Seeing the past in the present

It is not difficult to see how the pathway has been mangled over centuries and millennia. Just witness the behaviour of the powerful in their battles to maintain their grip of control. Watch how they crush their opponents, mobilising armies of fanatical followers to their own cause, to do their bidding in silencing all dissent.

Watch as they get away with abuse and injustice, merely because the masses have decided they are paragons of virtue, who must be worshipped and defended at all costs. Watch how the ever-present threat of outside forces is invoked to prevent us from addressing our own crimes and wrongs. Never is it the right time to address our own social ills, when the real enemy is apparently ready to pounce. And thus has it always been.

Who dares recall that in the midst of two centuries of Crusades, Muslims were locked in ferocious battles with other Muslims? Who dares speak up about scholars and leaders who abuse their authority, when the spectre of an enemy on the offensive can forever be invoked? As if only now political power has started to corrupt religion. As if the rot began to set in only after 1,200 years of Muslim rule, and not within thirty years.

Before my very eyes, I see how religion is mobilised to protect individuals and vested interests. Right now, I watch as pious masses rally to the aid of heroes, onto whom they have projected all their hopes, indifferent to the demands of justice. I retreat in horror as all around me, my fellow travellers lend their aid to the most unholy of causes in the name of defending the faith from its presumed enemies. And, indeed, how men associate Islam with their very selves, arrogating to themselves untouchability, as if to criticise them is to attack faith itself.

What I have witnessed in a few passing weeks, has played out repeatedly over 1,400 years. Dynasties have come and gone. Empires have arisen and fallen. Warlords and kings have clashed. Cults and sects have anathematised each other. The powerful have trampled the poor. Vast libraries have been razed to the ground. Books have been cast aside in favour of others. Scholars have been killed for heresy. Schools of thought have been erased. New orthodoxies have been vested in place of others. Pious histories have been invented. Figureheads have been made divine.

And yet even so, we all consider ourselves rightly guided, as we cling firm to what we have inherited, safe in the knowledge that we are walking upon a pure path, unaffected by the buffeting forces of the human condition. Despite all that we witness around us in our own obnoxious behaviour, somehow we believe the present to be an aberration of history, and these abuses of power to be immaterial and of no consequence. If only it were so.

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