By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
19 August 2017
Indian Muslims’ patriotism is on test. Seven decades after Independence, Muslims are still required to demonstrate their allegiance to the motherland, though they were the first to raise the demand for independence, even at a time when Indian freedom struggle leaders like Gandhi and Nehru were satisfied with acquiring some minor privileges. Their loyalty is often tested. It seems now as if they need to wear their patriotism on their sleeves. Kannada writer Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi recently wondered if Indian Muslims, besides praying five times a day as their religious duty, will have to put their patriotism also on display five times a day.
Indeed, this is a distressing phenomenon. But more appalling is that, in this political slugfest, Muslim religious leaders—the Ulema—are falling prey to the trap set by communalists. Recently, the UP government issued a circular to the state madrasas to compulsorily organize the I-Day celebrations and send photographic evidence to the minority ministry officers. In response to this provocation (as this order does not include any other institution), a few clerics of the noted Islamic seminaries have passed unnecessarily confrontational and reactionary comments which don’t augur well for the community.
The leading Islamic seminary in India Darul Uloom Nadwa’s senior cleric, Maulana Salman Nadwi wrote a letter to the UP madrasas asking them to celebrate the I-Day with greater fervour this year. But in his letter, Maulana Nadwi also added that only ‘religiously permitted’ national anthems should be sung on the Independence Day. He wrote: “Allama Iqbal’s song Muslim Hain Hum Watan Hai Sara Jahan Hamara should be sung, while at the same time, the polytheistic and communal elements in the anthem of Vande Matram must be candidly exposed”.
This religious decree of several prominent Ulema like Maulana Nadwi on the recital of Vande Mataram has fuelled the fire of communalism already playing havoc across the country. Nadwi’s exhortation to celebrate the Independence Day with greater gusto was welcome. But his advice to the UP madrasas to ‘unveil the polytheistic and communal elements in the verses of Vande Matram’ is as divisive as the Hindu communalists’ bid to vitiate the atmosphere in the country. In his editorial on August 14, noted Muslim journalist and editor of the leading Urdu daily, Inquilab, Shakeel Shamsi has rightly critiqued him: Maulana Nadwi’s message to the madrasas that they should only sing the Urdu poet Iqbal’s “Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara” and boycott the recital of Vande Matram will not go down well. It does not deter communalism in any way. Rather, it only servers another ulterior communalist motive.
Given that Vande Mataram is a salutation such as ‘Salaam’ in Islam or 'Naman' in Hinduism, rather than 'Ibadat' or ‘Puja’ of the motherland, there is nothing ‘un-Islamic’ about it. It’s merely an outcome of the misconception among the Ulema that exist because the song is in Sanskrit— a language they don't understand. But more surprising is that, this time, emboldened by the vitiated communal atmosphere, a few Ulema and muftis of the Barelvi sect have boycotted the national song “Jana Gana Mana”. In an attempt to defy the UP-government’s directive that the national anthem be mandatorily sung at all madrasas on I-Day, Maulana Asjad Raza Khan issued an official religious decree (Shar’aee Faisla) of his Madrasa to oppose the government order. Consequently, while Jamia Manzar-e-Islam –the main Barelvi madrasa in Bareilly– hoisted the Tricolour, it did not chant the national anthem “Jan Gan Man”. A senior cleric of the Madrasa has stated: “Traditionally, we do not sing the national anthem during Independence Day or Republic Day celebrations. We only followed convention this time”, as Hindustan Times reported.
Maulana Asad Raza Khan—who is also the current 'Qazi' of Bareilly—maintained that some words in the national anthem reek of ‘unfaithfulness towards Allah’. He also alleged that the anthem was written in praise of George V, the then king of England. Thus, notably, the Barelvi clerics justify their decision to forbid the recital of the national anthem under their theological and historical jurisdiction. The religious decree (Shar’aee Faisla) of Jamat Raza-e-Mustafa—a national outfit of the leading Sunni-Barelvi Ulema—reads: “The anthem of ‘Jana Gana Mana ‘was written in praise of George V, an English King. Clearly, our country was captured and oppressed by the English. Scores of lives, particularly of our Sunni Ulema were lost in liberating the country from clutches of the tyrannical British. Singing praises for those tyrants on the Independent Day is antithetical to the nationalism as well as the Islamic Shari’ah”.
The decision of the Barelvi and Deobandi Ulema against singing ‘Jana Gana Mana’ and ‘Vande Matram’ might have been their individual opinion, but the mainstream Muslims have always sung the national anthem since independence. It’s regrettable that the Barelvi and Deobandi clerics have chosen to exacerbate communal tensions by issuing such divisive religious decrees at a time when a number of turbulent issues like the love jihad, Ghar Wapsi (Muslim conversion to Hinduism) and the cow-vigilantism, leading to mob-lynching, are already confronting the Indian Muslims.
In his letter, Maulana Salman Nadwi also proposed the madrasas to recount only Muslim freedom movements and fighters. He exhorts the madrasas students to revive the memories of Nawab Siraj ud Daula, Tipu Sultan, Syed Ahmad Shaheed, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Khilafat Movement, Reshmi Roomal Tehrik, Jamiat Ulema’s movement, Maulana Azad and Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani. Thus, in his proposal as published in Inquilab on August 13, Nadwi has skipped all non-Muslim freedom strugglers and their movements.
The fact is: while the contributions of the Muslim freedom fighters, particularly the 18th century Ulema, have gone wholly overlooked in our textbooks, madrasa students are hardly acquainted with the Herculean efforts of non-Muslims for the country’s liberation. At times, the contributions of a few Ulema like Maulana Mahmood-ul-Hasan Kandhaulvi and Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani are blown out of proportion. But in reality, both the Ulema and the great Hindu and Sikh freedom fighters rendered momentous contributions in an indefatigable struggle to liberate the country from the shackles of the British imperialists. The Ulema or Maulvis along with the Pundits and Muslim Zamindars along with the Hindu traders significantly sacrificed, particularly in the first independence struggle in May, 1857.
Maulana Salman Nadwi optimistically says that the Independence Day celebrations in the madrasas will inspire students to learn more about the contribution of the Muslim freedom fighters. But he fails to suggest how he will inspire the madrasa students to look beyond the ‘Islamic heroes’ of the freedom movement? As their moral duty, madrasas and Ulema need to apprise themselves of the remarkable sacrifices of the Hindu freedom fighters. But equally important is the question about the sacrifices of the Muslims from the first Independence struggle (1857) to 1947. That the government has miserably failed to introduce the Muslim revolutionaries of India’s Independence to the secular educational institutions is an undeniable truth.
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a regular columnist with www.newageislam.com, scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic Sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia.