A lot of people have spilled an ocean of vitriol against the term Secularism.
And that is natural in a world where half the population is illiterate and wretched, and other forty-nine percent is half-educated or ill-educated–in tune with the perfection of servitude to the feudal and capitalist system, and the misery it perpetrates.
There are many types of Secularism, viz., the Capitalists’ Secularism, the Feudal Lords’ Secularism, the Robbers’ Secularism, the Rapists’ Secularism, the Murderers’ Secularism, the Arms Manufacturers’ Secularism, and ultimately also the MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL Common Human Beings’ or Workers’ or General Humanity’s Secularism.
We have to start from the scratch here—my tragedy! Utterly horrible tragedy! In August 2015—more than two thousand five hundred years after Buddha, 2350 years after Aristotle (who passed away in BC 322)…, a vast majority of even the highly educated people have yet to know what Secularism is or what it stands for.
As every religion is a system of understanding, approach, behavior, etc., vis-à-vis all things prevalent in the universe and upon this earth, Secularism is also an understanding, approach, behavior, etc. It is natural that they conflict with one another in the domains where they have no choice but to assert their own respective dominance.
It was not for no reason that Gardino Bruno was burnt at stake; or Galileo—to whom entire humanity owes so much—was condemned by the Catholic Church for “vehement suspicion of heresy”, and denied even a grave in the main body of the Basilica of Santa Croce, next to the tombs of his father and other ancestors by the Pope Urban VIII and his nephew, Cardinal Francesco Barberini… or Charles Darwin was jeered at…
The Pope, Arch-bishops, Bishops, etc., could not possibly say: “Yes, Great Gentleman, Galileo! You are a great inventor. Your telescope has proved to us convincingly forever that the Sun, Planets, and all Stars do not move around Our Earth, where God was supposed to have created us in His Own Image for this life and the Immortal Life hereafter. Yes, you have proved to us that we are not the Grandest of Creatures in the Universe, Made for Sitting Beside the Immortal Throne of Christ hereafter.”
The Churchmen’s reputation, power, bread and butter depended upon the then prevalent mass understanding, approach, behavior, etc. Galileo and his telescope were a grave threat to their existence—they perceived it thus, naturally.
We leave the later adjustments of the Church and Churchmen to Physics and its Discoveries, and advent of technology, from discussion here—because the target reader is the Common Man.
We go back to the basics.
Being an understanding about the universe, society, thought, and the processes thereof, as well as human approach, behavior, etc., Secularism is far more Vast than many people understand.
Some people say that Secularism is just non-intervention of any religion in the affairs of the State. This assertion confines Secularism to the narrowest possible confines. And it puts Secularism at the risk of annihilation before the annihilation of humankind. For State is not Permanent. It was born, conditioned, given to growth, and given to decay and die.
State may die one day, after hundred or two hundred or three thousand or ten thousand years. But people, if they are not extinct in near or distant future, will still need to have understanding, approach, behavior, etc., about the Universe and all things prevalent therein.
Let us begin at the beginning again, from the Common Human Beings’ viewpoint:
Thankfully, everybody above three years perceives time, space, stars, sun, moon, rivers, air, water, land, trees, animals, birds, insects….
What is the religion of the Sun? Stars? Time? Air? Water? Land?
Jungles? Animals? Birds? Flowers?….
Which religion does the Sun rise for?
Which religion do the Stars twinkle for?
Which community does the river flow for?
What is the religion of rice, maize, fruits, vegetables….?
They don’t have any religion. They don’t exist, rise or grow for any specific community….
They are Secular.
Air, water, food, grains, vegetables, fruits, houses, schools, colleges, hospitals, medicines, clothes…. are equally necessary for the people of all communities of diverse religions.
Without them everybody will die.
Without air everybody will perish in three minutes: the most pious Hindu, and greatest Muslim, and the noblest Jew, and the most exalted Christian, and the humblest Buddhist… all!
Thus one thing is certain: Air doesn’t make any distinction between the people of different religions.
Air is, therefore, Secular.
After attaining this simple but the highest understanding of nearly 100% of the universe (including space, time, matter, motion—and the processes thereof) and the petty Earth, we now can go to the next lower stage, which is a bit complex because it is of the negligible level, and here bickering has been rampant since times immemorial.
We leave the past to the dead people. We go directly to the present time.
From conception to birth and death and funeral, we need many things twenty-four hours every day. Good health, security, peace of mind, pleasure and enjoyment, exercises… etc., of the mothers, when any baby is still in the womb; we need hospitals, medicines, medical care, before, at and after birth, soap, we need bathroom facilities, bed, bedding, shelter, play, conversation…. School, studies,… after birth.
In short, we need too many things produced by nature or by human work, and we also need many services.
For making these things available, we need agriculture, industries and services, which in turn depend upon education, training and enculturation.
There is nothing as Islamic Agriculture or Hindu Irrigation or Christian Horticulture… If Hindu, Muslim and Christian terms are inserted in these activities, there will only be perversion in understanding. And clarity of thought will elope with the goblin.
Let Agriculture remain Agriculture therefore. Let it remain a Secular term and Secular Enterprise.
If any farmer “sees” God in a growing seedling and marvels at it—let him enjoy his ecstasy; but tell him it is not merely the deity of his concept doing any special favors to him only. This “God” is equally and as marvelously prevalent in the fields of the Kafirs, Shias, Sunis, Ahmadies, Pathans, Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jews… Let the farmer not elope with any God of ancients’ making that has the potential of becoming the Horrific Devil for him and for his children as well as all others.
Let industries, shops, hotels, hospitals, doctors, engineers, teachers, sweepers, cleaners, drivers, artisans, carpenters, masons, milkmen… and all professionals be Secular—that is the greatest favor you can do to yourselves. That is a great step for your own personal and your family’s and descendants’ benefit and security.
If you or anyone in your family is sick, and you are a Sunni, and a Doctor (whose parents were Ahmedi) lives nearby—or you are a Hindu, and a Doctor (whose parents were Sunnis) lives nearby—through your conscious understanding, approach and behavior, keep the relations and path wide open for the Doctor to visit your home, without the fear of being murdered on the way or blasted away to smithereens by a bomb-blast, and without being insulted or abused in any other way. Keep your path of going to his house similarly open and safe.
Similar in the case of other professionals: Engineers, Teaches, Advocates…. Spare yourselves from the pathetic trouble of searching for everything the persons of your own community. You are vulnerable more at the hands of any person of your own community. For he knows, you have nobody except him to approach. And he is “intelligent” enough to fleece you on this account.
You have just to buy a cake of soap for taking a bath—don’t make the task of selecting the shopkeeper as tedious as if you have been entrusted the responsibility of searching a proper spouse for your only child.
This is what is Secularism.
Let Mathematics be Mathematics, Astronomy be Astronomy, Physics be Physics… don’t bring any Koran or Gita or Bible into the Classroom of any Pure Science.
And while selecting a teacher for any subject, let the selection be free from the consideration of which community he/she was born in, whether his parents believed in Koran or Bible or Gita, were they Shias or Ahmdeis or Sunnis, etc.
National Geographic Society has done a commendable job: it has given us a much better understanding about animals; for example, we were given to the notion that wherever you find a snake, kill it. And we were unnecessarily frightened of other animals. We were also given to the notions that animals lack intelligence, feelings, etc. That was sheer nonsense. We had been duped for too long by the Religions’ description of animals.
Secular study of animals has made us more comfortable and secure with even the wild animals.
An example about approach will be appropriate here.
You live either in India or Pakistan. India and Pakistan have a match of cricket. You are the umpire. There are two main ways for you: You can let prejudices overcome you, and you can favor one team. Or you can overcome all prejudices, and give your decisions without letting any bias overpower you.
It depends upon your studies, faculties, understanding, etc., what path you choose for yourself.
You may receive immediate rewards, “honors” and “acclaim” for favoring any particular team—but you are a loser in the long run. You have confined your working prospects to the narrow group of the bigoted people. And even most of them won’t trust you. In the broader world, nobody will entrust you the job of umpiring. You are no more a professionally reputed person. You are no more a professional.
Secularism means professionalism. Secularism means personal and social competence. Secularism means progress. Secularism is freedom from many unwanted anxieties. Secularism means security. Secularism means trust…. In the above example, for instance, the trust that you have a fair chance of proving your merit in the game, and your cricketing career will not be cut short by any bad umpiring decisions. For just a few bad umpiring decision can end the life of any player in the game.
Communalism is life-threatening in all spheres. It is unprofessionalism; incompetence; backwardness; slavery; hatchery of anxiety; insecurity; mistrust;…
It is as life-threatening to your own children as the cricketing career of somebody’s son cut short by your bad umpiring decision.
From the stand point of commonsense, Communalism is stupidity, imbecility, corruption and perversion that the Sun rises for you and you alone; and the earth exists for you and you alone; you are and your ancestors were the most superior persons in the world… and others were, and are, mere animals or idiots that you can more or less deal with as ISIS has done with the Yazedis; or as Arabs treated the Egyptians, Iranians, Pakistanis and Indians; or as Changiz Khan behaved with the Arabs; or as Aurangzeb dealt with his father or brothers; or Ajatashatru dealt with his father, Bimbisar, and his neighboring princes and cousins and the general public in those territories.
And just as you must go to the field as a professional umpire when you are entrusted the job, leaving your biases, prejudices, etc., at home, so ought you to go as merely a good player when you are to play. Hanging talismans in your necks and kissing them after bowling every ball is an insult to your parents—who provided you the facilities for becoming a good player—to your coach, who coached you well, and to your own skill. It is just the lack of confidence in yourself and your potential. It is, besides, a distraction. It reduces your concentration in the game. It thus diminishes your chance of taking wickets and bowling at your best.
When you make a fifty or a century in the test match, and you prostrate in field, you insult your fellow players that were out for a very petty individual score, for you imply to tell them: “Allah has helped me, not you; Allah is with me, not you—you are evil sinners; I’m the pious man, loved by Allah!” You insult the Allah as well by so doing. Allah does not know Cricket. He is not interested in your play. He was not there to help you. Had he been there to help you, none in the opposite team would score a century or take any wickets. They would be all out for Zero, and you would win the match in just one hour. Ten balls would take ten wickets, then you would score a six on the first ball of your innings, and declare, because the opposing team would be all out in another ten balls. You would win the match without losing any wicket… Allah is not interested in your play. Allah is not interested in music, singing, painting, sculpture, dance or any other fine or performing art.
Don’t drag Allah into these petty activities. He has nothing to do there. If you bring him in nonetheless, you are insulting Him. It is something like inviting the King of the Universe that does his ablutions in nectar and rose water everyday to have a swim with you in the filth-filled and nauseating Jehlum; or even worse, to have a dip in the swamp of a gigantic pigsty (match-fixing; spot-fixing have made it so). Don’t disgrace His Majesty so rudely. Let Him keep His distance from all petty and mundane activities. It is in your favor as well as His.
The example of playground is enough to give us the message of Secularism: Play while you play; eat while you eat; sleep while you sleep; … and pray while you pray… Do just one activity at one time in order to enjoy that activity, and in order to avoid tension, physical and psychological problems and accidents. If while reading a book you keep thinking about what curry you will have tonight; while driving a vehicle or eating food you keep thinking about swimming; while swimming you are worried about your homework; while praying you are anxious about your job of the day; while doing your job you are thinking about your spouse and children… you have created a mess in your life and behavior.
Don’t mix up things in a hodgepodge. Pay full attention to what you are doing—this is the key to success. When you are studying, forget about everybody and everything else, just concentrate on what you are studying. When you are praying, God deserves your full attention… If you are not body and soul with your prayer, you are joking at the God Himself.
A great batsman needs to concentrate on every ball he faces, evaluate where it is going to pitch, evaluate its speed and direction, and take action with his mind and body. In short, he has to be extraordinarily alert in the field, and be body and soul with the situation his is engrossed in. He has to forget his father, mother, wife, children, friends, food, hunger, thirst, house, palaces, money, fields, jungles, animals, heat, cold,… and Allah, God, Bagwan, Prabhu, Sayein Baba… while facing Dale Steyn. If Hashim Amla keeps murmuring the name of Allah while he is batting, Wahab Riaz is not supposed [by anybody or any book of moral code] to miss the opportunity of taking his neck or nose or head away with a sharp bouncer.
Beware Hashim Amla! No murmuring of Allah’s name, no reciting of the verses from Koran, when you are facing your Muslim brother, Wahab Riaz!…
You can go to mosque together after the day’s play ends.
When you kiss the talisman or prostrate in the field, you look like a mere clown. You have mocked at the Highest Exalted God Himself by your action.
Just as in the case of umpire and the player, people working in all industries, agriculture and services have to be professionals–efficient and unbiased. The Doctor, Teacher, Student, Engineer, Scientist, Farmer, Mason, Carpenter… has to be only a Doctor, Teacher and so forth while he is at his profession. He needs to keep Allah, Allah’s Prophets, Lat-o-Manat, Eshwor… Bible, Gita, Koran, etc., at home or in the Mosques, Churches, Temples, etc., to commune with them during his spare time as it pleases him.
I have deliberately not spoken anything here about the Feudal and Capitalist Politicians, for I am aware that they are dead to commonsense and understanding. My words are not meant for them. As already said, I have dealt with this subject from the Common Beings’ or Workers’ point of view.
I have given you these basic tenets of Secularism: it is your sweet wish now whether to share them or not.
Secularism is the real global friendship.
August 6, 2015