth all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leadeth them out of darkness, by His will, unto the light,- guideth them to a path that is straight.”
(Quran, 5: 15-16)
(4) To maintain universal harmony and balance
“Thus, have We made of you an Ummat justly balanced, that ye might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over yourselves…”
(Quran, 2: 143)
“And the Firmament has He raised high, and He has set up the Balance (of Justice), in order that ye may not transgress (due) balance.”
(Quran, 55: 7-8)
(5) To work for justice at every level
“And God means no injustice to any of His creatures.”
(Quran, 3: 108)
“O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for God can best protect both.”
(Quran, 4: 135)
“Say: “My Lord hath commanded justice.”
(Quran, 7: 29)
“God commands justice, the doing of good, and liberality to kith and kin, and He forbids all shameful deeds, and injustice and rebellion.”
(Quran, 16: 90)
To achieve these goals, Islam builds a constitutional infrastructure. The distinguishing feature of the Islamic system is that unlike other contemporary systems that give Fundamental Rights supremacy over Fundamental Duties and omit Fundamental Prohibitions altogether, it creates a three-dimensional structure with equal emphasis on Fundamental Duties, Fundamental Prohibitions and Fundamental Rights. A system based on this impregnable triangle gives Islam the flexibility that is required for being a system for all times to come.
As said above, what has plagued the world of Islam is that it sees its religion as something exclusive for itself. A bigger problem is the tendency to view the path of Islam as nothing but a route to Paradise. This diminishes its role as the world leader in all affairs of human life. If the world has to be saved from the impending doom, we have to learn the sciences of the application of Islam in the contemporary world. To make it not just the world religion but the world order that it has to be destined for, Muslims must come out of their tubular vision; and must lead the fight against the forces of evils in a way that other religious communities feel inclined, not disinclined, to join them.
The third glaring mistake that Muslims often commit is to confuse Westernism with Christianity, and between West and Westernism. Westernism has been as much against Christianity as it has been against Islam. Every effort must be made to develop friendly relations with all religious communities particularly Christians. Unless the followers of Islam and Christianity unite, the fight against the global forces of evil cannot be convincingly won. The fight is between the forces that seek to destroy morality at individual, family and social levels for commercial gains and those that seek to strengthen them. Muslims must also clearly understand that while they have every reason to confront the fundamentals of Westernism, they must learn to respect the West and Western people. Western people are themselves the victims of Westernism. To fight against Western people and Western nations is contrary to the Islam’s objective of universal brotherhood. The scientific and technological development, the achievements in medical sciences, the infrastructure in their countries, the transport and communication systems, the care for their citizens and religious tolerance (which though has suffered lately) are the characteristics that the West may be emulated for. Developing under the influence of Westernism, people living in the West have succumbed to certain major and highly destructive evils. But their personal honesty, integrity, the concern for their fellowmen and the will to know and research must be respected and admired. They have to be explained that Islam is not against any nation or people but against the unrestrained liberty that Westernism promotes for commercial ends. Muslims must take full advantage of the scientific and technological development they have made but must pursue other goals only within the parameters of Islam.
The fourth folly is that most Muslims seek to popularise the institution rather than the system of Islam. The institution is very much alive. A substantial percentage of Muslims offer regular prayers, recite the Qur’an, keep the fasts of Ramadhan, perform Hajj and pay Zakah. A large number of them also sport beards and dress in accordance with what they regard as Islamic culture. There are thousands of thousands of traditional Islamic institutions and millions of clerics all over the world. In spite of them all, the system of Islam seems to have gone in hibernation. There is no attempt whatsoever to introduce the system of Islam at the national and international level. The system does not necessarily require an Islamic government. Even those societies and nations that do not accept the institution of Islam can benefit from the great legal, moral, social and economic principles of Islam. Muslims must endeavour to influence the world movements and the policies of international institutions. They must categorically declare that any development that harms health, family peace or social order cannot be acceptable in the civilised world. Free sex, alcohol, smoking and gambling have become greatest tormentors of humanity. These have to be vanished, and Islam has to play pivotal role in this campaign.
Unfortunately, Muslims have become apologetic in their response towards modernity. The modern educated Muslims tend to view Islam with the glasses of modernity. The need in fact is to view modernity with the glasses of Islam. Islam teaches us to distinguish between right and wrong. We must not hesitate to accept any development that is positive wherever it originates from, and shun what is negative. Our decisions must be objective rather than subjective. Even if we disagree with someone in one hundred matters, we must not feel shy to agree with one on the hundred first if one is right in that. And even if we agree in hundred matters with someone, we must not forget to reject the hundred first if one happens to be diverting from the right course. The Quran is also Furqan that distinguishes between the right and the wrong. We Muslims must concenrate our attention on this role the Quran seeks to play. Let the Quran become Imam Mubeen (Distinct Leader) for the whole world!
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