Lt Col Muhammad Shafiq (Retd),
Social media has taken the front seat in our everyday life in a big way. We see everyone glued to the screens of cell phones not only in the comforts of their homes but everywhere. You see people staring at their devices while sitting in a park or bus terminal, walking, travelling, driving or shopping. With this quantum leap into the social media arena, a popular trend of messaging also cropped up widely. Hence, you see a series of good-day messages, marriage and birthdays greetings, health updates, seasons greetings, pictures, clips, videos and everything possible to be transmitted through a wireless signal. Amongst these the most momentous are Quranic Ayyahs, Ahadees, anecdotes, angelic Islamic history, quotes and sayings of saints, scholars, poets and notables. Ostensibly, the purpose of sharing such material is the display of divine connection and exemplify the love for Islam. The flood of religious messages portrays a picture as if our nation is wafting in the ocean of Islam and probably the Muslims of Pakistan eat, drink, and sleep, Islam. They have little time to think over anything else but spend their days and nights extending love to their great religion. Unfortunately, to our utter dismay, things are quite opposite to what we portray and pledge. Hence, overtures primarily undertaken to promote goodwill and project the bright face of Islam factually end up in a futile exercise. The recipients resort to a cursory reading of the message or a casual glance at it and forgetting all the next moment. Whereas this practice hardly does any significant service to Islam it only consumes a lot of productive time and money. It is highly painful to see that the moral values of our society are deteriorating with every passing day. Had we been so religion-oriented and practicing Muslims as we portray on social media we should have been a role model by now for the world to follow. All said and done we the ordinary Muslims already know what all is projected in these messages and posts made viral on social media. For decades and centuries, we all have been listening wa’az ??? and sermons full of aayas and ahadees so we are not alien to these scripts. Hence, just copy-pasting those again and again neither tells anything new to us nor does it serve any good.
Referring to the significance of sermons delivered and tall claims made in religious congregations, firebrand speeches, loud sloganeering, and enthusiastic rallies on various occasions. Generally, we resort to verbosity derived from rhetoric and sentiment but practically we hardly do anything substantial. The virtue in the real sense is demonstrated through action rather than pledging high sounding words and sharing religious or social quotes. Actions speak louder than words. Mere sermons and verbosity have zero impact on anyone. Every Muslim, well-read or illiterate, knows the fact that spending our life according to Quran and Sunnah is the only answer to our woes. If you ask for the solution to our predicament from a common man in the street he will reply to you the same. On average we listen to various religious accounts at least four times a month. Further, thousands of libraries and millions of books are replete with references to Quran and Sunnah. So we have no dearth of knowledge and abundant advice is available on the subject provided we are mentally prepared to buy some.
Despite all this what is the net outcome? Society has gone from worse to worst and there is no chance in sight of an early improvement or rapprochement. But Why so? That is the question we need to ponder upon and try to find and apply some pragmatic measures otherwise simple copy-past on Facebook or WhatsApp or delivery of big sermons is just useless. We, need to focus on the reasons for this paradoxical embodiment and evaluate why our continuous efforts have made no impact on our daily life. We will also have to do brainstorming to explore “Methods” as to how we could implement Islamic values and norms to our lives in general and the community at large.
In our society there is no adherence to rule of law, people hate to stand in a queue, none is ready to follow traffic rules, everyone acts highly selfish, nobody cares for the rights of others, might is right so rampant, hypocrisy is the order of the day, telling lie and playing deceit is just fun. Under so much malaise at hand, a gigantic effort will be required to transform this mess into a civilized outfit.
Another thorn in the head has been the proximity to Hindu culture for centuries. It has played havoc on our religious beliefs. Resultantly, we have crowded shrines and deserted mosques, we follow the plethora of Hindu traditions and rituals in our everyday life. One can witness it in our customs performed during marriages, on the birth of a child, rituals at shrines and in so many other areas. Even our affluent and educated class is not devoid of primitive superstition. You can see hundreds of people riding cars worth millions and tieing black ribbon with the rear bumpers thinking it will save them from death and damage. Such social and cultural barriers and taboos serve as the stumbling blocks in the way of following simple and basic Islamic principles. On the contrary, we in our wishful thinking expect convincing such a diverse and fragmented lot to follow Quran and Sunnah by forwarding simple copy-paste messages or pouring emotional and high sounding sermons into their ears.
There is no denying the fact that the purpose of sharing ayyahs and ahadees or verbal sermons is backed by a noble sentiment and no one can refute their significance as a prophetic work but the question arises that do we really draw benefits from these holy pieces of wisdom? The answer is No. Quran is available in every house, big or small, rich or poor but 99% of us recite it for Tswab and not to understand and act upon the guidance it provides. Non-Muslim civilized countries do not have such a comprehensive divine book with them, then how come they are much disciplined, more truthful, greatly honest, more humane, highly responsible, more emphatic, and better motivated in relevant terms to what we are. Last Ramadan I was listening to a Bayan by Maulana Tariq Jameel on TV. He said and I “QUOTE”, I spent two months in New Zealand and did not come across any person telling lie. In our country travel from Peshawar to Karachi and you will hardly find a person telling the truth. UNQUOTE”. So why that dichotomy? Non-believers have not learnt the civilization from any holy book but probably from their observation starting from the cradle and subsequently going up the ladder of life. From childhood, they saw what their parents do, what their neighbors do, what their peers do and how they behave in different situations. They, therefore, are groomed accordingly on similar lines taking vibes from their role model or mentor in front. We have much bigger role models and mentors in front and we also sermonize a lot and boast about their majesty but once it comes to following their footprints we miserably fail and look the other way.
Such double standards and difference between ??? ? ??? leave a highly negative imprint on the minds of our younger lot. The kids, siblings and youngsters learn more by observing rather than listening. A child has a clean mental slate to start with. When he listens to a sermon an audio track is engraved in his brain. But later once he observes things happening quite opposite to what he had listened to his brain baffles. As a result highly confused and sceptical image imprints on his brain. From here his personality starts getting dents and ripples. If we focus on the theory of perception, a ‘Picture’ or ‘Observation’ has a tremendously higher impact on the mind as compared to events perceived through listening. Consequently, the pre-saved soundtrack of positive sermons on the child’s brain gets obliterated by the contentious visual impact due to antagonistic exposure. So the end product is a stubborn human with a negative personality. Under such circumstances, a kid grows up carrying the baggage which keeps retarding his pace of mental growth and never let him reach his full potential.
The bottom line is that we need to display a truthful, honest and pragmatic model before our children, siblings, relatives, neighbours, co-workers and peers, instead of exchanging messages on social media or verbally sermonizing and boasting our glory cum might that we lost some 700 years ago. Therefore, a beautiful message on social media or a firey sermon to the audience is not a motivating factor by any means. People just read the message or listen to the speech considering it a story or anecdote, raise some loud slogans of Wah Wah or????? ???? and proceed to continue with their old routine and tricks well trenched-in since ages.
We need to display empathy, care and ethics in our everyday dealings rather than mere advising. Good manners and civic sense is better learnt by demonstration than by lecturing. Such initiatives need to be nurtured by setting the self example and not by sermonizing. We got to start this drive at grass root level from our households which could further transcend to all segments of the society gradually.
One more aspect which is hammered in our minds is that this is temporary life hence forget about it and prepare for the life hereafter. This is a great message but practically ill-conceived by the simple and naive masses. As a result, they become totally oblivious of civic sense and obligations towards society considering it a useless and temporary phase thus feel free to do anything right or wrong and move on. This concept needs to be revisited and masses be reassured that whatever little time they have to spend here will also be accountable in the next life. Hence, they are bound to give due importance to this worldly life as well. Unless you persuade people to realize the importance of this temporary life they will never be convinced to improve it.
One last point, no government, police, army or any force can thrust upon norms, values, ethics, or civic sense upon the masses. It is only self-motivation that can be infused through Example and not by lectures, slogans, verbosity, sermonizing or beautifully crafted messages on social media.