Faith:fragmentation and wholeness

Muslims constitute about one fourth of global population scattered across the globe and considerable number is living in western countries. The kind of challenge that Muslims are facing today needs to be deliberated upon in the right context. The overarching narrative in the western media paints the followers of Islam as the believers of some radical ideology aiming to fight and eliminate non-muslims which is far from the truth. This perception is established mainly because of the presence of a certain mindset prevalent in Muslim societies and an extremist element which is coming out of the Muslim communities living in different parts of the world.           These are the self proclaimed interpreters of Islam pursuing nothing else other than a disastrous  ideology of havoc and destruction. An infamous terrorist group came fourth after 9/11 with its presence mainly in the Middle East and South Asia. Then emerged the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan(TTP),which is mainly functional in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Similarly in the Levant region, emerged the infamous self-announced caliphate,not to forget the emergence of Boko Haram in the parts of Africa.                                                                                                                  One thing which is common for all these terror groups is that they are fighting in the name of Islam and causing a great deal of damage to the perception of the religion and great majority of Muslims living peacefully across the world looking for prosperity,peace ,development and order. The fact of the matter remains that the overwhelming majority of Muslims out rightly reject their interpretation of Islam and their flagitious acts of violence. To me , it seems like their interpretation of Islam has nothing to do with very essence and spirit of Islam.                                 Today it has become extremely important for Muslims aspiring for a peaceful and stable world to  convey to people living across the world that these militant groups following the path of extremism and barbarity have nothing to do with the essence of Islam. How can any rational person associate an act carried out by one person to a whole community’s motivations? Unfortunately today, terrorism and Islam are linked in such a way that they are being perceived as two sides of the same coin. These days breaking news or headlines highlighting a Muslim involved in an act of terrorism raises red flags for the 1.6 billion Muslims living across the world. Certainly somewhere, somebody must be benefiting out of it in terms of gaining political leverage or financial gain,but the sad reality is that the space for large number of ordinary Muslims living in the west, aspiring to have lives,working hard to improve the living standards of their families , seeking to flourish their businesses, pursuing higher education is rapidly shrinking.                                                                                                                                             The seat of religion is in the human heart. It beats with its rhythm and runs through its veins.Religious belief, with theological significance reflects a deep personal trust that seeks Union with or absorption into the absoluteness of God. It may be taken as a separate element in human Existence as far as its development is concerned but it is not one part of the psychic life, it involves the whole system. With its multiplicity it remains inaccessible to knowledge,reason and intellect to a large extent. Religion may be called a universal fact, an international occupancy with deep emotional colouring promoted by motivations, as common to people at all cultural levels as its thrust and hunger.                                                                                                         In spite of strategic differences  in ways of worship and belief system, all religions believe in assessments of individual’s life after death. For a strong believer direct knowledge of God and spiritual truth or ultimate reality is attainable through religious experiences that involve contemplation and self- surrender, expressed through prayer,worship and devotion. The exuberance may lead to glorious subjective experiences like intuition and insight,making it difficult for an ordinary human being to understand the psychic significance of all such experiences.                                                                                                                                           

Looking back to my childhood, I remember our parents practiced unusual ways to instil   deep awakening about religion in us. They were hard task masters, mother with her in strong disciplinarian attitude had invented some unusual schematic procedures with hilarious house-hold slogans to keep us focused on religion and education. No breakfast would be served if prayers were not offered and for education  , she would say and believe in “Ya parun, nat’s marun,”meaning,either study or perish.She liked us to abide her rules and routine , implemented with authority and punished for every flaw in obedience. Like little kittens with half shut eyes,we would be out on toes to follow her in everything.                                                                   “

              Raghunath mandir area had a habit of coming to life before dawn,in morning wee hours Muslims,Sikhs and Hindus would rise to come out from their houses, and hustle to different shrines, mosques,Gurudawaras and Temples. Within the sounds of loudspeaker from the mosque,mantra chanting from temple and kirtan from Gurudawaras ,our sleep would break to a resonant atmosphere of mingled voices and we would watch them marching on the same road with their heads down in repentance and forgiveness. Route was the same, paths were entirely different , desire for mercy and absolution, identical. Visiting Koh-e-Maran would bind them further as both faiths rested on the elegant mountain without any shades of communal curse of misfortune. The brilliance of enlightenment would peep through morning mist. Muslims with prayer mats and rosaries and Hindus with earthen jugs covered with Marigold flowers,they would return with blessing  for the whole domain.                                              Human psyche is the most difficult to comprehend. In a pluralistic society in which various religious,racial and political groups breathe in a single fabric of common good, religion develops in unusual ways to reach a final stage, from primitive animism through the institutional forms to an individual autonomy, to a stage of self-actualisation , which regards itself as beyond all religions. Our neighbourhood had a tremendous feel for complete polarization, boundaries and barriers were respected and not thought  as hurdles  to be removed to practice a particular faith , religion of love was practiced more than the religion of faith.                                          Like with maximum people Living in    In south Asian countries,visiting shrines has become a permanent feature of faith in Kashmir. It is an essential element of religious psyche of our people,a life style adapted with time and lived beyond any reason. The sacred land of our Kashmir has produced saints,Rishies and Sufis par excellent and place is best known as the garden of spiritual personage. Concept of Sufism is deep rooted in our archetype, it pre-dates all history and perhaps civilization. Maximum people have maintained a psycho-spiritual dimension of religion that according to them, have enhanced their faith and trust in God. People carry the inner mystic flavour with its philosophy of existence,the expression of which flows from our poetry, art and literature. It’s mystic heroes may have died but it’s humanity carries the essence and Colorado of their experiences.                   I remember our mental facilities were too raw to understand the meaning of ‘there is no god but God, and difference between fragmentation and wholeness In faith. For us going to Durgah, Hazratbal,visit to Jamia Masjid or visiting Raghunath Mandir or Bahu Fort,were absolute entertainment. Although my well protected image about these places suffered terrible aesthetic setbacks. I am lucky to save some beautiful images from the past . The two mini cherry orchards on two sided near the grand entrance would spread  cool air with quintessence. On entering grand  Architecture would leave a person speechless. A perfectly square garden with waterbody in the centre and dancing pigeons and birds around were enough reasons to wonder

On ecstasy.                                                                                                                                          Muslims have been coexisting with the believers of other faiths in the past as Islam believes in plurality. Being non-muslim, I have witnessed it in Kashmir in my childhood. Terrorism on the name of Islam has puzzled the entire world these days.The political and intellectual leadership across the Muslim world has been unable to convey the point of view of the ordinary muslim to the rest of the world. The leadership looks hapless in the wake of terrorism, slow to form a counter narrative that opposes these extremist ideologies. It is time we come up with a clear and unified narrative to counter these ideologies of hate, which subvert the fundamental teachings of Islam,Compassion,Justice and Peace.(Yog Rahi Gupta is aWinnipeg based free lance writer. He is also a host of voice of India radio program every Sunday from 5 to 6 PM@Radio CKJS 810 AM)