By Silma M. Ahamed –
Shock, disbelief, anger. Sadness, empathy, shame, fear – all raging inside. It is a turmoil of emotions that is consuming us, like the fires that destroyed beautiful lives last Easter morning.
We have failed as Sri Lankan Muslims. Failed not because those terrorists were Muslim; if they truly were, they would never have killed, because every Muslim knows what The Almighty clearly says in the Holy Quran, that to take an innocent life is like killing all of humanity, and to save a life is like saving all of humanity.
So if those abominable killers were not true Muslims, can we absolve ourselves of their crime? How have we failed?
We have failed miserably, by distancing ourselves from our fellow Sri Lankans, our brothers and sisters of other faiths. We have failed to follow what Islam asks us to do, to interact with our neighbours, to share, to care, to love, to understand. And this, while we thought we were ‘educating’ ourselves to be ‘better’ Muslims, to be ‘enlightened’ Muslims, in the misguided notion that we would have an easier and faster ticket to heaven than our parents and grandparents.
And so we gulped down blindly every word that spilt off mouths of persons who called themselves scholars. We didn’t check if what they said was true. We didn’t compare them with other interpretations. We didn’t use our own intellect to weigh what was being fed to us, to see if it went against the basic teachings of our faith. We lapped them all up, whatever that was dished out, and we aligned ourselves to the group which was most successful in invading our minds.
And so there are groups, Jamaths, in numerous ideologies, sizes, influence and origin. We latched on to whichever that succeeded to capture our conviction. They set up their own mosques, their own madrasas, their own schools, and their own classes.
And in the rush to ‘study’ Islam, we thought we knew more than the generations before us. We thought we were better than them. What our parents taught us was wrong. What our Islam teacher in school taught us was not sufficient. The books on Islam didn’t offer the opportunity of belonging to a Jamath, Ahadiya classes on a Sunday morning wasn’t ‘in’ as everyone around us was going for ‘classes’. We thought our parents were not good Muslims. Everyone needed extra classes, and so they attended them, from grandmothers to tiny kids.
Now I know this comment of mine can result in angry responses being hurled at me. I also know that all these classes are not teaching extremism. But our community got so engrossed in the Akhira, the after-life, that they forgot how to live in Duniya, this life. We forgot to balance our life. To take the middle path in everything. To interact with our neighbours. Be national minded. Be Sri Lankan. It was a like a race to get to Jannah by defeating the other. Each jamath was busy trying to expand their number of followers, to outdo each other to see who was the ‘better Muslim’. In that blind and manic race, we forgot many things. We became arrogant. We became judgemental. We became selfish. And now we’re paying the price for it. Not because we became terrorists. But because we weren’t vigilant in our matters of Duniya. We distanced ourselves from others, put up walls in such a way that our children don’t have friends of other faiths, they don’t speak the languages spoken on the streets, our women don’t smile with their neighbours because the veil prevents it, we don’t honour their invitation for many superfluous reasons – halal food and haram activities, the list goes on. And we didn’t only distance ourselves from people of other faiths. We fragmented into Jamaths, building walls between families too. We were so dissected that we fought over how to pray and how to live our daily lives.
Now we say this catastrophe is a machination of Zionists, of the West, of India, of politics, of racists… perhaps it may be so. But who is there to listen to us when we have lost our friends, the friends who would have stood by us, because we put up those walls and isolated ourselves? Now they have forgotten our old friendships because we have been separated for decades. Now they don’t know what’s happening on our side of the wall. So they believe what the machiavellians say, what the instigators say, what the opportunists say.
Accuse me of being apologetic, but there is no point in burying our heads in the sand. There’s no point in living in denial any longer. Let’s at least now have the courage to put our house in order, tear down those walls, embrace our neighbours and remember that The Almighty created the Universe. So He would certainly want us to embrace everyone and celebrate our differences. At least now, let’s be truly Muslim.