The Problem To Our Solutions – I
Pakistan is the seventh nuclear power in the world but even after seventy years, why can’t we provide basic necessities of life to our people? “Hamare pas Allah ka dia hoa sab kuch hai, phir bhi ham bheek kyun mangte han” (We have been given all resources by Allah, then why are we still begging for money?)
For a number of years, these questions have baffled the greatest minds of our country. And just like these perplexing questions, we have come up with equally perplexing solutions.
“We need to go back to Islam”
“We need to progress in science and technology”
“We need to focus on education instead of roads and metros”
While all of these solutions are true in their own way, there is a problem with all of them: they address the symptoms of a much deeper problem while only glossing over the root cause. In fact, these are just narratives which have been adopted over the course of years without internalizing their internal meaning. It’s like you want to learn cooking and someone tells you all the ingredients required for a good recipe (salt, oil, sugar, rice etc) but when you go to kitchen to actually cook something, you’re clueless as to where to begin.
We have been incessantly listening to these ‘solutions’ for seventy years, yet we are still stuck in our feet, asking ourselves what went wrong and where to start. My hypothesis is that the solution lies not in finding the ‘solution to our problems’, but instead, in finding the ‘problem to our (already proposed) solutions’.
In part-1 of this article, we will discuss only the first proposed solution, which is the most important in shaping the mindset of our society.
“We need to go back to Islam”
A teacher once asked his students, “If a Hindu and Muslim jump into a river, who would survive?” All of them instantaneously replied: “The Muslim, Sir”, except Parvez, who was entrenched in deep thought. Noticing his silence, teacher asked: “What about you Parvez, who do you think will survive?”
“Sir the one who knows how to swim” replied an ingenuous Parvez (he was expelled from class for one week).
Parvez made an important point for all of us to ponder i.e. being a Muslim will do no good, if that person is standing in front of a train and hoping for a miracle to happen (unless you are Sunny Deol who has a “Mazdoor Ka Hath”). While miracles do happen, for most of us, success in this world is attached by its means.
When we hear the phrase “we need to go back to Islam” the most obvious implication is that if, say, the Prime Minister of a country, is someone who prays five times a day, holds a Tasbeeh 24/7, builds a cancer hospital, talks about “Madinah Ki Riyasat” and enforces cutting of hands, public hanging of all corrupt people, it will magically generate reserves and that country would become the next superpower. Alas, if only dollars grew on trees, we would bring about a billion tree Tsunami and negative GDP would be a thing of the past. The reality is that an act of piety does not teach you economics, diplomacy, bureaucracy, politics, governance or team management. One has to specialize in all of those departments, to be an expert in those fields. Putting effort in a task is one thing, directing those efforts in a way that brings about the desired results is totally another. In other words, you cannot expect to be a good goal keeper if you trained all your life to be a good batsman. Learning cricket only makes you eligible for Prime Minister (at least in Pakistan).
Another aspect that needs to be highlighted is the underlying message that is being taught with such solutions (read: narratives). Let us consider an example to understand this. In almost every elementary school textbook of Islamic Studies, students are vehemently taught how during the migration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) blew dust on to the disbelievers which made them blind and thus he (PBUH) was able to escape right under their nose. Almost all of us remember this incident by heart. The lesson being taught is that if your faith is really strong, God will make miracles happen for you.
But there is another incident, which is rarely mentioned in schools. During migration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) went out his way to confuse the search parties (who were sent to kill him), by going in a totally opposite direction to Madinah and taking a longer route. Not only that, he would have Abu Bakr Siddique (RA) arrange for a shepherd who would cover their tracks with his flock of sheep to remove any traces (this incident is narrated in Biography by Ibn Ishaq and other Seerah books).
The first incident inculcates a lesson of relying on miracles while praying and hoping for the best. The second incident, on the other hand, imparts a lesson of doing excessive strategic planning. When we put both of these incidents together, we learn that the spiritual insight must be combined with the worldly knowledge for success, even in this world. However, our textbooks subtly highlight one aspect of the story (the spiritual knowledge) while conveniently putting the other (worldly means) in the background.
Right from the beginning, students are being ingrained with a philosophy of relying on miracles instead of putting in the hard work. Over the course of time, these philosophies get ingrained in society and become its culture. As we see from the pages of our history, we developed a culture which denounced the adoption of printing press because our scholars saw it as a threat to religion and because ‘spirituality is enough for us’, the ramifications of which, we are facing even to this day. A more recent example is that of the verbal squabble between Minister of Religious Affairs and the Minister of Science on moon sighting issue.
Thus the ‘problem’ with this solution of “going back to Islam” is that it selectively propagates a particular version (or interpretation) of Islam; the one which relies on praying in a Mosque and sitting there, hoping for a miracle to happen, as opposed to the one which requires you to plan each and every minuscule move, as in covering your footprints by a flock of sheep. It develops a culture that is reluctant to adopt the worldly knowledge and sees it as something outside the religion (Deen vs. Dunya debate is a classical example).
In second part of this article, we will discuss the remaining two proposed solutions mentioned in the beginning (and also why Lahori Beef Karahi is the best in Pakistan). For now, I’ll leave you with this million dollar question: Once an esteemed Mufti gave three hours lecture on how YouTube, being an invention of Yahoodis (Jews), is Haram for Muslims. Guess where it was uploaded?
The author is an Electrical Engineer by profession with a political conscience and interests in current affairs, self-development, Islamic history and theology. He tweets and make memes on twitter @Sarmad_Rasheed8