Breaking Out of Our Pigeon-Holes
13 May 2000
Dear brothers and respected ulema,
I was very pleased to read your articles on education and also on unity. I have always
believed that one of the major problems we have got ourselves into is this
"necessity" to identify with groups and schools.
When we meet a fellow Muslim we immediately want to put them into a pre-defined box or
pigeon-hole. "Oh he's a so and so" or "Oh he's one of that group" etc.
This is a relatively modern phenomenon, no doubt kindled by the powers of colonization.
One does not find in the books of the classical ulema any mention of groups or movements
being better than one another. The only distinctions made are those of Muslim and
non-Muslim or correct and incorrect aqeedah. Never does Imam Al-Ghazali (may Allah
Almighty be pleased with him) extol the virtues of graduates of Nisapur over
non-Nisapuris!! The fuel for this modern behavior is ignorance. It is only when someone
does not understand the deen that he/she feels a need to rely on the group mentality, and
only when one does not comprehend the heart of Islam that one busies oneself with the
However the sad fact is that due to the devastation that colonization caused to the
Islamic systems of education, the more intellectually able Muslim children were deviated
away from learning the sciences of the deen. An artificial separation of "deeni"
and "dunyawi" learnings was forced on the people and propagated in the society.
This secularism is rampant even today and is the underlying cause of our sad intellectual
state in the world. The result of this was that a large proportion of those who were
tasked to carry on the Islamic sciences and Islamic methodologies were unable to
adequately manage it.
So we see that, really, from the time after the wonderfully blessed leaders and
scholars we had when colonization of our lands started (i.e. Sheikh ul Hind, Maulana
Madni, Abul Kalaam Azaad, Mufti Shafi etc) up to today our madaris have produced a large
number of people who were incapable of comprehending the issues and concepts behind the
mere words of the books. The only way these people feel any confidence in what they say is
when they identify with a larger group, and because they are unable to fathom the depths
of Islamic thought, anything they cannot recognize or explain they immediately dismiss it
as being "from another group" and so to be condemned.
But, Alhamdulillah, not all the people coming out of the madaris are so unfortunate.
Indeed recently I feel, the number of seriously intellectual and academically able
students and teachers is growing. It is this batch of people who now have a responsibility
to change this "pigeon-hole" mentality, to break through the barriers of race,
school, country etc and re-unite the scholars of Islam globally as they once were. We need
to identify the forces that are damaging the ummah and concentrate our efforts on those
collectively. The time has come to stop shouting slogans and holding rallies and to start
learning the ways of our illustrious predecessors and following them.
Therefore I repeat what a pleasure it was to read your articles and to see that Our
great Ulema have taken this responsibility on board and are fighting, globally, the forces
of secularism and division. We must re-instate our values and systems. We must teach our
young that it is not the place one is from or the university one attends that is the
source of respect but rather the way one lives ones life. Our scholars have always praised
their predecessors on the basis of their lives and what service they did for the ummah,
not on the basis that they went to the same university or that they belonged to the same
Molvi Nazim Ali, UK.