What Payaam are
We Talking About?
The inimitable Iqbal once sent out a message to the world — from the East. In a way, it was part of the Muslim ambivalence in coming to terms with the realities of Western domination over Muslim lives, lands, resources and cultures.
He called it Payaam-e-Mashriq.
The time has now come to send a message from the West back to the East — and to the rest of the world. Hence this column Payaam-e-Maghrib.
Except that in the world of Allah, there really is neither East nor West. The Muslims would know that if they had either mastered the science of geography, as they once had, or had carefully examined the super-science of Qur’an, as they must at all times.
As it stands, the very terminology of East-West dichotomy smacks of a tacit surrender on the part of the world — Muslim world included — to the domination of Western culture, thought and influence on its thinking and imagination.
A Very Different World We Live In
But we live in a very different world today — or do we? Globalisation and all that — whatever that means!
Many Muslims in those days saw the world in dichotomous terms: Islam, Muslims and the East on one side and Christendom and the West on the other side. Colonial bards glorified this division in words such as “West is West, East is East, and never the twain shall meet.” Or words to that effect.
On the part of the West, however, this East-West division was a product of several factors that ranged from simple ignorance to willful arrogance and from garden-variety racism to rabid colonial and imperial greed and chauvinism.
Somehow, the implication, in this as well as, in much of other similar terminology and logic, was this: The West was more, the East was less; the West was right, the East was wrong; the West was superior, the East was inferior; the West was “developed,” the East was un- or underdeveloped or developing; the West was goose, the East was gander; and what was sauce for the goose can never be sauce for the gander.
Bottom-line: the two can never be regarded as equal. As a result, they cannot both be treated the same. They cannot be placed on the same ground of moral equivalency and judged by the same set of uniform rules and standards.
And there were other, more serious, consequences to this set of beliefs: The West can do anything to the East and not be held accountable for it in any way. The East on the other hand cannot do anything right. It can never win.
The game of life played according to the rules implicit in this belief system had two distinct outcomes: heads the West wins, tails the East loses. It was a masterly plan for continued and unquestioned world supremacy and domination – always to the advantage of the West and mostly at the expense of the East.
That Is Not How Islam Views The World
This, however, was not a very faithful — or even a very Islamic — representation of the world of Allah. Islam divided the world on a more practical principle of its inhabitants’ belief and behaviour and not on the relative and shifty grounds of where the sun rose from or set.
You would too if you only appreciated the fact that our earth was a roundish thing that never stood still but constantly spun around on its axis, and on top of that kept tumbling in space around the sun — or whatever it is that it does.
Someday, should Allah want it, I will deal with this issue in greater depth. Right now, I am proceeding as if the assumption of Muslim East and Christian West were true — no matter how unacceptable it is to me both personally, factually and Islamically. That is, if a Muslim can make such a distinction. I mean draw a clear line of demarcation separating his “personal” life from his “Islamic” life.
Islamic vs. Personal life
If that sort of dichotomy — personal vs. Islamic — smacks of a bit of Shirk to some of you that is because you have your basic Islamic instincts right. Just what kind of a life is that — a personal life lived outside the sphere and influence of Islam?
I did not even know there was anything outside Islam in this world. I always thought it was all Islam — and whatever was outside its pale was un-Islam and as such rejected by God. Wa many-yabtaghi ghairal Islaami Deenan fa lany-yuqbala minhu. And it makes perfect sense to me.
If Islam is the law Allah made to run his creation, and if Islam is also the law that Allah carefully tailored to meet human needs on this earth, then any life lived outside it is a strange life.
First of all it is an oxymoron. If you are in Allah’s world using the life Allah gave you, then you are automatically subject to the same universal laws of Allah that govern the universe. Second, life on earth is inconceivable without utilising Allah’s laws designed to facilitate life. It is these laws and principles that are collectively referred to as Islam.
Things Have Changed Radically
So, based on that assumption, what I am saying is this: Maybe at one time the East was Muslim and the West was Christian, and I question that, but that is no longer the case. Over the past five decades, things have changed radically. Now, there is a serious and significant presence of Islam throughout the West.
Therefore, so far as I am concerned, today’s West is a Muslim West.
I am not saying it is no longer a Christian, Judaic, atheist, secular or some other West. All I am saying is that along with everything else that the West may or may not claim to be, it is also a Muslim West.