As the issue of the ISIS winning recruits in India has indeed become quite significant*, it is imperative that a brand of Islam in conformity with secular democracy (rather than yearning for being governed under Islamic sharia) and a commitment to Indian nationalism based on a composite culture that doesn’t reject its non-Islamic or pre-Islamic dimensions (rather than not attaching any importance to country-oriented nationalism but choosing to subscribe only to a global pan-Muslim fraternity or Muslim ummah) needs to be promoted. This comes from the brand of Islam offered by Maulana Azad, but extreme Hindu rightists hell-bent on demonising every form of Islam have even sought to malign him at a time when figures like him need to be celebrated for national solidarity more than ever before. Also, rebutting the fascist elements in the Hindu right is important for its own sake. If we, as Hindus, don’t oppose the violent acts and hate propaganda based on sweeping negative generalisations carried out by extremists in our religious grouping, on basis do we expect Muslims, Sikhs and Christians to do the same? And in any case, for the historical record, any motivated attempts to tarnish any significant historical personality employing dishonest propaganda ought to be resisted, as I have done earlier on this very portal for Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, as you can see here and here (and this is not to say that I support the current Congress party). Indeed, it is only good that we chose to be a modern, inclusive state, rather than defining our nationalism based on religious identity, as Pakistan and Uganda did, and we all know the devastating effects of religious extremism on not only the minorities but even the majority Muslim and Christian communities respectively in those two countries on account of the acts of the TTP and Lord’s Resistance Army respectively, which is the slippery slope of fascism.
Terrorism, and even terrorism having a theological base, is not a Muslim monopoly. As you can see here, many instances of terrorism globally, even in the name of religion, have been carried out by Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus and even Buddhists, the victims of the acts of terrorists from each of these religious groupings not always being Muslims. However, just like most people of these religions are not terrorists or supporters of terrorism, and they do not believe that their religion preaches terrorism, the is the case with most Muslims (and not supporting terrorism applies to even most of those Muslims with other regressive and not-so-liberal attitudes on issues like gender and homosexuality).
It is possible to quote any scripture out of context, to justify malpractices, like some verses in the Bible namely Deuteronomy 13:12-15, Samuel 15:3, Leviticus 24:16 and Matthew 10:34 seemingly advocate violence against “non-believers” and the Purusha Sukta of the Rigved, an ancient Hindu scripture, is taken by some to justify caste discrimination. These verses do not define the entire religion. This article mentioning an anecdote from the British parliament does make an interesting read in this regard, as does this video make an interesting watch in this regard. There are Quranic verses like 2:256, 5:2, 5:8, 5:32, 6:108, 6:151, 10:99, 49:13, 60:8 and 109:6 preaching peace, religious tolerance and universal brotherhood, as does the letter from Prophet Muhammad to the Christian monks of St Catherine’s monastery and there are episodes from Prophet Muhammad’s life, as per Islamic tradition, indicative of such an approach too, such as his allowing a woman to throw garbage at him daily and his succeeding in ideologically winning over her by way of humanitarian affection. Those contending that peaceful verses in the Quran are superseded by violent verses (which the vast majority of practising Muslims globally regard as contextual) would do well to note that verse 109:6 appears towards the end of the book, and preaches nothing but peace, and the Quran and Hadiths devote considerable space to talking about honesty (there’s an anecdote of Prophet Muhammad punishing a Muslim for stealing from a Jewish gentleman’s house), kindness, forgiveness, humility and striving for socioeconomic egalitarianism.
Very many mainstream Muslims do indeed believe that Islam is the only religion that can lead to God since the advent of Prophet Muhammad, as mainstream Christians believe the same for Christianity since the advent of Jesus, but that doesn’t entail intolerance towards those of other faiths. To explain this with an analogy, if a certain coaching centre (analogous to Islam or Christianity, going by the mainstream interpretation) claims it is the only one that can get students admitted into say, IIT (analogous to heaven), and even encourages its students to get students of other coaching centres and those not taking any coaching to join that particular coaching centre, it cannot be equated with forcing others to join their institute or killing those not willing to do so. In fact, both the Bible and the Quran preach the message of peaceful coexistence with other religious groups (the relevant verses in the context of the Quran have already been cited, and Rom. 12:18 and 1 Tim 2:2 may be cited in the context of the Bible).
Speaking of apostates of Islam (“ex-Muslims”) criticising their former religion, there is a fairly well-known website run by an apostate and basher of Islam who has even offered a cash prize to anyone who can disprove his allegations against Prophet Muhammad (but there are books by apostates of other religions criticizing their former religions too, the most famous one being ‘Why I Am Not a Christian’ by Bertrand Russell, and there’s also ‘Why I am Not a Hindu’ by Kancha Ilaiah, levelling very strong allegations), but practically, he is the judge of the debate, or to go by what he is saying, the “readership” of the website, a rather non-defined entity. In fact, he has acknowledged that he came across a Muslim who “intelligently argued his case and never descended to logical fallacies or insults” and while that Islam-basher “did not manage to convince him to leave Islam”, that Muslim earned his “utmost respect”, which implies that practically, the Islam-basher is the judge of the debate. Likewise, that Islam-basher has mentioned with reference to a scholar of Islam he debated with, that the latter was “a learned man, a moderate Muslim and a good human being” and someone he (the Islam-basher) has “utmost respect for”. Thus, that Islam-basher’s criticism of Islam, irrespective of its validity, has no relevance in terms of making sweeping generalisations about the people we know as Muslims or even practising Muslims. By the way, that Islam-basher has been vehemently critical of Judaism too. And it is worth mentioning that I have interacted with several practising Muslims on discussion groups on the social media, who have, in a very calm and composed fashion, logically refuted the allegations against Islam on such websites. Indeed, as you can see here and here, there are several other apostates of Islam who have stated that while they left Islam thinking that the extremist interpretations are correct and moderate ones wrong (as is the case with apostates of many other religions), they have equally clearly emphasized that that does not in the least mean that they believe that most people identifying themselves as practising Muslims support violence against innocent people.
And in fact, even speaking of the West, a report submitted by Europol, the criminal intelligence agency of the European Union, showed that only 3 out of the 249 terrorist attacks (amounting to about 1.2%) carried out in Europe in 2010 were carried out by Muslims. Even in the United States, most terrorist attacks from 1980 to 2005 were not carried out by Muslims. And no, I am not in the least seeking to undermine the brutality of the crimes committed by some in the name of Islam by pointing to others having committed similar crimes under other ideological banners, for a more highlighted wrongdoing is no less of a wrongdoing than a less highlighted wrongdoing, but only to point out that only vilifying Muslims, and that too, all or even most of them, would indeed be grossly unfair. However, despite jihadist terrorists being a microscopic minority of Muslims, Islamist terrorism has become a bigger global threat for its well-coordinated international network since the 1990s, with the US-backed Islamist resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan having marked its rise. And, let us not forget that when we had the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, the victims included Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who died fighting the terrorists (and by the way, there are more French Muslims in the local police, including those who have died fighting jihadist terrorists, than in the Al Qaeda unit in their country), Mustapha Ourad, a Muslim who was one of the magazine staff members killed in that attack and there was Lassana Bathily, a Muslim shopkeeper who gave sanctuary to many innocent civilians during the hostage crisis in Paris that followed. Even in the context of the more recent attacks in Paris, a Muslim security guard Zouheir, risking his own life, prevented one suicide bomber from entering a packed football stadium. More recently, Kenyan Muslims very laudably protected fellow bus commuters, who were Christians, from jihadist terrorists, and Kurdish, Emirati, Iraqi and Syrian Muslims have also been fighting the ISIS. In India too, most of the terrorism is not by Muslims, as you can see here and here.
It is not as though communalists under any label, except arguably those actually resorting to killing innocent civilians, should be demonised or can never be logically made to modify their views, as the must-watch movie Road to Sangam, based on a true story, demonstrates, and to draw an analogy, you can see this video of a Muslim who initially wanted to become a terrorist wanting to blow up Jewish civilians but changed his standpoint about Israel for the better after visiting that country. It is also not as though Muslims can’t be rationally engaged with, the way some extreme anti-Muslim rightists almost make them out to be, portraying Muslims generally as cruel, slimy, backstabbing and aggressive (many Muslims whom the non-Muslim readers would know personally would not display such traits if the non-Muslim readers were to analyse impartially, rather than making baseless presumptions, and indeed, most Indian Muslims are of Hindu ancestry and so, they share the same genetic make-up as the Hindus – Hindu religious lore also refers to treacherous human beings like the Kauravas wanting to burn the Pandavas in a wax palace; so, treachery was not unknown to India before the advent of Islam, as royal family feuds among the Nanda and Gupta rulers also demonstrate, and some of the worst atrocities in history have been committed by the likes of Hitler and Stalin, who were not Muslims, nor was Chengiz Khan who was an animist), but like many people in other communities in different contexts, some (not all) Muslims are in the stranglehold of anachronistic ideas like a global pan-Muslim fraternity and the upholding of Islamic law, other than having prejudiced notions in the form of an exaggerated sense of victimhood, and I have dealt with how to ideologically combat Muslim extremism in some depth in this article.
Sacrificing animals as a religious ritual is indeed not practised only by Muslims, and ‘bali’ has existed among Hindus too, something Gautam Buddha (who lived centuries before Jesus and Muhammad) had been antithetical towards (and even Emperor Ashok the Great consumed meat of peacocks, which he stopped after embracing Buddhism, though interestingly, Buddhists in China, Japan, Bhutan, Vietnam etc. do consume meat, as do most Sikhs, Christians, Jews and Parsis, and what is halal for Muslims in terms of dietary regulations and the mode of slaughtering some animals is similar to what is kosher for Jews and several sects of Christians, and that is true for the practice of circumcision for males as well, which even has health benefits), and still continues in many Hindu temples across India, especially in West Bengal during the Navratri season. Also, it may interest some to know that the story of Prophet Abraham associated with Id-ul-Zuha is found in the Old Testament of the Bible too, which the Jews and Christians also believe in (those regarded as prophets by the Jews are regarded as prophets by the Christians too, with the addition of Jesus, and those regarded as prophets by the Christians are regarded as prophets by the Muslims as well, with the addition of Muhammad). And obviously, not all of Arab cuisine is non-vegetarian either, with Arab vegetarian dishes like strained yogurt using labneh cheese and sweet dishes like zlabia, popular in South Asia as jalebi!
And for those suggesting any marriage between a Hindu boy and Muslim girl as amounting to “love jihad”, they may note that many Muslim women too have married Hindu men, like Katrina Kaif, Sussanne Khan, Zohra Sehgal (formerly Zohra Khan), Neelima Azim (Pankaj Kapoor’s wife), Nargis and leading Mumbai cyclist Firoza, and some have even converted to Hinduism upon marriage, like famous sitarist Annapurna Devi (formerly Roshanara Khan), fashion model Nalini Patel (formerly Nayyara Mirza), Maharashtra politician Asha Gawli (formerly Zubeida Mujawar), South Indian actress Khushboo Sundar (formerly Nakhat Khan) and Bollywood actress Zubeida.
Recently, even the Modi sarkar conceded that there is no evidence whatsoever to justify the Hindu rightist conspiracy theory of the Taj Mahal having been a temple of Lord Shiv. And yes, historically, while many (not all) Muslim rulers have a historical record of intolerance to Hindus, so do many ancient Hindu rulers like Mihirakula and Pushyamitra Shunga have a historical record of intolerance to Buddhists (of course, there can be a debate on the historicity of these allegations, but the point is that religious intolerance wasn’t unheard of even in pre-Islamic times in India). One may add in this context that there is this totally incorrect notion that Muslims are the only ones who stop non-Muslims from entering some of their holiest places of worship like the Kaba in Mecca, but actually, several Hindu temples, like the Pashupati Nath temple in Nepal, too bar non-Hindus from entering them, while many mosques and Sufi shrines have absolutely no problem with non-Muslims visiting them or even praying there. Also, the conspiracy theory about the Kaba being a Shiv temple have their basis in the writings of one Mr. Oak, who was not even a historian, and he is actually not even taken seriously even by those historians, Indian or of other nationalities, who have saffron or other religious right-wing leanings, and in fact, some votaries of this theory claim that Lord Shiv has been ‘imprisoned’ by Muslims, which refutes the logic that God is all powerful! Oak also said that Christianity is Krishna-Neeti (though ‘Christianity’ as a term does not exist in Hebrew, and came about much later in history!) and many other such ludicrous things! There are websites making claims about non-existent Arabic texts to prove their point. While such propaganda (except the bit about Lord Shiv being ‘imprisoned’!) may please the Hindu chauvinist who desperately wishes to imagine ancient India to be the only centre of human civilization, impartially speaking, one ought to thoroughly dissect it before taking it seriously. These are just completely baseless rants being circulated on the social media that don’t have the backing of any serious historian, not even the most right-wing ones. These conspiracy theories are typical of loony religious rightists, including Muslim rightists in Pakistan attributing 26/11 to RAW and many genuine liberal Muslim intellectuals in Pakistan are dismissed by conspiracy theorists as agents of the CIA, RAW and/or Mossad!
There are also misplaced notions of Muslims potentially outnumbering Hindus in India, though the Muslim population growth rate is declining (not the population itself, which cannot decline usually for any community), and the population growth rate of Keralite Muslims is less than UPite Hindus, for instance, and yes, even otherwise, if someone sees Muslims potentially outnumbering Hindus in India as a real problem, they should appeal to the Indian government to legally impose a two-child norm for all Indian citizens, irrespective of religion, rather than just generate unnecessary hatred for an entire community and divide the nation. Many Hindus criticize Muslims for having many children because they practise polygamy as permitted by their faith (though census reports have established that Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims, even though it is illegal for the former, and I myself know a Hindu electrician in Delhi who has engaged in bigamy), even though that actually doesn’t make a difference to the number of children as long as the number of reproductive women remains the same. Four women would respectively give birth to the number of children they would, irrespective of whether they are married to one man or four different men! In fact, polygamy is not prohibited by Hinduism as a faith (and, in fact, it was outlawed for Hindus only after independence, and Nehru faced stern opposition for the same from orthodox Hindus). The Puranic lore is full of multiple marriages by a single man – to quote some prominent examples, Krishna had thousands of wives, prominent among whom were Rukmini, Satyabhama and Jambvati; his father Vasudev had two wives, Devki (Krishna‘s mother) and Rohini (Balram‘s mother) and Ram‘s father Dashrath had three wives, besides even Bheem having a wife other than Draupadi (Gatodkach‘s mother) and Arjun too had several, including Krishna‘s sister Subhadra. In fact, the law mandating monogamy for Hindus was introduced only after independence! Also, Islam mandates a limit of four wives and a responsibility of the husband to look after his multiple wives (if he has multiple wives in the first place) equally well, though I do agree that even this is anachronistic today. As for harems, these too have not been a monopoly of Muslim rulers, and the practice has existed among Hindu rulers too, such as in South India, and even among Buddhist rulers in Sri Lanka. And there are indeed many Hindus too, particularly in rural areas and in several cases, even among the urban educated class, who have several children even if they are monogamous. Many educated Hindus who have been public figures, like former president V.V. Giri, former prime minister Narasimha Rao and our very own Lalu Prasad Yadav have all had many children, and even Narendra Modi is the third of his parents‘ six children.
Also, there are some who accuse Muslims of being the only community that carries out inter-cousin marriages, but that is true for Parsis as well and Hindu lore mentions Abhimanyu marrying his maternal uncle Balram‘s daughter (though this is a South Indian folk adaptation not to be found in the Puranic lore, it shows that the idea hasn‘t always been abhorrent in Hindu societies) and Rajasthani folklore has it that Prithviraj Chauhan too eloped with his cousin and while even this is contested by historians, he has never been looked down upon for the same, and even today, this practice exists in South Indian Hindu societies.
I personally know several Muslims who are unprejudiced and are strongly patriotic Indians, and I see no reason to see Indian Muslims loyal to their country as being exceptions to the general norm. In fact, a Hindu acquaintance of mine, who studied at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), told me that while those cheering for Pakistan in cricket were quite a vocal lot there, most Muslims cheered for India, and this was in a Muslim-majority setting where the apparently pro-India majority did not have to conceal its true feelings, and another friend of mine, who is an Assamese Hindu from Guwahati and who is very resentful of the Bangladeshi Muslim influx in his state, told me that on a train journey, he overheard a conversation between two Muslims from AMU bashing the students who cheer for Pakistan. Also, another friend of mine whose father is an Indian Army officer once told me that he loves the entire Muslim community (though I don’t support any stereotyping, positive or negative!), for once, his father was fired at by militants in Kashmir and his father’s driver, a Muslim, rushed to bear the bullet to save his father’s life! He also narrated another anecdote of how a Muslim once donated blood to save his father’s life and asserted that he was not in the least ashamed of the fact that “Muslim blood” (whatever that is supposed to mean!) runs through his veins!
An allegation often leveled against Islam and Muslim societies is sexism. It should be noted that Prophet Muhammad’s wife Khadijah was a successful businesswoman, and the world’s oldest existing university, which is in Morocco and dates back to 859 AD, was set up by Fatima al Fihri, a well-educated Muslim woman. Prophet Muhammad is even believed to have mandated education for all, irrespective of gender, as you can see here and here, and in fact, the education cutting across gender lines even includes physical education. Islam has room for gender equality, even in the domain of sports, and I come from a liberal family. Interestingly, Prophet Muhammad himself is believed to have said that children (he did not specify only boys) must be taught archery, horse-riding and swimming. In fact, a woman, Nusaybah bint Ka’ab, fought in his army, just as Hindu lore refers to Arjun’s wife Chitrangada as an ace fighter and how Kaikeyi and Madri were ace charioteers. This article discusses in some detail the freedoms accorded to women by Islam and early Muslim societies, and how they partook in war, diplomacy, business and several other fields of life, and how the veil came in later as a norm in Muslim history. Currently, many Kurdish Muslim women are bravely fighting the ISIS, and there was news of an Iraqi Kurdish woman, Rehana, killing over a hundred ISIS terrorists. Major Mariam Al Mansouri, a female fighter pilot from the UAE, has also been involved in anti-ISIS operations. While one would not assert that Islam or any other major global religion (and in this, we include the oriental faiths as much as the Abrahamic religions) is completely free from patriarchy (with all due respect to everyone’s religious sentiments), this mindset of prohibiting girls’ education represents a deeply patriarchal mindset among these ultra-conservative terrorists hailing from tribal Pashtun communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but has no basis in Islamic theology, and very many people across the globe who have identified themselves as Muslims have educated their daughters.
No Muslim-majority country (but for parts of them ruled by militias like the Taliban and ISIS), not even Saudi Arabia, has legally imposed wearing burqas (though only Iran has imposed headscarves; however, as regards wearing burqas, it must be noted that the Quran does not ordain it, nor do quotations attributed to Prophet Muhammad of undisputed authenticity), or prohibited women from driving (though only Saudi Arabia, other than militia-ruled regions, has imposed a ban on women driving, but a Saudi cleric also declared that there was nothing in the Islamic texts that prohibits women from driving. In Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, another Islamic state which largely follows the same Wahabi sect of Islam as Saudi Arabia, there are women-run family taxis, and Laleh Seddigh, an Iranian Muslim woman, is among the best car-racers globally, competing with men.
For all residual resentment against Muslims, I’d request you to read carefully (not skim through and judge based on one’s preconceived notions) this e-book of mine available for free download.
So, now, let’s get straight to the myth-busting on Maulana Azad.
The first critique of Maulana Azad offered by a section of Hindu rightists is one offered by some Hindu rightists who are not anti-Sufi and were full of praise for Narendra Modi for attending the World Sufi Conference, which was to the effect that Maulana Azad did not subscribe to Sufi Islam, and in their worldview, any Sunni Muslim not subscribing to Sufism is an extremist.
Muslims not subscribing to Sufi schools of thought are not necessarily extremists, and most of them too believe in religious tolerance, at least of the ‘live and let live’ variety. One of the most liberal and modernist Islamic preachers in South Asia, Javed Ahmad Ghamdi in Pakistan, is, for example, not a proponent of Sufism but has been on the radar of violent extremists to be targeted. Likewise, Sufism too is not uniform, and there are multiple Sufi orders (and multiple points of view within a certain Sufi order), all of which cannot be held to be equally liberal, and the Naqshbandi school of Sufi thought, for instance, has elements opposed to music (not every Naqshbandi is anti-music either), as was the case with Maulana Azad’s father Maulana Khairuddin, who was even averse to modern education, though Maulana Azad adored music and vehemently refuted interpretations of Islam rejecting music as prohibited by the faith. Indeed, while acts of bombings or shootouts classified as terrorist attacks (innocent Muslims, even in Muslim-majority countries, also being victims of these violent attacks) are seldom to be seen among followers of Sufi Islam, it is not as though they are devoid of communalism of a kind. Many among them actively campaigned for the partition of India on religious lines, and one of India’s most communal Muslim politicians allegedly involved in riots, Azam Khan, is from the Barelvi sect of Sufi Islam, as is Mumtaz Qadri, assassin of liberal Pakistani Muslim politician Salman Taseer. Taseer was killed for having raised his voice against the blasphemy law being misused against Pakistani Christians. So, the easy binary between Sufism and other forms of Islam as being liberal and illiberal respectively is seldom appropriate.
Coming to Maulana Azad, the question we need to ask is – was his brand of Islam liberal? It is true that he did offer traces of religious chauvinism in thinking of Islam as the best belief system (but was clearly and categorically critical of forced conversions, as his comments on the Moplah riots demonstrate), as did Swami Vivekananda for Vedanta (which he discussed as the highest point of spirituality, which is the only text that can serve as the basis of a universal religion) or Mahatma Gandhi for Vaishnavism (which he said encompasses what all religions had to offer), and Maulana Azad’s religious chauvinism was quite high in his younger days, but with time, he became more and more ardently and clear-headedly a supporter of a composite cultural nationalism based on secular democracy, and his book Tarjuman-ul-Quran, a commentary of the Quran, explains that clearly, and which was, in fact, denounced by many regressive Muslim clerics, which is something documented even by Arun Shourie in his book The World of Fatwas adored by Hindu rightists, when Shourie happened to be one of their poster-boys.
Some excerpts from Maulana Azad’s book Tarjuman-ul-Quran are cited here, which have elements of Sufi-like mysticism and rebut the idea of Muslim exclusivity of truth claims, also pointing to how one should be good to all fellow human beings, irrespective of religion (with translations by my acquaintance Mr. Shams Tabrez and friend Suvankur Sukul)-
Agar ek shakhs bhooke ko khaana khila de ya mauhtaaj ko khaana khila de to ye uska jood hoga, ehsaan hoga. Lekin wo baat na hogi jise Ruboobiyat kehte hain. Ruboobiyat ke liye zaroori hai ke parvarish aur nigah-daasht ek jaari aur musalsal ehtemaam ho.
If one feeds the hungry or needy, it’s his generosity and kind-heartedness, but still far removed from divinity. Divinity demands good nature and nurture, as a daily and continuous and engagement.
Cheenti apne bill mein reing rahi hai, keede makode karkat mein mile huye hain, machhliyaan dariya mein tair rahi hian, parindey hawa mein ud rahe hain, phool baagh mein khil rahe hain, haathi Jungle mein daud raha hai, aur sitaare fiza mein gardish kar rahe hain, lekin fitrat ke liye sabke paas yaqsa ke taur par parvarish ki god aur nigraani ki aankh hai aur koi nahi jo faizan-e-ruboobiyat se mehroom ho.
The ant is crawling in its burrow, the insects are mingled with the dust, the fish are swimming in the rivers, the birds are flying in the sky, the flowers bloom in the garden, the elephant treads the jungle path, the stars are revolving in the atmosphere, but for essence they are all similar in two respects- the ability to nurture and take care, and that no one is devoid of grace.
Zindagi ke liye Paani aur Rutoobat ki zaroorat hai. Hum dekhte hain paani ke waafir Zakheere har taraf maujood hain lekin agar sirf itna hi hota to ye zindagi ke liye kaafi na tha, kyuki zindagi ke liye sirf yahi zaroori nahi hai ke paani maujood ho balki ye bhi zaroori hai ki ek khaas intezaam, ek khaas tarteeb aur ek khaas mukarrar-am-mikdaar ke saath maujood ho.
Water and moisture are absolutely essential for survival. I see that there are numerous water bodies but had only this been there, it would not have been enough for ‘life’ to survive, because the mere presence of water does not necessarily assure that all forms of life would survive – a particular arrangement, order, and sufficient quantity is also required.
sabse zaada ajeeb magar sabse zaada Numaiyah haqueeqat Nizam-e-ruboobiyat ki yaqsaaniyat aur Hum-aahangi hai.
The strangest and yet the clearest reality is the similarity and harmony in the divine order of the universe.
Fir Ruboobiyat-e-Ilaahi ki us kaarsaazi par gaur karo ke kis tareh maa ki fitrat mein bache ki muhabbat wadeeyat kar di gayi hai aur kis tareh is jazbe ko insaani tbiyat ke tamaam Jazbaat mein sabse zaada Purjosh aur sabse zaada Nakabil-e-taskheer bana diya gaya ho. Duniya ki kaunsi Kuwwat hai jo is josh ka muqabla kar sakti hai jisko maa ki mamta kehte hain. Jis bache ki paidaayish uske liye zindagi ki sabse badi museebat thi.
Then deliberate on the craft of the divine Lord how He inscribed for her children a supreme love in the nature of the mother and how this passion surpasses any other passion that human beings are capable of feeling or controlling. Which other power can contest that which is called “a mother’s deep affection”, when the very birth of the child is the source of the greatest physical pain for her?
Jin haiwaanaat ke bache Andon se paida hote hain unki jismaani saakht aur tabiyat doodh wale haiwanaat se mukhtalif hoti hai. Isliye wo awwal din se hi maamooli gizhayein khaa sakte hain basharte ke khilaane ke liye koi shafeeq nigrani maujood ho. Chunaanche tum dekhte ho ke bacha ande se nikalte hi gizha dhoondne lagta hai aur maa chun chun kar uske saamne daalti aur muh mein le-le kar khaane ki Talqeem karti hai. Ya aisa karti hai ke khud kha leti hai magar hazam nahi karti, abne andar naram aur halka banakar mehfooz rakhti hai. Aur jab bacha gizha ke liye muh kholta hai to uske andar utaar deti hai,
The offsprings of the egg-laying animals are radically opposed in their physical composition to the mammals. It is for this reason that under affectionate supervision they can consume regular food (unlike mammals suckling their mother’s milk). Therefore, you see that almost as soon as the birds come out of the eggs, they start searching for food and their mother obliges them by placing food in front of them and teaching them how to eat. Sometimes, she also adopts the method of keeping the food safe inside her without digesting it, and presenting it to her babies in a much softened and light form when they ask for it.
Isi tareh wo Nizam-e-Ruboobiyat se tauheed-e-ilaahi par istedaal jo rabb-ul-aalameen tamaam kaaynaat ki parwarish kar raha hai aur jiski ruboobiyat ka Aitraaf tuhare dil k ek-ek reshe mein maujood hai, Uske siwa kaun iska Mustaheeq ho sakta hai ke bandgi waniyat ka sar uske aage jhukaaya jaae.
In this way, he seeks proof of the unity of divinity from God, that God who is looking after the entire universe and whose expression of divinity is inscribed in every vein that runs through your mind and heart. Who else is so worthy of my devotion that I bow my head before him?
Ruboobiyat aur uska Nizam kya hai? Kaaynaat-e-hasti ki parwarish hai, lekin kaaynaat-e-hasti mein sirf parwarish hi nahi hai. Parwarish se bhi ek zaada banaane sawaarne aur faayda pahuchaane ki haqeeqt kaam kar rahi hai. Hum dekhte hain ke uski fitrat mein banaav hai. Uske banzzv mein khoobi hai, uske mizaaz mein Aitdaal hai, uske Afaal mein khawaas hain, uski soorat mein husn hai, uski sadaayon mein nagma hai, uski boo mein attar-bezi hai. Uski koi baat nahi jo kaarkhaane ki taameer-o-durustgi ke mufeed na ho.
What is divinity and what order does it represent? The sublime reality that governs the universe has an element of protection in it but that is not all that defines it. There is something more than a careful order that builds, maintains and benefits this universe. There is in His nature a will to be constructive. There is balance to his temper, there is a particularity to His actions, there is beauty in the form of the face, there is music in His voice, in his smell is a trace of perfume. There is no aspect of Him that is not beneficial to the constructiveness and the strength of the affairs of this world.
Ek insaan kitni hi mahdood aur gair-mutammaddin zindagi rakhta ho lekin is haqeeqat se bekhabar nahi ho sakta ke uska Gird-o-pesh use faayda pahucha raha hai. Ek Lakadhaara bhi apne jhopde mein baitha hua nazar uthaata hai to goya apne ehsaas ke liye behtar taabeer na paaye lekin ye haqeeqat zaroor mehsoos kar leta hai; wo jab beemaar hota hai to jungle ki jadi-bootiyaan kha leta hai, dhoop tez hoti hai to darakhton ke saaye mein baith jaata hai, bekaar hota hai to patton ki sar-sabzi aur phoolon ki khushnumaayi se aankhein sekne lagta hai. Phit yahi darakht hain jo apni shaadaabi mein use phal bakshte hain aur pukhtagi mein lakdi ke takhte ban jaate hain, kahnagi mein aag ke sholay bhadka dete hain. Ek hi Makhlookh banaayi hai jo apne manzar se nooz-hato-suroor bakhshti hai, apni boo se hawa ko muattar karti hai, apne phal mein tarahx2 ki gizhaayein rakhti hai, apni lakdi se Saaman-e-tameer muhaiya karti hai aur phir khushk ho jaat hai to uske jalaane se aag bhadakti, choolhe garm karti, mausam ko muatadil banaati aur apni haraarat se beshumaar ashia ke pakne, pighalne aur tapne ka zariya banti hai.
Howsoever separated and isolated a man’s life may be, he cannot be oblivious to the fact that the world around him is benefitting him. Even when a woodcutter living in a remote jungle lifts his eyes sitting in his house, he realizes this truth; he consumes the wild herbs when he is sick, he sits in the shade of the trees when the heat is scorching, he is rejuvenated by the sight of the all-encompassing greenery of the leaves and the beautiful flowers when he is lonely. The same tree in its ripeness endows him with the fruits and provides for the wood used in cooking. There is only one Creation that still spreads its joy and its scent all around, keeps various kinds of edible food in the fruits and prepares the building material from wood, and then becomes happy that it contributes to the lighting of the fire and becomes the medium for cooking.
Quran ke safe khule huye hain aur uske Nuzool ki tareekh bhi duniya ke saamne hai. Ye dono humein batlaate hain ke in tamaam baton mein se koi baat bhi na thi aur na ho sakti thi. Usne na sirf un tamaam rehnumaaon ki tasdeeq ki jinke naaam lewa uske saamne the balki saaf saaf lafzon mein keh diya mujhse pehle jitney bhi paigambar aa chuke hain, main sabki tasdeeq karta hoon aur unmein se kisi ek ke inkaar ko bhi khuda ki sachai ka inkaar samajhta hoon. Usne kisi mazhab ke maanne wale se ye mutaalba nahi kia ke wo apne mazhab ki daawat se inkaar kar de. Balki jab kabhi mutaalwa kia to yahi kia ke apne apne mazhabon ki haqeeqi taleem par kaarband ho jao kyuki tamaam mazhabon ki asal taleem ek hi hai.
The Quran is meant for all and the history of its revelations is also for the world to see. Not only did he (Prophet Muhammad) confirm the existence of previous leaders of faith who are mentioned in the text, but also, in very clear terms, said that “all the prophets who have appeared before me, are all true and even the denial of any one of them is regarded by me as the denial of the truth of God’s existence.” He did not demand of the followers of other religions to disavow their own faith. Contrary to that, he always demanded that their disposition be bound to the essential teachings of their own faith, for the essence of all religions is the same.
Referring to the ancient Indian philosophical perspective, or Hinduism, Maulana Azad says-
Hindustan ke Tassavvur-e-uluhiyat ki tareekh mohtazaat tassavvuron ka ek hairatangez manzar hai. Ek taraf uska tauheedi falsafa hai, doosri taraf uska amali mazhab hai. Tauheedi flasafa ne istegraakh ke fikr-o-amal ke nihayat gehre aur daqueeq marhale tay kiye aur muaamla ko fikri bulandion ki ek aisi oonchi sateh tak pahucha dia jiski koi doosri misaal humein qadeem quomon ke mazhabi tassavvuraat mein nahi milti.
The history of the ways of worship in India is the most astonishing example of the idea of difference between a religion in its philosophical form and in practice. The philosophy of unity has taken the depth to an extent that no other instance of this is found in the ancient forms of belief.
Further, rewferring to a critique of the ways of the ancient Jews (which have been critiqued in the New Testament of the Bible and the Quran), Maulana Azad eloquently says-
Yahudi apne aap ko najad yafta ummat samajhte the aur kehte the dohzak ki aag hum par haram kar di gayi hai. Yahudiyon ki girohbandi ka guroor yahan tak barh gaya tha ki woh kehte the khuda ne dohzak ki aag hum par haaram kar di hai. Agar hum mein se koi admi jahannum mein daala bhi jayega toh is liye nahi k use azab mein dala jaye, balki is liye k gunaah k dag dhabbon se pak-o-saaf kar diya jaye aur phir jannat mein ja dakhil ho. Quran unka yeh galat gumaan jagah-bah-jagah bnakal karta hai aur phir uska radh karte hue puchhta hai, “yeh baat tumhe kahan se maloom ho gayi k Yahudi girohbandi ka harfard najat yafta hai aur azab-e-ukhrati se use chhutkara mil chukka hai. Kya tumhe khuda ne gairmashroot najat ka koi patta likh kar de diya hai jahan ek insaan Yahudi hua aur aatish-e-dohzak us par haram ho gayi. Agar nahi diya hai toh phir batlao aisa ihtiqad rakhna khuda par jhooth baandhna nahi hai toh aur kya hai? Uske baad saaf saaf lafzon mein khuda k qanoon-e-amal ka ailan karta hai. Jis kisi ne bhi apne se amal se burai kamai uske liye burai hai. Jis kisi ne bhi bhalai kamayi, uske liye bhalai hai, yaani jis tarah ssankhiya khaane se har khane wala halaq ho jata hai kha Yahudi ho ya gair-Yahudi aur doodh peene se sehat-o-tawanayi milti hai kha peene wala kisi nasl-o-qaum aur giroh se talluk rakhta ho. Quran (2: 80-82)
The pride that the Jews harboured in their collective identity had attained such height that they said that God Himself had relieved them of the punishment of hell. They believed that even if any of them is sent to hell, it would be after the stigma of the sins of that Jew is erased, after which he can enter heaven. The Quran exposes this misplaced chauvinism and objects at various places saying, “Where do you get this knowledge from that every Jew is privileged enough to escape the punishments of life hereafter and has been relieved of the torments of hell? Has God signed some document stating that you can escape unconditionally so that anybody, just by the virtue of being a Jew can claim that the fire of hell is forbidden for him? If He hasn’t, pray tell me what this belief is, if not an attempt to belie Him?” The Quran then makes explicit the way of the implementation of His law, “Whoever earns sins by his actions, will be punished.”
Isi mazhabi girohbandi ka natija tha k yihudi samajhte the sachchai aur diyanatdaari k jis qadr ahkaam hain who is liye nahi keh tamaam insano k sath amal mein laye jayein, bal keh mahaz is liye hain keh ek yihudi dusre yohudi k saath bad-diyanati na kare. Who kehte thein agar ek aadmi humara hum-mazhab nahi hai toh humare liye jaiz hai k jis tarah bhi chaahe toh uska maal kha lein. Kuchh zaroori nahi keh raast-baazi aur diyanat k usool malhuz rakhe jayein. Chunancheh len den mein sood lene ki mumaniyat ko unhone sirf apne hum-mazhabon k saath maqsus kar diya tha aur aaj tak unka tarz-e-amal yehi hai. Who kehte hain ek yihudi ko dusre yihudi se zalimana sood nahi lena chahiye. Lekin ek yihudi gair-yihudi se le toh koi muzaaika nahi hai. Isi tarah jo yihudi arab mein abaad the who kehte the arab k anpadh bashindo k saath mamla karne mein raast-baazi ya diyanatdaari zaroorat nahi hai. Yeh log butparast hain. Hum in logon ka maal jis tarah bhi kha lein jaiz hai. Yaani aisa aqeeda rakhna khuda k deen par sari jhooth baandhna hai. Khuda ka deen toh yeh hai k har insaan k saath neki karni chahiye, aur har haal mein sachchai wa diyanatdaari ki raah chalni chahiye, kha koi insaan ho aur kisi aqeeda ya giroh ka ho kyunki safed har haal mein safed hai aur siyah har haal mein siyaah hai.
The result of this kind of narrow-minded and condemnable religious consciousness was that the Jews believed that the commandments of truth and honesty is not for the purpose of unifying mankind in following God, but only to the effect that no Jew wrongs another. They said that they had the right to rob people unjustly if they do not happen to be Jews. It is not necessary that the principles of truth and honesty are followed. They say that a Jew should not take unfair amount of interest from another Jew but he can do that with a non-Jew. In that case, he is not bound to follow the principles of truth and honesty; “these people are idolaters and so we can rob them any which way we deem just”. So harbouring this belief is to belie God. God’s true religion demands goodness towards all fellow-beings, and a man should always follow the path of truth and honesty, be he of any belief or community because white is always white and black is always black.
Surah Nisa mein na sirf yehudiyon aur Isaiaho ko balke sab ko mukhatib kar k saaf saaf ailaan kar diya hai aisa ailaan jiske baad kisi tarah k shaq-o-shuba ki gunjaish baaqi nahi rahi. Musalmano yaad rakho najat aur saadat na toh tumhari arzoon par mohkuf hai na ahl-e-kitab ki arzoon par. Khuda ka qanoon toh yeh hai jo koi bhi burai karega uska natija uske samne aa jayega aur phir na toh kisi ki dosti bacha payegi na kisi taaqat ki madadgaari.
In Surah Nisa, by addressing everybody, God makes it absolutely clear after which there is no room for doubt. Not only Jews and Christians but Muslims should also remember that deliverance and properity is neither in your control nor in the People of the Book (Jews and Christians among possibly others) in general. The law that God has established says that whoever does wrong, will face the consequences of his actions and then neither friendship nor any other power will be able to help you.
Sachchai k saath kaarbandh ho jao. Who kehta hai agar tumne aisa kar liya toh mera kaam poora ho gaya kyon keh yunhi tum apne mazhab ki haqeeqi taleem ki taraf lautoge toh tumhare saamne wohi haqeeqat a maujood hogi jiski taraf mein tumhe bula raha hoon. Mera payam koi naya payaam nahi hai. Who qadeem aur alamgeer payaam hai who tamam baniyan-e-mazahib de chuke hain.
This is the reason why we see that He has not demanded from any of his people to accept a new faith, but asked them to follow their own faith, which you have embellished with several enhancements. Be committed to truth. He says that if you have done this you have fulfilled my will because if you return towards your true faith, you will encounter the same Truth that I beckon you towards. My message is not a new message.
By the way, being critical of ancient Jews going by what the Bible and Quran had to say (or for someone else, in some other context, ancient Hindus based on what Buddhist and Jain texts had to say) was one thing, but Maulana Azad wasn’t bigoted towards Jews in the least (more on that later). Commenting on the message of peace in the Bible and expressing anguish at its misinterpretation, Maulana Azad has said-
Shayad insaani gumraahi ki bul-ajeebiyon ki isse behtar misaal nahi mil sakti. Jis injeel ki taleem ka yeh matlab samajh liya gaya tha k who kisi haal mein badla lene aur saza dene ki ijazat nahi deti usi injeel k manne walon nau-e-insaani ki tazeeb-o-halaqat ka amal aisi vehshat-o-berehmi k saath sadiyon tak jaari rakha keh hum uska tasavvur bhi begair vehshat-o-haras k nahi kar sakte aur yeh phir jo kuchh kiya gaya injeel aur uske mukaddas muallim k naam par kiya gaya.
There is perhaps no greater an example of the ignorance of mankind than this. The very same Bible which was thought to be a peaceful book and that which does not advocate or allow punishment at all was used by the followers to spell such devilish and unmerciful destruction on its own people for centuries that we cannot even imagine it without being of such destructive nature ourselves and all of this was done in the name of the Bible and its holy prophet.
“aye ahl-e-kitab jab tak tum taurat aur injeel ki aur un tamam sahifon ki jot um par naazil hue hain haqeeqat qayam na karo us waqt tak tumhare paas deen mein kuchh b hi nahi hai. Aur aye paigambar tumhare parwardigaar k taraf se jo kuchh tum par naazil hua hai bajai iske k yeh log isse hidayat haasil karein tum dekhoge keh un mein se bohoton ka kufrutuhiyaan uski wajah se aur zada barh jayega. Toh jin logon ne inkar-e-haq ki rah ikhtiyaar kar li hai tum unki haalat par bekaar gham na khao. Jo log tum par imaan laye hain, jo yehudi hain, jo saabi hain jo nasara hain yeh ho ya koi ho jo koi bhi allah aur aakhirat k din par imaan laya uske amal bhi nek hue toh uske liye na toh kisi tarah ka khauf hai aur na kisi tarah ki ghamgheeni.” (Quran 5.:68-69)
Say, “O People of the Scripture! You have no basis until you uphold the Torah, and the Gospel, and what is revealed to you from your Lord.” But what is revealed to you from your Lord will increase many of them in rebellion and disbelief, so do not be sorry for the disbelieving people.
Those who believe, and the Jews, and the Sabians, and the Christians—whoever believes in God and the Last Day, and does what is right—they have nothing to fear, nor shall they grieve.” (Quran 5: 68-69)
The next criticism that is offered of Maulana Azad is that he supported the pan-Muslim, monarchy-supporting, and even Turkish imperialism-supporting Khilafat Movement, which strengthened religion-based politics among Indian Muslims. This criticism applies not only to Maulana Azad but also Maulana Hasrat Mohani (who had written poetry praising Krishna and opposed the partition of India and even opposed Article 370 of the Indian constitution) and even Mahatma Gandhi, but while it was felt at the time that taking up this cause sensitive to very many religious Muslims would help bring more Muslims on board for the freedom struggle, what is overlooked is that Maulana Azad did not condemn the overthrow of the Caliphate by secular, democratic Turkish revolutionaries led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha and Maulana Azad even explicitly stated that Muslims in India should accept their framework! Maulana also did say that a separate, not-really-with-political-teeth separate caliphate should have been set up as a religious institution on the lines of the Catholic papacy, which is hardly very objectionable.
[Discussed citing Maulana Azad’s quotations in the book The Khilafat Movement: Religious Symbolism and Political Mobilisation in India (Oxford University Press) by Gail Minault in pages 2, 3 and 179-184.]
Interestingly, in his autobiography India Wins Freedom, Maulana Azad had again publicly expressed his admiration for the pro-secularism and pro-democracy Turkish revolutionaries, claiming that he had been in contact with and influenced by them back in 1908, much before the Khilafat Movement. To quote him-
“I have already said that my political ideas had turned towards revolutionary activities before I left Calcutta in 1908. When I came to Iraq, I met some Iranian revolutionaries. In Egypt, I also came into contact with the followers of Mustafa Kamal Pasha. I also met a group of young Turks who had established a centre in Cairo and were publishing a weekly from there. When I went to Turkey I became friends with some of the leaders of the Young Turk movement. I kept up my correspondence with them for many years after my return to India.
Contact with these Arab and Turk revolutionaries confirmed my political beliefs.”
Next, Maulana Azad is critiqued for opposing the partition of India only because he felt it would adversely affect the interests of the Muslim community, and that he did not oppose it in the interests of India as a whole, and that he did not emphasise the need for Indian Muslims to see themselves as a part of an indivisible Indian nation along with Indian Hindus and Indians of other religions. This line of argument fails to stand if we look at Maulana Azad’s many statements. The statement he gave on 15th April 1946 against the idea of partition started with the following words-
“I have considered from every possible point of view the scheme of Pakistan as formulated by the Muslim League. As an Indian, I have examined its implications for the future of India as a whole.”
Only after that, he said-
“As a Muslim, I have examined its likely effects upon the fortunes of Muslims of India.
Considering the scheme in all its aspects, I have come to the conclusion that it is harmful not only for India as a whole but for Muslims in particular. And in fact it creates more problems than it solves.”
Maulana Azad did not exhibit any bigotry towards Jews (unlike many Muslim extremists today and even back then in India when Israel was yet to be created) and said in that statement-
“One can sympathise with the aspiration of the Jews for such a national home, as they are scattered all over the world and cannot in any region have any effective voice in the administration. The condition of Indian Muslims is quite otherwise. Over 90 million in number, they are in quantity and quality a sufficiently important element in Indian life to influence decisively all questions of administration and policy.”
That he was critical of how Israel actually came into being later is another matter. Taking on the invalidity of Jinnah’s two-nation theory, he said-
“As is well known, Mr. Jinnah’s Pakistan scheme is based on his two nation theory. His thesis is that India contains nationalities based on religious differences. Of them two major nations, the Hindus and Muslims live side by side in thousands of Indian towns, villages and hamlets, Mr. Jinnah replied that this in no way affected their separate nationality. Two nations according to Mr. Jinnah confront one another in every hamlet, village and town, and he therefore, desires that they should be separated into two states.”
Emphasising that India’s major problems are economic and not religion-based, but that the partition would give communal tensions a much longer sustenance not only with respect to problems for religious minorities in both India and Pakistan but even in the form of Indo-Pak conflict, he said-
“I am one of those who consider the present chapter of communal bitterness and differences as a transient phase in Indian life. I firmly hold that they will disappear when India assumes the responsibility of her own destiny. I am reminded of a saying of Mr. Gladstone that the best cure for a man’s fear of the water was to throw hum into it. Similarly India must assume responsibilities and administer her own affairs before fears and suspicions can be fully allayed.
When India attains her destiny, she will forget the chapter of communal suspicion and conflict and face the problems of modern life from a modern point of view. Differences will no doubt persist, but they will be economic, not communal. Opposition among political parties will continue, but it will be based, not on religion but on economic and political issues. Class and not community will be the basis of future alignments, and policies will be shaped accordingly. If it be argued that this is only a faith which events may not justify I would say that in any case the nine crores of Muslims constitute a factor nobody can ignore and whatever the circumstances they are strong enough to safeguard their own destiny.”
At a time of communal frenzy, only philosophical theorising about Indian unity was not seen as enough by Maulana, and he felt the need to specifically address Indian Muslims to make them realise that the partition would also be practically against their interests. I, for one, see nothing wrong with that.
Earlier, in 1940, when the Muslim League had just started toying with the idea of partition, Maulana Azad had as emphatically talked about an indivisible Indian culture, and how Muslims should not think of themselves as not being Indian, and that the indivisible unity of the Indian civilisation was something fashioned by nature (or God). He clearly said in his address as Congress President in Ramgarh in 1940-
“It was India’s historic destiny that many human races and cultures and religions should flow to her, finding a home in her hospitable soil, and that many a caravan should find rest here. Even before the dawn of history, these caravans trekked into India, and wave after wave of newcomers followed. This vast and fertile land gave welcome to all, and took them to her bosom. One of the last of these caravans, following the footsteps of its predecessors, was that of the followers of Islam. This came here and settled here for good.
This led to a meeting of the culture-currents of two different races. Like the Ganga and Jumna, they flowed for a while through separate courses, but nature’s immutable law brought them together and joined them in a sangam. This fusion was a notable event in history. Since then, destiny, in her own hidden way, began to fashion a new India in place of the old. We brought our treasures with us, and India too was full of the riches of her own precious heritage. We gave our wealth to her, and she unlocked the doors of her own treasures to us.”
“Eleven hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievement. Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, our manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect of our life which has escaped this stamp. Our languages were different, but we grew to use a common language; our manners and customs were dissimilar, but they acted and reacted on each other, and thus produced a new synthesis. Our old dress may be seen only in ancient pictures of bygone days; no one wears it today.
This joint wealth is the heritage of our common nationality, and we do not want to leave it and go back to the times when this joint life had not begun. If there are any Hindus amongst us who desire to bring back the Hindu life of a thousand years ago and more, they dream, and such dreams are vain fantasies. So also if there are any Muslims who wish to revive their past civilization and culture, which they brought a thousand years ago from Iran and Central Asia, they dream also, and the sooner they wake up the better. These are unnatural fancies which cannot take root in the soil of reality. I am one of those who believe that revival may be a necessity in a religion but in social matters it is a denial of progress.
This thousand years of our joint life has moulded us into a common nationality. This cannot be done artificially. Nature does her fashioning through her hidden processes in the course of centuries. The cast has now been moulded and destiny has set her seal upon it. Whether we like it or not, we have now become an Indian nation, united and indivisible. No fantasy or artificial scheming to separate and divide can break this unity. We must accept the logic of fact and history, and engage ourselves in the fashioning of our future destiny.”
Earlier, in the 1920s, he had even once said that Muslims must achieve a unity of hearts with Hindus, failing which they should better migrate to the jungles!
Yes, Maulana Azad did make suggestions from time to time within the Congress party to placate Muslims to prevent partition, like having a rotation between a Hindu and a Muslim for the post of prime minister, but this was never his ideological premise and this is only to be found in the internal correspondence of the Congress party, not in his public pronouncements. His advocating a very federal constitutional setup to prevent partition was also a step to prevent partition at any cost, but that his conception of Islam was one of liberalism and tolerance and his commitment was to a fully secular brand of Indian nationalism is clear from the Tarjuman-ul-Quran and all his writings and speeches from after the Khilafat Movement onwards. He clearly rejected the idea of nationalism based on religion in the following words in his autobiography-
“It is one of the greatest frauds on the people to suggest that religious affinity can unite areas which are geographically, economically, linguistically and culturally different.”
“No one can hope that East and West Pakistan will compose all their differences and from one nation. Even within West Pakistan the three provinces of Sind, Punjab and the Frontier have internal incompatibility and are working for separate aims and interests.”
Yes, the Jamiat Ulema Hind was supported by Maulana Azad for their opposition to the partition, but that doesn’t in the least mean he endorsed their views on Muslim personal law. Maulana Azad had taken a clear and unambiguous stand against polygamy and triple talaq, as you can see here and here. Maulana Azad fully supported the right of the Indian judiciary to interpret Muslim personal law in the legitimate interest of women, as a certain instance in 1952 demonstrates, and is not known to have objected to the idea of a uniform civil code. Interestingly, liberal scholars of Islamic theology like the late Asghar Ali Engineer cited Maulana Azad’s commentary of the Quran to support the idea of a uniform civil code.
Further, some critics questioning Maulana Azad’s commitment to secular nationalism have taken as their touchstone what some pro-Jinnah Pakistani commentators claiming Jinnah’s brand of politics to have been secular, like Ayesha Jalal and Hamza Alavi, have had to say (if these people were valid authorities for you, why the anger over Advani’s statement or even Jaswant Singh’s book?). And all that they have to allege against Maulana Azad is his initial support to the Khilafat Movement, which has already been clarified in this article. I may add that Tufail Ahmad, a Muslim apologist of the Hindu right, serving as the mirror-image of non-Muslim apologists of the Muslim right like Arundhati Roy and Pankaj Mishra, has also invoked some of Maulana’s speeches from the Khilafat Mopvement to discredit him.
While Jinnah may not have desired theocracy, he did view religious identity as a basis of nationalism, advocating the two-nation theory, but Ayesha Jalal has ridiculously suggested that Jinnah was only using the creation of Pakistan as a bargaining chip to get a power-sharing arrangement for the Muslim League with the Congress! And her only ‘evidence’ for this bizarre claim is the idea that Jinnah had compromised on his demand for partition in the Cabinet Mission Plan, little realising that Jinnah then had no alternative for the British had rejected his partition plan, which he did indeed earnestly push for in the Cabinet Mission deliberations (Rafiq Zakaria has delved on this in some detail in his book The Man Who Divided India very critical of Jinnah, in which he has mentioned his interactions with the Cabinet Mission delegates; on a different note, I am not ideologically on the same page as Zakaria on all scores), outright. And yes, there are those suggesting that Maulana Azad must have had a role in the deal between Congress leader Bhulabhai Desai and Muslim League leader Liyaqat Ali Khan (given Maulana’s close friendship with Desai), giving many concessions to the Muslim League to prevent partition, but they overlook that Maulana was behind bars in Ahmadnagar Jail at the time and there is no evidence to suggest any correspondence to this effect between Desai and him. Still others have accused Maulana Azad of not including some details of his life in India Wins Freedom, overlooking that the book actually focuses on events from 1937 onwards, and that many things Maulana could have stated even for self-praise before that don’t find a mention in that book.
As minister of education and culture, Maulana Azad did much to promote ancient Sanskrit texts overseas by having them translated, and he praised Vedanta philosophy on many occasions in his life, even in his public utterances, such as at Vishwa Bharti University. PN Chopra, who knew him personally and had worked under him, while not being Maulana’s uncritical admirer, mentions in his book about Maulana Azad that Maulana had a great grip over and genuine admiration for many facets of Hinduism.
Yes, Maulana did indeed refuse to have funded by the government Hindu right-of-centre historian RC Majumdar’s project on the partition almost validating the two-nation theory, which goes against the spirit of our constitution, but those irked by the same need to also ponder over RC Majumdar’s excellent role in exposing how Hindu Mahasabha leader Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (recently hailed by Amit Shah as a “selfless patriot”) offered to help the British in crushing the Quit India Movement, the same Mookerjee who actually formed a coalition with the Muslim League to keep the pro-freedom Congress out.
Finally, a critique of Maulana Azad offered by many, including the former RSS chief MS Golwalkar, is to the effect that he was an egotist who believed that he was always right and other Congress leaders always wrong. Firstly, this is not true, and here is a clear expression of regret from his autobiography-
“I have regretted no action of mine so much as the decision to withdraw from the Presidentship of the Congress at this critical juncture (in 1946). It was a mistake which I can describe in Gandhiji’s words as one of Himalayan dimension.
My second mistake was that when I decided not to stand myself I did not support Sardar Patel. We differed on many issues but I am convinced that if he had succeeded me as Congress President he would have seen that the Cabinet Mission Plan was successfully implemented. He would have never committed the mistake of Jawaharlal Nehru which gave Mr. Jinnah the opportunity of sabotaging the plan. I can never forgive myself when I think that if I had not committed these mistakes, perhaps the history of the last ten years would have been different.”
Further, among all those alleging that Maulana Azad was making hollow, boastful claims, perhaps Rajmohan Gandhi, though no Hindu rightist but echoing Golwalkar on this point, is the only one who has sought to undertake a proper study and rebut Maulana Azad’s claims. Rajmohan Gandhi wrote a book India Wins Errors to rebut Maulana Azad’s India Wins Freedom. One of India’s finest lawyers and jurists, HM Seervai (evidently good with collating facts and evidence being such a distinguished lawyer), wrote a monumental book on the history of the partition of India, and while one may ideologically disagree with Seervai, he has backed all his facts with sound references, and he was a Parsi, neither Hindu not Muslim to be biased in favour of either community, and certainly not in favour of Muslims. Here’s how Seervai has coolly and logically exposed the fallacies in Rajmohan Gandhi’s critique of Maulana Azad on this score-
//It has become necessary to deal with India Wins Errors at some length because, like other authors including Rajmohan Gandhi, I have relied on Azad’s India Wins Freedom in Legend and Reality in a number of places. Again, I have referred to the 1988 edn. of India Wins Freedom in Post Script II, “Shattered Dreams”, as throwing further light on what actually happened., and I have brought out the implications of suppressing 30 pages “in the national interest” in the 1959 edn. Rajmohan Gandhi has said that India Wins Freedom should have no place in libraries, certainly not on shelves marked “history” and “politics”. First, if that conclusion were correct, Rajmohan Gandhi’s Eight Lives and the Muslim Mind would also have to be withdrawn from such libraries, for in his sketch of Azad, Rajmohan Gandhi has himself drawn largely on India Wins Freedom! I am not aware that he has asked for such withdrawal. Secondly, I entirely disagree with Rajmohan Gandhi’s conclusion, and I adhere to what I wrote in Legend and Reality:
‘It may be observed that when Azad wrote of what happened in his presence or in correspondence with him, his account can be accepted as correct, subject to lapse of memory or correction by relevant authentic material. However, India Wins Freedom was written under a serious handicap, for it was written without the knowledge to be derived from the official documents as to what had taken place on the British side in England and in India…without access to the 12 volumes of the Transfer of Power. In several important matters Azad could only make intelligent guesses or give his “reading” of men and events.’ Official documents show some of Azad’s guesses were correct; some were not’: ibid. p. 215.
Finally, what I said so far show that India Wins Freedom is unworthy of Rajmohan Gandhi who, in Eight Lives wrote excellent sketches of eight eminent Muslims, including Azad.
One more example will suffice to show that India Wins Errors is untrustworthy. At p.77. under the heading ‘Azad’s May 14 Meeting with Mountbatten’, Rajmohan Gandhi deals with Azad’s account of his interview with Mountbatten in India Wins Freedom at pp. 206-207 (1998 edn.) [pp, 189-90 of the 1959 edn.]. Azad’s interview covered two topics. The first topic was that the Cabinet Mission Plan should not be abandoned, and partition should be put off for 1 or 2 years, since Partition would be irreversible. The second topic was that if India was partitioned in the prevailing atmosphere of violence between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, rivers of blood would flow- on and after partition. In this connection, Azad sets out the assurance that Mountbatten gave him. The ‘quotation’ set out by Rajmohan Gandhi at p.77 of India Wins Errors does not correspond to p. 206 of India Wins Freedom because sentences are omitted which are germane to Azad’s account, and the sentence ‘that the solution of the political problem may be deferred for a year or two’ has been transposed from the last but one para of p. 206 to the earlier paragraph. Further, the second topic of Azad’s interview is omitted. Instead of giving an account of Azad’s interview on both the topics in India wins Errors, Rajmohan Gandhi has inserted the following fool note to the sentence, ‘The whole account is pure concoction’, ‘Azad’s account of this May 14 Meeting with Mountbatten’ is extensively quoted in Seervai’s Constitutional Law of India. Supplement, pp. 116-7.’ Rajmohan Gandhi’s omission of the second topic is deliberate, first, because few readers of India Wins Errors are likely to resort to the Supplement to the Constitutional Law of India which would not be easily available in public libraries; and secondy, because had he quoted from the Supplement, he would have been forced to set out a passage in which I showed that Azad’s account ofhis interview with Mountbatten was corroborated by independent documentary evidence.
After setting out the garbled version of a ‘quotation’ from Azad’s book, Rajmohan Gandhi wrote:
‘Every sentence and statement quoted above is false. Mountbatten did not follow Azad to Shimla; he preceded Azad. Mountbatten arrived in Simla on May 6, Azad on May 11, Mountbatten did not go for a respite before his trip to London; he did not know at the time that he would be going to London. HMG’s invitation to him to visit London was received by Mountbatten on May 15, after “the May 14 meeting”. Finally, Azad did not meet Mountbatten in Simla on the night of 14 May. He could npot have, for Mountbatten had returned to Delhi on the afternoon of May 14, having left Simla early that morning. The cable inviting Mountbatten to London reached him 12 hours after his return to Delhi. When in Simla, he was unaware of his having to go back to U.K. In fact, there is no evidence anywhere of any Mountbatten-Azad meeting in Simla, neither the TOP volumes, nor in the Alan Campbell Johnson’s dairy of the Mountbatten viceroyalty, nor in any of the newspapers of the time. The whole account is pure concoction’. India Wins Errors, pp.77-8.
Rajmohan Gandhi in considering whether an interview took place between Azad and Mountbatten before Mountbatten left for England on 18 May, ought to have proceeded on the opinion which he himself had expressed in his Eight Lives (p. 250), namely, Azad was a man of such integrity that he ‘spurned the crown’ of leading the Muslim community because he would not support ‘separatism’. A man of such integrity was not likely to ‘concoct’ an interview.
Whether Azad had an interview with Mountbatten is a question of fact. If there is direct evidence in support of the fact, as for example, if Mountbatten himself had recorded that interview, then the fact of Azad’s interview with Mountbatten is established. If, however, there is no direct evidence, the next question is whether the whole or part of the interview is corroborated by independent evidence, then also the fact of Azad’s interview with Mountbatten is established. Rajmohan Gandhi knew from my Supplement to the ConstitutionaL Law of India that when Azad set out Mountbatten’s assurance that he would nip violence in the bud by using the army, ‘tanks and aeroplanes’, Azad’s account stood corroborated by the Minutes of a Meeting of the Attlee Cabinet held on 23 May, 1947. Rajmohan Gandhi also knew that I had set out at p. 117 of my Supplement of the independent corroboration of Mountbatten’s aforesaid assurance to Azad. That corroboration will be found in the present book at pp. 143-144. Attlee said at the Cabinet Meeting of 23 May.
‘It was the Viceroy’s considered view that the only hope of checking communal warfare was to suppress the first signs of it strongly and ruthlessly, using for this purpose all the force required, including tanks and aircraft…It was important that (the Viceroy) should also be ensured that this policy had the support of His Majesty’s Government. The Cabinet agreed….’: T. P. Vol. X, p. 967.
Since Azad laid no claim to crystal gazing, he did not and could not know that the Attlee Cabinet had fully supported Mountbatten’s assurance given to Azad that violence would be nipped in the bud by using all force required, ‘including tanks and aircraft’.
What I have said above is enough to destroy Rajmohan Gandhi’s theory that Azad had ‘concocted’ the whole interview. However, the matter does not rest there. Brig. H. S. Yadav (Retd.) wrote a letter which appeared in the Indian Express on 17 Sept., 1989.
He wrote, among other things:
‘Apropos Rajmohan Gandhi’s critique of India Wins Freedom (Indian Express, Aug. 20) Azad did see
Mountbatten in Simla before the Viceroy went to England. I was the ADC who fixed the appointment after a man called Kabir telephoned. I cannot now recall the exact date but this can be ascertained from the old Viceroy’s House records. I am afraid Rajmohan Gandhi has not done his research well, and so is not in a position to accuse Azad of falsification.’
In his reply to Brig. Yadav’s letter, Rajmohan Gandhi said that he adhered to the view he had expressed in India Wins Errors that no such interview had taken place and stated:
‘My comment in India Wins Errors is as follows: “Mountbatten did not follow Azad to Simla; he preceded Azad…Mountbatten did not go for a respite before his trip going to London; he did not know at the time that he would be going to London… Finally, Azad did not meet Mountbatten in Simla on the night of May 14. He could not have, for Mountbatten had returned to Delhi on the afternoon of May 15, having left Simla early that morning’. The Transfer of Power volumes and V.P. Menon’s The Transfer of Power in India are explicit and categorical that the invitation to visit London was received by Mountbatten on May 15, after his return to Delhi from Simla.’
In face of Brig. Yadav’s direct evidence that Azad did meet Mountbatten in Simla before he left for
England, evidence corroborated by the Muslims of the Attlee Cabinet Meeting of 23 May, Rajmohan Gandhi’s theory that the whole account was a total concoction is untenable.
Rajmohan Gandhi has based his theory on that the whole of Azad’s account was a concoction on circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence to prove a fact is recognized as the weakest form of evidence. That evidence has been likened to a chain, for if a link is missing, the chain breaks down. Again, the strength of the chain is the strength of the weakest link. At pp. 77-78 of India Wins Errors, Rajmohan Gandhi sets out particular facts that constitute the links in his chain of evidence to prove that the whole of Azad’s account of his interview with Mountbatten on 14 May was a concoction. How weak the links are will appear from what follows. Let us take the first three links: Mountbatten did not follow Azad to Simla, because Azad went to Simla on 11th whereas Mountbatten went to Simla on the evening of the 6th. Secondly, ‘Mountbatten did not go for a respite before his trip to London’. Thirdly, ‘(Mountbatten) did not know at the time that he would be going to London. HMG’s invitation to him to visit London was received by Mountabatten on May 15, after “the May 14” meeting. ‘That Azad went to Simla on 11th May, is an ipsi dixit, foe which Rajmohan Gandhi has produced no evidence. Mountbatten did reach Simla on the evening of 6 May. So these statements do not disprove the fact that Azad went to Simla before Mountbatten, who came some days thereafter. Secondly, Mountbatten did go to Simla for a respite is shown by the following observations in Menon’s Transfer of Power in India, p. 362: ‘Pending the receipt of His Majesty’s Government’s approval for the proposed Plan, Lord Mountbatten decided to go up to Simla for a short respite.’ It is true that when Mountbatten went to Simla, he had not intended to go to London. He had intended to call a meeting of Nehru, Patel, Jinnah, Liaquat Ali and Baldev Singh to meet him in Delhi on 17 May, (T.P. Vol X, p. 748) so that if his proposals were accepted by the leaders, the announcement about Partition could be made by the British Government on 22 May. Nehru had agreed to arrange for a meeting in Delhi of the Congress Working Committee on 16 or 17 May: ibid. p. 739. However, on 11 May, came Nehru’s ‘bombshell’, namely, his emphatic rejection of the draft proposals for partition which Mountbatten had shown him. In view of Nehru’s bombshell, on 11 May, the proposed announcement of 22 May was postponed to 2 June 1947 (ibid, p.762). The ostensible reason for the postponement was ‘Parliamentary Recess’ (ibid, p. 772). No doubt, the formal invitation by Arlee to Mountbatten to go to England was received on 15 May, at 2 a.m. in Delhi. However, soon after the postponement of the meeting on 2 June, was announced on 11 May, the ostensible reason did not deceive journalists and politicians, and they made the reasonable guess that Mountbatten would have to go to England to discuss the fresh proposals with Attlee’s Cabinet. Liaquat Ali in his interview with Mountbatten on 15 May said ‘That is the only solution. I knew you would have to go. When I net Muslim editors yesterday, they informed me that they were certain that journalists and politicians did not wait for Attlee’s formal invitation to reach Mountbatten but rightly guessed that he would have to go to London to meet Attlee’s Cabinet.
The next two links in Rajmohan Gandhi’s theory are: ‘Azad did not meet Mountbatten in Simla on the night of 14 May. He could not have, for Mountbatten had returned to Delhi in the evening of 14 May, having left Simla early that morning.’ Secondly, ‘In fact there is no evidence anywhere of any Mountbatten-Azad Meeting in Simla neither in the TOP volumes nor in Alan Campbell-Johnson’s Diary of the Mountbatten Viceroyalty nor in any of the newspapers of the time.’ Here again, Rajmohan Gandhi has produced no evidence in support of his ipsi dixit that Mountbatten left Simla early and returned to Delhi on the evening of May 14, Neither the TP documents Vol. X nor Menon’s Transfer of Power contain any such statement. It must not be forgotten that for 6 weeks Mountbatten worked on an average for 17 hours a day, Ziegler, p. 378. Finally, the fact that the interview between Azad and Mountbatten is not recorded anywhere does not establish that no such interview took place. After Mountbatten returned to Delhi on 14 May, he gave an interview to Suhrawardy, whi, in his letter dated 15 May, Sir E. Meiville recorded the fact of the interview: TP Vol. X, p. 289, f.n. 1. In his letter of 15 May, to Burroughs, the Governor of Bengal, Mountbatten wrote among other things, ‘On my return from Simla on 14th May, I had a long talk with Suhrawardy and his Minister of Land Revenue’: T.P. Vol. X, p. 849. f.n. 2 on that page states that ‘No full record of Lord Mountbatten’s interview of 14 May, with Mr. Suhrawardy apperars in Mountbatten Papers, Interviews Series.’
Therefore, the fact that an interview is not recorded does not establish that no interview took place.
Two things will be clear to the reader. First, how weak are the links in the chain of evidence from which Rajmohan Gandhi evolves his theory of Azad’s interview with Mountbatten was a total concoction, links incapable of supporting that theory. Secondly, that the said theory had been demolished by the Minutes of the Meeting of the Attlee Cabinet on 23 May,’47, which corroborated the assurance given to Azad by Mountbatten that he would use tanks and aeroplanes to nip the violence in the bud. And after India Wins Errors was written, that theory has been demolished by the direct evidence of Brig. Yadav, A.D.C. to Mountbatten who at the insistence of (Humayun) Kabir had fixed an appointment for that interview, who asserted from his personal knowledge that the interview did take place.
Azad’s India Wins Freedom (1959 and 1988 editions) will continue to be read, remembered and relied upon long after Rajmohan Gandhi’s untrustworthy booklet India Wins Errors is dead and forgotten. It was a favourite saying of Lord Macaulay that ‘No man ever was written down, except by himself.’ Rajmohan Gandhi’s India Wins Errors furnishes a recent illustration of Macaulay’s favourite saying.//
Thus, the allegations against Maulana Azad leveled by the Hindu right do not hold water.
*While we need to be vigilant, most Indian Muslims are moderates who enjoy their music, movies and company of Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Parsi friends, and yes, more than 50% of them conform to some or the other form of Sufi Islam, branded as heretical and the adherents of which are being violently targeted in the Middle East by the ISIS, and even most of the non-Sufi adherents of Sunni Islam are far removed from the ISIS worldview and in that sense, are similar to their puritan Sunni counterparts in Iraq who are fighting the ISIS. Indian Muslims will largely never support the ISIS, and we shouldn’t do anything to alienate them or on the other hand, encourage any communal or regressive tendencies among them to change this.
Updated on 30th August 2016.
(Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons)