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In The Name Of Defending Islam

Under the usual cover of 'Islam is in Danger', a pernicious campaign seems to be getting mounted against the Ahmadis in Hyderabad.

In The Name Of Defending Islam
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+0553

In a previous essay in April, "Learn from Pakistan", I described the rapidly increasing coarseness of feeling and language against the Ahmadis in the Indian Urdu press, concluding that it does not bode well for either India or its Muslims. The article mainly dealt with some events in Punjab, Haryana, and U.P. Previously, in August 2010, in another article, "Anti-Ahmadism in India", I had described what was happening in Hyderabad and U.P. That article also laid out a brief history of the rise and spread of Anti-Ahmadism in South Asia since 1947.

Matters in Hyderabad recently got worse, with one leading Urdu newspaper, Munsif, apparently playing a prominent role. The first inkling of it came in a report published in that paper on July 5, under the headline, “Qadiani Terrorism is Condemned. Injured under treatment supervised by the Majlis-i-Tahaffuz-i-Khatm-i- Nabuwwat.” The latter long title means: Organization for the Protection of the End of Prophethood. Apparently there was a violent incident at some place called Khumam or Khimam—the Urdu does not indicate its vowels—in which one non-Ahmadi person was injured. No other details of the incident were given. The story, however, opened with this sentence:

Now this miniscule Qadiani Jama’at has become so bold against the Muslim Millat that its trouble-making “preachers” have started attacking poor Muslim villagers in order to gain their filthy objectives.

It seems that Munsif subsequently published several inflammatory articles that led to a legal challenge from the local Ahmadi organization. I was unable to access the articles or the legal challenge, but I learned about the matter in a report in Munsif, dated July 15.

“[One expected] that the publication in Munsif of the articles on protecting the Doctrine of the Finality of Prophethood would lead the deniers of the Finality of Prophethood to draw guidance from them and become Muslim, but instead they have threatened to silence the voice of Truth. Their threat is a challenge not merely to Munsif; it is a challenge indeed to the Muslim community’s sense of honour and its love and fervour for the Prophet. Under present circumstances, it is necessary that all newspapers edited by Muslims should show solidarity with Munsif; they should write supporting editorials on their front pages, and continuously publish research articles on the Doctrine of the Finality of Prophethood.” So said Maulana Syed Khwaja Mu’izuddin Ashrafi, Khatib of the Jama Masjid Muhammadi, Kishan Bagh, and Director of Idarah Tahqiqat-i-‘Ilmiya, A.P.

The report further informed that a joint statement of condemnation was issued by Qazi Afzal Sharif, President of the City branch of Jam’iat-i-‘Ulama-i-Hind, and Muhammad Murtaza, Convenor of the Minorities Wing of the city’s Congress Committee, as well as many NRIs residing in Saudi Arabia and Dubai. They reportedly praised the “bold truth-telling of Munsif” and its efforts “to spread the True Religion and inform the public of the non-Islamic, mischief-mongering actions and beliefs of the Qadianis.” It ended: “In matters of Truth, every member of the community is with Munsif. The Qadianis should end their cowardly activities, otherwise the wrath (qahr) of the community will for sure fall upon them.”

The only other context qahr is commonly found in Urdu is like in “the Wrath of God.” I wonder if any local English or Telugu language newspaper, not to mention the law-and-order authorities in Hyderabad took notice of these ominous developments?

Meanwhile the July 16th issue of Sahafat (Delhi) carried on its front page an astonishing headline: “Was Gandhiji Mentally Inclined Towards Qadiyaniat?” What followed was a note by one Athar Siddiqui, who in the 1960s and 70s worked in some important capacity at the Parliament House. Siddiqui begins by expressing his deep and sincere respect for Gandhiji, particularly for the latter’s habit of honouring all religions. He then writes:

In Gandhiji’s daily routine were included readings from the Gita, the Quran, and the Bible. Every morning he would read from the English translation of the Quran done by Mohammad Ali Ahmadi (sic). Research needs to be done on just who advised him to read the Quran of Mohammad Ali Ahmadi, for Mohammad Ali Ahmadi was the greatest champion of Qadianiyat in the sub-continent, and with his poisonous writings in English, he greatly strengthened Qadianiyat. Despite the fact that the English translations by Marmaduke Pickthall, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, and Abdul Majid Dariyabadi had come out in 1930, 1934, and 1941, respectively, Gandhiji used to read only the translation by Mohammad Ali Ahmadi. It gave much publicity to his translation. Other public figures close to Gandhiji also started reading that book.

Siddiqui then goes on to describe how one day he received a call from Mr. Abdul Hameed, the Press Secretary to S. Radhakrishnan, the second President of India, who asked him to come to the Rashtrapati Bhavan immediately. On arrival the author was taken to Dr. Radhakrishnan, who reportedly said to him, “Please get me a copy of the English translation of the Quran done by Mohammad Ali Ahmadi (sic). The copy I now have is now in bad shape.” Siddiqui then contacted a friend, who took him to the late Maulana Syed Muhammad Miyan. The latter, in turn, managed to get him a copy from Pakistan. At their meeting, however, the Maulana chided Siddiqui for not suggesting a replacement to Dr. Radhakrishnan—protocol stopped him, Siddiqui responded—then told him about Gandhiji’s practice at his morning prayer meetings. He then added: “A few days before his death, Gandhiji sent for Maulana Hifzur Rahman Seoharwi, M.P., and said to him, ‘My work is done. This Quran was your trust (amaanat), I am returning it to you.’”

Amazingly, the writer then asks: “What did Gandhiji mean when he said: My work is done? Was it related to Qadiyaniat?” Could it have been another premonition of his death?

One might overlook the above as just one more case of plain ignorance combined with sectarian zeal. Ignorance of the translation in question, ignorance of the fact that Abdul Majid Dariyabadi himself acknowledged at length his gratitude to Mohammad Ali’s translation in his autobiography, Aap Biti, and gave the latter much credit for his own return to Islam from atheism; and sectarian zeal in not even noticing the fact that Gandhiji had received the book from Maulana Seoharwi, who must have found some virtue in it, and that Gandhiji could have started reading the Quran before it was translated by the people he mentions. That zeal, however, then leads Siddiqui to add something much more disturbing, which no responsible newspaper should have published:

The Times of India recently published that the Darul-‘Ulum Seminary at Deoband has pressed the Saudi government to ban the entry of the Ahmadis to Mecca and Madina. Only time will show what the Saudis do. Meanwhile we request the authorities at India’s great [Aligarh] Muslim University to make particularly certain that Qadianis were not able to get admission disguised as Muslims. We say so because last year Khurshid Ahmad, who did Law at the Muslim University, was a Qadiani. His brother lives in Farash Khana, Gali Samosan, and his name is Rahmat Ilahi. God help us if such people get into our university’s administration.

Surely, the ad hominem attack and the appeal for discrimination against fellow Indian citizens should have been noted by the editors of the journal and by members of the news community. Amazingly, the Lucknow edition of Sahafat of the same date published a long report under the heading, “Disturbing Increase in Religious Intolerance in Pakistan,” that described with empathy the continuing persecution of the Ahmadis in that country.

As anyone slightly familiar with the Urdu press in India knows, the expressions “Movement for the Protection of the Finality of Prophethood” and “Movement for the Protection of the Honour of the Prophet’s Companions” are cover terms for anti-Ahmadi and anti-Shi’ah campaigns sponsored by many so-called Maulanas, who use the slogan “Islam is in Danger” to gain popular support for their own gain, and who are much supported by the regimes of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states who wish to create an anti-Iran sentiment wherever they can.

In the first week of the current month (July 2011) several Muslim organizations of Hyderabad and North India arranged a three-day long major “‘Azmat-i-Sahaba ‘Alimi Conference” (World Conference on the Eminence of the Prophet’s Companions) in Hyderabad. The report in Munsif of July 2nd opened in the following manner:

Eminent religious scholar Maulana Salman Husaini Nadwi, Dean of the Faculty of Shari’a and Doctrines of Faith at the Nadwat-ul-‘Ulama, Lucknow, cast light on the eminence of the Prophet’s Companions. He said, “The eminent Companions form a group of the holiest nature, for they received instruction directly from the Prophet of Islam. Those who hate the eminent Companions or act impudently concerning them are tools of the Jews, the Nazarenes, and the Enemies of Islam. These days, our attachment to Islam demands that we must forcefully oppose the Jews and the Nazarenes and rip the veil off their conspiracies.”

According to the Maulana, as reported in the paper, “Islam had not come down from God merely to lay down some articles of Faith and Law; it had come to make the True Religion triumphant, and raise the banner of Islam high all over the world.” The Maulana was giving the opening speech on the first day of the conference. The conference was then also addressed by Dr. Ahmad al-Rumi, a representative of the Saudi Embassy, and Dr. Muhammad bin Samil, who represented the Rabita-al-‘Alam-al-Islami (Muslim World League). It is worth noting here that the learned Maulana felt safe to name the Jews in the usual manner—yahudi—but was politic enough to use the less-common nasaara (Nazarene) to refer to the Christians, instead of the usual ‘isaai. As for his “Enemies of Islam,” the audience knew whom he meant but could not name so publicly in India—yet. As is well-known, Shi’ahs do not hold all Companions of the Prophet in equal regard, in fact they hold several in disregard. And yet ordinary Shi’ahs and Sunis in South Asia have lived in amity for centuries.

Only a few months earlier, in April 2011, a similar gathering was organized by Maulana Arshad Madani in Delhi that was graced by the Imam of Ka’ba. The latter lost no time to use the occasion to defend Saudi policies against democratic movements in Arab lands. Many years ago, in 1997, the famous Maulana Ali Miyan, organized a major event at the Nadwat-ul-‘Ulama at Lucknow, which was announced as an “Educational Convention.” It too was graced by the then Imam of Ka’ba. Then too much time was spent denouncing the Ahmadis, accusing them of working as “the tools of the Jews and the Nazarenes.” The covert agenda then as now was to project the Saudi regime as the “True” defender of Islam, and diminish the appeal of the religio-political rhetoric coming out of Iran. Lucknow, like Hyderabad—for that matter, like any Indian city—never had noticeable Ahmadi presence. The Ahmadis, frankly, have become an unfortunate proxy for the purpose of a different kind of battle that the Saudis keep launching to protect themselves from democratic changes of any kind.

Hyderabad, to my knowledge, has a respectable history of religious tolerance and sectarian amity. I note that long ago, in the 15th century, it gave shelter to the Mahdavis—the followers of the Mahdi of Jaunpur—who were declared heretics in North India. They lived there in peace and also flourished, and gained prominence in various fields as recently as the previous century. Nawab Bahadur Yar Jang, in politics, and Alam Khundmiri, in Islamic Studies and philosophy, are two names that immediately come to my mind. As I read the reports in Munsif I could not help noticing many names familiar from reading about Muslim politics and sectarian contestations for power in North India. I have seen hardly any challenge to their actions and views in the Urdu press of the city, even in the rivals of Munsif. One hopes that the Urdu intelligentsia of Hyderabad City, particularly at its three universities and many colleges, will take notice of these sad developments, and not betray the heritage of tolerance they received.

What is also needed is some degree of discrimination on the part of the secular and human right-related organizations and individuals in India. They should insist on non-sectarian credentials of the Muslim groups/individuals they work with for the benefit of Indian Muslims. A long time ago, when that brave journal Communalism Combat had just started, I submitted a short essay for publication. It showed how Maulana Abul Hasan Nadwi a.k.a Ali Miyan had written to various Arab heads of state asking them to prohibit construction of all non-Muslim places of worship in the Arabian Peninsula. The editor, Javed Anand, could not believe that Ali Miyan would hold such a view, and withheld publication until I submitted evidence from books published by Ali Miyan himself. Defending persecuted Indian Muslims should not blind us to the fact that many of the more privileged and powerful among the latter are engaged in persecutions of their own.[1]


C.M. Naim is Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago.

[1] See my essay, " The Second Tyranny of Religious Majorities"

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