Linguistic and Cultural Formalism Part 2


Beliefs & Practices, Education / Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Linguistic and Cultural Differences

Man has had numerous languages and cultures, rites and customs since the day he made his debut on this planet. These variations in language and modes of living have helped will to evolve new patterns of culture and enrich and beautify his life; and, indeed, as the Qur’an reminds us, these are all Divine blessings conferred on mankind by the grace of the Lord:

O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. (Al-Hujarat:13). And, again.

And of His signs in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the differences of your languages and colours. Lo! herein indeed are portents for the men of knowledge. (Al-Rum: 22).

The history of mankind is replete with tragic fights and forays, despicable incidents and happenings but we do not know of any war fought merely on the basis of language and culture. The Arabs were renowned for their graceful language as well as their linguistic prejudice; they had nicknamed all other people as the ajmees or the dumb, but history does not list a single war fought by them for the sake of their language. Islam denounced such predictions as unlawful, and prohibited these as the zealotry of Ignorance. Islam denigrated and discredited this passion, equated it with the remnants of pagan Ignorance, derogated it as the trappy snares of idol worship and denial of God, spoke of its votaries as adversaries of God and His Apostle, and declared that all those who fight for it and die for it shall go the way of the apostates and non-believers. But we do not find even Ignorance fighting to uphold its ruling passion, its prejudice for linguistic superiority.

It is, in fact, the aggression nationalism of Europe which has endued language and culture and reverential regard. It has made it a deity on whose altar human blood in split and man is sacrificed. It has encouraged nations to revive their ancient cultures, resuscitate defunct languages and even fight for their sake. This is the new paganism of modern times which has given rise to a new type of crusade so long unknown to the world. Europe propagated its ideology with the due thought and rare foresight and gradually it caught the imagination of the Muslim peoples who were true believers and who despised all traces of its pagan past. It was expected that because of the guidance provided to them by Islam they would not fall a prey to linguistic prejudices like other peoples. Verily, they ought to have known that this animus had neither the sanction of God nor was it worth a mustard seed in His eyes.

Yet, suddenly, this new menace made its appearance in the world of Islam. Like a volcano it burst out into the heart of a Muslim country bringing death and destruction in its train. To be sure, this did not aim at the propitiation of God nor at suppressing any evil or falsehood or the sneaking whispers of Satan: its objective was not to establish peace and amity or to spread the gospel of compassion and brotherhood. It all happened because a great majority of this land lent an ear to the artful dodgers of the West and their camp followers and was, thus, given a false scent.

Irreparable Loss to Islam

What is extremely lamentable though is this spilling of Muslim blood, death and destruction. Its most shameful aspect has been to arm the enemies of Islam with one more weapons against it. The conclusion drawn by them is that Islam is incapable of uniting different peoples with racial, cultural and linguistic differences, and that, as an ideology, it is not suited to providing rallying force for the reconstruction of a society and the establishment of a state. Advertisaries of Islam cite this incident as proof of the inherent weakness of Islam to sustain and preserve the political entity of a people organised on its basis. This is the greatest harm done to Islam by this cultural and linguistic chauvinism.

You are living here in one of the business centres of India and, therefore, you should be fully aware that any rise or fall inprices, a temporary set back in business and the trade, a paltry loss or profit is never as important as the loss of the goodwill suffered by any commercial firm. A film’s good will is the sign and symbol of its established popularity in business; it is often regarded as one of its most valuable assets, and it has a marketable monetary value. It is even purchased and sold for lakhs of rupees depending on the popularity trade.

the incident I alluded to above meant a great loss to Islam and created formidable difficulties for its savants and preachers who had been presenting their faith as a great unifying force. It has, by the same token, rendered doubtful the entire historical achievement of Islam. Now, who can assert the all-levelling characteristic of Islam which once effaced all distinctions between whites and blacks, between Asiatics and Africans, between kings and beggars and between masters and slaves? In fact, the historicity of Islam’s past achievement is beyond a shadow of a doubt: the world has always marvelled at its accomplishment; but, how are we now to tell the world that sentiments of fellow-feeling and brotherhood produced by Islam transcend differences of race, colour and language and unify Believers into one, inseparable, spiritual community? This is the loss for which we have no words to express our grief: even tears of blood would not suffice to lament the calamity that has befallen Islam.

The Illness and its Causes

Let us assume that whatever happened was a political game. A few political parties bent upon crating dissension and discord succeeding in misleading a simple-minded people. But the very fact is that an entire nation was so easily duped; it was thrown off the scent so completely that it lost all discrimination between Faith and apostasy. Islam and Ignorance and harmony and discord were surely not fortuitous. Nor can it be attributed to the witlessness of a whole people nor to the artful duplicity and cleverness of its leaders. No political movement can succeed in any country unless its people are ready to accept the ideology preached by the leaders of that movement and unless it receives the whole-hearted support of the masses. Had the nation not been of a mind to accept and own that ideology, this tempest of fire and fury would have passed over their heads without carrying everything before it as by a torrent. However breath-taking the tremor of excitement may be, it is never durable. But the deep-seated disquiet, its wide-spread nature and durability shows disquiet, its wide-spread nature and durability shows that the nation had already been infected with the disease. Its sense of Islamic solidarity was surely not fully developed and it lacked the desired standard of instruction in Islamic beliefs and practices, otherwise it would not have fallen on evil days so easily.

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