A Critical Need for Contemporary Indian Muslim Society
By Waseem Ahmed
Unlike other creatures, man, as he has freedom of thought and action, lives his life to serve his own interest. He does not care about the harmful effects of his behaviour on other creatures. If the society accepts this behaviour against nature, a situation occurs which eventually gives way to emergence of evils. If it is not contained by law or social restriction, it becomes a social norm, while in fact it’s a menace. When it takes root, all the efforts to curb this menace go in vain. An example of it can be seen in the dowry system prevalent in the society. Despite the majority of people dislike it, nonetheless, they are also indulged in it. There are also other examples to show how human behaviour based on self-interest affects the society.
Keeping in view the constraints of right and wrong, some members of the society make efforts to check social ills. In this regard, they provide suggestions for the betterment of society. But these suggestions do not yield permanent solution. So, the society needs such principles which are permanent and effective. However, it is not possible for human beings to devise such principles due to their limited approach to issues. Thus, it becomes inevitable for the society to follow the Divine Wisdom. The Lord Creator has given man a way of life that leads him to solve all his problems.
All the Divine teachings are now preserved in the form of the last revealed Book, the Holy Qur’ān, and the Ahadith of the last Prophet Muhammad ﷺ further elucidate those teachings. These Islamic teachings address human nature and cover every aspect of human life. If we implement these Islamic teachings in our society, we will be able to restructure the society on the bases of equity, justice, equality and protection of life and property, etc. Then vices like greed, jealousy, dishonesty, telling lies, machinations and deception will be eradicated from the society.
Islam improves every aspect of human life through its teachings, which are not limited to a particular time or clime. For, they are revealed by the Almighty Allah Who has adorned them in such a way that they fit in every era and every human being can benefit from it.
Allah said in the Qur’ān (5:32): “He who slays a soul unless it be (punishment) for murder or for spreading mischief on earth shall be as if he had slain all mankind; and he who saves a life shall be as if he had given life to all mankind.”
Here Allah has given a rule to protect the human society from going astray and to sustain humanity. Similarly, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said: “Removing a painful thing from the path is also a charity.” (Sunan Abi Dawud, 43:471) If we reflect on this Hadith, we will come to the conclusion that it was relevant not only to pre-Islamic Bedouin tribes of Arabia over fourteen hundred years ago, but the people of all times can benefit from it.
If we study the primary texts of Islam, the Qur’ān and Hadith compendia, we will find hundreds and thousands of such examples. Take, for instance, Islam enjoins acquisition of knowledge, sleeping early at night, giving inheritance to daughters as well as sons, and taking good care of cleanliness. These eternal teachings of Islam are based on human nature.
But the question is as to what extent are the Muslims, who have these eternal teachings, benefitting from them? If we observe the Muslim society and their neighbourhoods, streets, houses, educational institutions and places of worship, we will come to the conclusion that the Muslims are oblivious to these teachings because most of the ways they follow in their social and individual lives are contrary to Islamic teachings. Whether it is related to fulfilment of religious duties or the issue of raising children and their education and training, or the issue of trade, agriculture, industry and various professions, they follow their whims and fancies.
Whether they are educated elite or poor uneducated labourers, they display many shortcomings like laziness, cunning and deception, envy and malice, extravagance, desire for food more than the pursuit of knowledge and art, common practice of abusive language among children, common use of intoxicants like Gutka and Tobacco among youth, adultery, etc.
These vices spread in the Muslim society are contrary to the teachings of Islam. The Muslims have been weak on every front for decades, politically, socially, economically, religiously and morally. Today Muslims are oppressed and subjugated. In the past Muslims were ahead of others in every field; others used to look at them with respect and dignity. While today people look at them with suspicion.
There are many organisations and institutions working for the welfare and development of Muslims. But they do not seem to be active in terms of the speed at which the Muslim society is tending towards degradation.
One of the reasons of this decline of Muslims is that the government ignores them in every field. This complaint of Muslims is true to some extent. When we look at our neighbouring countries, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the conditions there are worse than that of the Muslim society here. Therefore, we believe that the real reason for the downfall of Indian Muslims is that they are not familiar with the eternal teachings of Islam, which they desperately need; and even if they are familiar, they do not follow it. So, they should follow it so that a good social ambience may be created which might benefit others as well.
[The writer is a Research Scholar, Dept. of Islamic Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi]