Excesses in devotion is toxic to Spiritual enlightenment, writes Mujeeb Jaihoon, in a critical appraisal of the rising extremist influence among Muslims.
Kerala Islam: Hindus emptied Temples for Muslim Founding Fathers
The freedom and security the Muslims of South India enjoy is generally far better than their brothers and sisters in the North. Kerala offers a unique model of religious tolerance and co-existence. Every moment of peace evokes an utterance of praise and gratitude to the Almighty, considering the vulnerable conditions elsewhere in the nation.
This social psyche of Kerala may be attributed to the peaceful fashion in which the Arab traders were welcomed to the shores of the State. Come to think of it, you may rarely find a historical instance when the local non-Muslims of a land vacated their homes and places of worship and even offered their sisters in marriage to a group of people who arrived from a foreign culture. The indigenous natives knew very well that the Arab travelers had come to propagate the Arabian Faith, not just for trade and commerce. The soil of Kerala is not only cultivation-friendly, but harmony-rich as well.
Hence, I have the least hesitation to admit that the economic prosperity and political nourishment of Kerala Muslims is partly or mostly from the cooperation extended from the native peoples.
Despite the superior literacy rate of Kerala, it is not the top economy in the Nation. So one cannot say it is the overall economic boom of Kerala which helped its Muslims. The Muslims here are undoubtedly hardworking. But, so are the believers elsewhere in the Nation. Nevertheless, the cordial social ambience has been the secret behind their enviable success.
Imam Al Gazzali: Jihad takes a Back Seat in Ihya
The great Imam was one of its kind in the intellectual and spiritual history of Islam. It is difficult to constrain his role to a mere scholar, seeker, philosopher or ascetic. In the Ihya Uloomuddin, his magnum opus, we do not find much to learn about Jihad. It is surprising that in spite of him writing this encyclopedia of ethics during the horrifying times of Mongol attacks in the Muslim world. Perhaps, he believed that the fight with the sword took a backseat when compared with the fight against one’s own lower self.
Islamic Expansion: Humanity First. Politics Second.
The history of Islam’s expansion shows that Political subjugation is not the only means or ends to establishing the kingdom of God. The kings and armies opposed the advancing Muslim army, but, in most cases, the people welcomed them for love of their humane ideals that they practiced. It is in this context that Imam Gazzali scores over other writers and thinkers of East and West. His reputation and philosophy has survived hundreds of years and, as a result, one may find students, researchers and professors of leading universities still pondering over his thoughts and ideas.
Social Welfare and the Road to Salvation
Nevertheless, it would be unjust to call Imam Gazzali just an Islamic scholar or a solitary mystic. For, he wrote several letters to then rulers on social and welfare aspects. The economic and social well-being too was, for him, a part of the Community’s road to salvation. There is much we owe to this reviver of the Islamic Faith.
Fanatics & Extremists: Omnipresent In Religion. Politics & Sports Too.
There are fanatics in every group of society, though popular culture conveniently prefers to don it only on the Religionists. Fanatics are found even among worshipers of sporting teams. Kerala is a gruesome battleground of political fanaticism. However, this extreme human form of behavior has no place in the Islamic worldview, not even in its devotional practices. Excesses in devotion is toxic to Spiritual enlightenment too.
Prophet’s Triple Curse for Extremists.
As we analyze the Hadith texts (sayings of Holy Prophet), we note that the Messenger of God chose the minimum number of words to convey encyclopedic ideas. He even chose silence where words could be avoided. In spite, the Holy Prophet repeated this message thrice, “May the extremists perish. May the extremists perish. May the extremists perish.”
Islam: House-full for moderates. Sold out for Extremists.
Islam is house-full for moderates and sold out for Extremists. This is cruicial to note, especially in a world where Religion, Politics and Sports events are reported in the most wildest sensational fashion in the media.
Gentleness Beautifies. Harshness Contaminates.
The Holy Prophet also reminded that ‘Gentleness add beauty to a thing. When removed, it turns ugly’. Unfortunately, this is often the most forgotten reminder when presenting Islam, the most beautiful, to the masses. Our harshness and extremism only soils its beautiful essence. Orators, writers and activists ought to uphold this commandment.
The Holy Prophet is the most revered human personality in the world. When an atheist questions the existence of God, Muslims try to offer logical and scientific proofs to establish His presence. However, when someone challenges the morality or historicity of the Holy Prophet, their entire being fumes with fury and passion. We are logical about God, but Passionate about His Prophet. Such is his magnetic personality. In spite, he was not prepared to accept extremists among his flock.
Gentleness: Pharaoh Deserves a Chance Too.
The fight between Good and Evil will continue to exist until the Final Days. We need more Moses(s) to fight the Pharaohs of our times. Nevertheless, even as we pick on the ancient archetypes, we need to remember how the Israeli Prophet was commanded to approach the evil tyrant who ruled Egypt in proverbial aggression. Quran clearly states the command of God to speak with ‘gentle words’ in his first face off with the despotic Pharaoh. You can then imagine what our diction should be when addressing our opponents?
For, Moses, the mighty Messenger, did not speak like a ferocious warrior, firebrand revolutionary nor a fanatic preacher. ’But speak; to him with gentle speech, perhaps he may take heed of the reminder or fear God’ (Holy Quran 20:044) was the command of God to address the most oppressive and tyrannical despot named and shamed in Quran. This Command was at a time when the newly appointed Prophet may have been full of energy to overthrow the Pharaonic rule, establish the kingdom of God and become the Caliph of Egypt.
Providence: Secular in Distribution
Secondly, Allah gives freely of his mercy, blessings, help and providence to all humanity, irrespective of their theistic philosophy. While His pleasure is reserved for the believers, His mercy knows no such bounds. His providence for humanity is secular in nature. Believers and non-believers do not consume two different types of food. It is the same God who feeds the theists and agnostics. How then can believers discriminate between His creations?
Oppression: The Prophet’s Warning to Muslims
The Holy Prophet issued a stern warning to the believers regarding the mistreatment of friendly non-believers. “On the Day of Judgment, I will dispute with anyone who oppresses a person from among the People of the Covenant, or infringes upon his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his strength, or takes something from him against his will” (Abu Dawud).
Muslim: Secular in Service to Humanity
We need tolerance among believers and non-believers. And among the Muslims as well— between the different schools of jurisprudence, theology and spiritual paths as well. History teaches us that an ungrateful Islam will find no relevance in the world. A Muslim may be blind believer in God. But secular in his service to humanity.
* * *
Mujeeb Jaihoon is a UAE-based Indian storyteller whose passion extends beyond the realms of the ordinary. As a prolific traveler, Jaihoon has extensively traveled to cradles of ancient civilizations in various parts of the world. He also serves as director at several educational institutions, besides playing an advisory role in community development projects. He is also a regular speaker on issues pertaining to education and women empowerment, besides being a vocal critic of wars and injustice. His published books include Slogans of the Sage (2017), an illustrated coffee table book of aphorisms, which has been warmly received by several world leaders including Manmohan Singh, former Indian PM, Sheikh Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak, UAE’s Minister of Tolerance, Rahul Gandhi, as well as other interfaith advocates around the globe including Lee Wesissman, the Twitter-famed Jewish activist. In 2017, a college magazine in Kerala listed Jaihoon among the ‘Golden Fighters’ along with Prakash Yashwant Ambedkar, Medha Patkar and Nick Ut, the Vietnamese American photographer for the Associated Press. He was also featured in Young Indian Visionaries, a thoughtfully researched compilation that profiled the vision and success of 70 young Indian visionaries in the UAE.