Thursday, April 10, 2014

Islam vs. Culture; Islamic Republic vs. Community of Muslims

These two topics came up in a conversation on social media again. And I had occasion to write the following to a group of very close and dear friends

Frankly, I think the whole issue of Islam vs. Culture and condemning all of our historical culture is a red herring put up by those who want be the ones to decide what Islam should look like. Though to give you credit, you said "Quran and Sunnah"; the true fanatics say "Quran Only; even sunnah is all fake".

And we can discuss what one should follow personally, etc. For which you can take the simple question of how and on what do you give Zakat; the answers to that question varies much more than you think and has to do with 1400+ years of history and, yes, culture.

The difference between whether Pakistan (or any other community of Muslims) is an "Ummah" (and that word is important) in which the majority are Muslims and decide based on their own values and culture how to govern themselves, or whether we want to give the state a religion and then have it impose it on everybody by force.

And to that end, I have one simple question: "What kept Umar up at night?" Was it that some woman, some where in his rule was wearing a sleeveless shirt, or that there was someone dancing somewhere without an abaya, or was it that someone would go to sleep hungry under his stewardship? Please just take one minute to think about it; the history has a clear answer to that, and our current crop of those going around exhibiting worried about society's morals give us another.

And as for reading the Quran for answers, let's go back to Zakat. Tell me; what parts of your income and assets do you give Zakat on? When General Zia forcibly imposed a mandatory scheme of Zakat he made it on your checking account balance. Which conformed very well to what his sponsors in Saudi Arabia practice, but goes against almost a thousand years of practice in South Asia where half of all Muslims on the planet live. For we Hanafis--alone amongst the 4 Sunni Schools ("madhaheb"), never mind the 2,3 Shia ones and the Ebadis--practice Zakat as a wealth tax, not an income tax. Find me an answer to that in the Quran and tell me whether Gen Zia was helping us Muslims live our lives as we wanted to (the original idea of Pakistan) or whether he was imposing his idea of an Islamic Republic.

As our elders ALWAYS said after a religious opinion--untill the current crop of holier-than-thou, absolutely-sure-of-their-opinion Islamists came along:

WAllahu Aalam; (only) Allah has (all perfect) knowledge.