SECULAR SCHOLARS ON ISLAM
Post-Independence establishment intellectuals, mostly Marxist by orientation and the residue comprising of neutralized Hindus have defined their intellectualism through defense of Islam and Christianity. They go to great lengths to defend Islam, an allied dogma of Marxism, and bend over backwards for showering praise on it for virtues like tolerance, love and Sarva-dharma-samabhava. There are some convenient passages in the Koran which they can always quote. The Marxists of course are in the forefront for reasons given by Mr. Dalwai below. Their general theme is that they are more sinned against than sinning. This is generally being done to show that there is nothing unique about Hindu faiths, which in fact are inferior because of what they claim are several shortcomings intrinsic in them. The whole purpose of this Macaulay-Marxist nexus is to discredit Hinduism so that Hindus lose confidence in themselves and ultimately lose the battle for survival.
But this does not mean that there have not been scholars who have not analysed at least some aspects of Islam, particularly in India. The more intellectually honest among them, generally genuine socialist intellectuals, have at least looked into the behavior of Muslims if not their scriptures. It will be rather surprising to note that they have echoed several comments made in the previous chapters.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar
But before studying post-Independence scholars we should first look into the pre-Independence writings of one of the greatest Indian leaders and intellectuals of the twentieth century, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. He is revered by all sections of Indian society, perhaps only next to Mahatma Gandhi. Whatever be his views on Hinduism, he was honest enough to study the contents and behaviour of Islam and Christianity and wrote bluntly about them. In fact, when he decided to quit Hinduism along with his followers, in spite of several appeals and enticements by Muslim and Christian clergy and leaders, he chose to embrace Buddhism, another Hindu faith.
Unlike several Hindu leaders of this period, Dr. Ambedkar was very clear about the danger posed by Islam and Muslims to this country. During 1927 - 29, Dr. Ambedkar owned a Marathi newspaper called ‘Bahishkrut Bharat’. In it he maintained that the dispute in this country is not between two societies but two nations. He was very critical of the Nehruvian plan of separating the Sind from the Bombay province and not giving equivalent minority rights to Hindus where they were in minority. He was quite worried about the fact that in undivided India the Muslim majority provinces were on the border. He felt that due to this the borders were not safe in case of any threat to our security by a Muslim power as the Indian Muslims had no loyalty for Hindusthan. He also strongly condemned the pardah system in Islam.
Dr. Ambedkar developed this thesis subsequently in his well known book, ‘Pakistan or The Partition of India’1. In Chapter Four he traced the history of Muslim invasions and the butchering, forced conversions and rape of Hindu women and the destruction of Hindu temples and monuments. He has clearly brought out the truth that the invaders were not interested merely in looting, but also in conversion of the kafirs. He is very forthright in his description of the atrocities committed by the Muslims and has extensively quoted from historical records. He has quoted scholars who state that the Hindu peasants had to part with half of their produce as Jiziya as well as pay a large tax on their cattle. (P. 62)
We give below a few excerpts from this book to show that Dr. Ambedkar was well aware of the various problems posed by Islam to Indian society and polity.
“It is a notorious fact that many prominent Hindus who had offended the Muslim susceptibilities of the Muslims either by their writings or by their part in the Shuddhi movement have been murdered by some fanatic Musalmans. ..... But Mr. Gandhi has never protested against such murders. Not only have the Musalmans not condemned these outrages but even Mr. Gandhi has never called upon the leading Muslims to condemn them “(P. 156)
“But there are others who..... believe in the possibility of Hindu-Muslim unity. This belief of theirs seems to rest on two grounds. Firstly they believe in the efficacy of a Central Goernment to mould diverse set of people into one nation. Secondly, they feel that the satisfaction of Muslim demands will be a sure means of achieving Hindu-Muslim unity”. (P. 187). Dr. Ambedkar subsequently shows that both presumptions are not valid.
Chapter X :
In this chapter Dr. Ambedkar has analysed the social evils amongst Muslims and comments as follows :
“One may well ask if there is any social evil which is found among the Hindus and is not found among the Muslims?”
“Take child-marriage..... Can the position among the Musalmans so far as child-marriage goes, be considered better than the position among the Hindus?” (P. 225)
“Take the position of women. It is insisted by Muslims that the legal rights given to Muslim women, ensure them a greater measure of independence than allowed to other Eastern women.... the Muslim woman is the most helpless person in the world.... her fate is ‘once married, always married’. She cannot escape the marriage tie, however irksome it may be. While she cannot repudiate the marriage, the husband can always do it without having to show any cause..... This latitude in the marriage in the matter of divorce destroys that sense of security which is so fundamental for a full, free and happy life for a woman. This insecurity of life, to which a Muslim woman is exposed, is greatly augmented by the right of polygamy and concubinage, which the Muslim law gives to the husband” (P. 226)
“Take the caste system. Islam speaks of brotherhood. Everybody infers that Islam must be free from slavery and caste. Regarding slavery nothing needs to be said. It stand abolished now by law. But while it existed much of its support was derived from Islam and Islamic countries..... But if slavery has gone, caste among Musalmans has remained” (P. 228). Dr. Ambedkar then quotes the 1901 census report for Bengal to show that Muslims there have several castes including Arzal or untouchable castes with whom no other Mohamedan would associate and who are forbidden to enter the mosque to use the public burial ground. He also quotes from the same Report about the panchayat system of each caste which extends to social as well as trade matters resulting in castes which are as strictly endogamous as Hindu castes.”
“There can thus be no manner of doubt that the Muslim Society in India is afflicted by the same social evils as afflict the Hindu Society. Indeed, the Muslims have all the social evils of the Hindus and something more. That something more is the compulsory system of purdah for Muslim women.... they are usually victims to anemia, tuberculosis and pyorrhea. Their bodies are deformed, with their backs bent, bones protruded, hands and feet crooked. Ribs, joints and nearly all their bones ache. Heart palpitation is very often present in them. The result of this pelvic deformity is untimely death at delivery...... the process of moral degeneration must and does set in. Being completely secluded from the outer world, they engage their minds in petty family quarrels..... The physical and intellectual effects of purdah are nothing as compared to its effects on morals...... a soical system which cuts off all contacts between the two sexes produces an unhealthy tendency towards sexual excesses and unnatural and other morbid habits and ways...... It is responsible for the social segregation of Hindus from Muslims which is the bane of public life in India.” (P. 230)
“The Muslims have no interest in politics as such. Their predominant interest is in religion.... Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference, namely, that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place - and they must because they are irrepressible - they are subordinated to one and the only one governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namelym religion.” (P. 232)
“The existence of these evils among the Muslims is distressing enough. But far more distressing is the fact that there is no organised movement of social reforms among the Musalmans of India on a scale sufficient to bring about their eradication...... The Muslims on the other hand, do not realise that they are evils and consequently do not agitate for their removal. Indeed, they oppose any change in the existing practices.” (P. 233)
Dr. Ambedkar then goes on to analyse the reasons for this attitude. He feels that it is the fundamental assumption made by all Muslims that Islam is a world religion, suitable for all people, for all times and for all conditions which causes these attitudes. Although its rigidity is being challenged elsewhere in the world, the Indian Muslim community is still clinging to it. The reason for this is due to the peculiar position he occupies in India as he is placed in a predominantly Hindu social and political environment which he feels is encroaching on his existence. The Muslims think that the Hindus and Muslims must perpetually struggle.
Chapters XI and XII
Dr. Ambedkar discusses the causes behind the behaviour and political aggression of the Muslims in these chapters. “How the Muslim mind will work and by what factors it is likely to be swayed will be clear if the fundamental tenets of Islam which dominate the Muslim politics and the views expressed by prominent Muslims bearing on Muslim attitude towards an Indian Government are taken into consideration..... Among the tenets the one that calls for notice is the tenet of Islam which says that in a country which is not under Muslim rule, wherever there is a conflict between Muslim law and the law of the land, the former must prevail over the latter and a Muslim will be justified in obeying the Muslim law and defying the law of the land.” (P. 292). He quotes the Muslim leader Maulana Mahomed Ali, “the only allegiance a Musalman, whether a civilian or soldier, whether living under a Muslim or under non-Muslim administration, is commanded by the Koran to acknowledge is his allegiance to God, to his Prophet and to those in authority from among the Musalmans.... But the unalterable rule is and has always been that as Musalmans they can obey only such laws and orders issued by their secular rulers as do not involve disobedience to the commandments of God who in the expressive language of the Holy Koran is ‘the all-ruling ruler.” (P. 293)
Dr. Ambedkar then discusses the Muslim Canon Law which divides the world into two camps, Dar-ul-Islam (abode of Islam) and Dar-ul-Harb (abode of war). He quotes Dr. Titus who says that a discussion took place within the Muslim community for fifty years on whether India was Dar-ul-Islam or Dar-ul-Harb. He then points out another injunction, Jihad (crusade) by which it becomes incumbent on a Muslim ruler to extend the rule of Islam until the whole world shall have been brought under its sway. “Not only can they proclaim Jihad but they can call the aid of a foreign Muslim power to make Jihad a success, or if the foreign Muslim power intends to proclaim a Jihad, help that power in making its endeavor a success.” He then draws attention to the third tenet “that Islam does not recognise territorial affinities. Its affinities are social and religious and therefore extraterritorial..... This is the basis of Pan-Islamism. It is this which leads every Musalman in India to say that he is a Muslim first and Indian afterwards....... To the Muslims a Hindu is a Kaffir. A Kaffir is not worthy of any respect. He is low-born and without status” (P. 301). Dr. Ambedkar goes on to show that this concept of Kaffir was extended even to Mahatma Gandhi by quoting his comrade-in-arm in the Khilafat movement, Mr. Mahomed Ali who said, “However pure Mr. Gandhi’s character may be, he must appear to me from the point of view relition inferior to any Muslaman, even though he may be without character “and “Yes, according to my religion and creed, I do hold an adulterous and fallend Musalman to be better than Mr. Gandhi.” (P. 302)
Dr. Ambedkar also quotes prominent Hindu leaders who were alive to the problem. For example “Mrs. Annie Besant says..... The world has gone beyond such so-called theocracies, in which God’s commands are given through a man. The claim now put forward by Musalman leaders that they must obey the laws of their particular prophet above the laws of the State in which they live, is subversive of civic order and the stability of the State...... Malabar has taught us what Islamic rule still means, and we do not want to see another specimen of the ‘Khilafat Raj in’ India....... there is no place in a civilised land for people who believe that their religion teaches them to murder, rob, rape, burn, or drive away out of the country those who refuse to apostatise from their ancestral faiths..... Such ‘Laws of God’ cannot be allowed to override the laws of a civilised country..... In fact, Muslim sects are not safe in a country ruled by orthodox Muslims” (P. 278)
He also quotes Lala Lajpatrai expressing apprehensions about Hindu-Muslim unity as well as a interview with the poet Dr. Rabindra Nath Tagore, “another very important factor which, according to the poet, was making it impossible for Hindu-Mohamedan unity to become an accomplished fact was that the Mohaamedans could not confine their patriotism to any one country..... The poet said he had very frankly asked many Mohamedans whether, in the event of any Mohamedan power invading India, they would stand side by side with their Hindu neighbours to defend their common land. He could not be satisfied with the reply he got from them. He said that he could definitely state that even such men as Mr. Mahomed Ali had declared that under no circumstances was it permissible for any Mohamedan, whatever his country might be, to stand against any other Mohamedan.” (P. 276)
Dr. Ambedkar has also written, “Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast Islam is said to bind people together. This is only a half truth. For Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only..... The second defect of Islam is that it is a system of social self-government and is incompatible with local self-government, because the allegiance of a Muslim does not rest on his domicile in the country which is his but on the faith to which he belongs.” (P. 330). Also “The Muslims are howling against the Hindu Maha Sabha and its slogan of Hindudom and Hindu Raj. But who is responsible for this? Hindu Maha Sabha and Hindu Raj are the inescapable nemesis which the Musalmans have brought upon themselves by having a Muslim League. It is action and counter-action. One gives rise to the other.” (P. 359)
It may be mentioned again here that when Dr. Ambedkar decided to make Buddhism his religion after much deliberation, and in spite of several inducemnts, he refused to embrace Islam or Christianity and instead chose another Indian faith.
Dr. Ambedkar believed that the solution to this problem lay in the partition of British India with a systematic exchange of population. The first part of his proposal was ultimately hurriedly carried out in spite of vehement denials of the Congress leaders. Unfortunately no action on the second part i.e. the exchange of population was undertaken by out leaders and after a gap of a few decades this has led to the continuation and intensification of this problem in India. It is also very surprising that when Dr. Ambedkar was so clear about Islam, his present followers are bending over backwards to appease this community for its votes, instead of using their influence to educate them and bring them within the national mainstream. Nor have the nationalist leaders, even after partition, have asked the Muslims to officially give up their outdated theology and concepts.
POST - INDEPENDENCE INDIA
It is rather surprising to note that post-Independence secular intellectuals have more or less repeated Dr. Ambedkar’s analysis. We quote below comments and excerpts from a few prominent thinkers to give examples of their thinking. We first refer to the writings of Prof. A. B. Shah and Sri Hamid Dalwai published by the Indian Secular Society, Pune. Both of them come from a socialist and Seva Dal background, thus making them ‘blue blooded’ secularists.
Prof. A. B. Shah
We shall first review two books of Prof. Shah who, although born in an orthodox Jain family, became an atheist and championed the cause of secularism all his life. He has written several articles and books on this subject. In his book ‘Religion and Society in India’2 which is a collection of his articles on this subject, he deals extensively with Islam in India. We give below a few passages from this book.
“Every religion has to accommodate this phenomenon (i.e. mysticism) at a fairly early stage in its history. Christianity and Hinduism could accommodate mysticism within their compass without serious strain....... It is one of the tragedies of history that the kind of universalism that its mystics preached, failed to humanise the culture of Islam.” (P. 18)
“This was also the attitude of Dr. Zakir Hussain, and it continues to be the attitude of most eminent Muslims even today. In private conversation they have no hesitation in adopting an enlighttened, sometimes even Marxist attitude to religion, but in public they invariably swear by the Quran as the source of all the values they cherish.” (P. 20)
“The 1971 census showed that during the ten years 1961-71, the Hindu population of India registered a growth of 23.69%, whereas the corresponding figures for Muslims and Christians were 30.85% and 32.60%....... As to Islam, the political and religious leaders of the Muslim community in India are not only obstinate; they are even ignorant of the history of their own religion. The Prophet Muhammad was not opposed to preventing conception by resort tc azl (coitus interruptus)...... Besides, some Muslim leaders are on record to the effect that the only way of solving the Hindu-Muslim problem in India is for the Muslims to become a majority in the population. There are no doubt a few whose commitment to India, if not to secularism, is beyond question; but their way of thinking does not command the respect of their co-religionists. Not have they made any systematic effort to promote among Muslims a sense of territorial nationalism that would cut across religious differences.” (P. 27)
“The Muslim opposition to the modernisation of their personal law and the enactment of uniform civil code in keeping with contemporary liberal values is also based on religion. Here, again, they are ignorant of the facts of history. The Shariah, which is supposed to embody the Muslim personal law, is not an integral and immutable part of the religion of Islam as the Muslims apparently believe. On the contrary, it has evolved over a period of centuries and has been seriously tampered with in almost all the Muslim countries of the world. Four-fifths of the Shariah, dealing with criminal law, the law of contracts, the law of evidence, international relations and the nature of the state are nowhere in force. The family law also has been drastically changed in countries like Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Syria and Iran. In India, too, what governs the family law of Muslims is not what the Shariah lays down in this respect but the Anglo - Muhammedan law which was enacted by the British in the eighteenth century.” (P. 28)
“What one witnesses, however, is an opportunistic combination of orthodoxy, on the one hand, and insistence on the rights that a secular state confers equally on all citizens, including the Muslims, on the other.” (P. 45)
“The traditional and dominant Islamic world-view for nearly fourteen hundred years now is basically anti-humanist. It has no place for the individual except as a servant of God and as a limb of the community...... Continued victory strengthened the Muslim’s conviction that his faith was perfect and superior to others, and its doctrine infallible....... human reason is not entitled to question the statements of the Quran or of the theologians based on “the legal material of the Quran and the Sunnah” ....... The reason is that not Islam is unique in its record of intolerance in the past - perhaps Christianity has a worse record - but that it still exhibits the same intolerance of free inquiry and dissent as it did in less enlightened times. What little possibility there might have been of the softening of this attitude after the mutual persecution by the Mutazilites and their opponents, and due to the growth of Sufism, was effectively destroyed by al-Ghazali (1058-1111) for centuries to come..... his work ensured that no renaissance would take place in Muslim society unless, as in Turkey, it was imposed from above...... The preceding discussions would show that unlike other religions, Islam has shown a remarkable persistence of belief and habits of thought in spite of the centuries separating the present from the years of its revelation and early growth. As mentioned above, it denies the autonomy and creativity of the human being.” (P. 91-95)
“The tradition of Islam is not merely anti-intellectual, it is also in-hospitable to the growth of a secular democratic polity. For instance, it does not recognise the sovereignty of man, neither of the individual nor of the people as a whole, over the affairs of civic society. It is not man but God “unto Whom belongeth the sovereignty of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them”...... there is no distinction between state and church, civil society and religious community, the leader in war and the leader in prayer. The ummah is a community of the chosen people of God and the state merely an arrangement to enable them to walk in His path. The Caliph is therefore both monarch and supreme authority on matters religious........ It follows that the Shariah was the secular law as well as religious....... Islam does not countenance revolt against tyranny as long as the tyrant does not ask his subjects to act against the injunctions of Islam... even in the latter case, not revolt but disobedience is recommended...... It is clear that in Islam as von Grunebaum says, “political absolutism parallels the absolutism of God’s relation to his creatures.” (P. 96-98)
“In such a system of thought there can be no place for individual freedom and human equality, much less for the moral autonomy of man. The Quran emphasises again and again the insignificance and utter impootence of man in relation to God’s will, which is not subject to any law and is therefore inscrutable to man. As to equality, one has only to note that the Quran permits slavery, and treats women as inferior to man not only in matters of divorce and inheritance, but also as regards her admissibility as witness.” (P. 98)
“The popular belief that Islam stands for equality needs corrections on two other counts. First, Islamic equality, as is to be expected from any religious culture, extends only to fellow-Muslims, not to all human beings as children of the same God. Non-Muslims, are either Dhimmis (‘protected people’) if they have a revealed scripture as the Jews and Christians have, or Kafirs who have to make a choice between the Quran and the sword. [See Surah 9.5 in Appendix A] Secondly, even this narrow conception of equality is confined to the prayer time. It does not apply in relation to the differences of wealth, status or family connection.” (P. 99) Prof. Shah then explains that Muhammad himself stressed the superiority of the Quraish tribe to which he belonged. Also, in India too, even during the Muslim rule, important posts were held by Muslims from abroad. “By the time the Mughal empire was consolidated under Akbar, they held nearly 70 percent of the superior posts in the army and civil life, the balance being shared almost equally by the Indian converts to Islam and the Hindus who had already come to terms with the Muslim rulers.” (P. 104)
Prof. Shah advocates a uniform civil code for modernising Islam and discusses the position of Muslim personal law in this context. He says, “On the one hand they take pride in the fact that Islam looks upon marriage as a civil contract; on the other they oppose any reforms in the terms of this contract on the ground that it would constitute interference in their religion.” (P. 121) He analyses the Muslim psyche and says that most educated Muslims “are sophisticated urbanites and have little first hand knowledge of the pragmatic and calculating nature of the orthodox Muslim’s opposition to the pproposed reform. He is obstinate because experience has taught him that obstinacy pays. When he finds that this is no longer true and that reform is no more conditional on his consent, he will accept it with good grace or ill but without any resistance worth his name. The dramatic change in the attitude of the Nizam and the Razakars after the government of India had initiated the so-called police action in Hyderabad is typical of Muslim politics - with its bravado and bullying so long as the other party shows weakness and its sudden show of reasonableness (if not a complete volte face) as soon as it is clear that bullying would not pay.” (P. 122). Sri Dalwai has also made similar comments in his books. Hindu leaders should take note of these comments.
Analysing Islam’s failure to modernise, Prof Shah says, “So great has been the hold of orthodoxy on the Muslim mind that nowhere has Muslim society been able to throw up, in the natural course, an articulate class of liberal Muslims committed to modern values and all that such a commitment implies in the fields of criticism and social action. Such a class alone can subject the traditions of Islam to a critical scrutiny and prepare the ground for entry of Muslim society into the modern age.” (P. 184)
And what is the stumbling block for integration? “not the fear of Hindu opppression but the strongly separatist Muslim attitude was primarily responsible for the tragic denouement of Hindu-Muslim relations in India...... ‘separatism’ means an insistence on the recognition of one’s community as a national or quasi-national group which, qua such a group, is entitled to special considerations and privileges. It thus indicates a certain attitude to other groups and is reflected in obstinate resistance to any process of interaction that may ultimately lead to the emergence of a common national identity cutting across the old lines of division. Separatism in this sense has always been a characteristic of Muslim society wherever Muslims are in a substantial minority, and Indian Muslims are no exceptions in this respect. Historically, it has expressed itself in different demands in different periods, their nature and content varying with the changing balance of forces at a given moment. In India, Muslim separatism has been particularly strong because of the memories of Muslim rule for nearly eight hundred years before the sepoy mutiny of 1857. How deep-rooted this attitude is among the Indian Muslims, regardless of the degree to which they are orthodox, is illustrated by the fact that both the Muslim League and the ‘nationalist’ Muslims were united in their demand for reservations, weightage and special treatment in matters of language, personal law and employment under government. Even after partition most of these demands continue to be pressed by practically all Muslim organisations in India. And, like Jinnah, they too do not make a distinction between secularists who demand the modernisation of Muslim society along liberal lines and the Hindu chauvinists who claim that India belongs to the Hindus and should become a Hindu state in which non-Hindus, including Muslims should be permitted to live as guests. In the eyes of the Muslim leadership, ‘both (the secularists and Hindu chauvinists) are equally dangeroud to Muslims, untouchables and the other minorities.’ However, Muslims need not feel pessimistic about their future. ‘A single Muslim is nobler and higher than a thousand Hindus. The only need for him is to become awake and regard himself as a Muslim. He goes with Allah’s blessings. It is a holy deed when his dagger rushes into the heart of the aliens; and he is the victor.” (P. 189)
Prof. Shah asserts that “If Muslim separatism is sui generis and not a reaction to Hindu revivalism, it still remains to trace it to its roots. I would suggest that it is inherent in the religion and culture of Islam (P. 194). He quotes Muhammad Iqbal “Islam, as a religion, has no country” (P. 179). He continues, “One may add that even Muslim intellectuals of the post-1947 generation, who profess Marxism, scrupulously avoid criticising their community’s culture and religion for reasons of expediency. Till this situation changes there can be no satisfactory solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem” (P. 195)
In another booklet3, he traces the Muslim problem due to lack of their modernisation and urges the progressive Muslims, the worse offenders, to undertake a creative ‘reinterpretation’ of their faith. He laments “The failure of the Marxists to analyse the Islamic tradition and Muslim society in India has been all the more culpable. They have even gone to the extent of discovering secularism in the Muslim League in Kerala!” (P. 16) The writer then suggests a few measures to modernise the society, especially Islam. Some of them of interest to us are:
“The existing laws regarding the location of temples, mosques, durghas, the playing of music before mosques, unauthorised killing of cows and the like should be firmly implemented.” (P. 19)
“There is sufficient ground for belief that certain Muslim groups in India receive funds from abroad, not all of which are utilised for the ostensible purpose for which they are given. The provisions of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 1976 should be regorously implemented in all such cases.’’ (P. 19)
“The government should see to it that reformist groups and movements among the Muslims are not subjected to physical or social persecution in the name of religion...... the hobnobbing of all political leader, including ministers, with persons like the Syedna, the Shahi Imam of Delhi and the ulama of Deoband makes one wonder whether government and political parties are really interested in prompting a secular outlook among the Muslims.” (P. 19)
“Government should make up its mind to modify the personal laws of not only the Muslims but also the Christians, the Parsees and the Jews so as to bring them in line with modern ideas about the rights of women in matters of marriage, divorce and succession.” (P. 22)
He ends his not by pointing out that “Liberal Hindus and educated Muslims who believe that progress can be had without tears are living in a fool’s paradise.” (P. 22)
Sri Hamid Dalwai
A colleague of Prof. Shah in the Indian Secular Society was the well known social activist Sri Hamid Dalwai. Sri Dalwai, who was a member of the Seva Dal, was also a noted writer in Marathi, and a rare, enlightened Muslim who was deeply conscious of his society’s shortcomings. He formed an organisation called Muslim Satyashodhak Samaj for modernising Muslims. As is to be expected, his movement encountered stiff resistance from the orthodoxy. Unfortunately Sri Dalwai died at a young age and his movement lost its impetus although some followers are trying to carry this work forward. Sri Dalwai has written a small book, ‘Muslim Politics in India’.4 Although he has carefully refrained from criticising the basic tenets of Islam, he is quite forthright in condemning the behavior of Indian Muslims. One may regard his contribution as a significant beginning in the assertion of a liberal Muslim. At the same time, one must conclude that he has not been very effective in changing the attitudes of his co-relition-ists who have offered a stiff and sometimes violent resistance to his mission. Hindu organisations will do well to study his writings (mostly in Marathi) on this subject in detail so that they can effectively use them when required as will be seen from the quotations below.
Sri Dalwai is clear that Hindu communalism is a product of Muslim fundamentalism. “I come from the Muslim community and yet I can not entirely blame the extremist Hindu communalists. Whereas the extemist Muslim communalists have aggressive plans to destroy the Hindu community, the extremist Hindus, in reaction to them, want to eliminate the Muslims in self-defense. Thus I view extemist Hindu communalism as a reaction to Muslim communalism. Unless Muslim communalism is eliminated, Hindu communalism will not disappear...... It is no fault of the Hindus that the Indian Muslims embraced this theory of a separate Muslim nationalism, nor is it the fault of Hindus that Indian Muslims regarded Hindus in Pakistan as hostages ensuring their own security in India “(P. 30).
Sri Dalwai then analyses the psyche of the Indian Muslims. He repeats many comments given elsewhere and hence are not reproduced. But his analysis of the problem as a Muslim is interesting. “It is an old habit of Muslims to blame Hindus for their woes. However, the Indian Muslim intelligentsia has never been critically introspective. It has not sought to relate its problems to its own attitudes. It has not developed a self-searching, self-critical attitude..... Muslims remained backward because they were religion bound revivalists who refused to modernise themselves..... The foundation of Muslim nationalism is the postulate that Hindu and Muslim societies are autonomous and parallel soical structures...... It is a tragic fact that there does not yet exist a closs of critically introspective young Muslims in India..... Their idea of religious freedom is merely that the structure of the Muslim society in India should remain unaltered..... There is a curious collusion between these Indian Muslims and the others who envisage the conversion of India to Islam...... The only effective answer to the problems of Indian Muslims would involve on their part a total rejection of the prejudices of history..... Pakistan was not the last demand of the Muslims of this subcontinent. Even today, both among Indian Muslims and among the rulers of Pakistan, there are influential groups whose ‘last demand’ would be the conversion of the whole of India to Islam.” (P. 32-36).
He however considers suicidal “the Hindu communalist attempt to answer Muslim communalism by obscurantist hindu revivalism. Muslim communalism will be defeated only when the Hindu achieves a greater degree of social progress and modernises himself..... the Hindus have slid backward only because of their religious obscurantism. Mahmud Ghazanvi could defeat Hindu armies simply by using herds of cows as a shield for his own army!...... Hindus must discard all those religious beliefs which hindered their progress and deprieved them of their freedom..... When Indian Muslims are shocked out of their slumber by the advancement and modernisation of Hindu society, a similar process will start in Muslim society” (P. 37). Unfortunately, “there is a kind of Hindu who is always terrified when he thinks of Muslims. This is no doubt a shameful state of affairs. At every critical moment this Hindu pretends to be more of a Muslim than a Muslim himself, and thwarts the attempts of those who are trying to make the average Muslim less of a fanatic.” (P. 45).
Sri Dalwai has written about the need for a new generation of secular Muslim leaders. He gives the example of Sri George Fernandes, a Catholic, and would like the secular Muslim leaders to emulate him. (P. 48) He also envisaged such leadership to develop in the next two decades which unfortunately has not happened.
He is of couse quite critical of the Marxist-Muslims who ‘pollute public life with religious interests’. He traces their intimacy to the similarity in the two dogmas. “There are significant resemblances between the communist movement and the Muslim communalist movement. First, both movements are international in scope and character. Both aim at establishing an ideological state and neither cares for the means employed in achieving its end. However their purpose and the processes by which they achieve their objectives are different. As regards the communists, first there is the emergence of the communist international movement in a country. This movement seeks to establish a state. Once the state is established, the movement is directed towards creating the ideal, that is, the Marxist society. In the case of Muslims the process is just the reverse. A Muslim society already exists. This society seeks to establish its own state. Pakistan is an example of this. In the absence of a Muslim society, a Muslim state cannot be brought into existence ...... the communists believe that Islam was the first religion to bring about social equality. In fact, it is the claim to social equality that links both these doctrines.... When communists are not in power, they are internationalists; when Muslims are in a minority in any country they lack a nationalistic spirit and have an internationalistic, that is, pan-Islamic attitude...... Both Muslims and communists regard their own concept of social structure as perfect. Both reject freedom of thought. What is even more significant is the fact that both employ strikingly similar methods of propaganda against their opponents..... As soon as they come to power, communists suddenly change from internationalism to extreme nationalism..... the same happens within the course of the Islamic movement...... Communists purge their opponents no sooner than they come to power. Muslim nationalistic movements, wherever there is a Muslim majority, do not allow non-Muslims to exist freely and equally..... In fact, Arab nationalism is not even Islamic nationalism. It is racist..... When the CPI accepted the Ranadive policy of nation-wide subversion and uprising, many eminent Muslim league leaders throughout India suddenly became Communists!’’ (P. 80-83)
Another significant fact of Islamic society has been brought out by Sri Dalwai. He says that although the Muslim community has sometimes been enslaved by aggressors, its religion has never been threatened. The western conquerors of Mecca and Madina did not inflict any changes like the Turks tearing down the church in Constantinopole and building a mosque. In India, Shivaji “pushed back aggressors, and yet he made grants for the preservation of Pirs and Dargahs...... Muslims have been destroyed and Muslims have been ruled by others, but Muslim society has not been destroyed. When a society survives, it can free itself from the shackles of alien domination. It can reestablish a state of its own.” (P. 75)
It will be interesting to note Sri Dalwai’s analysis of the Hindu mind. “The Hindu wears many masks. In a sense, Hindu society is a multi-headed organism. Sometimes this creates great complications. It also explains the indecision and ambivalence of the Hindu mind. It postpones decisions and avoids franknes.. At the same time, it tries to obtain full credit for its independence of mind...... I must observe that the Hindu society lacks the dynamism without which no national challenge can be faced. for centuries it has been in the doldrums. It is yet to find a direction [emphasis ours]........... Today, India is a shrinking nation in this sense and this points to the lack of dynamism in a majority of Indians. It is not leadership alone which is responsible for this waning of influence....... even in periods of difficulty we have been unable to overthrow our weak leadership. Our leadership is merely a symbol of the weakness of Indian society as a whole...... The Hindu is conservative. He would not transcend self-imposed limitations. This habit of the Hindu is sometimes expressed in an absurd form. He decides not to enter Kashmir which is a part of his own nation. He refuses to allow everyone, including himself, to enter Naga territory. These are symptioms of decadence....... I believe that if the Hindus were sufficiently dynamic, the Hindu-Muslim problem would be solved. For if the Hindus were dynamic, they would subject the Indian Muslims to several shocks which history has spared them. Muslims would be left with one stark alternative to perish if they would not wish to change. And any society prefers change to extinction........... Unfortunately, the Hindu mind lacks balance. Even those Hindus who have accepted modernity, justice and brotherhood as their guiding principles sometimes support Muslim communalism. Some avoid speaking against it and some even indirectly encourage it...... The secularism of such Hindus encourages the anti-secularism of the Muslims.” (P. 92-94)
Mr. Dalwai in the end outlines several steps for national rejuvenation which may have salutary lessons for all of us.
Prof. Narhar Kurundkar
Prof. Narhar Kurundkar, another noted thinkder and a socialist with the Seva Dal had the additional advantage of proficiency in Urdu. In his writings in Marathi, he has reiterated the points made earlier and has added a few of his own. He explains some of the Islamic concepts.
Islam means Peace, But this religion has no relation to peace. It categorises humanity as (1) Muslims (2) Jews and Christians (3) Fire worshippers (4) Idol worshippers. Jews and Christians can live in a Muslim country by paying Jiziya. But this option is not available to fire and idol worshippers. They have only two alternatives - become Muslims or perish. But Abu Hanifa granted a concession to idol worshippers - to pay Jiziya. Other traditions do not grant this concession. Hence the clergy in India was very unhappy about it and termed it as a danger to Islamic rule. This tax was imposed by Muhammad bin Kasim in Sind in 712 AD and it continued until Akbar finally abolished it.
Hindus describe God as being just, Muslims define justice as what Allah says and does. Hence justice is to faithfully follow the precepts of Quran and injustice is not embracing Islam. Death with stoning is the punishement for irtakam (altering Allah’s commands), irtadad (questioning Alloah’s commands), jindik (altering the meaning of Allah’s commands) and basshd (renouncing Islam). The more disturbing concepts are hijr (immigrating from a non-Muslim country) and sabar (deceitful compromises). The latter enable Muslims to enter into agreements, promises, treaties etc. with non-Muslim states with the intention of sabotaging them at the opportune time. And hence public speeches, compromises and such actions although apparently anti-Islam are not a crime.
Sri Kurundkar gives an example of the attitude of the ‘nationalist Muslims’ by quoting Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani who has termed the Indian constitution a ‘mauhida’ i.e. a treaty of non-interference between the Hindu and Muslim nations. He has said that the Muslim problem is not basically a problem of minorities but has arisen due to the concept that only Islam is the true and only religion and that other religions have no right to exist.
Sri Madhu Limaye
A noted secularist, Sri Madhu Limaye has foreseen the explosive growth of the Muslim population and the consequent decline of the Hindus in India5. He says in an article published in Muslim India, “Maybe the Hindus are a dying race as Shraddhanand warned 50 years ago. Perhaps India will have anon-Hindu majority by the year 2300 (if the world survives that long), after that there will be a precipitate Hindu decline and they will become extinct in this ancient land of ours. There is much that is bad in Hinduism (Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism). But there is something pricelss too. Thanks to the stupidity, social exclusiveness, and cowardliness of Hindus in the past millennium that ‘priceless something’ which is the heritage of the entire human race will disappear and that makes me sad.” Of course Mr. Limaye gives three hundred years for this to happen although we shall see in the chapter on demography that such a situation will come about around 2050 itself.
Hence it would appear that several secular scholars have more or less correctly gauged the problem posed by Islam to the present Indian society. And their general understanding has been that the solution to this problem is the expectation that as education and modernity spreads in India and Islam, Muslims will no longer be under the sway of their clergy and will become more open and accommodative. It is now over two decades since their books were written and yet no signs of this change are to be seen. They have also failed to show that this indeed has happened anywhere else in the world. Even in the modern European and American states where the Muslims are a small minority, they have not given up their ghetto mentality and fundamentalism. The only exception perhaps is Turkey where Kemal Pasha forced the Muslim clergy not to interfere in his reforms. But even here, Islamic fundamentalism is again rearing its head. In fact we can safely conclude that the secularists in spite of many pious utterances, will not be able to solve the Muslim problem. The question that the Hindu patriots and organisations have to ask is, “Can we and how?”. The fate of our nation depends on the solution of the problem posed by Islam.
1. Pakistan or The Partition of India, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Vol. 8, Education Dept, Govt. of Maharashtra, Bombay, 1990.
2. Religion and Society in India, Prof. A. B. Shah, Somaiya Publications, Bombay, 1981
3. What Ails our Muslims, Prof. A. B. Shah, Indian Secular Society, Pune, Reprint 1992.
4. Muslim Politics in India, Hamid Dalwai, Nachiketa Publications, Bombay, 1968.
5. Is India going Islamic, Baljit Rai, B. S. Publishers, Chandigarh, 1994.