Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq
May 30, 2000
Dear Shetubondhon Friends,Salam and greetings.Mr. Aziz Huq [http://www.egroups.com/message/Shetubondhon/681]has gone quite a distance to provide his Islamic vision and perspective as it pertains to the issue of Hindu-Muslim relationship. Mr. Huq's articulation is to be commended as it provides a glimpse of thought representing a not a very large number of religious people, who are broadminded and can rise above the dirt of narrowness that have been bred in human culture in the name of virtually everything, including religion.Mr. Huq commented: "The Hindus and the Muslims can do better than what they are doing today. ... Good, fair-minded and peace loving/peace making people exist in every society. There is great need to seek such people out and work for the common good of mankind." If more Muslims, especially religious and devout ones, would also echo such attitude and approach, from the Muslims' side it would be major step forward. I will, of course, limit myself to speak about the Muslim's side here as Shetubondhon is blessed enough [no pun intended to our secularist friends by the word "blessed"] to have voices of virtually all other backgrounds to voice their sides toward such arduous and slow work of bridge building that demands greatly on our grace, nobility, wisdom creativity and, not the least, commitment.Recognizing the very positive note of Mr. Huq, I would like to move much further beyond as many of these Islam-articulating and -romanticizing approach falls far short of the demand of our time. In what respect do these fall short? Well, Muslims can speak plenty about how good Islam is, but the reality of the Muslim world constantly stands as reminder in sharp contrast to the idealized goodness. The success of those early generation of Muslims during the time of the Prophet was not merely because Islam was good or Qur'an was good, but that the society observed whatever Islam or Qur'an was in the lives and practices of those people. Their life was testimony (Shahadah) to the goodness of Islam. Today, in the very name of Islam - people with religious and irreligious (my choice of the word is deliberate) orientation - do not mind at all using the word "malawun" in respect to their neighbors, friends, and yes, relatives (of the past).Mr. Huq's pointing out about the superiority complex is quite pertinent. While it is not that only the Muslims in our subcontinent suffer from it, but as I have said I will limit my discussion to Muslim side only. Several years ago I was visiting Bangladesh. On the northern side of Baitul Mukarram masjid, there was a large gathering of the student wing of a major Islamic political party. Admonishing, he was saying (my translation): India should not forget that we have ruled India for more than six hundred years!" Yeap. That's the kind of tone, attitude, and message we need for a better future, especially from those who want to represent or establish Islam??? It's no wonder we are hearing the echo in reciprocity from the other side of the border. Well, we all could argue as to who started it first or who is responsible. But fact of the matter is we all have some share in the problem, and we all need to do our part toward the solution. I am merely articulating the issues from Muslims' side. Instead of "Ke prothom kache eshechi, ke prothom bhalo beshchi", Manna De could have sung a different song: "Ke prothom dure shorechi, ke prothom ghrina korechi"!Anyway, to understand the dynamics of Islam vis-à-vis the subcontinent, I would like to suggest separating two aspects: one, autonomous, and the other non-autonomous. There are forces in human history that, quite frequently, society in general has been unable to control. That the British and others swept over the globe, or Muslim dynasties spread their rule to India, I would like to treat those as autonomous forces of history that society in general was not in the driver's seat to effect or prevent those. Thus, one of my respected Indian friends tried to convince me that the British rule has benefited India immensely, and we should be grateful to them. While I won't necessarily take an issue with that as there are more than one ways in which the British or the Muslim dynasties have benefited India - so partially, I do concur with him -, these benefits are serendipitous or fortuitous/incidental. Indeed, the current India would have been much different, had it not been touched by the westerners or Muslims. What I am trying to say is that if there were any benefits, those came about due to those rules' agenda of advancing their own interest. In case of Islam or Muslims, this was somewhat - some might say, fundamentally - different because Islam or Muslims have an indigenous home in this continent. Even the rulers did not merely conquer the subcontinent, they made it their home, where they built tombs in memory of their beloveds. Regardless, I have no basis to blame someone if he/she says that whether we benefited or not, we don't have to be GRATEFUL to the British for colonizing us so that we could benefit from them.The non-autonomous dimension is my more important focus. Both for Muslims as well for non-Muslims it is important to note that all those dynasties that ruled India and various parts of the world did not have any internal, Islamic legitimacy. Islam is categorically against hereditary rule. Even for Muslims these dynasties are plain and simple illegitimates, as Islam is FUNDAMENTALLY for rule by consent. If fundamentals are important then, participatory and accountable form of government is what Islam envisions. [For those who have not read, please see my concept paper "Fundamental challenges facing the Muslims".Despite the benefits of these rules that we can argue about, those rules had little to do with Islam, even though Islam has been used a great deal. In many cases, it is not just Hindus and others who have been hurt, but Muslims have been hurt as well - not that the hurts endured by others are of less consequence or importance. Much of these represent a legacy and heritage that is based on a counter-revolution against Islam that REPLACED the revolution of the Prophet Muhammad (s). Muslims themselves have not fared much better - one only needs to read the history. Yes, in many respect these counter-revolutionary rules were better - much, much better - and refined than their contemporary rules elsewhere in the world.Parallel to those benefits, these rules did do a lot of terrible things, including against the Hindus and others. But it was basically directed to anyone who stood against their interest. Yet, anything wrong or unjust that was done to particularly others, including Hindus, we can't move forward if Muslims don't recognize those wrongs, condemn those wrongs and dissociate themselves from wrongs done by them.The reason I look at this as non-autonomous is because a society CAN at least try not to let the autonomous forces of history to be on the driver's seat. Rather, they themselves can chart a new course. Muslims can build a better future for themselves and, in the process, for others as well -
collaboratively. It can be a whole new ball game. In the context of our subcontinent, I still don't know if anyone had said it better than Nazrul:"The intoxicating communalism will also come to an end that day, when Hindus and Muslims can embrace each other with full respect. The competition that will ensue will be cultured minds' 'chivalrous competition' - sportsmanlike competition." [Hindu-Muslim Relationship].
Muslims must seek common grounds whenever they can:"Say: 'O people of the Book! come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but God; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than God.' If then they turn back, say: 'Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to God's Will).'" [3/Ale Imran/64]
[Note: Those who limit the scope of this verse to 'O people of the Book!" are wrongly focusing away from where they should be focusing - "come to common terms". See my additional comments under Key Qur'anic Verses.
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