Monday, February 27, 2017

From ‘Being the Other. The Muslim in India’ by Saeed Naqvi

Hai dua yeh ki mukhalif jo hain dharey mil jaeen
Aaj phir Kausar O Ganga ke kinarey mil jaeen

(It is my prayer that the streams of Hindi and Urdu must join, like the Sangam;
Kausar, the river of paradise, must mingle with the holy Ganga.)

Jumman is a common name for a low-caste Julaha or weaver. It is also shorthand for the largest number of converts at the hands of proselytizing groups……Ashraf or genteel, the well-bred elite. Below the Ashraf were ‘Ajlaf’ or the Julahas (weavers) and ‘Arzal’, the menial class……… Sayyids prided themselves on being direct descendants of the family of the Prophet. In the list of the Muslim elite, which consisted of landowners and other upper-caste Muslims like Shaikhs and Pathans, Sayyids were the most influential. Their status in the Muslim society was similar to that of Brahmins among Hindus.

A basic rule of thumb was: culture came from Persia, Islamism from Arabia. The Persian stream had tributaries of Sanskrit, Awadhi, Brajbhasha flowing into it, enriching it to a point that it became something organically new. It came to be known as Urdu culture, totally independent of religion. Arabic remained the language of the Quran, and, therefore, the language of prayer and of religious reform.

Shias are in agreement with the followers of the family of the Prophet on the issue of succession after the Prophet’s death in 632 CE. By their reckoning, Ali should have succeeded him as the first caliph. He was the first convert to Islam, an outstanding soldier who led most of the Prophet’s campaigns. He was, at the same time, an exceptional administrator and scholar.
Did the Prophet nominate him as his successor? Shias cite the incident at Ghadir Khumm as clinching proof…. three months before his death…..the Prophet halted at a place called Ghadir. He lifted Ali’s hand and proclaimed Munkunt O Maula, Haza Ali Maula (They who consider me their Maula or leader appointed by God, must also consider Ali their Maula). This line has become an essential declaration of faith at the start of every Qawwali session ……… Qawwal’s go into ecstasy singing the ‘Qaul’ or declaration of Ali’s prophethood. No Samma (qawwali sessions in Sufi shrines) can be held without the Qaul. Interestingly, a large percentage of the audience at a Samaa is usually Sunni. This is ample evidence of Sufi influence on Sunni Islam in India. ……I have shown elsewhere ……..there is a blurring of the boundaries between Shia and Sunni in the cultural sphere
The ‘Qaul’ or the proclamation of Ali as the Prophet’s successor constitutes the basic fault line dividing Shias and Sunnis. …….Sunnis believe the Prophet’s real successors were the ‘Sahaba’ or his companions ……….This decision was endorsed by the elders at a meeting place called Saqeefa. Basically, Shia-Sunni differences have their origins in tribal divisions within the overarching clan, the Quresh.

In India, more particularly in Awadh, Shia-Sunni were social categories. ……the Sunnis form the majority, while the elite Shias form nearly 20 per cent of the Muslim population in India. The proportions in Pakistan are similar.
All Muslim rulers in the medieval period, from the Delhi Sultans right up to the Mughals, were Sunnis. But there was a large sprinkling of Shias in their courts, and they had a prominent role to play in the fields of education and administration. This elevated status accorded to Shias by the emperors and kings of large kingdoms explains the presence of Shia satraps and regional rulers in such diverse places as Awadh, Deccan and Bengal.
The first Islamic probe into India was Muhammad bin Qasim’s arrival in Sindh in the same year as the Muslim arrival in Spain – 711 CE. But it can be argued that Islam’s contact with India predates Muslim invasions. We know this because of clues like the Cheraman Juma Mosque in Kerala, built by Malik bin Dinar – a disciple of the Prophet, and named after Cheraman Perumal, a nobleman – at a time when the Prophet was still alive…….. Only a stretch of water separates the Arabian Peninsula from the coast of Kerala. Trade links across the oceans predated Islam by thousands of years.

Bad publicity given to the ‘Mussalman in India’ by Mahmud [of Ghazni] was made worse by Muhammad Ghori (1175), Timur (1398) and, about five hundred years later, by Nadir Shah (1739) and Ahmad Shah Abdali (1748). That the victims of the raids by these conquerors were mostly Muslims has been lost in the popular narrative. After Abdali’s raid, for example, Meer Taqi Meer, the great poet, became homeless.

…… of the most important centres of Shiaism in the subcontinent was the Awadh region …….

Wajid Ali Shah (1822-1887), the last ruler of Awadh, was indisputably one of the country’s most spectacular rulers. Besides being a popular ruler, his contribution to music, Kathak, poetry and theatre was enormous....

……body blow Muslims had taken in under a hundred years – first, there was the annexation of Awadh, then the brutal suppression by the British of the 1857 Uprising, followed by the Partition of India in 1947 without any reference to the people directly affected by it, and finally the abolition of zamindari …..Nehru assured Muslim rajas and taluqdars that zamindari abolition would not follow so soon after the trauma of Partition…….The Muslim League did not touch the issue of land reforms. How could it, when its support base was the landed gentry, exactly the class which dominates the Pakistan National Assembly to this day?

Sufis of the Chishti School had so internalized the divine experience that namaz to them was sometimes a superfluous ritual. This had influenced Shia thinking too.
Josh Malihabadi wailed about this circumstance in Karachi:
Sab se zyada khauf hai is baat ka mujhey
Dum tor dein kaheen na meri waza darian
Aisa na ho ke aihle suboo se bigar kar
Aale wuzoo se gaanthna par jaaen yaariyan
(I dread the day my way of life is compromised
Will I have to break ranks with my friends in the tavern?
I shudder to think that I may have to line up with
supplicants in prayer)
Namaz was important but it was not the highest priority. The Shias of Awadh, distinct from Shias elsewhere, had learnt to live with this paradox.

My grandfather…..friend of ….the high priest of Dewa Sharif, the Sufi shrine outside Lucknow……asked him. ‘Why don’t you say your namaz regularly?’ Waris Shah’s response was succinct: ‘Where is the space for me to kneel and go down in prayer?’, in other words – ‘He is in me’, the very essence of Advaita monotheism.
Notionally, Mecca and Medina are equally holy to both Shias and Sunnis, but in practice, Shias have different priorities – Najaf, Karbala, and Damascus, where the shrine of Zainab (Imam Hussain’s sister) stands, are the most sacred pilgrimage centres

With the decay of the feudal hierarchy, the lower middle class, always more religious in every society, gained upward mobility. It is around this class that religious groups like the Jamaat-e-Islami formed clusters. These clusters were 100 per cent Sunni. No Shia was ever a member of Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind of Deoband, Tableeghi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith or what is known as the Bareli group. The various militant groups …. are Sunni without exception.

After the shock of 1857, the British strategy was obvious: devise ways to keep Hindus and Muslims in conflict. ….the British component in the armed forces in India …..numbers rose from 20,000 in 1857 to more than 60,000 in the next two decades, the provision of beef for British troops became a priority………The British establishment kept itself insulated from Hindu anger by allowing official underlings to point fingers at Muslim butchers who actually performed the physical act of slaughtering the cows. This led to numerous Hindu-Muslim riots. Exhaustive correspondence between British officials, quoted by senior Gandhian scholar Dharampal – who spent months in the India Office Library and the British Museum in London studying British records on the subject – shows the Raj deliberately provoked Hindus against Muslims, sowing the seeds of the divide and rule policy…..

Note Nehru’s tone in a letter he wrote to Jinnah on 6 April 1938, after refusing a coalition with the Muslim League:
…the Muslim League is an important communal organization and we [Congress] deal with it as such. But we have to deal with all organizations and individuals that come within our ken. We do not determine the measure of importance or distinction they possess.
Jinnah replied:
Your tone and language again display the same arrogance and militant spirit, as if the Congress is the sovereign power. I may add that, in my opinion, as I have publicly stated so often, that unless the Congress recognizes the Muslim League on a footing of complete equality and is prepared as such to negotiate for a Hindu-Muslim settlement ….a settlement would not be possible.
The Nehru-Jinnah personality clash was not a negligible factor when it came to events that led to Partition.

……..Vallabhbhai Patel ……..Lord Archibald Wavell made the following entry about him on 17 March 1947 in his book The Viceroy’s Journal: ‘He is entirely communal and has no sense of compromise or generosity towards Muslims, but he is more of a man than most of the Hindu politicians.’
Michael Brecher in his biography of Nehru is equally blunt: ‘Patel is a staunch Hindu by upbringing and conviction. He never really trusted the Muslims and supported the extremist Hindu Mahasabha view of the ‘natural right of the Hindus to rule India.’……’

Sunnis were the overwhelming majority among Indian Muslims. Shias – the intellectual and feudal aristocracy among Muslims – were totally indifferent to the call for Khilafat.

……….I cannot think of any place in the world which has accorded hospitality to more religions than Kerala. Christianity flourished here when our cousins in Europe were still rather behind by any measure………communism – was given entry into Kerala for the first time in the world through the ballot box, in 1957………Cheraman Perumal mosque in Cranganore (Kodungallur), Trissur district. This mosque was built when Prophet Muhammad was still alive. ……visit Calicut ….for a Muslim guru in the classical Brahminical mould, C.N. Ahmad Mouli. He will ….furnish proof that the columns in Kaaba (Mecca) are made of teak from Kerala; the Kaaba…….predates Islam by thousands of years…..On the way to Sabarimala you will be required to obtain vibhuti from the shrine of the Muslim saint, Vavar Swamy, before you have Ayyappa’s darshan. Incidentally, the best songs dedicated to Vavar Swamy have been sung by Yesudas – a Christian singer and an Ayyappa bhakt.

Hai Ram ke wajood pe Hindustan ko naaz;
Ehle nazar samajhte hain usko Imam-e-Hind.
(The very being of Ram, is the pride of Hindustan;
Men of vision respect him as the Imam of Hindustan.)
That was Iqbal on the son of King Dashrath

…..shrine of Shah Sharif outside Aurangabad. One of Shivaji’s ancestors was his devotee – in fact, he named his sons Shahji and Sharifji as an act of respect to the Haji Malang in Thana……..In Pirana, Gujarat, stands the shrine of Imam Shah Baba that was once looked after by the Hindu Patels…….Kutch……Garasia and the Fakirani Jats – Muslims with faith in the Hindu Mother Goddess. In Rajasthan….temple of Goga Merhi in Ganganagar, which has ‘Praise be to Allah’ inscribed in Arabic on its gate. For eleven generations the pujari of the temple has been a Muslim. In Jaisalmer, the Manganiars and the Langas, both Muslims, sing Meera Bai, Bulleh Shah and Shah Abdul Lateef with the same devotion as the Meos of Alwar and Bharatpur sing their version of the Mahabharata or ballads devoted to Hazrat Ali. Syncretism in all these places is being challenged because religious intolerance is increasing. ………Raskhan’s verses about the naughty boy from Gokul. The real name of this great Krishna bhakt was Sayyidd Ibrahim…..people in Orissa who to this day welcome Jagannath with songs written by Salbeg, a Muslim by birth……..the Sufi order of the Kashmir Valley called itself the Rishis. It was founded by Nuruddin Wali, popularly known as Nund Rishi. His songs dedicated to the great yogini Lalleshwari or Lal Ded are at the very heart of Kashmir’s composite culture. The Rishis were avowedly spiritual heirs of Hindu asceticism and Advaita Shaivism…..Adam Malik from Batkote village in Pahalgam who discovered the Amarnath shrine. To this day, one third of the proceeds from the shrine go to the descendants of Adam Malik.

After the demolition [of Babri Masjid] and subsequent riots, covert dislike of Muslims in this country has become a lot more open and frequent….

….interview ….with Bhaurao Deoras …….
Deoras: I think Advaniji….not a word in his lectures… anti-Muslim.
Naqvi: But look at the slogans going on in Aligarh, in Hyderabad. You are aware of the poison of Ms Uma Bharati’s tapes……Do the slogans contained in Ms Uma Bharati’s tapes offend you?
Deoras: I do not like it.
Naqvi: Therefore you should stand up and condemn the provocative slogans
Deoras: I do not like the meanings behind the slogans. At present, just as no Muslim will like to make a statement, I will also not like to do so.

What did I make of the Frontier Gandhi from my stay with him …..he came across as a wise and measured leader. But at times I also assessed him as someone with human frailties and idiosyncrasies. Before he retired for the night he would count the shawls gifted to him to see if some had not been stolen by his personal staff….And when ordinary folk called on him in the night he would send them away with disdain. But he would be only too willing to meet VIPs and royalty…..He placed great premium on ‘achcha khandan’ or ‘good family’.

Godhra, 120 kilometres from Ahmedabad, population of two lakhs, approximately half of them Muslim – an invisible line divides the city into two communal zones. ….some members from the more prosperous side of the dividing line describe the others as ‘Pakistanis’…..On the morning of 27 February 2002, angry kar sevaks were returning from Ayodhya on the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express. The reason for their anger: the loss of the BJP-RSS combine in the UP elections that had taken place days earlier on 24 February……the returning kar sevaks had been misbehaving with passengers and hawkers, and teasing women in burqas. This behavior continued throughout the journey, at various stations including Dhanol, one stop before Godhra. On 27 February, as the train pulled out of Godhra, a Muslim hawker chased kar sevaks, who hadn’t paid him, into Coash S-6. The hawker’s daughter pleaded with the sevaks. She was dragged into the train. Her father’s beard was pulled. He was abused and asked to say ‘Jai Sri Ram’. As the train began to leave the station, it was pelted with stones by a mob that had gathered…….Remarkably the mob pelting stones at S-6 and S-5 consisted mainly of Muslim women……The majority of Muslims in Godhra are a group called ghachis – low in education, high on crime…..The women do not veil themselves and are in every sense as tough as the men……..A dozen years after the tragedy, and despite numerous committees and inquiries, there are several unanswered questions including a key one: who set fire to S-6?

During the riots, mobs destroyed the grave of Wali Gujarati, Urdu’s first great poet….He wrote: ‘Koocha e yaar, ain Kashi hai/Jogia dil wahan ka basi hai (My beloved’s neighbourhood is like the holy city of Kashi where the yogi of my heart has taken residence)’ In Vadodara, rioters tried to desecrate the grave of the greatest singer of the Agra gharana, Ustad Faiyyaz Khan. ‘Man Mohan Braj ke rasiya’…..Never was this passage sung better in Raag Paraj. Among more gruesome atrocities, it was also this heritage that was laid to waste in Gujarat during those deperate times.

Despite Vajpayee’s RSS lineage, he never came across to me in grim, communal light – in fact, I found him less divisive than Congress ministers like P.V. Narasimha Rao, for instance. I base this observation on years of reporting and interacting with a procession of Indian prime ministers. No one can lay blame at Vajpayee’s door for patently anti-Muslim policies…. Vajpayee belonged to a party which regarded Indian Muslims as the Other. But he recognized that if the country was to come together and move forward, the Muslims would have to be reassured and integrated into the idea of India and Bharat.

Nehru’s Hindu background did not stand in the way of non-aligned Muslim nations embracing him as their own. Raees Amrohvi, a Pakistani poet of Awadh origin, wrote…..
Jap raha hai aaj maala ek Hindu ki Arab.
Baraham-zaadey mein shaan-e-dilbari aisi to ho!
(The Arab world is chanting the name of a Hindu!
A Brahmin with such an incredible ability to win hearts
and minds!)
Hikmat-e-Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru ki qasam!
Mar mitey Islam jis pe, kaafiri aisi to ho!
(Look at the vision of Pandit Nehru!
A non-believer and yet the world of Islam lies at his
Nehru remained the undisputed leader of the Afro-Asian bloc until his death……..Special links with Muslim nations in this grouping was a matter of comfort to Indian Muslims……

………..scientist Saymond Aron judged Andre Malraux as ‘one third genius, one third false, one third incomprehensible’. …those proportions may quite accurately apply to Nehru.

My association with Vajpayee was spread over his two spells in government. He was external affairs minister in the post-Emergency Janata Dal. This is when he revealed his admiration for Nehru….on his first day in office….. ‘I remember with reverence that Pandit Nehru once sat on the chair I am about to occupy.’

When Vajpayee lost the 2004 election, his greatest regret was that he could not complete his agenda on Pakistan. His principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra, was heartbroken. He said: ‘We had very nearly placed our Pakistan policy on an irreversible track’

What has been a consistent feature of Moditva is the sectarian abuse of a section of his party.

What was the death toll in the killing fields of Jammu? There are no official figures, so one has to go by reports in the British press of that period. Horace Alexander’s article on 16 January 1948 in The Spectator is much quoted; he put the number killed at 200,000. To quote a 10 August 1948 report published in The Times, London: ‘2,37,000 Muslims were systematically exterminated ….by the forces of the Dogra State headed by the Maharaja in person and aided by Hindus and Sikhs. This happened in October 1947, five days before the Pathan invasion and nine days before the Maharaja’s accession to India.’ Reportedly, as a result of the massacre/migration, Muslims who were a majority (61 per cent) in the Jammu region became a minority….Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar wrote an article in the Times of India on 18 January 2015……. ‘Today, Jammu is a Hindu majority area. But in 1947 it had a Muslim majority. The communal riots of 1947 fell most heavily on Jammu’s Muslims; lakhs fled into what became Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. That turned Jammu’s Muslim majority into Hindu majority ….In sheer scale this far exceeded the ethnic cleansing of Pandits five decades later.’
Aiyar concludes: ‘The tragedies of J&K constitute a long, horrific tale of death and inhumanity. It has many villains and no heroes. Both sides have been guilty of ethnic cleansing.’

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