Islam informs us that God granted the status of Khalifa (vice regent) to all men. To elaborate the point further Quran narrates the story of Adam and why angels were asked to bow down to him. But at the same time it reminds us that there is always something beyond the reach of us. There is always something hidden from the deepest reaches of intellect so that we remember that we are a creation. Our creative abilities are limited to improvise on the things that are created by God.
In the hereafter, God will judge all mankind regardless whether they went to a school or not. That means that there is a built-in barometer in all of us that tells us what is right or wrong. In the absence of such barometer God will lose his right to judge us.
Since it is not a message easily learned by the human beings, Allama Iqbal tried to explain it to us in his poetry as concept of Khudi. The closest term in English that can explain Khudi is self-actualization. Self-actualization does not mean literacy i.e. an ability to read, write and comprehend or enlightenment (shaoor) but rather it’s a combination of unique cultural experience of a person, his education, and his own ability to look into his soul and find the purpose for his existence. Newton thought that defining the scientific explanation of the universe was his calling. And Allama told Quaid-e-Azam it was his destiny to lead the nation to independence. This ability to define oneself in clear terms and perform a unique role in a society is what Khudi entails.
It is wrongly assumed that self-actualization is achieved through academic literacy. Literacy in itself is not an end but a means to develop faculties that enables us to understand the world a little better. But a person that has never set foot in a school also learns lessons from life on a daily basis. Some individuals are so uniquely gifted that although they have never been to a school they are still able to achieve self-actualization through their own discovery. During the last election campaign I asked a young candidate to rehearse a speech in front of my male servant who is technically considered an illiterate. But his analysis and mentoring of the candidate was as equally good if not better than a professional mentor.
In the political sense Khudi is the liberation of a person, from selfish needs of subsistence level existence, to work for a higher ideal of establishing a society that is just and spiritual. During the election campaign I realized that it is quite easy to secure votes through catchy slogans and clever phrases but it is much more difficult to reform the nation to embark on a journey of enlightenment. Here I share some real life examples from the campaign trail. In one corner meeting I asked the audience of about 300 people, who all looked quite pious and religious with their flowing long beards, if they wanted Pakistan to be an Islamic Social Welfare state. They all raised their hands eagerly. But when I asked them how many of them have read Quran in Urdu to understand its message there was hardly any hands raised. So they all wanted Islamic system in Pakistan but had no idea what it meant and what are its contours.
I went to a corner meeting in another village where people were complaining about bad streets and other issues. Right in front of the venue of the meeting there was a kunda stealing electricity. So I asked all the village elders if anyone of them had knocked at the door of this person and asked him to stop stealing as it is a bad omen for the village. In another village people were complaining about teacher absenteeism in their schools. I asked them if there is a teacher in their village that teaches at a different village. They said yes. I asked them if he performs his duties. They replied no. So I asked them you are concerned about your children but you are not concerned about the children of the other village.
As an individual we need to understand that Khudi can be achieved by using our senses that were given to us for a purpose. Our eyes see and our ears listen to the injustices committed around us but we don’t use our voice to oppose it or raise our hands to stop it. Khudi can be achieved by listening to the voice of our conscience and doing the right thing without fearing for the consequences in an unjust society.
As a nation the gradual decline of our individual inability to stop unethical behavior has made us a chaotic society. Until few years ago a policeman would take people on the side to ask for a bribe now he does it in broad day light without any fear of a social backlash. In the bygone years a public servant was worried to buy an item that would be too pricey to be beyond his means. Teachers were dignified to be worried about their image among students. They were punctual, well versed in their subjects and took interest in the development of their students.
We seem to consider that good behavior should be instituted through legalistic approach by creating anti-corruption laws and NABs. We have forgotten that the most severe punishment for a corrupt citizen is the social boycott by his neighbors, peers and relatives. Good behavior is a function of self-worth and self-esteem which forms the integral part of attaining Khudi. The litter on our streets and the chaos on our roads are an indication of the decline of our souls. We have to learn that a strong nation is built when it is comprised of a majority that has the moral strength to support the right and stop the wrongs.
The write is a former President of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce-USA and member of Advisory Committee of Pakistan Tehrike Insaf. He has authored three books titled Islamic Social Contract, Freedom by Choice and Lessons from Quran. He can be reached at facebook.com/abdul.quayyum.kundi