The year was 2014. I was about to get married when I came across this person (around 30-35 years of age) who pretended to be a mystic and claimed to have around 60-70 followers. We were only a few minutes into the conversation when I began to wonder if he was a fraud. He spoke about Islam but I could not really relate to a lot of things because my understanding of religion was completely different from his. Almost towards the end of the discussion, he prayed for me to have a son as a result of my marriage. Following the gentleman’s prayer I had no doubt in mind that he was not really what he pretended to be.
Daughters in Islam are considered to be a great source of blessing therefore, it is understood that anyone with even the slightest knowledge of Islam would pray accordingly and not allow his words to reflect the culture of the region where people find security and honour through birth of a son.
A few days later I saw his face filled with pride and arrogance when one of his followers touched his feet. I felt as if he was exploiting simple people who had little or no knowledge of the very religion that they believed in. The entire practice seemed wrong but I did not intervene. May be, because I felt it was none of my business but without a doubt and certainly, because I did not have the courage to speak up.
As I put pen to paper I wonder how difficult it must have been for Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) to convey Allah’s orders to people who (compared to the fake mystic) were much more violent and difficult to manage. I remain indebted to Prophet (S.A.W) for bearing all the hardships in order to spread the message of Allah because of which even centuries later people like myself continue to benefit.
Through this article I want to highlight some of the norms that have evolved over the decades in the sub-continent as a result of the cultural influence. These customs despite being evil by nature are a source of honour for the masses. I write because I feel that time has come for the Muslims in the region to find honour through the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) and not through illogical local traditions.
3. Honour in Forgiveness
Sub-continent is culturally diverse however, the culture of tit for tat is pretty common within the region. Settling scores and taking revenge is a matter of honour and forgiveness is seen as a sign of weakness and thus, shame. Therefore, we find years of rivalry and hence, violence between different communities.
South Asia is home to one of the biggest populations of Muslims in the world. A sizable number of whom seem to have accepted revenge as a way of life. Thus, there is a need for the present and future generations to understand that Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) despite being the Prophet of Allah Almighty and despite being in the kind of position where settling matters through vengeance was not a problem, chose to forgive. The Prophet (S.A.W) wouldn’t have announced general amnesty following the conquest of Makkah if revenge was that praiseworthy a thing. I hope to see a day when my people learn to find honour in forgiveness rather than vendetta.
2. Honour in Free Will to Marry
From arranged to forced marriages the region has seen it all. Owing to the local traditions it is quite common to find families where parents consider it their right to finalize a spouse for their children, particularly girls. Even from an Islamic perspective the custom is understandable to a certain degree because of the following Hadith.
The Prophet (S.A.W) said: There is no marriage without the permission of a guardian. (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 11, Hadith 2080)
A difference of opinion from the younger generation (particularly girls) is seen as a matter of shame and something that is morally incorrect. The cultural norm has seen various complications over the years including instances of honour crime because a lot of Muslim families while marrying their daughters have failed to take into consideration the following two important traditions of the Holy Prophet (S.A.W):
Abu Hurairah reported that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) as saying, “A woman who has been previously married should not be married until her permission is asked nor should a virgin be married without her permission.” (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 11, Hadith 2087)
A virgin came to the Prophet (S.A.W) and mentioned that her father had married her against her will, so the Prophet (S.A.W) allowed her to exercise her choice. (Sunan Abi Dawud Book 11, Hadith 2091)
I hope in the coming decades more and more parents take pride in the fact that they followed the commandment of Holy Prophet (S.A.W) and had sought permission from their daughters before giving their hand in marriage. I also hope to see a day where families understand that Islam allows the freedom of choice in marriage and even allows the would-be-spouse the permission to see one another for matrimonial purposes under the direct supervision of the mahram (i.e. lawful guardian) and expects the entire provision to be performed with piety and modesty.
1. Honour in Honesty
Unfortunately, like most communities around the globe people in the region are quick to admire those who are rich and wealthy. In short, poverty is a source of shame and material goods a symbol of honour. The belief has resulted in giving rise to issues relating to corruption.
If we go by the preaching of Holy Prophet (S.A.W) the inferiority complex that comes with poverty and eventually leads individuals into corrupt practices should vanish on its own and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) definitely should guide us to the point where people would feel encouraged to find honour in honesty and simplicity.
I conclude with the hope that someday my people will understand that true honour is only possible through the teachings of Muhammad (S.A.W) and not through outdated customs that have haunted the region for far too long.