A while ago, an old friend of mine said in one of our irreverent conversations that he had become ‘allergic to halaal’. He had been living in a blissful haze of intoxication for a whole week, prior to our conversation, which also happened to coincide with his birthday. Alcohol is abundant. So are other intoxicants. And there is no shortage of good food, music and friends. On top of that, living life in a cosmopolitan city like Hong Kong, how can life not be full of passion to party out loud? How can life not be beautiful for a free-thinking, free-spirit such as my friend?
My friend’s story is similar to mine in many ways. We both had philosophical questions about the existence of Allah and finality of Prophethood. We both had longed to escape from the stifling and conservative environment of Pakistan. And we both had started drinking (alcohol) together. Although our career trajectories have gone in different directions and our lifestyles are very different now, there are certain liberal views that we both strongly believe in. One such belief – which may be evident by now – is that humans should have the freedom to do whatever they want, as long as their actions are not physically, mentally, financially or in any other way damaging anyone else.
This brings me to a fundamental question: Why is a self-indulgent, hedonistic lifestyle so looked down upon by Islam? I do not think I have a definite answer to this question. For Muslims in Pakistan, however, such a hedonistic lifestyle is satanic. The Islamists would consider such individuals to be worthy of murder (wajib-ul-qatal). I think otherwise.
Much like the famous Urdu poet, Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, I’d go as far as proclaiming that it is perfectly all right to be drunk in a mosque. According to a couplet attributed to Ghalib: let me drink in the mosque, o pious one! Or tell me a place where God is not present?
Since God is, by definition, present everywhere, there’s no escaping. Whether one drinks in the mosque or the pub, it doesn’t matter. And it shouldn’t matter. But it does matter for an average Muslim. Drinking is an abominable sin. And so is gambling and eating pork.
But more than drunkenness, what is it that the world needs the most? It is love. I’d say let’s get drunk and then make love in a mosque. I will surely be lapidated to death for drunkenness and fornication by the lovers of Prophet Muhammad the Peaceful. Why is getting drunk and making love so sinful and immoral?
My friend’s hedonism and all of my vagrant, heretic thoughts are an outcry over the extreme religiosity that has become a hallmark of Pakistani Muslims. We find the traditional interpretations of Islam as too narrow and restrictive.
For example, when Musa (Moses) asked Allah to show Himself, Allah leveled the mountain and Musa fell unconscious. When Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Muhammad, Danish flags and effigies were burned by Muslims in Pakistan. Allah cannot be seen and Muhammad cannot be drawn. What more restrictions would Islam put on us heretics of the highest order?
I don’t care if Muhammad is drawn with time-bomb turban or dancing with heavenly virgins. For me, however, the following picture represents one of the most offensive cartoons about Islam.
If this is what Islam has become, I would be better off as a kaafir. I decry all beliefs and practices that make us barbarians like the one’s depicted above.
Bulleh Shah said it all:
I’d rather burn the prayer mat than the caricatures of Prophet Muhammad. Why? Because a supposed heaven that is thought to be achieved through violent, heinous actions can go to hell.