Muslims in Bengaluru have rioted over a Facebook post which denigrated the prophet of Islam. The post has since been taken down, the person who wrote it has been arrested but not before valuable property was destroyed and three people lost their lives. It is reported that the mob tried to burn down the house of the ‘accused’, a Dalit and a relative of the local Congress MLA. All hopes of a Dalit Muslim unity, so eagerly desired by some, went up in flames. There will be enough people who would spin this to argue that the Muslim anger was not just against the denigration of the prophet, but more so because a low caste person did this. No matter how much Muslims deny this accusation, the fact remains that casteism in their society makes them no different from other religious groups.
According to police, a crowd of almost a thousand people gathered in front of the KG Halli police station demanding that a Congress MLA's relative named Naveen be arrested.
The incident comes days after the Bhoomi Pujan of Ram temple in Ayodhya. Many proclaimed this event as heralding the establishment of Hindu Raj in India and were visibly and understandably concerned over the future of Muslims. And yet the riotous mob in Bengaluru have shown no sensitivity to the changed political contexts in which Muslims find themselves today. This is certainly not the image of the ‘fearful Muslim’ which some would like to portray. Granted that Muslim sentiments had been hurt, but there are better ways to show their grievances. A little sagacity would have only helped the community.
It is important not to see this incident as an aberration. Muslims have always been assertive on issues which concern their faith. Whether it is the demand to ban Salman Rushdie’s book or whether it is the question of physically assaulting Taslima Nasreen and throwing her out of West Bengal, Muslims have successfully pressurised various governments to concede to their religious demands. One should not forget that the biggest agitation of Muslims in post-independence India was during the Shah Bano issue when the Muslim clergy forced the parliament to annul a progressive ruling of Supreme Court. It is another matter that Muslims have never agitated and rallied to demand education and jobs and have hardly participated in other civil struggles. Muslim priorities have always been very clear in this country.
Those who are rationalising the Bengaluru violence as a result of ‘frustration in the last six years’, have no understanding of Muslim politics. They need to realise that what happened in that city is part of a pattern of political behaviour which Muslims have always exhibited. There is certainly no need to pin this down to the excesses of last six years. They must remember that there was no BJP government when Muslims launched the Shah Bano agitation.
Every religion is sacrosanct to its believers. But all religions do not behave in the same way when anyone denigrates their faith or symbol. Jesus has been written about and depicted in all possible ways and yet we do not see Christians burning properties every time such a thing happens. For a long time, Hinduism never reacted violently to any perceived denigration within the multiplicity of its faiths. Semitic Hinduism, however, has made it a point to react (at times violently), especially when Muslims or Christians are the ‘denigrators. Muslims, however, have always reacted to such incidents as if it is their calling. It is as if they do not show their anger physically, then they will become lesser Muslims.
Young men are seen holding hands and ensuring that rioters didn’t attack the temple located in in DJ Halli police station limits in the city.
The problem is that the dominant Islamic theology actually expects Muslims to behave this way. Although the Quran is ambiguous regarding the penalty for blasphemy, certain verses have been read to legitimize the killing of blasphemer. Then there are Hadith on which there is scholarly consensus that such people who denigrate the prophet should be killed. It is not surprising therefore that of all the countries where committing blasphemy warrants the death penalty, almost all happen to Muslim countries. Within these countries, a large number of minorities, Muslims and others, have been punished under such laws. In fact, such laws have been designed to specifically target minorities. An allegation of blasphemy is all that it takes to put the accused in deep trouble. It is this religious sanction for such type of behaviour that needs to be questioned.
Certainly, the situation was very different in Bengaluru. No one was calling for the killing of the accused. They were simply protesting for lodging an FIR which the police refused initially. The irate mob then vented its anger on nearby properties and a police station. The police, in trying to quell the disturbance, ended up killing three Muslim protestors. We all know that disproportionately more numbers of Muslims get felled by the police bullet, everywhere in India. Given this statistic, Muslims should have been cautious and should have staged a peaceful protest. But then, as we know and have come to expect, Muslims tend to lose all rational faculty when Prophet’s dignity and honour is in question. It is this sudden and instinctual reaction which needs to be questioned and challenged. How else do we understand this reaction if not by the fact there is widespread sanction and theological legitimacy for it?
It is heartening to note that Muslims have come up with alternate interpretations of theological traditions and are arguing that the Prophet himself would have disapproved of such violence. They are reminding Muslims how Muhammad forgave those who always disparaged him. However, all these interpretations will remain on the pages of twitter and Facebook. In the real world, the Muslim imagination and actions are largely shaped by the Ulama and their madrasas. Till the time they are not confronted with such alternative interpretations, nothing much is going to change.
Amidst the mob frenzy, it appears that some Muslims wanted to attack a local Hindu temple. They were thwarted by other Muslims, who made a human chain to protect the temple. This is a sobering example that even in the middle of such religious madness, humanity and empathy can survive. Clearly then, these Muslims must be drawing very different lessons from Islam. It is such readings of Islam which should eventually become the dominant reading within Muslim societies.
Madrasas in South Asia have been described as ‘dens of terror’ in the media. This stereotypical image of madrasas still continues to dominate the mainstream media. A number of studies have been conducted about the role and impact of madrasas among Muslims. There certainly are voices that demand a holistic change in madrasas in order to keep them abreast with the current changing times, context and scenario. Till now the madrasas have been resisting such changes and maintaining the status quo particularly pertaining to their curriculum.
The book is an Urdu translation of What is a Madrasa? written by Ebrahim Moosa, Professor of Islamic Studies at Notredam University, United States of America (USA). The translation has been done by a prolific writer and Islamic scholar Dr Waris Mazhari. In his Translators note, Dr Waris writes the problems he had to confront with while translating the text as well as the need for its translation in vernacular Urdu for wider dissemination.
Prof. Moosa terms the book as his complex autobiography and he is correct. This book documents his educational journey in the madrasas of Deoband and Nadwatul Ulama. It is quite interesting to go through his journey as he is grounded in both traditional (madrasa) form of education and contemporary (University) educational system. So events of 9/11 brought madrasas in the focus, that too in a very negative manner. The stereotypical image of madrasas as factories producing terrorists was reinforced by the foreign policy of U.S. Similarly madrasas were quite critical of the imperialistic goals of U.S against the Muslim world. This manufactured image of madrasas still persists but academically it has been established that madrasas certainly do not engage in terrorist activities particularly those based in India.
Prof Moosa is of the opinion that many things that are taught in the madrasas have no application in the modern society. The world is much more complex than what has been defined by Deoband, Nadwa and their allied madrasas. The obsession with certain mundane issues like dress is keeping the madrasas confined to narrow aspects of life. Also, the sectarian staple diet that is included in madrasa curriculum is certainly helping reinforce the sectarian divide among the Muslims in India. This sectarian polemics is then carried out further by the Ulama and theologians who have been trained in this curriculum. The antagonism towards other sects and particularly Mawlana Abul Ala Mawdudi is evident from the curriculum and attitude of teachers both at Deoband and Nadwatul Uloom madrasas.
Prof. Moosa spent six years of his life in madrasas and describes its unique variegates. The life inside a madrasa is quite simple that revolves around studies only. It provides complete boarding, lodging and eating facilities that are free of cost for the students. Madrasa institutions are one of the most well networked educational movements among muslims particularly in South Asia. But due to the irreligious division of the madrasa education between religious and worldly, two strands of knowledge exist parallel among muslims. So it has led to a dichotomy and antagonism among Muslims as each group is leveling charges against the other for the retrogression prevalent among Muslims. There have been demands for introducing new subjects like social sciences and English language in madrasa curriculum but the administrators of madrasas have been resisting such demands as they believe that such steps will render the students to become worldlier and career oriented. Although this apprehension is ill founded but the believers in status quo observe that unlike schools, madrasas emphasize on the holistic development of a personality particularly the character of the students.
The book also engages with the Muslim religious reformers in the subcontinent and books that are included in the curriculum and are part of different disciplines. The question of change in madrasa curriculum known as Dars e Nizami is engaged with time and again. The rate of success of this change is documented too. The need for change in Dars e Nizami has been articulated by traditional Ulama like Manazir Ahsan Gilani and Maulana Yusuf Binori, so it is not a new demand but has met with a very little success. So now madrasas have been rendered as republics of piety instead of being Republic of letters.
The question of madrasas needs to be seriously engaged with. Very few insider and native accounts of the working, education, administration and curriculum of madrasas is available. The media and Islamophobes keep churning out lies about madrasas and their functioning. They allege that Madrasas produce violent and exclusivist Muslims who are a threat to modern societies. The evidence however runs to the contrary. Few Ulama have written their accounts about life in a madrasa but they are available in vernacular languages only with no serious readership available. This book has an added advantage that it has been written in English language only. But the translation was essential too so that madrasa cadres, their ulama and other general readership who cannot read English are acquainted with the narrative and arguments of the book. Hopefully this book makes the madrasa oriented Ulama think afresh particularly about the inclusion of social sciences and English language in madrasas that will make them and their students quite abreast with the modern issues. The Ulama till now have been unsuccessful in tackling the challenges that are being faced by the Muslims and the underlying cause for the same has been the flawed curriculum that has been drafted two centuries back and since then has witnessed very little modification.
Both the author and the translator need to be congratulated for their laudable academic efforts. Hopefully this book will clear many myths related to madrasas.
M.H.A.Sikander is Writer-Activist based in Srinagar, Kashmir
Modern society is a complex society plagued by many social, ethical and psychological ills. People live a busy life and try to fulfil all the personal and societal obligations at the same time.
The hectic life has taken the greatest toll on the relationship between husband and wife. Since in many families, both the spouses do a job to meet the expenses, they find little time to give each other. In many cases, when the husband returns from office, it is time for the wife to leave for her job. This causes between them a trust deficit and overtime they become suspicious of each other's fidelity.
In modern times, in many big cities, a growing number of husbands and wives and also young and unmarried people are resorting to modern technology to spy on their friends and partners to find if they are being cheated or not. In many cases the wife consults a cyber expert to find ways to track her husband's activities, his messages, chats and conversations over the phone. Many IT companies today offer apps that can help the wife keep track of her husband's activities with the help of his phone without giving the husband a hint of his being on surveillance.
Similarly, many men resort to the technology to keep track of the movements and contacts of their wives. And this has become so common that it is not considered immoral and illegal though according to the law, it is illegal to spy on someone without his/her permission.
What does the Quran say about it? The Quran has made it clear that spying on anyone is an intrusion into the privacy of an individual and a violation of a person's human rights. There are a number of verses in Surah Al Hujurat and Surah Al Nur guaranteeing people right to privacy. Surah Al Hujurat (12) says:
O ye who believe! Shun suspicion (Dhann). And lo! some suspicion is crime. And do not spy or backbite each other."
Surah Baqarah (189) says:
"It is not virtue if you enter your houses from the back. It is virtue if you fear Allah. Enter houses through the proper door."
Quran prohibits men from spying on each other and entering their own house from the backdoor to catch the family members unaware. And among the family members, the wife is an important member and in the modern nuclear family structure, the wife is the second most important member after the husband.
In a verse, husband and wife are described as the garment for each other. Therefore, The holy Quran guarantees equal rights to privacy to both the spouses.
The Quran says "Do not spy" and in the modern times, spying has assumed a wide meaning. Today, spying does not merely mean eavesdropping or peeking, or checking the pocket of the husband for any love letter. It means the use of sophisticated technology to track someone round the clock. It includes hidden camera, phone apps or phone tapping devices apart from stealthily checking the spouse's phone or diary. Therefore, the modern Islamic jurists need to define the word 'spying' in the light of the use of technology for spying and the new social and moral issues arising out of the complexities of the contemporary life.
In 2016, the government of UAE took notice of the phenomenon of spying by spouses on each other and in the light of the Quranic injunctions, made a law to criminalise it. It said that checking the phone of the spouse or spying on him or her in any manner was 'haram'. The Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department said that Islam prohibited any kind of activity that came under spying between spouses, between friends, siblings or between two individuals.
Similarly, the government of Saudi Arabia also declared spying on the spouse a crime. Now spying including with the help of (hidden) camera, computer or any other electronic device is a punitive crime and the offenders will be punished with one year imprisonment or a fine of 500 Riyal or both.
Thus, the Islamic countries are waking up to this immoral and unethical practice of spying by the spouses on each other and have dealt with this in the light of Qur'anic injunctions.
The position of the Quran on this is clear. If husband and wife have doubts or differences, they should express them to each other and if they cannot trust each other and cannot sort out the differences, they can mutually end the marriage. Someone rightly said, "if the distrust has risen to such a degree that you have to spy on your spouse, then you should end the relationship instead of staying together like strangers or enemies."
The Church of the Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, in Istanbul was first built in the year of 350 AD. It is the third church of the Orthodox world after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Eleven hundred years after, it was converted into a mosque by Emperor Fatih Sultan Mehmed who invaded Constantinople in 1453. Five hundred years after that, then president of the secular republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Pasha, turned it into a museum, accessible to all. Through all these changes of status, the shrine of the Hagia Sophia has remained in the heart of the Eastern Orthodox Christian world as a site of Christian worship, sanctified by the blood of martyrs. And Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO world heritage site and a global symbol of world history and multicultural representation.
Why President Erdogan chose to convert church preserved as museum to mosque? Mr. Erdogan’s current political standing after 17 years in power as prime minister and president is shaky, and he needs to feed his nationalist base. Erdogan’s shortsighted, cynical campaign struck at the very heart of world culture and Istanbul’s essential character. This is a dangerous decision of a beleaguered autocrat motivated by a desire to punish Istanbul’s inhabitants, who voted decisively against him, and by a desire to consolidate his position by stirring sectarian animosity between his pious followers and those attached to secular traditions.
Some Muslims, including myself, are not cozy with the change of the status of the museum. From many Muslims, it stands out as an unjust and unethical act contrary to Sunnah(the traditions and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him). For most Muslims, the religious pluralism of the Quran echoes the protection of “monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques in which the name of God is much mentioned.” (22:40.
The Covenant of Prophet Muhammad with the Monks of Mount Sinai, also called the Ashtiname of Muhammad. A copy of this document is kept at the Saint Catherine's Monastery.
Prophet Muhammad(pbuh)’s covenants with Christians unquestionably and absolutely prohibit conversion of churches into mosques. Let me quote the pertinent clauses from the covenants:
“Mahomet sent from God to teach mankind, and declare the Divine Commission in truth, wrote these things. That the cause of Christian religion determined by God, might remain all parts of the East, and of the West, as well amongst the inhabitants, as strangers, near and remote, known, and unknown: to all these people I leave this present writing, as an inviolable league, as a decision of all farther controversies, and a law whereby justice is declared, and strict observance enjoined. Therefore, whosoever of the Moselmans Faith shall neglect to perform these things, and violate this league, and the manner of infidels break it, and transgress what I command herein, he breaks the Compact of God, resists this agreement, and condemns his Testament, whether he be a King, or any other of the faithful…I promise to defend their judges in my provinces, with my force with my Horse and Foot, Auxiliaries, and other my faithful followers; and to preserve them from their enemies, whether remote or near, and secure them both in peace and war: and to protect their Churches, Temples, Oratories, Monasteries, and places of Pilgrimage wheresoever situated whether in Mountain or Valley, Cavern or House, a plain, or upon the Sand, or in what sort of edifice so ever: also to preserve their Religion and their goods in what part so ever they are, whether at Land or Sea, East or West, even as I keep myself and my Scepter, and the faithful believers of my own people. Likewise, to receive them into my protection from all harm, vexation, offence, and hurt,…Wherefore I do conjure my people by God and His Prophet to maintain these things, and fulfill them, in what part so ever of the world they are. And the Messenger of God shall recompense them for the same; the perpetual observation of which he seriously recommends to them, until the Day of Judgement, and dissolution of the of the world…”
(Ref: The Covenants of Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. John Andrew Morrow. Pp 227, 229).
There are other similar covenants of Prophet (pbuh) with Persian, Sinai, Najran, and Assyrian Christians. Khalif Umar Ibn Khathab (ra) meticulously self-practiced Prophet (s)’ guidance in dealing with people of other faiths. It is recorded by Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad ibn Jarīr ibn Yazidal-Ṭabarī (224–310 AH; 839–923 CE) in Ta’rikh al-rusul Wa’l muluk (The History of Al-Tabari). Here are clauses pertinent clauses to the context from the covenant of Umar Ibn Khathab with the Christian Patriarch at the time of surrender of Jerusalem:
“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. This is the assurance of safety (aman) which the servant of God, Umar, the Commander of the Faithful, has granted to the people of Jerusalem…Their churches will not be inhabited [(by Muslims] and will not be destroyed. Neither they nor the land on which they stand, nor their cross, nor their property will be damaged. They will not be forcefully converted…’
(Ref: The History of Tabari, translated by Yohanan Friedmann, Vol.XII, p 191)
It is a well-known fact that Umar Ibn Khattab rejected to pray at Christian church because he feared that later Muslims would convert the church into mosque because Caliph prayed there:
‘Later Muslims express their contempt for the Christian belief by calling the Anastasis al-qumamah (“the Dungheap”) instead of al-quiyamah (“the resurrection”). Umar, however, showed no such chauvinism, even in the excitement of an important military victory. While he was standing beside the tomb, the time for Muslim prayer came around, and Sophronius invited the Caliph to pray where he was. Umar courteously refused: neither would he pray in Constantine’s Martyrium. Instead he went outside and prayed on the steps beside the busy thoroughfare of the Cardo Maximus. He explained to the patriarch that had he prayed inside the Christian shrine, the Muslims would have confiscated them and convert them into an Islamic place of worship to commemorate their Caliph’s prayer in the bayt al-maqdis. Umar immediately wrote a charter forbidding Muslims to pray on the steps of the Martyrium or build mosque there. Later he prayed in the Nea and again, was careful to ensure that it would remain in Christian hand.”
(Ref: Jerusalem One City, Three Faiths. Karen Armstrong. p.229).
The Hagia Sophia is an enormous architectural marvel in Istanbul, Turkey
This historical event was reported by British historian H.G. Wells, American historians John W Draper, Will Durant, and others. Umar Ibn Khattab was not only respectful to Christian holy sites but Jewish holy places also:
“For years, the Christians had used the site of ruined Jewish Temple as the city rubbish dump. The Caliph helped his Muslims to clear the garbage with his hands...”
(Ref: Holy War. Karen Armstrong. p.31)
In summary, Turkish decision to convert the Hagia Sophia into mosque is absolutely against the Sunnah (the traditions and practices of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), and is equal to the rejection of Prophet (s). It is still not too late for the Turkish President Erdogan to revoke his shortsighted move to change the Museum into mosque. Currently with its long history in background, the preservation of Hagia Sophia as museum allowing the equal access to people of all faith is the best solution to celebrate religious pluralism of Islam, and also a solution for Erdogan and his Turkish patrons to live by the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). In a museum environment, some may choose to visit museum for the spiritual comfort and others may be attracted by its architectural or artistic splendor. Whatever may the driving force to visit museum by Muslims and Christians, they are there consumed by the radiant presence of God or for the glorification of God.
So, I implore President Erdogan to return to the Sunnah of Prophet (pbuh) and restore Hagia Sophia to its Museum status.
[Author of book: “The Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and The Origin of Species.” Co-author of the book with Prof. Howard J Van Till and Rabbi David Kay : And God Said, “Let There Be Evolution”: Reconciling the Book of Genesis, the Qur’an and the Theory of Evolution, by Prof. Charles M. Wynn of Eastern Connecticut University and Prof. Arthur W. Wiggins of Oakland University (Editors)