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August 25th, 2014

Chasm of the Isms

Chasm[1] of the Isms[2]

They say the truth will make you free.
My truth will bind you slave to me –
Which may be what you want to be.
– Robert Frost[3]

In the pursuance of truth in the realm of day to day needs, innately, humanity structures and conduct its lives in framework of isms that from time immemorial have ranged from paganism to secularism, theism to atheism, racism to regionalism, and lately communism to capitalism, to name a few. The conformed fellowship in an ism is multifactorial ranging across freedom of choice, apologetic fellowship, peer pressure or merely ‘a monkey see, a monkey do.’ Not finding the penultimate solution, mankind had and however does create even its own 'religions' or ways of life and not amazingly, those isms attract a zealot following, at least at the origination of that ism. Many a times, a state apparatus is there to nurture, protect and propagate its ism that we witness in recent history in the examples of Catholicism, Colonialism, Communism, Fascism, Nazism and now in Capitalism under the garb of democracy. We have to keep in mind that democracy is a set of values that are inherent in human collective consciousness and are not tied to a particular ism.

Isms at their inception are adopted with much fanfare and high expectations and before long they fizzle out. Another 'better' ism is usually waiting in the wings and takes its place only to face the same fate. One common thread across the failure of isms is that they are either not congruent to human nature, or they let the hedonistic and exploitative tendencies of humans run amok. Some of the isms focused primarily on external aspects of life while others negated the outside and focused on inner development of the individual. Those which focused on both external and internal aspects of life failed from their mutual disharmony. There were no corrective mechanisms built into them and thus could not stand the external challenges or the changing needs of time, hence they crumbled from their inherent brittleness.

For example, Communism at its inception, though had lofty ideals for equality of man, but its unchecked power naturally got vested into oligarchy that inevitably turned its society into a cesspool of incompetence, cronyism and non-accountability. The 'equal man' in communism was to be rewarded equally irrespective of quality and quantity of individual effort, which in turn created lethargy in the society. Despite its goals of equality, the system turned so unstable that it crumbled like a domino from within for the mere fact that its means to achieve equality were not congruent to human nature; it criminalized wealth and dis-incentivized effort. The moral dearth that Communism engendered was only proven by subsequent history that witnessed it, but was prophesized during its full galore – “the rigid laws of Bolshevism, which care only for the body, giving sufficient to live on, will kill the higher sentiments of sympathy and love, qualities which only make life worth living but lacking which humanity must degenerate into the worst barbarism.”[4]

With industrialization in the concluding couple of centuries, the materialism transformed into Capitalism, which in turn makes every effort to disassociate itself from the underlying goods and their associated risks and primarily focuses on wealth hoarded in individual coffers, the accumulation of which becomes the highest purpose of life. Wealth is measured mostly in currency, which in turn thrives on speculation, in the shadows of which lurks manipulation, and that is just another name of greed. Greed and selfishness by their very attributes have no self- checks on their limits and their natural outcome is tyranny, be it by individuals, corporations or by nations on others. Individuals may still show some remorse but there are no inherent scruples for faceless capitalistic institutions. In the consequent mass hysteria, “evil is taken for a virtue if it wears the cloak of nationalism”[5]. The only thirst quencher of Capitalism is capital pure and simple and erroneously its many fold development in recent history is touted as a validation of its success, and all the while we turn a blind eye to the humungous destructive nature of the same materialistic growth that it brought up as witnessed by global wars in the last century alone and the cosmos is still restless as never before. In World War I there were 37 million casualties[6], and in the World War II over 60 million people were killed[7]. These numbers are from first half of last century alone, touted for growth of it science, industry and free thinking. Ironically, the new standards of ultimate safety of nations are the deterrence of their nuclear capabilities that each ism waves at some other. Are we safer now?

The ism of our times, materialism in the guise of Capitalism stripped of its theories and experienced as it is, has outlasted various isms. Nevertheless, to achieve the capital, the greed if left unchecked will be its unbecoming. In Capitalism, the significant monetary laws are reactive in nature, made only after the fact, when people of a certain class have benefited at the cost of others, but the inherent greed finds ingenious ways to circumvent the existing laws for its next exploitation. Laws at the most can deter greed, but there is no significant public policy to encourage magnanimity. For the have-nots, the access to capital gives rise to an apparent comfort, but the graph curve of happiness which is initially merged with that of capital growth soon disassociates and veers off downwards only to show that capital can buy comfort, but happiness is a non-purchasable commodity by itself. Some might even argue that it is the capital which formulates and controls the law rather than the make-believe vice versa. As long as the capitalist owns the capital of the state, it cares least as to who constitutes the law, because law making itself can be bought and parliaments at times behave more like a board of the financial establishments that they are supposed to contain, rather than representing and protecting the interests of a common humanity and the voter who put them there in the first. Each next law which, if not a loophole for some vested interests, is a weak solder upon an existing solder, where the ever choking weight of the laws gets ever heavier from its layers, without getting rid of the underlying human weakness, the greed. Incentives for making the laws in Capitalism are primarily focused for generating more wealth with a tendency to overlook that wealth in a bigger picture is a means not a goal unto itself. Pharaohs, the capitalists of their time, even tried to take their wealth along with them in to the next world, but did they? Lifespan of wealth for a capitalist in no more than the life of its possessor. Wealth for a capitalist begins with his life and ends with it. In Capitalism, public good is only a secondary gain from a personal interest first. From a capitalist logic, if it is a disproportionate gain, would it not be a waste of an effort to achieve a return that might not be utilized in one’s lifetime, unless Capitalism means wealth without effort which in turn is just another scheme for the exploitation of others. In another example, if one opens the yellow pages (when they used to print them till recently) and compare the number of entries for divorce lawyers versus marriage counselors, would anyone be surprised if the former outnumber the latter by many folds? Is Capitalism missing upon something as simple as marriage and a family among its midst and is it even aware of dissipation of this fundamental societal institution? The spiritual death can be read in the cliché of “the most told story” of Jesus Christ becoming “the most sold story” is not only a joke but a fact under Capitalism.

Man's experimentation with isms is a glaring case in which man repeatedly has lost his freedom while pursuing freedom. Trying to achieve freedom by an ism is almost synonymous with chasing horizon. Every ism promised a 'paradise', irrespective of it being in this world or the next, but failed either to fully specify the route to that paradise or hypothesized a path that was less of a path and more of a hurdle to its 'promised land' but for a privileged few. Each ism of the yore is just another title for the same story of 'paradise lost'. Even now there are many new isms simmering to emerge, to be formulated, proselytized and expectantly to be followed.

Religions in general claim their Divine roots, but in due course, dogmas seep in and hold the faiths hostage by replacing the Divine intelligence from its center-stage with dogmatic beliefs that are embodied foremost by its clergy which uses every means under the sun to be in the pseudo-intellectual spotlight. The clergy by its very definition has conflict of interest as its livelihood is tied to the very enterprise it leads. Instead of a bulwark against dogmas, they become the source of dogmas, because fantasy sells, be it in Disneyland or from the pulpit. However, “pure monotheism would go to the real Fountain Head of all light, but the polytheistic tendency, innate in an undeveloped mind, would blight its judgment and benight its reasoning. Man would take the agent for the principal, the husk for the kernel, the effect for the cause, and the immediate for the ultimate. This psychology creates polytheism. All forms of “isms,” ranging from fetishism to Man-worship, thrive under it.”[8]

Advocates for any school of thought will claim truth for themselves, while denying it to others. So do Muslims. Only, unbeknown to most Muslims, what sets Islam apart from the rest is that its source of accuracy is the Quran, which is implanted in the nature of human beings. Neither the human beings will be able to move away from his nature, nor will he be able to shed Quran which outlines his nature to begin with:

30:30.So pay your whole-hearted attention to (the cause of) faith as one devoted (to pure faith), turning away from all that is false. (And follow) the Faith of Allâh (-Islam) to suit the requirements of which He has made the nature of mankind. There can be no change in the nature (of creation) which Allâh has made. That is the right and most perfect Faith, yet most people do not know (it). Then set your face upright for religion in the right state the nature made by Allah in which He has made men; there is no altering of Allah’s creation: that is the right religion, but most people do not know (it).[9]

These sacred words sum up the religion of man. They give quite a new conception of it. They neither speak of prayers nor of offerings nor of sacrifice. To please God or appease an angered Deity, or to create reconciliation between the Creator and the created are not the objectives of religion as set forth in the above quotation. It speaks of something quite different. It refers to our own nature and its various latent constituents. To work them out is our objective, and the way to work them out is the religion revealed to man from the Most High.[10]

Thus, there is an ever-present self-correction and self-cleansing in interpretation of Islam. Any interpretation or formulation in the name of religion has to be judged through the lens of nature of mankind, because that is the right and most perfect Faith, yet most people do not know (it). With this rock solid foundation of Islam to suit the requirements of which He has made the nature of mankind, raises the natural question that what prevents a Muslim from seeing Islam in a natural and contemporary light? Why cannot Quran as interpreted in general Muslim culture conform to the Laws of Allah, both physical and moral, and their mutual harmony? Will not defying the nature of mankind in interpreting Quran fossilize Islam like the religions of the yore? Is it not the very mind of a Muslim that has created the chasm between nature, man and Islam rather than the word of God?


[1] Merriam-Webster. Chasm –
: a deep hole or opening in the surface of the earth.
: a major division, separation, or difference between two people, groups, etc.
[2] Merriam-Webster. Ism –
: a belief, attitude, style, etc., that is referred to by a word that ends in the suffix –ism
[3]“Robert Frost and the Politics of Poetry” By Tyler Hoffman, (c) 2001, p. 202, University Press of New England, Hanover,, NH 03755.
[4]The New World Order by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 47, Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore, 1944.
[5]The New World Order by Maulana Muhammad Ali, p. 2, Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha’at Islam Lahore, 1944.
[6]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties
[7]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties
[8]Islam and Zoroastrianism by Khwaja Kamal ud din, p. 18, Basheer Muslim Library, The Mosque, Woking, pub: 1925.
[9] Al-Rum – The Byzantines: Nooruddin
[10]Explanation of verse 30:30 by Khwaja Kamal ud Din – Message of Islam, Appendix: Religion of Nature – The Woking Muslim Mission and Literary Trust, The Shah Jehan Mosque, Woking, England

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