12 Oct Ghalib – 12: On the Object of Worship
Religion was supposed to fade away in the 1960s and yet religion, radical religion, is all around us now. The fading away of religion did not take us to a more humane society and the return of religion does not seem to be doing any better.
Let us turn to Ghalib for guidance:
hai pare sarhad-e idraak se apnaa masjuud
qible ko ahl-e nazar qiblah-numaa kahte haiN
beyond the limit of the senses is the object of our worship
people of vision call the Qiblah, the ‘Qiblah-pointer’
At the very least, Ghalib is saying that we should not take the rituals of religion too literally. We should look beyond the rituals and try and envision the real purpose of worship. What should the act of worship be pointing us towards? Is it an end in itself or a means to an end? If the latter, what exactly is the end? Should one really be thinking in terms of an end?
Is Ghalib reiterating the Sufi/Bhakti recognition that god lies within us rather than in the worship of any godhead, an interpretation that would provide an answer to the problem of infinite regress (that of looking for the end beyond the end) posed in our parallel post on Mehr-e-Niimroz?
moko kahaaN dhuunde re bande main to tere paas huuN
na mandir meN na masjid meN na kaabe kailaash meN
khoji hoye turat mil jaooN ik pal kii talaash meN
kahat Kabir suno bhaii saadho main to huuN vishwaas meN
Let us now interpret Ghalib’s observation in the context of today’s Pakistan.
Every leader dashes off to Makkah to perform Umra at the drop of a hat. Yet, his or her political behavior shows no perceptible change. The same level of dishonesty continues to pervade our politics.
Many would argue that the judgment is too generous. In fact, the level of justice and honesty in Pakistani society has continued to slide just as the number of mosques and the number of people praying has mushroomed.
And the level of violence has increased in direct proportion to the increase in the number of madrassahs.
So, clearly, worship has attained some instrumental function in our lives. It has become the pathway to a material end. It has lost sight of what might be the real objective of worship.
It seems that whether religion fades away or becomes more prevalent, societies run into problems if some larger ultimate purpose of life is forgotten.
Where are the people of vision who can see beyond and through the material uses of religion in our times and ascertain the contours of that larger purpose? And what should they be doing in this situation?