Keeping Faith Where It Belongs!

Athar Javaid
Founder INDUS Mobilizing People’s Power www.indupk.org

A Washington DC based Non-Profit Think Tank & Research Organization.

According to the American poet Robert Penn Warren, “History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves and our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.”
As concerns religious history, Warren’s words suggest that the followers of major faiths might learn from the periods of pointless religious wars and understand the need and importance of separation of State, public governance and Religion. If mankind had struck a balance between worshipping the creator and service to humanity, as intended by each and every faith, for all the centuries gone by, the world today would be no less than a Paradise.

That said, the Muslim world tells even a more tragic story. The majority of Muslim states are not only rife with contrasting sectarian beliefs but are also consumed by the desire to legislate Islam, ignorant of the fact that differences have persisted from the first century of Islam. Just like any other major religion, the ingrained and inherent diversity among believers renders any religion impossible to legislate for the purposes of public governance and nation building.

What is more surprising is the fact that Muslims have forsaken the fundamental tenets of Islam (Maintaining a Balance between the Rights of the individual –(Huqooq Al Ibaad) with Rights of the God ( Huqooq Allah) and drowned themselves in needlessly complex interpretations of faith, rituals, and a collection of Hadith with questionable authenticity resulting in a cumbersome complex belief systems, that in many ways contradicts even the social and cultural norms of the early days of Islam.

Today, from Iraq to Indonesia and from Bahrain to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, there is not one Muslim state where sectarian strife does not pose a threat to the peace and stability of Muslim civilizations and people’s ability to progress and prosper on a footing comparable to other modern nations.
It is time for Muslims to begin a deep self-examination.

In the Arabic newspaper Al-Mada, Iraqi writer Adnan Hussein offered a suggestion: We must overhaul the educational system. In a piece published just two days after the Paris attacks on Nov. 13, he said that from elementary school through university, our young people are taught — sometimes with a stick — that Islam is not only great, but also better than other religions, and that those who are not like us belong in hell. What has emerged, he wrote, is a “savage faith that stirs up decapitation, spills blood, and instigates plunder and rape.” As for the real Islam, he lamented: “It has no place in our lives, or in the best of cases, it has a barely audible voice that almost nobody hears.”

On the same day, celebrated Lebanese writer and editor of the Al-Hayat newspaper Ghassan Charbel wrote that, to rescue itself, the Arab and Muslim world must participate in the struggle against Islamism. Charbel called for shutting down platforms of hate and said the Middle East needs to undertake “a deep re-examination” of its society. He called for “universities, schools, mosques, TV and electronic sites to reclaim their platforms from that handful” of destructive ideologues who control them. “What threatens the Arab and Islamic world today,” he said, “is no less dangerous than the threat that Nazism posed to Europe.”

Similarly, Yasmine Bahrani, a professor of journalism at American University in Dubai, wrote in a recent Washington Post op-ed that people in the West, where many blame Islam itself, and people in the Middle East, who struggle with violence in their everyday lives, both desperately
want to understand the root cause of the carnage. Many Arab and Muslim writers blame Iran and Israel; others point to the West’s policies in the Middle East and the Muslim world. But more self-critical voices have arisen as well. Such writers are asking Middle Easterners to examine their institutions and society more broadly, to assess its share of responsibility for ongoing violence.

Ms. Bahrani’s students are already doing as much. After asking them whether French and British policies gave Islamism an entrée into isolated Muslim communities, nearly all of her students rejected that premise, arguing that immigrants were responsible for their own actions, whether isolated or not. “Why then,” she asked them, “don’t Muslims march in the streets of London, Paris and New York loudly condemning the Islamic State?” Because, the students answered, “Mainstream Muslims are too scared that the extremists would come after them.”

All faith and belief systems, from Judaism to Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Bahais or Jains have their origins in the fundamentals of humanity, compassion and respect for rights of
the individual. All religions, including Islam, clearly outline that excesses in our dealings with fellow human beings and other creatures can only be pardoned by the victims of such behavior. God will not intervene; everyone is left completely accountable for his or her own actions toward fellow human beings and other creatures.

Since the beginning of recorded history, (c. 3100 BCE), humanity and the world have struggled with faith mongering and religion; How much blood shed and destruction has humanity had to endure justified by differences in religious beliefs and faith since the Mesopotamian citystates , conquest of Canaan by the Israelites in the Book of Joshua, the Muslim conquests of
the 7th and 8th centuries, and the Christian Crusades (11th to 13th centuries) and European Wars of Religion (16th and 17th centuries)?

Unfortunately, the only solution that religious leaders and devotees have created for inter-and intra-religious conflict is the concept and practice of “Interfaith Relations,” which is as old as religion itself. And despite strong expressions of support from rulers, dignitaries and spiritual leaders from every corner of the globe, throughout the ages, it has solved little and – in terms of creating universal peace, understanding and respect – achieved even less.

Instead, if everyone were to keep their faith where it belongs – within themselves – then all religious faiths, in combination, can affect greater world peace through the common efforts of all, irrespective of race, color or religious denomination.

Let us consider how various civilizations have cumulatively contributed to making the world a better place to live, communicate and progress as one large city of inhabitants. To speak in broader terms–of modern Western civilization, for instance–is to gloss over the fact that before
such a concept was possible there were first the civilizations of Jerusalem, ancient Alexandria, Athens, Rome, and Constantinople. These in turn were followed by the civilizations of Florence, Milan, Venice, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Vienna, Geneva, Munich, New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and many more. If there is a Western civilization, it is made up of ingredients from all of these original city civilizations. In short the progress of the civilizations is astounding and it had an impact on the life of every human being at any stage of the progress of these various civilizations. Now let us consider how leaders and followers of various faiths and religious beliefs could have collectively focused on the core fundamentals of every faith such as spiritual maturity and service to humanity, besides their duty to God. What wonders it would have achieved in making each one of us better balanced between spirituality and mundane aspects of life, at peace with ourselves and reaping the benefits of progress of the civilization over centuries as well as
centuries of faith inspired spiritual evolution in tandem with progress of civilization.

Man never had to wage wars to continue with the pace of the progress of civilization. And if followers of various faiths had their focus right, there would have been no sense in waging wars justified by differences in religious beliefs or sectarian strife.
As an example, Malays are demonstrating that strength of Islam lies in getting down to ground reality and blending various shades of Islam for strength through diversity, diffusing the lines of division rather than branding Islam to serve individual political and territorial agendas. This is
Malaysia following its goldilocks vision and lofty aspirations through an all-inclusive fair and open approach based on “Humanity First”

share and enjoy a unique bond that blends ethnic, racial and religious diversity in an allinclusive manner and respect for inherent differences rather than despise. Externally Malaysia is acquiring proven approach in social, economic and educational reforms without prejudice to political beliefs and cultural differences at the same time being innovative about it.
Whatever your faith means to you and whatever its profound impact on your life, behavior, social, and monetary dealings, worship and spiritual solace – whether bowing to God’s will and commandments is your chosen way of life for here and the hereafter – please remember: your faith is a very powerful tool. And like all powerful tools, its practice requires skill and the utmost sensitivity to avoid the slightest intrusion or imposition upon others.

Then and only then can centuries-old inter- and intra-religious conflict be rendered obsolete, affording the chance to remake our world and global community a model of the promised paradise.

God created mankind for
compassion and service to humanity
As opposed to His vast creation in
His devout worship at all times

INDUS – Mobilizing People’s Power www.induspk.org, is a Washington DC Registered 501C (3) Tax exempt Think Tank & Research Organization dedicated to a progressive & politically stable Pakistan, strong US-Pakistan relations and communities integration in Home land USA, for continued glory of the American Dream. INDUS has no political affiliations here in USA or political ambitions anchored in Pakistan. This is pure and simple, a service to Pakistan and expression of gratitude to Home Land USA.

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