Islamic Perspectives

What about a world without Islam - ii

Though Persia had a rich civilization before Islam but once Islam entered Persia it enriched every walk of Persian life. It produced a syncretic culture much richer than it had before. It produced Hafiz and Sa’di both from Shiraz. The ghazals (love poetry) of both these poets have survived for centuries and would continue to delight humanity for centuries to come. The ghazal poetry of Persia in post-Islamic era is without parallel in the world. These are just two names among hundreds who made great names for themselves.

Also, the world would have been much poorer but for the grandeur of Islamic architecture like Asfahan. It is rightly said that Asfahan nisf jehan i.e. Asfahan is like half the world in grandeur. It’s architecture is indeed without parallel. Who can ever forget the glory of Taj Mahal. Lovers of the whole world desire to at least, once come and see this jewel of architecture.

This is not all. There are many more architectural wonders around the Islamic world in Central Asia, especially Tashkent, Bukhara and several other places. Muslims also developed the art of calligraphy to perfection and hundreds of thousands of books written are a delight to readers’ eyes. Also, calligraphy became part of Islamic architecture and several buildings have Qur’anic verses inscribed from Qur’an on these buildings which are as beautiful as on paper.

It was Islam which even in medieval ages spread the light of knowledge. The Qur’an calls knowledge light and ignorance darkness. The Prophet (PBUH) said and this which is often quoted by Muslims is that a scholar’s ink is more sacred than a martyr’s blood. The myth of jihad is exposed by this saying of the Prophet. Jihad never means, as popularized by vested interests a fight with weapons but, as its root meaning suggests, to strive for spreading goodness sincerely. And for Sufis the greatest jihad (jihad-i-akbar) is control of ones base instincts, to suppress ones desires, greed, anger and personal ambitions

If these base sentiments are suppressed where is the need of fighting with sword? Why one fights with weapons? To realize personal ambitions and that is sin, not jihad. Jihad with weapons could be permitted at best for ones own defence as Qur’an strictly forbids Muslims from committing aggression as Allah does not love aggressors. If despite all this one commits aggression it cannot be the responsibility of Islam.

If a person distorts the meaning of jihad to realize his personal ambitions no fair-minded person will hold Islamic teachings responsible for that. If someone does, as western media and a section of politicians have been doing, it is not only utter ignorance but also because of their vested interests. A serious scholar would never buy such cheap propaganda. But unfortunately the lay readers and watchers of media do fall victim to it and develop strong prejudices against Islam and Muslims.

It is interesting to note here that western media changes its colour according to its interests. In the seventies of the last century when after war the between Egypt and Israel oil became a precious commodity and the West could not do without Arab oil, a month long Islamic festival was organized in London and Islam’s contribution to world civilization was projected in a very positive light and the media carried hundreds of articles praising Islam and its contribution.

However, when Israel emerged stronger than the Arab states which were subdued thanks to unconditional support of USA to Israel, the whole attitude of the US rulers changed and especially so after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they needed another powerful enemy and so they began to project Islam as an “evil force” as earlier communism was an “evil”. First they used Osama bin Laden to bring about the collapse of Soviet Union and then targeted Osama to portray Islam as an “evil”.

So it is all a function of one’s interest and not any conviction. Now that political conditions are changing fast in West Asia, one has to see how the media portrays Islam. Now it would be difficult for US rulers to get away with supporting a few despots in that region and will have to deal with common people’s representatives. Their unconditional support to Israel may also have to be reviewed.

Islam’s contribution to the world civilization is so great that only very petty minded people can reduce it to Osama’s misguided actions or it is only to serve ones powerful vested interests. No religion, let alone Islam, can be reduced to mere violence. Had it been so, how millions of people for centuries would follow it? Political ideologies based on violence may be followed in a period of crisis. The best examples are Nazism and Fascism. Such ideologies too are rejected during normal periods.

However, religion is based on spirituality and is meant for inner development. Its eternal basis can only be love and spiritual growth, not violence and destruction. State and violence could go together as state happens to be coercive agency of the ruling classes but religion and violence can never go together. Religion provides succour to discontented souls and helps people overcome their inner crisis. Its very basis is on faith in goodness and higher values and ultimate divine justice.

The ultimate aim of religion is to produce what Sufis refer to as Insan-i-Kamil i.e. perfect human being. Muhammad (PBUH) is considered as such a human being and hence he has been referred to as Rahmatun lil ‘Alamin i.e. Mercy for the worlds. It is mercy, compassion, not hatred which leads a person to perfection. The core values of Islam, like other religions, are truth, compassion, justice and wisdom which made it contribute so richly to world civilization. Violence has no place at all in this rich contribution.

Violence, hatred and destruction go together. Hitler and Mussolini are embodiments of these characteristics. No great religious personality is as universally respected as Muhammad and others can ever display such characteristics. Osama bin Laden has a destructive personality and all he could ask Muslims was to take revenge from western powers. Islam on the other hand, advises believers to stick to Truth and Patience with wisdom. Qur’an describes wisdom as khayran kathira i.e. goodness in abundance.

Can the two ever match? What politicians do, is always based on worldly interests and what prophets, saints and seers seek to achieve is human welfare and inner contentedness and this can be achieved only through sacrifice and giving to others, not by taking from others. A truly religious person is one who gives to others without any expectation and others are indebted to him not he to others.

Jihad can never be for revenge, that is for sure. Revenge is borne out of anger and anger and revenge both are mean and lowly sentiments. A perfect human being has no place for such lowly sentiments. Such a person is in full control of himself/herself. One who contributes to civilization is motivated only by higher values and creative instincts and Islam and Muslims have, as shown above, contributed so richly to world civilization. There is no doubt that the world without Islam would have been certainly a poorer place to live in.   Concluded