Self love and its fruits
The middle class is acknowledged as the back bone of every society in the contemporary world.
Every nation’s middle class has some distinct features of identity. So has ours. But our middle class has some unique features of distinction too, ranging from some that may amuse, to many that are tragic.
Pride is a defining color of our middle class. But we do not think any performance is necessary for pride. We live in a land of four seasons; we have mountains in our north and in this blessed land, God even sends rains when dust makes it hard to breathe; is it not something unique to be proud of? The other day a young proud Muslim with a college degree pointed out all these blessings to me, and then explained, “We are so blessed because we are Muslims, you know.”
This innocence is the fruit of a well organised movement which teaches our students that the whole world, not a part of Arabia, was dark and ignorant before Islam. Civilization started in the 6th century after Christ.
A lack of awareness is a precondition for narcissistic pride. Bragging is as natural to a child as humility is to a wise man. An organised movement has been active for centuries to keep us away from wisdom, which grows only when we learn and think. This movement was put in motion in our past to maintain the dominance of Muslim kings and aristocracy who needed some dedicated force to fight for them. Hindu subjects could not be that force. So, Muslims were pumped with pride: the pride of faith, pride of valor, of ability to kill, of sexual prowess.
Our literature is replete with stories of massacre, of ravaging the infidels and their cities, and of sleeping with so many wives, although we claim our ancestors were the kindest, so delicately spiritual, the most pious and just of all mankind. We have been told that reciting the Qur’an was enough to be self-righteous; all skills of life except wielding the sword were low jobs for the subject people. No system of education, therefore, developed during the 800 years of the Muslim rule.
What is learning? What fields need learning? Do we need to know about agriculture, trade, manufacture, health or social matters for a peaceful society? These questions were seldom taken up; countless issues, that need the good ruler’s attention, were left to their fate. Our Muslim kings had little interest in the famous handicrafts of South and East India beyond collecting taxes or using their products. So the ancient India of arts and crafts, of mathematics and music did not grow in any field except some architecture. We make tall claims that our rulers of India established justice and equality, but the tragic truth is that the untouchables were never rescued and Sati was never challenged while our kings collected taxes on Hindu worship.
When the British colonialists ended the rule of our kings, our religious leaders declared it a tragedy for Islam and pitted us against new sciences. The narcissist self-love, which had alienated us from Hindus for centuries, again served as a tool to keep us from “Christian sciences”. Those who pleaded for new sciences were declared infidels and continue to be declared so, to this day. Whatever the motivation of Pakistan’s founding fathers was, our aristocracy and clerics were clear on their mission. The mission was to keep us sick with nostalgia and pride, to hold us from the wisdom of humility. Islam served as the most effective tool to perpetuate their hold.
An ever expanding religious upsurge and an ever deepening self love inevitably complement each other. A similar self love was injected by Hitler and also by the Japanese generals into the veins of Germans and Japanese. Unlike us, these nations were recognised by the world for their creativity and innovation, they did not borrow or steal scientific secrets as we did, and nobody doubted the character and courage of their generals. What fate befell them in spite of all their merits, is history. Who really knows why our religious, holy men and our ruling elite have pushed us into ignorance through the arrogance of faith. Maybe it was done in good faith or in sheer lack of vision. But the process has created the Taliban with their suicide explosions who rip apart the entrails of our own people, pushing us ever deeper into chaos, toward a senseless clash with the world. It’s weird that even after such tragedies our leaders insist on the same way of thinking.
There is not a single nation to support our Islamic politics of clash. On the other hand, we hear rumors of a united action by the Nato forces, Russia and India, while China will probably keep her cool. Let us hope our leaders are not preparing our people and armed forces for some horrendous sacrifice! For whose benefit can they do so? And what benefit can that be?
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The author is a renowned Pakistani intellectual. His urdu books Tehzeebi Nargisyat and Mubaalghe, Mughaalte are widely regarded as the revival of critical thinking and free inquiry in Urdu non-fiction.
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.