Proper practicing of Islam

People in Bangladesh are preponderantly Muslims by religion. But a large number of Bangladeshis are poor and backward. The roots of this degraded existence of these countrymen can be traced to the behaviour of its elite classes whose routine or ritual observance of Islam seek to be convincing but such observance is nowhere near the sacrifices that Islam demands from its real followers.
Not only the elites, the practicing of Islam by the common people of Bangladesh is also confined to rituals and actual skewed practices in many cases which should explain why they do not derive the benefits or strengths from their faith. In the countrysides and also in urban areas of this country, religious teachers teach people that only religious education and not technical education can ensure their salvation in this life and hereafter. They are also against freedom of women– specially women’s modern education, against birth control and a life outside the homes The taboos are meant to save Islam when, ironically, Islam first heralded women’s emancipation, before all others, centuries ago.
People in very large number in Bangladesh love to be the disciples of peers (Islamic holymen) and pay regular tribute to them. Bangladesh as one of the biggest Islamic countries in the world has an Islamic clergy to be proud of in terms of knowledge of the Koran and its interpretations. If this clergy only exerts itself widely and seriously, then there should be no reason for the people to be misguided or for them to engage in activities ironically opposed to Islam.
But in Bangladesh we see many persons posing as holymen or the enlightened ones on Islam and wanting the subservience of common people to their views and fiats. In many cases, their claims to religious eminence are dubious. But they would want people to believe otherwise for the furtherance of their pecuniary interests.
In many places in the countryside, a fertile religious business may crop up in the following manner : first, on the roadside, a grave is set up. Next, someone drapes it with red cloth with Arabic writings in bold letters on the cloth that draws reverence from illiterate or gullible people. Third, on a placard the site is declared to be the grave site of a holyman. In subsequent stages, the disciples of the so called holyman gather around the site and in still later stages start asking passers by to donate to the shrine. Fairly soon, the dargah (shrine ) of the so called deceased peer ( holyman) start acquiring renown in the area. Stories start circulating that visits to the shrine create miraculous cures from diseases, fulfillment of long held desires of the visitors, etc. There are usually no truths in the stories but simple people seem to like to believe such tales and their going to such shrines in hordes turns the place into one of distinction. Even many educate ones fall for the foibles .
Too many people in our country drink waters blessed by holymen and add to stories that they have been cured from diseases by the same. Some of these peers even advertise in papers that they can help barren couples to have children by arranging divine help for them in this regard. Others sell talisman, sanctified strings and bangles with the assurance that these will keep the devil away or bring good luck. Devotees are seen kneeling in prayers before the burial chambers (mazars) of holymen praying to them for deliverance from various problems.
But is there sanction in Islam for such things? Islam as the supreme and the last of the monotheistic religions expressly demands that humans shall pray to none but Almighty Allah for deliverance from any sort of predicament or fulfillment of wishes. Therefore, how consistent with Islam is such utter devotion to holymen and their shrines ? It is stated in the Holy Koran that Almighty Allah would be prepared to forgive many sins of humans, even serious ones, on their ultimately praying to Him for forgiveness. But the Almighty would never forgive sins termed as “shirk’ in Arabic meaning the veneration of humans as the associates of Allah.
The holy Koran unequivocally declares Prophet Mohammed (SM) as the last of the prophets and exhorts Muslims of future generations to be guided entirely by the Koran and the Hadis left behind by Prophet Mohammed (SM). Where is, thus, the scope for the peers (holymen) to claim that they have divine or almost prophetic powers ? Do not the followers of the holymen through their overflowing devotion to the latter do things contrary to the purely monotheistic character of Islam ?
Common people in Bangladesh in many cases adore a fatalistic and resigned way of life believing this to be the Islamic ideal when fourteen centuries ago, when Islam was at its zenith in terms of spreading civilization and progress round the world, its adherents were at the forefront spreading science, knowledge and the merits of a scientific mentality to an European continent then sunk in ignorance
Then, there is also the aspect of the spread of fanatical Islam in Bangladesh polity that the West calls fundamentalism and which is opposed to modernism and progress. But the Holy Koran repeatedly urges the true believers to be middle-of-the roaders or not to be extreme in their attitude.
Therefore, the real challenge for the real Islamists in Bangladesh is to establish Islam as it should be for the greatest number of Bangladeshis and for Bangladesh and its people to look forward to a better and better future in the times to come.


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