Linguistic and Cultural Formalism Part 4


Beliefs & Practices, Education / Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

Confusion of Languages

The differences in the languages spoken by human beings are but natural and, in fact, a blessing. The Qur’an calls these variations a Divine favour and a sign of the ‘Lord’s craftsmanship:

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

But when languages are extolled and magnified, consecration and raised to a pedestal of divinity, they become a curse rather than a blessing; a vehicle of destruction instead of a means of goodwill and amity. Then this happens human beings are jettisoned at its altar like the living sacrifices offered to deities. Languages are mant to unite rather than to divide; they are to communicate and not to separate; designed to bring people together, make them share each other’s cares and worries and act as befrienders and ministrants. If their purpose were to drive a wedge between people, create animosity and engender malice, spite and rancour, it would be better that man was born without a tongue and remained dumb for ever. There would indeed be less cruelty, less blood-shed, less torture, less anguish and pain if all men were made to speak by signs and gestures. This would at least save innocent women and children from unspeakable horrors and whole lands from going to rack and ruin.

Man is Invaluable

Man has not been made for language: rather language has been made for man. The life of one man is in very truth much more valuable than the entire treasure of a language and literature, the whole collection of prose and poetry, all the elegant and ornate writings, all the coup de plume. Languages come into existence, expand, change and wither away but man has ever remained the same and shall always remain so.

The Consciousness of Islam

There can be no denying the fact that our endeavours have not been directed as much to the development of Islamic consciousness as to the inculcation of religious sense and the observance of religious duties. We find, in result, a disproportion between the general awareness of the overall objectives of Islam and the observance of its religious duties in most of Muslim lands. You can find a man over-scrupulous in performing the Prayers and pure in soul but he could at the same time have an undeveloped and childish sense of Islamic consciousness. He could meticulously follow the tenets and dogmas but be unaware of its fundamental postulales. He could commit a mistake unbecoming of any well-informed Muslim. He might even be completely blind to the difference between Islam and Ignorance, and so easily fall victim to deception by any clever imposture. He can be made a tool for the destruction of Islam. And he might do all this in good Faith, without feeling the least contradiction between his action and his Faith. We can find many such examples in Islamic history, and perhaps, recent events furnish the most appropriate example of all.

Of all the Muslims of this subcontinent these people had always been known for their sincere Faith, religious enthusiasm, warmth of heart and loving regard for their Religion: they always used to assemble in tens of thousands in religious discourages and concourses; but, alas, they have fallen prey to the manipulations of tricky politicians. These simple-minded Muslims were either lured to became a party in this tragic drama of blood and fire or they could not stand up resolutely and courageously to face the zealotry of Ignorance as they ought to have done by virtue of their being Muslims and members of a self-conscious millat.

The Companions of the Prophet

The cash was quite different with the Companions of the Prophet. The training imparted to them by the Prophet was so perfect and complete and embraced the entire gamut of human behaviour that we search the pages of history vain for similar specimens of sagacity and foresightedness. Prophetic guidance produced a discernment in them which could always distinguish between right and wrong, justice and injustice and Islam and Ignorance. The inner recesses of their heads and hearts were so conditioned that nothing crooked or unjust could gain their acceptance.

At times if they were unclear about the Project’s instructions and admonishments or if these seemed in anyway contradictory. They would question the Prophet about the same. For his part, the Prophet never once reproclued his companions for …. such classification.

Disobedience to God is not Permissible

In another example enlightened Islamic consciousness, the Prophet dispatched an expedition under the leadership of one of his Companions, Abdullah ibn Mazafah. He instructed the troops to implicitly obey the orders of their leaders. There was, however, some delay in Abdullah’s comrades carrying out his orders. He became enraged and ordered them to collect firewood. When these had been done he set them on fire and asked his followers to jump into it. They refused. “Did not the Prophet ask you,” demanded Abdullah, “to obey my orders?” “Of course,” they replied, “but he did not mean this. We embraced Islam to save ourselves from fire, so why should we get into it again?” When they returned to madina, the matter was reported by Abdullah to the Holy Prophet. The Prophet not only commended the decision of Abdullah’s comrades but he also said: “Had they gone into that fire they would have never come out of it.” The Prophet further said: “Obedience is permissible only in virtuous acts.”9

This was the maxim which was always helped Muslims keep to the straight path of virtue and goodness in every age. It has held them back from yielding dutifully to the call of autocratic kings and rulers as well as misguided leaders. The guiding principle for them, as expounded by the Holy Prophet, is: “No obedience to any creature involving disobedience of God is permissible.”10 On many a critical occasion the Muslims were able to maintain their balance of mind and steer their course savely without getting themselves embroiled in the emotional turmoils whipped up by the zealotry of Ignorance. They produced innumerable reformers and savants of redoubtable courage who refused to swim with the expression, its idioms and rhetoric, its smiles and metaphors and derived from a pagan tradition and world-view; if it looks up to pagan characters, poets and writers as ideal personages worthy of emulation and it harbours a feeling of estrangement with the Islamic atmosphere, Muslims heroes and their thought, then, be careful, for that nation is susceptible to the pitfall of intellectual and cultural apostasy. Its pagan impulses can always be aroused to addle its wit. Any slogan of racial or linguistic jingoism is enough to take leave of its senses. We have seen how it happened on by a few days back. Now it is your duty to plug the source of this evil.

You must not only learn these languages but also feed their literatures with Islamic works and compositions in full measure, Islamise them in spirit and content, and infuse Islamic temper and outlook into them. You should rid them of that intellectual inferiority which takes them away from Islam and pushes them closer to pagan modes of thought. You have to create that sense which can discriminate between Islam and Ignorance and instill into their hears such a love of Islam and an abhorrence of un-Islam that no zealotry of the pagan past, no paganish jingoism, no call to muster their forces for race, language, country or nation can drive a wedge between them and Islam in the future.

The Dawn of a New Era

If God enables you to accomplish this task them our past mistakes and the tragic losses we have suffered can usher in a greater and ennobling achievement. These brothers in Islam constitute an emotional current of the time. They refused to be driven in the common groove and rejected the popular motto which always exhorts people to keep in step with the order of the day. The story of their indomitable courage which began with the martyrdom of Karbala can still be seen continuing in one form or the other. It is all, in truth, the result of the golden principle of no defiance to the Creator and Lord, come what may.

The Fatal Wound

The wound is fatal, no doubt; but there is not an ailment which has no cure. Only wisdom and determination are required to get along. If you want to regain the treasure you have lost, to bring back the prodigal son or to find out the lost sheep then you will have to work for it. If poison can be injected by word of mouth, its antidote too can be provided by you. This is, in fact, easier to do for languages have been created by God for bringing people closer to each other. A Persian poet has expressed the same idea in a short and sweet verse which says:

“Thou hast come to unite; And not divide.’’

The Greatest Danger

It is extremely difficult to keep any language deprived of Islamic thought and spirit, phraseology and the stock of words connected with Faith. Languages are closely in touch with the inner recesses of our hears and minds. If the language of any people is stamped with unislamic ideas, if its way of thinking and mode of invaluable part of the Millat who have produced hundreds of pious saints and savants and they still carry in their hearts the flame of Islam. They are the people whose forefathers accomplished such feats of valour under the flag of Hazrat Syed Ahmad Shaheed in the thirteenth century of the Islamic era that even one of the most inveterate critics of Islam, Dr. Hunter, had to pay glowing compliments to their bravery and religious enthusiasm. If you can rise to the occasion, a new era of Islamic regeneration will undoubtedly dawn upon this unfortunate land.

And in that day believers will rejoice in Allah’s help to victory. He helpeth to victory whom He will. He is the Mighty, the Merciful (Al-Rudi:4-5).

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