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Friday, 14 January 2011

Western education and politics

Hazrat’s balanced stance on English education and interest in Islamic education
Hazrat remained perpetually conscious of the need for the establishment and survival of Islamic religious institutions. He was not opposed to the learning of English as a language and in fact regarded this as essential for success in business and related fields during the British regime. Hazrat nevertheless noted that English literature contained material palpably prejudicial to religious and national solidarity. He therefore advocated the teaching of Islamic sciences side by side with English education (if necessary, domestically or in Islamic Madressahs on a part-time basis), in order to guard against a decline in the Muslim societies Islamic consciousness and values. Hazrat strongly condemned the imbibing of such western culture as resulted in alienation from Islam or in the blind imitation of reason and logic only. In line with this view, Hazrat firmly desisted from having the children of his own family exposed to English education.
Prediction about likely impact of Western education on Muslim society
In 1896, the Muslims of Rawalpindi decided to set up an Islamia High School in the sadder area. Work on the project had, however, to be suspended in midstream because of lack of funds. At the request of Qazi Sirajuddin and Seth Mamunji (Adamjee, two leading citizens), therefore, Hazrat participated in a public meeting held as part of the fund-raising campaign, and his speech at the meeting helped mobilize all the funds needed to complete and operationalize the school project.
On the other hand, Hazrat declined to accept the request of Sahibzadah Abdul Qayyum, well-known educationist of the N.W.F.P, to extend similar active support to his plan to set up the Islamia College at Peshawar. Instead, he told the Sahibzadah “he would pray for the success of his project”. Disappointed at this lukewarm response, Sahibzadah Sahib observed in a letter to Hazrat that while other nations had emulated the early Muslims in expanding education and the sciences in their societies, the Muslims themselves had lost the educational heritage that their ancestors had left to them. Thereupon, Hazrat wrote back to the Sahibzadah as follows:
“Your observation has come as a surprise to me. Dear Sir! In the sight of Allah and His Prophet (P.B.U.H) the real sciences are the sciences of religion and Shariah (the divinely approved sciences). By the Grace of Allah, these sciences, as well as those serving their cause, are safe and well protected even now. Other nations do not posses those sciences in any measure at all. Your observation is, therefore, far from true. The charge that we have lost our heritage of education and science would be valid only if in the name of advancing the cause of Islam, we were to adopt the path of Western education, which in fact constitutes economic and material advancement, not the advancement of Islam (-Allah is the best to take care and He is the Most Merciful of those who show mercy-XII, 64). The future will show that education under this new system would result only in abandonment by the Muslims injunctions of the Islamic Shariah, and in their seeking worldly honour and material gain except of course those whom Allah guards from such temptations in his Supreme Mercy.
 - Our obligation is only to proclaim (the truth)! “
The Khilafat Movement of India
Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) opposed the participation of Muslims, both in the Hindu sponsored Indian National Congress which ostensibly aimed at liberating India from British rule, and in the movements of Khilafat (Caliphate) and Hijrat (migration) launched by the Congress-dominated Jamiyat-ul-Ulama-e-Hind. The latter two movements were meant to support the cause of the Ottoman Turkish “Caliphate”, then beleaguered by European and other powers inimical to Islam. Hazrat argued that the true Caliphate of Islam had survived for only 30 (thirty) years after the passing away of the Holy Prophet (P.B.U.H), where-after it had degenerated into “sultanate” and monarchy. If, he said, the Islamic Caliphate were to be regarded as having continued to exist un-interrupted in the later periods of history, it would be as a worthy caliph, which could be patently wrong. On this basis, Hazrat regarded the Turkish regime as a sultanate and not as Caliphate, and therefore undeserving of the support of Muslims living in other countries (e.g., India) as a “sacred cause”. At the same time, he did back the provision of all possible help to Turkey as a fellow-Muslim state, and himself donated the valuables of his household as well as some horses belonging to the shrine at Golra for this purpose.
Hazrat’s stance on this point was initially opposed strongly by leaders of the Khilafat movement, and several newspapers run by these forces wrote articles and editorials denouncing it. With the passage of time, however events proved his stance to be fully correct, and most of those initially against it were compelled one by one to change their views and to join anti-Congress forces.  Muslims who had sold their properties at throw-away prices and migrated to other countries eventually had to return.
In 1920 when Maulana Zafar Ali Khan, the learned editor of the then well known Urdu daily newspaper (The Zamindar), came to Golra Sharif to discuss the issues of Khilafat and migration, Hazrat-e-Ala placed before him his point of view  which rested on the principles of Shariah. The Maulana kept quiet but before taking his leave he said to Hazrat Pir Meher Ali: “ I had actually come to this court, ruled as it is by men of Allah, to plead for a state for the Muslims of India.” Hazrat replied: “ I pray to All Mighty Allah and ask you to join me in the prayer that He may grant freedom to the Muslims of this country and give them a government which can be of real service to Islam.”
Aversion to politics
As mentioned before, Hazrat Pir Meher Ali Shah Sahib (R.A) never took part in active politics. On several occasions he was requested to lend support to someone in the elections for the provincial assembly but he refused and made it clear that in his opinion such activities had nothing to do with Islam and as such he did not want to meddle in them.
Hazrat-e-Ala Pir Meher Ali Shah (R.A) used to say: “ I do not approve of the visits of the rulers to this place nor do I wish to include them among my disciples. If I did so then those in need would come and request me to put in a good word for them. That is something I do not like but nor do I wish to disappoint them”.
For someone who wishes to stay aloof from material wealth and temporal power there are no other options. This was the reason he always tried to keep himself away from the government officials and the rulers of princely states. But in spite of all his efforts many of them affiliated themselves with him, joined his fold and received blessings from him. Prince Habib Ullah, who afterwards became the ruler of Kabul, secretly approached Hazrat-e-Ala for blessings and stayed with him for two days. No one came to know about him. The only person who ever learned about his visit and that too incidentally, was a servant of Hazrat. It so happened that he was witnessing the royal procession of Ameer Habib Ullah pass through the Chandni Chowk, Delhi. Suddenly had a glimpse of the Ameer and at once recalled that he was the same person he had served tea for two days at Golra Sharif. Similarly, Nawab Sadiq Khan Abbasi, the Ameer of Bahawalpur state, held Hazrat in great respect and wanted to become his disciple, but his wish did not materialize. Nawab Wali-ud-daulah, a noble of Hyderabad Deccan was a disciple of Hazrat. When he was advised by his physician to go on a voyage for reasons of health he sought Hazrat’s permission for a trip to London. Hazrat’s reply to him was highly significant. He advised him to go for Hajj. The Nawab did accordingly and soon after performing Hajj died in the sacred city of Madina. For an hour and half his dead body, ready for burial, lay in front of Rauza-e-Tayyeba, the mausoleum of Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him). People who passed by his dead body felt envious of the deceased. Hazrat Pir Syed Jamaat Ali Shah of Alipur who happened to be there, observed: “O people, see how wonderful are the results of affiliation with a man of God”. 

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