Continued from “The Hindu Rebound”
While Krishna in the Bhagvad Gita sought man to shed his ‘fear of death’, Muhammad by the Quran made the Musalmans fall in love with ‘the hereafter’; and for a prophetic paradox, he pursued his passions with gusto even as he trivialized the ‘life here’ for his flock, which dichotomy would forever dismay his believers. Why, haven’t the Quran-bred jihadi chickens let loose on Israel come home to hatch the Islamic fidayeen in Iran and Iraq not to speak of Afghanistan and Pakistan? However, the Sunni muftis and the Shia ayatollahs have yet to come up with a fatwa to stop the internecine killings on the sacred soils of Islam. Maybe, one cannot really fault them for their grand inaction, notwithstanding the alacrity with which they tend to issue religious decrees on all matters mundane for there is no guidance to be found to stop the divine discord either in the Quran or in the sunna. So the sectarian slaughters were on for over a decade now that saw so much Muslim blood shed on the ‘straight path’ and the umma remains clueless about how to bring that to an end. Yet, as it came to light in India, on the fatwa front, some Musalmans do ‘mange the muftis’ for suitable diktats to grind their axes!
If one were to count the maimed Shias and the mutilated Sunnis; the vicious nature of the self-directed Islamic terror would be apparent, but won’t the silence of the maulanas eloquently expose the hollowness of Islam that is touted by the umma as the religion that has everything to know, whatever is there to know?
But, try as they might, the moulvi-mufti combine would find nothing in the Quran-hadith-sunna trilogy that remotely can be seen as a clue to the worst challenge Islam had to face more than ever now; that is, given the penchant of the Musalmans to take every illusory in ‘the trilogy’ for a lamppost on the ‘straight path’ of life. Whatever, their plight is for the real at the bewildering development about which their political leadership too maintains its studied silence! Why not, for the despots of the Sunni-Arab heartland, who are ever wary of the growing clout of the non-Arab Shia Iran, their fidayeen are only stopping the adversary’s democratic takeover of Iraq. Let it be the calamitous juncture of Islam, but won’t a Sunni retreat on the terrorist front usher in a powerful Shia nation in their neighborhood, an unwelcome development for the Arab hegemony of Islam. What if, some Sunnis too perish in the process, for, after all, won’t they all go to the cherished ‘hereafter’?
But whither gone the umma there; what with the shepherds of the faith thus stymied, the Musalmans of the region have no clue either. These very faithful who fear Islam is in danger whenever a Muslim girl weds a kafir are seemingly cool to the nemeses knocking at their religious doors. The believers who take a cartoon of their prophet with a ‘bomb in the turban’ as an affront to their ‘religion of peace’ don’t feel scandalized at all by the suicide bombers of Islam. The fanatical who take to the streets at the death of a faithful at the hands of an infidel are yet to hit the road when the Musalmans are killing the Musalmans in the masjids of Islam. The bigots who burn the effigies of Uncle Sam fail to come up with one for the Satan’s of Islam; why this all-round silence, when the Muslim world is burning in its sectarian hatred? Maybe it’s possible that the Musalmans who have come to jump for joy at the infidels’ death in the martyr missions of the faithful had insensibly lost their sensitivity after all.
What of the Asian contingent of Islam; though numerically superior, it forever played the Islamic second fiddle to the Arab umma, and thus the intellect of these Musalmans is not attuned to apply its mind to the affairs of the people whom Allah chose to reveal what all He revealed through their own man. Of course, they do compensate for this handicap by being the first to take up the cudgels for Islam against the infidels whenever Muhammad was perceived as slighted. Why not, as if to assert his self-worth and show it to the world besides, the inferiority complex of man goads him to adopt aggressive postures! Maybe it is the fate of the Asian Musalmans to remain servile to Allah as well as His Arab servants, so it seems.
True that Islam had dwelt all about the jihad against the kafirs to the last detail, even of splitting the ‘spoils of war’ among the believers; but then, how even the All Knowing Allah were to know that the Musalmans one day would wage jihad against their fellow Musalmans, and that which ‘the God’ couldn’t foresee, how His Messenger would have seen! Besides, Muhammad, gloating over the sycophantic antics of his flock, anyway, would have been too overwhelmed to visualize the impending schism for airing an opinion as otherwise that would have surely found its way into the Islamic folklore. So, bereft of Allah’s ayat and Muhammad’s hadith, the muftis and the Musalmans alike have reached the dead end of the Islamic guidance, or so it seems, as they are unable to find a bend to steer them clear of the mundane quagmire. After all, the Musalmans had long since ceased to apply their minds, that is, in all matters religious as they allowed themselves to believe there is nothing in the life, which is not governed by their faith that any way had laid out the ‘straight path’ for them! Sadly, that’s the Catch 22 of Islam now, as ever.
However, it may be interesting to speculate about the pathological separatist urge that bedevils the Muslim mind-set; in Muhammad’s fight against the idolaters, it was his compulsion to co-opt ‘the God’ of the Jews to gain authenticity for Islam, and so he had averred that ‘the God’ revealed to him what He had earlier revealed to Moses and other prophets, Jesus included. But then how the adoption of ‘the God’ of the neighborhood, save the idolaters, would entail an identity of its own to Islam; so for according a separate identity to the new faith, the ensign of its Prophet was made the standard of Islam. While Muhammad had established the Muslim separateness thus, fearing dilution of their faith in interaction with the Jews and ‘the others’, the Quran ordained the Musalmans to insulate themselves from the rest of all. Why, the ethos of the Muslim separateness fitted Muhammad’s interests like a glove and served the cause of Islam to the hilt, that was, till the Persians were forced into its fold; seen in the hindsight rather foolishly.
The people of Persia, which became the Iran of Islam, were culturally suave and numerically superior to the tribal Musalmans of Arabia, and it was no wonder that they wished to have a separate identity of their own in the alien religion; the ill-fate of their country had forced them into. But by having to share the prophet and the faith with the Arabs they despised, they were in the same boat as Muhammad was once with Islam having a coparcener God with the Jews and the Christians. However, as the Quran had disowned the Jews and the Christians as if to bestow upon the Musalmans their Islamic identity, the discord of the faithful over Muhammad’s successor could have been the godsend for the Islamic separateness of the Iranians. So they sided with Muhammad’s progeny and began to swear by Ali, of course, besides Muhammad for after all it is the essence of being a Musalman, and thus the unitary path of Islam that Allah envisaged for the believers came to be forked into the Sunni right and the Shia left with a Quran to boot in Persian.
And yet vouching for the Quran, and revering the Prophet, they both tend to nurse a sectarian animosity generated in the battlefield of Karbala. It is these conflicting precepts of the religious righteousness of these sects that make each ‘the other’ to the other. Needless to say, the zealots amongst the Shias and the Sunnis imbibe the dogma of the doctrinarian differences of their respective sects, and it is the fanaticism nurtured by their exclusionist visions that nurture sectarian antagonism amongst them. What about the dream of the Musalmans to make all humanity embrace Islam ever coming true; would that bring the inter-religious strife to an end in the all-Islamic world; be sure, the Shia-Sunni intra-faith animosity is bound to spoil the grand Islamic party. What if it were in a bad taste, if not for this Shia-Sunni animosity, wouldn’t the Musalmans, unified in their hatred towards ‘the others of the Quran’, have made them the exclusive targets of the unfolding Islamic terror?
Going back into the Islamic history, bereft though they were of the Ariel support from Allah’s War Birds, the Mohammedan infantry of yore with the sword in one hand and the Quran in the other conquered much of the old world. Needless to say, while the inspiration to fight came from the Quran, much of the military tactics were but the products of Muhammad’s campaigns against the Quraysh and the others. But soon, the spiritual zeal to impose Islam on the infidels gave way to the temporal zest of the Musalmans to indulge in the vices of life. Thus, the eventual eclipse of the Islamic power was on account of the socio-intellectual downslide of the Musalmans and if anything, during the colonial period, the Muslim world was pushed more onto its back foot than ever.
Given the associated pride of their dominance of yore, the umma’s hurt at the Islamic decline is understandable, and at the end of the colonialism, the idea of reviving the glory of the Muslim arms first dawned on the Punjabi Generals of the newborn nation of Pakistan. Going by the past history of Muslim conquests in Hindustan that were to portend an easy victory, the Islamic army of Pakistan waged a full-fledged war over Kashmir with gusto. However, as against the hoped for the Muslim military cakewalk over the hated Hindu enemy, perceived as non-martial, soon enough, the Pakistanis woke up to find the Indian army at the gates of Lahore, the pride of Punjab, in their land of the pure, which sent the Pakistani fauzis running for cover that forced Field Marshal Ayub Khan, their despot, to send SOS to the U.N for a cease-fire.
Even before the umma could recover from the Hindu shock, the Nasser misadventure that followed in the Middle East, instead of resuscitating the power of the Arab Sword ended in the fiasco of a Six Day War with the hated Jews. Well, after a prolonged Christian humiliation that was the colonization of the Muslim world, what these two military defeats might have done to the Islamic psyche is not hard to imagine. Then the Bangladeshi war in which Pakistan irrevocably lost the eastern wing of its country should have signaled to the Musalmans that the Sword of Allah had lost its cutting edge after all. And later, as if the Great Satan’s capture of Saddam Hussein from a hole was not the final nail in the coffin of the Muslim valor, the Navy Seals gunned down Osama bin Laden in his Pakistani hideout.
However, nowhere else the umma places its Islamic military honor at stake than in the Promised Land of the Jews that it hopes the Palestinians, ousted from there, would somehow recapture for the eternal glory of the Musalmans. So fathered by their hatred for the Jews and mothered by the delusions of ‘the hereafter’, both brought up by the Quran, the child of the Islamic terror was born in the womb of Palestine to the joy of the Musalmans. It was as if it appeared to the desperate umma that, at last, it could get hold of the stick with which they could beat their hateful infidels, who came to dominate them; why at the apparent success of the terrorist acts, as the Musalmans watched in awe, the Jews began collecting their body bags. So the umma came to invest in Arafat’s Al-Fatah in right earnest as Leila Khalid, the female face of Palestine terror then, famously commented to the world media that there were no innocent people as such, for everyone either supports a cause or opposes it, ideologically or otherwise. And the rest is the continuing history of the Islamic terror taken over by Hamas after Arafat’s death with each chapter unveiling a new facet of it.
But, the hypocrisy of the Musalmans and the naivety of their apologists tend to link the phenomenon of the Islamic terrorism to the vexations of a hurt pride. Granting that the hurt was good enough for the faithful to hurt the infidels, how can one explain their intra-sect slaughters? Given the propensity of the umma to blame ‘the others’ for the debilities of their faith, the Musalmans seem to show no intellectual inclination to redress this self-destructive phenomenon that was plaguing Pakistan, to begin with, for so long. Even though the Shia-Sunni killings, clearly rooted in the sectarian dogma of the Islamic divide, were to be shrouded by some ethnic animosity attached to them, the Sunni slaughter of the sub-continental Shias in Iraq begs for answers. And in them lie the alleviation of the inherent dangers of the separatist dogma that bedevils the mind-set of the Musalman.
It is true that either by intellect or by inclination, the tendency of the umma is to fashion its faith in the pre-Hijra Quranic stream of love and compassion for fellow Musalmans. True the silent majority of their simple living mullahs, sailing in the benign boats of Islam, help these Musalmans seek succor in their faith, but their grievance that ‘the others’ dub their ‘religion of peace’ as the ‘doctrine of death’ is sham for they too believe in the martyrdom of the fidayeen that blow up the kafirs. If anything, it is this dual mind-set shaped by the Quran that underscore the dilemma of the Musalmans and the dichotomy of Islam. However, when the fidayeen began to target ‘the other Musalmans’, the stunned umma started deluding itself that it is the Satanic America and the Zionist Israel that force their youth to don their suicide jackets.
But, where these ‘nice Musalmans’ can hide the ‘not so nice’ Medina stream of the Quranic diktats that were meant to aid Muhammad’s endeavor to establish the Islamic standard over the Kabah? At best, they might be turning the pages when they come across those inflammatory ayats in their scores in the Quran, meant to incite the Musalmans against ‘the others’, who do not subscribe to Muhammad’s creed. But, how were they to hide the inimical ayats that incite hatred towards the infidels from their kids that might put them on the path of fanaticism or worse, martyrdom? Why only the Quran, even the hadith and the sunna, not to speak of sharia seem to play no less a role in shaping the separatist, intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos of the Musalmans. Oh how insignificant would Hamlet’s ‘to be or not to be’ seem when compared to the moral dilemma of the nice Musalmans burdened by these divisive diktats of their faith? Sadly, the majority of them prefer not to take the ‘not to be’ route that leads to the hazards of apostasy that could be the gallows, and thus end up being the hypocrites of the ‘religion of peace’.
Be that as it may, the Musalmans should ponder over as to why the Medina surahs contain what they contain – religious venom - of what avail is submission and tolerance for embarking upon a conquest as one needs to name the adversaries and inculcate in the followers a sense of separateness so as to stir them into a state of aggression. Logically approached, those Quranic exhortations were primarily to serve Muhammad’s agenda, first of subduing the neighborhood Jews and then for avenging himself upon the Meccans by subduing them into his creed that they had earlier spurned; and viewed even from the Islamic angle, it could have been the will of Allah to stir his Prophet into action to gain ground for the faith in the sands of Arabia. That done, and it being truly in place in much of the world, for the faithful to still cling on to those Quranic verses of ‘the otherness’ betrays a lack of theological as well as rational understanding of Islam.
So the Musalman zealots would imbibe those very ideas to take their religious separateness to the frontiers of intolerant exclusivity, and inherent in their psyche is the need to uphold the primacy of their faith above all else. Of course, their upbringing enjoins on them to live and die for the supposedly holy causes of Islam, and attendant to this maxim is the righteousness of aggression against all those perceived as antagonistic to their dogma. Understandably, those anointed as the Islamic religious preachers and teachers, take it upon themselves the onerous task of indoctrinating the faithful to the dogmas of their own upbringing. It is this religious conditioning of the believers that fortifies their animosity towards the deviant, and that comes in handy for the fanatically deluded among the umma to set them on suicide missions. Maybe it is for the maulvis to consider whether Allah willed for His faithful strife without respite.
When the Sunni’s slaughtered three of their Shia cousins on a pilgrimage to Karbala in the strife torn Iraq, it had signaled that the storm of the Islamic terrorism had drawn the Indian Musalmans too into its vortex. While that should have woken them up to the perils posed by the double-edged sword of Islamic separateness, going by the talk on the street and the rhetoric in the maidaan, it didn’t seem to be the case. In seeking for the causes of the killings that included eleven Pakistani Shias as well, the Indian umma seemed to lack the needed vision to comprehend the problem; after all, it had ever been the theme of the Musalmans and the logic of their apologists to couple the Israeli intransigence in Palestine and the U.S indifference to the Muslim sensitivities for the birth of the Islamic extremism. While that doesn’t wash as the ‘Indian Mujahideen’ has raised its ugly head making Manmohan Singh eat his premature words, naively uttered in the wake of 9/11 that the Indian Musalmans would never take to terrorism.
Better, the umma instead of pushing the fidayeen filth under the Islamic carpet should sit up and think as to how to insulate their wards from the perils of the paranoia of Muslim identity, the forerunner to the Islamic intolerance and all that follows. Maybe they would realize that the Sufi cosmopolitanism, and not the Wahabi fundamentalism, was the motivating factor for the oppressed Hindu castes of yore to have embraced Islam in Hindustan. What with the surging radicalism across the Muslim Brotherhood, there is a real danger of a deluge of the Indian Musalmans into the murky stream of the Islamic terrorism. So is it not the time for them to go back to the Sufi roots of Indian Islam before the Shia-Sunni bad blood of Pakistan starts spilling over the Pakistani borders into their separatist mohallas? But the moot point is can they make the desired course correction? Of course, not as long as they hold the double-edged religious sword of separateness nearer to their heart; but then, if religion is opium, there is no opium like Islam.
Whatever, the fond hope of Islamic religious collaboration in India expressed by Dr. Wilfred Cantwell Smith in ‘Islam in Modern History’, Princeton University Press, New Jersey, as quoted by Maryam Jameelah in her ‘Islam and Orientalism’ is worth noting:
“The question of political power and social organization, so central to Islam, has in the past always been considered in yes or no terms. Muslims have either had political power or they have not. Never before have they shared it with others. Close to the heart of Islam has been the conviction that its purpose includes the structuring of a social community, the organization of the Muslim group into a closed body obedient to the law. It is this conception that seems finally to be proving itself inept in India. The Muslims in India, in fact, face what is a radically new and profound problem: namely how to live with others as equals. Yet it is a question on which the past expression of Islam offers no immediate guidance. Imperative is the willingness to admit that there are problems waiting to be solved.
This awareness has been rare in recent Islam, which has tended to believe that problems have been solved already. That the answers have somehow, somewhere been given and do not have to be worked out afresh with creative intelligence - this idea had deeply gripped, almost imprisoned the minds and souls of many Muslims. The Quran has been regarded as presenting a perfected pattern to be applied rather than as an imperative to seek perfection. Islamic law and Islamic history have been felt to be a storehouse of solutions to today’s difficulties to be ransacked for binding precedent rather than a record of brave dealing with yesterday’s difficulties, to be emulated as liberating challenge. Religion has seemed to confine behavior rather than inspire it. The fundamental fallacy of Muslims has been to interpret Islam as a closed system. And that system has been closed not only from outside truth but also from outside people.
The fundamental hopefulness about Indian Muslims, and therefore Indian Islam, is that this community may break through this. It may be forced to have the courage and humility to seek new insights. It may find the humanity to strive for brotherhood with those of other forms of faith. In the past, civilizations have lived in isolation, juxtaposition or conflict. Today we must learn to live in collaboration. Islam, like the others, must prove creative at this point and perhaps it will learn this in India.”
Never did Islam become such a stranger in this world as of now, and sorely needs a savant, whose advent Muhammad had promised to his believers. Maybe as Cantwell Smith had theorized, hope ‘that one’ would somehow be an Indian Musalman to suitably renew Islam and rid it from the clutches of its fundamentalist-fanatic–fidayeen nexus, and make it a peaceful faith for the faithful and ‘the others’, notwithstanding the hatred that these spread. What else ‘the others’ can do than to wait for the advent of the savant for the well-being of the world.
Om Bismillah: Bismillah Om.
Dedicated to - All those men, women and children, who ever suffered at the hands of bigots on account of the dogma of their faith, and to those sacrificial animals that become victims of religious superstition.
This article was originally published on September 26, 2012. It has been revised and updated on April 13, 2013