By Qaisar Sultan
The idea that some nations and cultures are superior to others always puzzles me. What drives nations to prosperity and greatness? Is only a brief period of history that gives those nations opportunities that changes the equation? Or is it in the genetic disposition of people that makes them smarter to achieve better things? Or is it the set of values and the way they start seeing things to progress? One fact is undeniable that the education makes the biggest difference in people and nation life. Then the question comes to mind that why some cultures cannot focus on a universal truth. We see that in the modern age, African, most of South American, and all of Muslim countries ignored to develop first rated education system, fair and just societies. A small country like Singapore has instated one of the best education systems in the world; Singapore has one of the highest per capita incomes, cleanest country and one of the most secure countries in the world. The change comes with an attitude that is attuned with the idea of progress. The leaders find the path of enlightenment, reason and logic to the way of progress. The question is: Why not one Muslim country could find that path of progress based on the reason and logic? There is a very fundamental basis of modern cultures that differs from the Muslim culture. That is if we build public awareness and policy on logic and reason or on a blind faith on religious values that could be easily misconstrued or falsified. This has happened in all the religions. The religiosity took hold of Europe and the whole continent fell into “Dark Ages”. The faith took over the reason and logic. The priests were finding answers to all the public policies. They used to tell the ignorant and fanatical masses that the Christianity is not a religion but a way of life. They had their religious laws, called Canon Laws. Slight transgression from the priest view of religion, God and His apostles was declared heresy; and innocent people were burnt alive. The Christianity was divided because the interpretation of one sect of Christianity was very different from the other. The majority religious ecclesiastics moved towards the idea of trinity and gave nature of the birth of Jesus Christ an everlasting idea of Son of God; though in the beginning most Christians revered him differently. For last two thousand years, Jesus Christ life has been turned into a higher facet that almost equals to Almighty God. The interpretation of different scholars and practitioner of all religions find some viewpoints that can alter the very essence of one particular religion. Let those who devote their lives working on religious affairs argue among themselves. The problem is that these debates spill over to the masses and create havoc in cultures. Most of these debates have nothing to do with reason and logic; but everyone likes us to believe that there arguments are based on reason and logic.
The orthodoxy and divisions in Islam were not any different than Christianity; the religious debates started right after the death of the prophet. But huge split took place after the death of first four Caliphs. With that split, the depiction of so many details and practices took its own course. The Sharia laws were developed and formally written almost after eighty years of the death of prophet. It turned out that the main jurist, Imam Abu Hanifa was the student of Imam Jafar who proposed a different fiqh. The reading and understanding of Quran to original thinkers brought a sense that there were mysteries in the universe that had to be deplored. By 900, the Islamic culture was finding its roots both on faith based ideas with the elements of reason and logic. They were courageous thinkers and challenged lot of orthodox ideas. They wrote about the nature of Superior Being, the cause and effect, predestination, scientific treaties, philosophical dialectic arguments, medicine and Alchemy. They showed that the reason and logic can be applied in faith based ideas. The early Islamic culture brought in some of the great thinkers; the modern ideas of enlightenment began with those Muslim scholars. The Islamic thinkers and scientists were the leading proponents of scientific and progressive societies. Starting from Al-Razi to Ibn-Sina (Avicenna), science, philosophy and logic changed the Islamic world and the world in general in the Dark Ages in Europe. Al-Razi was a great secular philosopher, scientist, expert in medical science and music. Though he could have been hanged for blasphemy in today’s Muslim world, especially in Pakistan, he was critized and his views were rejected on the religious matters. The Western thinker had to borrow their ideas and writings; even St. Aquinas followed the thoughts of Averroes (Ibn-Rushd). Francis Bacon Empiricism may be directly related to the scientific work, the idea was proposed by Ibn-Rushd. The Mutazilis, who believed looking at reason and rational, lost to the orthodoxy of Al-Ghazali and the Asharites. The interpretation of religious values has altered the faith and its practices in all religions. The philosophical depth of any religion is either highlighted by the religious scholars or tradition and practice take over the whole religious debate; and religiosity is consumed from thoughtful to masses.
Now we are stuck with the extreme view of religion; it is “nothing or all” situation. A slight debate to change is faced with stern attitudes. The show of piety and being Godly is the apparent driving force in every day arguments and discussions. The spirit of Islam, fairness, compassion, honesty, valor, truthfulness and justice is hard to find in the Muslim societies. Muslim societies have lost the sense of fairness and justice. The weak has been forced to be weaker than before. The women rights have been trampled with harsh and unfair traditions and customs that include the right of man to many marriages and lop-sided inheritance of wealth, only the Maliki fiqh allows fifty percent inheritance for the daughters. Professor Bazm Ansari in his book, His Servants and His Apostles, wrote that Quran clearly suggests that marriage to one woman what a man can justify; so he is better off with one wife. Quran is for all the times in the past, present and future; the interpretation based on the subsequent time should be rationalized with open and enlightened mind. We find so many great religious scholars, past and present, which have brought reason and logic to understand the very basis of Islamic essence. Once that is done, it is easier to see the religion in the light of the modern age and its demand on varying and dynamic modern times.