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Muslim unity, a mirage?
By Sabir Siddiqi

Whenever the Muslim nation faces some big problems, there is widespread discussion as to why Muslims are not united. If Muslims become united, there may be ways and means to face all problems. But the trouble is that unity is elusive; not because there is no unity on the issue of problems. There are lot of problems whose solutions we know and if efforts are made jointly, worthwhile results can be achieved. But it is not possible in the absence of unity to achieve these goals. What then are the reasons? Are we devoid of the capability of thinking and finding out the reason for this disunity? Has the thread which kept us united snapped at different places despite our being called the Muslim nation or Ummah? Or, is there shortage or absence of leadership? This is not such a complicated thing.

If we review the past few centuries, we find the nation disintegrated at various stages, instead of being united. The chain of disintegration that began after the end of Orthodox Caliphate is still continuing. Muslims are divided into groups and sub-groups on minor and major issues in spite of the fact that the Qur’an has disliked division, though Qur’an raised the problem of division with reference to Jews and Christians. It is necessary to pay attention to seventeenth verse of Sura Al-Jaiya because the state of confusion and uneasiness among Muslims today is indicated with reference to Jews in this verse.

God revealed in this verse that ‘I had given clear verses to Jews with reference to religion but they got divided because of jealously. Differences arose among them and the reason for all these differences and disputes was mutual jealousy which was in itself a rebellious audacity to God’. (45:17). This is the best review on human psychology, that is to say that human society gets divided and sub-divided into groups and sub-groups because of jealousy and ego. Man considers all other sects and groups and their ideologies wrong and unjust except his own and some times feels no hesitation in insulting and humiliating them. This is also the tragedy of Islamic history. After the sudden end of Orthodox Caliphate, the way in which Muslim Ummah got divided into groups and sub-groups and the feeling of superiority and greatness of its own community and inferiority of other communities that gripped it was to result in the same thing that we see today. This verse in its totality applies to Prophet Mohammad’s (PBUH) followers also. Today Jews are united but Muslims are disunited and scattered. What an irony! 

It is believed that today there are more than seventy sects among Muslims and the followers of each sect not only consider themselves better and superior to the people associated with all other sects but also preach hatred against other sects in accordance with Islamic beliefs. They go even to the extent of dubbing people of other sects as ‘kafirs’. These are the reasons because of which wrong image of Islam is presented to the world but are responsible for Islam being treated as equivalent to terrorism. These are also the reasons which divide Muslims into groups and sub-groups and foil every attempt to bring unity among them. Every sect has its own separate leader whose effort is to keep its followers separated from followers of other sects. This effort at separation and isolation from others is the biggest handicap in uniting them which the followers of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) are dreaming for a very long time. 

Instead of understanding each other, their effort is to make them targets of not only criticism but also of hatred. Can the efforts aimed at bringing about unity ever succeed under these circumstances? Whatever work is not done sincerely results in such fruitless things. All the efforts made so for to bring the Ummah to a common platform have failed because not only they lack sincerity somewhere but their effort is also that in spite of outward show, unity should not be possible. 

Muslim League had to take the help of Jinnah before partition of the country because he was distinct from others in that he did not claim to be the leader of any particular sect. In these circumstances of selfishness and self aggrandisement which sect should be the centre of any movement or leader of which sect should start and lead a movement the object of which should be to bring about unity among the Muslim Ummah? Some of the steps necessary for bringing about unity among all sections of Muslims are described below.

a) Leaders and followers of all sects should firmly decide that they will not use abusive and derogatory words about the leaders and followers of other sects.
b) Avoid or promise not to issue ‘fatwas’ of ‘kufr’.
c) They should learn to respect leaders of each other’s sects.
d) Stop criticising each other.
e) Try to understand each other’s views patiently.
f) Avoid all such things which may hurt the feelings of others.

It is said that charity begins at home. In other words all good things should first of all be started at one’s own level. It is generally seen that right from Urdu to Ummah we accuse others for any thing wrong or unfavourable. Does it therefore mean that all others only are to be blamed if any thing goes wrong? Take, for example, the problem of Urdu. We always blame the government that it is not doing any thing for its development and promotion. After all, we also have to do something in this direction. It is our language but are we really doing what we should do? Hindi was devoid of official patronage and support for centuries. Persian enjoyed much support and patronage of the British government. Was Hindi then a dead language? It not only survived but also kept on progressing. Hindi speaking people studied Urdu and Persian also besides Hindi. They did not ignore Hindi. They did not complain that step-motherly treatment is being meted out to Hindi. Can we, therefore, not keep Urdu alive under today’s unfavourable circumstances? Can we not render some sacrifice for the sake of Urdu and purchase and read Urdu newspapers and teach Urdu to our children at home? If we cannot do even this much, we have no right to complain about Urdu not being developed by government. 

The word ‘sacrifice’ is the magical word which is probably the solution for all problems of Muslims. But the problem is that Muslims today are ignorant of all sacrifices except that of ‘Iduz Zoha’. How can a nation or community be united whose every individual is living only for his own sake? For unity, it is essential to make children as well as oneself habitual to sacrifice. Muslims of today are habituated to lead a life of selfishness. They have become so selfish that instead of doing anything for others or for their community, they will make others responsible, and blame them, for their own shortcomings. They are lacking in right kind of thinking and right kind of action. 

Those who call and consider themselves leaders have in fact no right thinking, action and integrity. When they themselves are not sincere, how the community will follow the right path. It is very often seen that in some of the remaining Urdu newspapers and periodicals, there is a lot of discussion about the problems of Muslims. Rashtriya Sahara is ahead of all among them. If these discussions could take the form of actions, probably a beginning could be made in bringing about unity among Muslims. 

If we become united on the single topic of stopping the issuance of ‘fatwa’ about ‘kufr’ and declare all previous ‘fatwas’ of kufr as null and void, probably it may be the first step towards bringing about unity among Muslims, otherwise meaningless discussions will continue and practical result will be nil. It is therefore necessary that leaders of all sects should come forward and remove all their differences under a representative organization. If this happens, efforts for bringing about unity can succeed otherwise it will always remain a mirage. 

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