Dr Wasim Ahmad
Department Head of Islamic Studies
Preston University Ajman
For the past over ten years it has intrigued me how the Jamaa‘at-e-Islami Hind is reconciling the vehement criticism of secularism and democracy in its literature with its current u-turn on these two cornerstones of Indian polity. About fifteen years ago the Students Islamic Organization of India (SIO) organized a seminar in the AMU titled ‘Fascism: Threat To A Colorful India’. We should certainly be concerned about preserving the colorfulness of India. But now I wonder how and when did India become colourful? India – a ‘baatil nizaam’ and sometimes described as ‘Taaghoot’ and being a secular democratic country cannot be ‘colorful’. Why should we celebrate this colorfulness, then? We don’t need to. Because the ideology we are subscribing to is not in favour of this colorfulness. If the existing colors were appreciated why should we aim at establishing ‘hukoomat-e-ilaahiyyah’ – as a replacement or a substitute?
Why should we appreciate the colorfulness of India if we believe that “…..God is the Ruler and the Sovereign, and Omniscient, possesses the sole prerogative, absolute privilege and unfettered right of giving laws to mankind, through Prophets, to regulate the entire mundane activity of man. He has bestowed upon man all faculties and powers, and provided for his needs in the form of goods and services. It is, thus, the duty of man, who is the vicegerent of God on earth, that he should not only worship God but also live his whole life according to His Law and render allegiance to Him, the Lord and the Sovereign” (www.jamaateislamihind.org). How can we reconcile the above statements – in the context of the ideology of Jamaa‘at-e-Islami and as per its definition of certain terms – with the colorfulness of India – both at the same time? And if we do that then what will happen to the TRUTH which is free from self-contradiction. Leave the above-mentioned seminar of SIO alone. All the activities and policies of Jamaa‘at-e-Islami Hind should be cross-checked with the above-stated avowed objective – aligning everything with it. This is a must if we are true to what we stand for and there are meanings in words.
These anomalies and contradictions indicate that the truth is missing somewhere. The truth is missing because we are under the conditioning effects of generations. This exercise of reconciling is the greatest challenge that the Jamaa‘at-e-Islami Hind has to deal with and answer convincingly. Yes, an organization is ‘organic’ i.e. it evolves over a period of time as a natural process. But it should only evolve and not abandon its supreme objective and not dilute it to the extent that it is not even recognizable. And more importantly, it should not exist in a state of self-contradiction. This is where it becomes a source of confusion for its ‘own people’ and ‘others’.
Please do not abolish madrasaas and do not rethink about Jamaa‘at-e-Islami. This is fine. But then please do not lament about marginalization due to the former. Do not complain about the self-doubt in modern educated and lack of excellence (which is the result of self-doubt). Do not think that knowledge is an indivisible unity which cannot be divided into ‘religious’ and ‘secular’ because dunyaa cannot be separated from deen. Also, it is not about using computers and writing in English. Far from it. It is about the civilizational goals. It is about ceasing to be exclusivist. It is about developing a coherent body of ideas and creatively reaching to the unknown. It is about mastering all the sciences of the world and contributing significantly to the total fund of knowledge and human experiences.
If we do not want to (re)think about the latter, the Jamaa‘at-e-Islami, then we should not worry about the confused state of its members. And the dissipation of precious time, energies and resources. If 10000 duroos-e-Qur’an have not brought about the desired change and we justify it by saying that Qaum-e-Nooh, too, did not listen to him then we have to find out whom these duroos-e-Qur’an are addressed to and whom are we likening with Qaum-e-Nooh. Then we should consider the people of India as Qaum-e-Nooh. Then we should overlook the fact that we have come a long way. Then we should overlook the fact that the modern age has offered open avenues for informed dialogue and discussion. It is not Qaum-e-Nooh anymore.
We need to define what we mean by maidaan-e-‘amal (field of action) – a question I frequently encounter. The exclusivist environment of Jamaa‘at-e-Islami and of madrasaas may not be the maidaan-e-‘amal, I am afraid. It may be outside, in fact. That environment may be the real maidaan-e-‘amal which is the anti-thesis of our markaz gureziyat – ‘centrifugality’. Our maidaan-e-‘amal could be all those places where we live and work together with the cross-section of the larger society. I always wonder why our “maidaan-e-‘amal” is almost always away from the maidaan-e-‘amal. Is it because coming in the mainstream and being in the thick of it is always difficult? Is it because it requires more qualifications and more skill-sets? Is it because it is more challenging? Is it because we have to answer more uncomfortable questions? Is it because there are many more who want to join the same stream? What we consider maidaan-e-‘amal sounds and implies escaping from maidaan-e-‘amal – to me.
Working under Jamaa‘at-e-Islami Hind (or being in maidaan-e-‘amal) means that I take a u-turn on some very serious issues of concern. It means I exist in a state of self-contradiction and confusion. It means that while I frequently quote a few verses and give dars-e-Qur’an I ignore a big part of it. This trait, however, is not confined to Jamaa‘at-e-Islami or any other Jamaa‘at. It is true in many a cases. It frequently reminds me of the verse: “Yet they divided themselves into factions, each rejoicing in what they had. So leave them in their bewilderment for a while.” (al-Mu’minoon, 23: 53)
As regards “wild thinking”, I would like to know is it wild thinking to dream of making the world a better place to live in? Is it wild thinking to do away with the duality of knowledge? Is it wild thinking to identify the areas where we are wasting our resources and energies? Is it wild thinking to argue for teaching Arabic to all Muslim children and not only to 3-4% of them? How could the thinking go wild if collectively we hold Qur’an in the Right Hand? But we can utter “wild thinking” when we ignore all other things – due to our atomistic thinking. We are not used to relating one phenomenon with another. Not that much, at least. On another note, we probably needed less brain cells. The tasks we carry out do not require much thinking and planning. Hence, a head on our shoulders is mainly a burden.
We all lament that the things are not fine with the Muslims. But we do not take the analysis to the logical conclusions. We forget the fact that we cannot achieve certain targets without some adjustments – in our thinking, primarily. This is our general mind-set because we do not worry about the “whole picture”. Because our thinking is atomistic. Because we do not try to see any link between one thing and another. Hence, we keep negating and contradicting ourselves without even realizing it.
I have seen some of the very learned people, ‘Ulama, on our Networks. Those who have studied Qur’an for a long time. I would like to submit to them that just as we try to see the connection between one verse and another and between one Chapter (Soorah) and another, in the same manner we should do our best to see the link (or lack of it) between one aspect of our life and another. Let us not confine our learning and teaching to classrooms alone. Let us not confine it to seminars alone. In my humble view there is disjointedness in our thoughts. This is why we contradict ourselves a lot. How could something be coherent and self-contradictory – both at the same time?
Considering any observations or criticism of some of the aspects of our collective life as “attacks” indicates that we have made intellectual bunkers and comfort zones. I do not agree with this mind-set. This is precisely what we need to change. Since I have studied in a madrasah and was associated with the SIO I should either keep silent or only support the existing set-up is a standpoint that I do not find quite objective. I consider any demands for this as the effects of conditioning that we normally grow with and are not able to look at a phenomenon in a dispassionate manner. Unless we try our best to come out of it we will continue repeating the same things which we have heard from others and we ourselves might not have digested it very well. It normally happens when we are caught young and grow up in a specific environment and in a particular type of institution. If we – the same people – were put in a different environment we might have argued for something different, I guess.
We the Muslims of India have to strengthen our internal communication not by avoiding any discussion on the important issues but by confronting them. This is a must for building a strong and cohesive community – as one unit of India. If we are not ready for open discussion then we cannot argue for unity. We do not need artificial unity and unity for the sake of unity. We need it to achieve some lofty civilizational goals as outlined in the VISION. The VISION should be our frame of reference. Currently we do not have any frame of reference. What we have is mere confusion and self-contradiction.