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Four Questions
By Syed Mansoor Agha 

A few days ago I had the opportunity of attending a lecture in Delhi by the distinguished scholar, Dr. Nejatulla Siddiqi. During his one-and–a half hour speech, he made a thoughtful review of the important events that took place at international level during the last century, with particular reference to Muslim. He also posed some penetrating questions concerning Muslims. One question, for example was as to why many of the movements aimed at glorification of the religion-that teaches patience, tolerance and non-violence, give birth to violent movements?

Though this particular question raised by him concerns a specific category of people, he put four questions with reference to the former president of Bosnia, Alija Izzat Begovich which all of us should consider. I would specially request the eminent people who lead and guide the community to furnish answers of these questions:

1. The first verse of the book revealed by Allah for our guidance enjoins us, on the whole, ‘Iqra’ i.e. to ‘read’. The command in the first divine revelation is ‘Read in the name of thy God who is thy Creator’. Now the question is, as to why in spite of this command Muslims are the most illiterate nation of the world? More than half of our population is illiterate and moreover the ignorance and narrow-mindedness amongst those literate or educated is nothing less. Our learning, instead of broadening our knowledge and outlook makes us prisoner of our surroundings. Even then our sense of superiority complex has made us blind and our own slave. Majority of Muslims are either surprised or worried about others’ success or are full of praise about their past. We are neither able to understand our position in a true perspective nor able to understand others correctly. Moreover, what we call religiosity does not enable us to consider and think about divine verses or messages but on the contrary calls it sin. Obviously, it is not the theory or ideology that is at fault but the followers of the ideology themselves. 

2. Islam has laid great emphasis not only on the purity and nobility of thought but also on the chastity and cleanliness of body and surroundings, the importance of which can be understood by the instructions and methods of baths and ablutions. Who can deny the importance and utility of washing and cleaning the exposed parts of body five times a day, keeping the mouth and teeth neat and clean by washing and brushing, laving and washing, wearing neat clothes, washing hands before eating, keeping eatables neat and clean etc. In spite such emphasis on cleanliness, houses, localities and settlements of Muslims throughout the world can be identified by the surrounding dirt and unhealthy conditions. 

The condition of majority of them is that neither their heads, nor bodies, houses, and surroundings are clean. Keeping the locality and areas untidy, dumping of garbage in front of their houses has become our national mark of identification. Why on earth we have followed what is quite opposed to Islamic teachings and how it can be reformed? Together with these, indifference to our health problems is also quite common. Our unfair preferences for food and drink, unhealthy routines of sleeping and working, no attention being paid to getting up early, exercise and labour and such other things are quite common amongst us. A health procession was taken out in UP about two years ago led by Syed Hamid but obviously the malady being so deep rooted, this small dose of medicine could have very little or no effect.

3. Islam’s entire system of prayers is based on punctuality of time. Times of five daily prayers are fixed. For Ramadan fasts, Zakat (alms), Hajj etc, we have a certain routine and fixed timings. If the poor ‘Imam’ is late in leading the prayers even by a minute, it becomes intolerable for us. Inspite of all this emphasis on punctuality of time, why are we extremely careless about punctuality of time in all other fields of life? No meetings organized by us start in time and no function takes place as is scheduled. We do not consider it necessary even to fulfill our promises in time. If we are a teacher, we will not reach our classes on time, if we work in an office we do not care about punctuality of time. We do offer prayers but we will not do so on time as enjoined but reward for which we expect as our right. It is a pity that we do not even realize these thefts of time and dishonesty. It is even a greater pity that the condition or routine of the elite or our leaders is no better than that of ordinary folks. And everyone is same in this respect no matter a religious personality or a lay man. What are the reasons for this state of affairs and how can these be corrected? It is surprising that this evil is non-existent in Western society. We have adopted or copied dozens of practices of the Britons during the hundred odd years of their rule but completely ignored their sense of punctuality of time which is, indeed, a great quality.

4. We are strong believers in the unity of God. We claim obedience to one God one Prophet one Book and one Shari'at or Divine Law. But in spite of this, unity is lacking amongst us. We are fond of sectarian differences. We appear to be busy in the process of division and further sub-division like amoeba. Humility and broad-mindedness, which has been taught to us, appear to be alien to our habits. Self-adulation and boasting, intolerance of differences of opinion even in minor matters, showing schismatic tendencies etc have become our national character. It is surprising that even the movements in the name of Islam or initiated for the welfare and improvement of the nation also become victims of the process of multiplication and further multiplication. Sacrifice of ego, or humility, for the sake of unity appears to be of least importance to us. We have almost forgotten mutual cooperation for any work. The attitude of even the standard bearers of our religion in this respect is no better than commoners. What is wrong with us that we have abandoned and forgotten the values of Islam and are treading some other path?

Dr. Nejatulla Siddiqi had only made a passing reference to the above questions. I have mentioned these in some details. To my mind, answers to these questions are no less important than many of the problems in which we have become entangled. In addition to the above questions, there can be some more questions of similar type. Contrary to our other compatriots and European people, why the existence of welfare institutions and the trend towards performance of welfare activities are missing in Islamic nations? 

Islam has made marriage easy and divorce difficult. Why have we reversed it? Marriageable boys and girls feel difficulty in getting spouses because we have changed the bases of selection.
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