Naseeruddin Shah Wants To Save ‘Hindustani Islam’
Many Hindustani Muslims have their unique traits, not shared by their co-religionists in other countries.
But does that imply the existence of a unique Hindustani Islam as well?
Bollywood actor Naseeruddin Shah recently recorded and circulated a minute-long video of him, slamming many Indian Muslims’ support to Taliban and appealing for a reformed, modern Islam.
“Though the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan is a cause of concern for the whole world, celebration of the barbarians by a section of Indian Muslims is no less dangerous,” he said.
Shah said that Indian Muslims should ask themselves if they want reform (Islah) and modernity (jiddat-pasandi) in Islam or barbaric values (vahashipan) of medieval times.
Shah then said something striking. He used the term “Hindustani Islam” to define the religion followed by Indian Muslims — barring the “section” that favours what he would call "Talibani Islam", of course. He also made an appeal to preserve Hindustani Islam.
Shah’s use of the term was immediately panned by several prominent Muslims, who argued there is nothing called Hindustani Islam as Islam doesn’t change with region.
In this debate, facts certainly aren’t in Shah’s favour. For a religion like Islam — we aren’t talking of culture or a religion’s followers here — to be localised, it should, in the least, have a Quran different from that of, say, Talibani Islam or Pakistani Islam or even Saudi Arabian Islam. There, however, is no Hindustani version of Quran, which is believed by its followers to have been been originally revealed and written in Classical Arabic.
Indian Muslims follow the ‘God’s word’ in Arabic. They recite the verses in Arabic. An Indian Muslim’s oath of belief in Islam is accepted only when recited in Arabic, much like that of the Muslims in Pakistan or Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.
All Indian Muslims, barring exceptions, give their children Arabic names. Names in Sanskrit and Sanskritised Hindi are near absent even if they were not unheard of in non-Ashraf Muslim families until a few decades ago. But then, the Muslim clergy in India or any Islamic authority of significance would not call them "true Muslims".
Hindustani Islam, by definition, is Islam plus Hindustan, where Hindustan literally means a land of Hindus. If one looks closely, the term is an oxymoron.
There is nothing in the core beliefs of Hindus that is similar or even acceptable in Islam, which rejects the ideas of moksha and reincarnation. Islam preaches eternal hell for anybody who believes in the former.
The Hindu way of disposing the dead by cremation is considered haram in Islam, as Islam believes that the dead should stay in their graves until Yawm al-Din — that is, the Day of Judgement — when they would rise and brought before Allah to be judged on how they lived their lives and whether they should be sent to jannah (paradise) or jahannum (hell). The Hindu, Sikh and Jain follow the ritual of cremation as it symbolises the breaking of ties between body and soul so it may be free for reincarnation.
Muslims follow the practice of burial religiously, so much so that when the Mumbai Covid body issued a circular asking bodies of all Covid-19 patients to be cremated (without accompanying rituals), it was met with an uproar from Muslim organisations and had to be amended to allow burials.
The practice of idol-worship prevalent among Hindus and Jains for centuries now is strictly against the tenets of Islam. Most Muslims of India consider it as much of a sin (shirk) as Muslims of Pakistan or Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia or Turkey, where it was recently seen that television channels telecasting Indian shows had blurred the idols in all the frames.
Thus, the Islam practised in India cannot be Hindustani Islam.
What we see in India, instead, is a distinct form of cohabitation between Hindus and Muslims, unlike Pakistan where Hindu and Sikh populations have reduced to less than 2 per cent or Afghanistan where Hindu and Sikh populations have been completely obliterated.
Given that there exists no Hindustani Islam, this cohabitation cannot be attributed to it. At the same time, it is true that the Hindustani Muslim largely displays a way of life different from that in Pakistan or Afghanistan. The Indian Muslim shows greater tolerance to idol worship than, say, in Pakistan where mobs, egged on by the clergy, routinely vandalise Hindu temples.
In Pakistan, they even stopped construction of a Hindu temple funded by the Pakistani government, arguing that it was shirk for an Islamic state. Taliban, displaying a more extremist version of Islam, infamously blew up Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 as they were idols.
The tolerant and liberal streak in the Indian Muslim, thus, can be attributed only to the Hindu component in India.
When Shah appealed for preserving ‘Hindustani Islam’, he was referring to this very liberal and tolerant streak in the Indian Muslim — the Hindu component in him.
As examples of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan show, this streak thrives when the Hindu component is abundant, survives when the Hindu component is existent and dies when the Hindu component is killed.
However, there is nothing to convince an observer that many Indian Muslims will not go the Pakistani and eventually the Talibani way if and when the Muslim demography reaches the required numbers.
It should not be ignored that the Muslim clergy in India sees the largely Hindu India as a breeding ground for Da’wah activities and most likely tolerates shirk by Muslim influencers — such as Naseeruddin Shah and the three Khans who dominate Bollywood — for ulterior motives.
The question is, what are aware Indian Muslims like Shah doing to preserve or grow this streak?
As we know from the examples of Mughals, Muslim men marrying Hindu women while giving their children Arabic names isn’t the solution.
De-Arabising them and Hinduising them is. Unfortunately, the likes of Shah, who are publicly opposed to, and privately perhaps scared of, Taliban, are contributing nothing to prevent it.
“I don’t believe anyone is so stupid to believe that one day the population of Muslims will overtake that of Hindus in this country. Muslims will have to produce babies at an unimaginable rate to have a population more than Hindus,” Shah said in a video in January while slamming Uttar Pradesh’s anti-forced conversion law and rubbishing the concerns of ‘love jihad’ raised routinely by India’s Hindus, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists.
Shah said it despite facts overwhelmingly supporting the need for the law.
As reported by this correspondent earlier, the statistics after one month of enforcement of the law looked like this: in seven out of nine cases where the ‘love jihad’ victim’s statement was recorded in front of the magistrate, she testified to the charges against the perpetrator. Moreover, many women and families have come out in the public calling themselves victims of religious targeting and forced conversions.
In Pakistan and Bangladesh that were formed after partitioning India on religious lines, targeting of non-Muslim girls is a similar contentious issue even if the communities there do not call it by the name of 'love jihad'.
The likes of Shah would do better by an open show of de-Arabising themselves than campaigning to save non-existent ideas like Hindustani Islam.
Remember, if there is such a reality as ‘Talibani Islam’ as distinct from ‘Hindustani Islam’, it had its roots in Hindustan’s Deoband town.
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