How To Cope With Different Versions of Islam

QA member of the forum has asked me to comment on the following letter that appeared in the Dawn a few days ago.

Versions of Islam

This is with reference to an advertisement released by Dr Asrar Ahmad, advising Gen Musharraf not to follow the path of secularism as Pakistan was created in the name of Islam.

I fully agree with him but there is one small problem. I pray in five different mosques and also hold discussions with the imams of all of them. I have found that each one of them follows a different version of Islam. How do we resolve this issue?


AWell, Mr. Lakhani, we deal with it as we deal with every other issue in life. On a daily basis, we make choices among multiple alternatives. Often, we come across crossroads and choose one of the many ways that are in front of us. We do not refuse to proceed on with the journey of life because there are too many routes or because we do not know which route to take. I do not see why the variety of opinions in religious matters has to be a hurdle that cannot be overcome.

Does Mr. Lakhani not come across variety and diversity in his every day life? When faced with multiple options, does he adopt what he thinks is the best or does he abandon all efforts until all differences are resolved and only one option is presented to him?

I am sure Mr. Lakhani eats multiple times a day and I hope he has not stopped eating food altogether because the same food cooked by different people, cooks or restaurants differs in taste, texture, consistency and flavour. Probably, he has gone to school / university. I hope he did not refuse education because different schools, teachers and professors teach the same subjects differently, put different emphasis on different things, and have difference of opinions on many topics in the syllabus. I hope he did not stop investing because every investment guru has a different investment philosophy and has a different opinion / recommendation on the same investment. When he becomes sick, I hope he does not refuse treatment because there are many drug companies offering competing cures for the same ailment; or because different physicians prescribe different medicines for the same symptoms. Apparently, he is living (may Allaah give him good, long life), which means he has not refused to live in this world until everyone has the same opinion on every subject matter. I am glad that he did not depart from the world in protest against the cacophony of myriad views and opinions every body on this planet has on everything that we encounter in life.

If he handles all these situations without abandoning the object of the difference, why does he single out religion for such abandonment? When differences are part and parcel of human nature, why to expect no difference of opinion in religion?

People who have minds will think and have differences in opinions. Only a flock of sheep tends to think alike. However, narrow-minded people cannot handle the differences of opinion. They get stuck in disputes and create fights because others differ with their opinion. Wise people take it as an opportunity to explore different perspectives to find the best point of view out of all the opinions. People with constructive, positive attitude build healthy societies capitalizing on the creative thinking capabilities of their people instead of expecting them to be a flock of sheep. Ineffective, defeated or lazy people use it as an excuse for not doing anything. And Shayaateen (Satans), whether from human beings or Jinns, use it as an excuse to get rid of Islam.

It is totally up to Mr. Lakhani to which group he likes to belong.

And by the way, Mr. Lakhani, every secularist to whom I have talked has a different view of secularism, whose version of secularism do you want Mr. Musharraf to implement?

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