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Culture
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Culture and Ecology / Presentation

Islam

Photo by Pankaj Ghosh/Indian Photo Agency (InPA)

Islam

Muslim women praying

Indian Muslim women offer Eid al-Adha prayers at a mosque in Malda, West Bengal, India. At this festival Muslims share food among the poor.

Do you not observe that God sends down rain from the sky, so that in the morning the earth becomes green.

Sura 22:63

The Gods of consumer society

by Asghar Ali Engineer

Islam has always advocated compassion and concern for the wellbeing of the needy. Many Muslim religious leaders lived austere and frugal lives. They would be examples of living simply and graciously, without the modern day excesses which put so much pressure on the planet Earth. (Editor's note)

I would like to narrate an analogy which would illustrate how we worship several Gods in consumer society. There was a popular Sufi called Sarmad Shaheed. He was martyred by the emperor Aurangzeb because, in a struggle for power, Sarmad had sided with Aurangzeb’s opponent, Dara Shukoh. Dara Shukoh was Aurangzeb’s brother and Aurangzeb wanted to kill Sarmad for supporting Dara Shukoh.

Sarmad would go around naked and would not wear any clothes. His argument was that clothes were also a possession and possession makes us arrogant. Today we wear this kind of dress, tomorrow we will wear a better one and this will increase our desire. So Sarmad would go around naked and Aurangzeb asked the Ulema to pass a Fatwa to kill him.

Someone then suggested that Sarmad recite the Islamic Kalimah Tayyab. The Islamic Kalimah is La Ilaha Ilallah meaning There is no God but one God. Sarmad would say La Ilaha and would not say Ilallah thus saying There is no God but not adding But one God. So the Ulema immediately gave the Fatwa for Sarmad’s beheading because not saying But one God was against the fundamental doctrine of Islam. When the executioner raised his sword, one of Sarmad’s disciples rushed to him and said “Hazarat, now at least say Ilallah and you will save your life”. So Sarmad replied, “I don’t want to die speaking the greatest lie”. The disciple was surprised and asked, “Is it a lie to say One God? It is a basic doctrine of Islam”. Sarmad replied, “You have never understood the meaning of one God. There are so many Gods of desire still in my heart. I am worshipping them and unless I get rid of all these Gods how can I affirm the one God?” Sarmad was then beheaded.

Do you not observe that God sends down rain from the sky, so that in the morning the earth becomes green.

Sura 22:63