Opinion Religion

Islam in Modern Times

The nations that rise always leave their impact on other civilizations. The new generation of Muslims grew up with charisma of watching Hollywood movies and American TV Series/ Serials. Gregory Peck, Rock Hudson, Yul Brynner, Charlton Heston, Tom Cruise, Roger Moore and the like became their ideals. James Bond was the favorite icon. Though they could not have helped this situation, yet a thing worth mentioning here is that the plight of most Muslims in this world is like the first Hijra of Muslims who were new to faith and so they have to acquire the Muslim way of living as prescribed by our religion. We have to start from the first level of learning of Islam because most of us are devoid of religious upbringing in the true sense. It cannot be undermined however that the Western world has its appeal due to the sophistication fostered by its individuals and the symbols of success dominating the present world. The concern here is the dilemma of our lost identity!

The youth in these ‘technologically blessed’ times subscribe to social utility tools on Internet like Facebook, and visit discussion boards where users from all over the world talk about their ideas. Then emails are being circulated in groups that contradict the real purpose of being alive. The theories attacking Islam are so prevalent that the youngsters lacking religious upbringing get confused and are further led away from their real ideologies. Though it is true that ‘Militant Islam’ is destroying the image of Muslims in the whole world and we should strongly condemn it in every possible way, yet we cannot overlook the covert forces that are operating behind it. Furthermore, it would not be wise to shun our core values just because of the wrong kind of religious practices that we see in the country.

Today’s educated Muslims hit hard at Islam being confined to rituals, but the fact is that rituals do have their place in Islam and cannot be ignored, but of course Islam embodies a complete code of life. We are told that whosoever is under debt at the time of death will not enter paradise until it is cleared, and this discourages us from engaging ourselves in unnecessary debts. Next, if we try to practice our obligations towards our parents, neighbours, spouses and children as laid out in our religion, then that would make us good human beings. These and many other beliefs direct us towards a peaceful life where our true and distinct identity stands out as Muslims!

In Islam we are told that ‘frequent lying’ is a big sin but few of us really bother about this. Lying is the basis of all evils, and we can easily see why Pakistan is rated a corrupt country. Worldly success is certainly not a forbidden fruit in Islam, yet we are only told not to become too obsessed with this life making us forget the hereafter. We Muslims love life, yet are not intoxicated by it. There is a verse in Qur’an “But as for anyone who desires the hereafter, and strives for it as he ought to, being a true believer, shall have his endeavors be gratefully acknowledged!” (Surat al-Isra – 19). Now what does striving for hereafter mean? Does it only mean prayers, fasting and other obligatory rituals? The rituals cannot be ignored of course, but striving for the hereafter also means living our life the way it has been prescribed by Almighty Allah through the message conveyed by His Prophet (pbuh). The last chapters (Surahs) of Qur’an are full of descriptions of Judgment Day. The fear of facing the Lord on the Judgment Day makes us act good towards our fellow beings, help the poor and needy, observe our obligations to our parents, makes us strive for earning our living in a fair way by hard work and honesty and not by trampling on the rights of others. Most of the Muslims today are devoid of the fear of the hereafter, for we see cut-throat competition amongst colleagues in organizations where there are all sorts of leg-pulling and conspiracies against the more competent workers. Our goals are selfish and not about contributing to the success of organizations. So how can Almighty help this nation when most of the best minds are engaged in pursuing selfish goals?

Very few individuals in our generation understand spirituality and bonding with the Almighty as essential needs of the time. In the first battle of Islam, the Muslims did not have more than few swords, and they were much outnumbered by the enemy which was well-equipped. But yes, their belief in Almighty Allah was very strong which made them win the battle. However, the Muslims did eventually gather a huge army of 10,000 and conquered Makkah, but that conquest was not just due to emphasis on accumulating defense equipment and man-power, but due to purification of the souls from the evils that they were immersed in prior to converting to Islam. They inspired the Non-Muslims with their compassion, tolerance and courteous ways and thus were able to convert them. The irony is that we have let ourselves divided into Secular and Non-Secular groups whereas Qur’an only categorizes people as Believers and Non-believers. While acquiring worldly knowledge which is no doubt essential, we have to try to earnestly please God in all spheres of life on individual and collective basis.

The early Muslims ruled the world and made great contributions to every field of arts and sciences because that era was close to the Prophet’s (pbuh) time, and they had a strong basis of faith. Their desire for knowledge stemmed from that faith, and they wanted to help others through the advancement of knowledge. Their pursuit of worldly knowledge did not make them forget the temporariness of this life unlike many intellectuals today who claim that worldly knowledge is everything, and this is the basic dilemma of today’s educated Muslims! There are stories of early Muslims who were monks at nights, yet fought like gladiators during the day. The truth is that every nation that rises has to meet its fall also, as the history proves. So this also happened to the later generation of Muslims who became lazy and started falling away from both worldly and religious knowledge.

In Islam, poverty and bad times are never celebrated and we are asked to keep praying for Allah’s bounty. There are two forces at play in our lives. One is the struggle we make to improve our lives or to help others, while the other is fate or destiny. Some people say that man makes his fate himself but this is far from Islamic spirit. We observe how sometimes a very successful person meets some tragic accident and is left crippled. This opens our eyes that there is a bigger plan already laid down by the Greatest Force (Almighty Allah), and though we can only try at our end, yet we cannot always control success and failure.

All of us are born with genetically-controlled inherent strengths and weaknesses, and our test is only how far we can manipulate them to achieve our targets. It so happens that some successful people start attributing their successes only to their efforts or the will to succeed and others also believe them. We are fascinated by how Bill Gates started his operations from a single room in the 70’s, and became a billionaire. These and lots of other stories make us desperate, and we lose sense of purpose sometimes. Here’s where Islamic theories lessen our frustrations, and save us from indulging in Depression. Though material success has its place in our life and God has asked us to pursue it through rightful sources, yet why do we see a rising percentage of Depression cases in the developed countries then? It is because those people (and the like of such people in other countries) see this world as everything, which makes them despair due to nurturing a narrow vision.

Hard work and dedication are the basic ingredients to success nevertheless, but we should not let ourselves deluded by reading too much of Western philosophies / quotations and set some time aside for our own treasures as well. Recently, a Pakistani engineer living in Massachusetts USA since the 60’s, retired from the position of Vice-president of a Construction firm which was the only company that had survived the great depression of the 30’s. The post-retirement phase created a vacuum in his life since he had become accustomed to a very high profile and busy schedule. Though he was a very rich man who could easily afford luxurious activities to spend his free time, yet he succumbed to a serious nervous breakdown. It was revealed later on that he had not been a practicing Muslim, in fact far from religion. This proves that success alone does not matter, and we have to cling to religion in order to strengthen ourselves both spiritually and mentally, for Islam brings you hope!

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Syed Roman Ahsan

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  • funny of you to post on Islam, and at the same time defend pakis right to watch movies. lol