Rising above the Fossilized Mindset
Islamic Voice, August 1, 2008

Living communities need to be accommodative in behaviour, elastic in principles and flexible in conduct. Just as no society is ethnically pure, no faith can claim to remain unalloyed over the course of centuries. Every foreign influence should not be necessarily construed as corruption. If not the doctrines of the faith, the ethos, cultural norms, customs, languages, dietary habits, dressing modes of the people have to essentially imbibe the influences from the society around. So while professions of faith could remain tethered to the scriptures, same cannot be expected nor demanded from the people and their social and ethical mores. They interact, influence and infect each other. Cultural osmosis is an ever ongoing process. As communities of faithful spin out into the larger geographical orbits, they grow more distant from the people at the core inasmuch as only the umbilical cord of doctrine holds them together.

Similarly, words, texts and scriptures could timelessly exist on paper, could be stored in archives, preserved in tomes. But not the people. Times change and urge people to change. Those who resist, find themselves on the waste heap of history. Science and technology shape habits and forces of urbanization, industrialization and modernization alter the mode of social organization. As time advances, societies fuse together, skills consolidate, cultural fault lines become indistinguishable. All these place demands on people to live down differences except those that are integral to their faith.

It is in this context that we, the Muslims, need to take a look at ourselves. Time and geographical climes are constantly urging modifications that seem to be beyond our grasp. Determination not to change is pushing us into a blind alley of time. Refusal to acknowledge the urges of plural societies, two-way traffic of human rights, according the minorities within us due space, graduating up on the scale of gender rights, transition from consultation (shoora) to democracy (jamhuriyyet), and loosening the terms of discussion on matters religious is reflective of our fossilized mindset. Unless we begin to think and change, there does not seem to be any diversion from the road going downhill.