This week I am writing for my dear Muslim countrymen who believe that they are Indians first, who understand and cherish the secular values of our Constitution that protects them, who love our country and whose commitment to it is as strong as to their faith. I ask them, where do they see a conflict between the two?
I am not very sure what kind of indoctrination is going on within the madrasas today, but it would be of great religious and intellectual benefit to the Muslim community of India, if they could revisit the true tenets of Islam that were preached by the Prophet. Early Islam was never a rigid faith. It was built upon Zoroastrian, Jewish and Christian elements, that were combined to a code of conduct, which became a simple and clear religion, and strong morality. Mohammed did not repudiate Christ or the Jewish prophets.
Are the Muslims of India aware that the Prophet declared that "He who leaves his home in search of knowledge walks in the path of God", and the "ink of a scholar is holier than the blood of a martyr"?
Are they aware that early Islam tolerated the growth of Mu'tazilah, an Islamic school of theology based on reason and rational thought that flourished, between the 8th and 10th centuries? Its main assertion was that because of the perfect unity and eternal nature of Allah, the Quran must therefore have been created, as it could not be co-eternal with God. From this premise, the Mu'tazili school of Kalam proceeded to posit that the injunctions of God are accessible to rational thought and inquiry — because knowledge is derived from reason; reason is the "final arbiter" in distinguishing right from wrong. It follows, in Mu'tazili reasoning; that "sacred precedent" is not an effective means of determining what is just, as what is obligatory in religion is only obligatory "by virtue of reason".
I have always said that while the impulse of the Prophet lasted, Islam flourished. Its decline started when the message of the Prophet got diluted and when education of the young got into the hands of teachers with closed minds and darkened souls — a tragic phenomenon that persists till today.
I ask my Muslim countrymen to carefully verify whether Islam as practised by the corrupt politician or the ignorant mullah bears any resemblance to the original and pristine verses preached in the Quran.
Every faith, more so a revealed religion runs the risk of getting corrupted at the hands of the "interpreters". For all its liberal foundations, Islam has perhaps been the worst victim of exploitation at the hands of its supposed defenders.
The 17th century produced, in a remote village of east Central Arabia, an ideologue who has become the scourge of the 21st century — Mohamed Ibn Abdul Wahhab, founder of a sect called Wahhabi. He misunderstood the religion of Prophet Mohammed, a religion which by its name, stands for peace. He misconstrued what the Prophet had preached, picked up stray lines and convinced himself that his faith decreed death and annihilation to all mushrikhun, i.e. polytheists. By his definition, Christians, Jews, Shias and Hindus, among others, are polytheists, who have forfeited their right to live. He wanted to use jihad as a "cleansing" war against fellow Muslims, in complete disobedience to the Holy Quran that clearly forbids aggression: "fight in the way of god against those who fight against you, but do not commit aggression"(Quran 2:190-92).
Abdal-Latif, descendent of Wahhab, a scholar and religious leader in Riyadh, promoted a similar religious movement called Ikhwan, or brotherhood, the tenets of which were revived and intensified Wahhabism. Ibn Saud, founder of the House of Saud saw great merit in enlisting both — Ikhwan, which was useful for uniting warring tribes in their emerging state, and Wahhabi Islam, which would set up a well regulated Wahhabi society. Ibn Saud's descendant, King Faisal, went a step further and gave Wahhabi religious leaders control over Saudi religious education.
The founder of Jamaat e Islam, the India-born Maulana Mawdudi offered a parallel ideology during the last years of British rule, and this is the point from where cloistering and intellectual conflict of the Muslim community started. Secularism in education was condemned as aggression against Islamic legitimacy. Such thinking spawned the Muslim World League, which soon set up office in Peshawar, and became a recruiting ground for Osama bin Laden's followers. Osama bin Laden is the most evil face of Wahabbism.
I would like my Muslim countrymen to reflect whether Wahabbi Islam, apart from indoctrination through a counterfeit creed of Islam promoting terror, intolerance and fanaticism, in direct negation of the Prophet's teaching, has diverted the religion away from the path of inter-religious harmony, and acceptance of other faiths and creeds. And most tragically, has it legitimised and created a terror identity within Islam, in today's world, indoctrinating young minds into fanaticism that killing innocent persons in cold blood in the name of Islam will earn them post-mortem bliss.
This is the oppressive religious pressure under which the Muslim community of India has to live with, and I sympathise with their dilemma. I can only urge the educated and intelligent segment of the Muslim community to assess their situation through the lens of rationality which was the essence of pristine Islam, and provide enlightened leadership to their community that can take them forward and not backwards, not only in terms of their own personal progress, but also in terms of building a truly secular and integrated India.
The chequered history of Hindus and Muslims in our sub-continent has been traumatic, but for that very reason, it is imperative that both communities must make a conscious attempt to rise above the old traumas. Military and religious conquest invariably leaves behind a bitter trail, but little purpose is served by listing the thousands of temples demolished by Muslim invaders, down the centuries, or the immature Babri revenge. I have always stated that if a Ram temple is to be built where the mosque of the victorious Babar stood, it should only be built with the cooperation, support and love of the Muslim community. Let my Muslim friends reflect upon this. This gesture alone will demonstrate their magnanimity, the only sentiment that can heal the past wounds of conquest.
The Muslim leadership should also revisit the secularism as was practised in the days of early Islam, in accordance with the true teachings of the Prophet, and instil it in institutions of religious learning. True religious teachers must explain to the faithful that underlying all religions, whether they are teachings of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddha, Kabir or the Vedas, the core essence and the values they preach are universal, immutable, and eternal, because they are based on love, peace, tolerance and non-violence.
The Muslim community should take into account the instances of communal violence that have occurred in Congress and ally ruled states, and in BJP states, and judge for themselves which are more reliable in protecting their Constitutional rights. Yes, the Gujarat riots of 2002 were a tragedy as all such incidents anywhere are. But Modi has been able to prevent their recurrence, through able and inclusive governance. I appeal to my Muslim countrymen to note this achievement, liberate themselves from the destructive propaganda disseminated by the Congress, and support Modi in the coming election.