Thursday, 5 May 2016

Diagnosing Viruses of Sectarianism

 He misreads history, religions, philosophies, cultures and almost everything current.
Often we get an impression that God is like a constituency seat for which different sects keep fighting through all democratic and non-democratic means. It needs numbers and therefore aggressive campaigns to harness the support of voters (potential converts). Pulpit is used as space for election campaign. And unfortunately there are no last dates when campaign ends. The questions that are forced on us through ceaseless campaigns:  To which sect do we offer our vote? And whether NOTA might be  a better choice for one who is really in search of God? Aren’t the masses generally used or betrayed and thus their welfare become a casualty in any election campaign in this part of the world? Isn’t it the case the soul’s welfare or God is casualty in this campaign for God? Before we argue how pervasive is the AIDS of sectarianism that is destroying the immune system of Muslim community and why choose NOTA against sectarian people in future columns, we need to understand clearly who is a sectarian, in the sense that he doesn’t merely have genuine or expected ikhtilaf (divergence) on certain issues but is involved in active intolerant firqa bandi (sectarianism).

Who is a Sectarian?
In the light of God/Truth/Deen centred Tradition a sectarian is one who  subscribes to anyone of the following points:

  • His/her theologico-legal/ideological school/interpretation of Islam is the standard one and the rest are more or less deviations that are disastrous here and hereafter. 
  • Religion is an ideology. 
  • Religion is something given  and not discovered as a process and one has only to take it or implement it disregarding the facts that  contested views of history, selective interpretations or readings of sources and somewhat ad hoc construction of detail or even some principles of canon besides power games all mediate its reception.
  • Islam has been best interpreted by certain community in a unanimous manner in all its important detail and once for all sealing off this interpretative endeavour and leaving the only option for later generations to mechanically copy it. This interpretation is, in practice,  monolithic and involves no plurality of understandings  and can become hegemonic or used to exclude or suppress  alternative views on many significant points from the earliest times. He fights for certain interpretation of Islam rather than Islam and is anxious to add something more to Hazrat Salman Farsi’s statement that he is Salman ibn Islam. 
  • One can preach truth of his ideology or sect or interpretation forgetting that truth as an object of sale or fighting or point scoring isn’t a target as God isn’t a problem but a mystery and belief/faith not a propositional statement but an attitude.  
  • One can disregard the only basis of universality of religion – its metaphysical/esotericist exegesis. One can absolutize certain view of history and push for rigid canonization of certain sources. 
  • Salvation can be, in absolute terms, linked to anything less universal than God/Truth accessed through use of intelligence – aqli saleem – and this may include such things as cultivation of certain ecstatic or ideological states, exclusively literalist reading of scripture, finality of historical theological or legal schools and thus certain standard creedal and legalistic formulations, certain contested  appropriation or  reading of historical personalities etc.
Tests for Diagnosing Sectarian Virus
There are tests for diagnosing the virus of sectarianism which include, among others:
  • He has, generally speaking, little mastery of classics of Islamic tradition. He might know Aqeedah Tahawiyyah or Wastiyyah or medieval fiqh texts but is little informed about a host of sciences that were once part of/or closely linked with Madarassh curriculum. 
  • Even if he knows about his tradition, he knows little about the Tradition that grounds all religious traditions because he employs theological-legalistic lenses and the sky of Truth has to be known through metaphysics.
  • He misreads history, religions, philosophies, cultures and almost everything current or modern because he doesn’t know his times – whose soul is expressed in great literary, artistic and philosophical works – and this disqualifies him from being a dayie who can deliver Friday sermons  free from sectarianism. 
  • He knows no classical language with all the richness of its literary heritage. He has often great difficulties with the language that majority of mankind or international community understands today – English. 
  • He doesn’t argue his case in cool soft voice (“with wisdom and beautiful preaching”) but issues fatwas and might silence you with every means he can command.
  • “His heaven is of a size of a small room in which only a few persons of his liking  can be accommodated” as Dr G. Q . Lone once remarked.
  • He has little sense of humour, hardly any taste for literature.
  • He asserts his religion is the best rather than the religion of submission to Supraformal Truth that is not his but Heaven’s. The implied test of being the best in personal ethic the Prophet (SAW) promulgated he ignores.
  • He despises symbolism and is suspicious of philosophy that alone makes intelligible the claims of religion. He privileges belief over faith. He doesn’t tolerate free inquiry or dialogue with other schools on equal terms. He is, virtually, sure about his place in heaven and other’s place in hell. He is neither informed about histories nor cultures in all their bewildering diversity. (Ask him if he has read any multivolume encyclopaedic histories of the world and how much he knows about Durants, Toynbees and Hobsbawms, not to speak of philosophers of history from Ibn Khaldoon to Vico to Spengler  or literary giants who appropriated philosophy of history such as Joyce.) He has, generally speaking, not cared to read other schools or scriptures in an academic manner (he can’t even name many key books that have the authority of the scripture we find in Sacred Books of the East series) and then arrived at his present dogmatism. He is neither aware of science of interpretation (especially its recent developments in the West) nor enormous cultural richness of  his tradition and is committed to what is called legal supremacist view that writes off poetic, philosophical, mystical or other modes of folk or mythic  narratives that have been central to people across cultures in Islamic lands.
Ask any sectarian preacher or ideologue who thinks he has Truth, the whole truth (that can dissolve all inquiries) on his side any of the following questions and you will come to know how much he knows or cares about the Truth/God he sells by opening special dealership of Paradise Pvt:Ltd:

  • How many religions are in the world and could you please state basic foundation or kalimah of them? 
  • Why so much anxiety about minute details about God’s law (and sectarian clashes on them) if it is God’s grace(fazl) that is required to save us? 
  • Could you state how your school’s metaphysics and epistemology diverges from rivals sects and how do you respond to dozens of critiques of theological narratives underlying divergent sects and religions in modern times? 
  • What is meant by two paradises(jannatan) in the Quran?
  •  If sins punish us and sawabs lead to heaven, what is God doing or how he becomes relevant in final dispensation? 
  • Name any one work that God does without mediate causes and what do you mean by saying God does all things?
  •  Is God arbitrarily choosing to accept certain prayers or it needs goodness in the servant? If later is the case what is the role of God? 
  • What good deeds he had done that he was born a Muslim and his path to paradise became easier for him and what sins another person born of non-Muslim parents? 
  • How come traditional Islamic theology calls God the one who leads astray (Al-Muzill) and who inflicts loss – though both these roles are usually reserved for Satan? 
      Let us see if it is to a Mulla or an exoteric authority to whom one turns regarding the weightiest matter (religion/God) or to a saint/sage who doesn’t preach by words but by presence and wins our hearts, minds and souls and leaves no inquiries on moral, intellectual and spiritual planes unaddressed.

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