The culture of ‘waz-mahfil’ in Bangladesh
It is so inconvenient and irritating to watch some so-called Islamic videos (waz-mahfil), on social media, full of irrelevant, unauthentic and misguiding information and speech. It knows no bounds that religion has become a persuasive business staff in Bangladesh that doesn't need any capital; just needs knowing some emotional stories and history and mastering the capability of delivering them in front of ignorant people who lack verification capacity and standard viewpoints.
This has been going on in Bangladesh for the last 50 years. After the independence of Bangladesh, the phase of 'waz-mahfil' turned on swiftly and people have been facing much portraiture of religions, particularly of Islam. Bangladeshi people are so emotional and sensitive on religions as they are brainwashed with emotional Islam rather than with authentic Islam, that's the problem creating juncture that made innocent people more radical and intolerant.
To focus on some cases, Mufti Kazi Ibrahim, one of the popular Islamic speakers to the common people, has been laying unauthentic, stupid, division creating and unscientific information from very early of his works in this field. At the very early time of the COVID-19 outbreak in Bangladesh, he spread misinformation through which he misinterpreted religions to the common people.
He was a sceptic on COVID-19 and propagated 'there is no Corona Virus'. Later, he spread some bogus mathematical discussion on COVID-19 which was also another persuasive misinformation that made common and religious people sceptical to medical science. Moreover, his conspiracies propagation about state system, world order, international politics and relations are ludicrous.
Not only that, nowadays, he is conducting some misinformation on Shakespeare's religion, beliefs, ideology even on his name. This is so pathetic to see the ignorant and obsessed behaviours from widely accepted speaker to the common people who show nothing but hubris to prove his legitimacy. Having no pithy evidence, logic, historical and empirical proof he has incessantly been dissipating misinformation.
Likewise, another popular Islamic speaker named, Mawlana Hafijur Rahman Siddiki (Kuakata), has also built a robust business in this field. In the name of 'Ehsan Group,' he influenced and incited people to invest their money in the group that has been investigated and proved as a major snare of corruption exploiting people's beliefs. Police arrested some of the organizers who are behind this heinous activity. His support to this corruption proves his involvement in this. These are explicit corruptions of the so-called Islamic speaker like Mawlana Hafijur Rahman but the implicit are more grave which business is based in the name of 'Waz-Mahfil'.
They all have ideological distinctiveness as some are Salafi, some are Sufi, and some are fervent supporter of Pir. Their business goes on according to their ideological cores and school of thoughts. From the Salafi school of thought in Bangladesh, Abdur Razzak Bin Yousuf is another prominent name to the common religious people. He has also a legacy of propagating misinformation about women's rights in Islam. In one of his Owaz, he presented wives as the salve of husbands that promotes horrendous and grim patriarchy in the secular and democratic Bangladesh. As consequence, common people are influenced and believe these discussions indiscreetly those have no historical, logical and empirical existences even in Islam.
To look at the Pir supporter, we unfold Mufti Giass Uddin Taheri as one of the influential characters in the arena who became viral through his funny, irrational, illogical and irrelevant chatters in 'waz-mahfil' that are nothing but forages of laugh--making no sense. Even he proudly applauds himself in waz as he becomes viral now and then by his prates.
However, they all assert that they are indeed Islam preachers but people are quite cautious about these religious merchants. Almost all of them charge a considerable amount of money as an honorarium from every programme they attend in, but when the committee is unable to provide them with full honorarium payment they squabble with the committee.
In retrospect, I can verily remember a mahfil organised by rural people where I attended in my 14, I saw there, the chief Islamic speaker became angry with the main organizer about the honorarium amount. The committee spent much money on the decoration of the Mahfil pandal that causes them to be unable to offer the destined honorarium to the Islamic speaker.
It is currently well known to the educated society that Islam has been misusing in Bangladesh as a persuasive business staff for a long time. Though the tradition of waz-mahfil in Bangladesh was for peace and harmony at the early phase of Sufi Islam, now it has been a political and business tool to some so-called preachers. They always promote their school of thoughts, misinterpret Quran and Hadith and exploit people's beliefs for their political and business interests going beyond what genuine Islam promotes and upholds.
People need religions. Religions keep the world stable from various perspectives. But the method of propagating religions, particularly Islam, in Bangladesh must be amended. Nowadays, people are going through the phase of information and technology. All information is available on Internet. Fact-checking tools are also becoming updated day by day. Therefore, this is high time to rethink of procedures of preaching religions, faiths and beliefs.
People are now educated, who demand smart presentations based on evidences and rational stances rather than comical discussions and misinformation. That's why it is better to organise seminars and conferences, keeping general people's interest in mind, that will bring out not only a rational outcome but also make this phase acceptable and tolerant to others.
The writer is a freelance columnist and student, Department of International Relations,
University of Dhaka