What is really wrong with our society?

Mohamedarif Suleman (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The Corona pandemic has allowed many to sit back and reflect about what is really going on around them.  However, the shallow, unresearched and in many cases, unverified knowledge demands a more serious second look after all.  I am not just talking about the scourge or its conspiracies (if indeed), but everything else, and how unrestrained global businesses are shaping thought processes, values and practices.

The traditional arch-rivalry between East and West is probably history now, as everyone everywhee seems to be behaving in a particular global mould, a standardised behaviour pattern has emerged, quite frighteningly, one must contend.

The twisted methods of pushing people to spend endlessly, so as to fuel artificial growth, is on the other hand culminating today into a horrendous climate change situation and a bizarre waste management issue.  It would not be far fetched to assert that the value of things, per se, is naught, because everything is replaceable, including relationships.

I’ll take my Chinese students as an example. I recently asked them to give a presentation about their values, or something they are most interested in. Three of the students in the class brought pictures of their closets, packed with Adidas and Nike shoes. 

They proudly announced that they were the owners of upwards of thirty pairs, and that their reward for doing well in school most often came as a pair of new shoes.

Their brand loyalty permeated every aspect of their (or their parent’s) purchasing decisions; Functionality and price were on the back-burner, second to the power of the almighty logo.

Their loyalty, adherence, and affluence gave them a sense of personal power. In the classroom, it seemed to bestow them with a certain social power as well.” – Cole Masters, Writer | Travel Blogger | English Teacher

This problem permeates every nook of society today, and our community is no exception.  From bragging about how many restaurants one patronises and hence knows the menu and the staff by memory, to how many times one has flown out to different destinations.  From how may apartments one owns, to the number of times in a week, a family is outdoors.  Yet, when you closely examine these hollow talks, it does not require a PhD to understand that none of these ‘gains’ are milestones in anyone’s life.  They are simply stages of growth and consumption.  Naturally, in all of te above examples, the only growth that is notable is that of the ego.

It has suddenly become very important for people to portray an image to others, project a created reality that can earn them a level of importance, even if it is meagre, or temporary.

So you see, not all is well around us, yes we may now learn to cll this a ‘new normal’, but this covid-borrowed nomenclature does not induce the merit in such lives.  Unfortunately, even meritorious activities are now engaged in for the sole purpose of harnessing accolades, take the Qur’an contests, the jashns, et all, or even charity.  Charity may not necessarilly be of money, it could also be effort, and thus all these forms of charity, eventually aggregate to a PR stint of sorts.  The husnu-dhan (benefit of doubt) is naturally there, but by and large, something seems terribly off now.

The author then continues: “Their loyalty, adherence, and affluence gave them a sense of personal power. In the classroom, it seemed to bestow them with a certain social power as well.

The story is no different with designer brands anywhere else in the world. The monotony of everyday city-life sometimes provides acquisition of the hottest styles as the only outlet of differentiation between otherwise similar people.

In other words, the dimensions of economic stratification in society are most often visually represented by outward displays of wealth, style, or good taste.

Ever think about how tied up these brands are with our life and interests?

Did you think that We had created you in play (without any purpose), and that you would not be brought back to Us?”
If Muslims get embroiled in the rigmarole they call contemporary life and completely neglect the commandments of the Almighty, then we need to address the core rather than saying this is the new Islam.
Death is approaching us from all sides, the least we can do is to leave a legacy as part of our contribution to society – raise a modest and believing child, who respects others, has humility, lead a well defined and hard working life not wasting a moment in jest and vanity, for who knows when this will all come to an end.  And before it does, we must quickly search for the unique purpose we were brought here for, we must strengthen our level of faith, far above what we had inherited, we must be active in promoting the message of the divine, not just through periodic events, but through living a life of the embodiment of virtue and good character.  If we have spent our lives threatening others, mud slinging, prying or causing mischief, we may have a macabre of regret.  However, if we channel our lives in pursuit of the nearness of Allah (SWT), performing action after action in His name, trying hard to keep away from evil and steering clear of show off or arrogance, then the sum total of these pursuits will take us to an end, where we will remarkably depart as martyrs of a bigger inner struggle (jehad e akbar). 
Then , only then would we be able to claim that there is nothing wrong with us today.  Till then, we need to deal with the real pandemic that is slowly chipping away our values, our morals and the entire meaning of life.



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About the author

Mohamedarif is a marketing professional and educationalist with a penchant for writing as a hobby since childhood. As he experimented writing about sporting events at first and then current affairs, he quickly developed a skill for observation of his environment and began to write on reform topics, especially in connection with the community. To further feed his pursuit of writing, he founded several newsletters and bulletins at his school and at the Husayni Madrasah in the 1980's, all the time learning from others already in the field not just about writing, but also about pre-press and production processes. He was also the editor-in-chief of the Knowledge Magazine in 1995–1996. A decade later, importing a flurry of ideas into his new home, Nairobi, he first founded a two page community newspaper then became a regular writer of the Friday Faculty before establishing the Community on Friday, a fully fledged Madrasah magazine in 1996. And while his writing at the community continued, he simultaneously started writing for a business weekly, pairing in with his newfound role as a marketing professional. During his time in Nairobi, he wrote several speeches for sitting chairmen and presidents while also giving some himself, developing his concurrent role as a public speaker and trainer.

With changing times and a decrease in advertising sponsorship, as well as a fall in overall readership, Mohamedarif transformed this publication into an electronic blog. Thus was born the Community on Friday in its present format.

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