Once upon a time, religion was neither a business nor was it used as an element to show off; simplicity reigned strong. In the evening, my mother used to instruct me to go and give food to molvi uncle. He used to thank God after getting his meal twice a day and lived peacefully after teaching the neighborhood kids.
Man’s desires were not expanded and politics had never visited the mosque. Those who were involved in a little bit of politics never let go of their honour and self respect; they knew they were answerable to God and no one else, as yet. Now we see molvi uncle riding in a land cruiser’s with a parade of body guards, armed for his safety. Mosques are surrounded and if somebody is praying, there is a Kalashnikov laden man next to him for his safety.
In the 70s when the oil business boomed in the Middle East, Muslim countries like ours jumped at the opportunity; labour and skilled workers immigrated to try their luck. Henceforth, those who were living a life of poverty saw a change in their lifestyle. The mosque and clerics saw a change of standard as madrassahs increased and religious parties gained ground.
In ’70 the Nizaam-e-Mustufa movement was initiated which called for a return to the prices of 1970. Forget the prices; once again Pakistan started another age of military law under General Zia. (Truth be told, the army has always liked to keep matters in its own hands). Those who came in power took support from religion and azaans which were heard from mosques were now heard on televisions, the clerics were promoted to 17th grade and prayers were not only made obligatory in mosques, but also at work.
Now that prayers were seen as an excuse, the amount of work done in the office decreased.
Two years later when the Soviet Union troops conquered Kabul, the Pakistan army and clerics rejoiced. The American government gathered juveniles from all around the world and started transferring dollars and weapons to Pakistan, all in the name of Jihad. Religious organisations which today scorn the word ‘America’, used the very same money to flourish, in the name of jihad not only did they fill their houses with wealth but built mosques and madrassahs. Army generals climbed new heights and the business of the defense societies flourished to such an extent with such massive investments that today our economy’s seventy to eighty percent money is invested by our fellow brothers in uniform.
Not only they invested in religion, but initiated political parties; built lions out of paper, divided people into sects and communities. They built armies and groups and made everyone thirsty of each other’s blood; already the minorities had no guide, now Muslims too refused to accept fellow Muslims. Now that faith is a trade, it has all the money in it. Banks are Islamic, so is our television. Whether it’s selling cloth, promoting a fashion launch, introducing oil or spices, try marketing it with the slogan of Islam and it’s sure to help you reach new heights. Even TV serials revolve around the theme of religion.-Illustration by Khuda Bux Abro.
Before, when we used to see clerics, their attire and beards indicated the party they were associated with/followed. But now there are several forms of hats, styles of beards, make of their attires, colours of their turban, and the way it is tied that these things are used to make a statement. And if you look at women, you will forget fashion all together! Their wealth is indicated by their niqaabs, makeup, gloves, socks and shoes are all screaming, implying that they are no less.
You must be thinking where to see all this. Although if you look around, you will see all of this but if you don’t want to go too far, do switch on your television sets. Now all you need to do is surf the different channels and you will see the many types of beards and niqaabs. Whether it is a channel dealing with current affairs or fashion, cooking shows or television dramas, our brothers have left nothing. My head was spinning surfing all these channels so I stopped at Filmazia – they too had a cleric conducting a show. Think about all the Pakistani, Punjabi and Pashto films they show day and night, showing fully clothed actresses naked - they too are preaching about religion.
There’s a storm here: Clothes for each season, which have nothing to do with religion, are also promoting it. Everybody is concerned about their ratings; any reputation, any background, as long as they are all dressed up preaching about the religion. Let Ramazan end and you’ll see the same faces promoting something else; whatever is selling today is being marketed by them, whatever is to be sold in the future will also be marketed by them. The whole problem is about marketing. Don’t be disheartened, it’s only a matter of a few more days.