Cutting the Chai has moved to a new domain: cuttingthechai.com.
You can get in touch with Soumyadip at www.soumyadip.com.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Islam and the Inquisitive Autowallah

I usually make a conscious attempt to keep my abusive vocabulary under restraint. Just because it doesn't sound (and occasionally feel) good. And I have met with substantial success in my endeavour. But the autorickshaw drivers of Delhi, that that extra effort to expose my abusive angles. Today, when one of them, as usual refused to ply by the meter and quoted a fare which was three times of the justified. I simply let go (I usually fold my hands in the Gandhigiri style and smile at them). He attempted a counter attack but got an overdose. Good sense prevailed, he sped away.

The next one asked for 'only' ten rupees more than what I was willing to pay and therefore easily agreed to the unofficial logical fare. But he possessed an inquisitive mind and in the 30-minute long journey asked me questions ranging from the expanded form of NOIDA via the ethics of romancing in public to the prisoners at Cellular Jail. One of his queries was redarding the difference between the Islamic sects - the Shias and the Sunnis.

Don't know whether my answers quelled his thirst, but it got me thinking that so many non-Muslims know so less about Islam (Except for the stereotypical). Two years ago, I had read a simple, brief but explanatory article (though it reads more like a school text) on Islam, authored by (don't be surprised) Sgt. Kristen L Tull of the US Marine Corps. Information always helps. Here's the full text:

Islam: a peaceful religion at the core

Submitted by: MCAS Miramar
Story Identification #: 200481918314
Story by Sgt. Kristen L. Tull

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION MIRAMAR, Calif. (Aug. 19, 2004) -- Religion is a powerful subject. Many have strong opinions, while others chose to avoid even the knowledge of such. The strength and determination religion brings to those who believe can be seen throughout the world in an array of forms from good faith to assassination.

In Iraq, the war is brutal and said to be a holy war amongst Muslims. Of course, 95 percent of the population in Iraq is indeed Muslim. But, 80 percent of all Muslims are not Arabs. There are more found in Indonesia, a large minority in China and about five million right here in the United States.

A Muslim is a person who submits to the will of Allah. To a Muslim, Allah is the only divine and worshipful being. They believe he is the God for all Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and even atheists.

Islam, with the root word meaning peace, is the actual submission process and has five pillars.

The first two are the commitment to Allah and ritual prayer that must be performed a specific way and at certain times of the day.

Third is what is known to Muslims as Alms. It's when Muslims must contribute to the support of those less fortunate. This is usually done during their holy month of Ramadan.

Also during Ramadan, adult Muslims in good health can't eat, drink, smoke or have sex from sunrise until sunset all month.

Last but not least in the five pillars is the pilgrimage. It's called Al-Hajj and encompasses a trek to Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in a persons lifetime. It commemorates the faith and sacrifices of Abraham and his family.

As with many other religions, Muslims believe in prophets. One prophet in particular is believed by them to be the last and most important of all - Muhammad.

According to Muslims, Muhammad received revelation from the Angel Gabriel for 23 years. He relayed this word through a book known as the Qur'an. These teachings are what Islamic laws are based upon.

When Muhammad died at the age of 63, mass confusion set in. Who was to succeed him as the leader of Islam? Two major groups had vastly different opinions. They were and still are known as the Sunni's and the Shi'ites.

The Shi'ites believed it should be Ali, a relative of Muhammad and the first person to accept Islam, while the Sunni's believe Muhammad didn't choose a specific successor and felt they were left to find their own leader.

Both groups chose separate leaders, and so it began.

The Sunnis were the minority of the country but strong enough to hold most of the power before and during Saddam Hussein's regime.

Hussein and his top deputies are all Sunni Muslims. The Sunni's also held all of the top posts in Iraqi security forces.

The Shi'ites made up the majority of the country and suffered much discrimination during Hussein's regime. Most of them live in the south, which is the most depressed part of Iraq.

Jihad, meaning struggle in Arabic, is allowed when fighting for religion and in self-defense. So, there it is, a holy war where each party truly believes they are right according to a religion passed down from generation to generation.

A non-discriminatory religion of peace, torn by power, under one God, known to Muslims as Allah.

4 Comments:

Atul Sabnis said...

nice. only if practice of a religion (any religion) was as simple...

Shivam said...

a much better example of the difference between Shia and Sunni ideologies, and the conflict between them, is contained in the chapter on Lucknow vs Hyderabad in Ashutosh Varshney's book 'Ethinc Violence and Civic Life: Hindus and Muslims in India'. Must read. Will type the excerpt some day or will get you a photocopy the next bloggers' meet.

Appu said...

Two points here:
- I usually find auto wallahs as an info bank wherever i travel. Helps me get the local flavour.
- Islam is a peaceful religion, and as is when peace prevails, its pretty fragile. Look at it as a snake that will never attack unless provoked. No reaction is without a reason.

fida said...

wow....impressive .... really impressive....