Loyalty as well as Competence
Transition from ideology to institutions is a ticklish process. If ideology is seed, the institutions are their physical forms. Ideology is a state of mind while institutions are models on the ground. Ideology is imagination whereas institutions are practical shape of the ideal one cherishes.
The distance between the ideal and the model is a recognised fact. Ideal is puritanical while the model has to cope with practical difficulties, make compromises, accommodate difference of opinion, shed egotistic tendencies, and sacrifice some of its sheen to be acceptable to the masses. At the end though they may retain much less of their original distinctiveness, they make a huge difference in the lives of the people. Those ideals that refuse to take all these, turn into utopia and ultimately shrink out of the public space and view.
All of us cherish the Islamic ideals and wish to see the world turning our way. We desire to see it a more humane place, less exploitative, more respectful of women, nature friendly, least wasteful and overall a world full of peace, love and justice. But the tools that we need to promote and turn these ideals into model are the very same institutions, which all other ideologies use i.e., schools, books, media, hospitals, banks, industries, cooperatives, research institutes, libraries, financial institutions et al. Viability and survival of these institutions then tend to become a greater priority than the ultimate ideological goal.
It is at this stage that the people with a distinctive ideology need to opt for a judicious mix of loyalty and competence. Loyalty to keep track of ideology and competence to maintain viability. Losing sight of loyalty could render one the slave of institutions. And pursuit of mere puritanical objective may smother the growth of institutions itself. Both courses are disastrous.
Examples abound in our surroundings. Madrassas made themselves irrelevant to the modern life because of their stubborn adherence to the traditions and overstress on spiritual content while modern institutions produce few conscientious Muslim professionals. Darul Uloom Deoband gave rise to thousands of madrassas in India, but contributes almost nothing to the social and economic well-being of the Indian Muslims. The Aligarh Muslim University produced lakhs of graduates but most of them are self-centred professionals who hardly share the Sir Syed’s zeal for promotion of modern education among Muslims.
Similarly, if Muslim owned media turns green, it needs no enemies. And if it moves to the other extreme of copying others in churning filth and vulgarities, such media can hardly make any difference in the lives of the Ummah. What is needed is a right blend of popular focus and alternative information. The former for the body and the latter for the soul.
In a market-oriented world, the ideologies have to perforce take the form of institutions, which in turn come to be treated like goods and services. If a school is too heavy on ideology and too light on academic excellence, it loses its viability and its very survival may be at stake. It is in this context that Islamic groups need to have a relook at their strategies and fine tune the stress on loyalty with competence. If loyalty requires ideological commitment, the competence needs professionalism. In absence of either of them, they risk becoming irrelevant. And that does not take them anywhere.