Neem hakim khatra-e-jaan, neem mullah khatra-e-iman…according to this Urdu idiom quacks are as bad a threat to health as are ill-informed Muslim preachers to Islam. Unfortunately, both neem hakims and neem mullahs are most sought after these days.
In the present world of sound bites, where people hardly have any time or the inclination for acquiring in-depth knowledge, YouTube videos of neem hakims and neem mullahs are becoming quite popular. The possible reason for this could be disillusionment due to deceitful practices of some pharma companies, people’s aversion to allopathy, and general interest in alternative systems of medicine.
On opening YouTube, videos in which quacks give quick and easy prescriptions ranging from how to grow hair quickly to the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease pop up on one's computer or phone screen.
Similarly, online religious preachers are making videos, which attract gullible Muslims to the stairway of heaven. Mushrooming ill-informed Muslim preachers are riding the online industry wave to make their cult. They are nothing less than an insult to learned Islamic scholars, who believe in peaceful Islam.
The YouTube logo
Such radical preachers are trapping innocent people with their radical ideas. Only educated Muslims question the basic understanding of such ill-informed mullahs. It is the lack of education among the Muslim community, which restricts their horizon of understanding and makes them vulnerable.
Online ‘dawah’-which could be described as the practice or policy of conveying the message of Islam to Muslims is being misused by such clerics. Instead of creating a good impression of the religion, such neem mullahs are scaring people away from true Islam and damaging the image of the Muslim community.
You will find their videos in which they are giving discourses on the urgent need for re-establishing the Caliphate. Or they will pronounce takfir (the practice of accusing another Muslim of apostasy or declaring them as infidels).
Such mullahs harbour utopian ideas and have a total disregard for the other Muslim maslaks (schools of thought). They don’t leave any margin for any debate or discussion. And quote Quranic verses and Hadis out of context to suit their discourses.
Among such a breed of mullahs, those belonging to Wahabi maslak (school of thought) will be dismissive of the mainstream Sunni sensibilities. The saddest part is that they do not even have proper knowledge of Islam and only believe in authoritarianism.
Muslims women in a mosque
The versions of Islam they preach are mythical fairytales and not the real spirit of the religion. These people are disconnected from the reality. Otherwise, they would not be doing such acts at a time when Muslim identity is facing challenges and pressures.
These bigots are mostly operating from foreign lands. Among youth, they tend to promote misunderstandings of politics and propagate unrealistic ideas. They end up opening doors to youths to become sympathetic to radical religious ideas.
We have already had a crisis of young men and women joining ISIS. Young Muslims were made to believe that they must leave their motherland and go for jihad on foreign soil so that they could establish a Utopia. Such preachers are dangerous and harmful for the interests of Muslims, especially in a pluralistic country like India.
To these clerics, other Muslim maslaks (sects) become enemies when they do not agree with their interpretation of siyasat (politics). They are insensitive and describe those Muslims who do not subscribe to their point of view as deviant.
Such mullahs believe that the solution for all the ills of the world is re-establishing the caliphate. They have failed to read their history properly, otherwise, they would have realised that poverty cannot be eradicated by imagining such orders.
The biggest issue with radical proselytizing is that those individuals who are engaged in these practices discourage other Muslims from getting involved in mainstream politics.
A Muslim woman praying at Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar
They preach that mainstream politics or politicians cannot understand Muslims or could think about the Muslim community’s welfare. These preachers do not engage in a pragmatic conversation rather they believe in arousing passions to trap simpletons.
The irony is that such radical mullahs only operate out of secular countries that allow them the luxuries to create grand visions of re-establishing the caliphate.
One would wonder if they could do the same in Muslim-dominated countries like Saudi Arabia. Perhaps if they do so they could be put behind bars. Even countries in West Asia have realized that such radical practices need to be curbed, as they are potentially dangerous for the well-being of the entire Muslim community.
The questions such online mullahs should be asking themselves is that if they cannot help the ummah when it is at its weakest then should they prevent others who are trying to help the ummah at its weakest? Lastly, a word of advice for them would- they should go to live with the Taliban, perhaps they would be happy with them.