WASHINGTON DIARY: Pollution of religion — Dr Manzur Ejaz - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\02\23\story_23-2-2011_pg3_3

The spirit of religion has been polluted so much that every sect considers the other as non-Muslim. Instead of spiritually uplifting individuals, irrespective of their religion and sect, religion has been turned into a power game, a political circus

Allama Iqbal himself probably did not appreciate the depth and practical dimension of his statement, “Deen-i-mullah fee sabeel Allah fasad” (the mullah’s religion is just creating frictions). And, when he preached that “Judaa ho deen siasat se to reh jati hai changezi” (if religion is separated from politics, it becomes barbarism), he was advocating being ruled by the mullahs. However, what he did not foresee was that mixing religion with politics would turn the socio-political discourse into the mullah’s domain, which would not bring anything but inter-sect conflicts, hatred and friction.

After daily repetition of “Judaa ho deen siasat se to reh jati hai changezi”, the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) was able to massively infuse religion into politics. Additional help from the US for international jihad created the exact situation that Iqbal had implied in his poetry. There were thousands of shaheens (eagles) who wanted to run their horses into the Black Sea and beyond. These eagles ran their horses into the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon, and all other pagan lands. But what has come of it all at the end of the day?

After heavily mixing doses of religion with politics, have we defeated the changezi (barbarism) system or have we, inadvertently, created just that? Just count the number of dead in suicide attacks and the destruction as a result of security operations against jihadi mullahs. Then, scan the religious landscape and see how many sects consider one another non-Muslims now, as opposed to before the Islamisation movement, how the poor non-Muslims have suffered under mullah shahi (rule of the clerics) and how social anarchy has wrecked Pakistani society.

Under the sway of mullah shahi, the rich and powerful have skimmed off the people with corruption and plundering. Some may ask what Islamisation has to do with corruption; the answer is that if two things happen simultaneously, there must be some correlation between them. In this case, the emergence of mullah shahi has changed societal priorities as allegations of blasphemy now become more important than discussing corruption and injustice. Have you seen any religious party demonstrating against the corruption of billions in almost every department?

By now it is clear that, most importantly, the spirit of religion has been polluted so much so that every sect considers the other as being non-Muslim. Instead of spiritually uplifting individuals, irrespective of their religion and sect, religion has been turned into a power game, a political circus. One can appreciate the wisdom of the founders of the US constitution, George Washington in particular, who argued that purity and spiritualism of religion can be maintained only by keeping it separate from politics. They wanted to save religion from trickeries, hypocrisies and the wheeling-dealing of politics. However, this point cannot be appreciated by our mullahs for whom religion is a profession as they have tasted the power of their political blackmailing.

The early proponents of secularist philosophy were the Sufis of the subcontinent who understood the dangers of the pollution of religion if it is mixed with politics. Therefore, on the one hand, they severely condemned the mullah’s profession and its damaging role in society and, on the other, they developed a strict policy, particularly the Chishtias, never to meet or relate to the royals. Their emphasis on a personal relationship with God or other deities was meant to eliminate the role of intermediaries, i.e. theocracy. Baba Farid and his disciple Nizamuddin are known to have refused to meet with the kings even when they were threatened with dire consequences.

These Sufis did not further any overt political agenda by design and emphasised the universal humanistic values that can create a better society. Like George Washington, they wanted to preserve the religious spiritualism of every religion. They knew this could be done only if they preached irrespective of religious denominations.

However, the tradition was diverse. The Chishtia were anti-establishment and the Bahauddin-led Suharwardia (headed by Shah Mahmood Qureshi these days) were pro the Delhi kings. Both schools adhered to the basic tenants of Islam, i.e. praying five times and performing all other mandatory Islamic duties. Wahabi propaganda that said the Sufis were bhangi charsi (drug addicts) had and has no basis. Only the Malamtia sect to whom Shah Hussain belonged was against the entire ambit of ritualistic religion. Shah Hussain’s pre-condition for initiation (mureedi) was to drink alcohol and shave the beard, moustaches, head hair and even eyebrows. In most cases, many were just intellectuals and thinkers following a certain mode of life that resembled Sufism. Many of us confuse the great classical Punjabi poets with the Sufi tradition.

By the end of the 18th or 19th century, the Sufi movement had come to a close and what were left were the rituals of the Barelvi mullahs and sajjada nasheens (holders of the saintly seat). The Sufi tradition could only survive in a multi-religious society, which Punjab and Sindh had before 1947. The purging of Hindus and Sikhs from Pakistan created an anti-Sufi environment. Therefore, it is not surprising at all that the followers of the Sufis, namely the Barelvis, have become just like the Wahabi and Deobandi maulvis. They could not avoid the dictates of the environment they lived in. In contrast, the Barelvis in India are much more tolerant of other religions because they have to live with them. More Hindus visit the Ajmer shrine of Moeenuddin Chishti than Muslims.

As a matter of fact, the Barelvis had abandoned the Sufi tradition long ago. They had become a ritualistic sect that considered khatam darood (rituals) as their basic distinction. The Sufi shrines had become the jagirs (estates) of sajjada nashins who were running them like feudal dynasties. This trend had started much earlier in history. Baba Farid and his ilk had refused to see kings and their men but his great grandsons joined the Tughlaqs and were awarded a huge estate in Pakpattan. It was a noteworthy estate when Ranjeet Singh conquered Punjab and he had to negotiate with the then sajjada nasheen.

The writer can be reached at manzurejaz@yahoo.com

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