Beyond Dambulla mosque Attack- Part 1
By Dr RIFAI (Naleemi)
In this series of articles I will Insha Allah try to gauge the communal relationship between Muslim and Non-Muslim communities in Srilanka in recent times. The primary objective of this article is not to make division between communities rather to bridge the gap in deteriorating communal relationship between different communities. A multicultural nation like Srilanka should maintain a strong sense of social interactions between communities in the greater interest of country and each community. Srilankan Muslim community as a matter of priority of Islamic obligations should play a vital role in this nation building process. Away from all dogmatic and sectarian differences, the entire Srilankan Muslim community should work hand in hand to enhance communal harmony and peace in this country.
What are the Islamic principles and ethics of communal relationship as enshrined in the Holy Islamic texts and historical precedents? I shall discuss some of the barriers that hinder communal harmony and I shall also propose some practical steps to build up a strong a sense of co-existence and communal harmony. I personally propose that some Muslim intellectuals should do some field surveys among Non-Muslim Srilankan community with some basic questionnaires about Islam. This will help us to collect perceptions of Non-Muslim people on Islam & Muslims in Srilanka. Unfortunately, Non-Muslim people still have some wrong perception and misunderstanding about Islam and Muslims. Sometimes Islamic teachings and rituals are wrongly understood and interpreted Insha Allah I shall produce some sample questions in this regards so that we could understand mindset and attitudes of Non-Muslim community about us. Accordingly, Muslim community could take necessary steps to improve our communal relationship and sometimes amend our shortcomings in this respect.
Much has been said and written about attacks on Dambulla mosque. No doubt this attack is a wake up call for a dormant Srilankan Muslim community in its religious responsibilities towards our brethren in humanity in Srilanka. Though we have been living in Srilanka for many years we have greatly failed to reach out wider Srilankan Non-Muslim communities with the message of Islam. Rather than reaching out with the universal message of this beautiful religion to the wider Srilankan Non-Muslim communities we have been fighting among ourselves for some dogmatic and juristic differences in some trivial religious matters. For the last few decades, our time, energy and human resources have been mainly dedicated to Islamic dawa works among Muslim community alone and less than 10% of our resources have been used to reach out with Islamic message to the wider Non-Muslim community in Srilanka. Consider for instance the pathetic situation of Srilankan Muslim community today.
Our community is divided between Salafis and khalafis, Shias and Sunnis, Thabligh, Jamathees, and Wahabis, Jamathe Islamis and Ikhwanis, Sufis and Non Sufis and many more groups. We have been inappropriately using our time, energy, wealth and human resources between us in some trivial religious debates and issue that benefit neither Muslim community nor our Dawa works towards Non-Muslims brothers in humanity in Srilanka. Truth of matter is that our internal disputes and clashes between different Islamic groups have done greater damage or curtailed our efforts to reach out to Non-Muslim brethren in Srilanka. It is high time now that We Muslim community in Srilanka comes to term with these methodological differences between Islamic groups and reconciles these differences sooner than later in greater interest of Islamic works in our country. Moreover, Muslim community should have some clear cut strategies in reaching out with Islamic message to Non-Muslim communities in Srilanka:
Ironically there is no fundamental difference between these groups in matters of basic theology, Islamic law and rituals and for that matter even in their ultimate goal in their life: That is to please Almighty Allah and secure a place in Paradise. Of course, there is a slight difference between these groups in their understanding of religious matters and in their approach to Islamic dawa works. Such slight differences will continue until the Day of Judgment as human beings are bound to differ in their understanding according to different level of intellects and social circumstances. What striking most is that we look at what divide between us but we often forget to look at what unite us in matters of religion and faiths? Muslims have been reminded of repeatedly to be united as one regiment but yet methodological differences between these groups towards Islamic dawa work shatters the fundamental principle of Islamic unity.
Each group claims that it is in a right path and other groups are in not in a right path. Each group tries to indoctrinate or proselytize ordinary innocent Muslim people into their groups sometimes without properly understanding the basic principles and teachings of these groups. All these are taking place at the expense of our collective obligations. Muslims are minority in Srilanka and they constitutes less than 8% of the entire population in the country and we have a moral duty upon our shoulders to explain the meaning and message of Islam for other Non-Muslim communities not to proselytise them into our religion but to clarify them of all sorts of misunderstanding about religion. Rather than engaging in this primary duty of representing Islam and reaching out with its message we have been fighting among us. Internal disputes between Islamic groups in recent times have increased dramatically. Recent killing in Beruwala some years ago testified this.
Priorities of Muslim community locally and internationally change countries to countries, and age to age in some of our obligations according to the general philosophy of Islamic law. Priorities of Muslim minorities who live under Non-Muslim political authority may slightly differ from that of Muslim community in Islamic countries. Of course, Muslim Ummah is an international community that shares same identical ideals wherever Muslims live. Islamic fundamentals and theological dogmas are universal and Islamic teachings should be strictly followed any where Muslims live. Yet minority Muslim community have extra-moral and religious responsibilities towards Non Muslim brothers in their countries. Today, one third of global Muslim community lives as a minority all over the world and the priority of these Muslim minorities should be that of reaching out to non-Muslim communities with the compassionate message of Islam.