The Politics of Class

Mohamedarif Suleman – Nairobi, Kenya

Suffering from the vagaries of a class society, our community today is divided well amongst three classes.  There’s the ultra rich, the thriving middle class, who are increasingly reaching for the top slot, and those that are in economic crises.

Yes what you are reading is not necessarily a chapter from a Karl Marx book, where the lesson of communism is taught.  The eternal struggle of classes that he preached may be a reality, but the world has taught us that the ideology does not work.  This is the state of affairs of a Khoja society we are talking about.

The ultra rich and those tagging along in this group are very dear to the community, since they provide the bulk of the finances that committees yearn for in order to take charge of a people’s socio-economic prospect.  It is true that we cannot do without this class.  But while some are true contributors and sincere sponsors, most are unfortunately out to exhibit their prowess in society.  Giving large donations and then reminding everyone that “I donated it”, is a culture well ingrained and deep rooted.  But it must be accepted as well that their display of arrogance and wealth is the only way they can remain distinct from the mass of that society.  Then come the fast-paced community middle-class, which unlike its economic (that of Marx) counterpart, is a dull and detached class of people that resent the “first class” because they are snobbish and show offs, and abhor the third class (yet to be discussed) since they comprise of  fanatics and the have-nots.

That brings us to the last class of people, who are very important to society because they form the bulk of participants in any function or forum.  They have little voice or political leverage and are usually denominated as traditionalists whose only role is to give a vote to the leadership.

A lot of the readers may find this particular interpretation of classes as very provocative, while an equal number might find this article a true picture of the current state of affairs.  What you think, matters less because it is the time of reckoning, and you must be prepared to call a spade, a spade.

Sandwiched in this three-way bread-and-filling situation is, usually, the leadership.  Again, a lot depends on where the leader originates from, which class to be specific.  If he belongs to the first category, then it is pretty easy for him.  He just has to keep all the parties happy.  Perform religious activities to please the third raters and show development projects to delight the rich.  But his peace will be subject to the ease with which he can say yes to the demands of put forth by the sponsoring class.  The moment he says no, regardless of the merit in question, there is a great fall out of support, and those who promoted him yesterday will do everything necessary in their power to stop him.  Their formula is a bit complicated though.  Their cause has got to be justified.  It has to have a certain tinge of legitimacy attached to it.  The only way this is possible is by swaying the third vote.

If the leader belongs to the middle class, rough seas await him, and uneven shores receive him.  It is pretty rare nowadays to have a leader outside the first class due to the numerous pressures involved in leading a community.  This then eliminates the need for a from a third class.

Alas, what must be understood is that each one of us is a leader, and we inevitable belong to one of these classes.  Should we not genuinely put aside our differences and rise to the bigger ideal of unity and togetherness? Should we not consider ourselves as equal when we join hands to recite Dua Wahda on Fridays? Should we not be wary of the ultimate fate that awaits each one of us, rich or poor? Should we not become more Muslim in our dealings than engage in petty politics in the pursuit of fame?

While the onus definitely lies with the leadership to set the ball rolling, it would be fair to say that the members of any society are crucial in the transformation that we have thus far been paying lip-service to.

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The Meaning of Tabligh

Mohamedarif Suleman – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

It time has come when, as Muslims, we should cross the boundaries of our homes and propagate the word of Allah (SWT) to greater audiences. It would be right to say that it is our immediate duty to preach, in any form and substance possible, the message that the Holy Prophet (SAW) left to his Ummah, and the message for which Imam Husain (AS) sacrificed his life.

Unfortunately, one may assert that the above are very grand statements that have little relevance in our real life situation today. This, given the fact that we have limited manpower and resources at hand to swerve the direction of humankind today. On the other hand, one may as well contend that when we talk of propagating, we do not necessarily imply the use of financial power or enormous government lobbying to achieve our goals. Something as small as what we did last Aashura (holding a session of informative talks by prominent speakers in audible and intelligible language), could be regarded as a milestone achieved in terms of crossing our threshold. And inshallah, with renewed zeal, it is hoped that such programmes will prove to be vital source of tabligh of our religion. History shows us that it was only due to the interaction of the Holy Prophet (SAW) with the communities surrounding him, that his mission attained success. Of course, one indelible mark he left for us to gaze upon was the aspect of his character. It was his character, and not any material prowess that saw him succeed. The funds that Janabe Khadija (SA) lent to the entire mission were undoubtedly the means with which the propagation was spearheaded, but it was not the basis.

Christians, too, believe that Jesus Christ (Prophet Isa) was a man who mingled with various kinds of people, and eventually influenced them with the power of his character. Hereunder is an interesting excerpt from “Health and Happiness” by E G White, which talks of his presentation with varied peoples:”He attended the great yearly festivals of the nations, and to the multitude absorbed in outward ceremony, he spoke of heavenly things; he brought treasures from the storehouse of wisdom. He spoke to them in a language so simple that they could not fail of understanding. With tender, courteous grace, he ministered to the sin-sick soul, bringing healing and strength…While he ministered to the poor, Jesus studied also to find ways of reaching the rich. He sought the acquaintance of the wealthy and cultured Pharisee, the Jewish noblemen, and the Roman ruler. He accepted their invitations, attended their feasts made himself familiar with their interests and occupations, that he might gain access to their hearts…”

If anything, the above narrative teaches us to project ourselves outward to touch the various avenues of society, and penetrate them with the objective of influencing its members.

But a question that we must ask ourselves is whether going out to serve the Lord is for us a timely task at this hour. Are we prepared to answer the questions that will arise about our own faith? Is our learning sufficiently helpful in guaranteeing out success? Are we involved in further learning our own faith? Are we passing this knowledge to our offspring? If the answers to all of these questions can be in the affirmative that it would be safe to assume that we are ready for real tabligh. But if due to our own unhealthy and lax attitude towards our religion, we have ourselves lost track, little can be said about the blooming prospect.

When community leaders shout about the much-flagged “youth” slogan, they forget that they are conspicuously absenting the elders from any answerability about the state of these youths. If youths are unresponsive, disobedient and lack the interest to serve in the community, who, one should ask, made these youths? And frightful as this may sound, how do we expect these individuals to father/mother their children, given that they are pretty devoid about religion themselves? Many questions arise. Do we have the answers? Or re we too preoccupied in making a living or a name to really care about the next generation?

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