By Shaharyar A Khan
The power cum influence matrix in Pakistan rests on a mono pillar foundation of Islamic theology. Together in coexistence with various centres of contesting forces within the country the balance of power always strikes unfathomably in favour of proponents leveraged as the stakeholders of the religious cause. It unconnectedly holds the capacity to move thousands and provoke millions.
During the Last week of April a three day annual religious congregation, third largest of its kind in Pakistan, assembled at sector I-11/1. As per visual estimate it attracted a colossal number of one lakh plus devotees , from all walks of life ,assembling from an extended axis ranging from Kashmir to Taxila and many from KPK, all gathered in the name of revisiting and revitalizing Islamic teachings.
In quest for spiritual rejuvenation I had a lucky chance to attend it. It remains pertinent to applause such a large gathering of people, belonging to diversely different backgrounds and classes of the society, to having been completed the proceedings without any fight or scuffle of any nature. No traffic clogging of thousands of vehicle on extremly narrow roads could be seen. Most importantly it was a dazzling display of sentiments of sheer sacrifice and selflessness among people having no overlapping stakes what so ever. One could see sacrifice, modesty and tenderness all at one place .Fostering emotions of love, sympathy and empathy in the eyes, overflowing sentiments of spirituality and divine barakaats filled the air. The proceedings culminated with a comprehensive dua for the UMMAH and then finally mustering of tablighi jamaats for further diffusion to various parts of the country and worldwide for further propagation all in spirit of the Holy Message. I saw weeping faces all around me; I saw people from all statures of the society dead quiet shrinked in their very existence as humble and as deferential and meek as one possibly can be. I saw tears drenching white beards, the young, the old all had eyes shimmering with tears in them as they listened to notable Ulema with the utmost attention.
On a parallel thought a question aroused in an inquisitive mind, as to what leads to the influx of thousands of people to gather at this place, what is that divine magnet that holds the ability to attract people each year from so far off in this very busy age. Leaving the comfort of their homes, the tenderness of their families, for some, their lavish dining tables, their luxurious dwellings and gather at a place with an uneven ground to sleep on, makeshift dining and lavatory arrangements giving a halt to their social lives and enter into this world of divine serenity. A spiritually unenlightened mind would call it religious fanaticism while for these devout disciples it remains a respite away from the hustle and bustle of never ending social sufferings and anguish that characterises our society, a place for reaching ultimate nirvana and spiritual bliss.
In response one perceives that the Pakistani Society in general is not moved by any force more than religion. This and many events like this testify quite vehemently how religious calls can move thousands of people in this country. No doubt the genesis of our mind-set in general evolves and to a certain extent is highly invoked by religion. Where the West on one hand has developed a society where religion and everyday life donor intertwine and rather move parallel without amalgamating into each other, ours’ on the other is a society where decisions, culture and everyday practices take root in religious theology.
With that it also surfaces another striking reality – how very influential people speaking about and preaching religion are in this country. They are the paragons of guidance for our people in almost all aspects of their lives. They can be termed as effective powerhouses who can steer ideological beliefs not just in the realm of religion but beyond.
From recent history, examples like the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Liberation theologians of Latin America are some examples in which religious cults have brought reform in the society. The Khutbae Hajj tul Widda of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) addressed not only just religious dogma but had immense focus on social issues as well.
A systematic and subtle approach of the government and political leaders sitting at helm of affairs can influence these religious leaders to bit by bit and little by little start emphasising on the core issues distressing and devastating our society.
We see that some of the major problems pertaining our society take root in either little knowledge or in certain instances wrong interpretations of Islamic teachings. Terrorism where on one hand might be sponsored by anti-state actors but on the other hand its roots lie within vulnerabilities of ill-informed minds. A suitable anti thesis to what is already fed into an extremist mind is the need of the hour and we have no better players for this other than these respected flag bearers of religion. Social issues such as child marriages also bud from wrong interpretations of Islamic teachings and ultimately multiply in effect. Women especially in certain instances are defied their basic rights of treatment in a bid for female doctors for female patients. The deprivation of women from contributing as healthy members of the society in todays all inclusive socio-economic milieus is another point requiring immense focus.
Aforementioned are just some of the grey areas which if addressed from this dimension can bring a healthy change in our society. A repetitive therapy mantra by them to this effect together with a governments urge to provide actionable opportunities to the deprived section of the society can ultimately in due course of time lead to a phenomenal progressive change in the our society, at least in an ideological perspective. After all it is the mind that brews the actions.
*The author is a freelance columnist.