Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
Cynicism, not negativity, must proceed with troubleshooting, problem solving, and alas collective action. Such collective action, when mandatory, must be endorsed and emboldened by courageous leaders who are capable of taking a stance beyond short-to-medium term litanies of unity and peace. In this light, whenever we happen to critique, not criticize, any nook of our socio-communal composite, we are rarely seeking to put ablaze the noble efforts and well-meant actions of individuals, rather the intention that writers always have is to bring to light a challenging scenario by way of reflection of the absence of a meritorious factor in society.
When we speak of waning interest in community matters, or worse still in religious values and affairs, we must then most definitely follow such lamentations with concrete plans of actions (PoAs) unless we intend to self serve the community with our omnipresence and with it the sentiment that we (as individuals) are indispensable.
For individuals who have spanned their lives giving service to the community, one salient feature that they may have witnessed at all times is the perennial conflict between the educated class and the leadership echelons. Without having to point our fingers at any individual and with a soaring ambition to learn from past practices, or malpractices, we must now feel bold enough to address these issues at all levels of leadership. After all, if the universal aim is to promote efficient systems and consolidated organisations, why must we hide from facing reality and realism? Why must any person in a leading position today be judged, let alone be affected, by any article of this nature as a personal aggression against his noble and virtuous efforts at improving the state of the community or any society for that matter? In fact, unless we agree to pretend that our community is 100% perfect, there should not be one individual who should shoot down any such effort to draw the attention of the populace towards an impending peril. For to allow positive and constructive criticism will necessarily yield a more refined, cultured and progressive society, provided that each one of us really means well.
With the grace of the Almighty (SWT), we have seen a massive metamorphosis in many parts of the Khoja world where after decades of seclusion, our educated class is actively involving itself in the collective progress of the community by contributing their areas of expertise whenever called upon to do so. In other sections of service, we are also witnessing a rise in the participation of such formally educated individuals in organisational leadership within the community much to the benefit of the membership.
But while we continuously tussle towards our higher education goals in which we are promoting university education to the greatest possible numbers, are we side by side building our capacity to absorb such individuals within the ambit of the community to warrant a continuity of our cooperative existence? In saying this, let us be well aware that even today in some parts of the world, conflicts are still bred by individuals who wish to exert their own individual control over the community either by virtue of their dominant financial or social position. Whereas old age is a wisdom that we must almost always preserve for guidance, how challenging is the scenario when this body of wisdom accrues a direct conflict with the body of new knowledge and PoA crusaders?
For years, we have continuously lost educated individuals who have sidelined themselves because of “politics”, as it is commonly called in barazas, but now that the wave of education gets stronger and at a time when more and more people will become educated, the traditional realms of control will obviously have to change.
If unity were our beacon to remain an organized and systematic institution, both sides must now come to a happy medium. One that will guarantee and sustain the very continuity that many leaders have battled for, for ages. The word unity, should now more than ever be only used in compromising, reconciling and dissuading differences between these two powerful pillars of our society, and not in the least to use it for the sake of discriminating, in subordinating and alienating any side of the divide. When leaders use the phrase “for the sake of unity”, let them now devise a stratagem to truly marry those that are educated and those that are wise, and not when telling the younger members of society (age being relative here) to always give in even when their presence is crucial and their contribution hallmark. For if we now continue applying 19th century leadership tactics to control, organize and supervise a 21st Century membership, we are almost destined to fail, always. And if we continue to bask in the glories of the past without appreciating the immense, multi pronged defiances of the new age and the new world order, we are involuntarily contributors towards our own self obliteration as a collective and forward looking community.
That being the advise to leaders – to act in tandem with contemporary issues without having to discard older values, the recommendation to the body of the wise is to acquire grace not force, reason, not age-old emotion. For these are the tools to separation of individuals. If today’s middle aged individuals had a chance to relive their youth, they would nostalgise about the significance of their elders in their midst, but if only they were understood and wholly welcomed in sub sections of community service at that material moment. And then the other assembly, the educated class must not also be orphaned without any piece of advice, but this time, let it come from the Messenger of Allah (SWT) himself who in response to a question about what knowledge was, enjoined to the learned in this manner…”Knowledge is Silence; then it is listening; then it is remembering; then it is to be practiced; then it is to disseminate”.