‘Man’ is a fine word except that it gets confusing
sometimes. My neighbour is a man, yet his wife is always telling him to ‘be a
man’, and the boy next door who was caught doing' `unspeakable things' said he
was only trying to do something ‘manly’. Sherry's (Shehryar's) father was a `big
man' (though he was only five feet three inches tall) and could afford to send
him to a nice English medium school where Sherry learned enough English to be
merry because he doesn't have to worry about a problem that still haunts his
office boy trying to matriculate, who was not fortunate enough to attend the
American school: `How can Mrs Sherry---being a woman ---"man" the family boat?'
Now Sherry, of course, was fortunate enough; he speaks
excellent English and appreciates the literature, but even he gets confused when
some smart alec, say, a Mr P. ( who was either a real `bad guy' or was one who
badly misunderstood what he tried to interpret) `uses' etymology to explain the
Qur’ān . So if Michael Jackson said `beat it' and did not mean `beat your wife',
and if `to beat' as a verb in Arabic can be used for giving an example, then God
Almighty in the following verse of the Qur’ān is telling Sherry to use examples
for highlighting the merits of good conduct, if his wife deliberately invites
the neighbour's boy to do something `manly':
`As to those women [wives] on whose part you fear
disloyalty and ill-conduct, [first] admonish them, [if they still don't repent]
refuse to share their beds, [and finally if nothing else works] beat them
Sherry accepts the interpretation of Mr P.
primarily because he has neither the time nor the inclination to study the
context of the verse. Besides, analysis of context in most cases would require a
sound understanding of the language of the Qur’ān , and making an effort to
learn that language would be something not worth his time. It is needless to say
that it is also to his practical advantage to accept the interpretation because
he was some `dude' before marriage but now is only subdued, because his
father-in-law( another `big man') had done him some `big favours', which he
still needs, and is, therefore, grateful to be living in a free country where he
can do as his wife pleases.
`Roots' ( not the TV serial) is the key word. Sherry and
his `upper crust' friends don't have to study the roots of the words they use in
English because they are `well-educated' and, as is typical of our elite, know
too much about English, albeit too little about the prerequisites for a sound
understanding of Islam, like Qur’ānic Arabic, for example. So, if some Mr P.
were to say fourteen hundred years later that in the twentieth century `floating
currency' meant something that floated in circles, and if somebody like Sherry's
office boy accepted that meaning, it wouldn't be surprising. Of course,
`Sherries' in our socity are proud of their English, but when it comes to the
Qur’ān and its language, well, that's another matter. `Devil in English', says
some smart alec to the office boy,` means a naughty school-boy because that is
how the head-master of Aitchison used the reprimand the boys there: "You young
devils..." ' The office boy, of course, accepts the meaning.`Ha! Ha!' laughs
Sherry at the poor boy's credulity. ` Ha! HA!' laughs Mr P. at Sherry after
having convinced him that Jinn in the Qur’ān means a villager, and since `fire'
connotes passion , God is referring to some passionate villagers when He says He
created Jinnaat from fire.
Once the foundation is laid etymology can do wonders.
Assalaat ( the prayer) despite the definite article, refers to any prayer, and
the best one naturally would be from the bottom of one's heart, which is more
active when one is asleep. The only trouble is that the Qur’ān says ablutions
are necessary before Assalaat, but etymology, I guess, can take care of that
too. Hallelujah! The customs and ways of the Prophet (the Sunnah) no longer have
any significance, because etymology and the Sunnah don't go together. Etymology
can be used to interpret words only, not established and perpetuated practices.
Nothing, therefore, matters anymore. The Day of Judgement means nothing really.
Reward and punishment are only mental concepts. So, don't worry about any thing,
that's positive thinking! Heaven and Hell are only in one's mind. Three cheers
for etymology ! Three cheers for Mr P! Milton's Satan couldn't have done better
when he said:
`----and thou profoundest Hell,
Receive thy new possessor, one who brings
A mind not to be changed by place or time;
The mind is its own place, and itself
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven'.
But the fault, dear Brutus, is in ourselves, for we are
indifferent to our religion and its demands. How many of the elite in our
society are really interested in teaching their children the language of the
Qur’ān ? Milton, Keats, Shakespeare, and then Time Newsweek, Fortune---these are
the things that deserve your time, effort, and attention. Yes, an Assistant
Commissioner, a business tycoon, or even a politician is what you should be, but
no, never an Imam Malik, or an Abu Hanifa, or even an Averroes. Once you are a
`big man' you can always serve Islam by your postprandial oratory and criticism
of some maulvi (the scapegoat).
If Sherry has a son he'd probably be called Jimmy (Jamshed).
Jimmy would probably never come to know, if things go on the way they are, that
he is a tiny leaflet of the tree called `Muslim Ummah'. The indifference of our
elite towards the Qur’ān and its language has enabled etymologists like Mr P.
with their weird eschatology to sever the tree from its roots. A tree without
its roots cannot survive for long. `Roots', as I said earlier, is the key word,
but there is one connotation of the word which , it seems, is no longer
important to the elite in our society.