By Prof. Akhtarul Wasey
Islam seems to have become a soft target for the Indian and global media and political leaders, as well. In several cases, the poisonous spitting is not even worth of a reaction. But the matter takes a serious turn, when reputed scholars or journalists target Islam and that too on flimsy grounds – most often after terror attacks in any part of the world. Following the ISIS’attacks in Paris the issue of so-called Islamic terrorism and Jihad has become a burning issue, once again, for the media. Senior journalist, Tavleen Singh has written one such article inThe Indian Express. The stature of the columnist compels me to take a serious note of her irresponsible observations regarding Islam and Quran. But before countering Ms Singh’s points one by one, let me put across my views about ISIS and terrorism.
We cannot deny the fact that in today’s world, the merchants of terror and destruction, like ISIS, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram are creating all mischief and shattering peace in the name of Islam. That’s not Islam at all. They are simply earning a bad name for Islam. They are the enemies of Islam and Muslims first and then of the whole humanity.
With all due respect for Ms. Tavleen Singh, I, very modestly, feel it my foremost duty to explain things and remove misconceptions, in order to clear the air. I am conscious enough to make this modest effort of mine, academic and objective, sans any sentimental approach. I am sorry to observe that Ms. Singh has very little knowledge about Islam, She has attempted to write a lot, on the basis of her personal perceptions without bothering to make any serious effort to learn about Islam or even knowing the fundamental facts about this faith, which unfortunately is the most misunderstood religion in the world today.
The distinguished journalist has levelled charges on Islam and targeted its primary sources—the Holy Quran and the life story of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh). Obviously, in today’s era of revolutionary information technology, anybody, with a genuine will to know things, can quite easily gain an access to all sources, with the tip of his or her finger. I am sorry to say that Ms. Tavleen Singh did not take pain to even make a feeble attempt in this direction. Instead she has projected herself in such a manner, as she and only she knows, what Islam is. She has ‘firmly’, viewed that the Holy Prophet has added such commands, to Holy Quran, which teach Muslims to behave with all non-Muslims in an aggressive and oppressive way.
Prophet Muhammad isn’t author of Quran
Here, I have to feel pity for her, as it is apparent that she is not aware of even the basic fact that Holy Quran is a divine book—word of Almighty God and not based on the narrations of the Prophet. She should have known that Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) in pieces, over a long period of 23 years. He did not even add a single word to the holy book. One can lay hands on several verses in Holy Quran, by which the Almighty has taught the prophet, himself, regarding many things. (Holy Quran 7-1/80). He has also been corrected by the Lord at some places. (H.Q. 8/48). Almighty God has very strictly warned people, against making any change in his book, Holy Quran has stated very clearly that even the Holy Prophet does not know all the things, as the real knower is the God alone. One verse of Holy Quran specifies that the Prophet was not capable of reading and writing (H.Q. 29–49). In the light of the above-mentioned fact, no one can term Islam as Faith of Muhammad (Pbuh), except an ignorant individual, who has not even opened Holy Quran, for reading it and neither has bothered to know things by studying or researching about Islam, as such or referred to the contents of the holy book.
Quran doesn’t allow its followers to behave with others badly
Tragically, Ms Singh is totally unaware of the teachings of Holy Quran and its message. She believes that Holy Quran urges its followers to behave with non-Muslims badly. Had she referred to Holy Quran’s verse no 8–60, which very clearly instructs its believers to treat non-believers nicely, politely and piously. It asks its followers to establish justice (for all) as the Lord Almighty likes the just people. Holy Quran declares that its message is for all the humanbeings and not merely for its followers. (H.Q. 2–186). It commands its followers, again and again to make the justice prevail and that there should be rule of justice alone.
Holy Quran, at numerous places (for instance: 2–21, 2–168, 4–1, 4–170, 10–57, etc.), addresses not Muslim alone, but the whole mankind. It asks to spare even animals from any harm, leave apart the humanbeings. There are at least 70 verses in Holy Quran, which clearly condemn any sort of oppression. It also fixes punishment for such acts, (H.Q. 2–124, 2–255, 3–151, 5/29). There are many a verse in Holy Quran to this effect. Further, Holy Prophet, even during holy wars, always instructed Muslim soldiers, not to attack the old, women and children and any unarmed man. He used to ask his people, not even to cut or harm the green trees and the fields, full of crops. One should take the lesson here; Islam as a peace-loving religion can ever ask its followers to adopt a harsh attitude, towards anyone, even outside the fold of Islam.
Holy Quran clearly spells out that there is no compulsion in faith and belief (H.Q. 2–256). Everyone is free to follow it or not (H.Q. 29–18). It further explains that ‘Our faith is for us and your faith is for you’ (H.Q. 6/109). Today’s age is the age of knowledge and awareness. Then, how should one blame Islam, in this 21st century, in such a manner, as evident in Ms. Tavleen Singh’s article.
Word Kaafir isn’t used as an abuse in Quran
The columnist has further narrated that Islam is such a religion, which terms the non-believers as Kaafir, while no Indian religion, uses this word for the people, outside its fold. Perhaps, she has taken the word Kaafir as an expression for the downgraded or even it being a four letter word. She must come to now that Holy Quran has called even Prophet Sulaiman (Soloman) asKaafir(2/102) and also attributes the word Kaafri to Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (4/60). The holy book has described the farmers and field workers too as Kaafirs. In fact, the word Kufrmeans an act of denying. This is not used in a bad sense, like an abuse, but to carry the meaning of concealing some thing or refusing to accept something. Any sincere person can easily comprehend the actual meaning of the word Kaafiror Kufr by referring to any one of the Arabic–English Dictionary, for evading the spread of misunderstandings.
As far as other religions or faiths in India are concerned, we very widely come across the words, like naastik for atheist, adharmi for non-believer and maleech (a downgrading title, obviously for Muslims and perhaps Christians).These words figure in many ancient and medieval Indian scriptures, at various places. It is not a secret, for any scholar, researcher or student, working in the related fields. However, we should realise that all such words are the essential part of the teachings of a religion in our country.
DarulHaraband Darul Islam
It is quite shocking that, the columnist has asserted that Allah (the God Almighty) desires that all Muslims should essentially fight against others, in battle fields in non-Islamic countries. Here, with a tall claim, regarding her knowledge of Islam, she offers a reference of Google (on Net) for knowing a word: “DarulHarab” (a hostile land). Evidently, she does not simply know that only the ‘words of Allah’ are recorded in Holy Quran and further we learn through the teachings of the Holy Prophet, (known as Tradition) and the word DarulHarab is nowhere mentioned in either Holy Quran or Holy Tradition. I, very respectfully challenge her to show this word in any of the abovesaid top sources of Islam. Google has no significance or authenticity, for such issues. It’s not a source for knowing Holy Quran or Holy Tradition. Here, I have to make her aware that the very word: DarulHarab was coined by some Muslim scholars, during middle ages, due to legal and political needs. The simple reason for the introduction of this concept was to differentiate, between the territories under Muslim rule and those under non-Muslims.
The Muslim ruled countries or regions were known as Darul Islam, meaning lands of peace, while areas under non-Muslims—where Muslims also lived as subjects, were known asDarulHarab, meaning hostile lands. Centuries, later, in the modern times, a great Indian Islamic scholar coined a new term, DarulAmaan, which carries the meaning of a protected land. It was used to mention those countries (India, for instance), where Muslims lived in peace, under a secular regime and they faced no threat to their existence or faith. This approach clearly shows that Muslim scholars and particularly Indian Islamic scholars did not and do not believe in the concept of any hostile land.
Today, when the whole world has shrunk into a global village, it knows no bounds and no borders. And as a natural consequence, such terms have of late, lost their meaningfulness and relevance, in the modern context.
Islam in India
The esteemed writer has made another attempt to create a new misconception, that in India, Islam, in earlier days was a different Islam and now, in the modern times, there has emerged another Islam, during last few decades. She (meaninglessly) thrusts on the point that now Indian Muslims largely follow the Islam, preached by, Syed Qutub and Abdul WahabNajdi. Here, I would like to enlighten her that the majority of Indian Muslims, may not even be aware of the two personalities, mentioned by her. Further, I add that the Muslim society, over the years, has produced a good number of great Islamic scholars, who together, differ in views and opinion, broadly, but the Muslims, as a community, have accepted all of them in a democratic fashion. Does it not speak of the flexible approach of Islam and Muslims in an empirical manner? I advice her not to randomly pick up any one or two scholars and keep talking about them, while, she has no basic knowledge about such matters. It’s quite shameful, on her part to condemn Muslims, on such dubious grounds.
Ms. Singh has bitterly criticised even the Mosques and the prayers, being observed inside them. I would like to very politely request the wise writer to personally visit various Mosques and directly witness the prayers, being offered, there, with her own eyes. She must be well aware that there are good and bad elements in all communities and all religions. May I ask her two innocent questions, how many people, from the majority community have been caught in connection with terrorist activities, in India? And who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi? Was he a Muslim or a member of his own community only?
Wars in history of Islam
If some serious and sincere scholar takes pain to study History of Islam, in an objective manner, then the reality would dawn on him that in the earliest period of Islam, all the battles, fought between Muslims and the people of Mecca were fought near Medina only. All these battles were fought, under the pious leadership of Prophet himself. And that the Muslims were never aggressors. They simply defended themselves. This shows that it were the Meccan pagans, who always attacked Medina, the first settlement of Muslims. And on the other hand, one great event, pertaining to peace—Treaty of Hudaibyah—was finalised and signed, near Mecca. Does it not speak of Muslims, being peace-loving and amicable settlers of disputes. Nevertheless, at last, when Mecca was conquered by a Muslim army, under the Prophet, there was no bloodshed, at all. Meccans surrendered, without any conflict and in return, in a gesture of high good will and in the interest of a lasting peace, Holy Prophet declared general amnesty for all—those who embraced Islam voluntarily, and even for those who did not, but agreed to end hostility and lay arms: Are these all not shining proofs of Muslims’ tolerance, belief in co-existence and liberty for all.
ISIS is a merchant of terror, enemy of Islam
Let’s accept realities. We cannot deny the fact that in today’s world, the merchants of terror and destruction, like ISIS, Al-Qaida and Boko Haram are creating all mischief and shattering peace, in the name of Islam. But, that’s not Islam, at all. They are simply earning a bad name for Islam. They are the enemies of Islam and Muslims first and then of the whole humanity. They are destroyers and not jihadis, in any way. They are great culprits, in the eyes of Allah, the Almighty and also the Holy Prophet.
Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, a former Director, Zakir Husain Institute of Islamic Studies and Head Department of Islamic Studies at Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi, presently is Commissioner for Linguistic Minorities in India, a Constitutional Authority. Views expressed here by the author are personal. A short, edited version of the article was published on the website of The Indian Express on 03 Dec 2015.