Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander
Come April and social media, email groups and instant messaging groups are abuzz with the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that playing pranks, jokes and commemorating April 1st as Fools Day is antagonistic to Islam. It has been rendered synonymous with deception, lying and deceit. The Muslims are cautioned that if they indulge in pranks on this day, they will be committing some grave sin, to the extent of Kufr(disbelief). The day has been declared Haram (forbidden) for Muslims who are chastised of the grave sins associated with the Day. So whosoever is trying to play pranks is imitating the Kuffar and thus their end will be similar to that of infidels. The same yardstick has been applied to Valentine’s Day and Women’s Day too. Maybe in the coming decades we will witness the branding of book day, environment day, human rights day, aids day, labour day, national days, the days associated with saints as Kufr too.
The self loathing obsession of Muslims with everything new, innovative and ‘western’ is killing the very soul of Islam. Different conspiracy theories have been put forward about the decline of Muslim rule in Spain and how April fool a Judo-Christian innovation was instrumental in that. Instead of introspection and self reflection about the real causes of muslim decline, passing the buck to some conspiracy helps reinforce the muslim mindset that whole world has joined hands to destroy Muslims. So April fool too is that divisive plan of the infidel enemies who want the annihilation of Muslims and Islam from this world.
The real spirit of Islam and its values have been lost in the tantrums of conspiracy theories and declaring everything haram (forbidden). Muslims today are among the most consumerist people who have the ‘added privilege’ that they produce the least. Muslim world contributes the least when it comes to the production of knowledge, technology and inventions. Instead of trying to understand the lacuna and voids for these structural problems, Muslims are always ready with a conspiracy theory to shift the blame to a real or virtual enemy in order to absolve them from any blame.
The lack of democracy, nonexistent human rights, dictatorships, non prevalence of accountability and transparency are the characteristic features of most muslim countries. The institutional denial of justice to minorities, women and endangered ethnicities dominate the reports of leading human rights organizations about the muslim world. To add insult to injury, the elites and ruling clique are massively corrupt, authoritarian and ruthless. The Islamic values of justice, mercy, egalitarianism and philanthropy are practiced very little by the muslims. Further there is no social or religious movement emphasizing about the restoration of these principles and values of Islam that form its core and spirit. Instead all energies are focused on declaring the Muslims as kaafir and Kufaar as inheritors of hell.
The self imposed position of God’s soldiers or duty men has denied Muslims an opportunity to implement and practice the values of Islam. The concept of salvation in Islam is individualistic and each person has to work his way through good deeds. But when one assumes to be God’s soldier then focus shifts to the other. So they are more concerned about who will be doomed to hell with their self assumed role of guardian of the fate. For these ‘soldiers of Allah’ everything new particularly cultural, theories of rights, alternate discourses or commemoration of days that they consider harmful is not allowed. April Fool’s Day is categorized in such a dominion.
A small prank, a joke conducted in a lighter vein cannot be tolerated as the whole edifice of Islam and Muslims is threatened. The logic for such a stance is legitimized by quoting verses of Quran and sayings of Holy Prophet (pbuh) out of context that demonizes Islam as an intolerant religion that cannot tolerate laughter, pranks and is threatened to the extent that those who indulge in it are chastised through grave warnings about the gravity of their sin (read pranks). This intolerant image and practice of Islam is quite alien to what I have understood as Islam.
It is true that lying, deception and concocting falsehood are grave sins in the eyes of Islam because they have second or third party harm. They divide people, create wedges and give rise to misconceptions that lead to hatred and violence. So these vices are abhorred and shunned in Islam. But to declare April fool and the pranks associated with it synonymous to these vices is far too exaggerating the issue.
The emphasis that is given on not taking part in April Fools pranks, if similar encouragement had been laid on practice of speaking truth without the context of April fool, a number of issues would have been resolved. The Islamic value is speaking truth, regarding which most muslims are ignorant and non practicing. But when it comes to April Fool even the most non practicing muslim assumes the role of moral pundit who has the divine sanction of saving the people from celebrating a non muslim day.
The abomination of Muslims with small issues, superficial understanding and artificial exaggeration has rendered them oblivious to the real issues that have left them redundant to contribute anything positive to the contemporary civilization. This false romanticism with Islamic texts that instead of being plural and inclusive have been made a source of hatred, exclusion and ‘othering’ needs to be stopped. A small prank, light joke will not break the principles of Islam but will help us to enjoy a few moments of relief in the present violent times. So folks take some time, to play some pranks maybe our old acquaintances and estranged relations are renewed once again.
M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir