Mohamedarif M Suleman – (Nairobi, Kenya)
When the late eminence Ayatullah Ruhullah Khomeini strode into the Islamic world’s topmost position way back in 1979, at the height of the cold war, Muslims all over the world were so be smitten by his charismatic and resolute leadership, that even the social rules he put in place for Iranians at the time, became the Muslim world’s minimum standard practice. It is not uncommon for those who followed the politics of the day during that time to remark even now that Khomeini’s leadership brought tremendous respect for Muslims travelling abroad or those living in the West, after the initial days of rejection by a small minority and extremist group.
Two of the most remarkable things that emerged during those days, was the adornment of hijab by many Khoja Shia Ithnasheri women and the return of the beard for her male counterpart. Before this time, very few ladies, while still resorting to the pachedi culture, even believed in the veil. Some offshoots were also experienced, those that were not significant though, such as buttoning up of the first shirt button without a tie. But those fashion statements on one side, the after effect of the Islamic Revolution in Iran was remarkable. And while this should not be meant to symbolize that all Iranian is Islamic, the profile of this great man, an Iranian, was undisputedly overwhelming.
For the information of the younger readers, who usually entertain themselves with the statements “today the times are different”, or “the world has changed”, let it be known as well that modernity, pervasive and liberal lifestyles were at the crescendo during the days of the demise of the Shah’s empire. When we talk about fashion coming back today, we don’t just mean to pay lip service to it, but we actually ought to mean that all that we think is modern today, is perhaps a return from the older days rather than something new. But under starkly balanced political power between the Capitalists and the Communists, Muslims then were free to choose what they thought was right rather than what they were told by outsiders what was right.
Today, after the “liberation” of Iraq, years after the unceremonious collapse of the Soviet Republic, Muslims find themselves in a unique battle to go back to roots. Roots of culture, of tribes and communities, of savagery amongst others. For these are the tenets that the new world order proposes to one and all. Is today’s Muslim as free to choose what he or she thinks is right than he was then. And all this because out of no fault of their own, and owing to a grand political design of neo-fascism, certain practices are just extremist in the eyes of the new world leaders.
In a fast changing global set up where life amenities have so greatly improved that the line between good and bad is fast diminishing. And as much as we must admire the Western nations for spearheading this marvellous stride in science, information and technology, we must as well recognize the perils that come along with them.
As a community, the biggest challenge we face today is our ability to keep the social order intact. More specifically, in times when individualistic attitude is considered superior to family ties, as Muslims our social structure is in danger. No wonder, what was previously a matter of taboo, and in fact a highly abominable thing in the eyes of the Holy Prophet (SAW), is today, frivolously practiced by our young men and women. Men and women, who tell us that their personal choice is over and above the Holy Prophet’s words. In fact, divorce is becoming so rampant, and consequentially, it has been reliably and repeatedly reported that liberal mating relationships as well as temporary marriages are on the rise, so much so that the existence of the family is today on the brink of utter disintegration.
What is most surprising is that, both at community level and at family level, our past success of holding things together, is chiefly responsible for our community’s relative success today, why would we be so eager in aping another culture so much so that we are prepared to risk our entire basis of success?
When our fathers envisioned education for all in the community, were they in fact planning to create such agents of foreign change to whom the burning desire to import all external habits and norms would be so engulfing that it would in fact lead to self destruction? But are we possibly looking at a generation today that is so self-centered and bound by Western laws that they would not be willing to budge over trivial matrimonial issues and instead prefer to seek permanent dissolution of a sacred bond?
There are many questions. Ardent supporters of the Western way of living will severely argue against the theory that the Western culture is to blame, and to a great extent they would be correct in their assumptions. For it s the Modern Culture that we mean whenever we blame the falling structures of society. Defenders of social tolerance should probably take a deep gaze into the history of Islam and see what was the outcome of same sex marriages and whether we are right in today embracing this growing culture.
Whether it is our sisters living in the East or the West, equally there is a commotion brewing in which they desire to seek the reigns of leadership, especially from the men. Now if one were to object to such a movement, they would be labelled sexist. But look at the lives of Janabe Fatema (SA) and the lifestyle of Bibi Khadija (AS) and their choice to remain under their male counterparts despite their very superior position – socially, and in the case of the latter, financially as well. Their position was used to support their husband’s objectives and life missions not to compete them. It was Bibi Aisha then who history will recall as the lady warrior who took to the saddles of a camel in the famous Jamal battle, and who has been cited severally as going against the Holy Prophet (SAW).
Take the good, and leave the bad is the simple message for not everything Modern is good. Just as we have started shrugging off a lot of our Hindu practice baggage, we must now boldly shun Modern practices that contravene Islamic laws.
To the community’s leaders: the challenge today is greater than capital projects. It is in fact investment in human capital, which is fast eroding into a self-effacing society. Years of fantasy Majalis must bear the blame as much as our own leadership as parents, heads of families and community leaders in making choices that are now taking us a full circle back to roots. From 1979 to 2006, how much has changed – is it for better or worse?