The narrative of peace
From the Newspaper | Opinion | By Qasim A. Moini
5th Feb 2012
ACROSS Pakistan today, buildings will be lit up, processions will be taken out and gatherings of durood-o-salaam will be organised to celebrate Eid Miladun Nabi (PBUH). However, if one ponders over it, it is indeed a wonder that the celebration of this event has not only continued but increased in passion and popularity in this country.
Why is it surprising? Because elements of the state (or the establishment rather), for the past three decades or so, have actively courted, embraced and nurtured hardline religious forces that have emphasised exclusivity and parochialism. It goes without saying that these shock troops of obscurantism denounce milad celebrations as a bidaa (innovation) and have not hesitated to bomb and attack such gatherings.
The 2006 Nishtar Park bombing in Karachi, in which the entire Sunni Tehrik leadership was terminated, is fresh in the mind.
In fact any religious observance or symbol — tombs of venerated Sufis, milad processions, majalis, mourning processions — that doesn’t conform to the narrow, petrodollar-fuelled interpretation of Islam favoured by the extremists has come under ideological and now increasingly physical attack. These monsters have even turned on their creators, both here and abroad.
That, coupled with the less imminently dangerous but equally noxious growing puritan streak in society, makes the green banners and colourful buntings of Rabi-ul-Awwal a comforting sight.
Considering that the poison of sectarianism has spread to the roots of this country, celebrating Rabi-ul-Awwal 12 is and should be a reaffirmation of unity and brotherhood, commodities that are in extremely short supply.
Thankfully, despite sustained efforts to tear communities apart and foment sectarian hatred, Shias and Sunnis continue to come together to remember the Prophet’s birth during this Islamic month. His birth is a point of unity. We must thank God for
such mercies as displays of unity are anathema to the sectarian warriors who choose to divide.
Also, concerning our moral vacuum, celebrating Eid Miladun Nabi should be a declaration of intent to emulate a most excellent example, especially where inculcating traits such as humility, forbearance, perseverance, justice and wisdom within us is concerned. Listening to mellifluous na’ats and partaking in delicious niyaz are great on an external level, but perhaps we need to dig deeper and rediscover the moral and spiritual lessons that form the crux of the Prophet’s message.
Ours is a fractured, divided society; let us come together regardless of differences of sect and creed and work to rebuild it. The occasion of the birth of the Prophet — that great unifier of men — is an excellent occasion to pledge to do so. Let us go beyond
mere talk of ittehad bainul Muslimeen (unity amongst the Muslims) and practically demonstrate it. Let us refuse to accept the sectarian, jihadi narrative that speaks of hate and emphasises obscurantism; let us instead identify with the narrative which
speaks of inclusion, acceptance and tolerance.
Let the adherents of Islam show the minorities who reside in this country that they are equal citizens of the state, that they are free to practise their faiths and will not be targeted for doing so. We should remind ourselves that this is an established part of
the Prophet’s narrative, regardless of the deliberate distortions and misinterpretations.
While analyses of Pakistan’s current situation may be incredibly grim, perhaps with good reason, it is still not too late to change course. We must ask ourselves if the acts of barbarism religiously inspired militants carry out today are in consonance with the message. The answer to this is abundantly clear.
The Quran refers to the Prophet as a ‘mercy to the worlds’. Where in the extremists’ narrative can mercy or tenderness be found? In the hadith the Prophet is termed Madinatul Ilm (the city of knowledge). What place do knowledge, wisdom and erudition enjoy in the militants’ scheme of things? The Messenger of Allah built bridges between communities and tribes; the jihadis seek to redefine the meaning of Muslim while bearing incredible malice towards those of other faiths.
Ultimately, the message seeks to create good human beings; blindly following rituals while ignoring or indeed trampling on the rights of man is in fact the negation of this message.
In Pakistan, over the past six decades we have done deeds that are in complete contradiction to the code given by the Prophet. If we claim to follow his example, we should prove this by creating an enlightened welfare state that supports the
weak, gives each his due and neither commits nor acquiesces to any form of oppression.