A question is currently being asked almost in every society. The ancient Greeks were perhaps the first to frame that question. It came up in the Muslim society a thousand years ago but was soon withdrawn from public view. Then, the Europeans asked and answered it in the Age of Enlightenment. Recently, the Soviet and Chinese intelligentsia joined in asking and replying to that question. Our young Muslims also ask that question in whispers. But it has to be asked and debated more loudly if we wish to grow. It is a simple question: Should humans live for the progress of ideology or should ideology serve human progress?
But before you find a meaningful answer to this simple question, another question crops up: What is human progress? Is it to save life, to make it easier and more peaceful for all? Or is it to kill and burn, to make life hell for others and wage a perpetual war for dominance? And, this breeds another question: Are all humans equal with equal rights to live an easier and peaceful life?
Although these are so basic to the collective life of human society, none of these questions has been discussed in our Muslim societies. Those of us who have answered them think the answers are too obvious to discuss. But are they so obvious to our society?
Let us start with the last question. A dominant minority in our society believes Muslims and “others” are not equals with equal rights; that Muslims are superior. It is this belief that produces a clash between Muslims and the world and between Muslims and minorities. Non-Muslim minorities in a “good” Muslim society hide like scared animals, while Muslim immigrants in Western countries make life difficult for their host nations, with their aggressive demands for religious privileges.
Our “good” Muslim society has a great talent to close its doors on “others”. It pushes maximum numbers into the “others” category. Not only are Jews, Christians and Hindus considered “the others”; Ahmadis were discarded too, although they continue to cling to Islam’s Holy Wagon like ticket-less travelers hanging on to the closed doors; the Shia community is fast approaching the status of an “endangered species” in this land of the Pure; one of the two remaining tribes will be the next, depending on which one dominates.
It is because of a set of beliefs which our religious teachers have engraved on Muslim minds. These beliefs provide answers to all questions so that a Muslim does not need to think about these critical social issues. These beliefs are as follows:
(1) Muslims men are the best of mankind. Even their women are not equal humans; a Muslim woman has half the rights of a Muslim male; only Muslim men will enter Jannah as eternally young for voluptuous pleasures with a fresh flock of partners. Nevertheless, even Muslim women are superior to the rest of mankind. There are no ifs and buts in that regard. Whatever their character, their ethical levels, their ability or their role, Muslim males are the most blessed and beloved of all Creation. A Muslim may be a worthless scoundrel or a parasite, he is better than a non-Muslim Einstein, if his faith in Islam is solid; Allah will forgive all Muslims because they are Muslims.
(2) Muslims should be prosperous, as prosperous as possible, but not peaceful. Muslims must make the life of heretics difficult and disgraceful because they have not entered the safe house of Islam. Muslims must not promote peace as long as a single non-Muslim exists. Muslims must fight to achieve prosperity for themselves but not peace, because they have to fight till the end of the world.
(3) Allah created humans to live and work for Allah’s final message which He revealed in Arabic for the entire human race. There is no purpose of life except living and dying for that ideology. Only the believers of that ideology are living meaningful lives, provided that they work for the victory of that ideology. There is no other good purpose of life.
Strangely, these beliefs are most dominant among only the prosperous Muslim classes. The great Sheikhs provide their halal money to the ulema who promote these beliefs among prosperous and “educated” Muslims. The Sheikhs, the ulema and prosperous Muslims, however, do not undertake the task of jihad on themselves. They motivate lesser blessed Muslims to accomplish the victory of Islam. These less fortunate Muslims are told that equal opportunity for all, in this world, is against Allah’s law; Allah has fixed unequal shares for people. But the path of sacrifice is open to all; if a poor Muslim lives and dies for Allah’s cause he can deserve Jannah and enjoy hereafter, what he could not enjoy in this life.
The majority of common, working class Muslims, however, do not seem to think exactly so. They are not as diehard as are the preachers of these beliefs. In fact, in every society working people are less ideological. In the earliest Muslim society, the non-elite, non-Quraishi Muslims knew little of the ideological details. In the Soviet Union and China, the Marxist-Leninist ideology never really passed into the proletariat and peasantry. It was perhaps for this reason that the middle class Communist leaders dreamed of a “White collar proletariat” or “proletariat of intellectuals”.
Probably all ideologies belong to the era of philosophy. Like philosophy, they aspire to explain and predict “all reality” including the phenomena of the universe that we do not know and have no idea of what they can be. This over-reaching feature of philosophies and ideologies makes them most vulnerable because they are based on a combination of facts and fantasies.
The question about ideology is, therefore, natural and relevant to our growing with the world.
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