Posted by: ourvoicestogether | December 25, 2007

Does anyone care about the ‘pit of fire’?

Religious fanaticism and sectarian intolerance is a curse for any religion, peace and amity. It is a virus that breeds hate and promotes revenge and contempt for fellow beings. It eats away and corrodes minds, retards ability to think clearly and rationally.

This is exactly what the religion of Islam and its followers are going through at this time. Recent events in Pakistan around the time of the holy festival of Id-ul-Azha, have proven beyond doubt that the beast of terrorism is alive and kicking with the government helpless to put an end to the relentless onslaught of extremists.

How does one explain the murderous acts of religious zealots whose frenzy for murder starts with hurling abuses at other faiths and sects, killing one another’s so-called self-proclaimed ‘leaders’ and often culminates in gunning down defenseless worshippers within and outside the places of worship? Unchecked fanaticism gone amuck has endangered the Muslim social fabric, and the entire dynamics of the Islamic world is hostage to religious bigots and preachers of hate and anarchy.

If there is violence in any society, there is something basically wrong with it. And since there is a lot of intra-Muslim violence in countries that claim to be ‘citadels of Islam’ such as Pakistan, it is obviously a very disturbing sign. Indicating that not ‘something’ but much is wrong with the society that shouts Islamic slogans from rooftops and violates them on the streets may be the appropriate way to describe the situation.

For the life of me, I never understood, when I was living in Pakistan, the rationale of having on average three to four mosques within a mile’s radius in the bigger towns of the country. That would mean that many types of mullahs spitting hatred against rival sects and religions at least five times a day! Why would the government provide an opportunity to the devilish, arbitrary and judgmental crazies the opportunity to spread negativity always remained a mystery to my mind!

Violence as a creed, according to Islamic theory and jurisprudence is repugnant to the religion. Muslim scholars like to believe that Islam is a religion anchored in peace and rejects violence as an arbiter in human affairs. Instead, it is said, Islam lays stress on the free and unhindered use of human volition and free will in choosing the course of action. God says there is no compulsion in religion.

All this sounds fantastic. However, I have a problem and that problem is to question the basics of certain issues intrinsically connected with human life. My question vis-à-vis Islam is that if God says that there is no compulsion in religion, then how can man impose anything through the barrel of the gun and suicide bombings? That would be unIslamic, isn’t it? And that would mean defying the forces of nature and God Himself.

Unfortunately, this is what the votaries of violence in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world are doing today: They do not show their real face and hide behind the smoke screen of extremist slogans. Violence spawned by religious extremism and fanaticism is posing some very real threats to the Muslim societies where they wish to live in peace.

If one goes by the book, within the Muslim society it creates, Islam wants to eliminate all traces of violence. It actually establishes a society of free and equal believers who are inspired by the common objective of serving their Lord and Master to the best of their capabilities. This society of free and equal believers is bound with the unbreakable ties of Islamic brotherhood (Ukhuwah), which means a Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. For him coming into the fold of Islam means accepting the inviolability of this Ukhuwah and the brotherly ties born of it.

In the Koran, God says: “And hold fast all together by the covenant of God and be not disunited. And remember the favor of God on you, when you were enemies then He united your hearts; so by His favor you became brethren. And you were on the brink of a pit of fire, but He saved you from it.” (Aal-e-Imran: 102)

These ‘brothers’ seem to be pushing it a bit too far. In the name of ‘Islamic brotherhood’, prejudice and hatred and ‘judgementalism’ are being introduced, thereby making a mockery of the underlying principles of faith.

I remember vividly, once again in Pakistan, the days when ‘sinners’ like myself wouldn’t fast or attend the Friday worshipping being harassed by folks although they would backbite, talk nonsense about other faiths and yet ‘practice’ the religion. I used to wonder if they were wasting their time or perhaps making a fool of God! Little did they know that doing good, and doing the right things in life was all God wanted from them. They would often remind me of the pit of fire. Little did they know that their parochial and judgmental approach was in itself an indication of their own lack of faith.

Those who preach hatred and violence cannot be the promoters of Islamic unity and brotherhood. The preachers and practitioners of violence are in a way opposed to all that which the faith stands for. As is the case with any other religion, faith stands for love, tolerance and compassion.

Once again, reads the Koran: “God has endeared the faith to you and made it seemly in your hearts. And He has made unbelief and transgression and disobedience hateful to you.” (Hujurat: 7).

Not if the reverse of what God enjoins happens and Muslims in a society give the impression that they are not enamored of faith and that it implies, it would clearly mean that they are standing on the brink of the pit of fire as so graphically described by the Koran. It appears that God is not generous anymore or is simply fed up with the wretched practices of the self-proclaimed torchbearers and ‘protectors’ of the religion!

In a Muslim society in a country like, for instance, Pakistan, one can see that pit of fire and even feel the heat of the flames leaping outside that pit. It is a pit of fire created by the champions of violence and hatred. This includes all and sundry, politicians, the military, and those who have instigated and sponsored religious extremism.

Politically, the Muslim nations today are a rotten and a decadent lot, standing precariously on the brink of the pit of fire. The Muslims have fallen a prey to the evils of lack of patience, understanding, and absence of a thought process and reconciliation, failing blatantly to keep up with the modern times. Being, as they are, a weak and an amorphous lot, the Muslims seem to be fading into nothingness, having no weight in the comity of nations.

Strange are the ways of history though. With respect to Pakistan, about 60 odd years ago, an exception to the general rot appeared on the South Asian subcontinent. Back in the early half of the 20th century, the Muslims made some incredibly spectacular efforts and launched the struggle for the achievement of a homeland for the Muslims of India.

Ironically this struggle for independence was led by a truly secular gentleman by the name of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a thoroughbred moderate who had hardly ever stepped into a place of Muslim worship!

Pakistan, a country where the hell of extremism has broken lose in the recent years, would not have been a possibility had different schools of Islamic jurisprudence been allowed to initiate the debate as to which fiqh (sect) would reign supreme in the projected homeland of the Muslims of the subcontinent. The entire struggle would have, undoubtedly, crumbled like a house of cards.

But that did not happen, simply because the narrow-minded bigots were not allowed to have a free hand unlike the last three decades or so when vicious autocrats and foreign money have played a key role in promoting sectarian violence in Pakistan. The country has become a killing field and armed fanatics have been given a general license to kill.

It is all the more tragic that violence has been promoted in the land that is claimed to have been created in the name of religion that is based on peace. Nobody seems to love faith; everybody loves the ‘good things’ in life. It is an agonizing, non-virtuous duel of faith versus material gains. There is cutthroat competition. No holds are barred. The Islamic concept of Ukhuwah has been thrown overboard. The society is riddled with hatred. Violence reigns supreme. Is this the society of ‘Islamic’ Pakistan for which thousands died at the time of independence and millions suffer from all kinds of persecution? The basic premise of the establishment of a tolerant society has been shattered.

Even though the people may not want to fall in the proverbial pit of fire, but they are on the brink of it. I come across statements and comments of the general populace in the media. The people seem to be shuddering with fear. Who will save them and how? Surely they cannot be saved by those who, through their creed of violence, are out to undermine and negate the very foundation of a confident, tolerant and peaceful society. Saviors are not made of the stuff the Islamic bigots are made of.

One thing is clear: Fire-eating monsters cannot preach the gospel of life. It is high time that people in Muslim societies knew who stands for what. Who wants to destroy them and who would like to save them?

I like the idea of being optimistic but I am beginning to feel that Pakistan in particular and the Muslim society in general have little or no opportunity left to salvage the situation. I am not sure if any effort is being made to avoid making a catastrophe out of an embarrassment but it appears that the war against the terror masters in Pakistan is not being fought in the right earnest. The preceding decade has shown that all roads to the terrorist roadmap lead to Pakistan. The amount of money that has been literally ‘gifted’ to the Musharraf regime by the Western world to tackle terrorism hasn’t really made an impact or provided the desired results. Instead heroes like Daniel Pearl and thousands of innocent souls like him have met unceremonious ends to their lives.

The murder of man by man, they say, is as old as the human race itself but the sort of mass scale activity that has gripped Pakistan has been nothing but a persistently gruesome phenomenon, that can only force one to suggest that it is time reflect and take stock of the situation.

Someone in Pakistan needs to talk of a common destiny and a shared fate, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of the world. Someone needs to show the Pakistanis that a decaying ethos is not what the country was created for. Someone needs to tell the people that they need to purge the country of the notorious elements and that it is a Divine opportunity to throw the devils of extremism out of the system once and for all. They cannot keep on dancing to the same old tune day in and day out.

If one is to really believe and be convinced what the religion of Islam really stands for, the Muslims must make efforts to put theory into practice and salvage whatever is left, anchored in the true values of faith that center on loving humanity and preaching a much politer religion. It seems that only sincere adherence to faith can save those who are about to fall in the pit of fire.

— Ahson Saeed Hasan



  1. a well written article,and i am sure it must reflect the thoughts and feelings of many balanced and well read and “educated”muslims around the certainly speaks for my thoughts and sentiments.

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