Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Composite Pan-Islamism

April 03, 05

On February 28, 2005 the Hindustan Times carried an article titled Fundamentally Secular by Shri Manoj Joshi. Since this article contained certain sweeping generalisations concerning the practice of secularism and the Muslim response in the country's democratic polity. Shri Balbir Punj, BJP Rajya Sabha MP, responded by sending a rejoinder to the daily. But the paper did not carry this piece. Hence, after waiting for a month, Shri Punj sent us this article. We are carrying the same because of its academic relevance.

One can hardly say that ‘Fundamentally Secular’ (Hindustan Times dated February 28) by Manoj Joshi exemplified his enlightened mind. It was rather a reflection of a typical ‘Hindu mind’, unwilling to understand the dynamics of Islamic history even after experiencing it for 1,200 years. So, no wonder he meets a gospel truth in Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani’s Muttahaida Qaumiyat aur Islam (1938), translated recently as Composite Nationalism and Islam. Joshi attributes the ‘liberal mindset’ of Indian Muslims, none of whom joined the al Qaeda, to this singular publication in Urdu. Let’s examine the merit of his protestation.

This book in Urdu had come two years earlier than the Lahore Resolution (Pakistan Resolution) of 1940. Yet it was not Madani but Jinnah, who with his masculine call, ‘ladke lenge Pakistan’ (we shall wrest Pakistan by war) captivated the imagination of 90 per cent of Muslims of undivided India. In 1946, not only Madani’s Qaumiyat aur Islam was having a good circulation but Congress was being led by its ‘secular’ showboy, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. Yet, Muslims all over India, except in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), shot down Congress as a ‘Hindu party’ in the interim elections that year. In 1947, Lord Mountbatten had to prepone the date of Independence by 10 months when he discovered that pro-Pakistan riots in Bengal and Punjab were getting the better of law and order. Muslims of undivided India showed that Jinnah was their uncrowned leader, whereas Madani and Azad were non-entities.

Joshi apparently supports the notion that everything in Muslim political behaviour should flow from Islamic theology and not common sense. To convince Muslims about a democracy or pluralistic society, one will have to first locate right verses in the Quran and the Hadith. It can’t be done on the basis of empirical knowledge or practical sense. But Hindus don't need to go back to the Vedas, the Jews to Torah, or the Christians to Bible to achieve them. ‘Secularism’ has become the lowest common multiple of almost all political parties of India. Yet, as it happened in Bihar also recently, ‘secular’ parties could reach out to Muslim vote-bank only through the Muftis and Maulanas. Gandhiji’s Khilafat movement brought home this truth for the first time.

Joshi finds Mahatma Gandhi’s support of the Khilafat movement as a ‘brilliant political gesture, an act that drew large sections of the orthodox Indian Muslim community to the Congress and laid the foundations of the Indian republic—secular, democratic and federal—a model for other multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation-states today.” This is very good poetry, but utterly poor history. The Khilafat movement per se for restoration of Caliphate, itself ran counter to the notion of nationalism or modernism. The Caliph, who was once the Ottoman Emperor, was the temporal chief (not spiritual head like the Catholic Pope) of the entire Sunni Muslim world. A Caliph had absolutely no religious or spiritual function, but he was a symbolic reminder of Islamic imperialism in the medieval era. Turkey took a big leap in modernity by upholding the abolition of Caliphate by the British.

To convince Muslims about democracy or pluralistic society, one will have to first locate right verses in the Quran and the Hadith. It can’t be done on basis of empirical knowledge or practical sense.

But Gandhi and the Ali Brothers were taking Indian Muslims back to the medieval era. One wonders how could concepts of ‘secular, democratic and federal model’ be remotely associated with the Khilafat movement! Rather, was it not prompting the Indian Muslims to be loyal to the extra-territorial despot in Constantinople? Indian Muslims misconstrued attainment of swaraj as re-establishment of Islamic rule in India. Little surprise that infamous Moplah riots (1921) that began as an anti-British uprising soon degenerated into butchery of Hindus and desecration of their temples. And yet, it found words of praise from Gandhiji. Once the Khilafat movement vanished, Muslims found little at stake in the freedom movement. They increasingly turned their bitterness on Hindus which led even Gandhiji to admit that every Muslim was a bully, while a Hindu was a coward.

Joshi has cited Composite Nationalism and Islam by Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani as the Muslim model for co-existing in a pluralistic society like India. His platitudes are his innocence of Islamic history camouflaged. Remember Decius saying in Julius Caesar:

I can change his mind: he loves to hear

that unicorns can be trapped with trees...

lions with nets, and men with flatterers.

But when I tell him that he hates flatterers

He says he does, although at that moment he is flattered” (Act 2, Scene I).

So Decius flattered Julius Caesar the most by telling him he could not be flattered. Likewise, Madani made his best advocacy of Pan-Islamism while speaking of ‘composite nationalism’.

Apologetics of ‘composite nationalism’ cite syncretic (or even pseudo-syncretic) traditions in India. They speak of Sufis, Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak, Emperor Akbar, Nand Rishi (Nuruddin Chisti) of Kashmir, Najib Akbarabadi, Mirza Ghalib, Wazid Ali Shah of Awadh, Shirdi Sai Baba as symbols of ‘composite nationalism’. But none of its apologetics have ventured out in Arabia and cited Jehad or Ghazvas undertaken by Prophet Mohammed as the model for composite nationalism. But Madani has just done the exactly opposite. And yet he garners Joshi’s effusive praise.

They speak of Sufis, Sant Kabir, Guru Nanak, Emperor Akbar, Nand Rishi (Nuruddin Chisti) of Kashmir, Najib Akbarabadi, Mirza Ghalib, Wazid Ali Shah of Awadh, Shirdi Sai Baba as symbols of ‘composite nationalism’.

Joshi does not know what he is saying when he praises Madani for citing the example of Prophet Mohammed forming a composite ‘nation’ with Jews to fight his enemies. For Prophet Mohammed, the enemies were tribes of Koreish and Ghatfayn, and his allies were a Jewish tribe called Beni Koreiza. For Madani, the enemy was the British, whom he clearly identifies as ‘enemy of Islam’. He wanted to forge a ‘composite nation’ with Hindus to fight the British. But the Hindus, even though they produced almost all the freedom fighters, never saw the British as Christians who were enemies of Hinduism.

Madani clearly says, “A Muslim, while observing his religion can join hands with non-Muslims and can become a nation as they have lived earlier. Islam is a flexible religion—especially at a time when it is at war and there is a need to acquire more power and strength to defeat the enemy” (p. 115). Now for him, war with British was a religious war, a Jehad. So his goal is to oust that enemy to re-establish the Mughal Empire, the standard-bearer of Islam. But what would be the fate of Hindus after this war is over? Are they likely to meet the fate of Beni Koreiza?

I wish Joshi read this Beni Koreiza incident in a standard biography, viz. The Life of Prophet Mahomet, from original sources, by Sir William Muir. Beni Koreiza (Chapter XVII), practically under duress, had become the ally of Prophet Mohammed’s army of Islam against pagan Arabs—the Koreish and Ghatfayn. Beni Koreiza resisted the siege of Medina from their fortress till due to a sandstorm, the pagan Arab armies retreated. Then there was a rumour that Beni Koreiza had ‘broken the treaty’.

There was neither an official announcement that they had broken the treaty, nor any treacherous action to prove this claim.. In fact, none of the nine books of Hadith (Saheeh Bukhari, Saheeh Muslim, Sunan al-Tarmithi, Sunan al-Nasa’i, Sunan Ibn Dawood, Sunan Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, Muwatta’ Malik, and Sunan al-Darimi) has any single reference that Koreiza Jews had reneged or acted treacherously. But their men were all slaughtered and their women and children enslaved.

So, did Madani plan to do a ‘Beni Koreiza’ with Hindus after the British were defeated? Contemporary history provides its best example. In 1971, the Bangla Muslims and Hindus in East Pakistan together fought against West Pakistan on the plank of Bangla nationhood. It immediately sent ‘secular’ Bengali intellectuals into raptures over this ‘composite nationalism’. But independent Bangladesh, a ‘composite nation’ based on a common language, started doing a ‘Beni Koreiza’ to its Hindu-Buddhist-Christian minorities in slow motion. It became a Bangla Pakistan and now is inching towards a Talibani Afghanistan. Many of its famous moderate voices today dare not enter Bangladesh.

Madani and Jinnah agreed on the existence of two nations but disagreed on strategy. Jinnah’s prescription was Partition and exchange of population for the safety of both communities. Madani preferred the ‘Beni Koreiza’ method to re-establish Islamic supremacy over entire India. He knew that the Partition would numerically emasculate the Muslims in India; Muslims would gain Pakistan but they would lose India. Jinnah foiled his game, at least for his lifetime.

(The writer, a Rajya Sabha MP and convenor of BJP’s think-tank, can be contacted at

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