Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Knowledge (ilm) has a priority over Gnosis (ma’arifa)

The explosion was a deafening array of horrific sounds that reverberated through the khayaban-e-Iqbal₁. Blood, dust and an assortment of broken junk littered the once busy yet peaceful road. Through the dust, two figures, one wearing white robes and the other adorned in a patched heavily-mended tunic materialized, as if by magic. They seemed to be attracted towards the source of the disaster and glided over all the dust and the blood and the assortment of broken junk littered everywhere. They looked strangely out of place. The one in the patched tunic looked mockingly at the elegant white robed man and called out in heavy voice:
World of soul - a world of fire, ecstasy and longing;
World of body - a world of gain, fraud and cunning;
Get over with it already, Arabi! It is insolence that you answer me in my own words which remind me of my past. I am done with you and your arguments. WHY have you brought me here now? I know there is misery and hopelessness and destruction, but that has nothing to do with our prime argument of knowledge.
You are mistaken, Iqbal, for our prime argument lies in gnosis rather than in such superficial things as knowledge. You talk of knowledge, you talk of rationality. Where is your nation going today? It has knowledge, and established mosques and schools. There are valid hadiths. And on top of everything else, THE KORAN. There are dozens of Madrassas within a 5 mile radius where thousands of people pray. They are hafiz and ulemas. Despite all this, where is your nation going today? If only they could have seen past these worldly distractions, they would have been much closer to God and would have been in peace.
Arabi for the love of God. Islam is NOT a religion for hermits. We both know that Islam never asks you to give up world and seek refuge in mountains and forests. Islam is a way of life and life exists with the world. The world of body, as opposed to the world of soul, is a reality. You expect God to make a world and then ask you to give it up?
1 Previously known as Margallah Road in Islamabad now has been renamed as "Khayaban-e-Iqbal.
The first two verses are a translation of Iqbal’s “The world of body vs. The world of soul”

It’s a test. The path to Allah is clear. If you want to achieve the highest level in religion you have to sever all your mundane earthly ties.

My argument remains the same. Islam is a way of life; it’s a zaabat-e-hayat. After seeing so much I have to say that if you give up the world you give up everything. For with the appropriate knowledge of the religion and a rational mind you can achieve any level of religious scholarship you aspire.
Iqbal raised his hand at this point and pointed toward the heavens and looking into the eyes of Al-Arabi said:
Arabi what do you have to say about the fact that the mystic state is a single unanalysable unity in which the ordinary distinction of subject and object does not exist. For if the mystic state is devoid of the subject-object distinction, how is it possible that the mystic experiences God in this state as an independent other self?
Al-Arabi however looked unperturbed by this argument and calmly responded with a slight smile playing around his lips
There are various levels of the manifestation of reality. At the highest level, reality is absolute unity, devoid of distinctions, but at the lower levels distinctions emerge and they are also real. In this experience the mystic reaches just short of the stage of absolute unity, which is the unity of plurality, yet he is convinced that there is a more fundamental level as well.
My ideology remains firm that knowledge and not gnosis leads to the attainment of the highest level in Religion. Allah has himself claimed in the Holy Quran that: “surely in the heavens and the earth there are signs for those with faith; and in your creation and the beasts. He scatters abroad, there are signs for a people having certainty; and in the diversity of the night and the day, and the provision that God sends down from heaven, and therewith gives it life after its death, and in the turning about of winds, there are signs for people who have intelligence. These are the signs of God that we recite to you truly. So in which speech, after God and His signs will they have faith?” Surely Arabi you are intelligent enough to understand and decipher the meaning of this verse. And I am also assuming that you are amongst those who have faith. This verse clearly points towards knowledge of the religion and in the signs of God given through the Quran. This is surely the best way to reach God and understand him.
Iqbal I am one of those who have faith. But intelligence is a virtue that has not been distributed to all. You see your nation today. Look around Iqbal. You will see for yourself that this Sufi’s words hold some truth in them. Your nation, in following your views of rationality and knowledge, has ended up killing themselves. Humanity cannot be trusted with knowledge. They only path to the Almighty is to give up the worldly pleasures and devout your life for Him. You have to sever your ties from the world and find reason yourself in isolation. Mari’fah is the only way to ensure the attainment of Allah’s will. Remember when you said yourself:

Delve deep into your buried self, and find the clue to life;

If you cannot be mine then be not, but be your own;

The clue to life is hidden in yourself. You just have to work hard and find it. And that Allama is your way to God. Gnosis.
When you talk of gnosis and you undermine the importance of knowledge it just seems to me that you are ignoring an important doctrine of Islam. The very essence of religion lies in the knowledge of Quran, of Sunnah and Hadith. You cannot be ignorant of the knowledge that is in these doctrines. If you talk about MY NATION being misguided and the one in misery then you are largely denying the fact that most in my nation do not understand the real knowledge. They are misguided. They are driven by the worldly desires. They have no idea about the real path of illumination. If you think about it, knowledge does not come easily; hard work and labor are required to get knowledge of the deen. The path to God is not an easy one. There are many stray paths which sometimes deceive the unwary. In the first period, religious life appears as a form of discipline which the individual or a whole people must accept as an unconditional command without any rational understanding of the ultimate leaning and purpose of that command. It is beyond the initial phases that man has to decide which Path to choose. Yes my nation believes in knowledge to a greater extent and most of them are pious people like yourself, they can initially see the path to God clearly and can understand religion easily. It is after the initial stage (manzi) that they wander on different paths; the result of which you can see clearly.
Iqbal at this point shook his head and looked over to a dead body, the head now bowed down
And that my friend is the sole reason why I believe that knowledge is not a sure way to God. For knowledge requires skills like rationality and logic and this Knowledge cannot be arrived at by the intellect by means of any rational thought process, for this kind of perception comes only by divine disclosure. The ONLY possible path to God is that you give up your rationality and with your heart and soul, strive for DEEN. You will have to cut your ties with this materialistic world, give up all your earthly desires and work your way towards the Almighty. Your relation with Khuda will strengthen by every moment you spend in gnosis. My beliefs remain strong and I ask you to reconsider yours for this argument of knowledge is not striking enough. It doesn’t have any supporting evidences.
Al-Arabi looked closely at Iqbal and gave him a haughty look
Your arguments are lifeless. Gnosis has always been the stronger argument. It has been the way of the prophets. Follow it to be a part of the reality.
You remain as arrogant and ignorant as before. There is no point arguing with you such delicate matters as religion. I leave you in peace.
Having said that, the white clad figure of Iqbal looked up at the heavens and was noiselessly lifted off his feet. Al-Arabi followed him with his eyes until he disappeared into the heavens. Al-Arabi too drifted over the dust and was sucked by the bright blue sky. The sun shone on khayaban-e-Iqbal and blood, dust and an assortment of broken junk littered the once busy yet peaceful road.

our failing, falling Islamic Republic of Pakistan

Sleeping under the open sky, Imran Khan is a text book example of a leader with a vision, a man with a heart, a visionary with perspective and a human with a conscience. It makes us all sad when we think how the USA has been crossing all possible lines; known, unknown and some which may not even exist but are still there. Terrorism which emerged as a global phenomenon has been USA's prime stance when it decides to invade other sovereign states. When we 'invented' Pakistan, we wanted it to be a state where Muslims can live in peace, where people from all religions can live in harmony, where we will be sovereign and independent. What we did not intend on creating was a weak state which would flounder, fumble and eventually fall in the hands of those who aim at destroying it. It indeed brings tears to my eyes when I think of how we have, for our own benefits, for our own personal gains sold this country; we have been eating away at its very foundations for the past six decades. This has to stop! Someone has to stop this!

We live in a country where people are not safe in their own homes. You never know when a bumbling missile might land in the middle of your mud house and blow the bodies of your innocent children into a million miniscule particles. It’s true that we have one of the best military forces on the planet, but what’s the point if we cannot even defend our own children? what’s the point if other states can twist and manipulate this force into something that their objectives can benefit from? are we this helpless that even our own strengths will be used against us?

Why are we fighting a war on behalf of someone else when we cant even afford to feed a major proportion of our population, provide basic facilities of health and education, when we don’t have money to buy fuel for our power plants and our industries are shut up as there is neither gas nor electricity to run them. Our defense budget keeps on exceeding all imaginable thresholds and currently consumes more than 500 billion rupees most of which would contain money from taxes. These taxes are, unfortunately, paid only by a single class of people as the lower classes don’t have anything to pay and the upper ones refuse to pay a penny. We are thus utilizing the hard earned money of our working class to fuel a pointless battle and its time before this working class realizes this and we see a further gruesome affair
It is time, I believe, that our leaders start thinking in a clearer fashion, it is time that we stop juicing our working classes, it is time that we stop this blind massacre of our own people and it is time to re-enact the original philosophy and ideology of Pakistan. We are soveriegn and independent nation and it is time that we prove it to ourselves and the world!

Published on April 28, 2011

Friday, 8 April 2011

Reminiscences of Pakistani child

Its been ages since I have seen my country this united ! over the past decade we have seen this nation flounder and fail...everything we have touched has turned to ash.Every decision we have taken as a nation has backfired. From the ousting of Musharraf to trusting the old duo with power, from supporting America's so-called war to the massacre of of the innocent. All we have seen is a decade of disappointments, failures, discontentment and social decay. When I was young 14th august, 23rd march and 6th September were NOT just holidays. They had a purpose to them. kids roaming around with 'jhadian', buildings adorned with the green flags, 'diye' and candles, everyone from the janitor to the PTV newscasters carrying tiny Pakistan badges. There was a sense of unity, patriotism and loyalty. Celebrating 14th august with just one channel was much better than sifting through the gazillions that we have now. Yes men were killed all over the country, people complained about high prices, the government was decried everyday of its existence. But everyone was in it together. In these past ten years we have caught glimpses of this but only in times of calamities; the 2005 earthquake and 2010 flood are two examples. 

Last night was a reminder that this nation still has it in them! True it has been marred by a series of grotesque events but we still are patriotic. When I saw people wearing green shirts, faces showing clear signs of anticipation, praying to Allah and promising to fast if the team wins I could see that this Nation was NOT just emotional (an intrinsic Pakistani trait) but truly patriotic. Even though the country lost, we stood behind our team.Yes, we were disappointed. Yes, we were hurt.And yes we cried. But, this ONE match proved that in spite of all our sufferings, all our failures, all our disappointments. we are still a nation

This, however, is an important pointin time to answer a few vital questions. Why is it that we unite just for one day? why is that only certain events can gravitate us towards loyalty and remind us of our patriotism? And why is it that we pray only for a match? There are hundreds of issues that our country is facing today: inflation, food shortage, terrorism, illiteracy, suppression and poverty are just a few. Why dont we pray to God, promise to Fast, pray nafals for this? Arent these problems way more important than a one-day match?
We seriously need to rethink our priorities. This is high time we realize our faults and try to mend them before it actually gets too late. 

April 3rd 2011 issue

Disintegrated in the name of Pakistan

After over sixty years of creation one would have expected things to have become slightly if not magnanimously better. We have, however, seen a paradoxical disintegration in the nation on all fronts. Be it our renowned irrigation system, or our profound nationalism (that made us a nation in the first place), be it our diverse culture or our hardworking people we have known just one change: deterioration. In a surprise move the government has laid a trail for the dissolution of the HEC, another major blow for the already suffering people of Pakistan. A country with soaring illiteracy levels might not be able to even stutter anymore, it might not be able to limp anymore. The HEC represents more than just an institution it represents economic growth, scientific development, exposure and if I dare go this far I may even suggest an educational revolution. 
However, out of the very many naive decisions made by the current leadership the disintegration of HEC seems to have the worst repercussions in the years to follow.  HEC has contributed alot to the country in the past eight years, however, most of the impacts made by HEC are far too early to be noticed. Over 5000 international scholarships have been provided for PhDs, over 4000 research papers have been credited to Pakistanis over the mere 8 year period and the university enrollment has tripled. These figures might seem humble in proportion to the population of the country but to be fair its an excellent start to put the country on a track for educational development.
The breaking up of HEC would have very severe consequences; if the power to grant funds is given to provinces we will see the same level of corruption as we see in the other fields. It would also be unfair to the people coming from more illiterate provinces since expectantly these provinces will be given a smaller cut from the money bag. We will see our politicians fight over educational funds and not water anymore. With a federal body of education gone we will see new policies spring up; policies that will be only in the favor of our illiterate politicians. How difficult would it be to forge a degree when the power to do so rests in your own hands? The breaking up of HEC is preposterous and would impact the lives of thousands.
This is right time to protest, this is the right time to stand for our rights and this is the right time to rebel against such policies that may alter the country on numerous fronts. Our myopic policy-makers must re-evaluate their policies before they plummet the nation into an educational catastrophe. 

published on 7th April 2011