Naseeruddin – The Paradoxical Shah Lost in the Pseudonym of a “Non-Practicing” Muslim Identity

"O you who have believed, enter into Islam completely [and perfectly] and do not follow the footsteps of Satan. Indeed, he is to you a clear enemy." (Quran, 2:208)

Naseeruddin Shah proudly proclaims in his article that he is not a practicing Muslim — "...I am no longer a practicing Muslim, and in fact had never been overly aware of a Muslim identity..." Ironically, and paradoxically, he is still hounded by concerns aligned with his Muslim identity — "...the nightmarish possibility of my children being someday confronted by a mob demanding to know their religion could be inching closer to reality." It's high time he should probably change his name because by these assertions, he is no longer a helper/supporter of Deen; on the contrary, he doesn't have any alignment to the Deen altogether. But he and his children will still be open to being hounded in the name of the Deen.

We all must have been taught the Quranic alphabets by some Maulvi at some point of time in our lives. However, it is difficult to recall if any Maulvi made us believe "...about planets moving around the earth, which of course was not only “flat, and the centre of the universe but to believe it moves round and round is heresy!” At least my Maulvi (who may be like 10 to 15 years younger than Naseer's Maulvi) never talked or believed in this "ignorant garbage". If this was an inadvertent attempt by you, Naseer sb., to malign the maulviyat cult, it was quite a shammed and abortive attempt. But you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

Naseeruddin says, "...I quietly took whatever I could from the Arabic recitation in terms of diction and breath control and let the rest of it go. Why should someone be punished for his doubts or for no fault of his, and, moreover, why did a being as great as Allah need to be appeased all the time? It just didn’t make sense even at that age (sic)." Naseer sb, if this is what you believe, you probably “never took" anything from your Maulvi; because Allah is in NO NEED of your appeasement (nor mine). It is we the Humans who are in need of worshipping the Almighty, because that is the primary purpose of our creation. Yes, your argument about appeasing Allah would make every atheist and disbeliever churn out gallows of happiness and glee. But you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

Naseer sb. further expresses that "Evidently, as a Muslim, it should not be my concern to urge India and Pakistan not to hurt each other and if I did I was pro-Pak, “because we are going to bomb the shit out of them” proclaimed one desi troll whose ideal obviously is the Donald." Naseer sb., earlier you have vehemently stated that you are not a practicing Muslim (and there is no concept of a non-practicing Muslim that I know of – either you are a Muslim by entering into Islam completely, or you are not). So, when you are no longer a practicing Muslim or a supporter/helper of your Deen, why should you call himself a Muslim at all? (Is it just by virtue of your name? Alas, your name also defies you on this front – Naseeruddin is comprised of two words, Naseer and Deen; Naseer meaning supporter/helper and Deen signifying the religion of Islam). Maybe then your speaking on Indo-Pak relations will not be taken with the same adversity. But you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

Naseeruddin says, “Islam too has never been in greater need of reform and enlightened interpretation than it is now, though considering that fundamentalists currently rule the roost everywhere, that’s probably not a smart thing to say. But it is time for Muslims to throw the caretakers of religion out and form their own beliefs based on an understanding of what their holy book actually says.” Naseer sb. would do well to remember that Islam is never in need of reform if one enters it completely. It is the incompleteness of our entry into Islam that makes US open to reforms – and not Islam. Naseer sb., that was indeed an eloquent outcry to malign Islam, but mind it, reforming fundamentalism and caretakers of Islam does not amount to “reforming Islam.” Albeit, by demanding to reform Islam, you may have made a mark (how strong a mark it is is open to debate) among the adversaries of Islam. However, you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

He further says, “It seems essential for Muslims in India to get over the feeling of victimisation they are in now; it is a trap all too easy to stumble into - we must determine to stop feeling persecuted, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding; we must stop hoping for salvation from somewhere and take matters into our own hands- not least of all to take pride in our Indian-ness and assert our claim on our country.” Naseer sb., it is too easy to stumble into believing, sitting in the coziness of your plush and swanky drawing room, that victimization of Muslims is a “mere feeling”. It is definitely not easy to experience the vulnerability, religious profiling, illegal detention, rape, arson, looting, and lynching of hundreds of “practicing” Muslims who do not even have access to a four-square meal a day at times. Though your effort to evade the issue of Muslim victimization can be understood by your lavish non-practicing Muslim stature, you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

Once again, Naseer sb., your belief that Indian Muslims are indifferent to education or hygiene is a stride in your Muslim pseudonym. Indian Muslims, particularly economically weaker sections, are NOT INDIFFERENT to education or hygiene but actually LACK THE MEANS to ensure appropriate education and hygiene. They are the ones who have never been able to make crores in one single movie, because they must struggle and strive every day, every hour, every minute, to earn their daily bread and water (butter is a distant luxury for them!) and survive in this harsh world, let alone education and hygiene. By making a flaunting mockery of the plight of economically weak Muslims, you have definitely earned another point in your pseudonym. Despite this, you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen.

Naseerudin further says that “The visible increase in the sight of saffron scarves and tilaks, as well as on the other side beards, hijabs and topis in a country where barely ten years ago in most states (Maharashtra, Bengal, Kerala to name only three) Hindus were indistinguishable from Muslims, is cause for apprehension but this assertion of the club you belong to and the waving of its flag was waiting to happen.” That, Naseer sb., is the foremost problem that most of the “practicing” Muslim Indians face today – that of their identity as practicing Muslims. The rise of radiating “practicing Muslim” identity is as much a concern and apprehension for you as it is for “them”. It is not simply waving of the club flag that has made it happen, though. The fascination of cherishing your identity when you become a practicing Muslim is beyond your comprehension – and of those who live in the pseudonym of their Muslim identities.

For one thing, “they” would never tolerate the fact that you or I, or anyone with a Muslim name, should live with a Muslim identity. “They” would probably be slightly happy when you endeavor to include diyas and crackers in your Eid celebrations. And “they” would probably be slightly happier if you call Dipawali as your Eid. “They” would be still more happier when you endorse that animal sacrifice should be replaced by distributing alms to the poor on Eid-ul-Adha. But Naseer sb., despite all this pseudo-secular inclusion, you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen. You know why? Because it is your Muslim identity (and mine) that they detest the most – and not the least whether or not you practice Islam. The only time “they” would be satisfied is – as per Quran – …till you follow their religion… Till then, or maybe despite that, you and your children will still be open to being hounded in the name of your Deen. And that, Naseer saheb, is the crux of your having a Muslim name – a verity that you so desperately and paradoxically wish to evade with your pseudonym. 

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