A RECENTLY passed bill by the Punjab Assembly to curb the prevalent violence against women drew an immediate and venomous response from many religious quarters. A well-known political figure ridiculed the men who passed it. Another hurled virulent abuse at the woman who made a documentary against ‘honour’ killing and a woman MPA who dared to engage him in debate.
While these individuals are known for their obscurant views, there are several other so-called ulema that operate in a similar style.
In acting thus, people not only display their lack of understanding about Islamic principles and divine guidance on specific issues, they also break all rules of morality which form the core of Islam and the Quran. Morality, or the difference between good and bad, is ingrained within human nature and provides guidance for our conduct towards God and creation. Good manners and good behaviour are frequently emphasised both in the Quran and Hadith. In the Quran, God warns against calling others names and ridiculing them.
The Prophet (PBUH) apparently said: “The most perfect man in his faith among the believers is the one whose behaviour is the most excellent; and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives.”
Good behaviour is emphasised in the Quran and hadith.
When differing with any opinion, it is the responsibility of others to present their case in a polite and logical manner, stating arguments based on rationale and logic. To make fun of and to call others names is most offensive to God and the Prophet.
Even when others are rude or offensive, as the Quraysh were to the Prophet and his companions, God has instructed Muslims to keep silent and walk away. Those who do not have manners and indulge in sarcasm and name-calling are those with little knowledge or desire for the truth and it is best to avoid them.
Lack of civility and good manners in our society is rampant and this is partly due to the lack of education and training, and also to the examples set by religious figures, politicians and other ‘celebrities’. When common people focus their attention on what religious leaders say and do, a blind following is the result. If our role models become those who preach hatred against women, minorities and people with different views and who incite superficial emotions based on irrationality, we will become crude, callous, disrespectful, intolerant and be left with little dignity.
Indeed, God has said clearly that had He wished He would have created everyone in the same mode and there would have been no difference between nations. Yet He chose to create diverse people so that they would observe, reflect and communicate with each other.
For example, as noted in the Quran: “O mankind! We created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that you may despise each other). ...” (49:13).
The Quran is explicit in its rejection of rituals and formal show of religious practices, which, unfortunately, is what is left in most Muslim societies. Rather, it calls for God-consciousness through purification of the inner self through good deeds (ma’ruf) and deterrence from bad (munkar). Verse 2:177 is explained by Yousuf Ali, the well-known exegete, thus: Muslims should be sincere in their devotion, and should be charitable, decent citizens and support social organisation. However much a person may publicly declare her/his Muslim credentials, love for the Prophet and respect for the Quran, this may mean nothing if the tenets of morals (akhlaq) are not understood and followed.
An additional and serious disservice by such people is the fact that they are assumed to embody Islam and cause people, including both Muslims and non-Muslims, to turn away from Islam. If Muslims who call themselves scholars exhibit such lack of ethics and morality, this is taken to mean that the religion itself is at fault. This creates distance from guidance, which would have otherwise brought enlightenment and peace to lives.
This is one of the main reasons why opinions about Islam have been so distorted and Muslims targeted for their beliefs and practices. Most base these beliefs in distorted speeches, communicated to them through misogynist, racist and arrogant interpretations, and this leads to stereotyping and prejudice against Islam.
It is one of the greatest ironies that the most egalitarian, non-racist, gender- and poor-friendly and just faith is viewed as a repressive, intolerant and dogma-intensive one. It offers its warmth to non-Muslims, yet extremists indulge in faith-based violence; it gives women an equal status, yet it is made a tool for keeping them subjugated; it offers the best welfare state policies, yet the poor Muslim suffers the most.
Abuse and clumsy jokes may win some popularity, but a poor return in the Hereafter.
The writer is a freelance contributor with an interest in religion.
Published in Dawn, March 11th, 2016