Shamsudheen Fareed, a Salafi preacher in Kerala, has decided that Onam, Christmas and other such celebrations are haram. A lot more things are haram in his version of Islam. Movies are haram. Even trimming the beard is!
When a person convinces himself that he possesses the ultimate truths, he is destined to live in a bundle of delusions. Simply because there are no ultimate truths. Except in science and other rigid systems. Even in those systems, truths are amenable to corrections. An Einstein corrected a Newton. Einstein’s theories are also not ultimate truths. When it comes to human life and affairs, truths are never ultimate. We keep learning and understanding them in our own way.
Joseph Conrad’s celebrated character, Kurtz (Heart of Darkness), is a good example of someone who deluded himself with his own ultimate truths. He thought he possessed the ultimate truths and he wanted to civilize the native Africans by giving them those truths. The result was torture and slavery. He enslaved the people. He terrorised them. He became a god for them. A monster, that was what he was in reality. But for a terrorised people there is little difference between a god and a monster.
Kurtz isolates himself from society. He places himself above the society because he has deluded himself into believing that he is superior to all the society. He has certain truths. The others don’t have them. Hence the others are harami.
What many religious organisations are doing today in the name of jihad and divine reign are no different from what Kurtz did. They are placing themselves above human societies. They are the judges of societies. They become the moral arbiters of other people. Yes, there is one difference. Kurtz didn’t even fall back on his god; the terrorists make use of god. But gods are elusive creatures. They assume the shapes and colours given to them by their inventors or interpreters. Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses illustrates the malady that underlies those inventors and interpreters. It is quite impossible for any man to don the mantle of God and maintain sanity too. Kurtz became a god to the savages. He was mad, in fact, in the judgment of the other white people who knew him.
All the while he thinks of himself as the moral authority in the jungle, Kurtz is actually a criminal and a hypocrite. He is a homicidal maniac who has decided that other people are harami.
The pursuit of absolute truths necessarily creates such delusions. Many literary writers have pursued similar themes. I took Kurtz as a prototype.