POLITICAL FREEDOM AND CULTURAL SERFDOM

By Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi (rahimahullah)

I am constrained to refer to the fact — a fact, both regrettable and unpalatable — that none of our eastern countries including India and Pakistan and even those Arab countries which have yet to achieve complete freedom from foreign domination, has as yet realised what it really means to be independent and free. They have not yet enjoyed the fruits of real freedom. From the day they became free they have yielded themselves to be bound by fetters of intellectual, cultural and economic bondage.

They have become so dependent on the West that the liberation of these countries has meant only a change in the personnel administering these countries without any change in the springhead supplying the vital impulse to run their administration. Liberation of these countries has not meant a whit more than this superficial changeover. We have been drawing upon the West not only in education but also imitating their system of education; we are following the West in our manners and modes of living; and what is more, we often depend for our moral and religious precepts too on the researches made by the Western scholars.

Even the Islamic sciences are judged from the standpoint evolved by the western educational institutions. Orientalists are held in high esteem not only in West but in the East also and it has been accepted on all hands that whatever they say is the last word requiring no further quest and scrutiny. This is the present state of affairs in every Islamic country with the result that none of them has had an opportunity to enjoy the benefits conferred by their political freedom. All of them are so overburdened with the western ideals and view of life that they are seething with discontent beneath the insufferable weight of alien crazy concepts.

Some of these countries are, fortunately, wholly populated by the Muslims but they have failed to pattern their policy on the demand of its faith and conscience. They are, in consequence, caught in the cobweb of mental discon­tent and vexation of spirit which is bound to result into a crisis of confidence and disintegrating conflict.  An unrelenting struggle in these countries is caused by those who wield the reins of Government in these countries, those who have pinned their faith in the western ideals and con­cepts. They are Muslims, no doubt, and they also come from respectable Muslim families. Nor have they forsaken Islam, but in their mental make up and intellectual outlook they have been cast in the mould of western way of looking at things.

It is their misfortune that the nations committed to their care are Muslims out and out; they have faith in God and His Apostle; they believe in the life after death where there is a heaven and hell and where they shall have to render account for whatever they do in this world; they acknowledge the fact that the, life of the world and its pleasures and sorrows are transitory; they are convinced that the ultimate end they have in view is preferable to the purely material objectives; they know that the aim of life is not to eat, drink and be merry and to have the fat of the land but it consists in being more humane, inculcating the awe of God, betaking the path of virtue and avoiding the ways of sin, leading a life pure and virtuous in the footsteps of the last Prophet of God, acting on the injunctions and precepts of the Law revealed by the Lord, serving the humanity and disseminating the message of peace and virtuous living to the wayward humanity in order to help it to chart its course out of the predicament of doom and despair it is finding itself enwrapped at present.

But those who have gained a hold over administration in these Countries have an entirely different view of life and the world. They harbour doubts about many a truth enunciated by Islam. They are skeptical if there is any Power behind what their senses reveal to them, a Power unseen and imperceptible behind the manifest, palpable beings and objects — or that there is a life after death. They find it hard to believe that man can derive satisfaction and happiness from any thing other than material assets and holdings. An unprecedented but unfruitful unrest has thus cropped up in our eastern countries which is wasting their energy for nothing. Only yesterday I told some of my Arab friends that if our eastern countries could get a leadership which was aware of the inherent qualities and strength, the indomitable courage and enthusiasm the spirit of zeal and sacrifice, the mood and temper and the glorious past and present potentialities of our people, it could again brace up their strength which no power on earth would be able to subdue.

Whatever vigour and energy the East possesses, it lies in the power of its Faith. It is the faith that moves mountains. For the people in the East, the faith still has the power to awaken the spirit to sacrifice their lives, their pleasures, their hearts and homes for it. Fighting for the honour of God, for Islam, for the Prophet and for the faith still stimulates that frenzied fervour in them which can neither be enkindled by a call for any other cause nor be subdued by anyone. But it is simply tragic that our people passing out of the portals of western universities have all their wits about them except that they remain completely oblivious’ of the latent strength and vigour of their own people.

If you do not mind my plain speaking, I would say that perhaps the Poet of the East had addressed  these every persons in this couplet:

Get within thy self and discover the life’s secret;

If thou does not want to be mine, true to thyself be at least.

All those who go back from the universities here know all about history and geography, individual and mass psychology, but if they remain blind to anything, it is the temperament and disposition of their own people — the people amongst whom they have to go back and live and work, the people who are their own limbs and hands. They do not know them, nor the reservoir of strength concealed in them which had once shaken up the world.

It is the power that can never be defeated even by the combined strength of all the nations of the world. And, our people in the East have that power of faith even today but either our leaders know not what it is or they are strangers to the parlance of faith. They perhaps only know the language which reaches the ears of their people but fails to touch their hearts. They cannot speak in the tongue that can enrapture and enravish their hearts — a language that touches the cords of one’s heart and casts a magic spell on the listener. This is the language of the faith and the Qur’an; the language spoken by the companions of the Prophet which made men die in the last ditch. How can a man speak to others unless he knows their language? How can I convey my thoughts to the people of this land unless I can speak in English?

This will lead to nothing but to the confusion of tongues. These leaders speak to their own people in the same parlance in which they converse with the West. They should have at least been alive to the fact that the people whom they seek to address are the followers of the Prophet of Islam, the language which they understand, which touches their heart and stirs their blood is the language of faith— the language that they speak in their homes and lanes, mosques and marts. It is the language of those transcendental realities which they have cherished for fourteen hundred years. Therefore, if you want to tug their heartstring you shall have to speak to them in that very language.

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