I was born and raised in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan but now I live in a multi-faith society where we are exposed to different religions and cultures. The exposure of other religions in Pakistan was not much. After moving to North America and living among non-Muslims for more than 30 years, I have developed more appreciation of my faith compared to what I had in Pakistan.
Muslims who live in a non-Muslim society can recognize the differences and commonalities between Islam and other traditions better and faster than those who live in a Muslim country. The changes that are taking place among Pakistani Muslims may not be visible to Pakistanis but I can see and recognize those changes very clearly. I have never seen such drastic changes among Pakistani Muslims as I can see now through the Pakistani media. The copying and adopting the traditions of other faiths and cultures is highly obvious among Pakistani Muslims. I am shocked at the degree of resemblance with Christians, Sikh and Hindus. I am NOT talking about resemblance in marriages and some social activities; I am talking about resemblance with Christians and Sikhs in our religious traditions. Let me share with you some of my observations.
Beard and Turban
I know very well that the Turban (Amama Sharif) is a Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I have spent my childhood and youth age in serving Ulema-e-Kiram in Pakistan. I know those Ulema who always wore turban. I remember Hazrat Allama Maulana Abdul Hamid Badayooni (Rahmatullah Alaih). I can still see his beautiful face in my memory. When he used to put on Amama Sharif, his face used to get more glorious and graceful. My own Murshad and father, Hazrat Allama Syed Muhammad Riazuddin Soharwardy (Rahmatullah Alaih) when used to wear turban for Friday prayer he looked more beautiful, graceful and “noorani”. I meet Allama Syed Shah Turab ul Haq Sahib every year when he visits us. His turban is beautiful and clearly follows the turbans of our “ASLAAF”. When you see the photos of the Amama Sharif of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and read its description in the books of Hadith, you will find that the Turban that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wore was different than the Turban that some of the “media savvy” Pakistani Ulema, Molvi Sahiban, Naat Khawn and their followers wear. The beard and turban of a Muslim used to look different from the beard and turban of the people of other faiths. You could just look at the face and tell whether the person is Muslim OR not.
However, when I watch various Naat Khawn, Qari and even some of the Ulema on Pakistani media it bothers me. If I close off sound volume of TV and watch picture only it will be very difficult for me to know whether the person is Sikh or a Muslim. I see Sikh turban everyday. I have Sikh neighbours and colleagues. They grow beard and wear turbans. Some Muslims also grow beard and wear turban but the looks of a Muslim beard and turban used to be quite different than the looks of a Sikh beard and turban. Today that distinction is disappearing. I am not sure whether this is intentional or not but it is alarming. It seems knowingly or unknowingly our religious people are trying to merge Islamic identity with non-Muslims. For some, it may not be a bad thing but for some it is not the right thing. In my opinion, those who are trying to remove the distinctions between Islam and other religions are not the right personalities to be followed by the Muslims. Islam came to the world to influence others and change others for better instead of being absorbed by other faiths and cultures. Beard and Turban are good but it must be distinct based upon the distinction that Islam created. Muslims do not grow uncontrolled beard and Muslims do not wear turbans in order to look like Sikhs.
Dancing and Swinging Arms
Another resemblance with Christians that is emerging within Pakistani Muslims is “celebration of religious occasions”. I have been to many churches for my inter-faith dialogues. I think I have visited almost all major denominations of Christian faith. If you visit the Sunday worship of Evangelists Born-Again Christians, you will be shocked to see how their worship service resembles with some of the religious groups in Pakistan. In their prayers they dance and rise both of their arms in air and swing left and right. Muslims have started doing the same. I lived in Pakistan for more than 25 years of my early life. I never saw such gatherings there. It looks like a recent start.
I have seen in Mahafil-e-Naat people are forced to raise their both arms and swing left and right. They dance and make “dhamal”. If you close of sound volume on your TV, you can not distinguish a Born-Again Christians gathering from such gatherings of Muslims. Both dance in their religious gatherings and both raise their arms in air and swing. Have you ever attended Pentecostal Christian church? You will be surprised to see their “dhamal” (dance) and the “dhamal” of some Muslims during the listening of Naat Sharif. I see no difference, at least in the appearance.
Musical Tones and Dance In Masajid
The new generation of Naat Khawns has completely changed the recitation of Naat. I was born and raised in a Naat loving family. I love to recite and listen Naat Sharif. I want my children to praise Rasool ullah (Sallallaho Aliahe Wasallam) from the bottom of their hearts. Naat is the one of the most effective ways to express love for Rasool ullah (Sallallaho Aliahe Wasallam). It is in fact the Ebadah of Allah to praise His beloved Nabi (Sallallaho Aliahe Wasallam). However, the way some of the Pakistani Naat Khawns have started reciting Naat Sharif is more “singing and dancing” vs. the concept of Ebadah. The lyrics and tones of Naat are stolen from Indian and Pakistani music industry. These kinds of religious singings inspire a person to dance and enjoy vs. being graceful, humble and spiritual. Listening Naat Sharif is no more a religious act in Pakistan, it is just an entertainment. Mahafil-e-Naat are now becoming variety shows. We must not break the distinction between Naat Sharif and songs of Indian movies. The grace of Naat Sharif must be respected and practiced.
Qawali vs Naat Khawni
Another distinction that is disappearing is the difference between Qawali and Naat. I have seen that Naat Khawns have started singing Qawalis. What is still missing is that the most of the Naat Khawns don’t know how to use musical instruments. If this trend continues, Naat Khawn and Qawal will be a one big family.
Gatherings For Du’a
I just watched Du’a gatherings of 27th night of Ramadan on two Pakistani TV channels. On one channel a very prominent Aalim was making dua and on the other channel a TV program host was making dua. Have you ever seen Christian duaby Jimmy Swaggart? Have you ever seen Christian dua by John Hagee and Pat Robertson, the biggest Islamophobes in North America. The only difference which I could see that the Pakistani Muslims dua was in Urdu and Arabic and the American Christian dua was in English. Otherwise, it had no difference; same yelling, screaming, crying and pretending.
I have never seen in my life Muslims making dua to Allah Subhana hoo Wa Ta’ala like this. Is our Allah deaf? (Naoozo billah). Why do we have to scream, yell and shout in our du’a? Are we making dua to a person who has hard time to listen and we had to shout for him OR we make dua to almighty Allah who even knows our thoughts.
The difference between dua and speech is that the dua is for Allah and speech is for people. In order to draw people’s attention a speaker some time speaks loudly, emotionally and do acting in order to motivate people. But dua is not a speech.Dua is to present your issues, problems, needs, sorrows, fears and thanks to Allah only. Allah is the most listening and the most knowing. He can even listen and know our future thoughts. Why do we have to scream in dua? The distinction between speech and dua is getting wiped out. Moreover, the congregational dua gatherings are becoming more ceremonial and acting events. The Aalim or a person who leads the dua knowingly does acting and pretends in front of camera. Can someone explain to me is this not called “Reyah” (showing off)? No wonder our dua are not accepted. Our dua bear no fruit because of these show offs. These show offs are required by the TV channels for money and lead by the Aalim and followed by masses. Allah is just being (ab)used. No wonder Pakistan is in trouble.
Matam and Mersiyah for Ramadan
Another emerging “mourning” that has started among Sunni Muslims is on the departure of the holy month of Ramadan. I just watched a Pakistani religious TV channel. A singer was singing a sort of a “MERSIYA” about Ramadan, as if Ramadan has died OR going to die in few hours. The people were crying and looked like in panic and under deep stress. The scene was so disturbing that I could not watch for more than two minutes. Their leader was crying and looked like that he was in serious pain and will faint or die. This gathering was no different than the “Matam and Mersiya Khawni” in Muharram. These Sunni Muslims do not do Matam and Mersiya Khawni of Imam Hussain (May Allah be pleased with him) but they have started “Matam and Mersiya Khawni” of Ramadan. I had never seen such things in Pakistan. Are these “new” guys in Pakistan discovering Islam now? OR they are breaking down the identity of Islam and Muslims.
There is some thing wrong in Pakistan. If this ignorance is not fixed now, trust me, Pakistan either will become a homeland of fanatics and ignorant OR completely secular where Islam will become the history of past.
Muslims have always blamed Christians and Jews that they have changed their holy books and teachings of their prophets. But today Muslims are exactly doing the same with their holy book and the teachings of their Prophet (peace be upon him). The destruction of Shari’a Al-Islamiyah by the hands of today’s Muslim clergy will not be forgiven by our future Muslim generations and off course, by Allah as well.
Shame on us.
Our beloved Nabi Alaihissalam warned us fifteen centuries ago,
Abu Sa’id Alkhudri (May Allah be pleased with him) reported Allah’s messenger (May peace be upon him) as saying: You would tread the same path as was trodden by those before you inch by inch and step by step so much so that if they had entered into the hole of the lizard, you would follow them in this also. We said: Allah’s messenger, do you mean Jews and Christians (by your words)”those before you”? He said: Who else (Muslim Sharif)
Narrated Abu Sa’id al-Khudri (May Allah be pleased with him), The Prophet (Peace be upon him) said, “You will follow the ways of those nations who were before you, span by span and cubit by cubit (i.e., inch by inch) so much so that even if they entered a hole of a mastigure, you would follow them.” We said, “O Allah’s Apostle! (Do you mean) the Jews and the Christians?” He said, “Whom else?” (Bukhari)
Can sensible people in Pakistan start educating people in Pakistan? May Allah save Islam from the evil of some ignorant Muslims. Ameen.