Archive for June 9th, 2010

Islam in the Indian Subcontinent and the Rise of Sects

By Nagwa Malik 

Islam, a religion described by many as a religion of peace, and by many again a religion of terrorism. Why this huge controversy? Simple. Islam is a religion of peace and fortunately or unfortunately it goes past creed, race, cast, color or country, through all the continents and like the Chinese whisper, the meaning gets scrambled along the way.

But if we examine Islam in the Indian subcontinent alone we find various colors within this one religion. In fact I am amazed to see that the amount of misinformation, lack of information and incomplete knowledge is so high in this area of the world that most of the sects are generated from within this boundary alone. Islam is one, it is a sign of unity, so the thought of any sect violates the essence of the religion. The Quran itself states that creating sects in Islam is Haram (forbidden).

This is one fact that we  as Muslims do not seem to realize. Why are these sects formed and continue to grow? Because every individual interprets the traditions of the Prophet (pbuh) and even the Quran in a different light and in doing so everyone seems to think they have hit upon something new and that something new has to be the real truth. They go around preaching in their excitement of having learnt what they think is unknown to anyone else, and thus a sect is formed. Did you know that there are more sects within the Islamic religion in this part of the world than the rest of the world put together?

I am very sad to point out that where every scholar from every part of the world will agree upon certain basics of Islam, these very basics will be found challenged and put through controversy by only writers of the subcontinent.  Similarly this question about challenging hadith or the concept of it has been only and only from this part of the world in the same way does the production of hadiths that do not exist in the first place at all. These two extremes are born from within our very country, and nowhere else in the world.

People realise their lack of knowledge at a rather later stage in life usually 40 above and decide to conduct a research. This usually comes out rather worse for the rest of the human race, for they do not do a complete research, but pick on that one single idea that has clicked and instead of trying to find out the truth, only start justifying their idea as the truth. This leads to rather disastrous results which is why Islam practised in the subcontinent is not the fundamental basics of Islam. You know the saying: a half truth is worse than a lie. A very small example of this is the recent wave of ideology that whatever is in the Quran is Islam, and there is no other source. That the Quran is complete and nothing is left unexplained. The idea continues with the denouncement of Hadith or the Prophet’s tradition. How bizarre can one get in trying to understand religion, only to denounce that very fundament of religion? It is true that Quran touches on every subject and completely defines the Muslim code of life, but not everything is put to print. Some things have been left to the Prophet (pbuh) to practise and to explain.

There are four basics of Islam which are not to be tampered with when conducting any research, and these four are undisputed by every scholar in the world except again the few in the subcontinent who think they have hit the jack pot…rather the opposite if you ask me; these four are Quran, Hadith, Ijma and Qiyas. These basics form the Shariah. The present legal system followed by the west and rather poorly by the subcontinent is actually based on this very foundation of Islam and Islamic legal system. The tradition of cross referencing a case, reading from the statute, citing previous cases all stem from the four basic references of Islam. To denounce anyone is to denounce the religion itself. So one has to be very careful before one forms rather ingenious theories about understanding Islam.

A tip for all new researchers: try to avoid reading books written by local writers first, or try to avoid reading them at all, for they base their books on controversies. Instead pick up authentic writers accepted all over the world for their deep and accurate research work. Try reading old writers who have been authenticated by the Islamic panel internationally. It should be noticed that people in Pakistan and India are less informed about their religion than other Muslim countries, and those who have had a basic education of Islam abroad hold a more solid and clear view of Islam whereas unfortunately in the subcontinent this is not so. Abroad there is only one book, one rule, one religion, whereas in the subcontinent there are many books, many rules and many sects. We need to eradicate this flaw within our system.  When we go for the pilgrimage we find that the pilgrims from around the world are mostly young but only pilgrims from the subcontinent are old. That explains a lot doesn’t it? For a country called the Islamic Republic of Pakistan we are curiously very unfamiliar with Islam and its basic teachings.

Before we go about getting excited over our incomplete research works and start preaching them, please do understand a rule of Islam which says misinformation is a sin.  It is suggested, then, that once it is sure that a thorough research is conducted in the right way, and the three stages of basic research have been passed through, then and only then should one allow oneself to preach. Also, one must try practising it first. Too often people who claim to be righteous Muslims  are ones who inevitably do not fully practice what they preach. We must remember the saying: neem hakeem khatara-e-jaan, neem mullah khatara-e-imaan. (A half baked physician is a danger to your life and a half baked mullah is a danger to your faith).

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