An Eye on Facts and fables of Religious Factions
I cannot forget the fury and fear reflected in the lamenting eyes of an old mother for her two beloved sons who celebrated Eid on two separate days in a single home. Yes, they were supporters of two different factions, who sturdily argued for intensive fixation of their own Islamic calendar, confirmed the moon-sighting with bare eyes or with the help of sophisticated gadgets.
The Salafi group (now they have sub-divided into two different factions) had affirmed the date of Eid at the beginning of the year, when they prepared the yearlong calendar, whereas Sunni groups (prominently two, but also there are other small factions) strictly argued for bare eye-witnessing of the moon to finalize the Eid day.
The mother’s eyes were moist and the heart heavy because she wept the whole day on the day of the holy Eid. How could a mother rejoice when one of her sons was fasting and other one was celebrating Eid? Like this mother, other mothers wept and prayed to Allah for uniting the minds of these groups, at least, in deciding the Eid day and fasting.
One day fortunately the mothers’ wishes were fulfilled and all the Muslim groups united irrespective of their sectarianism to perform the holy Eid and Ramzan fasting in Kerala. How did this happen? What made them bond with one another? Though I raised these questions, I hardly got adequate answers from any groups or factions. And some of the tactful leaders strategically smiled at my questions.
Another day, when I was returning from Oman, I got an agreeable answer from a Muscat-based renowned and generous Muslim businessman, who used to be a special invitee in major convocations and conferences, irrespective of groups and factions. He was forcefully convincing the leaders about the need for unity.
What could be the magic he used to wipe off the weeping eyes of those mothers? I managed to find out the conjuror’s trick when the great well-wisher whispered a simple Malayalam sentence: ‘Never come along this way…..’ (I am afraid of the factionists rejecting these arguments in public platforms or in social networks just to protect their prejudices).
On my return flight, I could only hear these words.
My eyes were astonished by reading the posters, stuck on a regular notice board of a Dubai mosque in the peak days of Ramzan. I could not believe my eyes as I witnessed mysterious unanimity that the religious factions maintained here by neatly sticking their posters one after the other on a single notice board. I could read the names of all the famous religious leaders of Keralite Islam, who were mentioned as preachers. How could these groups amazingly unite in a single mosque and astoundingly co-exist on the same notice board, while they could not pray inside a single mosque in Kerala? Even now I cannot understand how these groups could unanimously pray in other countries when they could only blame each other and set up separate mosques in each town for their daily prayers in Kerala.
Whenever I see two or three mosques in a small town obstructing the unity of religion, I always think how they could unite in Dubai, and if it were possible for them in Dubai, why not here in Kerala? And until this moment, I am waiting to find a convincing answer.
Once in an interview, I asked a religious leader whether he was ready to accept the opinion that the religious virtues were being dramatically replaced by the organizational values at various levels. But he was strategic in shifting from one argument to the other without giving a specific answer to my question.
The factionalism seems to be the result of overwhelming financial benefits, rather than based on the basic principles of the great religion. But here I could not forget the agitated eyes of that leader, who tried to startle my critical questions.
One of my learned friends, with an amazing eye, told me the story of the progressive approach of an Islamic scholar, whose daughter had joined a hostel at Trissur to pursue her masters in Science. Yes, it was really surprising. I could not believe it because I had heard his speech ten years ago reproaching my PSMO College professors for handling post-graduate classes for the adolescent girls. Yes, this Islamic scholar or factionist was forcefully pushing back Muslim women from the mainstream of knowledge and wisdom.
I told frankly to my friend that the new approach of this leader was not a realization of knowledge and virtues but an example of his selfishness over his ignorance.
We always witness the arguments and disagreements of various religious factions and groups. Views and reviews of simple religious practices are presented in public, instead of teaching or discussing them in a closed circle. Once my friend, Pradeep, raised a serious question. He had been hearing the arguments of Sunni and Salafi groups over three days at their consecutive public speeches held in our town to prove their point in religious matters. He asked me why these Muslims had been heatedly arguing on a simple subject: whether they could loudly call God Almighty or Sheik, even though God would be happy even with a simple call from the believers!
I could not answer him. I am hoping that another great humanitarian’s magic wand would stop their heated arguments. I really believe that the tycoons can do it. So should I wait for a smart turn from Dubai or Muscat to stop these factional reproaches in my village at Malappuram district of Kerala?
[Abbas Panakkal is a freelance writer and entrepreneur.]
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