Rekindling Pakistan’s Islamic heritage
No Pakistani, no Muslim and no human is born to be an extremist; each one of us is a product of circumstances. Some of us extricate ourselves from the situation and freely act out as adults for common good, and some simply react to situations hurting others.
We can always blame others, but that does not change how we live. If we magically change the circumstances, would everything become hunky-dory? The answer is an emphatic NO. Unfortunately no miracle is going to happen, and circumstances will not change by themselves unless we make an effort.
God is all knowing, and yet he tells us to ask him. When we do ask, we go through a process of thinking and making a pathway, thus he opens the doors of our minds to seek solutions.
No society is free from extremists and neither any religion is devoid of them. Here is a chart that may help us understand this phenomenon.
Pakistan has seen the good days, and has been witnessing bad days since the invasion of Afghanistan by the Russians, and the ensuing chaos it created. We can blame every one for that, but that does not change a thing for the average family.
The thousands of Pakistanis I have met, and thousands more on the net whom I know have a common wish. They look back nostalgically to the Pakistan they grew up with, a Pakistan where all of Allah’s creation was respected, where they lived their lives and let others live theirs. They believed Islam was not a divisive religion but an all embracing religion of the Aalameen, and it accepted the otherness of others through God’s own words, “Lakum Dinakum Waliaddin” to you is your faith as mine is to me. They believed in freedom, and did not believe in pushing others to believe your way as Quran calls, La Ikraha fid-din – there is no compulsion in matters of faith. Indeed freedom of speech, freedom of faith is what Islam is all about.
Can we restore those Glory Days?
Those who have given up hopes emphatically say nothing will change and all attempts to bring a change are useless. I understand their pessimism; however, when they see small efforts produce small changes in attitudes, a sense of optimism comes back to them and will support good efforts. Without an effort we cannot hope for anything, but with the effort we can hope for the best.
Karachi Interfaith Conference
Date: September 23-25, 2016
People of faith have a deep interest in building cohesive societies with a strong foundation in truth, justice, mercy and equity. Ultimately, we all have to live in harmony without fear of the other, leading to peace and tranquility on earth.
The responsibility to create such societies falls squarely on each one of us, and particularly on the shoulders of ‘the majority’ of the population or the ones in power in any given society.
Prophet Muhammad, the mercy to mankind was deeply concerned about the rights of minorities living next to him in Madinah.
He addressed those concerns boldly by initiating the Madinah treaty, where the Jews, Christians, Pagans and others could practice their faith and live by their faith as equal citizens of Madinah – this idea of equality for all humans permeates throughout the Quran and Hadith. Indeed, he established the best example of a pluralistic society.
Now, the people of Pakistan have an opportunity to set an example to resurrect the pristine nature of Islam – Peace for humanity. It gives hopes to fellow humans, whom God has intentionally created into different tribes such as; Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jews, Sikh, tribal traditions, Zoroastrian and the many varying practices within Islam.
Now, the people with power can serve their own interests by investing in the society that will give them unprecedented long-term organic sustainable security, or they can choose not to invest and possibly live in apprehensions or be on the run. This translates into its highest meaning in humanity; Peace (Islam). Peace comes from all of us subscribing to a system that works for all, and accommodates us all. As Muslims, we should be proud to call ourselves Muslim if people of other faiths look up to us with respect for our justness, fairness and kindness.
God has created each one of us to be unique with our own thumb print, eye print, taste buds and DNA, and clearly says he has created us into many tribes, communities and nations. If he had willed, he could have made us exactly alike and with the same faith, but he chose to make us different and gave us different faiths. That’s his will. He further tells us that the best ones among us are those who take the time to learn and understand each other, and when we do that, conflicts fade away and solutions emerge and peace will be the outcome. God wants all of us to be happy and live in harmony.
A few individuals have approached me to organize a conference to promote the idea of understanding each other, first hand. I have kept up with the interfaith movements in Pakistan and around the world and most of them are familiar with my work. Thanks to Dr. Syed Yaqoob Ali Shah for volunteering to co-chair this effort. There is nothing in it for us other than the calling to do our share of fixing the problems. We just hope someone can pay the expenses to put this program together.
Our goal is to create harmony through understanding among all Pakistanis including those who are polarized. Most of the Pakistanis are moderates and want to get along with all, and it is time to express that thought boldly and call others towards moderation, the natural state of human beings.
Please join us in Karachi for the program and see where this tiny small effort can take Pakistan to. I am looking for Speakers from US, Canada and UK from any faith to come to the program on their own expense. Please send an abstract of your speech before making the trip; it has got to be inclusive of all Pakistanis regardless of their faith.
Dr. Syed Yaqoob Ali Shah and Dr. Mike Ghouse are co-Chairs of the “Karachi Interfaith Conference for Peace.” Dr. Shah is a co-chairman of Peace Council International for Interfaith Harmony (PCIIH) and Chairman of Ulma Mashaikh Unity International (UMUI), he can be reached at [email protected] and Mike Ghouse is a Director at the World Muslim Congress, a think tank since 2002 and President of Center for Pluralism, he can be reached at [email protected]
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