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Muslim Intellectual Stagnation

                                                   By Hanif Lakadawala

In today's India lives the second largest Muslim community in the World. Having 150 million adherent of Islam in their midst, still Islam is perceived as an antiquated religion by the vast majority of non-Muslims. In spite of the slew of Islamic literature the misunderstanding regarding Islam in Ubiquitous.

The universal appeal of the Islam has been eclipsed by the clannish and pedantic approach of the Ulema. The learned Ulema's concentration on putative and a priority issues instead of confronting the problems arising due to the altered conditions of modern life, had made Islam less appealing to the non-Muslims of our country. Allama Iqbal has been quoted in S.A. Wahid's, Iqbal Islam as a moral and political ideal', on this state of affairs. Iqbal says, "The superb idealism of your faith, however, needs emancipation from the medieval fancies of theologians and legists. Spiritually we are living in a prison house of thoughts and emotions which, during the course of countries, we have woven round ourselves. And be it further said, to the shame of as men of older generation that we have failed to equip the younger generation for the economic, political and even religious crises that the present age is likely to bring. The whole community needs a complete overhauling of its present mentality in order that it may again become capable of feeling the urge of fresh desires and ideals".

Ensnared in a web of internal and external issues, the Muslim community had neglected their most fundamental duty of presenting the message of Islam to their fellow countrymen.

The position of Muslims in India is unique in the entire world. In no other country the 700 million non-Muslims lives in harmony with the 150 million Muslims. Fortunately Indian Muslims enjoy an enviable larger measure of freedom of _expression that their counterparts elsewhere, making them the most important exponents for propagating the message of Islam.

Ironically, the intellectual stagnation and blind imitation has led the entire community in a state of snafu. This intellectual statics had a series of domino effects. The Muslim society instead of becoming an ideal example before the non-Muslims, has became the subject of ridicule, suspicion and hatred. Islam has lost its universal appeal and Muslims became the soft target for communal forces.

Syed Abdul A'la Maududi, the great Islamic scholar has remarked on this fact. In his book, Huquq al Zawjan, he has commented, "Undoubtedly, Muslims in India are the owners of a superb law, written in the books of Islamic jurisprudence, which is in complete consonance with true Islamic teachings, culture and civilization. Unfortunately, however, such a law is not in practice and has been replaced with a different legal fabric which in most of its aspects is wholly Un-Islamic.... The loopholes of this distorted law have badly affected, the social life of Muslims and caused grave damage to the reputation of Muslims".

The fountain head of Islam, that is Qur'an, exist in its original form. But the tragedy is that, the Muslims of India have reduced it to just a totemic value. The need is to approach Qur'an with unbiased mind and delve in it for the solutions to our social and political problems.

Eminent Islamic scholar and Chairman Idara Dawatul Qur'an, Maulana Shams Peerzada had initiated the efforts in these directions. He has translated Qur'an with commentary, keeping in mind the needs of the Indian society, especially the doubts which exits in the mind of non-Muslims vis-a-vis Islam.

Many such efforts are required to cater to the needs of the Indian society. Fifty years after independence, confusion prevails amongst the Muslim, intelligentsia as well as the masses with respect to their relationship with non-Muslim brethren and their role in the State.

In the plural society like ours the Islamic message of peace and salvation in this world and hereafter has universal appeal and great scope to alleviate the suffering of the masses, who are exploited by pseudo religious organizations and self seeking politicians.

But the greatest hurdle in the acceptance of Islam is not non-Muslims but Muslim society itself. The internal hurdles are :

i) Closed door of Ijtehad

The closed door of Ijtehad has reduced the entire community in a state of languid and ensiled it from the national mainstream. Instead of leading from front the community is been forced to dragged along. Stagnation and blind imitation has even reduced Muslim intelligentsia and Islamic organizations in an ideological confusion. Fifty years after independence, the debate between Ikamat-e-deen, Dawat-e-deen and Islahe Masshira keep's on festering.

Ijtihad (interpretation) in its literal sense is making an effort and technically it is an effort to discover the law from it sources. It is just the opposite of taqlid or imitation.

Dr. Muhammad Muslehuddin explaining the meaning of Ijtihad in "Philosophy of Islamic law and the Orientalists," writes, "Legislation, in Islam, is not law making in the modern sense of the term, for law is already contained in the text (Qur'an and the Sunnah) and, as such, only to be enforced and extended by means of Ijtihad or interpretation of the text".

Sir Mohammad Iqbal writes in 'The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, that, "The closing of the door of Ijtihad is pure fiction suggested partly by the crystallization of legal thought in Islam, and partly by that intellectual laziness which, especially in the period of spiritual decay, turns great thinkers into idols. If some of the later doctors have upheld this fiction, modern Islam is not bound by this voluntary surrender of intellectual independence sarkashi writing in the tenth century of the Hijra observes; If the upholders of this fiction mean that the previous writers had more difficulties in their way, it is nonsense; for it does not require much understanding to see that Ijtihad for later doctors is easier than for the earlier doctors. Indeed the commentaries on the Qur'an and Sunnah have been compiled and multiplied to such an extent that the Mujtahid of to-day has more material for interpretation than he needs."

ii) Failure to project Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) as the benefactor of entire humanity

The Literature available in Indian language on the life of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has failed to project him as a messenger of Almighty and benefactor for entire humanity. The non-Muslims amongst us, believe that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is the Prophet of Muslims only. The need is to clear this conception.

The efforts must be directed to convey the message to non-Muslims that Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) is the last Prophet send by the Almighty to guide the entire humanity. Moreover the notion that Qur'an is for Muslims only has to be cleared. The Qur'an has not come with any new religion, but that it has come with the same teachings which were existing and had come with the revealed books which later got distorted.

iii) Muslims as the worst followers of Islam

George B. Shaw had once remarked, "Islam is the best religion but it followers are the worst." Instead of propagating Islam by its deeds and actions, Muslim society has become the stumbling block in the acceptance of Islam by others. Maulana Shams Pirzada commentary in Dawatul Qur'an volume 2 writes, "In modern times the condition of Muslims is amazing. An amazingly large number of Muslims are interested in seeing cricket matches instead of establishing Salat.. They spend whole night in seeing useless films so much so that the time of Tahajjud prayers.. they waste in watching obscene films on video. Their hearts are attracted towards dargah (mausoleums) while as Muslims, their hearts should be attracted towards Masjid. They will make arrangements on a grand scale for innovative (bidat) rites, like Sherbet during Moharrum, Khichda, Niaz, Giarwheen, Maulood, Miladunnabi procession etc, but they will remain miles away from the sunnah of the Prophet (Pbuh). They indulged in wasteful spending and will fritter away their wealth in exhibitionist acts, but they avoid paying dues to the deserving and spending in the path of Allah. They will read umpteen books on worldly matters, but they will find no time to read the Book of Allah".

iv) Vast Majority of Muslims consider's Fiqh as Deen

Due to this misconception the issues of women right, economics, triple talaq, polygamy etc are festering and have become a source of repelling non-Muslims from the message of Islam. The fresh interpretation of Qur'an and Sunnah in the light of altered conditions of post modern times is needed to find clues to these problems.

v) Outdated System of Islamic Education

The syllabus and Methodology adopted in Madrasa's and Darul Ulooms are antiquated and out of tune with the society needs and reality. The talent attracted is mediocre. The emphasis given in these schools is Fiqh. The modern science, technical education and entrepreneur skills are neglected. Even the cognitive skills, academic and research work is not encouraged. The final products of these schools are fit only to become Imam of the Mosque or teacher in Madrasas hence it is no wonder that academic and research work in various fields in Islamic literature is in a stage of stagnation since last century.

vi) Islamic Organisation Concentration on Muslim Society only

Numerous Islamic Organisations are merely concentrating their human resources and budget to tackle or alleviate the problems faced by the Muslim society. The Dawah work amongst non-Muslims is in the state of Limbo with no major efforts.

vii) Insignificant contribution of Muslims in various N.G.O's and welfare projects ; In India there are about two lakh registered organisations working in sectors ranging from pubic health, education, human rights to women rights etc. In the present political set up voluntary agencies seem the best for the people for the solution of all their problem and their basic day to day necessities.

In future N.G.O's would become a potent power centre guiding the destiny of the nation. N.G.O's can become a platform for the masses to see the Muslims in action and get attract towards the Islam.

The crucial dilemma in terms of the world revolution of modernity that confronts the Indian Muslims today is whether they will adopt themselves to the changing values of the times, of their own volition or whether they will do so after suffering the pressure of ground realities.

The Indian Ulema has a onerous task. They have to rescue these issues from the overlay of otiose debate, on the one hand, and feeble apologetic, on the other. The intellectual inertia can only be overcome by increasing the momentum of the debate on such issues between the Ulema scholars from the various fields and Islamic organizations. Instead of having an ostrich approach the Muslim community must come face to face with changed ground realities.


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