Fuel & Engine

09 Aug

By Dr Wasim Ahmad,

Spirituality is a force. It is energy. It takes one through the thick and thin. It gives one a much desired direction and purpose behind ALL his efforts. Bereft of it, one is directionless. Islam and Qur’an provide this energy and this force. They propel our cart in the right direction. They are like the much desired fuel for the much needed engine of life. But some of us have only fuel with them. Others have only the engine and not the fuel. The fuel alone isn’t moving. The engine is devoid of energy and it is not taking us on the highway of success, honor and positive contribution.

A question, however, may be asked: how and why are the others excelling? Others are excelling because they do not have self-doubt, which we do. They have relegated religion to a very marginal role in their life. Also, bereft of the ideals they veto the resolutions which they shouldn’t have. They act before truly verifying the existence of WMDs. Knowledge for them does not remain only for power. It becomes a source of blind power. This is exactly what we are experiencing today. About which we only complain. We do not analyze it to the core and do not suggest an alternative or the ways of betterment.

Being unaware of this, while we do lament on the fact that the world has lost a lot because of the downfall of Muslims we still make sure that the fuel doesn’t get nearer the engine. The logical outcome is that the Muslims will continue in the same state and the world will continue to suffer. But we don’t see any link between what we lament about and what we actually do. This is one of those situations which make me think that we don’t know what we are saying and we ourselves are not aware of what we are writing about.

We have made sure that the two, FUEL & ENGINE, do not mix. The fact that both won’t work without each other is not of much concern to us. The fact that we don’t get started and don’t move in any direction is not a question worth pondering upon. Instead, I come across the expressions like “excellent job”. And I wonder what we mean by that!? Putting the fuel in the engine and enabling both to run on the highway that leads to the progress of humanity is what the Indian Muslims can offer to the world. We, the Indian Muslims, stand a huge chance of contributing positively to the world and lead towards building a better civilization.

The balanced, healthy and all-encompassing approach which the Aligarh Movement symbolizes and which is very well expressed in its vision (“The students coming out of our Universities should have Qur’an in the right hand, most modern scientific and technological advancements in the left hand and the crown of Laa Ilaah on the forehead. So that the Muslims regain the same glorious status of founders and promoters of science and technology as they did during the ascendance of their civilization.”) is the need of the hour. Before, however, we take it any further we need to see if we are living according to the spirit of this Movement and analyze the situation a bit more. The situation at the moment is that either the Right Hand is empty or the Left Hand. Both of them are not full – at the same time.

The Aligarh Movement is the antithesis of duality and the dichotomy of knowledge. It is about rejecting the serious and thick line that we have drawn between deen and dunyaa and deenee ‘ilm and dunyaawee ‘ilm. Aligarh Movement started to do away with this division. The movement did not ask to put two contradictory things together. It asked for putting two integrated things in two hands. Both are intimately related with each other. The Qur’anic spirit is behind all the scientific discoveries and technological advancements. But this is not the complete reality. It (the Book) gives a proper direction to all human activities and guides towards higher and long term spiritual goals as well. It combines ad-dunyaa with al-aakhirah.

The Aligarh Movement has a potentiality of doing away with the duality of knowledge and bringing about a confluence leading to excellence – paving the way for regaining the glorious position. However, even if the Aligarh Movement doesn’t do so the Indian Muslims in general can contribute their part. There is no insistence on the Movement. It is about the spirit. It is about the Book. More than anything else. Everything else is just a means to an end and not an end itself.

The descriptions like ‘deeni darsgaah’, ‘‘asri darsgaah’, ‘religious institutions’ and ‘secular institutions’ are all based on a misconception which is our bane. Similarly, I always wonder what we mean when we say, “Please avoid religious (as different from ‘worldly’) discussions”. We have deeply separated the spiritual from the material and have divided deen from dunyaa – forgetting that it is the outlook (niyyah) that actually determines the value of an action. These descriptions have entered quite deep in our psyche. Generations have grown up repeating these misnomers. No wonder that we have developed resistance for any criticism of these and are considering them as ‘articles of faith’ (arkaan al-eemaan). To me they amount to the jails of our own making. We need to come out of these psychological barriers.

Our ‘Ulama, unfortunately, have reinforced this DIVIDE and are perpetually reinforcing. If not much by words then certainly a lot by their actions – and by zabaan-e-haal. Being well versed in the Book they should have spearheaded the abolition of this DIVIDE. They are doing just the opposite is all the more surprising. We as a people should come out of such self-contradictory situations. And move in one direction with renewed energy and enthusiasm.

It is all about a BATTLE of minds and thoughts now. It is not about laying the foundation stone of a new College (which we must) as much as it was earlier. It is about correcting many prevalent and deep rooted (mis)conceptions. To be precise, it is now about listening to every speech and reading every write-up critically and analyzing it thoroughly. This is a must for a rebirth. We cannot avoid the pangs. But then we need very many people who should do this job.

The above task is a must to utilize the fuel for the engine – not only for the purposes of education but for engagement with life in its entirety without compartmentalizing it. Being divorced from the life as a whole and from the tools of modern education and its various disciplines it turned out to be a fuel which is left without the engine. It catches fire sometimes outside the engine. We do not analyze its reasons to the core. Islam is the fuel for life. We marginalized it fromlife. And, in turn, the life marginalized us.

Who takes up this job is a million dollar question. We all have to take it up. We all have to go back to ourselves. We all need to be watchful of our own expressions. Our own words. Our own speeches and utterances. We have to scrutinize our own thought patterns. Besides this, whenever we come across any such words and expressions that divide the knowledge and deen and dunyaa – we need to point it out. We need to correct it.

In this regard we need to do what the candle does. It brings light wherever it is. We almost always presume that the light needs to be brought somewhere else. The candle should lighten an unknown place – farther away. Our undeclared motto is “you bring light in my mohalla and I bring it in yours”. We need to put the fuel and the engine togetherwherever we are. We need to bring Islam back to the mainstream – in order to remove our own marginalization.

(The author is Head of the Dept of Islamic Studies, Preston University, Ajman, UAE. He can be contacted at Mob:+971505363235 Email:

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