“Why do you believe in a foreign religion?”

Let’s modify this question and ask as follows:

Is a religion that is not alien to human nature really foreign?

And, likewise:

How a religion or a metaphysical/pagan/heathen system etc. that is alien to human nature can still be counted as “local” or “indigenous”?

Human nature contains certain universalities and particularities. And both are deeply sacred.

If a religion or way of life assists a man or a woman to achieve a perfect balance between the two then that system is in alignment with human nature.

On the contrary, if there is disequilibrium then howsoever local or native a tradition(s) is, it shall still be regarded as unfit and foreign to a folk.

Now, who defines the contours of human nature?

A philosopher? A scientist? A priest? or none of them?

Is Man [implied both sexes here] competent enough to define himself/herself as well?

If yes, then, how does he/she do that? Moreover, how does he/she know that that method is correct?

If no, then, where should we be looking to get the clearest picture of ourselves?

Islam Extols Arabic NOT Arabs

There is a perception that Islam is the glorification of Arabs and their culture and customs.

Well, it is not.

It is neither Arabism nor worship of Arabs.

Never once does the Noble Word exhort its reciters to follow the Arabs and their manner of living.

The Noble Quran makes a clear and decisive distinction between the dynamics of language and race. The former cuts through racial, ethnic, tribal, and national differences. However, the latter is fixed and cannot be appropriated.

I can possess native fluency in English, but that does not mean I can also physically become an Anglo-Saxon.

In extolling the Arabic language* and admonishing** the Bedouin conduct, Islam states a fascinating feature embedded within human beings, which is as follows:

Anyone can master any language.

Therefore, one sees a non-Arab of ANY race/ethnicity reciting the Quranic verses as beautifully and effortlessly as an Arab.

It can be said that Islam is the only system that balances the particularity and universality of human existence.

It prevents a particularity from eating its own self. Also, it stops a universality from enveloping and destroying a particularity.

 “Indeed in that is a lesson for those of vision.” [3:13]

*: see Quran 12:2, 13:37, 16:103, 41:3
**: see Quran 9:97, 9:98, 49:14

What is Pakistan?

source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PAK_orthographic.svg

The Indian Constitution begins with a fascinating sentence.

Article 1: India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.

Now, doesn’t it imply that there is also an “India” that is not Bharat?

As the word “India” refers to the land or lands around the River Indus, it then follows that a territory whose official name is the “Republic of India” should also contain the said river.

However, that is not the case. The mighty River Indus runs through the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” rendering it more Indian than the one currently called the “Republic of India “.

Hence, I think the very first article of the Indian Constitution subtextually addresses this inconsistency. I am not sure the framers consciously took that step. Their intention was to introduce a term originating locally as the word “India” was how foreigners began referring the vast territory straddling between the Iranian plateau and the Gangetic plains.

So, firstly, Pakistan is an India that is not Bharat and that which contains the River Indus. It is the child of this ancient river which binds its constituent parts together.

Secondly, it is an acronym. P stands for Punjab, A for Afghania [the Pashtun lands in the North West], K for Kashmir, S for Sindh, and –tan for Baluchistan. Although it was added to make the pronunciation easy for the reader, the letter I can be taken as a representative of the word Indus.

Thirdly, the word “Pakistan” also signals towards the Persian/Farsi and Sanskrit heritage. “Pak” is a Persian word which means “pure”. It is cognate with the Sanskrit term “pavaka” (पावक). The other component, that is “-stan”, is a Persian suffix which means “place”, “abode”, “station”, etc. It is also cognate with the Sanskrit word “sthan” (स्थान).

Lastly, Pakistan can be seen as a protest against the notion that Delhi is the political and cultural centre of gravity of the region between the Khyber Pass and the Bay of Bengal. It is perhaps the most powerful centrifugal force that resists the gravitational pull that emanates from the centralisation tendencies of the Gangetic plains. And I might add that it doesn’t matter who sits in Delhi.

Of “East Bengal”, “East Pakistan”, and “Bangladesh”:

Here, one may raise an extremely pertinent question. What to make of Bangladesh which, until 1971, used to be known as “East Pakistan” and was governed as a sovereign territory of Pakistan?

Well, until the promulgation of the constitution of 1956, this territory was known as “East Bengal”. It was carved out of Bengal as a Muslim majority region. The founding father of Pakistan, Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had endorsed the scheme of a United Sovereign Bengal but the Nehru-led Indian National Congress rejected the proposal. According to S.K. Majumdar, the measure would have depleted the fortunes of the financiers of the Congress Party.*

My own assessment is that a United Bengal in the East coupled with a Pakistan in the West would have not only encouraged several other centrifugal tendencies, Bengali nationalism would also have shaken the foundations of Congress-backed “Indian Nationalism”. Therefore, the Congress Party that was seeing things from Delhi stood for the division of Bengal, and when after the conflict in 1971 Eastern half of Bengal declared its independence from Islamabad, New Delhi did not try to incorporate it into its own province of West Bengal. Paving the way for a sovereign Muslim-majority “Bangladesh”, the Republic of India undermined its own secular nationalistic credentials and upheld a sort of nationalism the basis of which was religion [in this case Islam].

So getting back to the theme at present, a sovereign territory separated by a thousand-mile of foreign land was a bizarre arrangement to begin with. Bengal should have been allowed to decide its own destiny. Nevertheless, this does not mean that I endorse or sympathize with the foundational fantasies of “Bangladesh”. It is not “Bangladesh” as long as West Bengal remains a part of India. Presently, it is a land of Muslim Bengalis whose political elite brandished linguistic chauvinism but insisted on frontiers drawn on the basis of religion.

* S.K. Majumdar Jinnah and Gandhi: Their Role in India’s Quest for Freedom [pg. 273]

Dialogue Between God & Man

I fashioned this world out of one and the same clay;
You made Iran; Ethiopia and Tartary.
From mere earth I made steel, pure and without alloy;
You fashioned sword and arrowhead and musketry.
You made the axe, with which you felled trees grown by me,
And fashioned cages for my singing birds, born free.

You made the night; I made the lamp that lights it up.
You fashioned clay; I made of it a drinking cup.
You made the wilderness, the mountain and the steppe;
I fashioned garden, orchard, avenue and scape.
I change dread poisons into panaceas, and
I am the one who fashions mirrors out of sand.

[ source: Muhammad Iqbal, Message from the East, پیام مشرق ]

Some Pearls of Wisdom by Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (Peace be Upon him)

“The tongue is a beast; if it is let loose, it devours.”

 “As intelligence increases, speech decreases.”

“Take wise points from wherever they may be, because if a wise saying is in the bosom of a hypocrite it flutters in his bosom till it comes out and settles with others of its own category in the bosom of the believer.”

“The worth of every man is in his attainments.”

“Whoever abandons saying, “I do not know” meets his destruction.”

“I love the opinion of an old man more than the determination of a young man.”

“The hearts get weary as bodies get weary; so look for beautiful wise sayings for them (to dispel their weariness).”

“The lowest form of knowledge is that which remains on the tongue and the most superior form is that which manifests itself through (the action of) the limbs and the organs of the body.”

“When you hear a tradition test it according to the criterion of intelligence not that of mere hearing, because relaters of knowledge are numerous but those who guard it are few.”

“He who acts solely according to his own opinion gets ruined, and he who consults other people shares in their understanding.”

Source: Nahj al-Balagha [The Path of Eloquence]

Islam’s Account of Man: A Short Sketch

أَفَحَسِبْتُمْ أَنَّمَا خَلَقْنَـٰكُمْ عَبَثًۭا وَأَنَّكُمْ إِلَيْنَا لَا تُرْجَعُونَ

Deemed ye then that We had created you for naught, and that ye would not be returned unto Us?

[Surah Al-Mu’minun: 115] Translation: Muhammad William Marmaduke Pickthall

The Noble Qur’an uses the terms In-saan [انسان] and bash’ar [بشر] to refer to a human being [man and woman].

They are often used interchangeably but they, nevertheless, have differences.

Bash’ar is a more empirical description. It is concerned with the outward appearance. It is the superficial and material account of a human being.

Now, as far as In-saan is concerned, it signifies a more profound and higher state.

The word shares its roots with the word Nisyaan [نسيان] which means forgetfulness and amnesia.

It is said that In-saan is a being who is in a state of forgetfulness with regards to its purpose.

So, when a Bash’ar is aware of his/her lack of knowledge and forgetfulness and strives to overcome it, he/she attains the rank of In-saan.

The Self is called Nafs (نفس).

It has three categories:

Nafs Ammarrah [نفس أمارة] : The part of self that entices Man to follow his lust and baser instincts.

Nafs Luvammah [نفس  اللوامة] : The part of self that admonishes Man to review, repent, and mend his ways.

Nafs Mutma’innah [نفس المطمئنة] : The highest level of self whose bearer finds satisfaction and bliss in absolute submission to the Ultimate Reality [الحق].

The primordial condition on which every human being is born is called Fitrah [فطرة]. It is a kind of operating system, a software which in its uncorrupted and undefiled form helps Man to establish a connection with Allah Almighty.

As Rumi says,

Or (suppose that) a mother cries to her suckling babe, “Come, I am mother: hark, my child!”—

Will the babe say?—“O mother, bring the proof (of it), so that I may take comfort in thy milk.”

When in the heart of any community there is savour (spiritual perception) from God, the face and voice of the prophet are (as) an evidentiary miracle.

When the prophet utters a cry from without, the soul of the community falls to worship within,

Because never in the world will the soul’s ear have heard from any one a cry of the same kind as his.

That stranger (the soul), by immediate perception of the strange (wondrous) voice, has heard from God’s tongue (the words), “Verily I am near.

The Sheer Modernism of Perennialism

“The Perennialists claim to be saving religion from the onslaught of modernity, but by adopting a pluralist epistemology, and especially one that is applied to the truths at the core of a given religion, they are sacrificing its most essential element: sacrality; for if religion is deprived of its exclusive claim to absolute truth, then it is deprived of its sacrality and sacrosanctity and can no longer claim to be sacred. This, of course, is precisely the loss that the Perennialists claim to be avoiding. Ultimately, the whole movement is a modernist reaction which is supposedly against modernity. Again, you can’t make this stuff up!”

Arash Najaf-Zadeh (The European New Right – A Shi’a Response: A Radical Critique of Alexander Dugin, E. Michael Jones, and Alain de Benoist, pg. 131)