No, hypocrisy is not a Muslim problem
To say Muslims are responsible for their backwardness is the worst form of victim blaming.
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Recently an article appeared on this website titled "Muslims must stop being hypocrites". The article was written in both Urdu and English. It tried to copy the style and tone of Saadat Hasan Manto.
The piece is replete with Muslim bashing and I find myself disagreeing with the writer owing to his false equivalences, half-baked facts and imbalanced criticisms.
The best thing about the article was that the writer accepted his ignorance explicitly, declaring that he is not a student of Islam. And perhaps that's why he drew wrong his notions of Muslim hypocrisy in India and elsewhere.
The article went on to talk about the immorality and corruption among Muslims who are outwardly faithful but inwardly involved in all sorts of evil practices. The opening line of the piece says that Muslims are a textbook example of hypocrisy. I disagree with this statement but will come to that point later.
Before moving forward, let's see what the textbook definition of hypocrisy is. Hypocrisy means saying something and doing the opposite. A hypocrite is a person who doesn't practise what he preaches.
Although one would agree with the writer of the piece that hypocrisy can be found in the Muslim Ummah in surmountable quantities but the writer has missed mentioning that Quran is the book which warns Muslims of hypocrisy time and again in the harshest of ways.
In chapter 2 (Surah Baqarah) the Quran has talked about the subject of hypocrisy in great detail, explaining how the children of Israel had moved away from their faith and subsequently got involved in all sorts of corruptions despite being given the gift of revelation. The story of children of Israel has been talked about in detail as a case study to warn Muslims that they must keep away from being hypocrites as this is a disease of the heart.
Just like every disease has symptoms, warning signs and a cure, so does hypocrisy. Some Islamic scholars laid down anywhere between 40 to 100 signs of hypocrisy. But here I will highlight a few basic traits of a hypocrite mentioned in Quran and Hadiths:
1) Whenever he speaks, he lies
2) Whenever he argues, he explodes
3) When he is entrusted with something, he violates that trust
4) When he promises something, he goes back on the promise
5) They do not even come to salaah (prayer), except they are lazy
6) They do not spend (in the path of Allah), except they regret it
The signs of hypocrisy are clearly laid down in Quran so as to check one's own hypocrisy, not to point fingers at others and deeming them hypocrites. Quran says that if a person is fixated on deeming others hypocrite then that's the biggest sign of hypocrisy in that person. The above mentioned signs are so basic that they can be found not just in Muslims but any human being.
Hypocrisy is not merely a Muslim problem but Muslims should be extra careful of this affliction since they have been given the gift of revelation that is the Quran which also gives the solution of it. The Quran teaches us to point fingers at our own selves before we look elsewhere for the cause of shortcomings.
The writer says, "The smuggling and hijacking of the faith by mullas and maulvis is a recent phenomenon." While agreeing with the writer I want to throw light on what Islam actually says on the importance of knowledge.
Firstly, there's no concept of accumulation of knowledge in Islam by an influential few. In Islam, seeking knowledge is compulsory for every believing Muslim. If we look at the initial verses revealed from the holy Quran, we can see iqra (read) was the first word that were revealed and, in fact, repeated twice, the world qalam (pen) is mentioned once and the word ilm (knowledge) is repeated twice.
Let us look at the meaning of these verses: "Read in the name of your Lord who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is the most honourable. Who taught by the pen. Taught man what he knew not."
Here Allah is not asking only Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) to read but the entire humankind to read and seek knowledge.
The Quran has been described many times in the holy book itself as Hudal Lin Nas (guidance for entire humankind) not just as guidance for Muslims. To make the teachings of the Quran accessible to every human being was the life mission of our Prophet (pbuh), which was assigned to him by Allah. So, accumulation of knowledge into few hands is not an Islamic principle.
The writer added: "If we can write praises in the honour of maulanas, if we can laud their unshakable faith, why should we not question the covert barbarism of these learned and distinguished preachers?"
I want to acquaint the writer with the fact that Islam is not merely a religion of seeking knowledge and of intellect. It is a religion of good character and good actions. In Islam, having right knowledge is not sufficient.
Right knowledge must be followed by right actions. Having a good character is emphasised heavily upon in Islam.
Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was a walking Quran. There are many hadith (prophetic sayings) in which the Prophet declares that certain people with proper knowledge, beliefs and who also prayed regularly would end up in hell owing to their bad character. There's a proper balance between aml (actions) and ilm (knowledge). The purpose of knowledge in Islam is to bring one closer to Allah and improve one's character. The Prophet in his final sermon said, "None is better than the other except by virtue of his character and piety."
The writer spoke very highly of Al Mamun, a king from the Abbasid dynasty, who ruled from Baghdad. The writer totally forgets to mention that the very same Mamun imprisoned Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal for nearly the entirety of his reign. The reason was not that the Imam had been a dissident. It was just that he had refused to agree with the sultan's take that Islam was from the created rather than the creator. Gustakh Manto travelled back more than a thousand years to celebrate a tyrant, suing him to deride present day Indian Muslims. That's quite a lot to swallow.
Moreover, the writer hasn't given any proof of how the much maligned "maulvis" and "mullas" allegedly hijacked Islam. In fact, there is no clergy in Islam and Muslims are free to worship their creator without any intermediary.
Blaming the victim
The writer blamed Muslims for their own backwardness besides claiming that Muslims have distanced themselves from reason and logic and are engrossed in trivial matters such as protesting the book by Salman Rushdie instead of trying their best to come out of abject poverty.
I would say that in these statements the writer has crossed the limits of victim blaming. No other marginalised group in the country would be blamed for their own marginalisation. According to the Sachar Committee report, Muslims are doing worse than Dalits in the realm of finance and education. They don't have the means to fulfil their stomachs; education for some of them is a distant dream.
Moreover in Islam, poverty is not seen as a cursed state of being. Quran teaches us that success should not be gauged by wealth. Many Prophets in Islam had belonged to a poor background. Prophet Abraham, who is called the father of Muslim Ummah (nation), was a homeless person yet successful but an incredibly wealthy man, the pharaoh with luxurious palaces and comfort was a failure due to his evil practices and corruption.
The Quran teaches us that success has nothing to do with wealth and failure has nothing to do with poverty.
And it is the Quran which says that without reason there's no faith. The Quran in various ways confirms the authority of reason. About 60 to 70 verses can be cited in which the Quran indicates that such and such matter has been mentioned for reason to reflect upon.
In one instance, the Quran says "surely the worst of beasts in god's sight are those that are deaf and dumb and do not reason." (8:22). Here the Quran does not talk about physically dumb and deaf but those who do not want to listen to truth or those who when they hear do not admit it with their tongues.
The people who do not are those who fail to make use of their intellect and faculty of thought. Such people are not fit to be called human beings. The Quran includes them among the beasts.
At other place the Quran says, "And He lays abomination upon those who do not reason." (10:100)
In these verses, the Quran in terms of logic invites us to reasoning. There are many verses in the Quran which, on the basis of consequential signification, can be said to accept the authority of reason. In other words, the Quran makes statements which cannot be accepted without accepting the authority of reason.
Now, I would like to talk about the opening statement of the writer that Muslims are a textbook examples of hypocrisy. Actually no. Muslims are not. Yes, at places like madrasas, mosques and holy Kaaba many women face sexual abuse but Muslims are not the only people facing this menace.
There have been innumerable cases of child and woman sexual abuse by catholic priests, nuns and subsequent cover-ups. Hindu priests have been involved in all sorts of corrupt practices from sexual molestation to extortion etc. Buddhist monks are brutally murdering the most persecuted minority in the world. This smuggling of faith it seems is just not happening in Muslim community but in every other religion. Besides, plenty of secular and nationalist institutions have been responsible for cases of sexual assault.
He must have known that criticising Muslims by singling them out with half-baked arguments would fuel the Islamophobic narrative and further the anti-Muslim bigotry.
In my honest opinion, his piece was in no way a balanced and reasonable criticism of Muslims. The article doesn't seem to have been written with the intention to improve the condition of Muslims.
Most non-Muslims learn about Islam from the behaviour of Muslims but today there is a huge difference between Islam and actions of some Muslims. Therefore, I have tried to point those differences through this piece.
I want to add that by writing this article, I am not absolving Muslims of the mistake of moving away from the core teaching of Islam rather I am trying that Muslims learn about their faith and revive it. The Quran is light (noor) that can bring humanity out of darkness. Our Prophet was a walking Quran and so should all Muslims be. God willing.