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

Orai violence — a blessing in disguise?

With reference to the write-up of Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan, “Orai Violence” (MG, 16-30 November), he has expressed anguish over the silence of Muslim organisations in condemning the incident which involved the murder of two imams (maulvis) in Orai, I would like to term this apparently shameful occurrence as a blessing in disguise. The reason behind my expressing happiness over this gory side of my community is that perhaps this is the first incident of its nature where promoters of sectarian violence have been hoisted with their own petard, i. e. became the victim of the booby trap which the so-called ulama class always lay for the Muslim community for their petty selfish motives. It may perhaps sound a warning signal for the rest of the nefarious elements in the vicious circle of organized clergy class.

I would like to draw the attention of Dr. Zafarul-Islam that when the clean-shaven intellectuals of the community condemn such ulama and their practices, it is called sacrilegious, violating the sanctity of the clergy class. To relate my own experience, overwhelmed with pain over these disastrous developments in the community, I wrote a booklet Iblees and Maulanas a few years back. As a result I was called a 'Qadiyani' and a 'heretic' by many a maulana from public platforms. When I condemned these aspects of our community in the preface of my recently published book Quran and Modern Jurisprudence, I am being arrayed with “Salman Rushdie” and “Tasleema Nasreen” for flaying maulvis who are regarded as nothing less than representatives of the Prophet (pbuh).

Under these circumstances, I would like to ask our intellectuals as to what is the alternative to overcome this mischief of sectarian hatred? Orai violence is only the tip of the iceberg, and if saner elements of the community do not raise a unified voice against the religious mafiaism of maulvis, we must be ready for a major disaster.

I am quoting below some of the observations made by me in the preface of my book for the perusal of the righ-thinking and unprejudiced Islamic scholars:
“Tragically, the real decadence of the community's intellect commenced when, during the colonial phase, the European colonial powers succeeded in replacing the Islamic seats of learning by orthodox madarsas, converting the whole spectrum of jurists/philosophers into an organized clergy class, using the ubiquitous title 'ulama'. It was through this manipulation that the West achieved its grand target of producing 'maulvis' or 'maulanas', who, under the garb of religious authority, could easily manage the regression of the community to medieval ages, declare scientific inventions or discoveries as prohibited in Islam, define the term 'ilm (learning) as nothing more than cramming the Qur'anic text and Hadith, and ultimately shatter the unity of the Muslim Ummah into countless mutually-clashing splinter groups, each baying for the blood of others. In brief, the whole structure of today's madarsas and maulanas, with a few rare exceptions, is the most genuine legacy of colonialism.

“The process of these evil repercussions is continuing unabated. The exponential growth of madarsas, and the consequent multiplication of maulvis - working under the sacred title of 'ulamae-kiram’ (the revered theologians) - and with each trying to float the 'Islam' of his own brand, are constituting the most hazardous snarls in the community's ongoing ambitious endeavour for retrieving its lost place in enlightenment, modernism and excellence. The generally prevalent notion about Muslims having 72 or 73 sects has become redundant and slipped into oblivion. Today, we do not have sects, but 'Islams', and it will not be an exaggeration if I say that there are as many ' Islams' as the number of 'maulvis'. The concept of sectarianism was valid till one sect believed in one set of interpretations but did not assert that others were false. Today, the claim of each sect to authenticity and genuineness is incomplete till it is accompanied by a forceful declaration about others being spurious and counterfeit. Unfortunately, the Holy Qur'an which contains guidance for the entire humanity has been incarcerated within the precincts of madarsas, and its interpretation has become the unchallenged monopoly of maulvis. The sublimity, simplicity and explicitness of Qur'anic text have been transformed into tautological, tortuous and polemical expressions in such a way as if it were a Book of some arcane customs and occult sciences.

“Besides, there are certain 'lunatic fringes' in the community - some not believing in the democratic process, and like persons possessed, are waiting for the establishment of Khilafat, while the others propagate a more pernicious ideology that the moment hundred per cent Muslims are endowed with hundred percent Iman (faith) the entire world would be lying prostrate at their feet. Astonishingly, we are still suffering from the delusion that we have one Qur'an, one Prophet and one Shariat, and trying to identify the enemies of Islam in the outside world. The fast-growing maulvyization of the Muslim society the world over, especially in the countries where Muslims are in a minority and have no state mechanism to effectively curtail this menacing development, is playing havoc with the community. At the sectarian level, I have never heard any voice from any maulana, stressing ecumenical or some broader concept of unity, though on common platforms they all express farcical concern for the dangers facing the Ummah from all directions as a part of global conspiracy against Islam.

“Shamefully, it is the same clergy class which is used, sometimes by the American imperialist to refurbish its image in the Islamic world, and sometimes by Muslim authoritarian governments to mollify democratic upsurge of their respective masses by propagating democracy as a sacrilegious concept in Islam, and that the community must struggle for nothing short of the quixotic notion of Khilafat. It is my belief that the words 'who (conduct) their affairs by mutual consultation' occurring in Ayat 38 of Sura 42, Ash-Shura, clearly suggests that democracy is the only form of government deriving legitimacy from the Qur'an. Thus, lack of democracy in the Islamic world on the one hand , and the excessive growth of mullaiyat on the other, are the two serious roadblocks in the community's path to progress.

'Har nayee tameer ko lazim hai takhreebe tamam/ Hai isi mein mushkilate zindagani ki kashood.'

(It is imperative for every reconstruction that it must be preceded by total destruction, Only in this process lies the remedy of all hardships of life.) - Iqbal 

Mustafa Kamal Sherwani, Lucknow

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