12:47 May 14, 2010
Last week, I read with great amusement the most recent fatwa by the Lucknow cleric, which suggested that Muslim women should not work. For a community, which is sliding down on all social parameters, the last thing they want is a regressive fatwa, which takes them backwards.
Based on my limited readings on Islam, I found it a very practical religion. “If the mountain does not come to Mohammed, then Mohammed must go to the mountain” – is a statement attributed to The Prophet. In my opinion, this is the most practical and sage advice given ever. This is as universal as the Bharti advertisement which says ‘Barriers break when people talk.’ The Prophet’s wife was a forward looking lady and a businesswoman, and I am sure she would have ensured that women’s rights were protected.
I am religious by nature and have found some of the tenets to be quite scientific and practical. Jains don’t eat in the night because when the rule was made there was no electricity. In darkness, chances of consuming something unpalatable or unhealthy are high. The fishermen don’t eat fish during the fish mating / fish bearing season to ensure a healthy future catch. Convincing the common, typically uneducated person is easier if you give a religious twist instead of explaining rationally. I find it easier to convince my son to drink milk by saying Lord Krishna drank the same instead of giving gyaan about the health effects of drinking milk.
I am sure that the Islamic diktat that thou shall not charge interest would have been based on some economic rationale. Maybe in those days, money lenders were charging usurious rates. For the benefit of economically-inclined readers, some years ago, in south east nations including Japan, there was a cap on maximum interest rate.
Not to be left behind, the khap panchayats have also gained momentum. Congress leaders and educated people are also coming out in support. How can a MP take a step which violates the constitution of India – we were taught in civics that the basic document, which governs India, is the Constitution and elected members swear allegiance to it. Politicians make such statements with an eye on their seat and lack the moral courage to oppose such retrograde movements. How will they react if a khap panchayat somewhere decides to support Sati? In India, in the name of religion anything can happen. Years ago, when Lord Ganesha suddenly decided to emulate Lord Krishna and started drinking milk, a very senior official of one of India’s leading financial institutions led the movement to feed Lord Ganesha.
Events like these increase my respect and admiration for social reformers, like Ram Mohan Roy, who fought against Sati and supported widow remarriage.
For the uninitiated, Hindus are separated into a limited number of gotras which you get from your father. Marrying same gotra effectively means in breeding, ill-effects of which is known to all. In olden days, when population was limited, it made sense to have such rules but now with population explosion and so much of genetic inter mingling, are such rules still valid? The way organizations change their strategies with changing market dynamics, should religious tenets change with changing times?
I was chatting with my economist friend asking him what can be the economic rationale for khap panchayats suddenly waking up and making such statements. He could think of a smoke screen – maybe they want to create a diversion and cover something else. It will be interesting to know how much of the so called “honor” killings are actually same gotra wedding.
I wonder why can’t religious leaders come out with better fatwas like you shall be nice to your neighbours, you shall conserve water, you shall study hard and get a good job?