By Firoz Bakht Ahmed
When one considers to focus on a topic like “Religion, power play and terrorism”, ultimately all things about Islam and Muslims broil down to a few major and minor points, to Islamophobia. Here, I would like to try to take this phobia out of Islam. I believe, better thing would be to learn about our religion thoroughly than judging by what others say.
Today Islam is under scanner and Muslims are viewed with suspicion. Islam is being viewed as a closed religion. We, as Muslims, carry a stigma of terrorism that’s very hurting and heart rending. Of course, there are reasons for that. Why don’t we view Buddhists, Jains or Parsis with suspicion? No matter how much I defend Islam and Muslims, you will only prove that most of the terrorists are Muslims though all the Muslims are not terrorists.
A very interesting thing happened a couple of months ago. A girl of class 11 of the Modern School asked me a very bold, blunt timely and topical question: “Sir why are all terrorists Muslims?”
No matter what explanation one gives, such views are based what the followers of a particular religion do. They see Muslim terrorists indulging in killing innocents in 9/11, 13/12, 26/12 (Indian Parliament), Akshardham, Jaipur, Gujarat, Delhi, Bali, Serbia, Sharm-al-Sheikh…
They see women being stoned to death and undergo clitorectomies, gays hanging from gallows under the approving eyes of the proponents of Shariah, the legal code of Islam, Sunnis and Shias massacring each other in Iraq and Pakistan, and Palestinian mothers teaching 3-year-old boys and girls the ideal of martyrdom.
The Taliban do not allow their girls to go to schools. In the Swat valley many schools have been burnt. These people do not know that the first woman in Islam Hazrat Khadija was a business woman who had chosen her husband Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) herself.
Distortion of Islam
Dr John L Esposito in “True Islam Has Been Distorted” writes: “Throughout the history, the scriptures of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have been misinterpreted like in the example in the so-called some 20 ‘sword verses’ that call for killing unbelievers, such as, ‘When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush’ (9:5).”
This is one of a number of Quranic verses that are cited by critics to demonstrate the “inherently violent nature of Islam and its scripture.” These same verses have also been selectively used (or abused) by religious extremists to develop a theology of hate and intolerance and to legitimize unconditional warfare against unbelievers.
Some ulema also maintain that the “sword verses” abrogated or overrode the earlier Quranic verses that limited jihad to defensive war: Indeed, the full intent of “When the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever you find them” is missed or distorted when quoted in isolation.
For, it is followed and qualified by: “But if they repent and fulfill their devotional obligations and pay the zakat (the charitable tax on Muslims), then let them go their way, for God is forgiving and kind” (9:5).
The same is true of another often quoted verse: “Fight those who believe not in God nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by God and His Apostle, nor hold the religion of truth [even if they are] of the People of the Book,” which is often cited without the line that follows, “Until they pay the tax with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued” (9:29).
How many Islams are there?
The trouble begins with the interpretation of Islam. Quite interestingly, it appears that there are many Islams. There is the Islam of the likes of Osama, Hafiz Saeed or of Mulla Mehsood, there is also the Islam of the Barelvis and of the Deobandis who always lock horns, there is the so-called perfect Islam of Saudi Arab, and there is the Islam of this good for nothing Firoz Bakht Ahmed, and there is the moderate Islam of India’s sufi saints. So, ultimately what’s true Islam? That is where the root of the problem lies.
I am also a maulana without a beard or a skull cap who prays five times a day, observe all the 30 days of fast and tarawih during Ramzan, plus I follow whatever is there. I follow the Islam that actually is the real one — Islam perpetuated by the sufi saints, who have interpreted Islam the right way. But you will say that you don’t look like most people of your community. I really feel embarrassed at that.
Let us take the example of a glass that is half filled with water. If I say that the glass is half filled with water, it would be the positive interpretation; if I call it half empty, that would be negative interpretation. The terrorist will misinterpret the “sword verses” while a person like me would take the right Quranic interpretation of “La irka fid deen (There is no force in the matter of religion) or “Lakum dinokum waley yadeen” (You follow your religion, I mine).
On Jihad and terrorism
What the terrorists have done is that they have misinterpreted Islamic law to suit to their devilish and sinister designs. However, they do not want to believe and also force others not to believe that Islam too is stretchable and moderate in most matters.
The word jihad comes from its Arabic root jahada meaning ‘to struggle’. The word jihad has been so badly misused both by wayward Muslim terrorists and Islam-baiters that it has completely lost its meaning. The term jihad has been misinterpreted to conjure up bizarre images of violent Muslims forcing people to submit under duress.
Islam rejects violence in all its forms but the jehadis take that path without caring as to what impact it can have on a common Muslim by making him a usual suspect. According to Prophet Mohammed, jihad is the inner struggle for virtue to submit to God in all walks of life.
Do these jihadists know that murder is prohibited by Quran, and that non-combatants are guaranteed security of life in a state of war? They don’t read those verses that declare that taking the life of one innocent individual means killing the whole humanity. They have a skewed vision. They are able to misinterpret verses from Quran to justify their heinous and horrendous designs of killing innocent people.
According to Prophet Mohammed, “Indeed whoever intentionally kills, himself will be punished in the fire of hell, wherein he shall dwell forever.” Regardless of how legitimate the cause may be, Quran does not condone killing of innocent people.
Terrorising defenceless civilians, bombing, killing and maiming of innocent men, women and children are most abhorred by Islam, and those who indulge in these in the name of religion are not to be termed as Muslims.
Frankly, this is not the time to quote from Quran on peace, but to act. Those who have killed innocents, have nothing to do with Islam. Sura Al-Baqr (Verse: 114) in Quran states that Allah dislikes those who indulge in arson, loot and killings. Sura Al-Kafirun (Chapter: 30) mentions: “Lakum dinokum waley yadeen” (You follow your religion; let them follow theirs). Islam’s very meaning is submission.
As a long-term strategy of dealing with the menace of terrorism, the government should absorb patriotic Muslims in their departments to spy upon their fanatical co-religionists — as we see in the role of Zaid Khan, a devoted ACP in the Mumbai police force in Mahesh Bhatt’s latest film “Dhokha” that goes into the roots of terrorism and aims at finding a solution based on reason and sanity.
Similar is the confusion on talaq, that it is imparted in one sitting. That’s a wrong way. It takes three menstrual cycles or three months for the ultimate separation to take place when all efforts for reconciliation are tried and have proved futile. It’s the rugged mullah culture that sees talaq finalized in one sitting.
The tragedy is that, in the pandemonium, the voice of sanity is lost and media pays no heed to it. Fact is that, for those Muslims who choose to embrace modernity, the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) is an anachronism. What’s still more shocking is that by projecting the entire community as obscurantist, the board even harms the cause of the faithful whom it claims to serve.
Fact is that time and again Indian Muslims have been cajoled on matters and terms regarding the triple talaq, appeasement, family planning, polygamy, jihad, kafir (non-believer), conversion and personal law board. As inhabitants of this land, their joys and sorrows are no different from their Hindu brethren. It is lamentable that media has been after Muslims and Islam portraying them as irrational. Media is responsible for distorting Muslims and Islam.
The plight of the average Indian Muslims stems primarily from their myths and misconceptions that the majority community nurtures about them. We are as adjusting, if not more, as other communities.
There are several points of commonalities. An equal number of Hindus visit Chishti dargahs, the Mirabai festival is celebrated by Muslims in Rajasthan and other parts of India; Muslims celebrate Durga Puja; Urdu ghazals of Ghalib, Mir, Momin, Zauq are highly appreciated by Hindus, and so are Mohammed Rafi’s bhajans and Begum Akhtar’s thumri at temples; Shivaji’s commanders were Muslims while Aurangzeb’s commanders were Hindus; and Ram Navmi procession from Poddareswar Mandir while on way for years is greeted by a group of maulvis; and so on.
Thwarting myths about Islam
The need of the hour for Hindus is to thwart all the myths against Muslims. Muslims too should emerge clear out of the quagmire they have stuck themselves into. The global Muslim community that in the words of GB Shaw, “has an assimilating capacity to the changing phase of existence,” has been weighed down by an image that it will find really tough to live with unless serious efforts by the liberal Muslims are comprehensively made. It is the right time for an enlightened progressive, leadership to emerge to rejuvenate a spirit of reformation and reconstruction.
Let both Hindus and Muslims together do away with the atrocious divisive ways. Under pretext of secularism, they introduced on the one hand Hindu personal law based on Dharmashastra and on the other hand Muslim personal law based on Shariat.
These have created a legal cleavage between an otherwise harmoniously blended Hindus and Muslims of India and set in motion a malicious process, which rang the death knell of the common fabric that for centuries had bound different streams of Indian society together. It is imperative that there’s a need for reforms not only in Muslim education but even the thought process.
The message from Islam is, “Amity is better than animosity, brotherhood is better than barbarism, conciliation is better than confrontation, dialogue is better than deadlock, giving is better than grabbing, harmony is better than harassment, love is better than loathing, peace is better than pandemonium, tolerance is better than tarnishing and unity is better than unruly and zest is better than zealot.”