Tuesday, August 4, 2009


In the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, some time in December, 2008, I received an excellent 'forward' from a person whom I hold in high regard. The forward was actually a long mail. Without going into it I would rather state it's essence, which is: Religion has nothing to do with terror or brutality.

Islam was the context.

The incidents narrated in the mail's account were touching and the underlying theme convincing. For a long time, the subject continued to resonate in my mind, surfacing and resurfacing at odd moments, prodding me all the while to jot down my own thoughts about it. This, finally, is my effort in that direction.

My own view is, there do exist certain fundamental issues within each religion that weaken them from within over time. These issues, or notions, though when incorporated in the first place had had the best of intentions behind them, had also carried the seeds of future discontent, strife and suffering.

Each great religion has two broad aspects. The main one is esentially to show the path (or paths) towards Ishwar-Darshan, or vision (realisation) of God. Saints/Prophets/Avatars are people who have achieved this highest goal. To look at it another way, a religion is alive and kicking, and useful to humankind, as long as it produces People who have been alleviated to such level.

Hardly is there any scope of conflict in the above aspect.

Problems arise with the other side, where it deals with the social issues. What is a sound practice today, it can be said with near certainty, may cease to be so, even prove regressive and stumbling, a few centuries down the line. Here comes the need to continually change, to evolve with the demands of the times. And here exactly lies the problem with Islam. It fights reforms. It wants to remain in its form as it was at the beginning. Reform within a religion is always brought about by its saints, and not by other bearer of religion, the priestdom, that usually resists change. In Islam, the latter -- the Maulanas -- historically got precedence over the saints (the Pirs, Fakirs, Sufis), unless a saint had been given patronage by a powerful ruler. This unwillingness and inability to change with times has given rise to the various conflicts Islam has with other religions and cultures, even with people within its own fold.

Why has this great religion that preached equality of all before God and absolute surrender to Him like nobody else, shown so much inflexibility towards reforming? Obviously the social rules that were good and necessary for the wild tribes of the Arabian land 1400 years back could not be equally applicable in a today's totally changed world?

The reason that comes to my mind (and I may be totally wrong there) can be found in a fundamental proclamation in Islam: "I (Prophet Muhammad) am the last prophet". It effectively put a fullstop to all future chances of reform. Anybody attempting reform would be perceived to be doing an act of sacrilege. Islam does not acknowledge any prophets even from other religions who came after Prophet Muhammad.

No doubt the above was uttered with the best of intentions. God is absolute, truth is absolute. So where lies the need for change? -- must have been the idea. Also, such an embargo helped blocking emergence of fake prophets, a mallady that plagues Hinduism.

But on the flip side, it also stagnated this great, vibrant, energetic, equitable religion once and for all. I sincerely hope that I am wrong and God will restore this religion to it's true, intended purpose.