Whither Indian Muslims
– Part One
Combining Deen and Dunya
So, in the light of all we have talked about earlier, whither Indian Muslims? What do they want and in what direction are they headed?
That means how do we ameliorate the condition of pain, suffering and frustration that seems to dog the steps of Muslims everywhere, not the least in India? How do we show them the way for a better life right here on earth and pave the way at the same time for a wonderful life of bliss and felicity in the hereafter?
In some ways, to ask that question is also to give away the entire game as it were. For, that is a full commentary in itself on the divine remedy that Islam is and offers to every human ailment on earth. It is the living and ongoing miracle of Islam that every solution it offers to a human problem on earth is also the golden recipe for earning an honored place in paradise.
Too many smart people spend their time and energy – and their expertise – arguing how to separate the Deen from the Dunya. They are fixated and obsessed with how to keep the affairs of this world from intruding on the affairs of the next world. Islam throws a very different kind of challenge at humanity: live your worldly life in such a way that it will automatically qualify you for the best and highest rewards in the life hereafter.
So, in Islam it is not choosing one or the other – this world or the next world. But it is combining both in a most complete and dynamic recipe for all-round success and happiness in both worlds. That means teachings of Islam offer perfect solutions not only with regard to the mundane and secular aspects of human existence but also with regard to its most sublime, spiritual and other-worldly dimensions.
Frankly, this obsession with separating the secular from the sacred is a legacy from Europe’s history of dividing up the world between the king and the pope and watching them both go at it forever with consequences in the form of gore and misery everywhere and for everyone.
There is no reason why the rest of the world should continue to suffer forever the consequences, and pay forever the price of, this misguided and, quite frankly, somewhat perverse European legacy. It is time to take human life for what it is – an organic totality and an integrated whole that needs to be viewed and treated in a holistic fashion and not piecemeal.
And that is the approach Islam takes.
Life is one, so treat it as one, says Islam. And Islam offers a world view and a set of teachings that show how everything in creation is closely intertwined not only in human life but also in the entire universe.
So, keeping these things in mind, how do we help build a new and better life for Indian Muslims – and for Muslims and human beings everywhere?
Building a Better Life
for India’s Muslims
Building a new life for Muslims, whether in India or in any other part of their natural habitat, which is the entire world really, how exactly do you go about accomplishing that goal? Just how do you do it?
Wiping out or dimming the dark and sad memories of their more recent past, which may extend decades or centuries depending on how you look at it, and setting them on the path to a glorious new future, how is it to be done?
Maybe we should begin by asking if it is even possible in the first place to turn the ship of Muslim destiny around. Let me make it clear at the very outset that the answer to this question is a categorical, enthusiastic and resounding “YES!”
If we don’t believe that, then, not only will we be decrepit and dysfunctional psychologically and socially, it will also place our entire Iman in doubt. It will be a direct violation of a direct divine command in the Qur’an not to give up, no matter how desperate the situation and no matter how tough the going.
Laa taqnatoo mir rahmatillah is a categorical call not to ever despair of the grace, love and mercy of the maker, who made us for no other reason than that it was his will and pleasure to do so. To think that he will make us and throw us away without hope or recourse is the worst kind of insult we can level against our creator.
If we lose hope and give up, then, we simply may no longer be Muslims – or if you prefer, Mu’mins: people with any belief or conviction.
So, yes, absolutely, the Muslim condition is changeable and improvable. And yes it must be changed and improved. We simply cannot allow things to go on like this forever.
Yes, there is absolutely no doubt that we can build a new life and a new future for India’s Muslims. And for Muslims around the world. There is not a doubt about that.
The real question then is how: How do we go about doing it? To this question, there are two answers: (a) one a short, very short answer and (b) the other a long, very long one.
Here is the short answer, and it is in fact the only one that matters, for, everything else is details, details and more details of the same original short answer.
The short answer is this: education and character. That is it. That is the answer, the short and the real one. And the only one that matters if you ask me.
In the language of the Qur’an, these two things are called Ta’aleem and Tazkiyah respectively: education and character.
That means, number one, Muslims – as individuals, communities, nations and societies – need to undergo new comprehensive character training. We need to reshape the character composition of Muslims – in India and around the world.
Number two, it means Muslims need a complete new education – a brand new approach to education and a brand new educational philosophy and orientation.
Right now Muslim character puts everyone to shame. Read Iqbal’s Jawab-e-Shikwah if you don’t believe me. As for education, what education are we talking about? What kind of an educational system do Muslims of India, Pakistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Nigeria and other places have in place?
In a blistering letter to his former teachers, 17th-Century Mughal ruler Aurangzeb bemoaned the sad state of Muslim education during his days. I wonder what he would have be saying to himself in his grave about the state of Muslim education in India today.
It isn’t as if the whole world is making a beeline for Delhi and Lahore and Dhaka to get their education. It isn’t as if the lands of Islam – you name your own favorite places – are in direct competition with Europe, America, Russia and other places in the world as the great centers of learning and enlightenment.
So, should I rest my case that Muslim education, in India and all over, is in dire and desperate need of complete overhauling, renovation, rebuilding and rejuvenation?
As for where you should start, whether you should start with education or character, it is all the same. It does not really matter which you consider to be the first and which second, for, they are both so closely interlinked that you cannot have one without the other.
But what is of critical importance is that we understand and take both these terms and concepts, (education and character, Ta’aleem and Tazkiyah) in their most inclusive, comprehensive and dynamic sense.
These Goals Are Attainable and Easily So
And what is more, from a practical point of view, both these goals are perfectly attainable and fairly easily so. All we need is the right vision, the right plan, the right leadership, the right resources and the right kind of people to bring all these things together and make the total and comprehensive transformation of the Muslim Ummah, the blessed Ummah Marhoomah, a reality.
Starting out, if that is where you want to start, with education – ta’aleem as the Qur’an calls it. Whether the target area you have in mind is India, or some other place, or the globe as a whole. And, frankly, whether it is just Muslims you are thinking about or all of humanity.
Let us start with education and go.
Let us give Muslims of India – and of the rest of the world – Ta’aleem and see what happens. Maybe that is why nobody talks about education and Muslims in the same breath. Because that puts a huge scare in the hearts of Iblis and his Majlis-e-Shura, as Iqbal called the Devil’s minions and cronies.
“What will happen to our hegemony of the world,” the Devil seems to be telling his underlings, “If the Muslims ever get educated? If their Deen ever gets to be linked to its core foundation of Ta’aleem once again? What will happen to all the grand plans and schemes we have in store for this miserable planet on which Adam’s children still live?”
“Didn’t we have enough the first time around, when the Muslims used to be the best and the most educated people in the world? In fact, they used to be almost the only educated people in the world then. Don’t you remember the havoc they caused at that time? They made light and dispelled darkness wherever they went. They spread truth everywhere, foolish people!”
“Don’t you remember how hard they made it for us to fool and mislead Adam’s kids? And how our favorite pastimes of aggression and injustice, lies and deceit, had to be put in cold storage waiting for a better day of darkness and ignorance to dawn?”
“And look what wonders we have been able to accomplish in this world ever since Muslims embraced ignorance in place of the enlightenment of Islam! We made the very names and concepts of Zulm and Sidq disappear from this world. No more all that nonsense about truth and justice.”
No doubt there are nightly celebrations fireworks in all the Devil’s dens everywhere at the wretched and deplorable educational condition of Muslims – in India and around the world.
So, Ta’aleem and Tazkiyah – education on the one hand and character on the other hand. That is the name of the game as they say.
Ta’aleem and Tazkiyah: Two Peas in a Pod
But the question is can there be one without the other? Can there be Ta’aleem without Tazkiyah or Tazkiyah without Ta’aleem? The answer is no.
What happens when you try to force them to go their separate ways? That is, when you give the world one without the other? Exactly what is happening now: education without character and attempts at character building without the guiding light of education to illumine the path.
The result: a perfectly messed up world. Pretty much the way it is and pretty much the way it has been, except when Islam came and joined Ta’aleem with Tazkiyah.
The fact is that these two are not only interactive but completely interdependent. They are interrelated, intertwined, interactive, integrated and interdependent, which makes the relationship between the two a necessary one – in a mathematical sense. That means one cannot happen without the other. Nor can you cut one loose from the other.
Tell me this. Is training Muslims – or anyone else – to be doctors, carpenters, engineers or computer scientists a matter of character training or simple education? When children spend endless hours doing their math or language homework, is it part of their education or is it part of their character?
How can people who don’t have the will and the discipline – character shall we say? – to go to school regularly; to work hard at school; to do their homework on time and well; and to endure all kinds of hardships and challenges that a superior education throws their way; how can people like that ever expect to be educated?
So what is it when you are staying late to do your homework? And walking five miles to go to school because that is how far the nearest school happens to be? And what is it when you are still doing your homework indoors when so many other kids are playing outside or watching a movie?
When other children are having a good time playing or watching television, you are delaying your gratifications – an essential of character formation – and putting in some extra hours in your school work, is that character or education? The fact is that it is both.
That is because you cannot separate one from the other. They are two peas in a pod. They only work in tandem. And that is why the Qur’an combines the two of them together. Because that is how Allah created human beings. And that is the perfect plan – joining Ta’aleem to Tazkiyah, character to education – he devised to educate them and train them to excel in this world as well as to be successful in the next world: combining character training with educational training.
Islamic Social Change
This is what is called social change at its best – a most amazing and thoroughgoing social change. Islamic social change if you ask me.
Call it development if you will. Or call it a quick course in modernity. For, that is what it is: social change, development and modernity, all rolled into one, each at its best. The way Islam first introduced the core of these ideas in the world and the way Islam is waiting and working to make these things happen again.
And that is precisely what Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, accomplished in this world during his own lifetime. And he did it all in about 20 years or less. Social change, development and modernity are all boons and blessings that he and his followers – Companions he called them – conferred upon this world.
And don’t forget to include globalization in that list. We invented this entire family of concepts and words, the whole vocabulary of bien etre on earth, not just for you and your tribe, nation or country, often at the expense of all the others, as most other people like to do things, but for all of humanity: for everyone everywhere. For your people, whoever they may be and for our people whoever they may be.
That is the good thing about Islam: it is good news for all. Not just for this or that group, but for everyone everywhere.
Tell me you have a better model, a better plan, a better idea than that.
As Muslims, that is who we were when we started this game of Islam on earth 1400 years ago. That is who we want to be again, over and over again, for as long as this world lasts. We want to be the agents of the best kind of social change this world has ever seen or can possibly ever see for as wide a gamut of humanity as possible.
Don’t forget that when applied to Islam, Muslims and the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, all of these expressions must be taken in their very best sense and in their most benign and noble connotations and not as fig leaves to mask exploitation of man by man or to camouflage domination of people over people.
And the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, ushered in this unprecedented era of the most comprehensive and inclusive social change with no schools, colleges, universities, television, radio, newspapers or the Internet being available to him. And he did it without standing armies or teeming treasures and resources at his disposal. While all of what he did was a miracle from God, at the same time, all of what he did was also as completely human as possible. Everything was being done right in front of everyone’s eyes and in the most natural way.
That is what is so amazing and so great about this amazing social change that Islam produced under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam. On the one hand, it is all divine and miraculous. On the other hand, it is all human and natural. Divine or human, it is by far the best and the most complete that this world has ever seen or can ever see.
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, produced this unprecedented and thoroughgoing social change by using the Qur’an to give the people of his time the best character and the best education possible. He said it was a mission for the accomplishment of which he was sent into this world.
In doing this, he made these people the best they could be, able to rise to every occasion and challenge and capable of doing anything and everything. They were the best and the greatest generation of humans this world has ever seen. They were the finest flowering of humanity on earth during, before or since their time.
And thus Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam guaranteed a better life for them – what the Qur’an calls Hayaat Tayyibah – in every conceivable way, both in this world as well as in the next world.
And for the rest of humanity as well.
That is the kind of social change Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam produced using the Qur’an as his master-plan – in less than 20 years. And that is the kind of social change that needs to be produced now by changing the character and education of Muslims – and the rest of the world. For, that is the kind of social change the world is waiting for – the Muslim world as well as the non-Muslim world.
How Could the Rest of the World Not Join This Caravan?
How could then the rest of the world not join such a group of people?
Or how could any enemy defeat such a people or put them to flight in combat or destroy them?
And that is exactly what happened: people joined and followed them in wave upon wave – Afwaajaa. And those who out of their arrogance or greed picked a fight with them without just cause or reason were pushed back and made to change their ways. They were reduced to dust on the pathways of history.
Prophet Muhammad, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam did all this using the two-fold strategy of character transformation and educational reform and restructuring. Using this strategy, he changed a nation starting out with the Arabian Peninsula and he changed the world.
We can do no less.
Or we can’t and shouldn’t be called Muslims. For, Muslims without character is an oxymoron just as Muslims without education is also an oxymoron and anomaly. These are contradictions in terms. And yet, unbelievable as it may sound, that is precisely what we have happening today: Muslims with flawed and questionable character and Muslims with no education worth the name.
“Does Not Compute!” some may say.
So, that is the short answer to the question how to change the condition of Muslims in India and everywhere else: We need to change Muslim education and we need to change Muslim character.
Right now Muslims have neither. So, we need to start at the ground level and build the whole edifice up one brick at a time.
Let us now go to the long answer. To the details of what we mean by education and character and let us see how we can go about making them both happen in Muslim lives in our beautiful and beloved India – and all over our beautiful and beloved world that Allah made for us and placed at our disposal.