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Eid reflections

By our correspondent

This article was published in the
Dawn The Internet Edition

 17 December 2001

Eid reflections

While the essence and spirit of Eid-ul-Fitr remains unchanged, the ambience around the country, the happenings in its neighbourhood, and the atmosphere of terror and violence enveloping a large part of the world in the wake of Sept 11, have given a sombre touch to this year's festival.

Islam's message of peace, justice and moderation has been brought home most tellingly in the light of recent events. Today, at the end of the holy month of Ramazan, this is a moment of serious reflection for all Muslims. As they celebrate the occasion all over the world, they must resolve to emerge out of a long nurtured state of self-pity and inaction and meet the many challenges confronting them today.

Their plight is mainly rooted in factors that have remained unattended. First and foremost, the cause of their backwardness is their powerlessness. Many Muslim states are abundantly rich in resources and manpower, but poor in utilizing these. Every conceivable element essential for progress is within their grasp but is being exploited by others. Though nominally free and sovereign, they are virtually enslaved by their rulers, who are driven by selfish motives rather than larger interests.

People, mostly poor and ignorant, have little say in their affairs. Apathy and lack of awareness have contributed to their misery. Autocratic rulers decide their fate in most cases. The principle of consultation and consent (Shoora) - the ground norm of an Islamic polity - is twisted to suit vested designs.

Enlightenment is another casualty, so that its absence allows the status quo to continue. Thinking sections helplessly watch this situation. If they do not rise even at this juncture to play their due role as a dynamic force and come up with a vision and motivate the masses to change the existing order, they will share the blame for an unpardonable lapse.

Another segment that wields considerable influence on Muslim societies consists of clerics, who unfortunately are creating divisions among Muslims instead of bringing them closer to one another. Their sectarian approach has made many of the mosques and madrassahs breeding grounds for hatred and schism. Our ritualistic approach to the tenets and practices of Islam is self-defeating and our prayers have a hollow ring in the absence of matching actions.

The rigorous regimen of Ramazan meant to inculcate piety, charity, restraint and discipline should find expression in our deeds. Shunning extremism and choosing the middle path as good Muslims must be the badge of our distinction. The true image of Islam that has unfortunately been tarnished more by its own votaries than by its detractors needs to be restored, specially now that it is being linked with terrorism by interested quarters to suit their designs and their perverse political aims.

The best way to dispel this sort of canard about Islam and its followers is to cite the teachings of the Quran in the light of Sunnah. This final revelation, which wrought a revolution in the contemporary world, was gifted to mankind during the month of Ramazan. This Book is a perfect guide and of binding charter for the believers.

For the Muslims, it is the touchstone to determine right and wrong. Its teachings are crystal clear and all-embracing. Going by its words, respecting the worth of human life is an integral element of faith. Those who disregard this Quranic edict and indulge in killing innocent people anywhere cease to be believers. They are not only terrorists, but also heretics.

Besides the Quranic exhortations, the history of early Islam emphasizes the importance of ascendancy and the way to achieve it. That a small band of devotees unfurled the flag of Islam and held it high in the face of two superpowers of that era, the Roman and Persian empires, offers an inspiring example of courage and devotion.

When combined, material and moral strengths can help overcome seemingly invincible odds, provided a sincere and constructive effort is made. Today, as we offer congregational prayers we should ponder the present situation earnestly and pray that this Eid marks a turning point in the life of the Muslim people everywhere.