Reconstruction of Religious Thoughts in Islam Has Been a Perennial Message of Muslim Scholars
By Rashid Samnakay, New Age Islam
12 April, 2015
To counter anti-Islam activities there never was, never has been and never is a shortage of genuine, selfless, bold and truly scholarly reformers in Muslim History.
But the self-interested trinity of Pharaohs, Prelates and Korahs drown their voices!
Al Hallaj-- the anti-establishment, egoistic Sufi of ninth century was tortured and murdered by the coalition of State and Church of the time for opposing them in manipulating Islam for their own State and Religious interests.
Today many young brave scholars are actively participating in similar activities in all sorts of forums all over the world and pronouncing boldly that:
“Re-examination of Quran would be a momentous event not only for Muslim’s but for the history of mankind…”.Dr Rashid Saz.
Last century for example, Dr Iqbal who died in 1938, his thoughts on Muslim religions and their reform are as relevant today as they were then, but have gone unheeded as always!
The visionary poet’s six lectures titled “Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam” are considered complex and too academic for simple people to unravel their message of reform.
However, in the total context of his works, the ‘Title’ of the lectures is a précis of his thoughts on the subject.
It is clear from his writings that the ‘religions’ need reconstruction and not Islam the Faith. A few examples from his works follow.
To him Religions and Islam are incompatible and cannot share the common space. He suggests the edifice of Islam should be “Reconstructed” to break the nexus.
As in architecture, when reconstruction of a structure is undertaken, it brings in a change in it to the extent that a paradigm shift in the functional use of the redesigned structure occurs. The design follows the ‘form’ for the ‘function’of the new structure that is meant for. It often leaves no trace of the old building and its previous pattern of use.
Similarly Iqbal’s intellectual architecture for Islam highlights the potential of paradigm change that should occur when ‘Religious Thoughts’ in Islam are ‘Reconstructed’.
He was convinced that Religion as conventionally understood, that is:-
-The organised church with its holy headquarters somewhere on earth,
-Its peculiar dogma based on hand-me-down beliefs, pagan traditions and culture,
-The segregation of humanity in holy and unholy ‘us and them’ gradation of humanity,
-The professionals’ hierarchy of clergy in ‘distinct uniform’,
-Its manipulations of divine scripture,
-It’s fiction based library of Apocrypha….. and
-Its commercialism; is not suitable environment for humanity to make progress, and in fact has been the bane of humanity.
Religion he says is:
Magic spell of ignorance, disbelief and false piety,
Stories of Sheikh’s and Brahmin’s sorcery and fictions!-Armagan-e-Hijaz
By making Quran an object of sport of interpretations (Quran 2-79),
They invent a new Sharia whenever they wish.(Zarb-e-Kaleem)
Iqbal who was exposed to different experiences in life: religious, cultural, historical, educational and political, was a complex entity. He admits in “Zahidoar Rindi”—The Pious and the Libertine:-
Iqbal too is not fully aware of the real Iqbal,
This is not said in jest, by God, it is not!
His grandparents were Kashmiri Pundits-- scholars. His grandfather had become a Muslim. Thus Iqbal grew in intellectually very rich and scholarly secular environment.
His travel to England for further studies and qualification in Law; and the time spent for doctorate exposed him to Europe and its rapid intellectual changes that were taking place there. WWI was looming just on the horizon too.
It must have caused a tsunami in his thinking on many issues, including religious and political philosophies.
Relating to Muslims, he refers to this tempest in a poem, Tolu-e-Islam:
The tempest of the West stirred Muslims to be Muslims,
Just as the agitation of the sea would nourish the pearl.
As poets are prone to dreaming, this was his dream.
He travelled far and wide and was greatly affected by what he saw and experienced in the Muslim world. In the same poem he eludes to the custodians of the holy Church- the Haram- in the context of history:
Disgraced is Haram for the short-sightedness of its keepers,
The braves of the Tartars turned out to be visionary!
The above when taken in reference to ‘custodian of two harams’ today, it gives an insight to his deep aversion for the business of religions, rarely dissected in terms of the following from one of his masterpiece poem“Jawaab-e-Shikwah”—the answer to the Shikwah- the lament where God replies to him. This ‘special favour’ by God sent the clergy in a rage.
Is he equating the keepers of Kaaba with Temple keepers when he says?
It is evident from the stories of onslaughts of the Tartar,
Kaaba has acquired its custodians from their Temples! Bang-e-Daraa
Close to the Haram, a fire worshiper sings,
The Tatars have donned the Haram-keepers attire. Baal-e-Jibrail
If so, it is a comedy of errors of a sort, for it is generally taken to mean that: ‘the exposure to Islam had such an impact on the Tartars (pagans) that they accepted Islam and so took over the custodianship of the Haram’!
He had no doubt, that the ritualistic religions of Muslims centred at its Vatican Makka, is nothing more than commercially operated and exploitative religious business. For, he describes its custodians as:-
These are the very Sheikhs of Haram, who would sell for gains,
The rug of abu-Dhar, the garment of Oweis and the Chadar of Zohra.- Baal-e-Jibrail.
Three saintly personalities with scant worldly possessions, the essence of their - ‘faqar’- the richness of being ‘need-less’ of which Iqbal has written extensively!
With apology to him for slight modification to his couplet, he could have said:
Inn Taazah Khudaaon’ May Baraa Peer-e-Haram Hai,
Jo Perahan Uss Kaa Hai Ummat Kaa Kafan Hai. (Bang-e-Daraa)
Among the modern gods the biggest is the Haram’s spiritual leader,
That which is his attire is the wrapping of the Muslim nation’s corpse.
Then he said;
They do not change themselves, yet change the Quran,
How very much are without Divine guidance the lawmakers of Haram! -Darb-e-Kalim.
At heart he was a product of the East. He saw and lamented the fact that the East was rushing headlong in aping the Western values and discarding its own!
He complains through ‘Lenin’ to Almighty God about the West:
Unemployment, nakedness, drunkenness, and poverty,
Are no less than the tools for the conquests by the West!
In politics for example he maintains that the values of Islam– the Universal code of morality and ethics called ad-Deen is integral part of normal human life.
Be it the majesty of monarchy or the circus of democracy,
if the Deen is excised from politics, what remains is Genghis-ism. -From Baal-e-Jibrail.
To him the political rulers are members of civil society and can never be above the law. They are duty bound to use their allotted authority with justice and moral upright values (16-90) which cannot be separated from normal life; otherwise:
The collective blow (of the people) eventually shatters them into pieces,
The Power’s idol, the (hardened) heart and the false image in the mirror –Armaga-e-Hijaz
Here Religion, as described earlier, is not part of normal life. But fair and just politics very much is, for it is the institution which enacts the Laws and governs the normal life.
“Islam came with legal concepts with civic significance, with its religious ideals considered as inseparable from social order”.
On scrutiny of his work it becomes clear that he uses the word religion for ‘Islam’ also, only as it is used in the common man’s language, for there is no alternative word for Deen.
His poetry is replete with Quranic verses. He is at pains to explain that Islam is for unity of humanity under the one incomparable Authority (Quran 10-19). And not subservience to false gods:-
Absolute Authority befits only to that Incomparable Being;
Who is the sole sovereign; the rest graven-images of Azarism! - FromSultanate.
Azar the idol-carver is Abraham’s father and Abraham the father of monotheism.
There is juxtaposing of Mazhab and Deen in his writing too. To him, the former also includes all aspect of life; cultural, spiritual, political as well as temporal, which gives the community its unique identity.
Prayers to him are not calisthenics but the practical acts which result in positive outcomes and “intellectual growth”, he taunts those who hug the prayer rug (107-6), saying:
The Ignorant fell in prostration when the time came to stand for action-Zarb-e-Kaleem.
His spirituality was bound in scientific knowledge.
He said- “The scientific observer of Nature is a kind of mystic seeker in the act of prayer (Refer 3-190, 191.).
He concludes the Jawaab with Almighty’s promise:
Were you to be loyal to Muhammad, then WE stand with you;
Let alone this universe, the Pen and the Tablet would be yours too!
Promise of Nature’s precious gift of knowledge to humanity!
Loyalty to the Apostle is through Quran. In one of his Persian poem he says:-
Should you desire to be a Muslim,
It is impossible except from Quran- So, nothing else counts (45-6).
He expressed pluralism as ‘love’, and acceptance of all nations as the cure for all the ills of the world:
Only in love have sick nations found the cure,
So as to shake their dormant destiny to life. From Tasweer-e-Dard
His pluralism (2.4) knew no bounds, again in Zahid and Rindi, the bewildered priest says:
I hear that he does not consider Hindu as Kafir!
His philosophy has so affected his Belief!
He is scathing of sectarian and confronting schisms. Misguided modern “Islamists” take note:
In my view You are a Kafir, in your view I am a Kafir,(Ref.6-159)
Your religion is counting heads, mine is winning hearts. From Zarb-e- Kaleem
His Islam was not bound by geographic boundaries, he said:
Whether you are an Arab or Ajami (non-Arab), your monotheism
Is but a façade, until your heart gives witness to it. Baal-e-Jibrail.
If Tehran was to be the Geneva of the East,
Perhaps the world would have changed for the better.
From Jamiat-e-Aqwaam-e-Mashriq. (Why did he not nominate Makkah?)
He stepped on the toes of Muslim clergy when he designated Rama, the noble prince of Hindustan:
Hidustan is proud of being the home-country of Ram,
People of vision consider him as the Imam of Hind! From Poem- Ram
After singing praises of Gautama, he says:
Again a clarion call of Monotheism came from Punjab
An accomplished man (Nanak) shook Hind from slumber.-From Nanak.
He has thus referred to most of the significant religious and non-religious world figures in glowing terms. Also, had touched upon almost all aspects of human life.
For his troubles, the Muslim clergy- the religious brigade- obtained a fatwa ofKaafir for him from various holy churches of the Muslim world and poured dirt on him! But, nothing stuck.
Amongst the recent gods the biggest is “my country”,
Its apparel is the corpse’s-shroud of Mazhab! From Wataniyat.
His philosophy of “Khudi”, the “self-worth”, the “I”, is not the prerogative of the intellectuals’ wisdom of the seventeenth century Europe, but it is an extension of it applied to classless humanity:
“Khudi can break the spells of colour and scent,
This was the essence of ‘Unity’ that neither you nor I understand”.
However if one is to take his universalism, -the essence of Islam- it becomes evident that he was an intellectual, deeply influenced by the message of unity of Quran.
Although he was multilingual; a scholar of Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, English and perhaps familiar with German, he is regarded first and foremost as Persian and Urdu poet.
It was his ardent desire to “Reconstruct” and change the edifice of Islam for functional ad-Deen, without the parasitic Muslim religionist tenants gnawing at it from within and thus doing a good job for their pay-Masters.
They use fancy Arabic names for their evil activities to entrap and recruit the ignorant and gullible people.
It seems therefore that this confrontation between the reformist and religionist will continue for a long time to come yet, till the Muslim States collectively put more effort and resources in “Education” to enlighten their population and stop funding internal and external warring factions in order to keep themselves in power.
A regular contributor to New Age Islam, Rashid Samnakay is a (Retd.) Engineer