Give Muslims the benefit of doubt, Mr. Swamy

By Mohammed Ayub Khan

More than seven months after Subramanian Swamy wrote his controversial piece on Muslims, the embers of his rhetoric continue to be kept aflame. Defending her husband’s stance, Roxna Swamy in a recent interview to the Outlook magazine said: “Muslims give Swamy the benefit of the doubt, believe his views are those of a patriotic Indian.”

Subramanian Swamy, as one may recall, had argued in his DNA article that Muslims either proudly accept and acknowledge their Hindu ancestors and legacy or be disenfranchised. It appears that Mr. Swamy is blissfully ignorant of the sentiments that Indian Muslims have of their motherland and ancestors. Had he taken the pains to find out the real views of Indian Muslims he would have realized that Indian Muslims consider India not only to be their motherland but also one of the holy lands.

One may not look beyond the most orthodox of Islamic traditions in India to find testimony to the above assertion that Muslims not only acknowledge the indigenous roots of their ancestry but also their faith in India. The late Qari Muhammad Tayyib Qasmi’s orthodoxy is beyond reproach. He was the Vice Chancellor of Darul Uloom Deoband for about half a century. In his Urdu book, Islam and Communalism, he writes: “If Hijaz is holy because it is the land of the birth of the last Prophet (Muhammad) and of the place of revelation of the Qur'an; if Syria is holy because it is the land of the Prophets of Bani Israel; if Egypt is holy because of its association with Prophet Moses; if Iraq is holy because of its association with Prophet Abraham; then without doubt India too is holy because of its association with Prophet Adam and for being the place of God’s first revelation. It is the first land of prophets…It is also holy because, according to a report by the historian Tabarani, it is the land of Prophet Seth [Shees] who led the funeral prayers of Prophet Adam. It is also holy because, according to a report by Ibn ‘Abbas, it is the land of Prophet Noah. Many pious and holy men have also stated (based on their internal illumination) that India is home to remnants and graves of several prophets.”

Qari Tayyib Qasmi further quoted Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautwi, the founder of Darul Uloom Deoband, to bolster his assertions: “Maulana Qasim Nanautwi says in his writings that one should never insult or denigrate the holy personalities of Hindus like Rama or Shri Krishna…It is possible that these personages might have been persons of truth, warners, and guides of their time. It is possible that they might have come to India with the true teachings but that their message had been corrupted due to the ravages of time.”

One may also look at the collected works of Maulana Shams Naveed Usmani, who was born in Deoband but educated elsewhere, to know the many commonalities between Islam and Hinduism. He had argued that the Hindu concept of sanatan dharm or ‘eternal religion’, if understood as ‘submission to the one God,’ is the same as the concept of Islam as Al Deen Al-Qayyim, which too means the ‘eternal religion.’ His writings are replete with such parallels.

Apart from such scholarly writings, Indian Muslims have produced voluminous poetry in Urdu and Persian in praise of Hindu personalities whom they accept as pious personalities but not as gods. There is a long list of poets who have accommodated these sages in their writings without compromising the Islamic beliefs. These include Shah Muhammad Kazim Qalandar, Seemab Akbarabadi, and of course the great nationalist and freedom fighter Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Muhammad Iqbal. Mohsin Kakorwi created a completely new genre of Islamic poetry by using Indian metaphors. This is well captured in a couplet from a poem written in praise of Prophet Muhammad:
Kahen Jibreel Isharey Sey Ke Haan Bismillah
Simt Kashi Say Chala Janib Mathura Badal

(Gabriel signalled ‘Yes, In the Name of Allah’/In the direction of Mathura went the cloud from Kashi)

Such deep feelings for their motherland abound in Indian Muslim psyche, their literature, and in their day to day life. For them India is not only their motherland but also one of their holy lands. Would Subramanian Swamy care to find out their true feelings and give them the benefit of doubt instead of indulging in hateful rhetoric?

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2012 on page no. 2

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