Leading PostsSeptember October 2004

Is There Any Way Out Of This Polytheism?

Future Islam

The Muslims are, on the whole, under the grip of polytheism (shirk) and the evils emanating from it. The basic reason for their fall from the august position of the leadership of the world is that they have left the path of pure tauheed. The punishments that are sent to the chosen communities for taking to polytheism and the way they lose their bearings on life can be seen starkly in the case of Muslims throughout the world.

In the last couple of years, the thinking Muslims have been restive and asking themselves, in so many ways, if God has really abandoned them. After all, what can be the underlying reason that the blood of Muslims has become so cheap in the current world and their self-esteem has touched a new low? After the horrifying events in Afghanistan and Iraq, this question has acquired a special urgency. We feel compelled to ask ourselves as to why God has withdrawn his blessings and favours from the adherents of the final Divine Revelation? This question still awaits a satisfactory answer.

The fact is – like the Israelites we Muslims, too, despite our fall from grace, delude ourselves into thinking that we are still holding the seat of the community most favoured by Allah, even though it is only too evident that in the current dispensation of things we are not among those who are the arbiters of the right and the wrong in the world. The pity is that as all our misguidance emanates from our fake religiosity, it is difficult not only for the common people but even for the cognoscenti to recognise the truth and work for its redress. It is often claimed that the community, as a whole, abide by the Faith, or at least there are many activities that are going on within the community in the name of the Faith, but if one looks at it with the eyes of a hard realist one realises that all this is only a huge delusion, nothing else.

Tauheed connects the humanity whereas shirk divides it into small fragments. The system of thought favoured by the concept of tauheed projects one God and the entire humanity as a single entity. Conversely, shirk-tainted minds delight in finding all kinds of pretexts to divide human beings into a thousand compartments. The same message of tauheed had been sent to the followers of the earlier Prophets, but they had divided themselves into small factions through all kinds of subjective interpretation of the divine message. The Qur'an states that the advent of Prophet Muhammad witnessed the end of such sectarianism and an over all revival of a tauheedi society: .

Shirk has this peculiar capacity to enter into the minds of the people of the Faith by means of the Faith itself. It is not something new in human history. The worship of the sun, the moon and trees is such a stark evidence of shirk that it can be understood even by the most common intellect. However, practicing sectarianism in the name of religion or projecting a particular interpretation of the faith as the Faith itself and then paying obeisance to it is an act whose implications are not evident to all and sundry. If one looks at the Muslim community as a whole one wonders as to why the community is at war with itself. If in some cases this confrontation is based on language, in other cases words and edicts are used as ammunitions to conduct this battle. The Muslims of one sectarian persuasion have no qualms in killing fellow Muslims of another persuasion even while they are offering prayers inside the mosque. The Muslim seminaries operating in different parts of the world in the name of religion choose to preach the exclusivist and sectarian view they adhere to. They may cite divine commandments and the sayings of the Prophet, but their real objective is to prove that their faction is correct and true and that all others are wrong. This is not a phenomenon peculiar to India, but can be seen anywhere in the world, not excepting the Muslim societies of Europe and America where sectarianism can be seen to operate with no lesser virulence. As a matter fact, instead of worshipping Allah the Almighty, they can be said to have engaged themselves in a kind of cult worship. To them, their faction or sect would seem to have substituted Allah, and they regard the explanation and interpretation of religion by their leaders to be as true as if it were from the Prophet himself. Referring to such a situation the Qur'an says: i.e., O Muhammad, those who created sectarianism in the Faith and divided themselves into factions, have nothing to do with you. (In'am: 159)        

Our adherence to Faith in the current times has been tainted by sectarianism of all kinds, our madarsahs, divided among themselves, are engaged in propagating factional views, and our community as a whole is divided on the basis of different schools of thought like the Hanfi school or the Shafii school etc. It does not take long for one to realise that, riven by divisive tendency, the community is no longer connected to the sacred thread that connects it with Allah. In the whole universe, there is hardly anyone who is calling humanity towards One God. From every minaret of the mosques and every pulpit of the madarsah, the invitation is being sent out to people to join a particular sect because that sect embodies the true Faith. The people sending out such invitations have no idea that they are spreading the worst kind sectarianism in the name of Islam. What, after all, is the reason that, despite the presence of the Qur'an, all the different sects or schools of Muslims believe that it is essential to follow the books written by their leaders to continue their religious mission? In the presence of the Qur'an, is it still necessary that one should seek endorsement from the books written by the commentators, the jurisprudents or other scholars? We have been told in unambiguous words – "Don't be among those who create schism" . In other words, the Qur'an is exhorting Muslims not to be like those who, despite clear instructions to the contrary, have fallen victims to sectarianism and factionalism, because that would call for severe punishment.

The traumatic crisis that the Muslim community is going through today is the inevitable result of internal dissensions and disagreements. Whenever the followers of the divine message sanctified groupism on the pretext of interpretation of the Faith, they got involved in cult worship. The Qur'an states that all the Prophet had been sent with the same Faith and they were exhorted to remain steadfast to it and not to create schism in it . The people to whom the Prophet Muhammad  was sent also included the followers of Abraham, Moses and Jesus Christ. There was no dearth of rituals among them which they observed religiously. However, they had been engaged in sectarian activities in the name of religion. These people of the earlier Faiths went so far as to declare that those who wanted to keep their place safe in paradise should follow them and that was enough. They asked people just to be Israelites or Christians: . These people who, in all sincerity, regarded themselves as the Muslims of the time were engaged in a battle of attrition among themselves. The Israelites would claim exclusive access to Truth and vilify the Christians while the Christians would do the same to the Israelites. The Qur'an declared such sectarianism to be against the Faith. To the followers of the earlier prophets, engaged in this battle of attrition and facing its scourge,     Prophet Muhammad gave this propitious message that it did not serve their purpose to be the followers of either Jehovah or Jesus, but that they should be the followers of Allah and to take on His hue:

The initial chapters of the Qur'an, in different ways, exhorted the Muslims of the time (the Israelites and the Christians), i.e. the followers of the earlier prop hets to come out of the stranglehold of sectarianism:  The invitation to tauheed by the Prophet Muhammad impressed upon the Muslims of the time that the adherents of pure tauheed can never involve themselves in sectarianism, even if this tendency emanated from any prophet. What God wanted was not to make people Israelites or Christians but to make them truly Godly.

How can the Book that does not allow sectarianism, even if it emanated from a prophet, allow that its followers should form different sects or groups in the name of their leaders? We have turned the Quranic invitation to become Godly  on its head and must ask ourselves how the followers of Prophet Muhammad could accept the division of their community into so many fragments such as Hanefites, Shafi'ites, Shia, Sunni, Barelvi, Deobandi, Salafi and so on and so forth? How could it be possible that the people who were known for their fierce loyalty to tauheed got themselves involved in the worst kind of sectarianism, so much so that it has begun to seem a normal part of their lives? Why can't the different groups of Muslims who are engaged in cult worship, and unfortunately most Muslims are so engaged, see the clear Quranic assertion that those who created schisms in the Faith and divided themselves into factions, have no longer anything to do with Prophet Muhammad?

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