Monday, September 26, 2005

Moderation and Enlightened Moderation ...

Col (Rtd) Riaz Jafri Sahb has kindly included me in his list of recipients of his almost-daily "newsletter". At 75 years of age, the retired colonel is one of those rare people who are a first-hand witness of the upheavals of the partition of Pakistan from India in 1947 and have experienced the entire history of Pakistan. His emails are often an almost nostalgic take on current events and personalities. His thoughts are intelligent, amusing, insightful, and thought-provoking. The following is an email that I received from him, followed by my response, followed by his response to my response.

Col Sahb's email:

Dear Dr. Fayyaz


September 23rd, 2005

Yaum e Tahreem

Maulana Hamid Ali Mousavi has called to observe Yaum e Tahreem in the memory of recent deaths of some Shias of eminence. Though I am a Shia myself yet, I feel that the Maulana is given such mourning calls rather too often. We are called upon to observe the Shahadat of most Imams and their Ashaab & Ahbaab on certain days by allocating each one of them a special name. I was seventeen at the time of partition and had never heard of such days. It all started with the influx of more knowledgeable and “superior” Syeds and Shias migrating from central India who brought with them such ritualistic practices to Pakistan. This has made Shias altogether a distinct community of Muslims and has distanced them from the main stream. Needless to say that it is not at all in the interest of Pakistan and its one nation.

Our Sunni Ulema too do not fare much better in the matter of merry making in Islam. Any thing entertaining is Makrooh if not Haram in their eyes. So much so, that even laughing joyously and whole heartedly is not approved by them. Of course, music is satanic to them. Shias go one step further. Not only that they deny themselves any merry making but they must mourn. Weep and cry remembering the sufferings of the Imams and their families before any thing which can bring them some happiness - such as Eid, marriage of the children or any other celebration entail! ing happiness.

When are we going to really enjoy the bounties that Allah (swt) has bestowed upon us? When are we going to spend happily in the name of Allah (swt) and enjoy it ? I would request the Maulana and all other Ulema to give some call for the joyous merry making also some day, such as Jashan Fatah e Makka, when the Muslims all over could come out of their homes, in their best dresses, and sing and dance in the streets and cities. Let’s also enjoy something and be happy about it.

Col. Riaz Jafri (Retd)

My response:

Salam Col Sb...

That was a very thought-provoking email. You have hit upon one crucial point in your analysis, and that is:

Why do the self-styled "ulemas" emphasize upon one virtue of religion at the expense of another point of the religion?

This is an extremely important question and I think that in the answer to this question lies the answer to ALL our contemporary questions about religion. The fact of the matter is that Islam is the religion of moderation par excellence. Despite present-day claims of "enlightened moderation" that some stooges of Westernism make, the moderation prescribed by Islam is just as applicable today as it was 1400 years ago. But unfortunately, Islam has been taken hostage by a heterogenous group of self-styled pseudo-scholars who have made every attempt to interpret Islam with their own myopic lens. I call these ulemas as "self-styled" because, instead of following the moderate path set out in the Holy Quran, practised by the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him), and followed on by a legacy of 1400 years of Islamic scholarship, these ulemas have twisted, tortured, and corrupted Islam to suit their own whims. There are, for example, those ulemas who think that the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was "bashar" (human) but not "noor" (light), when in fact he was the perfection of both bashar and noor. Then there are those who emphasize on the "fear of Hell" (khauf) at the cost of the "hope of Heaven" (umeed). There are also those idiots who think that the role of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) was only to transmit the Divine message and that love and personal attachment with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) has no place in Islam. The truth is that love and personal attachment with the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) is what Islam is all about! Finally, as you mentioned, there are those who stress upon the sad days of the year at the cost of the happy days of the year. These ill-advised pseudo-scholars do not realize that they are preaching this pessimism at the cost of Islam itself. The bottomline is that one should modify one's whims to suit the preachings of Islam and not modify the preachings of Islam to suit one's one whims.

Having said that, I would like to say that there ARE, even in these days of ignorance, true scholars of Islam to whom the the Holy Prophet's (peace be upon him) saying, "The scholars of my Ummat are like the Prophets of Bani Israeel" could be applied very aptly. It is our responsibility to search for and follow these gems of the Ummah so that we can make the World a better place to live in.

Dr Fayyaz Khan

Col Sahb's response to my response:

Dear Dr. Sahib:


You have summed up beautifully and all encompassingly when you say,"The bottom-line is that one should modify one's whims to suit the preachings of Islam and not modify the preachings of Islam to suit one's whims." Regarding your second point that "there are even in these days of ignorance, true scholars of Islam", I agree that there are such scholars but unfortunately there are dubbed as the 'renegades' or heretics by the 'established' Ulemas of stereotyped schools of thought.

Dr. Taha of Egypt was one such scholar. He was one of nine children of a poor farmer, became blind in infancy. Studied in mosques and madrissas. Wrote his first paper at the age of nine. Kept studying and found himself in a French university. Married the lady who helped him with is studies. Got his doctorate from France in some Islamic discipline - that I don't remember now. Came back to Egypt. Rose to be the Rector of Al-Azhar and later Minister of Religious Affairs in the Federal cabinet. Wrote a number of books, papers on Islam - focussing of early Islamic history and causes of its degeneration. He was declared heretic and once when in Iraq was sentenced to death for his such views. More than 100,000 telegrams were sent in a day from all over the world to the Iraqi govt., who spared his life but banished him from Iraq. Egypt had already exiled him. Died some time back in Beirut. A series of his four books on the four Khulfa-e-Rashideen makes a very illuminating and thought provoking study.

Best Regards
Col. Jafri (Retd)

Well, I'll reserve my views on the personalities mentioned by Col Sahb in his emails, but Col Sahb is one very interesting person, isn't he?

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