My generation’s transition from unsullied school children to experienced adults has been marred by countless anecdotes of one aspect that has remained constant; the steady evolution of religious disillusionment through erosion of logic and reason. Each passing incident, slowly chips away at my hope of envisaging a tolerant and united Pakistan – at this point that reverie seems oxymoronic.

Let us take the collective uproar stemming from Pakistan with respect to the basic human rights of Muslims around the world, currently against the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar. Such atrocities thousands of miles away sit so heavily on our hearts that our home-grown travesties are pushed deeper into the abyss of ignorance. My encounter with examples of the blatant de-humanisation of the Ahmediya community has primarily come in the form of sign boards spewing hate and negativity atop mosques and at the gates of graveyards. The utter intolerance of having to accept minute variations in manner of praying, fasting etc rooted in the Shia-Sunni conflict depicts how we are slaves to our ritualistic fervour. A perpetual sanctity blinds us into thinking only we are the true ordained ones touched by the hand of God. Such is our brand of disillusionment.

Many of us have been subjected to public sermons on the display of incorrect Islamic attire and etiquette by ‘concerned’ strangers. This over powering need to provide salvation prompts us to impose our versions (learned or taught) on the prescribed way of life. More often than not our ‘religious teachers’ believe in and preach corrective measures to bring the ‘misguided’ (with differing viewpoints) in line with the teachings as understood by them, such angst then has a trickle down effect. So self-righteous are we that we jump at the opportunity to further the word of God by dubbing opposing opinions as immoral. One need only log into Facebook and glance through messages dripping with disdain over the trending proverbial punching bag. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone providing a well-reasoned argument by engaging thoughtfully with a variety of Islamic religious texts, traditions and interpretations. We fear all that we fail to understand (for lack of trying) or that which makes us uncomfortable. Such is our brand of disillusionment.

We, as an Islamic nation, loathe disarray and uncertainty; the clear-cut doctrines issued by staunch ideologues appeal to our sensibilities relieving us from indulging in any form of internal dialogue. Such an austere measure of religious authenticity was hammered home when my almost eighty (80) year old grand mother was compelled by her colleagues from Quran class to adhere to the strict three month period (‘iddat’) to be home-bound upon the death of my grandfather. In essence, the logic was that an elderly woman, already habitually alone in an entire house suffering the depressive loss of her life-long companion, should remain shackled at home and not partake in any interactions with the tempting outside world, lest she antagonise God. Such is our brand of disillusionment.

Religion may well be the opium of the people, but come ‘Ramzan’ we all take the first substance on offer. For an entire month we see the dormant Muslims jolted awake to join the movement of strict adherence to God’s word as relayed through our ‘scholars’. Essential hygiene prescribed as one of the most basic tenets of Islamis chucked out the window for fear of breaking fast. Elderly people getting pummelled in the streets of Karachi for sneaking some form of solid or liquid intake during fasting hours– never mind their personal health, choices, religion etc. God forbid we stray even an inch by continuing to eat past or delay breaking fast from the ‘sehri’ and ‘Iftari’ timings as approved by evening television. Most importantly, “Dr.” Amir Liaquat Hussain, in all his fraudulent glory sings the tune of a true Muslim on TV by stimulating the innate characteristic of this nation to be handed things on a plate without individual effort. Alternatively, traffic rules are conveniently side-stepped and crass language remains abundant - defying all practice for patience. Lustful stares settling on unsuspecting women accompanied by perverse catcalls go unnoticed. Save for the re-kindled need to fall into prayer, all the fundamental fibres of our being such as lying, cheating, hurting, stealing, judging, gossiping, etc remain untouched. God forbid we think to improve on these fronts before solidifying our ceremonial rigidity. Such is our brand of disillusionment.

We live in animosity over rituals of religion and remain divided via sects rather than prosper in harmony under the pure essence of a prescribed way of life. In the midst of all such disillusionment, which we shamelessly continue to harbour and breed, yet another unsuspecting child will tighten its grip on that brand with a callous caress before wrapping it up in a cloth of intolerance, packing it away in a box of self-righteousness to be forever stowed away in its head – the space for no dialogue.

Us Pakistanis would do well to demolish the ‘dairh inch ki masjid’ which we have all constructed that sits perched high up on our shoulders, accompanying us in all our remedial endeavours spearheaded towards others instead of ourselves. We would do well to reconsider the emphasis placed on ritualistic trivialities and concentrate more on discernment of the word of God in letter and spirit. We would do well to re-examine the blurred lines between healthy debate and the aggressive imposition of one’s own brand of right and wrong. It is unfortunate that we possess intellect, free will, the ability to reason and comprehend, and yet, we still fail to recognise our own potential to be the quintessential version of ourselves. No matter how clichéd it may sound but ‘charity begins at home’. Let us take a good look at ourselves; idiosyncrasies aside, we must strive to be the embodiment of humanity. Let us finally begin to pave the cracks in the road to exemplary living; under one umbrella - Pakistan.