Sep 25, 2023
Sep 25, 2023
by BS Murthy
Puppets of Faith: Theory of Communal Strife
A critical appraisal of Islamic faith, Indian polity ‘n more
Never in the history of Islam, not excluding that of its Messenger, was the destiny of the leader so providentially tied with the fate of his people as that of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Indian Musalmans. And like Muhammad before him, Jinnah (peace be upon him as well for his soul too must be restless in his grave) also did not survive long enough to bring about the political consolidation of Pakistan, and to the like effect. While the grand religion of Muhammad rendered itself into sub-faiths so soon after his death, Quaid -e- Azam’s Pakistan, as if to prove the truism of the Italian saying, ‘to its own hurt that ant grows wings’, sundered itself into two nations that was before it could celebrate the Silver Jubilee of its coming into being. Just the same, by then, it had glaringly exhibited the brutality of the intra-Islamic intolerance on its Eastern stage, in all its Punjabi – Bengali variation, for all to see, and for any of those who might have missed it, it was reenacted in the Iran-Iraq war by Ayatollah Khomeini and Saddam Hussein. Well if anything, their legacy of Shia-Sunni strife is sought to be perpetuated in all its cruelty in Iraq, Pakistan et al, seemingly forever.
Whatever, the roots of the Islamist separatism in Hindustan lay in the political ambitions of the Muslim aristocracy and the economic interests of the middle-class Musalmans, who wanted to have it easy in a country of their own bereft of any Hindu competition. But the separatist sentiment propelled by the mullahs and the self-interest of the elitist groups needed political fusion to facilitate Pakistan, and the leadership for that came from an unexpected source, in the persona of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, whom Muhammad, if not banished him as an infidel, owing to political expediency, would have certainly branded him a hypocrite. Like the hostility of the Quraysh motivated Muhammad to capture the kabah for Islam, so was Jinnah’s zest to take up the cudgels of Pakistan for the Indian Musalman arose from his desire to settle scores with Gandhi’s Congress that sought to sideline him.
But unlike Muhammad, who provided for his faithful of Medina with the ‘spoils of war’, Jinnah was constrained in propping up Pakistan for Islam had no precedents for nation building, intellectually speaking that is. While Allah in his own wisdom withheld its wherewithal from Muhammad, he too did not survive long enough after the conquest of Arabia for him to have developed the grasp of managing the national economy. So the Musalmans have no hadith or sunna to go by on that count, and even otherwise, Muhammad’s methods would show that he believed in the adage of ‘ends justifying the means’, rather than in the ‘merits of the means applied ’.
Given that man, in passing through the pathless woods of life, has to remain in tune with its ever changing currents, the Musalmans though are forever in a quandary sticking to ‘whatever’ dished out in the quran, hadith ‘n sunna. True, they pore over their Islamic texts in the hope of finding a clue here or a hint there but to no avail; well how were Muhammad to know about the complexities of modern life in his desert times of yore. That is about the Muslim habit of viewing the ever-altering world through Muhammad’s rusted medieval prism, and what they divine through that is there for all to see. After all, one only sees what one looks for, and no farther.
Moreover, being an autocrat that he was, besides being their sole arbiter, Muhammad had no compunctions in furthering the faith among his flock with “do as I say but don’t do as I do” dictum. So the Caliphs, who succeeded him, and the Sultans, who followed them, found it expedient to follow in his convenient footsteps to the detriment of the umma though as an increment to the Islamic tradition that came in handy to others who followed them. It’s thus the rulers of today’s Islamic world, Saudis downward; tread on Muhammad’s autocratic path with hadithian props. And true to form, the democratic nation of Pakistan that Jinnah envisaged for the Indian Musalmans first came into the Quranic domain and, in the end, ended up being the fiefdom of its fauzis and fast ripening for being taken over by the jihadis.
And in time, thanks to Zia ul-Huq’s political expediency that ushered in the sharia to humor the mullahs, the ‘land of the pure’ was turned into the backyard of the jihadis as well as the launching pad for the fidayeen, the martyr missiles of Islam. Well, as if to add insult to injury, Zia famously declared that democracy wouldn’t suit the Muslim genius, nevermind their theologians proclaiming from the rooftops of the world that Islam as a religion is essentially democratic! While that only shows how far the ‘frog in the well’ vision can take one, Pakistan failed to infuse Iqbal’s muse to better his saarae jahaan se achchaa hindoositaan hamaaraa, which he penned for India before he pitched in for Pakistan
But much before Pakistan was tilled in the Islamic fields of Hindustan; its seeds of failure, as observed by W. W. Hunter in The Indian Musalmans, lay in the Wahabi roots of the Indian Muslims at the loss of their imperial power to the British.
“The Wahabis, now a scattered and a homeless sect, profess doctrines hateful to the well-to-do classes of Muhammadans. In formal divinity they are the Unitarians of Islam, they refuse divine attributes to Muhammad, forbid prayers in his name, and denounce supplications to departed saints. It is their earnest, practical morality, however, that contains the secret of their strength. They boldly insist upon a return to the faith of the primitive Muhammadan Church, to its simplicity of manners, its purity of life, and its determination to spread the Truth, at whatever expenses of the blood of the Infidel, and at whatever sacrifice of themselves.
Their two great principles are the unity of God and the abnegation of self. They disdain the compromises by which the rude fanaticism of Muhammad has been skillfully worked up into a system of civil policy, and adapted alike to the internal wants and foreign relations of Musalman States. They exact from every convert that absolute resignation (Islam) to the will of God, which is the clue to the success of Muhammad.
But while, like other reforming sects, they ceaselessly insist on this fundamental doctrine, they weaken their cause among the learned by their Unitarian divinity, and among the simple by a rude disregard of established rites and hallowed associations. In the greater part of Asia, the Wahabi convert must separate himself from the whole believing world. He must give up his most cherished legends, his most solemn festivals, and his holiest beliefs. He must even discontinue the comforting practice of praying at his father’s tomb.”
About the state of Islamic Educational institutions in India during the British Raj, Hunter had this to say in his well-researched work:
“Even the few among them, who, if left to themselves, would try to do well, had no means for obtaining any sound or practically useful knowledge. In the first place, the time daily devoted to teaching was too short. The fixed hours are from ten to two, from which about twenty minutes must be subtracted in order to allow masters and students to smoke a hooka, known in the College slang as Moses’ Rod; and about half an hour for calling the roll - a ceremony which had to be performed twice a day, as many of the students disappeared finally at twelve O’clock. Some of the more diligent supplement the meager College curriculum by reading ‘religion’ in private Musalman schools outside.
Such external studies consist chiefly of the Muhammadan Tradition (Hadis) and law books of the fanatical medieval stamp - a sort of learning which fills the youthful brain with windy self-importance, and gives rise to bitter schisms on the most trivial points within the College walls. Not long ago, as the English Resident Professor was going his evening rounds, he heard a tumult in the students’ rooms. ‘Your religion is all wrong,’ and similar phrases, resounded through the corridors, and fierce were the denunciations on all sides.
He hurried to the scene of the uproar, and found that one of the students had found in a law-book that during prayer the heels should be joined, else the petition has no effect in heaven or on earth. Those who had said their prayers with unclosed heels denounced the discoverer of the new mode as a pernicious heretic; while he and a little band of followers consigned all who prayed in the old fashion to the eternal torments of hell.
Three hours’ instruction is as much as they could possibly obtain from the College teachers in the day; - one who has practical acquaintance with it, tells me that the actual time of teaching seldom exceeded two and a half hours. Anything like preparation at home is unknown, and indeed is opposed to Mohammedan ideas. Each master reads out an Arabic sentence, and explains the meanings of the first, second and the third word, and so on till he comes to the end of it. The diligent student writes these meanings between the lines of his textbook, and by easy degrees learns the whole sentence and the interpretation thereof by heart.
To teach him how to use the dictionary at home, or to reason out the meaning of a passage on his own account, is an altogether foreign invention, possibly dangerous to his religious faith, and at any rate unknown in the Calcutta College. At the end of seven years the students know certain books by heart, text and interpretation; but if they get a simple manuscript beyond their narrow curriculum, they are in a moment beyond their depth. Such a training, it may well be supposed, produces an intolerant contempt for anything which they have not learned. The very nothingness of their acquirements makes them more conceited, they know as an absolute truth that the Arabic grammar, law, rhetoric, and logic, comprise all that is worth knowing upon earth.
They have learned that the most extensive kingdoms in the world are, first Arabia, then England, France, and Russia, and that the largest town, next to Mecca, Medina, and Cairo, is London. Au reste, the English are Infidels, and will find themselves in a very hot place in the next world. To this vast accumulation of wisdom what more could be added? When a late Principal tried to introduce profane science, even through the medium of their own Urdu, were they not amply justified in pelting him with brick-bats and rotten mangoes.”
Then, the ultimate Muslim response to their loss of power, which possibly led to the blind alley of the Hindu-Muslim disaffection, is captured, again by Hunter thus:
“During the last forty years they have separated themselves from the Hindus by differences of dress, of salutations, and other exterior distinctions, such as they never deemed necessary in the days of their supremacy.”
This new craving of the Indian Musalmans for separateness might have naturally led to the clamor for more madrasas for the intensification of religious education to the young things to make them more Muslim. About the reluctance of the zealous Muslims to send their children to secular schools, Hunter states thus:
“The truth is, that our system of Public Instruction ignores the three most powerful instincts of the Musalman heart. In the first place, it conducts education in the vernacular of Bengal, a language which the educated Mohammedans despise, and by means of Hindu teachers, whom the whole Mohammedan Community hates. The Bengali school master talks his own dialect and a vile Urdu, the latter of which is to him an acquired language almost as much as is to ourselves. Moreover, his gentle and timid character unfits him to maintain order among Musalman boys. ‘Nothing on earth’ said a Mohammedan husbandman recently to an English official ‘would induce me to send my boy to a Bengali teacher.
In the second place, our rural schools seldom enable a Muhammadan to learn the tongues necessary for his holding respectable position in life, and for the performance of his religious duties. Every Muhammadan gentleman must have some knowledge of Persian, and Persian is a language unknown even in our higher class District schools. Every Musalman, from the peasant to the prince, ought to say his prayers in one of the sacred languages, Persian, or Arabic, and this, our schools have never recognized. It was lately asserted on high authority, that the prayers of the Musalmans find no acceptance with God unless they are offered in the prescribed tongues. In the third place, our system of Public Instruction makes no provision for the religious education of the Muhammadan youth.
It overlooks the fact that among the Hindus a large and powerful caste has come down from time immemorial for supplying this part of a boy’s training, while among the Muhammadans no separate body of clergy exists. Every head of a Musalman household is supposed to know the duties of his religion, and to be his own family priest. Public ministrations are indeed conducted at the mosques; but it is the glory of Islam that its temples are not made with hands, and that its ceremonies can be performed anywhere upon God’s earth or under His heavens. A system of purely secular education is adapted to very few nations. In the opinion of many deeply thinking men, it has signally failed in Ireland, and it is certainly altogether unsuited to the illiterate and fanatical peasantry of Muhammadan Bengal.”
Why the Musalmans failed to recover the lost ground, and how the Hindus regained the same was conceptualized by Hunter thus:
“Without interfering in any way with their religion, and in the very process of enabling them to learn their religious duties, we should render that religion perhaps less sincere, but certainly less, fanatical. The rising generation of Muhammadans would tread the steps which have conducted the Hindus, not long ago the most bigoted nation on earth, into their present state of easy tolerance, such a tolerance implies a less earnest belief than their fathers had; but it has freed them, as it would liberate the Musalmans, from the cruelties which they inflicted, the crimes which they perpetrated, and the miseries which they endured, in the name of a mistaken religion.”
What all this proves is that in an open society, not constrained by religious dogma, there could be pro and contra view points for debate and discussion, leading to the eventual crystallization of public opinion and political mandate. But the bane of the closed Islamic societies is that there cannot be any contrary view of life than the one formulated in quran-hadith-sunna trio, which dogma has become the shared belief of the Musalmans and the imbibed prejudice of the umma. How sad, there is no countervailing political force to the religious dogma in the Islamic nations; won’t the unrest in the Muslim world against the U.S., and Israel that is allowed to brew into destructive jihadism by its despots, prove that? Moreso, the fact that Recep Tayyip Erdogan could readily take Turkey back onto its Islamic ways from Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s secular path, once and for all, establishes that in the Muslim societies it’s the pull of Quran that prevails in the end.
Thus, it could be said without any contradiction, that only Islam could have produced Taliban to afflict Afghanistan that suffered no qualms in debasing their own people in the name of their own faith!
That is besides destroying the magnificent Buddhas of Bamian, carved by their indefatigable ancestors, to be treasured by their progenitors, but then that is the power of Islam to malign the minds of man.
Bernard Shaw, though, was unfair to the Musalmans when he remarked that Islam is the best religion with the worst followers. But as might be seen, in reality, the Musalmans are the unfortunate victims of the Islamic dogma shaped by Muhammad’s hostility towards ‘the others’ that was unambiguously aided and abetted by Allah Ta’ala through the Quran. Why is not Islam but Muhammadanism, shaped to serve the personal needs and meet the political ends of its messenger, and not the religion designed for the enlightenment or the emancipation of its followers? But, the Musalmans cannot see the reality as the bigotry of the community ensures that the Islamic blinkers are put on the young early on.
What is worse, there seems to be no way out for them as the umma goes to lengths to keep it that way for all times to come that is. Thus, it can be said that the Musalmans are the victims of a mind-set conditioned by the proclivities of their prophet, vicissitudes of his life, attitudes of his detractors and the credulity of his followers, which the mechanism of their umma perpetuates.
Continued to “Constitutional Amnesia”
More by : BS Murthy