Indian Muslim at the Crossroads

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From 1947 to 2019: The journey of a Muslim who is an Indian first

by M.A. Sofi 25 May 2020

Need for looking within and catching the enemy by the jugular

Notwithstanding  the  collective  wish  to  explain  it  away,  the  ugly  truth  remains  that  a malicious  campaign  has  been  underway,  at  least  over  the  past  six  years  where  Indian Muslims have been pushed to be on the receiving end of an endless cycle of censure, stigma and violence. The reasons for this are many, the main one of course being that it’s part of an ambitious (though an impractical) part of the agenda of the RSS to exterminate, or at least reduce Muslims to the  status of second  class  citizens of India.  Which is why they are unmoved by the dehumanising plight of tens of thousands of migrant labourers on the highways of India while investing the time, effort, resources and the wherewithal to go after the unsuspecting young Kashmiris and kill them and those around them with impunity and without provocation. And this in the midst of a situation when the entire population of Kashmir is made to contend with the double whammy of a lockup alongside the Covid- specific lockdown across India and elsewhere. Sadly, those who could make a difference to the lives of these two sections of people being lorded over by them have chosen to turn their gaze away from the twin disasters which have already brought unqualified censure to them from the world capitals and certain highly rated watchdogs around the world. Whereas their approach towards the plight of migrant labourers derives from their utter neglect of and disregard for the under-privileged sections of the society, in the case of Kashmir they have chosen to act in ways as if the fate of teeming millions of Indians hinges entirely on the extent of blood that they spill in the homes, hearths and on the streets of the valley. The blood and the body bags of Kashmiris is what they feed as the staple diet of the bhakts who seem to relish  every single  drop  and  every single  bite  of  it  exactly  as  the  vultures  take  to  the carcasses.

The point is that this limitless lust for blood has rendered them insensitive them to the search for (easier) alternatives which would deliver a body blow to the million mutinies that are ever on the rise in a country where justice has been the greatest casualty in the midst of this prurient thirst for revenge and vendetta. One only hopes against hope that this morbid propensity for weaponising violence gives way to a policy of rapprochement, outreach and a will to restore genuine peace, prosperity and stability which the people of India need – and deserve – more than anything else under the sun.

The question arises: how should the Indian Muslims deal with this aggressive campaign of hatred and intolerance being targeted against them in a country where they constitute the largest minority with a 20% share in its population? Though there are no easy solutions to be implemented on the ground, their plight is aggravated in no small measure by certain old habits of the Muslim mind which are long overdue for a complete overhaul and with immediate effect in order to hope for an end to their misery.

To begin, let us face the facts head on. For one thing, it’s important to realise that you facilitate the job of your detractor as soon as you allow them to exploit the chinks in your armour which provide a readymade excuse to them to pillory you as a punching bag. Of these, the most significant one is surely the short shrift the Muslim community has betrayed towards modern education right since the decline of the Muslim empire about a thousand years ago. This has led to a crippling state of inertia and intellectual stupor within the community where free thinking has ceded space to a regressive outlook characterised by

resignation and a meek surrender to the forces of obscurantism. Not surprisingly, the greatest catalyst for change within the community would come from nowhere as forcefully as in the pursuit of education, both at the elementary as well as at the higher level with single-minded focus on the will to achieving excellence at the highest level. Rather than remain fixated on the ‘other-worldliness’ which is strangely and entirely wrongly being read as the main thrust of Islam and which has led to large sections of the Muslim community remaining trapped in a state of ennui and a life denying inertia, there is a case for waking up to the need for a fresh look at Quran which is replete with copious exhortations upon Muslims to learn, reflect and ponder upon the life and the universe around us. That’s a tacit and an emphatic invitation for its followers to learn and master all branches of knowledge: languages, history, anthropology, philosophy, science, mathematics, technology, medicine and what have you. Contrary to what most of our contemporary Islamic scholars would have us believe, the acquisition of knowledge is not only that which deals with the ‘other worldliness’ or which derives solely from scriptures, ahadis and fiqa etc, it is of far greater importance to acquire and excel in the knowledge of the world in which we live and of the cosmos our world happens to live as a tiny entity. More so, in the light of the challenges posed by the demands of the contemporary world which have long since necessitated such a paradigmatic shift of outlook.

Alongside this, it’s also important to bear in mind that the temptation to entertain delusions of grandeur involving one’s faith or ideology has been a singular reason for the decimation of that ideology or creed and those who had espoused that creed or ideology as part of that supremacist  outlook.  That  sort  of  an  outlook  has  to  give  way  to  tolerance  and  even acceptance of the practice of the contrary worldview by those who espouse it. The sad part of the saga is that it’s this supremacist view of religion that has led to a certain amount of disregard of other strands of religious thought on the one hand and to a literal interpretation of Quran and Hadith on the other where the latter are looked upon merely as a compendium of do’s and do not’s for Muslims to follow in their daily lives. Let me illustrate it by means of an example.

Of the five basic principles involving the fundamentals of faith in Islam, perhaps the most spectacular one comes from the institution of zakat, a one-of-its-kind charity mechanism that even the diehard critics of Islam concede as its greatest bequest to the humanity. Being enjoined as a duty upon Muslims to part with (at least) a paltry 2.5 pc of their wealth beyond their needs, the institution of Zakat would help completely eradicate poverty if it was implemented across the board by all those who have sufficient resources in their possession and so are obliged to give away the designated part of that to help the needy and the poor. However, what is worrisome is this strange obsession with the ‘arithmetic of Zakat’ among the prosperous sections of the Muslim society whereby it’s most often the case that they don’t even wish to part with a single penny outside the month of Ramadhan as part of zaka’t. This is so because a literal interpretation of the guidelines involving zaka’t has led to the entirely misplaced notion amongst Muslims that an act of goodness during the holy month is expected/promised to fetch them a tidy ’70 times more sawab (reward) in the hereafter’ than when that deed is done during the rest of the year. So why waste 70 times bounty in return for a good deed that you ‘waste’ doing outside of the month of Ramadhan?

Sadly, this is the kind of thinking that informs the attitude and the conduct of large sections of the Muslim community which is corrosive, regressive, retrograde and repugnant to the core. At a time when those living on daily wages have been deprived to earn a single penny in a day on account of such a massive lockdown on account of Covid-19, a delay in reaching out to them would not only be unconscionable but criminal, and devastating to these poor souls

and to their families. What is vitally important is the neya’t (intention) and by no means the amount of sawab we are obsessed with when it comes to praying, fasting or giving away out of our earnings in charity. Sooner the community wakes up to its duty towards their fellow beings, the better it would be.

Finally, never ever before has the need been felt for the Indian Muslims to come up and to rally behind a leader and a party of its own which would speak for them and of their duties, responsibilities and equally importantly, of the manifold problems being faced by them and ways of tackling them in the India of today. It’s time they stopped hankering after the so- called secular parties like the Congress or in more recent years, the likes of the Aam Admi Party or its ilk which can’t boast of having contributed anything even remotely to the genuine aspirations and the empowerment of the community other than engaging themselves in pure doublespeak and hypocrisy. That would be a great enabling factor to take on and blunt the utterly divisive and hostile agenda of their detractors/tormentors, most of them owing allegiance to such political outfits as the Bhartiya Janata Party and their parent organisation, the RSS.

The list of remedial measures is too long to include within the constraints of space of this column, but a willingness to address the three core issues raised above would hopefully set the ball rolling, while being in the spirit of the principle of Occam’s razor in dealing with the crisis that is upon us.