This blog is part 1 of a four-part series that attempts to bring to light some obvious answers in Muslim societies.

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 It came up in the Muslim society a thousand years ago but was soon withdrawn from public view.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.


Listen to this blog in Hindi-Urdu [soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/83932386" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]

The author is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His Urdu books Tehzeebi Nargisyat and Mubaalghe, Mughaalte are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

The writer is the Features and Blogs Editor at Dawn.com

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Comments (62)

March 19, 2013 8:10 am
i am spellbound...a lovely piece of writing and arguments put so beautifully!
March 19, 2013 8:13 am
another masterpiece by Mr Mobarak Haider. and congrts to Dawn too
March 19, 2013 8:18 am
Very courageous, truthful and logical writing. should have been part of printed edition. I hope these kinds of voices should start becoming more vocal and public so that the dead soul of our society is compelled to think independently. The points which you have raised are considered as fundamentals of belief, if someone withdraw from any of these basics would obviously be declared as out of the league like Ahmadies. However, the blood that has been shed in the name of religion has become enough to raise all the logical questions against every component of our society including politics, culture as well as religion because nothing has to be more important than human being’s basic right to live peacefully.
March 19, 2013 9:40 am
This is EXACTLY the point. The problem is that most muslims think that he is better than a non-muslim or his religion is the One and Only true while the others' is false. This is the very reason they are facing problems every where. Come out of this false pride and ego. The world will look very beautiful.
March 19, 2013 12:04 pm
He could be Jailed in India.
Baighairat Kafir
March 19, 2013 12:24 pm
Hats off Mobarak. This EXACTLY is the most important question alll Muslim communities in the world need to answer today. Not for others, but for themselves and their own better future. Otherwise they will keep on living like savages as they are today.
March 19, 2013 12:27 pm
March 19, 2013 1:45 pm
Its not only Muslims that consider themselves to be superior but followers of most major religions also follow the same.
March 19, 2013 1:55 pm
Christian thinks you will only go heaven thru Christ. Hindus think you will go to heaven thru Bhagwat Gita , Jews think your salvation is thru mosses. Muslims think only through Quran and Sunna. Considering the population of all major religions. Heaven would be empty.
March 19, 2013 2:01 pm
What you are saying is fact but may sound like Heresy to many. That you have tried to equate Religion and Ideology with philosophy may sound like blasphemy to many. While God may be one, all religions have become like personality cults and have totally lost their relevance as well as message. Instead of applying salve to the wounds of men and nourishment for the Soul, Religion has become a trigger point for igniting Hate, oppressing the non conformist and breeding violence. All Religions known to Man are man made and not some Divine interjection by God. They have been converted to tools of control or Terror. The World needs a new spiritual awakening after consigning all these divisive religions into the dustbin of History.
March 19, 2013 2:36 pm
March 19, 2013 2:43 pm
You are dead wrong about Hinduism. Hindu always says and believe that there are many ways to achieve salvation and thats why most of the world religion is practiced in INDIA peacefully. Hindu never been agressive to convert other religion people. Poor knowledge of the religion do not give you right to generlsation.
March 19, 2013 2:59 pm
One more thoughtful introspection from this author. But how many of us really understand and assimilate
March 19, 2013 3:46 pm
You have hit the spot ! This article is indeed a masterpiece. It is heartening to see at last somebody is addressing the most important and relevant issue head on.
Cyrus Howell
March 19, 2013 3:46 pm
There is no philosophical argument these days. A half dozen NASA satellites monitor the planet, the oceans and the atmosphere 24 hours a day. Scientific knowledge is all we have to rescue the planet. Science and technology is way ahead of humanism and politics.
March 19, 2013 4:05 pm
Because it is true?
March 19, 2013 4:15 pm
I agree. Religion is the worst thing that happened to humanity, and the problem is not limited to just Islam.
Cyrus Howell
March 19, 2013 4:17 pm
Human beings have no basic right to live peacefully. What ever gave you that idea? Human beings first have to protect themselves from the Law of the Jungle.
March 19, 2013 4:20 pm
All path lead to the same destination, and the destination is irrespective of cast, creed or religion. A humble Hindu
Cyrus Howell
March 19, 2013 4:21 pm
"The problem is that most Muslims think that he is better than a non-muslim..." . That is starting out in life on the wrong foot, making Muslims unwelcome in non Muslim countries.
March 19, 2013 4:22 pm
Other religions are a joke for all....
March 19, 2013 4:34 pm
"Hindus think you will go to heaven thru Bhagwat Gita" This is not true. Most of the hindus will not read Bhagwat Gita. It is clearly written in it that one will reach heaven only through the knowledge of the "Self".Other short cuts and religion are irrelevant and any human being is deserve to be achieved it.
Cyrus Howell
March 19, 2013 4:35 pm
What is human progress? . The human condition is the same, but we live it in greater comfort. History professor Eugene Weber Progress is whatever improves our lives - from Confucius to steamships to automatic dishwashers to smart phones.
Ram Krishan Sharma
March 19, 2013 5:49 pm
Long live Pakistan , land of free press.
March 19, 2013 6:12 pm
That is not completely true. According to Catholic teaching everybody will go to heaven, regardless of what religion they have followed on earth.
March 19, 2013 6:23 pm
Hindus never think that their is the only way. Nowhere in Hindu scriptures its been said that only Hindus will be saved.
March 19, 2013 6:45 pm
Dear Khann, It is written in Gita that all paths leads to God, the only difference is time. Some paths take longer time, while some reach early. Each person has to find his own path himself, whichever is suitable to him without being critical of other paths or ideologies. Hence, the basic point in Gita, is freedom of to think and choice. Now, you can understand, why Hindus are secular ? "Secularism" is written in their 5000 years old holy book. Hindus don't oppose muslims .... because they think muslims are inferior or their ideology is wrong. But, because of one simple reason ............ Islam constraints the freedom to think, speech and choice and this is most disgusting part of it, at least for hindus.
March 19, 2013 8:35 pm
Is there no freedom of speech in India?
March 19, 2013 10:59 pm
I don't know about other religions, AND I don't care for the one I was born in either (Hinduism), but Hindus DO NOT think that at all. Don't comment if you do not have an iota of idea. There is no problem with interpretation for us like most other religions as there is no Messiah/Prophet/one text to refer to. Plurality of philosophies is the core of the religion. I have the freedom to choose one god (Paramtama), three (Trinity), a billion, or none whatsoever. Salvation comes whatever way you want to achieve it. Sweeping generalizations do not make for a good argument.
umesh bhagwat
March 20, 2013 12:21 am
good article! Of course,the word of God is infallible,the problem is in the interpretation by man for his own convenience!
Surinder Singh Kade
March 20, 2013 1:28 am
Hadood a Mazab se baher nikal ker dekh Na koi ghar,na koi raqeeb nazar aata hai Surinder Singh Kade New York
March 20, 2013 1:50 am
I hope Somebody in Pakistan will not lodge a Blasphemy case against him.
civi varghese
March 20, 2013 2:09 am
Congratulations Mr.Mubarak for a courageous article.But some verses in Quran really support the set of beliefs that mentioned above?My answer for your question is ,ideology should serve human progress if progress means to make this world full of peace and sanity.Thank you Dawn for publishing.Waiting for next series.
March 20, 2013 3:23 am
Hindus have no such beliefs about Geeta.. If anything, I don’t think the need to go to heaven is main idea of Hinduism.. It’s Nirvana/karma they mainly talk about..
srini (Chennai, India)
March 20, 2013 3:42 am
Your claim on Christians is correct. But Hinduism does not force you to believe, read of follow Bhagwat Gita. In fact a majority of the Hindus have not read the Gita. Hinduism doesn't even force you to believe in gods, even though there are a million gods (actually deities) followed by Hindus. May sound surprising to a lot of folks. But Hinduism doesn't force you to do anything at all.
March 20, 2013 4:49 am
This is a brilliant piece of writing that will leave many thinking. And I also pray for you safety. Keep up the good work.
March 20, 2013 5:00 am
If we see all the human history so we will know that most of time war was fought because of religion. Millions of people killed by the name of religion before the coming of Prophet Muhammad (bpuh) so how can we say that islam or muslim are the only nation who take themselves as superior nations before Islam was also doing that,one nation dominate the other with wars and kill millions of people. If we see the time of Prophet Muhammad(Pbuh) so we can know that 1041 people were killed in all the Gawzas.And our Prophet(SAW) always teach Muslims that all humans are equal, we can have evidence from the last Khutba of Prophet(SAW) in which Prophet (SAW) said that no white is superior on black and not arabi is superior on those who is not arabi,and the superior is those who is near to Allah the most.
Ajay Vikram Singh
March 20, 2013 5:03 am
World is waiting ....future is awaiting ....with writers like you .....there is still Hope.
March 20, 2013 5:35 am
Or in Pakistan if he were not a Muslim!
March 20, 2013 5:39 am
I am not sure why people voted your comment down - Think it is birilliant and outright hilarious!
March 20, 2013 6:38 am
Is the President, Prime Minister,King, Queen of any country is equal to an average citizen? If they are then how come they have different rights. Equal human rights in my opinion is related to the position in the society.
March 20, 2013 6:44 am
Agree Mr. Mobarak, If the Below Lines are rectified then Muslims will be different people. "Allah created humans to live and work for Allah’s final message which He revealed in Arabic for the entire human race. " Once Muslims start to read Quran in their OWN LANGUAGE then this blood shed will go away. I feel pity towards Muslims who consider "Arabic" holy Language and their own mother tongue inferior
March 20, 2013 8:00 am
I must say the urdu audio is no less superior than the write-up. Infact, it has been beautifully narrated, and the speaker has an impressive voice. Kodos to dawn for adding this additional feature.
The Hindu
March 20, 2013 8:25 am
No dear, According to Bhagwat Geeta only those person will enter in heaven whose work are holy and without any intention.Without any intention means if you work good but their is any intention or desire to do so is also remain worthless for god.
March 20, 2013 8:59 am
Head on Mr.Roberts. Most Hindus know selective verses from Gita. It is taken as a book of Philosophy. The book is used as a guide for inspiration whenever there is a requirement. Nobody tells we need to follow it / abide by it.
March 20, 2013 9:15 am
I agree with you to a large extent Mr. Mubarak. My takeway from this article is we need to come out of our false idea of being superior than the rest. We need to see the other person of other sect/ religion as the human first. I see every body trying to super impose their idealogy/ religious belief on to the other, creating only hatred this way. My faith should be my personal matter, so let every body follow, whatever they idealogy/ faith they deem appropriate.
March 20, 2013 10:36 am
Dear Mobarak Haider Sahib, Thank you for an outstanding article which has again evoked a feeling as if it came out from my own heart and then beautifully conveyed through some magical words. I myself am a born Muslim of a very good law abiding and educated family but my own perception, of what I see of an increasingly growing hardline version of Islam, is waning by the day. It is unfortunate. What you have outlined is exactly what I see around me enforced with such daring acts of bloodshed and display of open hatred. I hate to call myself a Muslim but I have to live in a state of hypocrisy and keep a straight face. I can only try hard to just be a good citizen of the society and a God fearing person without recourse to religion. I am led to believe Islam is a fast growing religion. Who are these people? Please also write on the psyche of such people too. It may provide me with an explanation that may reverse my disappointments and disillusions.
March 20, 2013 10:49 am
Heaven is something [ which as per Hindu beliefs ] is something which is attained no just by good deeds such as charity, helping others, being a pious person, etc. The ultimate is believed to be achieved after various births and deaths, attaining knowledge, deeds towards humanity also. Heaven, as understood by Hindus is not on a physical plane. It is becoming one with the God. Just like a flame joining another.
March 20, 2013 11:02 am
i strongly advice you to study bit of hinduism philosophy. it will help you a lot , you can't place hinduism with islam and chritianity .Its a way of life and you will come to know that how its different and unique in sense of equality and paths of salvation. we in hindu practice still follow 36 crore deities and no tension among followers.and yes bhagwat geeta is not only book we follow , we follow waht the people of south asia are following for thousands of years knowingly and unknowingly.
Tahir M
March 20, 2013 11:05 am
And how does this fit in with the writers topic "attempts to bring to light some obvious answers in Muslim societies."?
March 20, 2013 11:23 am
And also in Muslim countries like Pakistan.
March 20, 2013 12:06 pm
chill out,Chill out dude it was just a joke, sarcasm….. Don’t get so serious.. Point I am trying to make is…..only a just laicism allows religious freedom. The state does not impose religion but rather gives space to religions with a responsibility toward civil society, and therefore it allows these religions to be factors in building up society. We live a multi ethnic multi religious society.. tolerance my dear tolerance and love for each other that will keep us together
March 20, 2013 12:39 pm
Freedom is there but Muslim minority in India is controlled by a few old fashioned religious leaders who are so rabid that no body can say anything against them. Followers of other religions normally don't comment internal matters about each other - other then making silly comments on net.
March 20, 2013 1:19 pm
Thanks for endorsing your poignant view that seems specific to Pakistan and some African countries.
March 20, 2013 2:23 pm
Now that is what is called hitting the nail right on its head… BANG!!!! You have dared to touch the core of the problem… I’m sure there would be a million insults on your way for doing this… Never the less what you have said is exactly true… Assuming that non Muslims are unequal is the center of this whole downward spiral that has gripped the entire Muslim world… Some of the most liberal Muslims, in the privacy of their own home and mind, think that they are above the so called “Kafirs”… Taking pride in your religion and beliefs is understandable but putting others below you as a result of that pride has lead to centuries of conflict… and it still continues to do so… God, no matter what ever name we wish to give him/her has created all men (including Women) equal, It is only our choices and actions that put us above or below other people in GOD’s eyes… not recognizing this basic fact is the reason for the chaos around us… You used the word Self Righteous so many times in your earlier posts; this post clearly explains where that Self Righteousness stems from… This is a brave route you have taken Mr.Mobarak i can see that it’s going to go into some controversial places… i hope people around you find tolerance in their hearts and sanity in their minds to let you say what you want to say in the next 3 parts… May god bless you and be with you…
Taqdees Pervaiz
March 20, 2013 2:32 pm
Mr. Mobarak Haider, i hope you have read all the comments below. I strongly disagree with your perception. There are different ideologies cropping up, not only in Muslims but also in other religions different ideologies exist. I agree, there are some communities grooming with similar believes (1) (2) and (3) but not all Muslim Ummah. The way you pointed out the beliefs of typical dominating prosperous classes of Muslims is absurd. And specially the belief (3). Allah’s final message which He revealed in Arabic ? All these 3 believes are not the teaching of the Holy Quran. A true Muslim don't have such believes who reads and understands Holy Quran. Please make your blog writing a little logical and clear.
March 20, 2013 2:53 pm
Dear friend, we need to evolve..
March 20, 2013 4:00 pm
The idea simply simply put is, once you're wise enough and know enough about self and others , you are freed from human life and merge into godliness. Atma becomes a part of parmatma. And in hinduism everyone gets there from their own chosen path. Even though I am not very pious, (and thank god piousness is not so much of a virtue in hinduism,), I am glad it does not impose or constrain any one's choices.
March 20, 2013 5:11 pm
Mr Mobarak Haider’s writing is clear enough but at times appears mocking to many. By the same token, you have left us in a quandary too by saying “A true Muslim don’t (sic) have such believes (sic).....” Who are these true Muslims? Where can I find them in real life? Do they exist?
Ghazala Khan
March 20, 2013 11:32 pm
Your article should be a rude awakening for many. After all these years of WOT, people in Pakistan have at last started seeing some truth at the end of tunnel, and this is the silver lining in these troubled times. We must get out of our so-called glorified past. We must stop blabbing about we invented the ZERO, and move forward from zero and work with the world as everything is global now. In these times, no body can even become pariah as that is akin to the annihilation. Ghazala from pkhope.com
Ali Sina
March 21, 2013 5:12 am
Ram Krishan Sharma
March 21, 2013 6:12 am
Mr, Taqdees Pervaiz, The author is very clear as well as logical . I have read the holy Quran twice ( English translation of course) . There are many questions which need answering and explaining . A student who constantly asks questions to a teacher is more intelligent than the one who quietly sits in the class.
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