Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
Our Jamaats, the establishment that is, represents years of hard and dedicated work by a great many selfless persons. For years, the advices that if you work for the community, do not expect any rewards, has almost become an adage, Yet people of various walks of life serve with determination and unmatched zeal. The result is the culmination of a well-organized society that stands tall amidst its educational, financial, socio-cultural and medical prowess. Of course, the level of achievement in each category my be different for each Jamaat, but the collective good demonstrates the ability and the resources of the Khoja Shia
It would not be incorrect to assune as well that side-by-side with this distinguished track record the Community has at various points, found itself embattled. This relates to either changing external environments, or unstable political conditions, or merely the need for educating the community’s children. There has been wide amnesty as well emanating from the community’s powerhouses towards the less fortunate members of the Muslim society, whether at home or in India.
So, the general quandary of the community is relatively brighter today, than it was some two decades ago, Our sisters are more active dispensing their roles today, and our brothers are more educated and well aware today. Of course, the flip side, that of an aggregate urban lifestyle has necessarily attacked the health and lives of individuals, but as consumerists may say, overall it has been a small price to pay.
But it is not the function of the community nor the proceedings that surround it are ambiguous in character, but what really is a challenge is the mixed breed of socio-political administration that is in wide use today. Now whether this is the strength of our development or a weakness remains open for individual interpretation. While we have elaborate mechanisms of policy making and the presence of a democratic form of government and the presence of a pseudo-active electorate, much of our decisions and arrangements today are carried out in the same traditional form.
The point of divergence perhaps arises due to the naivety of any one individual who may be deceived into believing that Committees in Jamaat aifairs, at any level, are truly democratic. A lot of the decisions are meant to synchronize with the advise of living sages, or perhaps donor conditions, At times, projects are born solely because resources have suddenly become available. For many straight-liners, this form of government is unprofessional and hypocritical, but the leadership has a stronger case, that is it works!
So whether we should severely adhere to laid down norms and professional conduct in running Jamaat affairs, or if we should retain the adhoc basis of administration remains to be the select and sovereign territory of the elected official. Most would still opt for the middle way, the two-tone style of leadership in which you exercise both methods in one sentence.
lf the alternative remains as it is popular today, then the election of office bearers before the presentation of accounts, and the establishment of capital projects without the nod of the general body, will all seem fair to the mind. But to expect that these prerequisites be followed whereas the system in place has accepted its absence would be out of step.
Whichever way you look at it, it does appear that the community gets caught in unfamiliar territory when its image of knowing the system and following it too seems publicly threatened by a point of order or by the consciousness of an agile populace. History will bear testimony to the fact that despite its sound development, procedure has been last on the list of all leaders. One shudders to wonder what the face of the institution might have been had plans been validated scientifically before action was sanctioned!