Divine Revelation

A blog with an Islamic perspective

I read a very interesting oped by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj titled 'Challenge of Conservatism' in the August issue of Islamic Voice. I respect Maqbool a lot and do not doubt his credentials as a well-wisher of the Muslim community. However his views on the supposed Muslim resistance to new technology are highly disputable.

Maqbool cites the inability of an aalim to fill out a railway reservation form as illustrative of the low self esteem of Madrassa graduates. He accuses the Madrassas of being archaic, draining Muslim charities and teaching incorrect geography. All attempts to modernize Madrassa curriculum are opposed vociferously and there are no attempts to divert Zakat funds to other social infrastructure says Maqbool as he blames Muslim leadership for spearheading the disdain for reform and change.

The aalim who failed to fill out the railway reservation form is an isolated case in point and cannot be generalized for the entire aalim fraternity. The archaic Madrassas are a thing of the past and every Madrassa now endeavors to impart basic secular education with their core curriculum and are open to any improvement in their standard of education if provided with the state of the art technological tools like computers and overhead projectors. You just have to visit their websites to see and believe.

The opposition to diversion of Zakat funds is understandable as it is the only major source of income for funding community Madrassas. The Madrassas are schools of religious learning. They are mostly run through voluntary funds and students are almost taught free or at subsidized fees. They receive no governmental aid in cash or kind. One can only salute the dedication and motivation of these Madrassas churning out thousands of pious young men and women, ready to serve the community for little by way of material compensation and reward. Madrassas are part and parcel of the Muslim society and their state of affairs cannot be isolated from that of the community.

I do not understand Maqbool’s fixation for all Muslims to celebrate Eid on the same day when there are clear cut instructions on how the moon is to be sighted and Eid day to be finalized.

A Hadith from Sahih Muslim and narrated by Abu Hurairah The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made a mention of the new moon and (in this connection) said: Observe fast when you see it (the new moon) and break fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal), but when (the actual position of the month is) concealed from you (on account of cloudy sky), then count thirty days.

Maqbool laments the closing of two Muslim managed institutes of hotel management upon the opinion of Muslim scholars who ruled that learning how to serve liquor and cook pork is un-Islamic. He wants Muslims to learn from other communities on how to manage hotel management institutes. I am at a loss of words to contest his erroneous grieving over the institutes’ closure, but pointing out the need to learn from really hurts, when it comes from the likes of Maqbool Siraj. For Muslims the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah is sufficient and there is no need to brew a cocktail of the lawful and the prohibited for a paltry few material gains.

Maqbool has also cropped up the issue of women not being allowed to pray in mosques. This is more of a logistics issue for most Muslims who accept women in mosques but are unable to provide them the necessary space. As for those who oppose their presence must also surely be having their own proofs and it is best to educate and engage them in dialogue, rather than loathe and despise them as male chauvinists.

As for Muslims boys avoiding veterinary sciences for fear of having to deal with dogs and pigs, would it not be prudent to let every student choose the profession of his likening and taste. I am all for freedom and liberty at every level of society.

Maqbool also brings out the dislike of Muslim girls to take up nursing as a career as it would entail attending male patients. I do not think that the same Muslim girl would refuse to become a doctor all though it would necessitate the same thing. The reason to avoid nursing is more to do with the nature of the job, its status and stature and the expected remuneration. I am sure that Muslim girls will not be found wanting as their illustrious pious women Sahaba(ra) to discharge their duty as caring nurses in case of emergency and war.

Finally Maqbool directs his ire at the Muslim clergy who are accused of being misfits in adopting technology and coming up with conservative interpretations that are out of sync with contemporary society. I hope Maqbool is a regular visitor to the www.islamonline.net website by Shaikh Yusuf Al Qardhawi which has regular discussions and articles from stem cell research to artificial insemination and foster motherhood to the permissibility of Viagra etc.

Can the supposed inability to produce a single recognized global brand product, a single invention and the failure to attract students to Muslim universities act as a benchmark to gauge our failure as a Muslim Ummah? Have we been sent by Allah for this purpose? We have been made a community that is justly balanced. A community that commands virtue prohibits evil and believes in Allah.Let us measure ourselves according to that yardstick.

To accuse the Ummah of failing to come to grips with technology, pluralism and democracy does not hold water and is suitably demonstrated every year in the magnificent staging of the Hajj: where we have nearly 3 million Muslims of every nation hue and color join together and performing all the rituals in an absolute show of strength and unity and using the latest technologies to conduct such a massive public exercise.

Maqbool Ahmed Siraj, you need to engage rather than blame. Understand rather than confuse. Appreciate and not belittle. We need you but not your sweeping generalizations. This Ummah is trying hard to come up against all odds. Lend it a hand of support not a finger of accusation.

Posted by Arshad on Wednesday, August 16, 2006.

1 Responses to “With all due respect”

  1. # Blogger Javed

    Asak, Very well written. I woud love to have more constructive criticism rather than just articles in magazines which reach nowhere. To that effect I feel blogs are a much better tool for exchange of views. More people from our community need to join the blogging band-wagon.  

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