The challenge before humankind is: can it make the paradigm shift with the minimal trauma and destruction by understanding that it has only one world to share?

By Humayun Gauhar

I fear’ can also mean ‘I’m afraid’, as in ‘I suspect’. I do hope that I’m wrong but I fear that we are in for even more turbulent times than we are going through. I hope too that humankind can rediscover some of the common sense that the Almighty endowed it with and avoid calamity foretold by events. But I fear that humankind is going from stupid to stupider. I wonder what degree of calamity it will take for people to collectively rediscover common sense.

As a student of societal evolution I am not unhappy at all. What could be more exciting than witnessing so much history in the making at such a frenetic pace? No doom and gloom here. All I want is to live long enough to see a brave new world emerge, though there is no gainsaying it would necessarily be a better one. But it will certainly be different, to which humankind will have to find ways to adjust. It always does.

Don’t get me wrong: before humankind makes a paradigm shift towards a new, either better or worse, world there has to be destruction of the current paradigm. ‘Better or worse’ depends on where one is coming from. What is good for one may not necessarily be good for the other. What is perceived as good by one may not necessarily be perceived as good by the other. As I said, depends on one’s point of view. When people tell me that Pakistan is in a bad condition getting worse, I surprise them by saying, “Nothing could be better. Let this iniquitous system consume itself; let the people learn and hopefully transit to a better system.” One thing I have learned though: you cannot bring change by force or fiat. It has to be done either by evolution or revolution. Nothing else.

The challenge before humankind is: can it make the paradigm shift with the minimal trauma and destruction by understanding that it has only one world to share? It can, but only if it decides to share sensibly and equitably, if nothing else then for species survival. Gandhi said that there is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed. Again, depends on one’s point of view. For an American worker a car is a need, for a Pakistani only a good pair of shoes is. If the Pakistani wants a car it will be called greed. Herein lie the seeds of the World Bank’s unlamented ‘Basic Needs Theory’. First decide what basic needs are and then apply them universally, not one set for one lot and a lesser set for another. To a capitalist wealth accumulation isn’t greed but a necessity for growth, something to be celebrated. To a socialist wealth means corruption, something of an embarrassment. Depends on the ideological milieu one is subsumed in. Islam has more of a socialist impulse than capitalist. I remember a Pakistani anchor insistently asking someone, “How much of your wealth have you shared with people?” Why should he, and if he does, why should he announce to the world? The condition of the people is, first and foremost, the responsibility of the state. What people do for people is between them and God.

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Mankind has spent less time on earth than most species have, even less than the dinosaurs. The cockroach has been around longer. Man’s propensity to use his great discoveries and inventions for doing bad instead of good has let to a lot of destruction. Atomic fusion springs to mind. Man often debases his ingenuity to establish hegemony over others. Thus Man has damaged and destroyed the environment and many species, including his own. The destruction continues unabated. Man has become much more dangerous than the dinosaurs. Dinosaurs didn’t kill themselves. Nature did. The human dinosaur is killing itself, without help from nature. Let Homo sapiens not become the shortest-lived species ever. Don’t worry so much about a meteor or super volcano or Tsunami or some such cataclysm destroying us, nor an alien attack from space. Humankind is its own greatest enemy. Don’t believe me? Then tell me: who caused climate change? Man or nature? I know about climate cycles, but Man accelerated climate change at the very least. Who punched a hole in the ozone layer as large as North America?

Now from ‘I fear’ to ‘I’m afraid’ but not ‘I suspect’. I don’t fear or suspect it because it is before us. I’m talking of the Muslim condition. I’m afraid it’s pathetic. “We the Muslims” are in denial. If we wish to improve, we should take a good hard look at ourselves and first realize that we have contributed to it ourselves before we start blaming others. That will be the beginning of our ascendant. Muslims are disunited and confused, divided into myriad sects, Sharias, schools of thought, interpretations and movements. We cannot agree either on how to govern ourselves or which economic, political or legal system to follow. So we transplant alien systems on our societies. Needless to say, they don’t work, except for the few at the top. We cannot even agree on the definition of a Muslim. We have scarred the spirit of our faith by adopting many pre-Islamic customs, rituals and traditions and superimposed them on Islam thinking that they are part of the faith, particularly the majority held hostage to what they are told by parents, peers and clerics. At the root of this malaise lies power struggle, so please don’t make sublime excuses for it.

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Faith is between Man and God. Sure one can take guidance from the educated, but no one can act as intermediary between Man and God. Sadly, like many other faiths, Islam has become the prerogative of de facto clerics masquerading as scholars and de facto churches pretending to be schools of thought. Neither church nor cleric has any place in Islam. We don’t even understand what ‘secular’ means. Outsiders may have enabled the Muslim decline, but they could not have done so without Muslims first becoming intellectually and physically decadent and complacent. Most forsook their responsibilities and assisted outsiders to subjugate Muslims in return for titles and riches. This condition persists: look at how large the Muslim Chapter of the Langley Club is, how fast it is growing and how many more are craving membership. This is how nations fall, when they cannot tell the difference between the rose and the thorn, between right and wrong.

The fact remains that ‘We the Muslims’ have brought our decline upon ourselves because of nothing more edifying than internecine power struggles, by whatever glossy name they might dignify them. Today, the Muslim condition is the worst of any people in the world. We have no world-class hospitals, schools or universities though God has told us that looking after His creation and acquiring knowledge are the prime drivers of a life well spent. We obliviously take for granted things we use in our daily lives forgetting that most of them are almost exclusively inventions and manufactures of non-Muslims.

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Could such a badly divided people ever come under a single broad command again? If you go by the Quran you would think that most of us are borderline Muslims if measured by the intentions behind our deeds, born into the faith without bothering to under either its spirit or the intent of the Almighty.

When you are so divided, when you throw your gates open, why are you so surprised when outsiders walk in and buy the divided, indoctrinate the unlettered and brainwash the unwashed and then lord it over them by convincing them of their superiority? We Muslims did when we were in the ascendant. It’s human nature. Some of us never lose hope, though. One never should, else life wouldn’t be worth living. Losing hope is a great sin, for it betrays absence of faith in God.