Oct 01, 2023
Oct 01, 2023
by BS Murthy
Puppets of Faith: Theory of Communal Strife
A critical appraisal of Islamic faith, Indian polity ‘n more
“If the Mughal monarchs had assumed their responsibilities as Muslim rulers and organized intensive tabliq or missionary work, the majority of Indians would have embraced Islam and hence the necessity for partition and all the disasters that followed in its wake, never would have arisen.”
This fascinating proposition of Maryam Jameelah in Islam and Orientalism, Adam Publishers, New Delhi, would deserve the indulgence of any historian.
It might be so that even as man’s strengths could debilitate him at times, his weaknesses might become blessings in disguise for him, something akin to the Shakespearean assertion that “irtue itself turns vice being misapplied and vice sometime by action dignified.” This paradoxical mirror effect, by extension to people’s strengths and weaknesses, tend to shape the history of their nation, which seemed to have saved Hindustan from becoming a Sunnistan for Maryam’s delight. Whatever, the political plight of the Hindus that paved the way for the Islamic onslaught on their sacred soil probably served the cause of their sanaatana dharma in the long run!
It was the fragmentation of Hindustan into minor kingdoms and tiny principalities that enabled the Turko-Afghan juggernaut to overrun its Western and the Northern parts to begin with. However, it was one thing for the marauding invaders to turn parts of it into their pocket burrows and another to make the whole of it as an Islamic State, to achieve which they would have to run over many a Hindu kingdom / principality, spread far and wide in the vast landmass. That would have entailed unremitting jihad in umpteen battles, but probably, as the unlimited riches of the limited land they conquered would have made the Sultans stay put in their grand palaces annexed with vast harems.
Moreover, they would have been alive to the problems logistics would pose in fighting wars far off from their Afghan backyards, and so desisted from venturing farther into the hinterland of Hindustan. As for Allah’s ‘barren’ soldiers, their urge to make it to the ‘Hereafter’ would have been fulfilled ‘here’ itself in Hindustan for it had all that their prophet said they would have ‘there’. Hence the invaders would have been averse to the risk of defeat in expansionist wars and thus, for long, their political domain was confined to some scattered Northern parts of Hindustan till in the latter-years Babur ushered in the mogul rule that his grandson Akbar expanded to some significance. But then, he tried to reconcile the subjects of his communally divisive empire through his Din-e-llahi, shaped by the best of Islam and Hinduism.
However, Aurangzeb, the Muslim zealot of his lineage, had in mind an intensive tabliq to Maryam Jameelah’s approval, but owing to the impediment of a Shivaji and his Maratha warriors, he could do no more to Islam in India than to sack its temples, including the most sacred ones of Lord Vishwanaath in Kashi and Lord Krishna in Mathura, and going by some accounts that came to light in the court halls in Ram Janmabhoomi–Babri Masjid land dispute, Ram Lalla of Ayodhya as well. Thus, for centuries, the pleasure-seeking Sultans, militarily constrained to boot, failed to bring about the Islamic tabliq in Hindustan that is unlike the Arab conquests in other parts of the planet. Besides, the concept of swadharma that insidiously weakened the Hindu polity seems to have served as an obstacle for the Islamic tabliq in ways unexpected.
In the history of conversions, even as the religious dogmas per se are a set of beliefs; mistrust is an accomplice of human nature that enables others to sow the seeds of doubts in the minds of the believers about their own beliefs. That done, it would only be a matter of time before their minds become conducive for infusing a set of new religious beliefs into their mental arena. That’s what enabled the Christ, with a new ‘Code de Conduct’ that was ingeniously sourced to the Ten Commandments, to induce some of the Jews to turn their backs on the Laws of Moses.
Later, borrowing the Christ’s idea, Muhammad in his “O ye believe” refrain came up with a newer set of dogmas handed out to him by none other than Jehovah, albeit in His avatar as Allah Ta’ala, to alter the belief system of the entire Arabia to start with. Wiser to this human proclivity that enabled him to cement his new faith in the minds of the Musalmans, and to ensure that the mind of man would never be able to play the spoilsport for Islam, Muhammad had positioned himself as the Seal of Prophets and declared that the Quran is the God’s final guidance to man for all times to come. Why, didn’t Guru Gobind Singh likewise proclaim Guru Grandh Sahib as the final Guru of the panth?
It’s no wonder then that when the statues of Zeus were pulled down all over the Roman Empire; its Pagan subjects had earnestly hoped that the Father of their Gods would destroy the Christians for the sacrilege. But as none of that happened, they lost faith in the religion of their progenitors, and thereafter, they needed no great persuasion from the evangelists to change their faith, more so as their Emperor Constantine himself had become a Christian. Nevertheless, the Pagan fate didn’t visit Hinduism as Mahmud Ghazni hoped his destruction of the temple and the desecration of the Deity of Somnath would, but why? Maybe, the answer lies in the social ethos of Hindustan
Unlike the Semitic religions that are steeped in the realms of belief, the Hindu swadharma is a ‘way of life’, that at once is habit forming as well as pride inducing. As an illustration, if not as an analogy, we now have this American Way of Life, regardless of its ethno-cultural diversity, which the politicians of all hues in the U.S. vow to safeguard regardless. And since habits, unlike beliefs, die hard, the habituation of various caste groups to their own swadharma would have thwarted any Islamic attempt to uproot Hinduism from the social soil of Arya Varta.
It is a measure of the sway swadharma had on the Indian populace that the Imams of Islam were constrained to let the Musalman converts from the outcastes to retain their Hindu dress code and social mores in their new religious habitats, nevertheless as bait for conversion. Yet one may wonder, if not for this Sufi softening of the Islamic rigidity, how many outcastes, in spite of their ill-treatment by the caste Hindus, would have embraced Islam in the first place?
Why wouldn’t it be interesting to speculate as to what would have happened had there been an expansive Hindu kingdom in place in Arya Varta when the Ghaznis and Ghuris eyed it for plunder? Maybe, the might of such an empire, might have put paid to the Islamic misadventure at the foothills of the Hindu Kush itself. And probably Islam would have never been able to set its bigoted foot on the Hindustani soil to be able to convert part of its populace, occasioning its eventual partition into India and Pakistan.
But what if, had the jihadi zeal of the Musalmans to plunder ‘here’ or die for the joys of ‘the Hereafter’ overwhelmed the imperial might of an immense Hindu army in a Mahabharata-like war? Why the command of the Indian subcontinent then would have passed into the merciless hands of the bigoted Musalmans leaving the Hindus with the Hobson’s choice.
So to say, with the cessation of the Kshatriya power to protect their swadharma, the Hindus would have been forced to decide whether to embrace Islam or death on offer, and probably Hindustan would have gone the Muhammadan way of Egypt, Persia, Mesopotamia, and such to its eternal hurt. Maybe, the accursed Hindu disunity, exemplified by myriad kingdoms, would have frustrated Maryam Jameelah’s Islamic cause even during Aurangzeb’s zealot mogul regime.
What if the Muslim imposters, prompted by their religious obligation, crossed the Hindu Rubicon and tried to Islamize India by force? Maybe in all probability, it would have proved counterproductive in the land of the sanaatana dharma for such an Islamic tabliq would have forged the Hindu unity to the detriment of Muslim continuance in Arya Varta. As history bears witness, the policy of restraint, more so the expediency, of the Sultans, ensured an uneasy peace, in Hindustan that enabled the Sufis to spread the Islamic shadows on the peripheral swadharmas, rather unhindered. All the same, it is worth probing the causative factors that helped Islam to gain a firm foothold in Hindustan that eventually enabled it to carve out Pakistan, for its Musalmans, from what is emotionally a Hindu land.
Sadly, the Brahmans, living in the sanctified arenas of their agrahaaraas, were impervious to the happenings in their backyards so long as their privileged position in the polity was ensured. Whether the chandaalaas, living on the Hindu fringes, became Buddhists or embraced Islam, was not something to disturb the Brahman sleep, and it was this intellectual apathy of theirs that failed to foresee the demographic catastrophe in the making that the political cross of Pakistan was eventually crafted in their karma bhoomi.
Added to this was the Hindu complacency that the Muslim invaders too would eventually settle down in one of the caste corners of the pan Hindu fold for, after all, weren’t the alien intruders of yore were neatly tucked into the native caste network at some stage? All this combined to make the Hindus in general and the Brahmans in particular to pay a deaf ear to the azans of the muezzins from the masjids around, wanting the faithful to come over for the congregational prayers.
Thus it would seem that the ‘mlechchaa apathy’ of the Brahmans and the indifference of caste Hindus for the fate of the ‘outcasts’ were the contributing factors for the Islamic outreach in Hindustan as those marginalized became the easy pickings for the Islamic tabliq. Given a chance they would have readily got into the religious fold of the alien rulers as a means to assert their birth right in their coparcener land that the insensitive Hindu caste mores denied them.
Could human history get ironically better? Not even, when an African-American becomes the President of the United States, and indeed Barak Obama did become! Maybe it is this very psychic glee of the Indian Musalmans that could be behind their eagerness to see the Italian Sonia ascend the Dilli gaddi. Besides, it is a travesty of Hindustan that its media is ever at fanning this disaffection of theirs towards the Hindus so as to drive them, once again into a foreign camp, political though; what an irony!
Moreover, fortuitously for Islam, by the time the Sufi saints spread themselves out into the Indian countryside to sow the seeds of the Islamic faith in the hamlets of the untouchables; Buddhism became a spent force in Hindustan. Thus, these erstwhile Buddhists devoid of the guidance of the monks for their Nirvana could have been too eager to seek the paradise Muhammad had promised for the believers. The proposition of the Quran that the purpose of life ‘here’ is not for happiness and enjoyment as its true significance lies in its being a means to reach the ‘Hereafter’ through the Islamic straight path, could have been irresistible for the deprived outcastes of Hindustan.
Moreover, as the Hindu social mores too did not attach any value for their untouchable lives, the precepts of Hindu punar janma (rebirth) held no hope for them either in the births to follow. Oh how the psyche of Islam did sync with the deprived souls of the Indian social fringes to spread its wings, and how the Hindus, in the loss of their land, are condemned to carry the cross of their sins against their fellow humans into eternity! And that’s history.
However, the Musalman rulers’ inability to attract the elite of the land into the Islamic fold could have been two fold; for one, the Brahmans didn’t condescend to descend to suffer their Musalmanic society though some of the Rajputs, as a political expediency, kept them in good humor. And for another, either owing to their inability to rope in the Brahman ministerial talent or being intellectually apathetic towards them, and / or both, the Turkish Sultans and their Afghan minions brought in nobles from theirs, or the Persian, lands to administer their Indian fiefdoms.
So, by and large, this parochial policy of the alien rulers precluded the possibility of the native eminence to embrace Islam even for their self-promotion, and thus, the nepotism of the Musalmans and the prejudices of the caste Hindus led to a lopsided Islamic growth on the caste fringes in the Indian social setting, save some sections of the vaisyas, who opted to get under the Muhammdan banner.
Well, the vaisyas, who always felt aggrieved at being deprived of their rightful exaltation in the Hindu polity, commensurate with their wealth, were ever prone to look for the greener social pastures; first in the Buddhist fold and thereafter under the Islamic order. Moreover, their business interests would have been better served if aligned with the religion of the rulers, isn’t it?
Whatever, by and large, while the foreign nobles manned the Indian Islam, the native converts remained just that, which divide still manifests itself in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Thus, even after eight centuries of rule of the Musalman in Hindustan, and in spite of the lack of a Hindu backlash against its spread in its midst, Islam couldn’t become the majority religion in the Indian subcontinent. But still even as the Turkish rule ruined the body economy of the land, owing to the Wahabism, Islam became cancerous in the end causing the contentious partition of Hindustan.
But the ‘secular’ wisdom tends to attribute Islam’s initial sustenance and its latter-day surge in Hindustan to the convenient myth of Hindu religious tolerance. While the false proposition might help embalm the never healing Hindu wounds by rationalizing their defeatist past, India’s minorities have come to decry the resurgent Hindu pride channeled through Hindutva. It’s as if they would like to deny today’s Hindus that which was denied to their forbears – pride in being themselves.
Continued to “Winds of Change”
More by : BS Murthy
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