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Published in the 1-15 May 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVES

Dire need of reform in Muslim society 

By Maulana Asrarul Haque Qasmi

The Milli Gazette Online

No one can deny the fact that today many reforms are needed in Muslim society in India. It has become an important need of the time to remove the evils and weaknesses that have crept in our customs and traditions, mutual relationships, culture and lifestyle, marriages, family life values. There is a need of concerted effort to reform the society.

Preaching and reformatory activities are religious and milli duties of Muslims. It has been clearly stated in the Qur’an that you (Muslims) are the greatest and the noblest creature who have been sent to the people so that you ask them to do good deeds and prevent them from evil. It implies that two types of work have been made obligatory for Muslims vis-a-vis society and whatever is considered an obligation or duty also becomes a right. It means that Muslims have two obligations towards society and if they don’t do that there is stiff punishment by God because this guilt is unpardonable.

Muslims should introspect themselves in the light of above Qur’anic commands and Hadiths and assess as to what extent they are fulfilling their duties. Today schools and madrasas are abounding everywhere and these days there are no difficulties of transport and communication for going from one place to another but even then the attitude of majority of Muslims is that if they send their children to madrasas, they are deprived of school or modern education and if they are sent to schools for modern education they remain ignorant of madrasa or religious education. This age is not like earlier age. Today well planned and organised attacks are being made against Islam and these must be countered in equally strong and organised manner. It is the duty of every Muslim to first himself acquire religious education and knowledge and then teach other Muslims also about religion and religious duties and practices. 

Muslims may very well shirk these duties and responsibilities but on the Day of Judgement they will certainly be asked as to why they did not fulfill this duty which was made obligatory for them. The pity is that today ignorance is widespread in Muslim localities and Muslim youths, women, children and old persons themselves are roaming aimlessly or gossiping in groups and wasting their time. They are neither concerned with acquisition of religious knowledge nor modern education and sciences. When they are themselves so careless and easy-going how can they reform others and preach religion to them. Not only this, people and groups who are devoting themselves to such noble duties are made fun of and ridiculed. Muslims should seriously keep the fact in mind that today Islam is being judged by their activities and way of life. 

Human society by its very nature adopts new ideas and manners from its surroundings. Muslim society in India also consciously or unconsciously has learnt and adopted a lot from its surroundings and prevailing circumstances. India is a peculiar type of land. In the words of Hali, India is a graveyard of civilisations. Any civilisation which came here got amalgamated with local civilisation. Whereas Indian society which was an amalgam of different races, cultures, languages, castes, customs, traditions learnt and adopted many things and attributes from Muslim society. Unfortunately, Muslim society also learnt many negative aspects of the Indian society as depriving women of their rights, harassing and perpetrating cruelties and indignities on them, not imparting education to girls, depriving them of patrimony, not giving them dower, appropriation of girls and women’s dowry and their other goods by men such as houses, landed properties, divorcing them on minor grounds and sending them to their parents house, beating and ill-treatment, not allowing remarriage of divorcees and widows, demanding dowry on occasions of engagements and marriages. These evils had such a devastating effect that it became difficult for people to marry their daughters. Girls became overage, middle aged and even old as parents could not get a match because of demands of dowry. All this happened because Muslim society deviated from its principles and Islamic teachings. Instead of following the teachings of Qur’an and Prophet (SAW), they followed their own worldly desires and the principles based on selfishness and acquisition of money and wealth became their aim of life.

Some people say that times have changed and that now money is everything and therefore people have to live and die for money only. For acquisition of money, people demand dowry and cash on the occasion of their marriage and the items of the dowry may include, car for the bridgegroom. The parents of the girls have to take loans on high rate of interest to meet the demands of bridgegroom and to maintain their status in the society.

Ulama and social reformers are tired of calling upon the people to observe marriages in a simple and austere way; our tongues and pens have become slow, thinking that these things are not easy to control. Social evils have probably become deadlier than even AIDS and cancer. These trends are unfortunate and destructive. 
It is our social, religious and moral duty to root out the evils that have crept in Muslim society. Now in Muslim society daughters-in-law are being poisoned or burnt alive. Muslims do not feel any hesitation in divorcing their first wife for the second wife and the second wife for the third one. Now dower is settled at minimum amount so that there may be no difficulty in paying it (if a divorce is pronounced). From day one, the intention is not to pay the dower. In Muslim society also all the dowry of the daughter-in-law, her ornaments are now being considered as the property of the son. It has now become quite common among Muslims not to give the daughter any share in parental property.
In view of all these things, reforms in Muslim society will have to be brought about in a different manner and for this purpose Muslims will have to act in a mature way and with a sense of farsightedness. Youths in every locality and mohalla will have to come forward and make sacrifices. They need to be encouraged to give up outmoded customs and traditions and do away with evil practices. If they move forward with determination and sincerity, reforms can be brought about sooner than expected. They will have to promise and pledge in madrasas, schools and colleges to have their marriages solemnised in a simple way without making any demand for dowry. Religious leaders and Imams will have to criticise and condemn social evils more vigorously. They need to come forward with new resolve and determination.

Just as a sick man needs medicines, injections and preventive measures for treatment, in the same way a society needs in addition to advices, persuasions and exhortations, high power medicines for the recovery of its health. This challenge should be accepted by the youth brigade. They have to sacrifice desires for adopting and popularising Islamic teachings and principles. They will have to carry on their mission with patience and determination and faith in God because it is He who gives success and makes the task easy. The situation has taken such a ugly turn that in metros and cosmopolitan cities educated Muslim girls who move in high societies now openly enter into marital relationships with non-Muslim boys. All the characteristics and qualities of Islam have disappeared in this highly educated and liberal minded class of Muslims. And this is the root cause of degradation of Muslim society. It must be remembered that under certain unavoidable circumstances marriage with ‘People of the Book’ is permissible but it is also essential to recite Kalma and claim to have faith in Islam religion otherwise marriage will be null and void. 

Among the important points of social reform are solemnisation of marriage in a simple way, identification of respective rights of husband and wife, share of girls in parental property, making the process of marriage easy. The process of repeated reminder is very important in matters of social reform. That is why presentation of the commands and messages of God and Prophet in a simple and polite manner and repeatedly reminding people is important duty of all of us. If such messages are propagated in polite manner again and again it will have salutary effect and people will more amenable to accept them. 

Today, marrying poor or orphan girls is considered a matter of indignity and lowly affair. Similarly, marrying a divorced woman or a widow is also considered a matter of insult. Unemployed youngmen in our society who go out from one place to another in search of jobs, poor students who try for scholarships to continue their education, those who are in need of capital to start their own modest business or industry, all such persons need our help and cooperation. The reformation of society covers the entire aspect of our life including the things mentioned above as education, health, economic and financial condition, improvement of moral standards and values and creating religious sense 

It is a matter of great satisfaction that Muslim youths are taking interest in religion and religious affairs. I remember that about half a century go only old people could be seen in mosques and the number of those who came to mosques for namaz was very small. But today by the grace of God the young men have far exceeded the old people coming for namaz in the mosques which is a very encouraging sign. We hope that Muslim youth will follow this trend more and more in order to improve their material as well as spiritual life and also to create awareness among their friends and neighbours about Islamic way of life so that evils that have crept in our society could be removed.
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