By Yoginder Sikand
Among the various Shia Muslim sects in India, the Daudi Bohras are among the most numerous. Almost all Daudis are Gujarati-speakers and are mostly traders. Large Daudi concentrations are found in several towns in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, besides in other Indian cities and abroad as well.
Being, for the most part, traders, the Daudis generally maintain a low profile, and hence little is known about them outside their narrow circle. Recent events among a small sub-sect of the group, however, threaten to snowball into a major public controversy, with leaders from other Muslim groups, including the majority Sunnis, being drawn into the raging dispute.
The storm of the controversy centres around a splinter group among the Daudis, the Atba-i-Malak Jamaat, based at Nagpur. This group was established by one Abdul Hussain Jivaji of Bombay in 1891. Jivaji held, in line with the Daudi Bohra belief, that the divine authority to carry on God's mission in the world, amar, had been passed down from Prophet Muhammad, through his son-in-law Imam Ali, through a chain of Imams. The 21 st imam, Imam Tayyeb was believed to have gone into seclusion (gayba), after which the amar was transferred to Yemen, being passed on through one Mauletana Hurrate Maleka, a woman, to the first dai-i-mutlaq, or deputy of the imam, one Sayyedna Zoeb. The amar continued to be invested with the Yemeni dai-i-mutlaqs till the 23rd dai-i-mutlaq, Sayyedna Muhammad Izzudin. Then, the amar was transferred to the 24th dai-i-mutlaq, Sayyedna Yusuf Najmuddin who set up his base in India. Through him, the amar was passed on to his successors, till the 46th dai-i-mutlaq, Sayyedna Muhammad Badruddin, who died in 1840.
It was following the death of the 46th Bohra dai-i-mutlaq that the Daudi Bohras split and the Atb-i-Malak Jamaat came into existence. The founder of this new group, Abdul Hussain Jivaji, claimed that the 47th dai-i-mutlaq, whom the majority of the Bohras had chosen to follow, had unfairly usurped that position and that, therefore, he was not the rightful possessor of the amar (sahib-i-amar). In his place, Jivaji claimed to be the hujjat or 'proof' of the imam, and hence, the divinely appointed leader of the Bohra community.
Jivaji's claim brought him into sharp conflict with the powerful Bohra establishment, as a result of which he, along with his followers, was forced to move to Nagpur, where he set up the headquarters of his new community. He now claimed the title of malak, and christened his community the Atba-i-Malak, or 'the followers of Malak'. From the donations of his followers he bought a large tract of land in Nagpur, which he named as Mahdibagh, and set up his headquarters there. Here he established a Mosque, a Jamaatkhana, a library, a madrasa, a clinic and an agricultural, tailoring and engineering unit, and his followers lived and worked together in a commune. Soon his name spread among the Bohras, and he succeeded in attracting many Bohras to his fold in Nagpur, Gujarat, Hyderabad, Khandesh and Ujjain.
In claiming to be the hujjat of the Imam, Jivaji based his arguments on traditional Bohra beliefs as contained in their interpretations of the Qur'an and their own texts, the Sahifa and Nasihat of their leaders. Jivaji claimed that following the death of the 46th Bohra dai-i-mutlaqthe amar had passed on to four hidden leaders or mumalikins in seclusion, until the death of the fourth of these, Adamji Tayyebji of Bombay, in 1891. The last mentioned was Jivaji's father, from whom Jivaji claimed to have received the nass or appointment to the exalted post of 'proof of the imam'. According to Jivaji, time had been divided into three cycles or daurs. The first of these was the daur-i-fatrat or the 'age of lethargy', a period of 3000 years. This was followed by the daur-i-satr, or the 'age of darkness', lasting 7000 years. Finally the daur-i-kashf or the 'age of light', that would carry on for 50,000 years.
Jivaji held that he had been appointed by God to herald the end of the 'age of darkness'. The 'age of darkness', he claimed, was also period of the Prophet Muhammad and the various Bohra Imams and dai-i-mutlaqs whom the Bohras believe received the amar after him. Jivaji maintained that from 1891 to 1901 would be the ten-year period of the akhir-uz-zaman or the 'end of time', after which the amar would be passed on to the divinely appointed leader of the 'age of light', known as the Qaim. He claimed to be the one who would herald the arrival of the first Qaim, and hence also took the title of hujjat-ul-qaim. In contrast to the Prophet, imams and dai-i-mutlaqs of the 'age of darkness', Jivaji held that the Qaim would be able to openly reveal hidden divine secrets, something which, he believed, was not possible in the earlier time cycles.
Jivaji died in 1899 at the village of Korhadi, near Nagpur, soon after which a major split occurred in the Atba-i-Malak sect on the issue of his successor. On one side were the supporters of a close disciple of Jivaji, Khan Bahadur Ghulam Hussain Miyakhan Hakim. Ghulam Hussain had been appointed by Jivaji as the 'veil of the Malak' or hijab-i-malak, and was given the name of Badruddin, 'the moon of the faith'. He and his followers claimed to be the true inheritors of Jivaji's legacy, and styled themselves as the Atba-i-Malak Badra Jammat. On the other hand, were the supporters of another of Jivaji's close disciples, one Abdul Qadir Ebrahimji Chimthanawala. Abdul Qadir claimed to have been appointed by Jivaji as his legal heir or Vakil, and so he and his followers called themselves as the Atba-i-Malak Vakil Jamaat.
Besides the issue of succession to Jivaji, other factors were at work in the dispute between the Badris and Vakilis. Central to this was the sprawling headquarters of the community, the Mahdibagh commune. Both Ghulam Hussain and Abdul Qadir claimed to be the rightful owners of this vast property. In the course of the dispute between the two, Abdul Qadir was ex-communicated from the community by Ghulam Hussain, although he had taken the oath of allegiance [mithaq] from the latter. Abdul Qadir and his followers then had to leave Mahdibagh, setting up their headquarters a mile way on a small piece of land, which they named Qaimibagh. Abdul Qadir and his supporters then instituted several court cases against the Jamaat led by Ghulam Hussain, claiming ownership of Mahdibagh for themselves. Many of these cases are still in the courts today.
Following the split in the Atba-i-Malak Jamaat, clear theological differences began to emerge between the two groups, which are at the root of the present controversy. Abdul Qadir proclaimed himself as the Qaim, the imam of the 'age of light', whose arrival, he claimed, Jivaji had been sent by God to herald. After his death in 1911, the same exalted position of Qaim was claimed by his successors, his three brothers, Abdeali, Razzak, and Imdad Ali. The present head of the sect, Tayyebhai Razzak Chimthanawala, nephew of Imdad Ali, also claims the same title. According to the Vakilis, the Qaim is God's representative on earth and is the sahib-i-amar, or guardian of God's spiritual mission in the world, in his own time.
Although various other Shia groups also place faith in the imam, whether in 'seclusion' or not, the Vakilis differ with them on the issue of the role of the Qaim. According to the Vakilis, following the ushering in of the 'age of light' with the appointment of Abdul Qadir as the Qaim in 1901, the shariat of the Prophet Muhammad (shar-i-Muhammadi) stands abrogated. In a deposition before the court of the district judge of Nagpur in the civil suit 143/67 [Jafar Bhai vs. Hasan Nurani], the present head of the Vakili Jamaat, Tayyebhai Razzak, claimed that the Islamic rituals prevailing before the establishment of his sect had been abrogated. The reason he gave was that, 'The rituals of every Prophet are abolished, when the next Prophet appears with the appearance of the Quyam [Qaim]'. It is not clear if, from this, Tayyebhai Razzak was claiming to be a Prophet himself or a status equal to that of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Further, he claimed that with the founding of the Vakili Jamaat and the dawn of the so-called 'age of light', essential Islamic rituals such as fasting during the month of Ramadan, praying in Mosques, and offering namaz had been abolished, for such rituals, he alleged in his deposition, 'were futile'. The Mosque, he said, was a mere piece of cement and mortar, and the true Mosque was actually 'the place where the religious leader, Guru, is offered regard and respect and prostration'. The Kabah, he stressed, was simply a deaf, dumb black stone'. All Islamic rituals, he added, that had an external [zahiri] form in the so-called 'age of darkness', had now, in the 'age of light' been declared to be totally unnecessary by Abdul Qadir and should only be followed in their 'inner' or batini sense.
On the other hand, the followers of the rival Atba-i-Malak Badr Jamaat continued to remain within the broad contours of Islam, asserting that the shariat of Muhammad still had to be followed in the 'age of light', the only difference between the 'age of light' and the age preceding it being that Jivaji, the 'hujjat' of the imam, and his successors had now to rationally and openly argue the rationality behind the rules of the shariat. Hence, rather than claiming for themselves the title of Qaim, Ghulam Hussain and his successors, including the present-head of the sect, Muhammad Amiruddin, merely claimed to be the dai-i-mutlaqs of the Imam or Qaim, in line with mainstream Shia theology.
The theological wrangling between the two sects of the Atba-i-Malak are thus several decades old and would probably have gone un-noticed but for an attempt this February on the part of the Vakilis, led by their self-styled Imam, Tayyebhai Razzak, to enter the Mahdibagh colony ostensibly to organise a gathering [majlis] at the Mosque there, the Masjid-i-Ibrahim. On 12th February, 1998, the residents of Mahdibagh, shot off an angry letter to the Commissioner of Police, Nagpur, claiming that the Vakilis were threatening to force their way into their Mosque. They stressed that since the Vakilis had publicly claimed that since in the view of their so-called imams, zahiri [external] namaz in a Mosque was useless and had been abolished by Abdul Qadir, their first so-called Qaim, the Vakilis' intention in entering the Mosque was but a crude attempt to capture control over the Mahdibagh colony.
In order to galvanise public opinion on the issue, the leaders of the Atba-i-Malak Badr Jamaat have contacted several leading Muslim authorities, both Shia as well as Sunni, throughout the country. In their request for fatwa from leading Shia and Sunni Ulama, they have enquired whether, in the light of the shariat, it is allowable for the Vakilis, who explicitly reject the shariat of Muhammad, particularly the injunctions on namaz, and deny the need for a Mosque, to claim a right to enter their Mosque. Important Muslim institutions such as the Madrasai-i-Madinatul Ulum, Nagpur, the Dar-ul-Ulum Salafiyya, Nagpur, the Dar-ul-Ulum, Deoband, the Jamia Nizamia, Hyderabad [all Sunni madrasasas] and the Tauhidul Muslimin Trust, a Shia institution in Lucknow headed by the well-known scholar Sayyed Kalbe Sadiq, have declared it unlawful for the Vakilis to enter any Muslim Mosque. Some of them have even declared the Vakilis to be non-Muslims.
Meanwhile, despite the flurry of fatwas denouncing the sect, the head of the Vakilis, the head of the sect, Tayyebhai Razzak, persists in his grandiose claims. In an extensive interview with this writer in Nagpur recently, Tayyebhai Razzak claimed himself to be the imam for the whole world, and that all those who do not believe in him, Muslims as well as others, were kafirs and shall 'certainly perish in hell'. While he claims that the Qur'an itself establishes the veracity of the Vakili sect, he himself admits that he knows no Arabic. Indeed, he does not even know Urdu. According to him there is no need for him to read the Qur'an in its original, because, he says, his is 'no bookish knowledge'. Instead, he says, he is in direct communication with God. When asked why, if he denied the relevance of the shariat, he sported a beard and depicted a picture of a Mosque on the cover of his sect's Gujarati periodical, Isbat-i-Kashf, he frankly admitted that this was simply to 'attract others' to his fold. In reply to a question as to why he was now attempting to enter the Mosque of the Badris although the Vakilis clearly negated the need for Mosques and Namaz, he confessed that his intention was just to prove the 'legality' of his sect's claim over the sprawling Mahdibagh property. 'That property belongs to me', he said, 'and I shall bring Mahdibagh into my hands at any cost'.
Such attempts to make religion a tool for personal greed have not been rare in the past, but, clearly, the present controversy far surpasses anything in the history of the Bohras, which itself has been replete with cases of splits on the issue of succession and control over the vast wealth of this enterprising community.
By Hassan Mansur
While the coalition for Nuclear Disarmament was planning its campaign for nuclear disarmament in Karnataka and Bangalore in particular, it was pointed out by some of its activists that related issues like growing communal intolerance, xenophobic tendencies towards certain linguistic and religious communities must be an essential part of its agenda. It needs no reiteration that nuclearisation evokes the image of the sole enemy, Pakistan which also happens to be an Islamic state. Naturally the corollary follows that the internal enemy is the Muslim community because the faith is common to both peoples. This perception has got ingrained in the psyche of certain members of the majority community whose ideology, to be exact, theology is that of the Rahtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It is in the open now that the Sangh Parivar pounced on the issue of nuclearisation as the latest weapon in its communal armoury that could promote jingoistic nationalism of the Hindutva clan which in turn could enable its political outfit, the Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), to garner votes in the name of “cultural nationalism”. This has all the potential of promoting greater communal fanaticism in the name of nationalism.
The Muslim community is being challenged every now and then by the Sangh Parivar to prove its nationalist credentials. Lately another victim of this xenophobia is the Christian community as seen from the reports emanating from Gujarat, Maharashtra and elsewhere. That Manohar Joshi should have taunted Muslim members of the Legislature to join him in singing Vande Mataram to show evidence of their loyalty to India speaks of the lengths to which communal zealots could go. The weekly journal in English of the RSS, ‘Organiser’ never misses a chance to question the nationalist credentials of the Muslim community. Slander and disinformation is disseminated in this regard through its media.
Tamil Nadu has been a sad instance of how some of the people there frightened by the bomb blasts in Coimbatore have become victims of wild rumours of Pakistan’s Inter-State Intelligence (ISI) fuelling this violence and some Indian Muslims abetting it. Though this was initially denied by the police, the frenzied outcry that L.K. Advani was the target of this attack gained ground and the BJP romped home winning a few seats in the Lok Sabha. Karunanidhi is showing all signs of going the way of Chandrababu Naidu just in order to secure his skin and seat, now that he is talking of supporting the BJP in the face of the threats hurled by his arch rival, the AIDMK. The result is that his government has gone ahead with the witch-hunt, arresting scores of Muslims, raiding and searching their homes with sensational reports of arms (most of it happens to be gelatine used for blasting rocks). He is all set to jump on the BJP bandwagon for sheer survival. Yet the Director-General of Police of Tamil Nadu has given a categorical statement, reported in The Hindu, dated 19-8-98, that there is no evidence of the ISI there. This gives the lie to the frenzied slander of the Sangh Parivar.
Now the scene has shifted to Bangalore with a report of an alleged phone call to Dubai and Karachi, discovering a Chinese pistol and hawala money recovered by the police. This is fodder enough for a discredited police force to declare busting an ISI conspiracy, arrest of a few hapless Muslims and to spread dark rhymes of some Muslim merchants involved in these transactions. It is an open secret that the police has spread these rumours to conceal its utter failure to control dacoities, murders, rapes, etc. Exploiting the myth of the ISI presence in the state, the communal and criminal elements in the other community are bracing themselves to embark on adventures on the eve of the Ganesh festivities. The cauvery dispute is hotting up with language chauvinists aided and abetted by disgruntled and frustrated, congress elements all set to let loose mayhem in the state.
The game that is being played in Tamil Nadu and now begun in Karnataka with wild rumours of the ISI, caches of weapons found and hawala money unearthed has been played before in Mumbai and Delhi. The Justice Sri Krishna Commission of inquiry report on riots and bomb blasts in Mumbai during December 1992 January and March 1993 has this to say : “There is no material to show that it was anything other than a spontaneous reaction of leaderless and incensed Muslim mobs, which commenced as a peaceful protest but soon degenerated into riots; for which a section of Hindus and the police provided provocation. About the blasts, it says, “There was a large amorphous body of angry, frustrated desperate Muslims keen to seek revenge for the perceived injustice done to and atrocities perpetrated on them or to others of their community and it is this sense of revenge that spawned the conspiracy of the serial blasts”. Jus. Sri Krishna, an honest and upright Judge, in private life highly devout, has been attacked by the votaries of Hindutva as partisan, disliking Hindus and favouring Muslims !! All these go to show how the Sangh Parivar and its infamous ally, the Shiv Sena have failed to communalize the polity, the latest evidence being these two notorious outfits humbled at the parliamentary hustings.
The Janata Dal Government in Karnataka needs to take a leaf out of the lessons learnt in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu and not let the police get away with fairy tales of the ISI presence in the state in order to distract peoples attention from the rising crime graph and failure of its own governance. It is unwittingly playing a game in which the sole beneficiary will be the BJP whose daily diet is of dark conspiracies hatched by the ubiquitous ISI allegedly supported by disloyal Muslims. The media is fed on this diet too and reporters are running berserk filing horror stories fed to them by the police. This is also contributing to the communal divide in the state. It is a sad feature that secular elements of the other communities are not alert enough to expose the perfidy of the state in letting rumours afloat.
The Muslim community needs to reign in its angry and frustrated youth so that it would not fall victim to the vile games of the Sangh Parivar as it happened in Coimbatore. It must join hands with all secular groups to combat the communal venom that is being spewed by all these sinister forces. The non-Muslim citizens committed to democratic governance have a greater responsibility in exposing the communal games of the RSS and its votaries in political parties, and bureaucracy. The last word belongs to that renowned economist and intellectual, K.N.Raj who in his letter to The Hindu wrote, “Those concerned with the proclivities of this communal organisation (i.e. Sangh Parivar) have considered it a greater threat to India’s political and social stability than any nuclear threat from outside”.
Those who liable state that marriages are made in heaven ought to have their heads examined. From the number of dowry deaths going on all the time all over this state most of these marriages must be made in hell. A new dimension seems to have been added to this conundrum with the advent of a novel species into the market called ‘marriage brokers, who claim that no marriage arranged by them ever goes on the rocks. Recently a close friend seeking a groom for his daughter lugged me into the office of a marriage broker.
“Well, what are your demands?” Asks my friend of the groom’s father seated there, knowing only too well that without these pourparler being satisfactorily completed no wedding can over click in our mercenary society.
“We have no demands actually ..” begins the groom’s father, making the bride’s father call him an angel in human shape.
“Except, of course, a few items ...” puts in the former hastily. And he hands over to the latter a list, on going through which with a rapidly beating heart he promptly falls down as if pole-axed. On being revived with sprinkled water he opens his eyes and moans feebly, “Two lakhs in cash, a Maruti Esteem, sofa set, washing machine, .. ‘aqua guard’, furniture set, video coverage of wedding.. held at five -star hotel.. and .. and so on. My God I did have to rob a bank or something to meet all these demands..”
“Or take to dacoity or kidnapping in your spare time,” I said, shoving in my oar.
“We will erase the car from the list,” suggested the broker now, trying to pour oil on troubled waters. “After all, with petrol prices going up every other day who wants to own a car? But the two lakhs in cash must stand.”
“And so must the washing machine, the aqua guard etc.,” said the groom’s father, putting a kibosh on any further attempts at pruning.
“Exactly,” chimed in the broker. “Without a washing machine no groom can appear at his bet.”
“The washerman, I suppose, has not yet become an extinct species,” I flung at the sharks, at which the groom’s father looked daggers at me, plainly wishing me elsewhere with all possible speed.
“Now about the aqua-guard,” continued the broker, unmindful of me, “which in these days of water pollution is a must for anyone not wishing to die of typhoid.”
“Be that as it may,” said I, my hat still in the ring,” what about all that furniture, that five-star hotel wedding, video coverage and the rest of it? What would the groom die of if these things are not provided, broken heart And then again, you, Mr. Broker, also would want your pound of flesh?”
“I did ask for Rs.20,000 from either party”, responded the broker. “I did rather be dead in a ditch than pay Rs.20,000 to you,” cried my friend, taking a line a through me.
“And if you take my advice, “I went on, pushing along the good work, “you did also be rather dead in another ditch, or the same ditch if you prefer it, than submit to these extortions. Your daughter is fair, good-looking and well-educated. What you do now is put in an ad in the papers, barring dowry-seekers of course, and you are bound to click sooner than you imagine.” And with that we get the hell out of that web of intrigue arm-in-arm.
T.V.A. Abdul Malik
The Oxford Dictionary (1994) defines fundamentalism as “a belief that the Bible is literally true and should form the basis of religious thought or practice”. A fundamentalist is the one who believes so. If fundamentalism is wrong, the logical outcome is the above mentioned Christian belief is wrong. Consequently any religious fundamentalism if indicted would only reflect upon that religion and invalidate it. Can anyone take it? Curiously the term ‘fundamentalism’ has been set off and let loose by the Western Christian journalists themselves. I wonder if their ire at fundamentalism is a display of a subconscious resentment at their own religion. Hence Muslims can only chuckle and smile in relief whenever they are accused of fundamentalism. The boot is on the other foot.
On the other hand, if fundamentalism as it means ‘a total devotion to religion’ is right, it would be so to all the religions viz., Christianity, Islam, Hinduism etc. This would exculpate all the practising adherents of these religions. Christian Missionaries pouring in millions of dollars in Afro-Asia, Israeli Jews confining themselves without work on every Sabbath, Hindus straining themselves with numerous rituals and practising Muslims will feel relieved. A conscientious practising follower of any religion is a fundamentalist according to Oxford Dictionary definition. Hence a Muslim fundamentalist is no better or worse than a church-going Christian or a practising Hindu.
If religion is good for mankind religious fundamentalism should be even better so. If it is a pristine fact that religion has brought love and light to a desperate mankind there should be nothing unusual about religious fundamentalism. A believer or God-fearing person will not speak of anything like the fundamentals of another religion. One who is true to his religion will be at least nice or courteous to another religion. Conversely when one is untrue even to his own religion he will have nothing but spite and bile for another religion. The hard fact is that most of the major religions have failed and turned their adherents into either agnostics or secularists. Thus we have today a class of people who claim adherence to religion but do neither practise nor follow it. They pride themselves as open-minded liberals and wish others to be so. For them religion is only a label to be flaunted in an application form or for other requirements of life like school, college admission, employment and marriage. Hence they brand anyone who is true to his religion as a fundamentalist. If fundamentalism is one aspect of religion what is the converse of it? Literalism or Liberalism? In effect holding to a religion without ever following it. Is it feasible? Can there be Hinduism without rituals, penance or doctrine of Karma? Can there be Christianity without cross, service to humanity and church-worship or Sikhism without turban, beard and Kirpan (knife)? Will it be fair to sneer at the followers of these religions as fundamentalists? Only a bogus religion can get on without a fundamental principle. All major religions are based on certain fundamental principles and obligations. A devout practising follower of a religion believes in them. In journalistic parlance he is a fundamentalist. In effect a good Christian turns out to be a fundamentalist Christian, a good Hindu a fundamentalist Hindu and so on.
There cannot be a religion without fundamentals and consequently fundamentalism and fundamentalists. A fight against fundamentalism can only be a proxy war with religion which means travelling back five hundred years by a very modern time machine, to the medieval period of crusades and inquisition. Anti-fundamentalists should be prepared for it.
Why then the hue and cry about fundamentalism? Criminalism and Violence as a cult is a worldwide phenomenon. We come across criminals in politics, ruling class, business, industry various professions and in academic institutions too. So are there criminals among the followers of religions. How far they are religious or good is a matter between themselves and the God they claim to worship. They can be passed off as any other criminal in the society like a thief, murderer, rapist, bootlegger, etc. It should be all the more so, since no religion condones or approves a criminal of any kind. In this perspective all acts of violence or offence can emanate only from socio-psychological factors like revenge, rivalry, resentment, etc. But the plume of religion over a criminal either wittingly or unwittingly imputes his misdeeds to the religion he professes. The trigger-happy media too is fobbed and the focus now shifts from actual crime to the name-sake religion of the perpetrator. By this two evils are committed viz. criminalism is acquitted and religious system is condemned. In effect all criminals are emboldened to pass on the burden of their sins to their religion and free themselves. While religion which is meant to bring joy and justice to mankind is muted and hangs down its head in shame. The result is obvious. All the aversion to fundamentalism has only nurtured violence and criminalism to its full bloom and rendered the world more miserable. Equally well the tame followers of religion have been rubbed on the wrong side by this unfair criticism. Consequently they turn to be more religious and fundamentalistic than they are feared to be. Hence all the noise about fundamentalism is only a boomerang on those who make it and a blessing in disguise for its votaries. Logically the media attack on Islamic fundamentalism has done more to cherish it than the choicest orators of Islam.
Fundamentalism is in built in any religion and not an adhesion to it. Any attack on fundamentalism is in real terms an affront to religion, only antagonising thereby the pious and the innocent, while real criminalism is set out of focus and saved.
The state of Afghanistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia is a glaring instance of this media maltreatment. A Muslim woman’s right to veil (Burqa) is no less than her western counterparts right to Bikini. If free society can be a way of life why should not a restricted Orthodox society be so?
If free society can be a respectable concept in the west fundamentalist society is so in the east. The media antipathy towards fundamentalism could only compare with the savage intolerance of the crusaders and inquisitioners some five hundred years ago.
All the vendetta against fundamentalism only shows the panic and insecurity of its counterpart the western liberalism or secularism. Muslim fundamentalists do not care a damn for the happenings in the liberal world nor do they comment on it. The all-pervasive promiscuity, loss of family life, phenomenal rate of violence in the liberal society do indeed merit volumes of criticism, but the fundamentalist cares not. Fundamentalist Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan can boast of peaceful family life among its people, along with economic prosperity. Can America boast of the same?
The chaff has to be separated from the grain at least now. Fundamentalism is not criminalism nor vice versa. Our desperation with criminalism has forced us to make a scapegoat of fundamentalism. It is much easier to nab a cap-and-beard fundamentalist practising Muslim than an armed mercenary at large. Hence the pious and the religious are an easy target of attack by the media and minions of law, while the impious and the irreligious have a field day out. Bashing fundamentalism is easy fun while criminalism is fatal. Now you can understand why fundamentalism is in the news.
By Dr. Shukur Ahmed
‘Religion’ stands for tolerance. A person true to his religion is always peaceful, straight-forward and righteous. Moreover he remains disciplined. A few followers of every religion, on account of their selfishness, have spoilt the fair name of religion. They may be termed as hypocrites. An ordinary citizen does not know much of other religions, other than the one to which be belongs. By the conduct of its few followers, it is safely concluded and generalised that, that particular religion never meant tolerance.
Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world. It is true of our country also. Islam in real sense of its term promotes “Oneness of God and Universal Brotherhood of Mankind.” Its message is for the entire humanity. Allah himself declares in the holy Qur’an “Mankind was one single nation” - (II:213). Allah commands that human beings shall not remain disunited. “And hold fast, all together, to the Rope of Allah, and do not separate”, (III :103). Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) has stressed, time and again on the unity of thought and action on the part of Muslims and has never hesitated to proclaim that fighting between two Muslims is Kufr.
In his words as reported “You will meet your Lord, so do not come after me as non-believers killing each other.” In his declaration - “The hand of God is on the community and whoever deviate, deviates to hell”. On more occasions, He is reported to have said that “The devil is with a single person and further away from two people.”
Muslims in India, as a whole are in minority. In a democratic set up the worst sufferers are the minorities and that too the largest minority. A student of political science is well aware that one of the important defects of democracies, is “dictatorship of majority.” To see that the voice of Muslim minority prevails in democracy, its members shall have perfect unity as is desired by their religion. Islam speaks to the community of mankind as a whole and not an individual. Wherever the holy Qur’an commands or prohibits, it speaks to the community. In one of the verses of Qur’an, it is very clear that united effort leads to prosperity - ‘Oh ye who believe! Bow down and prostrate yourselves, and adore your Lord, and do good that ye may prosper,’ (22:77). Commenting on the last word of this verse ‘Prosper’ in his edition of the holy Qur’an, Moulana Abdulla Yusuf Ali rightly points out that in a spiritual sense it refers to both ‘in this life’ and ‘Hereafter’. The Qur’an makes it amply clear to its followers to remain peaceful and he or she has to resort to violence, only as a last resort and that too in self defence and under well defined limits. The following verse of Qur’an testifies to this thought - “Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin no hostilities,” (2:190) Do not the worshippers daily raise their hands and pray - “Our Lord! Forgive us and our brethren who were before us in faith and place not in our hearts rancour, towards those who believe,” (Exile : 10). The Qur’an in one more verse makes it crystal clear that ‘united we stand and divided we fall’, as the verse goes “And remember Allah’s favour unto you, how ye were enemies and He made friendship between your hearts so that ye became as brothers by His grace,” (3:103)
Inspite of all these dictates, Muslims as human beings, on account of various reasons, have differences of opinion, they abuse, fight each other and appeal for justice in the courts. As disciplined followers of a disciplined religion they shall inculcate the habit of controlling the emotions and settle their disputes amicably. The Holy Qur’an says, “And if two parties of believers fall to fighting make peace between them. And if one party of them doeth wrong to the other, fight ye that which doeth wrong till it returns unto the ordinance of Allah; then if it returns make peace between them justly and equitably, Lo! Allah loveth the equitable,” (The Private Apartment :9). Islam does not tolerate disobedience to the community. The Prophet (Pbuh) rightly declares - ‘There will be strifes from here and there, so whoever wanted to separate this nation while united, then strike him with the sword whoever he may be.’
Islam stands for unity, the unity of the entire humanity as stated above. Great responsibility lies on the shoulders of Muslims, when their own religion commands them to be united and promote brotherhood. Needless to say that if there is perfect harmony and unity amongst the brethren, there will be less expenditure for the entire community and if the expenditure is less, there will be more saving and with more saving, there will be more investment and with greater investment, the prosperity of the community is greater.
Idealism is exactly opposite to realism. In reality Muslims have been going astray, inspite of so much of tabligh and promotion of enlightenment. Atleast now they shall realise and repent for the past mistakes and see that they remain united, so that nobody dare say, “Islam is the best religion but its followers are the worst.”
By Dr. Abdul Aziz
In the ancient times it is a leader who led the people on the right path, protected their interests and guided them in their day-to-day life. He acted as a friend, philosopher and guide. People were then led normally be a single individual.
In the modern world the need for a similar leader is also felt. But the mono-leadership concept does not work now. For each constituency or section of people a leader is required because the interests and felt needs of each constituency or section of people differ and need to be separately articulated. Therefore, plurality of leaders is what is expected to be developed in the modern democratic system.
We Muslims, as an important section of the Indian society, need leaders to articulate our interests and get them fulfilled. In the past, we did have eminent leaders who represented our community’s interests. Because of their eminence and also because of their background they came from the freedom movement these leaders had a charisma about them. As such they were accepted unquestionably as natural leaders. But today, we cannot hope to have such charismatic and natural leaders because it is simply not possible to produce such leaders. Even so, the need for leadership is more intensely felt today because more than at any time we need to be led in the right path, guided in our day-to-day life and get our interests protected.
The need for effective leadership is felt more intensely today because of some recent developments that have occurred in the Indian polity. Two such developments may be referred to one, polarisation of political parties and change in the political mobilisation strategy followed by them. Second, the socio-political alienation of Muslims consequent to the emergence of communal politics. Let me elaborate these points. The 90s have seen a queer type of polarisation by the political parties one around communal politics and the other around secular politics. Such a development is not of recent origin. It had been present in the past too. But today the difference between communalism and secularism has sharpened and become quite open. Since the communal parties have targeted the minorities, especially Muslims, their traditions and culture, and since such targeting had become the plank of communal parties, naturally Muslims as a group feel alienated.
Though the secular political parties have tried to protect the interests of Muslims, they have not been fully successful. This is due to two reasons one, they have to contend with the communal-minded voters. Secondly, political mobilisation is poor among Muslims. As a result, attempts made by the secular parties to protect our interests did not carry much weight. It is in this context of low degree of political mobilisation among Muslims that a need for an appropriate and effective leadership is felt.
We many now ask the question, what kind of leader is needed in the present context. In my opinion, we need a leader who is capable of securing political mobilisation among all or at least a majority of Muslim voters. In this perspective, skills required of our leaders are:
a) Capacity to identify the felt needs of the Muslim voters, and to aggregate those needs to hold our voters together;
b) articulate the aggregated felt needs in different fora, create favourable public opinion and thereby meet those needs; and
c) bargain with the political leaders of other communities and develop a culture of collusive politics for the benefit of Muslims.
The skills required of Muslim leaders as listed above are quite demanding. So much so, it may be difficult to find the required number of leaders in our community possessing all of these skills. This calls for leadership development. The community should identify potential leaders and train them. I suggest that we try to concept of collective leadership. In each constituency, there may be more than one potential leader. These men and women should function as collective leaders each one contributing his/her specific skill and some one coordinating their actions. This requirement is also quite demanding because this involves team work. But, for we Muslims team work is an alien concept and individualism is too much ingrained in our psychology. We have a tendency to keep our individual interest above the interests of the community.
What should be the focus of the proposed training under these circumstances? The focus should be on building appropriate leadership qualities. These qualities are skills of felt need aggregation, political mobilisation and bargaining with other community leaders. In the context of scant regard for team work observed among us, training should also focus on developing team spirit among our potential leaders and a culture of working together.
The training methodology should consist of organising workshops in district headquarters wherein socio-political problems faced by Muslims are discussed and problem-solving is attempted. Case studies of successful leaders and the manner in which they mobilised people, created public opinion and pressurised the authorities to resolve problems should be presented. Obviously, this requires a good deal of preparatory work, organisational inputs and also resources. It is time that the Muslim community took up the responsibility of mobilising these inputs and resources. (The author Dr. Abdul Aziz is Prof and Head Decentralised, Governance and Planning ISEC, Karnataka)