Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lessons from an Indian Muslim Diaspora

A lot of the Pakistanis living outside the country who identify from being from Karachi are descendants of a diverse set of Indian Muslim migrants who settled in urban areas of Pakistan with a large concentration being in Sind and Punjab. They make up around 10% of Pakistan’s population. As a minority with no roots in the country they have had to struggle extra hard for survival forcing them to hone their talents, skills and education rather than depend on community or institutional support. From urban Pakistan they have further dispersed and there is a large diaspora of these people living all over the world.

Their unique situation and historical experience has caused them to learn several lessons and receive special blessings that other Pakistanis and the Muslim Ummah as a whole may benefit from. This may be surprising to many who only tend to complain about the deprivation that they suffer from.
Historically, the ancestors of these people were those who believed in the concept of a Muslim homeland or were those who felt persecuted in India and fled to Pakistan upon its creation. As such they were thankful for the blessing of a place on the earth where they were free to worship and be Muslims. Their appreciation of Pakistan was deep, as their dependence on it for their existence was complete. They had a deep love for Islam, even if they did not have deep understanding of its principles and had mixed it up with centuries of decadent Indian Muslim culture and nationalism. This led this group to study their religion further making them those who practice and study their faith the most in Pakistan perhaps after the Pathans.

Most institution of learning in the Subcontinent existed in India rather than in Pakistan upon independence and thus their ancestors brought with them skills, experience and education which was severely lacking in a nascent Pakistan. Thus from the start they valued and strived for education for their survival something that is still missing in mostly agrarian Pakistan. They are directly dependent on Allah (SWT) to provide for them rather than some social privilege. Their educational experience and international diaspora made them understand the global context of their existence in the modern world. As those in the forefront of educational experiences, they have come full cycle to realize both the harms as well as the benefits that the modern world exposes to practicing Muslims. They have the discriminatory powers to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to espousing Globalization.
Their minority status had ignited in their conscience a love and appreciation for good values such justice and civil rights which a majority seldom has the need to contemplate about. Thus they are a force for social reform in Pakistan and in the world.

Their experience in the political realm in Pakistan has shown them the futility of the Parliamentary system for improving the condition of Muslims. They have been disillusioned first by the religious parties and then by ethnic nationalism. They have learnt that adopting both the mainstream political setup as well as terrorism leads to failure. Leader after leader has disillusioned them. Rather than waiting for empty promises for jobs like other groups, they have taken the initiative by themselves to improve their own lot through innovative personal initiatives in education and social work.
Their disconnection from their source of culture has resulted in them filtering what they inherited from their ancestors. They have the chance to discard values of a decadent civilization which had deviated from the Islamic ideals. Instead they can pick up whatever good they find, in accordance with their religion, wherever they happen to be.

Many from the current generation have returned to the inspiration from Islam to change their condition. They are applying their intellectual abilities, skills and education to study and implement Islam properly from its sources with the help of accomplished scholars. Their methodology is based on the imparting tarbiyya and education patterned on that of Prophet Muhammad (SWAS) and his companions. Their outlook is holistic and inclusive. Their understanding is based on orthodox principles of Islam, eschewing terrorism which they view as a deviation. They believe in changing themselves to improve their condition based on the ideals of the Quran. Their community includes whoever shares this methodology, from whatever background and in whatever country. Their work is non-political and non-violent.
This change has been due to many factors, including their historic connection and love for Islam, their reliance on their intellectual abilities, their understanding of modernity, the world and the changes in it, their need for self-help, their inclination for social justice and reform, their disenchantment with the modern political system and their politicians, their lack of connection with their source culture, etc. Although Muslims all over Pakistan and elsewhere are flocking to re-learn their deen, the unique experiences of that these people provide valuable lessons for all.

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