Books

Muslim voices against terrorism

Original_mg246-voice-against-terror

Book: Voices Against Terror: Indian Ulema on Islam, Jihad and Communal Harmony
Edited and Translated by Yoginder Sikand
Publisher: Vikas Adhyayan Kendra, Mumbai (vak@bom3.vsnl.net.in)
Pages: 207; Year: 2010
Price: Rs. 100

Islam, like all other religions, can be interpreted in diverse ways. Not surprisingly, therefore, there is no unanimity among Muslim scholars on the details of the Islamic concept of jihad and Islamic teachings about relations between Muslims and others. Radical Islamists regard jihad, in the form of physical warfare, as a permanent duty binding on all Muslims. The essays included in this volume, translated from Urdu, all deal with the issue of Islamic teachings on jihad and inter-religious and inter-community relations. What unites the authors of these essays, Indian ulama who represent different Islamic sectarian and ideological tendencies, is a strident opposition to what they regard as the jihadists’ gross misinterpretation and misuse of the concept of jihad and by, like some traditional ulama, their hostility towards people of other faiths and persuasions. Simultaneously, these authors also seek to address widespread misgivings among non-Muslims about Islam, particularly with regard to Islamic injunctions about jihad and inter-community relations.

A number of Indian Muslim scholars or ulama do indeed differ from, critique and oppose the arguments of radical Islamists and obscurantist ulama on jihad and relations between Muslims and others. Some of them have written extensively on these matters. However, the vast majority of them write only in Urdu, a language that, for various reasons, few non-Muslims read and that increasing numbers of Indian Muslims do not know. Hence, few non-Muslims and other non-Urdu knowing people have access to their valuable critiques, argued from within a broad Islamic paradigm, of the politics and theology of radical Islamists and certain obscurantist traditional ulama. Some of the boldest such critiques are today being articulated by Indian ulama who have received a traditional madrasa education, thus indicating that many commonly-held and facile generalizations about madrasas and traditional ulama need to be interrogated and revised.

The first essay in the volume is an edited and considerably shortened version of a book titled Islam Aur Dehshatgardi (Islam and Terrorism, Hyderi Kutub Khana, Mumbai, 2003) by the noted Indian Shia scholar and community leader, Maulana Mirza Muhammad Athar, president of the All-India Shia Personal Law Board.

The second essay is a translation of a chapter of an Urdu booklet titled Ikiswin Sadi Mai Islam, Musalman Aur Tehrik-e Islami (Islam, Muslims and the Islamic Movement in the Twenty-First Century, Markazi Maktaba-e Islami, New Delhi, 2005). The author, Mohammad Nejatullah Siddiqui, is a leading Indian Islamic scholar. Siddiqui critiques the excesses committed by self-styled jihadist movements and points to the futility of armed struggle by Muslim groups against the West as a reaction to real or perceived injustices, arguing that this is causing much more damage to Muslims themselves than to others.

The third essay is a translation of portions of an Urdu book titled Al-Jihad by a young Sunni Deobandi scholar from Lucknow, Maulana Yahya Nomani, who works with the popular Islamic journal Al-Furqan.

The fourth chapter consists of translations of excerpts put together of three lengthy articles by the well-known New Delhi-based Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, a prolific Sunni scholar and a leading proponent of inter-community dialogue. These articles are taken from two Urdu books of his, Amn-e ‘Alam (Global Peace, Goodword Books, New Delhi, 2005) and Islam Aur Intiha Pasandi (Islam and Extremism, Positive Thinkers Forum, Bangalore, n. d.].

The fifth chapter is a collection of excerpts put together from three articles written by Maulana Waris Mazhari, a graduate of the Darul-Ulum at Deoband and editor of the New Delhi-based journal Tarjuman Dar ul-Ulum, the official organ of the Deoband Madrasa’s Graduates’ Association.

The sixth, and final, essay is a translation of excerpts from the presidential address delivered by the noted Deobandi scholar, Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (1875-1933), to the meeting of the Jami’at ul-Ulama-i Hind in Peshawar in 1927. In his lecture, Maulana Kashmiri argues against proponents of Muslim separatism and lends support to the notion of a united India, consisting of Muslims, Hindus and others. Invoking the Constitution of Medina, he argues that the Prophet Muhammad accepted the Jews and some other non-Muslim groups of Medina as members of the same qaum or ‘nation’, with equal rights as Muslims. Hence, he says, arguing against both Muslim as well as Hindu opponents of Hindu-Muslim unity and united Indian nationalism, Islam is not a barrier to better relations between Hindus and Muslims.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 April 2010 on page no. 27

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