Maheen A. Rashdi is renowned journalist whose regular column features in the Sunday Magazine of Dawn. The following was meant for tomorrow, but since religion is not among the subjects covered in that section, it has been passed on to me. I must say that I am very much grateful for some of the things stated about me here - Khurram Ali Shafique
The past three weeks of Ramazan have induced me to take stock of the twists that the holy month brings into the lives of us Muslims each year. While it requires us to show our better sides, it inevitably turns us into short-tempered, work shirking, lethargic individuals. While at the one hand divine proclamation intends to promote abstinence and restraint in all matters of worldly things during Ramazan, we end up fully unleashing our gluttonous desires and zero tolerance for fellow beings.
And for some, it is almost a swapped existence. I have seen confirmed alcoholics kick the bottle for precisely these thirty days, shed their tailored suits for the white, starched, shalwar kameez (not forgetting the topi on top) and frequent the mosque five times a day as opposed to their daily late-night binges in non-Ramazan days. Well, whatever makes people tick, who am I to comment on personal choices.
When a dear friend posted a beautiful commentary on the Surah Yusuf from the Quraan last week on his blogspot to ‘honour the holy month of Ramazan,’ I was surprised that the Ramazan season had had that effect on him too. For I had always stereotyped him – for no logical reason at all -- as someone who was far removed from all things pertaining to religion. And here I pride myself on being non-judgemental.
Anyway, I discovered that Khurram Shafique is not only a historian/scholar/philosopher and the only one I personally know who may be qualified to be called a genius with indefatigable mental energies, but he is also as well-versed in Quranic text and sub text.
In his commentary, Khurram captures the description of the Surah which is about Hazrat Yusuf (Joseph), his dream, his brothers’ deceit and his revelation besides the all too famous story of Zuleikha (wife of Potiphar) and her seductive overtures towards Yusuf. Retelling a tale about one of the most detailed stories from the Quraan, Khurram Shafique has structured his analysis along Aristotle’s six ‘elements of drama’.
When I marveled at his work, he confessed that he would not have expostulated on Quraanic verses as these have a magic of their own which should not be polluted by mere human descriptive, but that he was compelled to do so.
Why? “Because there’s a danger lurking on the ‘intellectual horizons’ which promotes literature that debases the human soul and runs down literature of dignity,” he explained. He feels that an esoteric school of thought now dominates the frontier of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion which is bent on defiling all credible voices on religion.
I however, do not feel that any such threat has the power of taking over established values or eradicating worthy literature. And as far as the Quraanic words are concerned, these are the most accepted religious writings by scholars of all faiths besides Islam. No amount of loose talk from naysayers has the power to dull or negate its magic.
Allama Yousuf Ali explains in one of his many commentaries that Islam is a non-racial, non-ethnic, non-biased code of life. It simply requires undisputable faith in the Almighty; a determination to live right and to see that justice and truth prevails. It requires us to stay away from wrongdoings, to fight injustice and to stay clear of deceit. And as I see it that is the main code by which all decent humanity abides and all religions have preached just that. So where is the dispute amongst religions? Don’t they all speak the same language?
But alas, being also the most potent tool for power, religion has been twisted to become the cause for every war as well. That is also why it has been complicated and high-jacked by clerics, dogmatic preachers and political players.
It took a lot of will power for me to pick up the Quraan’s translation the first time and find out for myself what exactly are God’s words which have filtered to us in many versions – sometimes even distorted for fearful effect. And because my grade two teacher’s words of how Quraan describes the details of hell had stuck in my mind, my fear was quite tangible. She of course failed to convey the overwhelming kindness of the Almighty contained therein perhaps to maintain a perverse fear factor and her own authority. Before starting, I never knew that I would actually be reading a story book with multiple components – history, jurisprudence, health guidelines, biology, geography and rules for decent civilized living.
Islam is neither complicated, nor terrifying nor unbending and unmindful of human vulnerability, and that is my last word for my believing, practicing, non-practicing and non-believing readers and friends.
Forgive me if I have been too dogmatic, for I too have been swept by the season. Maheenrashdi@yahoo.ca