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Pakistan’s Fourth Religion-Less Class

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By Irum Sarfaraz

The severe unrest that is gripping Pakistan in the aftermath of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination and the chaotic, near anarchic ways in which hundreds and thousands of her supporters are reacting is a sad reminder of how far the rural poor class is from religion and its teachings. She declared herself ‘leader of the poor’ who vowed to ‘live and die with the poor’. It is no surprise that the majority of her supporters were the poverty stricken villagers. Without exaggeration, one third of the 165 million of the country live below the poverty line.

The society is divided into three main groups, urban, semi-urban and villagers. But there are only 10 to 15 cities that can be called urban and more than 70 percent of the total population lives in the villages. Despite the division of the society into three major classes given the state of mentality of the poor in Pakistan it won’t be wrong to say that they are in a class by themselves. Pakistan does indeed have a fourth social class in the form of its villagers who are not only poor and uneducated but they are so far from religion that its ramifications can be witnessed in their violent outburst displayed in the aftermath of Benazir’s assassination that has gripped the entire nation. No doubt there are others who have jumped this emotional bandwagon to further their own interests, but the majority of the raving and grieving do constitute Bhutto’s passionate and loyal followers.

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In a country where 30 to 35 percent of the population lives on one dollar a day (World Bank), there needs to be sustenance of the soul and a hope for the future. And this hope is given to them by the landowners whose land they till and by the mighty promises of the politicians who promise them glorious futures. That is the end of their hope. I am not saying that these people are not Muslims. No doubt they are but there is more to being a Muslim than just being called one. I absolutely do not think they would have reacted in this rash manner had they been closer to Allah. I absolutely do not believe they would damage, burn and ransack their own country as they are doing right now had they been closer to His and our Prophet’s (pbuh) teachings. I absolutely do not think that they would have adopted this manner of reacting to a death and mourn it had they been aware of what Islam prescribes for the manner of mourning. Yes the people are hurt and yes they are grieving. But death is imminent. Husbands die leaving behind uncared for families. Parents die leaving orphan children behind. These villagers know death and misery far closer up than any of the other classes and yet they take to the streets like wild men at the death of Benazir. The reason is obvious. This class gives their politicians the stature of a God and with Benazir gone, her followers are lost. They are directionless just as people say they feel directionless without the presence of religion in their life.

The allegiance of the villagers to political figures and their reverence for them in their lives is a social stigma exclusive to this fourth class and continues down from one generation to the next. These 70 percent of the villagers are not considered in any policy other than for producing food. There are poor people and even entire families at a time who attempt suicide just to get away from life and end their destitution. Majority of the villagers live a wretched life in poverty, lack of health facilities, illiteracy and unemployment and no faith. To me their biggest issue is lack of faith, lack of iman and total ignorance of religion. In these circumstances even if you and I were to go there and promise them a glorious future, they would start bowing to us. It is sad but it is true. The lack of faith is the actual tragedy of this fourth religion-less class.

Sadly and worse still, it is this same lack of faith that has made them sitting targets for exploitation from politicians who have everything to gain, in the form of their votes, and nothing to lose. Who has ever kept their promise once they came to power? If these promises had been kept, the situation of the Pakistani poor wouldn’t be as dilapidated and shoddy as it is now. They believe their political ‘gods’ and they follow them blindly. And when their God is destroyed they are willing to turn the entire country upside down to express their grief and rage.

Sociologically, what Pakistan is witnessing today is a classic and complete state of anomie as outlined by Durkheim. According to his theory, anomie is a state of being where social norms are unclear or not present. It is a general state of lawlessness where the people have no clear rules to guide them. They cannot find their place in society and the result is conflict and deviant behavior. As the rules governing society break down as a result of this unrest there is further crime and violence. In the case of the villagers in the Pakistan, they are bonded mentally to their landowners or to political figures who have promised them a better life. When these figures disappear or suffer in any way, they lose their sense of belonging and hence react as they are reacting right now. This phase of allegiance to human gods and this cycle of violence and mayhem will continue and the entire country will suffer unless this mode of thinking is reprogrammed. The best way this can be achieved is if these human gods come down from their high, golden zeniths, look these poverty stricken in the eye and tell them they too are only ordinary people who can only do as much as they are humanly capable of doing. These needy and poor need to turn to Allah as only He has the power to deliver them from pain and suffering.

The distance from religion can create havoc not only in the entire society but also in the person’s everyday life. There is no purpose in life and the only important figures are the ones who are holding their reins and promising them a better life. How these people behave in the public and how they are expressing their anger and grief at the moment is only the tip of the ice-berg. How this distance from religion has wrecked havoc in their personal dealings and how it particularly devastates the lives of their women is a whole different story. If iman is infused in a person’s heart, it will gradually not only change his dealings with the members of his household but also change his outlook on how he views his relationship with the rest of society.

I guess it is an extravagant dream but dreams do have a way to become realities. I can only pray that this one is one of those dreams. These people may not have money but if they could only have iman, that will be enough wealth for them.

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38 Comments

38 Comments

  1. FA

    December 30, 2007 at 12:28 PM

    Good article but oversimplification on the religion issue.

    The situation shouldn’t been seen through a black and white lens. Matters are complex and need to be dealt as such.

  2. iMuslim

    December 30, 2007 at 12:54 PM

    I agree to some degree, FA.

    I think that although deen should be sufficient for any of us, the reality is that it isn’t. Man cannot live on dhikr alone (extreme exceptions aside, in the case of the prophets, etc). Islamic civilization has always placed emphasis on a rounded education; people need to be educated in both deen and dunya. That way they will insha’Allah have the strength of imaan, as well as the ability to work their way out of poverty through the acquisition of new skills, and in turn, not be so easily manipulated by power-crazed politicians.

    Imaan is the foundation to all this, but will not be enough for social reform – not without the help of a charismatic, genuine leader who sincerely cares about the welfare of the people. That can be seen in the Seerah of Rasoolallah, sallalahu ‘alayhi wa salam. The companions were transformed by Islam, but it was the leadership qualities of the Prophet, and rightly guided Caliphs after him, that really helped to build a strong, established community.

    Allahu ‘alam at the end of the day.

  3. Ahsan Sayed

    December 30, 2007 at 12:56 PM

    Excellent point. Iman, and the guide of Islam is essential in the masses for any society to achieve any sort of success. It is true in many Muslim countries, including Pakistan the masses have gone astray in many cases and look to others than Allah as their way out of their misery. However, I always thought from experience and understanding, that the masses who are poor, the ones who struggle everyday to earn a dollar a day, were the ones most steadfast in their faith. Because they live simple, hard lives; lives similar to the lives of the Prophet(SAW) and his companions, devoid of pomp and extravagance. It has been my understanding that only the ones who have some money, and some sort of firm social standings were the ones who lose their faith in Allah.

  4. inexplicabletimelessness

    December 30, 2007 at 2:37 PM

    As salamu alaikum,

    I agree. Eeman and being far from Allah is the root cause in this problem and all problems, really. If people were near to Allah and followed His commands, there would be no terrorism. If leaders were motivated to be generous and just like the Prophet (saws) and the Caliphs there would be little destitution. If making Allah’s Law followed was our goal rather than making human laws reign supreme, much of the corruption, bigotry and bias would not occur.

    But this is, of course, in an ideal world. There was even fitnah in the times of early Muslims after the death of the Prophet (saws).

    Br. Ahsan, about the underpriveleged being closer to Allah, I would expect the same as you mentioned. It’s not clear cut that ALL underpriveleged people are near to Allah and ALL higher earning fellows are far from Allah. But in my experiences in Pakistan, I did actually and surprisingly notice the fading role of religion in lives of underpriveleged peoples.

    When I was at my Nani/Nana’s (grandparents’) house in Karachi last summer and the summers earlier, I befriended the maid’s / massi’s who used to work for us. They were usually my age and since my grandparents’ , mashallah, do their best to practice Islam as much as possible, they would teach the girls how to pray, read Qur’an, attend halaqas, etc.

    When I would talk to the girls, they would often mention how they loved practicing Islam more, wearing hijab, and praying regularly but their parents and relatives who lived in villages and slums were not on that same level as them. There is much tribal affiliation and ‘honor’ that is emphasized in this “class” of people and though everyone says “Allah bohaut bara hai ” (Allah is the Greatest) and “mere liye dua karo ” (make dua for me), I noticed middle-aged ‘poor’ people have, to a certain extent, become cynical of idealism and just want quick solutions to poverty, poor health and an unhappy lifestyle.

    Thus, they turn to culture, tribal lords, and political parties to solve problems for them.

    On the other hand, the girls who worked in my grandparents’ house were not yet in this vicious cycle of cynicism and knew the feeling of sweetness of eeman (faith). One girl kept lamenting to me about how sad she was to get married so young to someone she didn’t want to: she wanted to study in school! She wanted to break free from this cycle of cultural hegemony! She wanted to be a good Muslimah!

    It is these kinds of people as my friend who I think can, inshallah, combine realism/pragmatism WITH eeman and break these shackles of poverty.

    But without eeman, nothing is possible. Without Allah, we are all lost.

    Allah knows best (sorry for the long essay-comment! :) )

  5. suhail

    December 30, 2007 at 3:05 PM

    Jazakallah Khair for a nice article and i agree with Irum.

    Just look at the character of Abu Darda (RA). He was a thief before Islam and his whole tribe used to loot and rob the travellers and caravans. When Islam entered his life he was one of the best companions or the Prophet Sallahu Alyhe wa sallam. Iman changes everything in a person life.

    Ali(RA) used to say that if i see hell and paradise with my own eyes it wont change my Iman. He was very poor indeed like the villagers of Pakistan or India or anywhere. Sometimes he didnt even had food to feed his family but the Iman in his heart gave him the strength to be upright.

    It is important to have skills and leaders but the leaders don’t come to a nation like a miracle. Leaders are a part of society and if the mass of the society is away from deen how can you blame the leader for all that. They are indeed a reflection of the society. Allah promises in Quran better leaders if we humble ourselves to Allah but if we don’t then those leaders will be a punishment for us.

    A tabaieen asked Ali(RA) that during your time there is so much fitna and fasad while in the time of Aby Bakr, Umar, Uthman everything was soo good. He answered that in there time we were the followers while in my time you are the followers. That is the difference. The level of Iman is the most important part that plays in the creation of a social atmosphere.

    Money and skills are all good to have a living but Iman strengthens a person from inside to face the challenges while staying within the bounds of shariah.

    Again Jazakallah Khair for such a nice article.
    Suhail

  6. Yusuf Smith

    December 30, 2007 at 6:26 PM

    As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    The sort of behaviour seen in Pakistan since Benazir Bhutto’s assassination was also seen in some other Muslim countries after the Danish cartoon scandal, and some Muslim bloggers noted that, when the adhan was called, some demonstrators went to pray and others rioted. So I would not call them religion-less, but rather people with a “tribal” or “partisan” attachment to Islam but a weak practice or understanding of it.

  7. Abdul.

    December 30, 2007 at 6:33 PM

    Interesting article irum and quite true i think. Reading all the above mentioned comments and taking them into account id just like to point out the link between poverty and being unconcerned with religion and Allah. When a man has to worry about where hes going to get the next meal for himself and his family ‘having’ eemaan and consoling themselves with the reward Allah has promised to the believers in times of suffering and pain is the last thing on his mind. Believe me! Give them food, a nice place to live and security that their meal tomorrow is guaranteed they might have time to think about Allah and religion. Harsh but true……too much poverty can lead to disbelief and not “believing” in Allah as well!

  8. iMuslim

    December 30, 2007 at 8:15 PM

    It’s true Abdul… extreme poverty and hunger can be as much of a distraction from Allah and his deen, as can be extreme wealth and luxury. Extreme poverty can lead a man to commit crime out of desperation, and spiral into debt, and extreme wealth opens the door towards the satisfaction of many carnal desires, and encourages arrogance.

    A modest, humble existance, coupled with gratitude to the Creator – which is not mutually exclusive to possessing halal wealth – is true zuhud, not being poor in itself.

  9. AnonyMouse

    December 30, 2007 at 9:51 PM

    Masha’Allah, a deep and thought-provoking article and similar comments.

    Although somewhat unrelated to the actual topic at hand, I do think that this post exemplifies what MM is all about: viewing world events and reality through a spiritual/ religious lens while also taking into account facts and practicality.
    Al-Hamdulillah! :)

  10. Sadiqa

    December 31, 2007 at 12:06 AM

    I agree with Irum. I also agree that extreme poverty is a distraction from doing right things. However, in my opinion the basic cause is lack of education! Iman comes through education! Not only in the form of big degrees but very basic education which helps them understand who is Almighty and who is taking the responsiblity of our needs, who has power to make us laugh and cry and who feeds birds!
    I wish if all these big leaders who got power in the past had established some source of providing education to remote poverty areas! I wish instead of promising them for ‘roti, kapra and makan’ they had practically done something to enlighten these people! So the people would have been able to create resources for them instead of being forver DEPENDENTS!

  11. br. Ibrahim

    December 31, 2007 at 1:55 AM

    My parents are from Pakistan. I haven’t been there a few years, but from my limited experience, I can’t help but think this is part of the problem:

    (the following does not pertain to the good/religious people of Pakistan, but for the most part, from what I’ve seen [the men, at least]…)

    They just don’t respect each other. They don’t trust each other. They don’t even like each other. They treat each other with a type of casual harshness/rudeness that can’t really be understood by outsiders; but to them it’s just perfectly normal.

    It’s even evident in the way they deal with their families and with their children. A young american child who tries to play with the children over there will get completely dominated, hit, hurt, abused, embarrassed, and start crying. I know current and specific examples of this.

    If you were to say “asSalaamu ‘Alaikum” at a store, or on the street, etc., it’s as if they would almost be caught off-guard. We are talking about a muslim country!

    Their lifestyle, and whole attitude is completely different. Kindness really IS seen as weakness (or stupidity).

    The most simple, generalized way I could put it is: the people of Pakistan are just plain HARSH.

    How can any reasonable person hope for unity in this kind of situation?? Of course, and I can’t emphasize this enough, there ARE plenty of exceptions to this, alhamdulilllah.

    But in my humble opinion this is one the root causes of the un-ending political (or random) violence and termoil that plagues Pakistan.

    And of course, the root cause of this cause, and of all problems is lack of Eman and not practicing/bothering to learn about Islam, as has been pointed out already.

  12. Abdul.

    December 31, 2007 at 10:24 AM

    Good points Imuslim. I agree with you. Too much of both extremes are bad. Moderation is the key, not having too much wealth and not having too little wealth!

  13. Pingback: Comment on Pakistan’s Fourth Religion-Less Class by Abdul.

  14. Nasim Chowdhury

    December 31, 2007 at 1:49 PM

    With respect, I think the article is very patronising and in no way attempts to even understand the problems that the poor face day to day – problems that we could never imagine.

    It may be comforting for some to know that these people are further from islam than our enlightened selves, but I beg to differ from that premise.

  15. AnonyMouse

    December 31, 2007 at 4:51 PM

    “in no way attempts to even understand the problems that the poor face day to day”

    I disagree – because I know that the author has been to Pakistan and knows very well the kind of problems that they face every day.
    She’s just addressing it from a different angle, one that isn’t always noticed or given attention.

    “It may be comforting for some to know that these people are further from islam than our enlightened selves”

    1) I don’t find it comforting
    2) I don’t think that these people are neccessarily farther from Islam than myself; rather that they are facing a severe struggle that has had an affect on their emaan, just as the struggles WE deal with day to day affect our own emaan.

  16. Nasim Chowdhury

    December 31, 2007 at 5:15 PM

    “She’s just addressing it from a different angle, one that isn’t always noticed or given attention.”

    It’s strange how this is the angle that the liberal western press always seem to espouse isn’t it? I would say that this is actually the predominant view.

    The author makes some quite disgraceful comments. If anyone had made such comments about the elite Muslims (leaders, the rich etc.) then there would have been an awful outcry from the writers of this page, but when it is the poor and destitute (many of whom live on less than a dollar a day, admits the author!) then they are fair game it seems!

    Now, imagine that someone had written an article about the muslim leaders and said:

    “Pakistan does indeed have a fourth social class in the form of its villagers who are not only poor and uneducated but they are so far from religion that its ramifications can be witnessed in their violent outburst displayed in the aftermath of Benazir’s assassination that has gripped the entire nation.”

    “I absolutely do not think they would have reacted in this rash manner had they been closer to Allah”

    “Majority of the villagers live a wretched life in poverty, lack of health facilities, illiteracy and unemployment and no faith. To me their biggest issue is lack of faith, lack of iman and total ignorance of religion”

    “These people may not have money but if they could only have iman, that will be enough wealth for them.”

    So, we do not get a single excuse for these poor impoverished blighters who are supposed to behave as madeenah graduates despite not having food or clothing.

    How about looking at it from another angle?

    It seems that the enlightened brothers and sisters at this website don’t like my (and others) comments, which is why they frequently dissapear…

    b

  17. AnonyMouse

    December 31, 2007 at 5:24 PM

    Brother Nasim, I must say that I find your comment surprising.

    “this is the angle that the liberal western press always seem to espouse”

    Uhhhhh, I’ve never found liberal Western press analyzing the state of emaan of any kind of people. Indeed, most of the time they’re always going on about how “radical Islamists” are the root of all evils in these countries!

    “If anyone had made such comments about the elite Muslims (leaders, the rich etc.) then there would have been an awful outcry from the writers of this page”

    I strongly disagree. None of us here are rich or elitist, nor do we harbor any great love or fondness of them.
    Did you not notice sister Irum’s disapproval of the politicians who are equally as religion-less and take terrible advantage of the poor?

    “we do not get a single excuse for these poor impoverished blighters who are supposed to behave as madeenah graduates”

    We don’t expect them to behave as “Madinah graduates” – rather, we expect first ourselves and then everyone else to behave in a manner befitting of Muslims: to trust in Allah and take the wisest course of action, not to place full trust in the dunya and its people and to react purely emotionally instead.

  18. ibnabeeomar

    December 31, 2007 at 5:27 PM

    br. nasim please be fair –

    “It seems that the enlightened brothers and sisters at this website don’t like my (and others) comments, which is why they frequently dissapear…”

    i explained in the iA forums that comments sometimes get caught, but we do our best to unmoderate them. and i dont think any of your comments here have been deleted.

    and..for what it’s worth.. i actually agreed with some of the sentiment in your initial comment here.

  19. Abu Hafsa

    December 31, 2007 at 5:58 PM

    I don’t think this article addresses the root cause of the issue in Pakistan, which in a nutshell is INJUSTICE. Injustice at every level and in every aspect of life.

    I think Sh. Rafil Dhafir said it best when he said something like “there are millions in the world who look like human beings but in fact they don’t live the life of a human being’. This is exactly the condition of 80% of Pakistanis who live in the villages. We’re talking about people who are not respected as humans but instead treated like animals – sold as slaves – raped, beaten, and killed at will by their human ‘masters’. We’re talking about people who, out of extreme poverty, are forced to sell their organs and even their own children.

    “These people may not have money but if they could only have iman, that will be enough wealth for them.”

    Just because someone lives in a ‘Muslim’ country and has a ‘muslim’ name doesn’t mean that his conditions allow him to be a ‘muslim’ in a practical sense or have ‘eeman’.

    Personally, I consider the state of these poor people to be similar to those living under the Persian empires or as lower caste Hindus before Islam. We all know the story where one of the sahaba responded to one of the Persians by saying, ‘ We came to deliver people from the worship of the created beings to the worship of the creator’.

    This is *exactly* what these people need – someone to deliver them from the oppression and tyranny they are living under so that they can *at least* have the opportunity to understand and think about the purpose of their creation. Until then – they will continue to live under extreme oppression and injustice – conditions which are not conducive to having ‘eeman’.

    And mere lectures are not going to help them one bit.

    (Before you respond with “But the Sahabah…” please take time to consider that the situation is totally different AND that if you yourself do not live like one of the sahabah PLEASE don’t expect others to do so whose condition is 100x much worse than yours).

  20. Nasim Chowdhury

    December 31, 2007 at 6:42 PM

    jazak Allahu khayran Abu Hafsa!

    You see, the poor have been condenmned, despite the fact that many of them have no food, drink or shelter. I agree that a lot of what they do is not according to the tenets of Islam, but what is to be expected from those who have not even had the chance to get a basic Islamic education?

    Have we ever wondered if WE could be responsible before Allah for these people? This is how the brothers and sisters from the tableegh see it, and that is why, instead of condemning, they go out to the villages and give the people love, care, food and education. Is that not the correct approach?

    What good is a condemnation written in English going to do to help the situation?.

    My question for Anonymouse and Ibnabeeumar still stand: How is it Ok for the author of the article to question if these people have any eemaan whereas if people were to say it about, say, Musharraf, he would immediately be labelled as a khawarij?

  21. Nasim Chowdhury

    December 31, 2007 at 6:43 PM

    Br Ibnabeeumar and sr Anonymouse – Am I to take it that all you love and compassion is therefore for those who live in the west?

  22. Amad

    January 1, 2008 at 5:19 AM

    Nasim:
    All comments that follow our general house rules are usually allowed. None of your comments were deleted, they keep ending up in the Spam box, and have to be moderated manually. We don’t know why.

    Furthermore, asking people to continue a conversation about a post on MM on to an unrelated forum, based on false contentions, is not only unacceptable but also rude. As I can see from the other thread where you “plead your case”, this seems to be a continuation of sour grapes over the Sunni pledge. Indeed we deleted many repeat comments on that pledge post and closed the thread after YQ provided a final response. Also, we will not allow jihadi comments on our blog; there are enough Islamophobes out there such that we do not want to create more.

    While you posted another comment about the Lal Masjid post that also upset you, you failed to be just in that the final post on the Lal Masjid that I wrote was indeed a scathing indictment against the government.

    Finally, attacking MM on an external website because some sentiments were not posted, while ignoring the VAST MAJORITY of common ground is the old habit that Muslims, esp. of that one kind, just can’t seem to kick! Remember the good vs harm… if one far exceeds the other, than it is worth supporting. Wallahualam.

    P.S. I will remove external links that intend to misconstrue the purpose of MM, on what we already proved was a false premise (that premise being that your comments on THIS post were removed, while they were not).

  23. Nasim Chowdhury

    January 1, 2008 at 5:37 AM

    OK, so these poor religionless people who live on less than a dollar a day have been condemned by a western based blog in the English language.

    How on earth will this change anything apart from making some feel better?

    What are people who have no access to food, water and shelter meant to do?

    Is the solution not to take the line of groups like the tableegh who actually go to these people and give them love, sympathy, respect and da’wah?

    Also, as I stated earlier, why is it OK to refer to the destitute as religionless whereas any reference to the leaders and scholars as less than perfect results in the ‘khawarij alarm bell’ ringing?

    Is all our love, sympathy and respect to be reserved for westerners?

  24. Nasim Chowdhury

    January 1, 2008 at 5:43 AM

    “this seems to be a continuation of sour grapes over the Sunni pledge”

    This is very unfair. I did not object at all to the pledge, I merely objected to one brothers ill treatment on these forums.

    “Also, we will not allow jihadi comments on our blog”

    What jihadi comments? All I ask is for some consistency when condemnation is given.

    “the old habit that Muslims, esp. of that one kind, just can’t seem to kick!’

    I guess this old habit is plain old fashioned criticism or going against the grain. It’s amazing that I get all this and this is the first article I have EVER posted on here. It just goes to show that the mm policy on criticsim is not a very tolerant one….

  25. Amad

    January 1, 2008 at 8:30 AM

    Nasim, in addition to responding to your concerns here, I am also reacting to your and others’ comments on the IA thread that you started. Unfortunately, I couldn’t locate my user id in order to post them there.

    You are the one who brought up the pledge issue, and as far as tolerance, then obviously you don’t spend enough time here to know that we allow a lot more than most other blogs would. At the same time, we will control what we need to in order to maintain a certain standard of discourse here.

    w/s

  26. Nasim Chowdhury

    January 1, 2008 at 9:50 AM

    Br Amad.

    This is my last post on the issue, in which I wanted to make a few things clear:

    1) I am saddened by your prejudiced views of me.

    2) I did not bring up the issue of the pledge. I merely commented on how badly a brother who had opposed it had been treated. It could have been any issue. I do not hold a grudge against the pledge and have discussed it in person with two of those who signed it and respect their decision to sign it, although I disagree, and both of these people respect my differing on it.

    3) I AM a regular visitor here and have been impressed by many of the articles here, which is why I do not comment on them.

    4) NONE of my comments on this article have been answered, although my motives and intentions have. Is this the standard of akhlaaq that we want to present?

    May Allah guide us to that which he loves.

  27. Ahmad AlFarsi

    January 1, 2008 at 11:23 AM

    JazakAllahu khayran for your feedback, Sh. Nasim. InshaAllah we will be able to learn from necessary criticism.

    Your former student in Makkah (during our Umrah trip w Irtiza),

    -Ahmad

  28. inexplicabletimelessness

    January 1, 2008 at 12:15 PM

    As salamu alaikum wa rahmatullah,

    Firstly, disagreeing is allowed and accepted here; this is a discourse and discussion, alhamdulillah.

    Secondly, though I do see your points Brother Nasim, I do not think the author was “condemning” the poor as you mentioned. Neither do I feel she was ‘overgeneralizing’. Rather, she was pointing out a common unfortunate reality of many of the lower class peoples in Pakistan.

    Is pointing out something implying that those people should be shunned, marginalized or hated? Of course not.

    It is our job as Muslims from the East, West, North, South…everywhere!…to come up with intelligent solutions to benefit our Ummah.

    The Messenger of Allah (saw) also said, “The believers, in their love, mutual kindness, and close ties, are like one body; when any part complains, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.” [Muslim], “The faithful are like one man: if his eyes suffers, his whole body suffers.” [Muslim]

    We need to restore the love, kindness and help towards brothers and sisters all over the world and discussing their state of affairs, along with ours, is definitely, in my opinion, a step on the right foot to accomplishing this vision.

    Allah knows best.

  29. Amad

    January 1, 2008 at 12:53 PM

    *I apologize for this lengthy comment, but we are sensitive about MM’s reputation. But feel free to not skip if you wish*

    Br. Nasim, why would I have prejudiced views about you? Prejudice has to be based on past experience or interaction, neither of which I have had with you. My comments were purely based your comments here and on IA. I do not wish to drag it out either, but pls keep in mind that the accusations did not start with us. Here is what has been said about MM by you and others on IA:

    1) Your comments about Sr. Irum, who is an elder sister to all of us were not in good spirit. Calling her article “patronizing” is one thing but saying that they were “disgraceful” is personal. Furthermore, opening a door of respect, someone else then further commented:

    it’s counter-productive and reeks of ineptness that you would expect from those born with a silverspoon in their mouth that can’t see pass the speck on their collar.

    Is this the kind of discussion that is beneficial or even Islamic about your brothers and sisters, esp. since many don’t even know who Sr. Irum is? Because let me tell you, if you do your research, and read her past articles on the web, you may feel very differently.

    2) Your comments about MM include:

    the enlightened brothers and sisters at this website don’t like my (and others) comments, which is why they frequently dissapear

    The “enlightened” comment was of course meant in sarcasm, and then you again repeated the accusation that comments frequently disappear, right after Omar told you that your comments had been stuck in spam and were published.

    3) You pointed to this article:

    I remember their ridiculous article on Imaan Ghazi of Lal Masjid where they made out he was challenging the writ of the pakistani government

    Yet forgetting about my scathing afterthoughts and final positions on this incident, as well as my constant reference to this event as a turning point for Pakistan, because oppression at this level will not be forgotten.

    4) You made a sweeping generalization:

    Why is it that salafis, no matter what their persuasion, always put the cart before the horse and blame the masses for everything?

    Brother, how do you assume that first of all all 14 editors and writers ascribe to one viewpoint, and regardless why then generalize further? Because one could simply turn this comment on its head and say the same thing about any other “salafi” forum including IA, right? It is neither healthy nor constructive.

    5) You say that you don’t comment because you agree with much of the articles, yet you also wrote:

    Every since the article on ‘the pledge’ in which Abu Zubair was treated so harshly and unfairly, I have lost hope in any fruitful discussion on muslimmatters

    So, which is it? And why drag a completely off-topic into this issue? Is this fair?

    For the record, Brother AbuzZubair’s comments were posted and not deleted which flies in the face of your contention that we delete comments in disagreement to “our” position (they are still attached to the post). We can disagree with each other on certain topics and there is a lot more history between the people that many are not aware of. So, we should be careful of making judgment calls. And for the record, we hold no grudges against Br. AbuzZubair.

    6) You continued your indictment of MM’s discussion policy:

    You can say what you like as long as it agrees with their take on things ….

    If it was indeed what you say, that we only publish what we agree with, then this blog would have been long dead! Alhamdulilah we are not afraid of opinions but when comments are not constructive or personal, then we will be careful of what is attached to MM, even if it is a comment.

    In conclusion, I feel Br. Nasim that you have not done justice to MM, based on the points above. But I still apologize to you if my comments came off harsh in any way.

  30. Irum Sarfaraz

    January 1, 2008 at 7:21 PM

    Br. Nasim
    I really tried not to intervene in your ‘train of thought’ on my post but now find it impossible to do so any longer. I still don’t want to discuss the personal angle of your repsonses; I have long immuned myself to such attacks as a Muslim writer writing for American publications. Believe me I have read worse personal attacks on my writing.
    But I have to admit I was surprised to see them coming from my own brethren.

    I absolutely refuse to see myslef as anything else than a very humble servant of Allah and I find trusting Him to be the solution to a myriad of my problems. That is the reason why I wrote this piece. I hate to see the poor suffer so much in my own country and and I refuse to change my stance that the people who have the power to change their lives for the better, have not done anything about it.

    Islam is a total and complete way of life. If a person entering into the circle of Islam adopts even 50% of its prescribed rules for social and personal life, it has the power to cure any society of at least 50% of its ills. More so if the society is also as ignorant, poor and uneducated as the poor are in Pakistan. Things will not change overnight; the worse the disease the longer it will take to cure. But that does not take away the right of expatriat Pakistanis to at least try to diagnose the problem.

    My post was my personal assessment of the situation. It was my humble opinion that the politicians who vow to ‘live and die’ with the poor could at least have lit some candles of education in these masses that would have enlightened them to their situation and bring them closer to their Creator. It would have been a critical first step.

    I understand that everyone has the rigth to their opinion. But when one starts to transcend the borders of simply stating their opinion and starts criticizing the opinion of others, then it cannot be deemed very fair.

    Respectfully.

  31. AnonyMouse

    January 1, 2008 at 7:24 PM

    “My question for Anonymouse and Ibnabeeumar still stand: How is it Ok for the author of the article to question if these people have any eemaan whereas if people were to say it about, say, Musharraf, he would immediately be labelled as a khawarij?”

    I personally have a very negative view of Musharraf, and would not label anyone who doubted him as a Khawariji.

    “Am I to take it that all you love and compassion is therefore for those who live in the west?”
    Not in the least.
    In fact, I agree with what you said about the Tableeghi brothers and sisters trying to help improve the situation of these people.

    Really, I just thought that sr. Irum’s article was an interesting analysis of the situation in Pakistan.
    Other than that, I can’t really comment because I myself don’t have personal experience w/ the people and society there.

    May Allah forgive me if I’ve said anything incorrect and displeasing to Him, ameen.

  32. AnonyMouse

    January 1, 2008 at 7:28 PM

    I feel extremely saddened by the way the comments thread here has turned out… may Allah forgive us all and guide us to the correct way, ameen.

  33. Solomon2

    January 1, 2008 at 10:49 PM

    The allegiance of the villagers to political figures and their reverence for them in their lives is a social stigma exclusive to this fourth class and continues down from one generation to the next…To me their biggest issue is lack of faith, lack of iman and total ignorance of religion. In these circumstances even if you and I were to go there and promise them a glorious future, they would start bowing to us. It is sad but it is true. The lack of faith is the actual tragedy of this fourth religion-less class…worse still, it is this same lack of faith that has made them sitting targets for exploitation from politicians who have everything to gain, in the form of their votes, and nothing to lose…The distance from religion can create havoc not only in the entire society but also in the person’s everyday life.

    Compare to the words of Tariq Ali:

    Muhammad’s spiritual drive was fuelled by socio-economic ambitions: by the need to strengthen the commercial standing of the Arabs, and to impose a set of common rules. He envisioned a tribal confederation united by common goals and loyal to a single faith which, of necessity, had to be new and universal. Islam was the cement he used to unite the Arab tribes; commerce was to be the only noble occupation. This meant that the new religion was both nomadic and urban. Peasants who worked the land were regarded as servile and inferior…

    the new rules made religious observance in the countryside virtually impossible. The injunction to pray five times a day, for example, played an important part in inculcating military discipline, but was difficult to manage…Unsurprisingly, peasants found it impossible to do their work and fulfil the strict conditions demanded by the new faith. They were the last social group to accept Islam, and some of the earliest deviations from orthodoxy matured in the Muslim countryside.

    Irum Sarfaraz, did you ever consider that the peasants you look down upon may put their faith in politicians because they feel Islam has little to offer them? That it may not be anomie at all, but that their approach may be entirely sensible and reasonable, yet you don’t have a grip on their reality?

    Are you even aware of what the path you are on leads to? For it has been tried before:

    The 1970 general election (the first in Pakistan’s history) resulted in a sensational victory for the Awami League, Bengali nationalists from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). The Bengalis were disgruntled, and for good reason: East Pakistan, where a majority of the population lived, was treated as a colony and the Bengalis wanted a federal government. The military-political-economic elite came from West Pakistan, however, and all it could see in the Awami League’s victory was a threat to its privileges…Yahya prevented the leader of the Awami League, Mujibur Rahman, from forming a government and, in March 1971, sent in troops to occupy East Pakistan…Rahman was arrested and several hundred nationalist and left-wing intellectuals, activists and students were killed in a carefully organised massacre. The lists of victims had been prepared with the help of local Islamist vigilantes, whose party, the Jamaat-e-Islami, had lost badly in the elections. The killings were followed by a campaign of mass rape. Soldiers were told that Bengalis were relatively recent converts to Islam and hence not ‘proper Muslims’ – their genes needed improving.

  34. Ahmad AlFarsi

    January 2, 2008 at 2:15 AM

    Solomon2, what you quoted (about the prayer not being practical in peasant life) is… well… absolute nonsense!

    Islam is universal, and is practical for all classes of people!

  35. khalid

    January 2, 2008 at 10:31 AM

    salaam aleikum,

    some links which i feel may be relevant to this article and the comments about it:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,,2233955,00.html

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/pakistan/Story/0,,2233333,00.html

    and this is an article written by Benazir’s own niece denouncing her in the Los Angelas Times:

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-bhutto14nov14,0,2482408.story?coll=la-opinion-center

  36. Mrs Esra Tasneem A

    January 2, 2008 at 11:15 AM

    I am from India . I live in India & I am a Muslim . As an Indian Muslim , I have been , in more ways than one , surprised at the Pakistani Muslim , with all due respects to them . I have been surprised that as a Muslim Nation , Pakistan , is at times ,most un-Islamic & I agree with Irum Sarfaraz on that .
    In my humble opinion , I do feel that one’s respect towards one’s religion & in following & maintaining the essence of a religion depends foremost & more on how much of a good human being you are . I feel being a genuine selfless helpful human being , paves the path for a spiritual nature which in turn helps to not just understand fully the core of the religion but also helps to follow its dictates most effortlessly & most selflessly in order to not only benefit from it personally , in this life as well in the Hereafter , but for also in helping of the most needy & the most weak , the most poor in body , mind & soul .
    I believe that in order to be a TRUE Muslim , one needs first to be a good Human Being . Being a genuine good human being helps in attaining humility . Humility builds spirituality . Spirituality helps in understanding the essence of the religion , imparted either by general-education or by self-education . And by a true understanding of one’s Faith , the poorest of the poor too will be able to not give in to a shameless exhibition of un-Islamic emotionalism for the world to see , as witnessed by what followed after Benazer’s death .
    But for that too , a person has to be most open-minded as preached by Islam . But then how can one expect this much needed open-mindedness from those whose stomach are empty due to poverty ?!!! How can one expect the poverty-stricken people to become spiritual & to truly understand the essence of Islam , when their leaders guiding them or misguiding them as the case may be , are themselves so very poor in spirituality , so very poor in following the essence of their common faith , because had they been rich in that aspect of human nature , the poor by now would have learnt from them to understand the core of our religion by just following the actions of the leaders guiding them , even when ‘uneducated’, even when the emptiness of their hungry stomachs may gnaw at their physical being ?
    It also makes me sad to say , that Muslims these days , with some exceptions , have become so very self-righteous , that I cannot truly consider them to be TRUE Muslims . I do not believe in being the judge but the actions of the negative Muslims does damage our Faith much more than any criticism of a Non-Muslim can ever do . These negative Muslims come from both the rich & the poor strata of the society , be it in Pakistan , or in India or in the Middle-East , or in any other Muslim country .
    I may be considered to be rather cynical but I will take the risk , when I say that the present Pakistan may need a prophet more than a politician the help it to not topple over the edge .

    ( My above response was written by me before I got to read Solomon2 ‘s letter .)

  37. dhakarah

    January 5, 2008 at 6:17 AM

    Assalamu-alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu,

    This is my first time on MM and this article caught my attention. I would like to make some comments and I see that others have already highlighted some of the main problems with the argument presented in this article. As a Muslim I find the overall perspective very shallow. The title itself is quite patronising and somewhat arrogant and the sweeping generalisations are reminiscent of bigoted colonialism. Although I completely agree that the reaction of the Pakistani people is showing a lack of dheen and knowledge but to say that it is only the poor and impoverished is unfair and inaccurate. Did we not see the demonstartions led by the Pakistani lawyers after the arrest of the Chief Justice? So called highly educated and upper classes acting like hooligans, rampaging the streets and turing on the police and army. It would’ve been better for the writer to be more cautious about her comments and use language that was more unbiased than come accross judgemental. I also believe it is the job of the editors to check this kind of thing before it gets posted rather than turn on the readers who are rightly voicing their criticsms. When an article is written people should be allowed to voice such opinion especially one that is an alternative voice. It shouldn’t matter who the writer is much less her age! I wonder if there is too much gatekeeping in this website? mmm…..

    Wassalam

  38. Ilyas khan baloch

    May 3, 2008 at 9:41 AM

    Dear Sir/Madam,
    Dare to raise your voice for the inevitable socio-political change in Pakistan, to empower the Pakistani , the country belongs to.

    Since the creation of Pakistan the Pakistani people are left at distant from the corridor of power so that the ruling elite can do what they wanted to do in favour of their interest, leaving the Pakistani people at the mercy of circumstances. As this policy is denial of right of Pakistani people to rule their country according to their aspiration and desire to built this country, which can provide equal opportunity to all without any discrimination for the establishment of welfare society. Only the society base on tolerance, equality and justice can be the real guarantee for the prosperous and strong Pakistan there for your intention is invited to the crucial movement which could be the point of distraction or disaster.

    We have already lost the major part of Pakistan in 1971 simply to save the centralised sole power to exploit this country by the ruling elite they let the country break in part then allowing the masses to rule this country democratically. In the present circumstances we are again dragging our sovereignty at stack for the external interest in the name of national interest, instead of our interest i.e. the interest of Pakistani people at large.

    The only way out of these crucial circumstances is the only way to empower the common Pakistani at grass route level i.e. the change of system. This change is inevitable for the prosperous Pakistan .As a citizen of this country I have try to provide an alternate socio-political system to empower the masses at grass route level for rapid industrial and agriculture development with transparency and accountability in the system. Along with basic guarantees for the creation of welfare state, where in public representative and institution shall be answerable and accountable to the masses.

    Kindly see web site….www.idp.org.pk

    Kindly acknowledge with your comments.

    Ilyas khan Baloch
    Organizer Islamic Democratic Party

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