Critical Podium Dewanand India
INDIAN MUSLIMS -Under Siege? by R. Upadhyay
Sacrificer R. Upadhyay
Sacrifice code wfor0405
Sacrifice date 16th Nov 2004
INDIAN MUSLIMS -Under Siege?
by R. Upadhyay
16th Nov 2004
The history of Indian Muslims is so complex that their isolation from
national mainstream and consequent socio-psychological confusion have
remained a puzzle for social scientists. A study based on the factual
developments related to this distinct and a unique religio-social group
help the reader to draw right conclusions.
With the collapse of Moghul Empire, the Muslim bourgeoisie, who prefer
call themselves Muslim Indians and not Indian Muslims have been struggling
to keep the Indian Muslims under a mental blockade by using Islam as weapon.
They treat their community members as a communal constituency to bargain
with the contemporary ruling class to share political power. Assertive
insistence of Islamic clerics on a separate Muslim identity in a diverse
united society worked as a catalyst to accelerate the movement for Muslim
separatism launched in this country for centuries.
Since the advent of Muslim rule in India, Indian Muslims have been suffering
from the malady of hate and divisive politics of the ruling class.
Initially, they became the victims of Muslim Indians who had converted
for their self-seeking interest and subsequently of the political class
their politics of vote arithmetic. Ironically, they have never realised
that they have been under siege under Muslim Indians, who continue to
forward the legacy of Sarhindi to Iqbal.
Muslim invaders had massacred unaccountable number of native population
destroyed large number of temples in the name of Islam. They converted
number of Indians into Islam and kept them segregated from the Hindus.
then, the Indian Muslims remained under perpetual siege of their medieval
masters and subsequently under their descendants. The upper class Indians
who changed their faith for sharing power under the alien Muslim rulers
diluted their Indian identity with the cultural identity of the former
were proud to consider themselves a part of Muslim Indians. The converted
Indians belonging to lower strata of society however, never got equal
Actually, the backwardness and miseries of Indian Muslims lie in their
mental siege under the preachers of Islamic conservatism that has isolated
them from their cultural past. The disturbed socio-political Hindu-Muslim
relation in India as we see today is nothing but the historical legacy
the enslaved mindset of Indian Muslims being carried forward from generation
to generation. The answer to their problem of so-called religious identity
as often highlighted by the leadership in the community therefore, solely
lies in their freedom from the grip of Islamic radicals. Ironically, even
the contemporary Muslim 'liberals' have not made any concerted and unified
efforts to free them from the perpetual mental siege.
Historically, the movement to keep the Indian Muslims under siege dates
to the last decade of sixteenth century when the great Mogul Emperor Akbar's
religious 'liberalism' started decaying. Starting from Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi
and followed by Muslim thinkers like Shah Wali Ullah, Sir Sayed Ahmad
Mohammad Allama Iqbal and others the movement for a separate Muslim identity
which is basically synonymous to separate political identity with hegemony
of Islamic power in this country remained a permanent feature of Muslim
society in India. Their concerted efforts to keep the Indian Muslims under
siege influenced even the contemporary Muslim thinkers who are the
repositories of their heritage.
Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564- 1624):
Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi, who was popularly known as Mujaddid (Renovator
Islam) had traced his descent from Caliph Umar. Rejecting the 'heterodoxies'
of the great Mogul Emperor Akbar , this eminent Islamic mystic of his
and a hardcore Sunni Muslim strongly refuted the Shia point of view in
writing entitled "Risala Tahliliyya" and made a major contribution
rehabilitation of orthodox Islam in India. He tried to influence the
courtiers of Akbar and continued his tirade against the Hindus as well
Shia Muslims aggressively when Jahangir ascended the throne of Delhi.
widely known among the Muslims for his letters written in Persian not
to his disciples but also to the influential Muslims in the court of
Jahangir. His letters exercised great influence in turning the heterodoxies
of Akbar to orthodoxies, which were pursued by all the subsequent Muslim
rulers from Jahangir to Aurangzeb. He was so rigid in his approach towards
Islam that he did not bend before the emperor as per the prevalent custom
when he was summoned to the court of Jahangir. His plea that bending down
before anyone except Allah was un-Islamic, annoyed Jahangir, who ordered
his imprisonment in Gwalior jail due to his discourteous behaviour. After
year however, Jahangir under the influence of his Islamic writings released
him from jail and offered huge gifts to him. His tomb at Sarhind in Patiala
is still an object of veneration (Islamic Encyclopaedia, Vol. I, Page297).
Shah Wali Ullah (1704-1762):
Shah Wali Ullah another Islamic mystic of the Sufi tradition of Sunnism
claimed his lineage from Quraysh tribe of Prophet Mohammad and of Umar,
second caliph was found more concerned with the political disorder after
death of Aurangzeb and the fading glory of Muslim power. With his
religio-political thought that was based on the 'Persio -Islamic theory
kingship' (Shah Wali Allah and his Time by Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, page
397) he wanted the Muslim society to return to the Prophet era for the
political unity of the then Muslim rulers. He translated the writings
Sarhindi from Persian to Arabic to inspire the Muslim Indians and also
invited Ahmad Shah Abdali, the king of Afghanistan to fight against the
Marathas to save the subjugation of Muslims by the Hindus. His letter
Abdali was a part of his hate campaign against the Hindus. He did not
believe in Indian nationhood or any national boundary for Muslims and
therefore, invited Shah Abdali, Amir of Afghan to attack India (Third
of Panipat 1761), in which Marathas were defeated. In his letter to the
Afghan king he said, ".All control of power is with the Hindus because
are the only people who are industrious and adaptable. Riches and
prosperity are theirs, while Muslims have nothing but poverty and misery.
At this juncture you are the only person, who has the initiative, the
foresight, the power and capability to defeat the enemy and free the Muslims
from the clutches of the infidels. God forbid if their domination
continues, Muslims will even forget Islam and become undistinguishable
the non-Muslims" (Dr. Sayed Riaz Ahmad in his book 'Maulana Maududi
Islamic state' - Lahore People's Publishing House, page 15 - 1976).
The political rise of non-Muslims like Maratha, Jat and Sikh powers and
consequent danger to Islam of its political heritage was unbearable to
Wali Ullah. The slogan of 'Islam is in danger' - is profoundly embedded
his hate-non-Muslim ideology. The successive Muslim thinkers drew
inspiration from his religio-political thought and carried forward his
mission, which ultimately gave birth to the Islamic politics in India.
A great Muslim thinker and promoter of one of the most emotional chapters
Islamic revivalist movements in Indian subcontinent his political thought
had brought the Indian Muslims under perpetual siege of Islamic orthodoxy.
The on going Hindu-Muslim communal controversy in contemporary India is
deeply rooted to his political Islamic theory. The most significant
contribution of Wali Ullah(Allah) for his community is that his teachings
kept alive the religious life of Indian Muslims linked with their inner
spirit for re-establishment of Islamic political authority in India. It
the political theory of Wali ullah that kept the Indian Muslims emotional
social disorder and deprived them of a from forward-looking vision.
Being proud of his Arab origin Wali Ullah was strongly opposed to integratio
n of Islamic culture in the cultural cauldron of the sub-continent and
wanted the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. "Waliullah did
the Muslims to become part of the general milieu of the sub-continent.
wanted them to keep alive their relation with rest of the Muslim world
that the spring of their inspiration and ideals might ever remain located
Islam and tradition of world community developed by it". (The Muslim
Community of Indo-Pakistan subcontinent by Istiaq Hussain Qureshi, 1985,
Ibid. page 216). "In his opinion, the health of Muslim society demanded
doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their
pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences" (Ibid. page 215).
religio-political ideology of Wali Ullah made a permanent crack in
Hindu--Muslim relation in this sub-continent, which undermined the
self-pride and dignity of integrated Indian society.
Ahmad Barelavi (1786-1831):
Waliullh's son Abd al Aziz (1746-1823) carried forward the legacy of
father and as a result India faced violent communal disorder for decades.
Aziz's disciple Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareli under the deep influence of
jehadi spirit of the faith propounded by Waliullah and Sunni extremism
Maulana Wahab of Saudi Arabia launched jehad against the non-Islamic power
of the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh with a view to restore Dar-ul-Islam
land, where Islam is having political power). Though, he was killed in
battle of Balkot in May 1831, Indian Muslims continue to regard him as
martyr for the cause of Islam. Tired with their failures in re-establishing
Muslim rule the followers of the jehadi spirit of faith kept their movement
in suspended animation for decades due to the firm grip the British
established on this country.
Post- Sepoy Mutiny (1857) Movement for Islamic revivalism
The movement for Islamic fundamentalism got a severe jolt with the failure
of the Sepoy mutiny in 1857, when the Muslim radicals lost all hopes to
restore Islamic power in India. The Islamic clerics however, kept the
movement alive through institutionalised Islamic movement and founded
Islamic institutions like Darul-Ulum at Deoband , Nadawa al Ulama at
Lucknow, and Darul-Ulum Manzar Islam in Bareilly. With thousands of madrasas
theses institutions have been carrying forward the legacy of the
religio-political concept of Wahab and Waliullah. Farangi Mahall was already
founded at Lucknow during the period of Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb. These
institutions, which continue to draw students " mainly from the starving
Muslim peasantry and working lower middle classes" (Deoband School
Demand for Pakistan by Faruqi, page 40) are the representative bodies
Muslim proletariat. Leave aside the restoration of Islamic polity, these
theological seminaries are today producing thousands of unemployed or
employed Islamic clerics without caring for their material prosperity.
the absence of any scope for re-interpretation of religion for democratic,
secular, scientific, industrial and modern condition of the society, common
Muslims do not see beyond mosques and madrasas. These institutions have
therefore, succeeded in producing only turned them to self-proclaimed
warriors of their jehadi faith. In the name of preserving the cultural
identity of the Muslims these holy warriors are in fact serving the cause
self-seeking Muslim elite.
Aligarh Movement of Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan (1817-98):
Contrary to the Islamic revival movement only through theological education,
Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan, a Mogul scion and loyalist to British power launched
parallel Aligarh movement with the objective to provide modern education
Indian Muslims. He was the first scion of Mogul family in modern history
India, who launched a unique Muslim separatist movement with a political
educational ideology and an objective to restore the lost pride of his
community after the fall of Mogul Empire. Deeply aggrieved with the plight
of Muslim Indians particularly after the failure of Sepoy Mutiny in 1857and
"acutely sensitive to the ending of Mogul dominance", he is
widely known as
founder of Islamic modernism in India. Though, a staunch believer in Sunni
order of Islam, his outlook took a decisive change after the Sepoy Mutiny
which he had personally witnessed the sufferings of his community members
the hands of the British. But as a part of his tactical move to bring
the Muslims into the confidence of the British, he continued his loyalty
the British throne till his death.
Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan while taking inspiration from Shah Waliullah's concept
of tactical moderation of Islam formulated the two-nation theory which
only formed the basis for the demand for a separate Muslim land of Pakistan
but also coincided with the 'hate-Hindu campaign' of Shaikh Sarhind, Shah
Wai-Ullah and Ahmad Barelavi. Through scientific and modern education
Muslims his movement produced a sizeable section of Muslim middle class
doctors, engineers, scientists and scholars of modern subjects. This new
class of Muslim however, also came under the influence of the fundamentalist
forces, worked as the fighting force for Muslim elite and gradually
succeeded in besieging the mindset of common Muslim masses. Strongly
opposing the formation of Indian National Congress in 1885 on the plea
it was a Hindu dominated organisation Ahmad Khan prevented the Muslim
from joining it. Restoring confidence among the despairing Muslims of
age he is largely regarded "as a forerunner of Pakistan".
Instead of making any sincere effort towards the Hindu-Muslim unity Sir
Sayed Ahmad rather convinced the British rulers that the two major religious
communities of India were not capable for unity. (Hali's Hayat-e-Javed,
translated by K.H.Kadari and David Matthews, 1979, page 199,
Idarh-e-adabiyat-e-Delhi Qasimjan Street, Delhi - Quoted from Pioneer
20.10 2004 in a letter to editor column by Roopa Kaushal).
A noted Muslim scholar M.R.A.Baig also observed:
" Being a descendant of high Mogul officials, he emotionally could
accept that Muslims should be ruled by their former subjects. He also
feared that Hindu rule will result in the imposition of Aryo-Dravidian
culture on the Muslim Perso-Arabic civilisation"( The Muslim Dilemma
India by M.R.A. Baig - page 51-52).
Religious obsession of Muslims remained a potential factor during freedom
struggle and formation of All India Muslim League (AIML) in 1906.
Internationally known historian R.C.Majumdar in his book 'Struggle for
Freedom' (Page 127, 1969) maintained:"Aligarh movement gradually
the Muslims from the Hindus in the political field...The anti-Hindu feeling
was conspicuously shown in the Muslims' attitude towards Indian National
Congress since its very inception". He further said:
"It occurred to the Muslims that in order to counteract the political
organisation of the Hindus, particularly the Congress, they must have
central organisation of their own" (Page 150, 1969). He added, "the
of Syed Ahmad dominated the Muslims who with rare exceptions, regarded
themselves as Muslim first and Indian afterwards" (Ibid. Page 152).
quoted Sir Percival Griffiths, ICS, who "stressed the Muslim belief
their interest must be regarded as completely separate from those of the
Hindus, and that no fusion of the two communities was possible"(Ibid.
Page153). "Middle class Muslim nationalism sabotaged the natural
electoral democratisation"(Ameena A.Saeed in an interview in Times
dated November 29, 2003).
The educational ideology of Sir Sayed Khan provoked a violent reaction
Islamic orthodoxy but his followers gradually overcame this problem. Aligarh
Muslim University, a citadel of Muslim Middle class played a major role
Pakistan movement under the guidance of Muslim elite. The then Muslim
leadership used this new class to strengthen the siege of Islamic orthodoxy
over the common Muslims with the ultimate objective to achieve its political
hegemony. Even today Indian Muslims are proud of Aligarh Muslim
The alien Muslim rulers created Urdu as lingua franca (Mixture of different
languages for convenience) by mixing over fifty percent vocabularies from
Turkish, Persian and Arabic in native dialects. While Persian was used
principal standard written language for administrative purposes, the Muslim
rulers with the intention to establish their permanent political, economic,
cultural and linguistic hegemony in India pushed Urdu as a substitute
the native languages, which had Sanskrit origin and Nagari script. Urdu
gradually saturated with Perso-Arabic script, metaphors, similes, the
of verse, prosody with about sixty percent of vocabulary, content of
mannerism and poetic thought of Islamic and Persian traditions. The birth
Urdu therefore, created the first social division in Indian society.
Since the advent of British establishment in India, Muslims have been
struggling for revival of the medieval pride of Urdu. Initially, the use
Urdu was confined to urbanised Muslim elite and of those Hindus, whose
economic interest was linked with it. But due to its alien character it
never became acceptable to native dwellers. Gradually it formed part of
communal, parochial and Muslim politics in the country and was also linked
with the cultural identity of Muslims. The pride of place given to Urdu
the literary courts of Muslim rulers made this new language a status symbol
of the elite section of Muslims. Its Persianisation and Arabisation and
imposed supremacy over regional languages always remained a source of
irritant for the common Hindus as it disturbed the homogeneity of Indian
society. Obsession of Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan to the linguistic supremacy
Urdu as a symbol of Muslim domination over the cultural and linguistic
identity of this country gave credence to a first movement for recognition
of Hindi as the second official language of North Western Provinces.
Urdu-Hindi controversy therefore, originated from the Muslim renaissance
movement launched after the failure of Sepoy Mutiny in 1857.
Organisations like Arya Samaj, Punjab Brahma Sabha, Sat Sabha and Sikh
National Association joined the Hindi movement and voiced their opposition
to Urdu before the respective units of Education Commission set up by
British to frame the education policy for India. Realising the gravity
situation the British Government introduced Hindi with Devanagari script
Bihar in the year 1880 despite the protest of Muslims. The aggressiveness
Hindi movement "affirmed that for Hindus Urdu was a pure and simple
of Muslim tyranny" ((Muslim Politics and Leadership in the South
Sub-continent by Yusuf Abbasi, 1981, page 90). Introduction of Hindi in
Bihar "quickened the pace of Hindi movement in North West Provinces
later in United Province"(Ibid. page190). "Urdu never indeed
took root in
the soil of rural India. One reason for this was its snobbish aversion
the dialects of the regions, where Urdu was supposed to have deep roots"
(Anwar Azim in his essay entitled 'Urdu a victim of cultural genocide'
published in a book entitled Muslims in India edited by Zafar Imam, 1975,
The followers of Aligarh movement strongly opposed the replacement of
Persian script with Nagri in the court of United Province in April 1900.
Muslims took it as challenge to the supremacy of their cultural identity
launched an agitation to oppose Nagari resolution. They converted the
Muhammadan Anglo Oriental Defence Association (an outfit of Aligarh
Movement) into Urdu Defence Association, which was a starting point to
corrode the unity of the national Freedom Movement. Ironically, Deoband
Movement, which was opposed to Aligarh movement joined the Urdu Movement
by identifying it as threat to Islam. Had Muslim thinkers been honest
develop Urdu in the literary tradition of this land with local script,
Indian masses would have perhaps lapped it. Urdu Ghazals printed in
Devanagari script are much more on sale than its print in Perso-Arabic
script. In ancient India Sanskrit was initially written in Brahmi script
but due to its complexity Devanagari script was developed, which was easier
to learn. But obsession of Muslim thinkers to carry forward Perso-Arabic
legacy of Urdu identified this language with the identity of Muslims as
separate social entity and created major hindrance for it to become a
language of common Indians. Such tendency of Muslim thinkers encouraged
linguistic separatism and hence Indian masses rejected it.
Formation of Muslim League:
Aligarh movement was the force behind the ideology of political exclusivism
in the name of religion, which prompted All India Mohammedan Educational
Conference held in Dacca (December 27-30, 1906) to form the All India
Muslim League. Since then AIML maintained a visible social and political
distance from the Hindus and the Indian National Congress respectively.
Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a prominent leader of the Congress did not join the
AIML till 1913 though, he supported the League movement for separate
electorate for Muslims. Within the Congress he however always tried to
bargain for one-third reservation for his community. Formation of AIML
major landmark in the history of modern India. The first formal entry
centrally organised political party exclusively for Muslims had the
following main objectives:
"To promote among the Musssalmans of India, feelings of loyalty
British Government, and remove any misconception that may arise as to
instruction of Government with regard to any of its measures.
To protect and advance the political rights and interests of Mussalmans
India, and to respectfully represent their needs and aspirations to the
After the formation of Muslim League, the Muslim Indians, in stead of
battling against the British remained consistently fighting a war against
Indian National Congress a party that they described as of Hindus. Since
they had no love for any democratic polity and did not foresee the
possibility of restoration of Perso-Arabic hegemony over the Hindu majority
with resurgence of Islamic rule in the country, demand for creation of
Pakistan became their sole political agenda. They therefore tightened
grip over Indian Muslims who remained constantly under their siege since
establishment of Muslim rule in the country. Formation of Muslim League
opened a floodgate for Indian Muslims, who never looked back to their
cultural past. Since then various Muslim organisations like
Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, Tbliq Jamaat, and Jamaat-e-Islami accelerated the
Muslim separatist movement to keep their community members under siege.
Emergence of Iqbal as Ideological Father of Pakistan.
Allama Iqbal (1873/76-1938) widely known as a romantic and Indian
nationalist poet experienced a "mental crisis" after his return
in the first decade of nineteenth century. Being sensitive to the problems
of Muslims, he took keen interest in Islamic mystical philosophy but used
his intellectual brilliance only to strengthen the grip of All India Muslim
League over Muslim masses. His spiritual and political guidance to his
community for a separate Muslim state served as bedrock for demand for
Pakistan. He is therefore, called 'spiritual father of Pakistan'. "Iqbal
combines many contradictory trends in himself; his verses could serve
conservatives and progressives as weapons"( Encyclopaedia of Islam,
Volume III, page 1059).
A product of the movement of Islamic revivalism, which was based on the
medieval concept of Muslim solidarity, Iqbal is also known as a poet of
Muslim awakening in India. "He stood for going ahead with the Quran
revival of Islamic polity without realising how the simple polity of earlier
Islam was incompatible with the complexities of modern civilisation".
attempted to provide a systematic Islamic base to the socio-political
of Indian Muslims" (Politics of Minorities by Moin Shakir, 1980,
Publication, Jawahar Nagar, Delhi, page142). His romantic ideas meant
reviving the interest of elite Muslim Indians to hypnotise the common
Muslims and subordinate them to the former. "Everything was made
to the interest of ruling elite; science, philosophy, democracy,
constitution and fundamental rights of equality and liberty were subservient
to the exploiting class" (Ibid.).
Like Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan, Iqbal also failed to assimilate his liberal
thought with the global concept of democracy and could not free himself
the medieval moorings of Islam. He propagated the political solidarity
Muslims on the basis of religion, which fulfilled the political ambition
a section of Muslim elite who got independent power in Pakistan after
partition of the country. Indian Muslims who supported the thesis of Iqbal
but stayed back in India got nothing but only demoralisation for the
betrayal of their leaders. Ironically, Indian Muslims are still proud
Iqbal. He is widely known for politicising the two-nation theory initially
propounded by Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan. Muslim League with Iqbal as president
adopted a resolution in its Allahabad Conference in 1930, which formed
basis for demand of Pakistan in 1940. Initially Mohammed Ali Jinnah was
an ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity but to fulfill his political ambition
took an about turn and led the movement for Muslim separatism, which was
launched to negate the tactical move of Mogul Emperor Akbar to rule this
country through Islamic 'liberalism'.
After the exit of colonial power, British India was politically divided
between 'Hindu India' and Muslim India with Pakistan as a new name to
latter. This division was however, converted into political division only
August 1947, which had the endorsement of over ninety- percent of the
Muslims of undivided India. But ironically, of the total thirty percent
Muslim population of British India, about ten percent stayed back in 'Hindu
Common Indian Muslims never understood the complexity of Pakistan movement,
which they had blindly supported in the name of religion. Once they
understood the reality of partition they were hapless and helpless. They
however, did not learn a lesson from the betrayel of their leaders who
misguided them before leaving for Pakistan with a slogan - "Hans
Pakistan Lad Kar Lenge Hindustan"(We got Pakistan with smile, we
Hindustan with fight). A larger majority of the Muslim leaders, who were
first Muslims than Indian went to Pakistan but handed over the besieged
Indian Muslims who had actively participated in their fight for partition
under perpetual siege of Islamic fundamentalists.
Some of the Muslim Indians understood the rising tide of Indian nationalism
during freedom movement and took refuge under Nehruvian concept of
secularism after Independence. They however, kept patronising the radical
Islamists who carried forward the conceptual legacy of Islamic glory in
sub-continent. Emergence of Indian Union Muslim League, a new incarnation
All India Muslim League and multiplication of madrasas in post-colonial
India reveal that Muslim Indians did not like to free the common Muslim
masses from the siege of the Islamic clerics.
While Pakistan was declared an Islamic State, India accepted democracy
secularism with not only equal right to all its citizens but also certain
special rights to Muslims as a minority community. India did not give
constitutional recognition to Hinduism even though its formation was based
on religion. The Hindus of Pakistan did not vote for a religion based
but they were forced to migrate to 'Hindu India'. In south Asian countries
India is an exception for not giving constitutional recognition to the
religion on the basis of which it was reorganised after the end of British
rule. The Hindus of this new India however, never raised any assertive
for constitutional recognition to their religion as the ancient scriptures
of this land suggest 'Sarva Dharm Sambhav' (Equal respect to all the
The post-Independence behaviour of Indian Muslims hardly had any change.
Their various grievances in the name of Muslim identity are being exploited
by all the political parties that treat them as a vote bank only without
taking any step to free them from their siege. These demoralised
religio-social group that stayed back in India after partition, did not
learn any lesson from the betrayal of their leaders. Gradually, the Indian
people learnt to ignore the bitter past of partition and accepted the
reality as such.
In post-colonial Indian polity the Muslims leadership kept their community
polarised in favour of Congress for over two decades since Independence.
Meanwhile, organisations like All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat were
formed to bring the Indian Muslims under common platform but it too failed
to resolve their socio-psychological confusion. Organisations like Student
Islamic Movement of India emerged to re-infuse the concept of Islamic
extremism among the Indian Muslims. Division of Pakistan with the creation
of Bangladesh in 1971 for which India under Congress rule fought a decisive
war was not palatable either for Muslim Indians
The 'secular' intellectuals belonging to the Muslim community consider
themselves as repositories of the heritage of Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi to
Allama Iqbal. Instead of identifying the fault lines in the attempts of
Muslim clerics on excluvist identity. The Muslim 'liberals' are not ready
free their co-religionists from their perpetual mental siege. So long
these 'secular' Muslims do not recognise the civilisational underpinnings
pre-medieval India and link the Indian Muslims to their roots for which
compromise to the spiritual Islam is required - possibility of the freedom
of common Muslims from the siege of Islamic fundamentalism is ruled out.
"As long as Muslims felt that they were an important and even decisive
element of the ruling group they did not feel that they were a minority
term that implicitly condemns a community to the margins" (M.J.Akbar
foreword of 'Indian Muslims : Where have they gone wrong' by Rafiq Zakaria,
Bhartiya Vudya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2004).There are a number of Muslim
intellectuals who write about this bitter truth but it is an irony that
hardly speak this truth assertively when they face Muslim congregations.
They often quote the address of Maulam Azad to the demoralised Indian
Muslims in front of Jama Masjid after partition but they hardly assert
ensure that the Indian Muslims are freed from their medieval mindset and
grip of Muslim Indians. The most unfortunate part of their intellectually
cowardice attitude is that they do not intend to write or speak the truth
for common Muslims.
If the Muslim scholars are genuine secularists with conviction, they
launch an assertive movement and intellectual jehad to generate collective
concern among the Muslim leaders to free the masses from the siege of
Ulema. As a first step they are to free common Muslims from the medieval
psyche of Ibrahim Khan's 'Red Pamphlet' - "Ye Mussalman arise awake!
read in the same school with Hindus". This is possible only if all
theological seminaries are converted into educational institutions to
modern and scientific education with a proper preferably optional on
theological subject. Kalama, Namaz, Roja, Jakat and Haj, are perhaps the
only ingredients of spiritual Islam to maintain Muslim identity. Islam
be a complete way of life during Prophet era but can't it be moderated
according to global civilisational changes as has been done in many Islamic
countries? Muslim elite and middle class in the community are unfortunately
neither ready to unload their medieval mental burden nor feel the need
free the ignorant Muslim masses from the siege of Islamic fundamentalists.
Though, this communal conflict is being carried forward by the radical
Islamists as a legacy of their religious intolerance, the Muslim scholars
often project it as an outcome of divide and rule policy of the British.
In post Independent India, Muslim 'secularists' have been putting blame
Hindu nationalists for the Hindu-Muslim divide. But they never raise any
voice against Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan, who sowed the seed of two-nation theory
and Allama Iqbal who propagated it. Both of them are highly revered among
the Indian Muslims. They never condemn Fida Hussain some of whose paintings
were the burning example of blasphemy. They are also fond of putting blame
on Indian National Congress for sabotaging the efforts of Mahatma Gandi
Hindu Muslim unity. They often refer to Motilal Nehru's report for ignoring
the constitutional demand of the Muslims, which compelled a secular leader
like Jinnah turning communal. Putting blame on others for own follies
intellectual dishonesty. Zakaria admits that "Indian Muslims became
the hands of political parties" but he has ignored the historical
his community members always remained under the siege of the Muslim elite
this country. Is it not a historical fact that the Indians converted to
Islam were forced to forget their civilisational roots from the day they
changed their faith? Were they not forced to give up their cultural identity
Hindus have no inhibition to pay reverence to Dargah of Muslim saints
they believe God in any form but Muslim leaders hardly reciprocate such
gesture by joining the religious congregation of Hindus. They talk of
reconciliation but are not ready to cross the barricade of Islamic
injunctions. They quote Akbar Allahabadi who mocked the Mullah - "
should they travel by train when camel is available" but they never
aggressively against the Mullah who openly expressed high regards to Osama
bin Laden or loudly said that family planning is against Islam. If they
not want the Muslims to defy the Prophet's tradition how can they ask
community members to "discard the outmoded traditions and out of
conventions"?(Rafiq Zakaria in Indian Muslims - Where have they gone
Page XXXIX, Bharati Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2004).
Through the ages from Shaikh Ahmad Sarhindi to Shah Waliullah and from
Sayed Ahmad Khan to Sir Allama Iqbal the Indian Muslims have devolved
themselves to maintain a separate identity. The contemporary Muslim thinkers
of 'secular' and democratic India have ignored this perpetual devolution
Indian Muslims. M.J.Akbar, a reputed journalist rather found "Indian
evolving through ages " and linked their evolution through the poetry
Khushru, Ghalib, Iqbal and Akbar Allahabadi. Zakaria in his book to
complemented M.J.Akbar and said that he had " convincingly refuted
Naipaul for his propagation that Indian Muslims have developed no roots
India ". Every Indian would have gladly accepted this compliment
had the Indian Muslims been also sensitive to the cultural and religious
sentiments of the majority community of this country.
If Muslim 'secularists, do not want to spell out their mind on historical
facts and want the Indian Muslims to join the national mainstream without
unloading their mental burden of medieval India, they are perhaps also
falling in the same line of Muslim Indians who do not want to free their
community members from their siege. How does Mr Zakaria expect the Indian
Muslims to respond to his saner advice "to take a realistic stand
sincerely work for collaboration with Hindus" until and unless he
intellectually confronts with Muslim Indians for freedom of common Muslims
from their medieval psyche? There is no dearth of Muslim intellectuals
in their informal talk criticise the Mullahs but they do not have the
courage to confront them. If the Hindu intellectuals raise their voice
against the siege of Indian Muslims, they are branded communal.
Without any deep understanding of the philosophical underpinnings of
cultural tradition of Indian society, obsession towards any exclusive
identity on the basis of religion is always detrimental to social harmony.
The crux of the social tradition of Indian society was a value- oriented
concept of dignified co-existence, which was however disturbed after the
establishment of Muslim rule in the country. "The notions of pluralism,
equality and identity cannot be translated into practice if pursued
independently" (Pluralism, Equality and Identity: Comparative Studies
T.K.Oommen, Oxford University Press, 2002, Page 1).
Islam or Christianity never had any identity problem in India before
establishment of Muslim and colonial rule in this country. Identity conflict
started only when the Hindus were discriminated on the basis of their
religion and they had to suffer due to atrocious behaviour of the alien
rulers. Conversion through force or allurement was the main reason behind
conflict in religious identity.
Nationality is basically a geo-cultural identity, which the Muslims in
have always disputed. M. Mujeeb, a noted Muslim scholar and expert of
history of Indian Muslims observed that the Muslims claim adherence to
Sharia in principle but disregard it in practice. In support of his view
gives example of Muslim landlords, who often create private trust to prevent
their daughters from getting share in the landed property of the family.
They however, claim themselves to be the upholders of Sharia. (Islamic
in Modern India edited by Tahir Mahmood, 1972, Page 9). Similarly, Muslim
elite hardly makes any sincere effort to encourage the poor and economically
backward Muslims towards modern education, which may qualify and induce
to think freely and independently. Madrasa education is producing merchants
for selling reserved accommodation in heaven after death but at the cost
poverty in present life. Well off Muslims send their children for study
The monumental wonders erected by Muslim rulers in different parts of
are symbols of Islam. These monuments gradually got the status of national
heritage. No 'secular' writer is ready to pen this truth about the misuse
the public exchequer that could have been spent over the economic
development of the people. Such lavish expenditure at the whims and fancies
of the Muslim rulers reflect their luxurious style of living which may
contrary to the spiritual concept of Islam.
The End of British rule provided opportunities to Indian Muslims to unload
their burden of medieval psyche and legacy of Islamic concept of democracy
by integrating themselves in Indian society. The Muslim clergies in support
of the elite section in their community however, did not free them to
but rather tightened their grip over them in the name of religion. The
political leadership of the country on the other hand allowed the communal
divide for vote bank politics that has kept the Indian Muslims under
perpetual siege. Had the Indian Muslims been kept out of political Islam
encouraged for adherence only to the fundamentals of spiritual Islam that
Kalama, Namaz, Roza, Jakat and Haz the gap of communal divide might have
decreased. In stead of treating them as a political group had they been
accepted only as a religious social group the question of their religious
identity would not have arisen. In the name of religious identity the
Indians are fighting only for their political identity with a constituency
of Muslim voters.
Post-Independence history of India reveals that there was hardly any
communal riot on the issue of spiritual Islam. But Muslim Indians in their
lust for sharing political power used their community members in the name
religion only for their vested political interest. Gradually, the use
religion became a national strategy of power politics in the country.
The post-Independence behaviour of Indian Muslims hardly had any change.
Their grievances in the name of Muslim identity are being exploited by
the political parties that treat them as a vote bank only without taking
step to free them from their siege. With the rising tide of 'Hindutva'
demoralised Muslim community maintained a low profile but formulated the
strategy of tactical voting against the BJP in election and succeeded
removing it from power at centre in 2004. Tactical voting of Muslims against
the BJP was one of the major reasons for the defeat of the party in Bihar,
Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra. How long this strategy will
the Muslim Indians only time will say but this dangerous trend may be
counter productive if the Hindus are also polarised as it happened in
last Gujarat Assembly election. This strategy of Muslim Indians could
aggravate the growth of Islamic fundamentalism, which is not in the interest
of the country.
Critical Podium Dewanand India
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