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Book Review
Who are the Deendar
By Yoginder Sikand

Name of the Book: Fitna-e-Channabasaveshwar [Urdu]
Author: Maulana Khalid Baig Nadwi
Published by the author
Pages: 150
Price: not mentioned
Year: 2001
Copies available from: Maulana Khalid Baig Nadwi, Opposite Isra Shadi Mahal, Sadashivanagar, Tumkur, Karnataka-572101

Hitherto a little-known heterodox sect, the Deendar Anjuman shot into the headlines of newspapers last year with reports of being allegedly involved in a spate of bomb attacks on temples, churches and mosques at various places in south India. The police investigating the attacks claimed to have unearthed evidence of the group being part of a Pakistani-inspired conspiracy to unleash a reign of widespread terror and ignite inter-communal violence throughout India. Though that is yet to be conclusively proved, the government reacted by clamping a ban on the Anjuman.

For major sections of the media, the Anjuman controversy provided yet another opportunity for Muslim-bashing. The Anjuman was branded as an ‘Islamic fundamentalist’ movement in league with the dreaded Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence, fired by an irrepressible zeal to convert India into an Islamic state. Few cared to see what the vast majority of the Muslims themselves thought of the Anjuman and its ‘Islamic’ credentials. As later emerged, many Muslims distanced themselves from the Anjuman, declaring that it had not even the most tenuous links with Islam.The controversy over the Islamic credentials of the Anjuman owed principally to the almost complete absence of any critical literature on the organization. That, however, is now a thing of the past, with the publication of this well-researched and brilliantly-executed book. Basing his findings on the writings of Anjuman leaders and activists, he shows how the Anjuman’s beliefs and practices effectively put it outside the pale of Islam as it is interpreted by the Ahl-e-Sunnat wa’l Jama’ah. Quoting from the writings of the founder of the Anjuman, Sayyid Siddiq Husain, Nadwi writes that the Anjuman is an off-shoot of the Ahmadiyya sect founded in the nineteenth century by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian. Not long after the Mirza’s death, he shows, the Ahmadis split into three groups. The first, the Qadianis, led by the Mirza’s son, Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, claimed that the Mirza was a prophet of God and that those who did not believe in him in that capacity were ‘kafirs’. The second group, led by Muhammad Ali of Lahore, and hence called the Lahoris, believed that the Mirza was the ‘Promised Messiah’ (Masih Ma’ud) and the ‘Renewer of the Age’ (mujaddid) and a ‘Shadow Prophet’ (zilli nabi). The third group believed that while the Mirza was a prophet, others after him too could be prophets or incarnations of various divine beings, and some of them were so bold as to themselves claim that status.

One of these was Siddiq Husain of Hyderabad, who later went on to form the Deendar Anjuman in 1924. Closely examining various Urdu writings of Siddiq Husain, Nadwi writes that Husain had taken the oath of allegiance (bai’at) to Bashiruddin Mahmud in 1914, but later moved over to the Lahori camp. He fiercely condemned the Qadianis—a fact that Deendaris, in their effort to win Muslim support, never tire of repeating, Nadwi writes—but this does not mean that he renounced his faith in Mirza Ghulam Ahmad at all. Flirting with the Lahoris, he insisted that, like them, he believed that the Mirza was indeed the Promised Messiah. Later, he put forward the claim to be the promised one whose arrival the Mirza had predicted. This put him at loggerheads with the Lahoris, and he now went about setting up his own community. The image that we get, then, from Nadwi’s account is of a power-hungry maniac willing to use religion to promote his own delusions to grandeur. Their Ahmadi links are not the only feature that put them out of the pale of Islam, Nadwi writes, though that alone should suffice to expose their ‘Islamic’ credentials, he insists. Rather, their peculiar beliefs about the person of Siddiq Husain, his relation with the Prophet Muhammad and with God, set them clearly apart from the Muslims, Nadwi argues. Thus, basing himself on Anjuman writings and statements, he shows how Siddiq Husain is seen as, in a sense, an incarnation (avatar) of the Prophet Muhammad, and to have reached such an exalted spiritual state as to become fully immersed (fana) in God. Siddiq Husain apparently went on to claim that his own principal disciples were incarnations of various previous prophets, while he himself asserted that he was the much-awaited Kalki Avatar of the Hindus and the incarnation of one of the founders of the Lingayat sect, Channabasaveshwara. The concept of incarnation is, of course, completely foreign to Islam, with its stress on the complete transcendence of God, and, Nadwi states, this itself shows how far Siddiq Husain was willing to stray from the limits laid down by Islam to establish his own personal claims.This book is a pioneering study of the Anjuman, and, as such, is essential reading for anyone interested in the organization and its beliefs. What is almost completely lacking, however, is a historical perspective. We are told next to nothing of how Siddiq Hussain’s beliefs transformed over time, and how Muslims, Hindus and Lingayats reacted to his claims. That besides, this book excels as a basic introduction to this little-known community.
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