Here is a series of blogs exploring what it means to be a modern Pakistani Muslim.
The literary meaning of modern is “Relating to the present or recent times as opposed to the remote past”. By looking at the definition we can easily conclude that modern means adopting all new and trendy things moving in the society. This conclusion however is superficial and wrong.The true meaning of modern may not match this hasty and sup racial conclusion as its meaning varies from person to person and in various different contexts.
Modernity as a phenomenon is defines and referred to as a period marked by a questioning or rejection of tradition; the polarisation of individualism, freedom and formal equality; faith in social, scientific and technological progress and human perfectibility. Notice the disruptive element in all various factors noted in this definition.
We are from a developing country, where being modern has come to means to adopt the western culture in food, clothing and lifestyle. This is again shallow and superficial. There is nothing bad in adopting these things per se, only if we take these within the parameters of our own society and values.
However there is an even more acute point here. The fundamental strength of western culture based on modernity is education, freedom of thought, respect of human beings, rule of law and open mindedness toward new things. The only way to follow this path is to eliminate the fear that what other people may think about us. But let me ask another question. Is this something completely new in Human history. Are we ourselves not aware of something akin to disruption caused by new ideas
If we look at the history, 1400 years back when Islam began its humble origins. The main focus was to bring modernization in the society in terms; to open up the minds of people and make them able to see things from different perspective. It was to disrupt the old ideas Islam promoted human dignity, equality and rule of law. The concept of Touheed, of one God in front of who all are equal and answerable rejected the tradition in Meccan and Arab society. Quran placed the faith in individual human beings and invited them to become part of the community that shall take the middle path and eschew the extremes.
The point I am trying to make is that Modernity and modernisation are in our genes as Muslims. Since the time of Prophet (P.B.U.H) we were given the concept to broaden our horizon of thinking and look out for new things and going into depth of the creation of Allah Almighty. Quran exhorts again and again for Humans to think, reflect and acquire the knowledge to conquer the Universe.
In true sense being Modern is not only about wearing up-to-date accessories, having free licentious environment and partying all night, it is something much more than that. If we only follow this in terms of being modern then we are going to face some severe after affects. These effects may include loss of values and true essence of morality. Not only this, such modernity can cause the disruption of personal identity which often results in lack of self-confidence.
Personally I believe that being truly modern means to be open minded, to question tradition to improve it, having the ability to adopt innovations rather sitting at the back seat and being stuck with the old thinking. This means adopting new ideas within our own existing value system in a more meaningful way than the superficial and shall meaning we tend to give to “being modern”.