Auron ka hai Payaam aur, mera Payaam aur hai, / Ishq key dardmand ka tarz-e-kalaam aur hai! (Iqbal)
It was not too long ago that Hindus around the world celebrated Diwali. The Americans then jumped into the fray with their own celebration of Thanksgiving. And now the whole world is set to celebrate Christmas. Earlier, Muslims came out of the glorious month of Ramadan to celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr and now are on their way to celebrate Eid-ul- Adha and Hajj. What a glorious world do we live in!
And how happy should all of us be to be part of a world in which chunks of humanity under different names and in different places and ways celebrate one good thing or another.
And what a wonderful way it is to unite a strife-torn humanity by trying to find common elements in what people do, rather than always focusing on all the things that divide and separate humanity. On all the things that people do different.
QUR’AN INVITES HUMANITY TO UNITE!
Come, let us sit down together and see what things we have common among us. That is the timeless call of the Qur’an as a way to bridge the gaps that divide human beings everywhere.
Qur’an: Ta’aalaw ilaa kalimatin sawaa-im bainanaa wa bainakum! Paraphrase: Let us coalesce around the points that we all cherish together.
Believe it or not, Diwali, Thanksgiving and Christmas all show us how it is possible for Muslims to find common cause with non-Muslims. They are also opportunities and occasions for non-Muslims to begin to take a fresh look at Islam and Muslims and realise that, despite all the propaganda to the contrary, their mission on earth is not to divide and destroy humanity but to unite it and build a better world for all.
ISLAM IS ALL GOOD
Show me one good thing anywhere in the world, and I will show you how it coincides with something equally good or better in Islam.
That is because Islam is good. It is from a good God, in whom all good and beautiful names and attributes inhere.
As the Qur’an says: Lahul asmaa-ul husnaa. Paraphrase: All good and beautiful names and attributes are his. They all, rightfully and legitimately and in the truest sense, belong to him. Those good things are the common basis which should pull us together and unite us. And they do. But all too many of us, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, have trained and conditioned ourselves for too long to focus and obsess on all that is NOT common among us. On all that divides and separates us.
YOU CAN’T BE EVERYTHING TO EVERYBODY
But there is a case for that too. There are areas of principle on which Islam – and Muslims – cannot afford to compromise. Not due to rigidity or stubbornness, but because those are the lines that demarcate identities and determine destinies: for individuals; groups; nations; cultures; societies; as well as for what people call “religions.”
You compromise on those, and then you are no longer you. You become something else. You compromise your identity. You lose soul.
You then become like that proverbial crow that tried to walk like a swan and ended up forgetting his own natural gait.
They say it most beautifully in India’s two beautiful languages Urdu and Hindi: Kawwa hans ke chaal chala. Paraphrase: How a crow that tries to imitate the walk of a swan.
Or you become what they say in Urdu and Hindi: Choon choon ka murabba. Paraphrase: A hotchpotch – totally without character or identity; everything to everyone.
Life is fluidity and flexibility. Rigidity and rockiness are qualities of death and, well, rocklike states and objects. But the great paradox of life is that it is a happy confluence of both. And the key to happy and successful living on earth is knowing where the boundaries lies. It is having a set of fixed parameters surrounded by areas of fluidity and resilience.
God sent Islam to define and delineate the boundaries of each. It came to tell and show human beings how far they could go in any particular direction without jeopardizing their or anyone else’s safety and security in this world as well as their ultimate success and wellbeing in the next world.
So, when those Red Zones of human safety, security and wellbeing, both in this and the next world, are approached, Islam sounds an alarm. “Danger!” it warns. “Don’t go near them!” it says.
Qur’an: Tilka hudoodullahi falaa taqrabooha! Paraphrase: Those are boundaries set up by God, don’t go anywhere near them!
DEALING WITH DIFFERENCES
Now then, the question is this: What do you do when two groups disagree on what is fundamentally right and wrong? When they have exhausted all their wonderful areas of commonality and arrive at a dead end?
Where do they go when they come to a point on their great big road to commonality where a huge sign says, “Road Closed”?
Like, for example, the question of the “worship” of one God vs. devotion to multiple gods.
Islam has the answer for that one too. Islam says take what is common and build on it and leave what is problematic to revisit another day. Hear the Qur’an say it in its own words.
Qur’an: Al-laa na’buda illallah, wa laa nushrika bihi shai-aa. Paraphrase: Let us make God the basis of our agreement such that we shall worship none but him, and we shall associate none as partner or joint-God with him, and that we shall not handover the role of master of this and the next world to anyone but God Almighty.
Not only that, what about who controls whom and who decides the destinies of whom in this world itself? To whom do we hand over this world and its rights, powers and privileges? Let the Qur’an answer that question.
Qur’an: Wa laa yattakhiza ba’dunaa ba’dan arbaabam min doonullah. Paraphrase: Let us agree that we won’t claim rights and powers over each other that belong only to God; that we will not become the overlords, worldly masters and Shogans of one another in this life.
If we can’t agree on any of this, let us then, for the time being at least, agree to disagree and leave each other alone.
Qur’an: Lakum deenukum wa liya deen. Paraphrase: You go your way and I shall go mine.
HOW BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE!
Islam, thy name is compromise – where compromise leads to goodness and truth. Islam is all compromise where compromise opens the door to greater justice, compassion and equality for all.
Islam is all accommodation where accommodation makes possible the building of a better and more peaceful world for all.
Islam is all negotiation where negotiation helps people to set aside their prejudices and hate and phobias and take a more honest and objective look at the truth that came to them in the form of the Qur’an and Islam.
Islam is all peace where peace enhances human rights, dignities, liberties, freedoms and opportunities for all – regardless of race, religion, gender, tribe, territory, country or class. Islam, how beautiful you are! Who but God Almighty could have fashioned you?
You are so wonderful and so encompassing and embracing of all, Dear Islam, that anything truly good and genuinely beautiful in any place or culture or society in this world, we can put a flag on it and call it Islam. And claim it as our own.
DIWALI: A FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
A festival of light did you say? Now, wait a minute. That is us. Light is us. Islam is all about light. Not in some small, marginal way, but in a most fundamental, sweeping and global way. According to the Bible, God said: Let there be light! And there was light. Islam goes beyond that. Way, way, way beyond that.
According to the Qur’an, God Almighty not only set up the universe with the light fixtures of the sun, the moon and the stars, but much more than that, God Almighty himself is the light of the heavens and earth, the Qur’an declares.
Allahu noorus-samaawaati wal ard, says the Qur’an. And then that most beautiful passage from the Qur’an – like all other passages of the Qur’an, each one of which is more beautiful than the other – which says: And then the earth would have lit up with the light of her master!
Every time I read that miraculous passage or Aayat of the Qur’an, I feel like closing my eyes and going into a trance. That is how magical it is – the notion of divine radiance and light suddenly sweeping and filling the earth. Here are the words of the Qur’an. Close your eyes and recite them as often as you can and see if you feel anything. Wa ashraqatil ardu bi-noori rabbiha.