Mohamedarif Suleman (Nairobi, Kenya)
It is more than a decade now since the communist bloc fell. Then began an unstoppable imbalance of world powers in which Capitalism, an ideology that captures the essence of bare human instincts, took charge. This is not the place to analyze and weigh the merits and demerits of this globally successful policy, spearheaded by the Western world, it is rather an effort to view the aftermath that the adoption by the world leaders and nation states of such a policy with specific relation to religion and spirituality has brought about.
The basis of Capitalism is capital. Capital of any form lends economic advantages to individuals, societies and nations. Money capital in particular, as opposed to human and natural resource capital, is both a means and an end to economic prosperity. This means that people use money to make more money, whereas more human resource is also used to make more money and not more human resource.
Money, as the classical adage goes, is the root of all evil, and being the primary focus of a capitalist system was naturally in direct opposition to many socio-religious values such as luxury, vanity and over-indulgence. The powerful thrust of a capitalist structure is such that it creates needs where there exist none, and through improved innovation it keeps bettering products and services in both instances – where such needs exist and where none do. For instance, while both the advancement of a Gillette Mach 3 and an infection fighting antibiotic are good inventions and useful to us, the need to shave was being met even during the Gillette Contour and the Gillette II series, while certain diseases were perhaps not combated well enough with previous versions of the AB as opposed to the new one. Now, the example of a razor cartridge is probably lame and ludicrous, but it does serve the purpose of sending the message across at the most elementary level.
Away from the humongous applications of capital societies and their motivations, let us turn to look at the situation with respect to religion. While it was the Soviet Union that led a compulsively atheist life, cases of rogue prophets, fraudulent cult leaders and sacrifices in the name of religious spirit have traditionally been rampant in the US, leader of the capitalist movement. Ironically, it was at this very time that American Universities ran a Sociology course right from Freshman year about how people are always in search of deities, of how important it is for divinity to be present among people. And apart from the “In God We Trust” inscription on the dollar bill, and the engraving of a part of the bible in Congress, there were tremendous movements demanding the separation of State and Religion. People’s alienation from religion, in part arose due to the constant pressure of an urban lifestyle that propagated the need to buy more of this and more of that.
It has been promoted variously that we live in a competitive world, a cutthroat paced life where prices soar by the second and only the fittest survive. Many writers have often queried the relevance of religion and spiritualism amidst nuclear warheads and violence. For some people, religion is still an anchor in countering the moral degeneration that surrounds us, where values and ethics help us to forge ahead in life towards attaining happiness and inner joy, towards self-actualization. Some feel religion helps us to keep our souls pure and to lead better lives by facing adversity more positively.
Let us not deny, as well, that as residents in this ultra-modern age, we are ourselves beneficiaries of a lot of luxury and convenient applications that would not have been possible had science not taken the leaps that it finally did. How many of us can imagine life without a computer? Very few perhaps.
But the same machinery that has negated almost every religious principle that was dear to both Muslims and Original Christians has powered the positive aspects of these scientific marvels. The other offshoot of capitalism – that of spurring hard work cannot be over emphasized as it is a vital attainment of the human race, an attainment that Communism could never have provided.
But does being capitalist mean to shun the dictates of the Holy Qur’an? How on earth does same-sex marriage, an advocacy of the Capitalist nation, suddenly become legitimate? Why does female emancipation not mean giving more respect and equity to them rather than the freedom that has surfaced in the name of free will today? So many such vices have now become acceptable that the Qur’an clearly states otherwise. Now, it is appropriate when an atheist falls prey to such machinations, but how are Muslims reacting to this great party that has just started? Well, in the context of the new capitalist spirit, do we expect to see the number of our men adorning beard (Prophet’s Sunnah) and the number of our women appropriately veiled increase? Nay. Think again.
Look around you. The new youth is telling a different story. The good guys are now in the minority, and the majority have taken various recreational activities not limited to hang outs, discotheques and parties, but those that include obscene transfer of mobile phone messages, easy access to internet vulgarity, premarital activities prohibited by Islam, drunkenness and a host of other mundane “virtues”. It is a seriously bad time for the good guys, for whom the real meaning of peer pressure has just about begun. In this hectic social and electronic life, these youngsters hardly have the time to attend a majlis or a jamaat prayer, but they do manage to nick in some shaving and after shaving activity in capital spirit!