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Dr. Malik S. Khan

Muhtarim Hosts, Ulema, Scholars, Religionists, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Assalamu alaikum.

I wish to thank you very much for the opportunity of addressing this august body regarding “Drama and Religion”.  In fact, this being an international conference, it ought to be explored as to how they relate to each other in their physiognomies and merits.  That is, to find out as to how they are juxtaposed in their elemental constituents (e.g. materiality/spirituality, sensuality/piety, falsity/reality, fantasy/actuality, artificiality/substantiality, immorality/morality, waywardness/decorum). Within this negatively derived usual context, our immediate desire is to produce an amicable environment in which the Ummat-al-Islamiyyah and other religions could honorably ensure their survival and existence, preserve their integrity and dignity, and sustain their well-being and prosperity without internal tensions and external threats.  Islam’s past puissance and glory ought to be recovered, its sublime values and traditions have to be revived, and its universal truth and virtue need to prevail in human affairs.  This will lead us to dwell on five salient features of the “Islamic Quintessence.”

Firstly, the Islamic art, literature, and tradition are not against drama in its positive terms.  Indeed, the minber (pulpit) itself is a kind of stage and the khutba is a sort of performance.  But its form as it largely exists today is used to lure people out of reality to evils (such as gambling, drinking, smoking, illicit sex, pornography, and drug abuse) is objectionable.  These are some of the reasons that the `Ulema-e-Islam have given their fatwas (verdicts) against drama as objectionable.  The lustful eyeing, dancing, acting, advertising, publicity, fashion, show, opera, and even education, as buttressed by profanity, vulgarity, nudity, and sexuality unfortunately  have become parts of stage, television, cinema, the Internet, and other media.  It is these factors which ought to be shunned and put under control, so that the coming generations may be saved from straying and stay on the correct course.

Secondly, in highlighting the “Islamic Fundamentals,” we aspire to demonstrate that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony, order and tranquility, modesty and decency, tolerance and moderation, and mercy and grace.  With its concept of fraternity and universality, it proclaims goodwill towards all and cherishes no ill will against others.  With its emphasis on piety and purity, it preaches honest living and condemns treacherous faits.  Accordingly, its contributions to the welfare of mankind and the treatment of the Earth are immense.  Indeed, it was Muslims’ pioneering spirit and ingenuity in vast arrays of arts, sciences, and humanities (e.g. administration, agriculture, agronomy, architecture, astronomy, biology, botany, calligraphy, cartography, chemistry, education, engineering, geography, geology, history, horticulture, human rights, hydrology, jurisprudence, law, linguistics, literature, medicine, metallurgy, metaphysics, philosophy, physics, politics, sociology, and theology) which, by crossing the unfathomable expanses of consciousness and comprehension, extracted the world from the depths of ignorance and decadence.  They truly gave a dynamic boost to human civilization and provided undeniably a vigorous push to the Western renaissance.  By so sowing the seeds of incandescence, as reformers, thinkers, discoverers, innovators, and builders, they were responsible for casting away the pall of the Dark Ages and ushering in an era of modernity and enlightenment.  If these are depicted as drama with the aid of modern technology and education as well as of media and entertainment, they will definitely arouse the interest and enthusiasm of the general public, including the clerics and intellectuals.  We must bring back the zenith of Islam as once prevailed for the benefit of the entire world, and now it alone is able to extricate man from the abyss of his present predicament. 

The Prophet of Mankind, Rasulallah (S.A.W.S.) brought luminosity not only to the Arabs, but also to other peoples as a universal blessing (Rehmat-ul-Alameen).  Accordingly, as his followers, it is the Muslims’ duty to revive themselves in the purest image of Islam and share the ordained boons with others, for their well-being.  In order to exterminate the currently prevalent ills in human society (e.g. AIDS, gambling, divorce, gender abuse, sex-selective abortion, cloning detriments), we must teach and demonstrate to the masses the significance and advantages of a pure life to the community.

Thirdly, within the ambit of “Muslim Unity,” we should aim at exploring ways and means of abating tension within the Islamic folds and attempting to bring all the particles of the Ummah together on the premises of Tauheed-o-Sunnah.  To be done through the media of Tajdeed and Taleem, as enjoined by the Divine dictates and the Holy Injunctions, it is to urge to sincerely respond to the Godly as well as worldly demands.  In thus clinging fast to the “rope” of Allah, the Ummah ought to manifest as a unified whole in the fastidious vivacity of Al-Islam.  At the same time, we must dialogue with other religions to create an atmosphere of tolerance and solidarity as well as of love and coexistence, so as to ensure freedom and justice for all.  There is space for everybody in the Godly realm.  We must portray this drama to solve problems with this global intercourse via mutual respect and accord.

Fourthly, through a focus on the “Interfaith Dialogue,” we want to remove the barriers of falsity and mendacity as well as of malice and malevolence, as sinisterly erected against Islam and its adherents.  Slanderous accusations and blasphemous perpetrations thus committed ought to be disdained, baneful misdemeanors and pernicious mischief so exercised should be apprehended, and spurious tendencies and scandalous misunderstandings thus engendered must be dissipated.  Instead, the Islamic ideals of human entirety and amicability should be promoted, thereby building bridges of mutuality and conciliation between Muslims and non-Muslims, particularly amongst the “Peoples of the Book.”  Similarly, the Islamic concept of religiosity (i.e., freedom and protection of all faiths, sufferance and accommodation of all creeds, adoration and veneration of all apostles, defense and safeguard of all scriptures, care and safety of all sanctuaries, guarantee and allowance of all rites, license and liberty of all rituals) should be made known both in words and deeds.  Specially, as offspring of the common ancestors, there must be much sense of forbearance and endurance among the three fraternal persuasions (viz. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam).  So, remaining within the permissible limits of Islamic moderation in the truest spirit of Tableegh, the ideas of “coexistence” as well as of “live and let live” among various multiracial and multi-religious societies must be advanced.  Within the Islamic tenor of benevolence, in rejecting the confrontational instigation of “clash of civilizations,” the synergistic notion of “cooperation among civilizations” should be adopted.  Of course, “we must mobilize young people around the world to shatter the mistrust of past grievances and to foster a new spirit of tolerance and mutual respect” to this effect.  Our “dramas” should be geared to the above-mentioned criteria and the lessons behind them should duly be highlighted.  Such a mode of life, with equal protection for the lowest and the highest, is actually the glory of Islam, which gave the world its benevolent system.  But, as unfortunately the specter of distorted Islam goes by the mala fide sources as “fake dramas,” so its bright face should be by the bona fide means go as “true dramas.”

Lastly, on the basis of these precepts, teachings, and relationships, we expect to forge under the motif of “Impending Prospects” a sanguine and splendorous future for all mankind and save planet Earth from the destructive course it has been blindly and lustfully led to tread on.  In such a vision of felicity and benediction, with a terrestrial paradise under his feet, man shall be able to feel the bliss of his celestial destiny.  For these purposes, among other things and at least to begin with, we must work and produce media materials (movies, DVDs, CDs, documentaries, dramas, features, literature, articles) to influence the people to see the genuine side of the coin.  In fact, a vigorous approach to this effect shall be necessary to nullify the hostile effects of the contemporary media, which is largely geared to lure people into violence, adultery, lesbianism, homosexuality, and substance abuse, among other misdemeanors.

On the whole, while Her Royal Highness has presented the “pro” part of the “drama” debate, I am offering the “con” part, along with the salient features of Islam (e.g. history, culture, tradition, contribution) as valuable tools to understand and lead a purposeful life here and hereafter.  Within this paradigm, while religion is a straight path with pitfalls only in disobedience, drama is a double-edged sword with it uses and misuses.  Here, we intend to go into detail as to how the modality of a “drama” could be utilized as a tool for Da`wah and Irshad.  It is true that a picture or a scene on the stage can yield a myriad of words and meanings for the viewer to comprehend.  He can also imagine as to what the real message coming across is.

Within this framework, the chosen topic has a great importance to us.  The Muslims were pioneers in almost all branches of knowledge, which established foundations of the modern erudition.  They evolved, inter alia, the scientific method and gave a push to Western civilization.  Recently again, the Muslim world is striving to revert to the precepts of science of which the Holy Quran and the Hadith are indicative.  As revealed to the Holy Prophet (S.A.W.S.), these proficiencies are vital for humanity to progress and be capable of dealing with all enigmatic problems in all spheres of life.  In this very methodology, we want to see how the institution of drama can educate our new generations in the sublime teachings of the Holy Quran and Hadith, so that they may duly play their destined role as halifa, halafa, mizan, and misaq.  Specially, the `Ulema-e-Islam have to be highly versed in achieving the loftiest status in theoretical cogitation and practical research.  Through their spiritual methodologies and temporal procedures, they can retrieve the aura of Islam for the betterment of humanity.  The `Ulema should realize that it was their predecessors who constructed the most exalted edifices of ideation the world has ever witnessed.  The trail of the Muslim renaissance therefore ought essentially to be blazed by them.  Indeed, all the Muslim countries are in practice using drama gadgets (e.g. television, Internet, cinema).  Thus, the “drama” is in fact played on such stages in every country.  It is true that music, dance and cabaret are prohibited by Islam for public entertainment, as they arouse the sentiments of immoral behavior.  Psychologically, in the Western world profane, vulgar, and sensual acts (e.g. nudity, dancing, jazz, sex, pornography) on stage and screen for the past 100 years have caused a mounting episode of moral degeneration, which the `Ulema have naturally abhorred.  At the same time, the showing of the body or its contours in different cultures or fashions, wearing scant, transparent, or tight garments, have dampened the effect of purdah or hijab.  These manifestations too provoke adulterous conduct and therefore are equally detested.

But, looking pensively, the life and the world themselves are drama.  In the stage of it, we all are actors, playing our respective roles and creating our individual images.  We portray the intellectual, spiritual, emotional, and physical verities, the level of each differing from person to person.  We all use the faculties and facilities of existence (skill, knowledge and attitude) by playing real and false dramas.

Today screen shows and Powerpoint presentations are giving different stage scenes to convince and educate the audience.  These are marketing techniques to sell products, ideologies, fictions, religions, healings, entertainments, and others.  They are thus trying to induce people as customers of their special segments of trade. 

Hollywood has gone even so far as to vulgarize prophets, associating them with various obscene acts.  Not to remain behind, media have also systematically and boldly been engaged in similarly shameful, blasphemous activities.  Colluding with other anti-Muslim forces, the media have adopted a highly pugnacious attitude against Islam and its adherents, leaving no stone unturned to slander and defame them by various tactics.  Through concocted myths and stories, they have blatantly misrepresented the Islamic faith and religion.  Through deviation and evasion, they have purposely distorted Muslim history and tradition.  Through partiality and bias, they have tendentiously confronted the Ummah with dilemmas and distress.  Through blasphemy and desecration, it has sordidly dishonored holy prophets and scriptures.  Through disdain and scorn, it has avariciously disrespected Islamic relics and shrines.  Through exaggeration and mendacity, it has cunningly aired sectarian division and tension.  Through exploitation and mythomania, it has surreptitiously ruptured the fabric of Muslim unity and coherence.  Through treachery and deceit, it has in a prejudiced way blamed Muslims for all human ills and miseries.  Through lie and fabrication, it has shamefully degraded Muslim character and accomplishment.  Through publicity and propaganda, it has bigotedly accused Muslims of fundamentalism and extremism.  Through misquoting and misreporting, it has baselessly charged Muslims with terrorism and violence.  Through rebuke and censure, it has intolerantly put Muslims in a state of constant anxiety and panic.  Through semantics and phraseology, it has cruelly generated the hysteria of fear and smear.  Through sensationalism, it has slantingly drummed up sentiments of generation gap and gender gap.  Through coprology and pornography, it has been prone to target Muslim youth and children.  Through disinformation and misinformation, it has falsely ignited the world opinion against Islam and Muslims.  Through fantasy and phantasm, it has fanatically aroused anti-Muslim feelings of hatred and revenge.  Through rhetoric and excitement, it has zealously fomented among non-Muslims passion of ferocity and rampage.  Specially, it has aggressively participated in the infamous agenda of “war on terror,” which in effect became a war on Islam and Muslims, expanding it out of all proportions and attacking in this garb these targets in all their manifestations.

And then, there are political stunts in which they dramatize national, regional, or global issues for ulterior motives.  Here, they play with human lives and sentiments, destroy cities and civilizations, and rob wealth and resources.  They justify their crimes by lies, fabricated charges, and kangaroo courts.  Often an innocent episode may turn into a brutal “drama”.  Once an Iranian theatrical company came to Afghanistan to stage a presentation for Ashura.  As the scene of martyrdom came, an Afghan, shouting at the actor, “You are attacking my Imam?  You are still alive?” pulled out his revolver and shot at him.  Today, the news shows re-enactments as if they were historical reality.  While only partially true, they are portrayed as the whole truth, which conflicts with the religion.  Christians brandish starving Africans on television with ostensible humanitarian motives, but behind the scene the designs are to collect funds from the masses and convert these people to Christianity.  The “World’s Religions after September 11th” conference at Montreal this past September included a Powerpoint presentation that Hindus were enticed to show themselves on the screen being healed by Christians or receiving money from them.  Yet, in verity, the Christians were drawing them to Christianity.  At the same time, the very same Hindus commented that they converted all the Buddhist monks to Hinduism.  So, these are tricks which they play in drama situations, parading something to look like the truth, though it is falsity.

In the Western television, a chimney character, Santa Claus, is fabulized and dramatized to children, who in their imagination start dreaming of this fictitious being as an actuality, though in religion it has no substance.  Yet, toys and gifts are bought and given to kids in his name and with false promise.  When the children grow up into adulthood, they see it as betrayal, and as a result many abandon their faith.

Very recently a drama was delineated by Barbara Walters interviewing a terrorist, who was shown as believing that after suicide, he would receive 72 virgins.  Barbara Walters asked one Muslim Sufi, who was shown on the television, “Will the man have sex with these women?” He said yes.  Then she questioned, “What about those women?  Will they also get 72 virgin males?”  On receiving an affirmative answer, she asked again, “Will these Muslim women have sex with these 72 men?”  He said yes.  In reality, the whole thing was fake, aimed at distortion of Islam.  I asked, “Leave the Quran aside.  Let’s look into the Bible.  Were all the prophets of the Old Testament and the New Testament born in Heaven, or were they born on Earth?”  The non-Muslims answered, “On Earth.”  My next question was, “Adam and Eve lived in Paradise, as is the belief of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.  When in Paradise, did they have their reproductive organs?  Did they conceive any offspring there?”  The reply was in the negative.  That means there is no sex in Heaven.  So, this whole drama was brewed to defame and slander Islam.  The point is proven.

Many myths attached to Islam were hatched by non-Muslim actors with not an iota of truth in them.  Accordingly, believers took strong action against such productions, often igniting cinema halls and screens simply because the woman who was acting was not a Muslim.  Religion also has certain conflicts, where a man and woman are playing in the show as husband and wife, whereas in reality they are not spouses.  The same artists and actors have played vulgar roles.  The film “The Message” was produced, and the religious audience felt offended because the performers with their debased character were not considered apt to depict the lives of such pious people.  In the same vein, the high Muslim societies do not sanction acting as a legitimate profession and look down upon actors who appear in dramas because they largely come from brothels or red districts that cater music, dance, and sex.  For instance, almost all the film stars in the Indian subcontinent were one time or another singers or entertainers in the red area, where people used to get amusement in the past.  The blue, X-rated movies are in hundreds at the dish network around the globe, and now have moved into the Internet, with young kids frequenting Internet cafes to watch hardcore, horrendous films, shows, and other garbage. It is all on the screen.  Unfortunately their emotions and physical desires make the children, who are seeing these blues, mad with desire.  And when, after looking at these pulsating scenes, they come into contact with the opposite sex, there is inclination of date rape or illicit sex.  With these, children are further lured into the use of hallucinatory narcotics, which lead to other evils with a chain of malicious consequences.

Today, while homosexuality is legal and a socially accepted norm in many communities, homosexuals are demanding that it should be taught in schools.  A child observed this kind of instruction and asked his father, “Daddy, how does a male perform sex with a male?”  The real situation of teaching or drama to be portrayed on the screen for children to learn behavior to have safe sex and use condoms has not controlled AIDS, but has in fact increased the epidemic around the globe.

These dramas also teach and preach violence to the children.  The glamorization of drugs, smoking, guns, and such other ills has made the young generations drift away from reality.  The new maladies of illicit or perverted sex delivered into peoples’ homes through the satellite dish are ruining many societies, where the same television could have been applied for benefits of instructing environmental consciousness, social responsibility, small industries, cooking, sewing, and crafts.  Unluckily, from morning to evening, dance and music have completely taken over television. 

The “drama” of sports, to which viewers are glued with their beer cans, has caused a gambling spree, in which they – men, women, and children – are betting in their own gatherings on who is going to win as shown on the TV.  It has brought a new disaster of gambling, which is being played on the TV screen in houses, schools, clubs, and other places.

Today in the Western world, the gambling craze has rocketed sky-high.  The urge is irresistible.  A woman going to the store to purchase the milk for her baby looks at the Lotto machine and blows her last money, which was meant for the toddler’s nourishment, thinking that this time she will win.  She loses that money and goes into the street and sleeps with the first man she comes across to replenish the purse to buy the milk, and ends up getting AIDS. 

The question nevertheless arises as to why we are not doing the religious drama for its promotion and for the benefit of humanity.  We could have used open universities and staged real education to communities.  This is the responsibility of `Ulema, teachers, reformers, and the government:  to work together to deploy this dynamic tool to steer our ship to the right course and introduce all the `uloom that were the hallmark of the Muslim civilization, which produced the zenith of the Islamic grandeur, and which enlightened the world.  The same scientific enquiry and study are again needed in all pertinent disciplines.  The education that is both theoretical and pragmatic will generate proficient members of society to be based on the aforesaid principles of khalifa, khalafa, mizan, and misaq, as viceregent on Planet Earth to take care of its environment and inhabitants.  Though the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 was an impressive dream, there was no positive aftermath.  In the next 15 years, man has not been able to control his destructive impulses.  In fact, he has further degraded, damaged, and destroyed the life-supporting habitat by his arrogance.  Outer space, the atmosphere, the lithosphere, the hydrosphere, and subsoil are all dangerously polluted and in many respects cancerously militarized, threatening to the very human civilization, among other things.  While many irreversible damages have already been done, more imminent ones are critically lurking, calling for prompt and effective action.  With the contamination of the environment and ruination of the ecosystem, myriad strains of fauna and flora are disappearing from the face of the Earth, as accentuated by the resultant climate change.  By the abuse of planetary spheres and destabilization of each of them, relationships among them and with their surroundings is precariously shifting, turning the loving terrestrial abode into a desolate ball.  Thus, while its physiognomy is brutally pitted with wounds and its breast is plagued with barrenness, its hostility to life is rapidly mounting.  Besides, the poisonous gases, bombs, chemical and atomic weapons, and other detriments currently are making the environment so badly degenerated that women are giving birth to anencephalic children, while other species are unable to reproduce themselves.  The TVs and cinemas show the weapons of mass destruction and the arms race, with the result of having rendered the planet a highly dangerous place to live.  But, in the general interest to save mankind from self-annihilation and to create an atmosphere of universal security, these fearful activities must be arrested.  Manufacture, acquisition, stockpiling, transfer, and use of such devices ought to be comprehensively banished without any exception.  Only in this way can the survival of the Earth and its species, including particularly the human being, be assured. 

Yet, despite these emergencies, the dramas go on as usual.  Some of them are real, while others are false.  Even news, often being one-sided, is portrayed in a dramatic way and may or not be presented with balanced coverage.  As a consequence, tainted with deception and confusion, nobody knows the truth.  On the other hand, some cultures have music, dance, and sex as part of their religion.  They perform on stage, and present dramas.  But, we are concerned about the real acts around the globe, in which religions play a big role.  This new drama of religions is called “clash of civilizations.”  The evangelists are fabricating misleading imageries on TV screens worldwide, showing their healing juggleries with tactics of compassion, but concealing their ulterior motives.  Similarly, the drama of wrestling is totally fixed, wherein the loser has been pre-purchased to get defeated, so that the winning macho sportsman will be the champion of the world.  Again, gambling takes places in this drama as well, as part of a deceptive business.  In revealing these collusions, this paper is opening many new avenues and scenarios to throw light on both some truth and lies.  The audio-visual coverage which blinks today on the screens of cinema, television, or Internet, putting a whole range of human engagements (e.g., hunting, warfare, weddings, birth, and death) stirs human emotions.  As such, they could be representative, distorted, or exploited, depending on the user’s aim. 

To underline the earlier postulation, the cultural aspect of drama is not forbidden by Islam.  It allows a realistic picture sans music, dance, vulgarity, or sex.  The dialogues of the production of drama, whether it is in the form of poetry, speech, oration, or debate, are acceptable.  Indeed, the eminent scholars of Islam, who give sermons on the screens of television, the Internet, and cinema, are using these dynamic tools of communication to pass the message of Al-Islam for Da`wah and Irshad.

The late Ahmed Deedat, a celebrated scholar of comparative religion, challenged the proponents of other creeds and dogmas to explore the doctrinal veracity.  With the force of his genuineness and the exactitude of his logic, as buttressed by the profundity of his knowledge, he always came out to be the most convincing about the superlative and final message of the Holy Quran.  His videos and DVDs are still legends evincing the true testimony of Al-Islam for the guidance of and about all creatures of Allah (S.W.T.)  There are other blessed missionaries of Islam, past and present, who have articulated the Quranic code most authoritatively and effectively.  For instance, recently, Dr. Zakir Naik is presenting on Peace Channel from Mumbai (India) a televised invitational discourse that beggars description.  His vast fount of erudition and unshakeable sinew of conviction are attracting a lot of people to the folds of Islam.

The Ejaz-ul-Quran Conferences regarding the signs of science in the Holy Quran and Hadith have achieved a dynamically revered status.  Thousands of research and scientific articles and treatises have been put out.  Originally, the speaker advanced Powerpoint presentations, which were followed by intensive discussion on pertinent questions.  The net effect has been the greater understanding of the Divine Dictates and conversions of numerous non-Muslims to Islam.  There are many Western scholars who are engaged in similar tasks in Europe, North America, and Latin America, where the salvation and the teaching and preaching methods of the Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.S.) have been divulged on CD and other media to educate non-Muslims.  It provides an equal opportunity for dialogue to all religions.

The real state drama of the Internet has revealed to the world the truth and meaning of Al-Islam, touching the hearts and minds of a multitude of people, who are shedding away the distorted “Orientalist” image of the past and biased “Occidentalist” version of the present, while embracing the cosmic injunctions of Allah (S.W.T.)

While these are fortitudinous strides to be proud of, the burning need of the moment is to unify and expand these efforts in a meaningful way, so that the self-perpetuating and sustainable Islamic society with its own sterling attributes and exemplary characteristics could be revitalized.  For this, the reckonable vigor of and harmonious relationship among the three pillars of the Ummah (viz. khalifa, shura, `Ulema) have to be ingenously brought about in a genuine cooperative and coordinative fashion.

Let us pray to Allah (S.W.T.) to give hidayah to all of us.  May we take these messages back to our homes and share these truths with people.  May we stop our Statnic marketing products and cease being workers for Satan.  Let us tell the truth and the whole truth to everyone around the globe.  Ameen!