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BLOG 6: MODERNITY


In the previous blogs we have discussed what does it mean to be modern? How having a flexible mind help you accept other cultures and new ideas. We have noted that many Pakistanis see superficial imitation of western culture as modernity rather than adopting the true inner meaning of modernity which means open, flexible and forward-looking attitudes and outlook. New yard sticks created for the society are themselves superficial and have flimsy foundation.

As a Muslim we should understand the concept of modernity better than most.  Fourteen hundred years ago Islam taught to see things from different perspective for the sake of peace and prosperity. The conquering Muslims freely explored and adopted the new ideas and absorbed various cultures within a greater Muslim civilisation that rose above all regional cultures on the basis of equality of all human beings.

Similarly now for us modernity should be all about constantly evaluating new ideas and imbibing new knowledge, and integrating it in our lives within the fundamental Muslim Islamic principles of Tauheed, accountability and staying on the middle path of life.

We created Pakistan with the motive that Muslims require a separate homeland where they can develop principles for a modern Muslim Life, according to their religion, values, custom, within the modern context of modern nation state.  In order to achieve these goals there is a need to reconstruct religious thoughts that can provide foundation for adoption of modern ideas and a seamless blend of and continuity between modern and traditional values.

The solution to all these problems is new intellectual activity which can only come with education. Only awareness and real knowledge of things can help us sort out the problems and issues that we are facing in 21st century.

But before we even attempt that we have to identify what Islamic identity actually is? The identity for which we keep on raising slogans and protest what exactly does it mean?

Some people think that Identity of Muslims is being dissolved in the melting pot of this modern world. Our identity is under threat as we can clearly see that our customs, values and traditions are giving way to dominating western values. However adopting the positive elements of these values is positively beneficial. However this process must not involve ditching our roots for roots and heritage provides human beings with a true sense of belonging and identity.

In simple words Islamic identity means the way of life of the Muslims in an all-encompassing set of practices, beliefs and ideologies as derived from Quran and the example ( Sunnah ) of Muhammad (PBUH). What we individual Muslims need to do is that instead of believing or blindly following someone else’s interpretation we should study our Deen ourselves.

Quaid-e-Azam dreamed of a state where Muslims and Non-Muslims are free to practice their religion, customs and duties. He never thought of Pakistan turning into a theocratic state. He dreamed of a politically liberal society which will flourish as a modern nation. And he believed this would be achieved within Islamic framework. Numerous of his speeches testify to this.

Quaid-e-Azam’s letter to Mahatama M.K. Gandhi dated September 17, 1944, articulated the notion of Muslim nationhood in these words:

“We maintain and hold that Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation. We are a nation of a hundred million, and what is more, we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilization, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions-in short we have our own distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all cannons of international law we are a nation.”

Quaid-e-Azam was inspired by Islam as a source of guidance and inspiration for the basic ethics.

Our nation has faced many conflicts, victories, miseries and many political dilemmas yet we are way too far from achieving the paradise that Jinnah and his fellow leaders dreamed of. Our future happiness and prosperity depends on  a revived and future looking Islam that is all inclusive. New modern democratic values are compatible with Islam but we don’t need to look to western ideas and systems but rather we have to develop our own indigenous models.

We can’t deny the importance of education, this is very important for the upgrading oneself economically as well as the standard of living. But we can’t ignore the fact that knowledge and education required to instil moral and ethical values as well.  Today our focus is more toward turning into doctor, engineer or some entrepreneur instead of being a good human first. As a result most of us are moving toward better economic condition but the question rises, are we really happy with the communities and societies we are living in??

Same is the case of Islamic education; Muslims upbringing may solely focus on ritual and spiritual aspects ignoring the morals and values that these rituals are meant to instil in an individual. It often happens that you come across a person who offers five times a day and fast yet he fails to be a good example of Islamic morals and etiquettes. We may read Quran but our character is not like the teaching of Quran. We practice patience in refraining from eating and drinking during Ramazan yet fail to show patience when it comes to worldly matters. The root cause of all these problems is wrong reading and misinterpretation of Quran.

The current situation is quite disturbing. On one side the youth get to see many new ideas, latest discoveries and modern techniques and on the other side we get to see the things presented in the light of Quran by traditional scholars, these interpretation being in conflict with modern ideas and science. This whole situation is creating a conflict and resulting in an identity crisis.  We lack knowledge and don’t bother to read classical scholars ourselves. We keep on believing about Islam what is being presented to us without even thinking about it. This inner conflict, coupled with difficult socio- economic conditions has resulted in people adopting extreme attitude of either becoming totally fundamentalist or anti- Islam.

Muslims have been on the edge of physical, intellectual and cultural extinction only because they have allowed conservative and petty thoughts to rule their mind. We should get rid of such mentality. Whatever the reason may be for the present state of Muslims, the world demands a new kind of thinkers.

Intellectuals are important because they can give the solutions and analysis of various situations which others cannot. Muslims revival can only be possible in the presence of diverse, imaginative and bold thinkers in the society.  The importance of intellectuals in Muslims society is even more considering that the words read, ponder and reflect are some of the most often repeated exhortations of the Quran.

The real world leaves us no choice but to start working on making fertile the  barren lands of Muslims Intellect.

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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