Superficially Muslim

Syed Farhan Ahmed Shah

Form over substance

Recently, the Lahore High Court dismissed a petition seeking to abolish of the use of term ‘My Lord’ for judges and the act of bowing before them. This single case reflects so aptly what is wrong with us as Muslims. It reminds me of the constant condemnation of devotees for performing the act of prostration at shrines as ‘shirk’. I don’t personally agree with the act of prostration at a shrine or elsewhere but all those who severely condemn it as ‘shirk’ should care to think about the intent behind that act. The act of prostration before Allah is for His worship (Sajdah al-ibadah). It is not the act itself which automatically embodies the spirit of worship but the intent of the one performing it which makes it so. Otherwise, didn’t Allah ask the angels to bow before Adam (pbuh)? Doesn’t the Quran mention the family of Prophet Yousaf (pbuh) prostrating before him? Have we ever paused to think that if a person chooses to do so at a shrine or in court, whether he is doing it with the intention of worship or merely out of respect (Sajdah al-tazeem)? In any case for a sajdah, there needs to be eight parts of body touching the ground (hands, feet, knees, nose and the forehead). Moreover, the sajdah could only be declared as worship if the person is doing it with that intention. It is only when these two conditions are met that a person can be committing shirk while bowing down in front of anyone except Allah.

Similarly, the term ‘Lord’ is linguistically used for a person who is in authority over a jurisdiction. It is used metaphorically for God. Even in Arabic, the word ‘Lord’ is translated to ‘rabb’ and has other uses. It can be used in various phrases like Rabb al-manzil (head of the house) or Rabb al-maal (capital investor). However, on its own, the word ‘rabb’ is only used as an epithet of Allah. Elucidating the same point the fatwa research committee at Islam Today explains: “The spectrum of meaning of the word ‘Lord’ is broader than its translation ‘rabb’ in Arabic. A Muslim speaking English can use it in accordance with English conventions. Its meaning is defined by its context and while in some contexts it only applies to the Divine, in other contexts it applies to various civil authorities. When the term ‘My Lord’ is used to address a judge at a court of law – there is no problem, since there is no ambiguity regarding the intent. Each language’s words must be used properly according to the conventions of the language in question.”

On a deeper level, as stated in the beginning, it shows that Islam has been relegated to a religion of form and not substance, of letter and not spirit. The physicality of Islam has taken precedence while its spirit has faded into oblivion. To have your shalwar above your ankles, your head covered with a flowing beard is more important than kindness towards fellow humans and being upright. Like Naseer-ud-din Shah’s character says in the film Khuda Keliye ‘Darhi deen ki inteha hai ibteda nahi’, but who cares? It’s more important to look like a Muslim than simply being one.

Saying prayers five times is religiously followed no matter how devious and dishonest we are otherwise. The point is if our namaz cannot result in us being better people, then it is merely reduced to an exercise regime. How appropriate then when Iqbal said ‘Log kehte hain bas Farz ada karna hai, aisa lagta hai jaise koi karz ada karna hai’. One should ask the petitioners if it sounds okay to them to be entertaining all the worldly thoughts instead of God while in the middle of a sajdah during a namaz. Isn’t that blasphemous?

Upon returning from a trip to the Scandinavian countries Iqbal remarked, while alluding to their general good character, that ‘I saw a lot of Muslims over there but no Islam whereas in my home country all I see is Islam but no Muslims’. We are quick to make a record smashing sized cake to celebrate the Prophet’s (pbuh) birthday rather than celebrating it by trying to follow his footsteps. To them, the label ‘Musalmaan’ is enough for salvation in the hereafter.

Tum hayya aur shariyat ke takazon ki baat karte ho

Humne nangey jimson ko malboos-e-hayya dekha hai

Humne dekhein hain ehraam mai lipte kayi iblees

Humne may khaney mai kai baar khuda dekha hai -(Iqbal)

The writer belongs to a fakir family and works as a development consultant in Lahore.

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16 Comments

  1. Einstein said:

    You forgot to mention burning down our own property to show our so called love for the prophet. Catharsis required

  2. Princess Kate said:

    Brilliant write-up, the best time for mass dissemination. Must be shared and read by all Pakistanis

  3. Mustansir said:

    I agree with the basic gist of the article. And let me categorically blame the Saudi sponsored Wahabism in this country for all the terrorism and intolerance in Pakistan. Their version of Islam has the very idea of seeing is believing deeply ingrained in it's system. Since the cold war era Russian invasion of Afghanistan, the damn Saudis have gradually promoted their brand of Islam in our country which has gone to the dogs ever since. Saudis are our biggest enemies.

    • Human before Muslim said:

      I 100% agreed with Mustansir.
      Saudis and UAE govt are promoting religious extremism in our country, so that these fanatics will not turn on them. They make Pakistan busy in it and Pakistani businesses go to their countries.

  4. Miss Piggy said:

    the writer is as beautiful as his carefully crafted words. mr.shah, you are a lovely and smart boy. can i have your phone number please?

  5. supah che said:

    Echoes the sentiments of many, question remains as to which side these many lie and where this sentiment finds expression. Form
    substance, appearance reality, surface depth – in the either/and/or choice, the conflict is inherent. is it at all possible to rise above it? personally being drawn to the analogy of an onion for all things that boggle the mind in our times. layers and layers of meaning, opinions, hatred, love, power, belief, indifference – and the core is elusive. the heart may bleed to see what is happening, but we cry onion tears.

  6. MsgforAll said:

    @ condemnation of devotees for performing the act of prostration at shrines as ‘shirk’
    @ Quran mention the family of Prophet Yousaf (pbuh) prostrating before him?

    In the laws of these and previous Prophets, it was allowed for the people to prostrate before the men of authority, when they met them. This practice was allowed in the law of Adam until the law of `Isa, peace be upon them, but was later prohibited in our law.

    ISLAM MADE PROSTRATION EXCLUSIVELY FOR ALLAH ALONE, the Exalted and Most Honored.

    The implication of this statement was collected from Qatadah and other scholars. When Mu`adh bin Jabal(RA) visited the Sham area, he found them prostrating before their priests. When he returned (to Al-Madinah), he prostrated before the Messenger of Allah , who asked him,
    (What is this, O, Mu`adh) Mu`adh said, "I saw that they prostrate before their priests. However, you, O Messenger of Allah, deserve more to be prostrated before.''

    THE MESSENGER SAID,(IF I WERE TO ORDER ANYONE TO PROSTRATE BEFORE ANYONE ELSE (AMONG THE CREATION), I WOULD HAVE ORDERED THE WIFE TO PROSTRATE BEFORE HER HUSBAND BECAUSE OF THE ENORMITY OF HIS RIGHT ON HER.)

    Therefore, this practice was allowed in previous laws, as stated. This is why they (Prophet Ya`qub and his wife and sons) prostrated before Prophet Yusuf(AS).

    Here is another proof from Quran of
    PROBHITION OF PROSTRATION TO THE CREATION
    ==========================================

    Allah(swt) says,
    [ And of His signs are the night and day and the sun and moon.
    DO NOT PROSTRATE TO THE SUN OR TO THE MOON, BUT PROSTATE TO ALLAH , WHO CREATED THEM,
    **********************
    if it should be Him that you worship.] Quran [41:37]

  7. Haider said:

    Msgall…But many people get "Shifa" and other useful things from these shrines.

    Some people get help and worldly benefits.

    These holy places of saints increase in spirituality and helps people become near to God !!!

  8. MsgforAll said:

    @ Some people get help and worldly benefits.

    Haider, do you claim to be more knowledgeable than Allah(swt) ?? Because Allah(swt) says in Quran:

    WHOMEVER YOU CALL INSTEAD OF HIM, HAVE **NO POWER TO HELP YOU**,
    NOR CAN THEY HELP THEMSELVES. Quran (7:197)

  9. MsgforAll said:

    @ Some people get help and worldly benefits.

    @ But many people get "Shifa"

    Try telling this to Prophet Abraham(AS), whose Dua is mentioned in Quran

    [ And it is He who feeds me and gives me drink.
    AND WHEN I AM ILL, IT IS HE(ALLAH) WHO CURES ME. ] Quran(26: 79,80)
    ***********************************************************

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