The last few centuries bear witness to a sharp decline in the individual as well as the collective affairs of the Muslims. All over the globe, they seem to have lost their identity. They appear to be dispossessed of the real spirit of Islam, and have been stripped of the position of supremacy they once held in the comity of nations. Though they have with them the last and final word of the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, yet it no longer plays a vibrant role in their lives.
One very significant reason for this sorry state of affairs is the intellectual stagnation which generally exists about religion. Two root causes of this intellectual decadence and backwardness are apparent to every keen eye;
1) The ailment of Taqlid (blind following), both at the level of the religious scholars as well as at that of the masses.
2) A complete disregard of the role of human intellect in matters of religion.
An elaboration of these two points, which are actually the two sides of the same coin, follows;
Our religious institutes all over the Ummah, which produce religious scholars, are actually the source of this Taqlid syndrome. Here, a student from the very first day is labelled as an orthodox follower of a particular sect. His destiny seems to be carved out beforehand as a devout denouncer of ever other sect and an ardent acclaimer of his own. He is made to believe that only his brand of beliefs is in direct conformity with the Qur’an and Sunnah. He is brainwashed with the notion that only his sect has been divinely blessed with the true version of Islam. An inference attributed to a highly revered scholar of his sect stands supreme until the Day of Judgement. That it can be challenged by explicit reasoning derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah dare not be thought of. On the contrary, it becomes part of his faith that such a scholar cannot falter.
It is this superhuman veneration that has actually given rise to the menace of religious sectarianism. Differences in opinion have often developed into severe conflicts. An atmosphere charged with lightning and resounding with thunder prevails amongst the religious circles. Every now and then, a new episode of defamation erupts from our Mosques, which are unfortunately being used for these malignant offensives. The intense disregard the various sects have for one another has led them to violate all norms of decency. Even unethical tactics are employed to safeguard their own views and interests. Like nations at war, they continue their crusades against each other while, very close to them, the forces of evil mock at them and continue to flourish.
With this concept of Taqlid prevailing among the religious scholars, the common man also has been led to associate himself with the scholars of a particular sect. Instead of weighing the opinions of various scholars and accepting the one which is the most convincing to their intellect they blindly follow an imam’s directive however much they may be convinced against it. The greatest ill effect of this approach is that following religion becomes a mechanical process, it does not flow out from one’s heart and does not bring about a change in one’s character and behaviour.
Since using one’s intellect in understanding religion has long been done away with, the Qur’an is read but not understood. Its greatest utility was providing guidance to mankind; now it is mainly used for reciting for the dead.
If the above mentioned thesis is correct, then there is a need to bring about an intellectual awakening in the Muslims. The most effective way to do this perhaps is to produce highly competent scholars of Islam who are able to directly assess and interpret the sources of Islam and thus are able to break the shackles of Taqlid. They should be groomed in such a manner that they can face the challenge of the modern era.
Until and unless efforts are made to produce such scholars, there is very little chance that the Ummah can come out of its current state of deterioration.
Marriages are made in heaven. For the Muslim community marriage is an occasion to make a vulgarly display of wealth. The religious significance is lost altogether and a solemn ceremony is reduced to a farce. Who is responsible for this? Can this trend be reversed?
Any number of people will come forward with ‘solutions’. But solutions are not the answer. We need to ask the right questions. The right questions about the significance of marriage and the sadistic desire of rich Muslims to display their wealth. By using marriage ceremonies as status symbols rich Muslims have only helped to create more envy and jealousy among the lesser privileged ones who will beg, borrow or steal to keep up with the rest, just to attain a false sense of wealth and superiority.
Wedding ceremonies which were solemnised in the Mosque were supposed to be the trend-setters that would bring about a change. On the contrary, this has proved to be the biggest hoax perpetrated by the community upon itself.
A marriage ceremony may be solemnised in the Mosque only to culminate in a grand dinner arranged at a posh wedding reception hall! What have we done? Only fooled ourselves that we have done something holy! We might as well conduct the ceremony in the wedding hall itself and not trouble the guests.
The whole idea behind this was to see that we could cut down the costs. To lighten the burden on the girls’ parents. But even here our community is looking the other way and indeed on most occasions are guilty of partaking of the sumptuous food laid out before them all at the expense of the poor girl’s parents. Bravo Muslims! Your hypocrisy has reached new heights!
If we are indeed sincere we will make the wedding ceremony only a one-day-affair. Marriage to be solemnised in the Mosque and Valima to be performed the same-day. If we are indeed concerned about the welfare of our Muslim sisters, who are now preferring inter-religious marriages, let us come out and say ‘Yes, let it be a one-day-affair, and if the boy cannot bear the whole amount of the Valima, pool in the cash and have the Valima the same night’.