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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Building Bridges of Harmony - i
By Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri

Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (1875-1933), a native of Kashmir, was a leading Islamic scholar (‘alim) associated with the Darul-‘Ulum at Deoband, India’s premier Islamic seminary. Among the many Muslim voices who crusaded for the country's independence from the British and called for an India where people of all communities could live together in peace and harmony and justice were numerous Deobandi ‘ulama. Their leading role in the freedom struggle and in the effort to form a united front of all religious communities for a new India have, sadly, been largely forgotten. It is crucial that such voices be retrieved and an important part of Indian history—the heroic role of many Muslim leaders in the movement for free India—be brought before the general public. This translation of certain sections of a lecture of historical importance by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri is a small effort in this regard.

This lecture was delivered by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri as a presidential address to the 1927 Peshawar meeting of the Jami'at ul ‘Ulama-i Hind ('The Union of the ‘Ulama of India'), an organisation of largely Deobandi ‘ulama from all parts of India. The lecture, recently published in Urdu by the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Research Centre (Kokerbagh Dak Khana, Nowshehra, Srinagar, Kashmir, 190011) runs into over a hundred pages in the original Urdu. Here I have translated only those portions of the lecture which deal with the question of Hindu-Muslim unity.

This is not a word-to-word translation, for the Urdu language is such that a literal translation cannot do justice to the original. However, every effort has been made to present as near a rendering as possible (Yoginder Sikand).

The Presidential Address of
Hazrat Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri 
to the Annual Session of the Jami’at ul-‘Ulama-i Hind, Peshawar, 1927

An Agreement Between the Muslims and the Non-Muslims
"Respected elders! The Jami’at-ul ‘Ulama was formed at a time when there was much talk about a joint pact between the Muslims and the non-Muslims of India. Both communities [Hindus and Muslims] were united in the struggle to free their country from alien rule, and for this were working together from a common platform. I have no hesitation in saying that the Muslims did not go back on their pledge. They committed no treachery against the country (mulk) or the nation (qaum), nor did they resort to any oppression against their non-Muslim compatriots. Despite this, the atmosphere [of unity] which the two communities had succeeded in establishing through dialogue and broad-mindedness (rawadari) did not last long, and today the situation is even worse than it was before 1920. I do not wish to talk about the causes of this development, but I will certainly say that the Muslims bear no responsibility for this, and that they, in accordance with the teachings of their holy faith, are ever obliged to behave with broad-mindedness and the highest standards of morality (husn-i akhlaq). I can say with full confidence that if our fellow countrymen turn to tolerance and consensus, they will find no greater advocates of peace, agreement, loyalty and decent behavior than the Muslims. If the responsible elders of both the communities can jointly work out a just and fair settlement that will satisfy both parties so that both communities can thereby live with respect and freedom and carry out their religious duties without hindrance, what better way is there to ensure India's prosperity? 

The basis of any such settlement is that each community must fully respect the other and must desist from attacking the life, property and respect of the other. Everyone should be allowed complete freedom to follow his faith and there should be no interference in or attack on anyone's religion. The Muslims, within the limits set by the commandments of Islam and the Islamic law (Shari'at) will be the first to welcome any such agreement, and, in accordance with the teachings of their faith, will turn into the protectors of the life and property of those with whom they enter into such a treaty.

History is replete with thousands of instances that tell us that even at the height of their power and glory, the Muslims protected the life and property of the non-Muslims with whom they had entered into agreements, and for that they even sacrificed their very lives...

I want to make it amply clear that if anyone desires that the Muslims should budge even an inch from their religion in order to enter into an agreement with others, this is not at all possible, and if any organization of Muslims, owing to ignorance of Islamic teachings, enters into such an agreement it will be wholly unacceptable and cannot last long. Muslims cannot transgress the boundaries set by Allah. Any agreement that seeks to placate others while at the same time angering Allah cannot be acceptable to us. There is a tradition (hadith) of the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him], which says that if anyone seeks to please others by adopting a way that angers Allah, then Allah shall appoint people to destroy him.

I must stress here that just as India is the land of the Hindus, so, too, is it the land of the Muslims. The first Muslims came here many centuries ago. They ruled this country for many hundreds of years. Even today allover India there are reminders of the glory of the Muslims of the past which give ample testimony of their knowledge, skill, and love of the country (hubb al-watan)...

The Muslims have as much love for India as any true lover of his country should, and why not, because they have before them the glorious example of their blessed master, the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him]. When the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him], faced with the opposition of the unbelievers, left his beloved town of Mecca in accordance with Allah's orders and migrated [to Medina], he addressed Mecca thus: 'By God, I love you the most among all places on God's earth, and if my people had not forced me, I would never have left you'. After this, when, in compliance with the Divine commandment, he shifted to Medina...and Medina became his [new] home, he prayed thus: 'Oh God! Make Medina as precious to my heart as Mecca was or even more than that...".

...Because of the great love that the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah's blessings be upon him] had for his land it is impossible that a Muslim can be a true Muslim if he does not have love for his country. That is why, you should rest assured, Muslims have love for their country [India]. Besides the Muslims there are other communities living in India and India is their country as well. Therefore, it is natural that all Indians should have an equal desire in their hearts that India should be independent. However, because the Hindus are in a majority in India and the Muslims in a minority, it is also natural that the Muslims should be concerned about the protection of their religious and other rights. Hence, the best solution is that both communities should come to a just and fair agreement so that no one should feel apprehensive that after the country gains independence the minorities would be mistreated by the majority. If the fears of the Muslims are put at rest by such a pact, they should have no cause for fear. They love their country as well as their religion, and their religion teaches them broad-mindedness and enjoins upon them the honouring of agreements which they enter into. If the concerns that they entertain vis-ŕ-vis the majority are dealt with justly, they can, in fact, prove to be a powerful force for the defence of India.

See Also: Building Bridges of Harmony - ii  

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