The Dilemma Which Isn’t Really A Dilemma
It was deeply shocking when I realized that even though I was taught that Islam is a complete code of life, I was not expected to take this as literally true. To this day, I cannot help but get surprised anew when someone points out to me that absolutist ethics and morality are too unworldly for this world. The difference is that now I do not get surprised at the person’s hypocrisy, but at their smug assumption that I may not have been aware of this notion before they enlightened me — that is to say, tried to “put some sense into me”.
From where I belong and the time at which I am tied to this belonging, children are raised with a rather interesting sense of being. We are the Islamic Republic of Pakistan — “the fort of Islam”, “the hope of the Muslim Ummah”, “the country endowed with countless blessings by the Almighty Himself”, “strategically placed by the Divine with the potential to conquer the world if we want”, et cetra. You cannot help but get some kind of Bani Israeli attitude about being the chosen people. If you think that tribalism or, its more advanced form, nationalism is the worst thing ever, I present you nationalism dressed in religious clothing. And when the religion is none other than Islam, you have to stop and think to yourself, “Are we sure about this?”
On one hand we have a philosophy as unnecessarily divisive as nationalism and on the other we have Islam, a religion so dedicated to Divine Unity (Tawheed) in its essence that a reflecting believer would actually feel ashamed at the idea of pulling people apart and then distracting them from God over the most trivial of matters (in the grand scheme of things).
At this point, I welcome you to my life. Here I am, trying to grasp the idea of Islam being the most perfect religion and the means to live one’s life, and so far, everyone is with me: the education system, my social circles, my family, and so on. Long story short, I do some readings, look up stuff on the internet, take some classes to go deeper, think about it all and then arrive at the conclusion that the lesson was true. The next step is supposed to be the application of the knowledge to literally every aspect of my life as the saying “Islam is the complete code of life” implies. You would think that now “everyone” must be happy with me. But you are missing something O Naive Young Soul! And that is, being realistic.
I will not even elaborate on how angry this idea makes me. I am talking about the idea that putting Islamic morals and ethics before your own interests will somehow hinder you from “progressing” in “this world that we live in” and therefore, they should either be toned down or kept aside for a use at an appropriate time (whatever that means). Unfortunately, I have not heard such statements from non-practicing or irreligious people (coming from them, such statements would be meaningless anyway) but from regular, common Muslims that count religion as a significant part of their lives. And this is why it hurts especially.
Many a times I have had to choose between what is right and what is profitable and many a times I have fell for the latter. As I forgive myself, I extend the graciousness to other people too, “Well, may be people are good essentially and they only fall occasionally like I do when the temptation gets too great!” But my point is that there is no culture of apology or shame about the bad deeds. We just do them and even though we may personally repent, the pitfall remains sacredly untouched. Imagine a world where opportunistic lying would be looked down upon.
And what am I talking about anyways? Not the five pillars or the Four Mazahib, but those moral qualities each of which had a separate chapter dedicated to it in our Islamiat books. I am talking about honesty, excellence, personal integrity, giving people their due rights even if you hate them from the core of your being, generosity, patience, good will, testifying against injustice even if it means testifying against yourself or your family, and the list goes on. In social gatherings, discussions about these aspects of being a Muslim are rare to the point of being nonexistent. The heartbreaking thing is that a child is repeatedly taught all these moral lessons but an adult is repeatedly taught (either implicitly or explicitly) to forget them.
In our Muslim heads, when we break a signal, or cheat someone, or lie for our benefit, or look the other way when it is unsuitable for us to report an injustice, there is always a reason, and a 100% of all times, it is a worldly reason used to mask our weakness at that moment. Then we call it being practical.
“Why does this golden principle of practicality entails a compromise on our moral principles 100% of the time?” is my question.
It is as if the day-to-day life does not count in building our character and virtues, and that we must save all of our noble “Muslim character” for some great war between Haqq and Baatil (like Ghazwa-e-Hind may be).
“For what time are we saving our ethics and morals?” is my confusion.
And this brings me to the topic which motivated me to write this tirade in the first place.
Pakistan is going to conduct General Elections 2018 on 25th July and everybody is losing their minds over it (Did I just write a Buzzfeed title?). But my Special Attention Award goes to the people who support a man named Nawaz Sharif who is a convicted criminal. Now as stereotyping is a cardinal sin in 2018, let me be clear that I am concerned about a particular faction of his “supporters”. This group of people “argue” that although Nawaz Sharif is no angel, and he has certainly some misdeeds in his record, he is the most “mature” and “experienced” politician around for handling national and international affairs. And then they mumble something about CPEC, economic stability, diplomacy, and how Pakistan is facing an impending doom if Sharif’s masterful hands do not get to the reign of government. To this, the appropriate response I think is, “Do you believe in Allah?”
Because all of it is understandable if you are a non-Muslim, but spewing this drivel when you claim to believe in a deity in Whose control is the dominion of All Things? How can you fear that some XYZ invisible hands are going to destroy your country so you will put a criminal up to the task of being your messiah. If God wishes this country to be saved, rest assured that it will be saved, either through people with criminal records or through angels descending from Heaven (never mind the fact that we will be held accountable for our immoral support in the first case). On the other hand, if He wishes it to be destroyed, it will be destroyed, by means which are equally in the hands of us earthlings. We are not that responsible for the end, but we are responsible for the means through which the end is attained. That is partly the point of our worldly abode, not succumbing to our moral weaknesses all the time and calling it social skills, pragmatism, or whatever.
And I ask again, “For what time are we saving our ethics and morals?”
There is a time to be pragmatic and a time to be principled. If this life is all that matters to you, then pragmatism is the only principle — Daniel Haqiqatjou
Note: I had some very interesting anecdotes about this topic but I have already made this too long so I am going to save it for another time. Also I will probably delete this later because it seems kind of all over the place; I could actually write a separate story on almost every paragraph. But it will do for now, I think.