Allama Iqbal is among the most revered Muslims of recent history. We
call him the poet-philosopher of Islam. But, beyond the inspired
words, take a close look at him. Had he been alive today, would he be
allowed to give khutba or bayan at any mosque in Pakistan?
Thus, is it possible for today’s young Pakistani to look at public
Islam without skepticism? We have been taught in our short history
that Pakistan’s identity is wholly an Islamic identity. Nevertheless,
from generation to generation, we witness not the best of humanity,
but the repeated corruption of our beliefs. What happened?
Religion is indeed opiate for the masses. It is a common, age-old
notion, is it not? While the poppy plants are numerous, religion
itself is a vital tool for political control. And, in Pakistan, it
has been such a tool.
As a nation defines itself, it is one approach to soothe and excite
its citizens with fables of great heroes of history. We have the mind
of the Iqbal. We have the articulate passion of Qaid-e Azam. It is
an entirely more powerful (and thus more subversive) approach to
soothe and excite a nation’s citizens with fables of salvation. For,
what have we done with our Islam, save to reduce it to a set of
fables? What have we done with our Islam, save to reduce it to a
dogmatic list of peculiar, obsolete laws? What have we done with our
Islam, save to make ourselves the laughing-stock not only of the
contemporary world, but of the history of our tradition?
It is a problem that the young people have inherited. The president
calls it “moderate Islam.” We should call it for what it really is:
Where to turn? The scholars of our history have been the greatest
minds of their generations, be they the legal scholars or the hadith
scholars or al-Ghazali, Rumi, Ibn Taymiyya, Shah Waliyullah, etc.. But
the scholars of our contemporary society are the leftovers of society.
When a student does not have a capability of pursuing a profession in
the sciences, business, law or academics, he goes to the madrasa.
While it is indeed noble for anyone to pursue a life of religion, the
fact remains that these scholars lack the one thing that we seek:
answers. The lack these answers because they do not even know the
Rather, we seek so often for a hero to lead us. That thirst for a
Mahdi becomes so sharp, that we cling to the worst of anti-heroes,
hoping that he or she can lead us to the light of the next day.
It is indeed a problem that the young people have inherited, but it is
also a responsibility on their shoulders. The challenge is not to
turn to Islam. The challenge is to fix society. The challenge of the
young Muslim is to launch a realistic path toward solving these gross
ills that have corrupted this great experiment we call Pakistan.
Thus, the young Pakistani has the obligation to look at all of the
great sages of history, be they Muslim or not. But, he or she must do
something that few are able to do. He or she must rise above that
sick taste that has developed in his mouth, developed from the
tireless sloganeering of so many Mullahs. He or she must open that
sacred text and read it for what it says to him or her.
The young Pakistani must then make an honest evaluation for him or
herself. Use the best of your faculties, and approach the Qur’an with
your own eyes. Let the beards and burqas take a back seat to your own
connection with the Qur’an.
Once that connection is established, meaning, once that connection to
God has been established, then we can take the next steps. Thus, will
Islam be part of this new outlook? That is for you to decide, though
I believe it will be. We must first take back what is ours: our own
connection with its Author.
Mozaffar is an academic and maintains a personal blog