A Community in Disarray: The Role of its LeadershipHamid Ali Khan (January 31, 2014)


A Community in Disarray: The Role of its Leadership

Hamid Ali Khan

A dilemma of sorts is gripping the Indian Muslims these days. Communal riots are engineered to uproot and render them homeless. Sometimes, they are also alienated politically to deny them the fruits of development. These are the issues that affect the Muslims externally and internally and are discussed to find out solution to them. Steps are also taken to address these issues, though with little success. These efforts identify the plight of Muslims today but the other side of the picture is more horrendous as the challenges that confront the community defy a probable solution. Instead, external challenges are only getting more complex. Muslims in India are sitting on the horns of a dilemma and the confusion among them is worse compounded.

Capitalising on their weakness, the opponents have grown stronger. Muslims have not only weakened internally and externally but have also lost the wisdom to close ranks. We refuse to unitedly put up a brave front in the face of the potential danger of being subjugated economically, socially and culturally. We fail to heed the advice of the Quran “to hold on to the rope of Allah together”, though we profess to be doing so. The distinction between utterances and practice has widened with no hope in sight of narrowing down. Acting against the spirit of the Quran, we have allowed ourselves to be divided into sects, groups and schools of thought and are unjustly nursing a grouse against our opponents for targetting us with their machinations.

There is no denying the fact that the disagreement among Muslims can be surmounted with rapprochement. But to achieve it is an uphill task. Both the Quran and Hadith have stressed the need for unity among the believers as disunity weakens us. Identification of Muslims with their sects, subsects or schools of thought propels them to subserve their own interests, which is disadvantageous to the community as a whole.

Efforts, made in furtherance of interests of one group or subgroup are transient and can not take the entire community too far. Whereas, we, being the followers of the Prophet (PBUH), have been assigned the job of promoting goodwill and fostering love and compassion among our brethren and among all humans. We owe a duty to the humanity to spread the message of Allah irrespective of caste, creed or colour. We are also ordained to review our actions and if found wanting on any score, should rectify them.

Through the Quran, Allah hints at a group that could make a call for good deeds while abjuring misdeeds. This group is none else but our ulema, who are responsible for dealing with the internal as well as external weaknesses and for constructing a strong wall of protection that could be impregnable.

This aspect requires deep thinking, but the scene obtaining today negates the very role of the ulema, who are expected to lead the Ummah. More often than not, certain incidents explain our vulnerability to the attack from opponents. Our enemy within is so strong that it could put the Satan to shame. This could be illustrated from a news item that appeared in a section of the press decrying a group of the ulema. This news caused uneasiness among the serious and conscientious leaders of the Ummah who were clueless about the purpose of the news. One is not sure if it was aimed at publicising Islam or character assassination. Will the skeletons in the cupboard of religious discourses buried in the books, be searched for character assassination and compartmentalising Indian Muslims into different beliefs? Was it necessary to air such differences into the open by striking at the roots of unity?

Differences could have been brought to the fore within the parameters of unity in accordance with Islamic doctrine. Every Muslim has a right to dissent, but that should not violate basic norms of civility as determined by Islam. Islam always stood for the unity of the Ummah.

The news has divided Muslims into different groups, with each group extolling its ulema and condemning the ulema belonging to other groups. This has only shown the hollowness of claims of unity among Muslims. An anecdote will explain the meaning of difference of opinion within unity. The Prophet (PBUH) of Allah offered salaat by joining the hands as well as without joining them together. The well-known Islamic scholar, Dr. Hamidullah, has explained that Allah so liked this practice of the Prophet (PBUH) that He preserved this through a diversity of schools of Islamic thought for ever.

Thus the question arises, if Allah liked every practice of the Prophet (PBUH), why are we busy extolling ourselves and condemning others in the name of belief, establishing superiority of one school of Islamic thought over another. This negates the very tenets of Islam.

It is time to bury the hatchet and work for unity among Muslims in the country. We appear to have shunned the teachings of the Quran by acting otherwise. The distinction between the teachings of the Quran and our actions betrays a lack of adherence to the Holy Book. Our behaviour is incompatible with the command to forge unity and create a universal Muslim brotherhood. The earlier we understand this the better.  g

(The writer is a senior journalist)

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