Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Society of Sects

Many well intentioned Muslims are put off from practising their deen, after observing the mentality and condition of practising Muslims around them.

Today, those people with true knowledge are very few and they are leaving us very fast. It is only natural that such people preach with a certain specific style, emphasizing aspects of their specialization. Their teachings are a product of their cumulative educational and practical experiences that they have acquired throughout their lifetimes. It is important to realize that their teachings represent only an aspect of the infinite Truth. They should not be taken as a touchstone of ultimate Truth -- a mistake often committed by their overzealous followers.

Just as going through a secular education system involves studying a diversity of subjects through different professors specialized in their specific sub-fields of knowledge, people should realize that seeking Islamic knowledge is a lifetime endeavor in which one learns different aspects of the religion from its specialists. One scholar might be among the best in one or two of a spectrum of Islamic subjects like Aquida, Arabic, Uloom ul Quran,Tafsir, Uloom ul Hadith, Fiqh, Usul ul Fiqh, Seerah, Tasawwuf, Comparative Religion, Escatology, etc. It is important for a true seeker to keep learning from different specialists and not to stop at one teacher.

Today this love of learning has been taken away from most of the Ummah and we are left with ignorant Muslim masses, who are incapable of or disinterested in continually improving their condition. Hence they resort to blindly following a particular preacher. They dress and behave exactly like their teacher, e.g.the followers of Zakir Naik wear a suit, tie and a white skull cap. They tend to listen to only his lectures and are willing to fight others who may not agree with their teacher's opinion on a subject which the ulema have agreed to have a difference of opinion. When you sit with them, there is tremendous pressure from them to conform. To many of them it does not matter if you are continuously learning. As long as you are conforming to external appearances it is good enough.

For many followers, learning comes to a screeching halt when their teacher passes away, as was the case recently with Dr Israr Ahmed or Maulana Abu Ala Maududi in 1979. Their books, speeches and ideas remain the only static sources of education for their followers. Others from their jamaat just keep adding explanations to the original ideas these thinkers presented in the past.

In most cases, the members of a particular jamaat join primarily to fulfill their individual social needs. Some do it to get access to people of influence for personal favors like social protection, social advancement, getting a wasta for good job, business contracts, admission to institutions like schools, universities, clubs, etc. Others who do not have such needs do it to practise their leadership and management skills. To both these people, learning is a chore. It is something which they need to provide lip service to and role play just to keep their membership. A jamaat with most of it membership consisting of individuals with such hypocritical attitudes is really doing a disservice to the Islamic cause and actually puting off sincere seekers of Truth who may come their way.

Those considering practising their religion should try not to be put off by the pressure to join one group or the other, but rather learn from each that aspect of the religion which they have specialized in. It is important to keep learning and keep moving, otherwise we may end up becoming just poor copies of the teacher who we take as our ultimate living ideal in life.

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