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Indian Muslims: Problems and prospects
By Ahmad Ali Siddiqi

History is witness to the fact that Indian Muslims have played a very important role in nurturing and upbringing this country, its beautification, construction ad development. Muslims gave this country arts and sciences, culture and civilization and nurtured it with their blood and toil. They have been equal partners along with other nations in introducing this country on the world map.

When the imperialists had hold on this country and had firm grip through cruelty and oppression, Sayed Ahmad Shaheed and Ismail Shaheed were the persons who first of all ignited the fire of freedom and who aroused the dormant feelings of nationalism and liberty among Indian nation against British slavery and ultimately achieved martyrdom for the sake of the country and nation.

Muslims took active part in India’s regular and systematic struggle for freedom and ultimately the dawn of freedom appeared for which people had been cherishing the desire for years. Among those who played vital roles in the war of independence were Mahatma Gandhi and Pundit Nehru but Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani and other Ulama were also equal partners. India became free, people breathed in the air of freedom, Constitution and laws were framed and rights and duties of the people of India were prescribed.

Before Independence, the British made Muslims the targets of their cruelty and oppression but after the independence their compatriots did not allow them to have a sound and peaceful sleep; specially after partition of the country, Muslims were blamed for being anti-national and their rights were suppressed.

Every people and nation of the world has to pass through trials and tribulations which in fact are the touchstones of its power of resistance and survival. Nations which do not ever have to face difficulties and trying times have neither the desire for improvement and reform nor the virtue of self confidence. They gradually become easy targets of easy-going life, self-forgetfulness and inertia, with the result that gradually they lose their identity and existence and whither away.

Muslims of India too are passing through hard and trying times these days and are facing many problems and difficulties in their national life. Some of their difficulties are the results of their own mistakes and lapses and some are the legacies of the past. Some of the problems are the products of events and incidents that took place in India a few years ago. However, there is no doubt that these problems and difficulties are temporary which will pass off in no time provided that Muslims behave with patience and restraint and try to solve these problems with a cool mind. It will become better and all the more easier if they are led by a thoughtful, realistic, bold and fearless leader with a balanced mind.

Some special problems of Indian Muslims
Though communal riots are among the biggest tragedies of this independent, secular democracy, it is nonetheless a transitory situation which should be brought under control because of the sense of responsibility of government authorities, their sincere devotion to duty and awakening of political sense in the country. Real causes of worry and concern are those problems which are posing a danger to their national existence and identity like a slow poison.

The first problem are the difficulties which are being faced in modern India in the works relating to ‘tabligh’ or preaching of religion. Who does not know that Islam is a religion that gives call for preaching and ‘tabligh’. Islam spread in the world through preaching and ‘tabligh’ only. Selfless act of ‘tabligh’ and preaching of Islam has been instilling new spirit and new enthusiasm in Muslims of India in all ages. It is only because of ‘tabligh’ that new members and ‘guests’ are being added to the Islamic community who in subsequent years will put the imprint of their matchless sagacity and capabilities throughout the world of Islam.

There are many important personalities among Indian Muslims whose genealogical table originates somewhere, either in the near or distant past from the Hindu families. Among the names of personalities worth mentioning in the recent past are those of Maulana Obaidullah Patialwi, Maulana Obaidullah Sindhi, Dr Sir Muhammad Iqbal, Maulana Sanaullah Amritsari and Shaikhut Tafseer Maulana Ahmad Ali Lahori. Among those are some on whom God revealed the reality and truth of Islam and they embraced Islam of their own.

This chain of ‘tabligh’ of Islam continued successfully till the last period of Muslim rule. Every year non-Muslims in large numbers continued to embrace Islam of their own free will. But when political fight and rivalry began to germinate between Indian Muslims and their non-Muslim compatriots it grew to such an extent later on that the fire of hatred and enmity towards each other got ignited among the two communities and impregnable walls of suspicion and hatred were built between them. This political atmosphere created severe distrust and bitterness between the two communities against each other. Hence this feeling of hatred and bitterness became the biggest obstacle in the way of Islam’s ‘tabligh’ in India and now the common perception about Islam in India that it is the official religion of a country has become an enemy. Some times such news about Pakistan appear in the newspapers which refresh the old wounds. This is the biggest problems of Muslims in India.

The second important problem is that of the present system of education which is no less important form the point of view of their present and future national, communal, cultural, religious life because this system of education is a permanent source of danger for their national and social life. This hits their special culture, civilization, language, faith and way of life.

The secular Constitution of democratic India guarantees religious, cultural, linguistic and other freedom and practices of all communities and sections, and according to which all sections and communities of the country and people professing different faiths are equal. However, as regards educational system, the present policy of the government in this respect has simply become a piece of decoration of the Constitution. The framers and compilers of the educational syllabi have prescribed course books in all states, particularly in UP, which are replete with matters pertaining to the faiths of the majority community, mythological and other stories of Hindu gods and goddesses against the principles prescribed in the Constitution. Obviously all these things are negations of Islamic beliefs and teachings, specially about the unity of God Almighty, His majesty etc. Also, the attributes, all powerfulness, glory etc of God as described in the Qur’an and the lofty ideals and beliefs held by Muslims about the Prophet (SAW) are in collision and contradiction with those described in these books. Hence there is no doubt that these things are causing great concern to the Muslims.

Third problem of Muslims of India is that of the language. Urdu language was born as a result of inter-action and cohesion of different languages, nations, cultures and civilizations and is a mixture of some old languages like Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Turkish etc. During the British rule many English words and expressions also came to be introduced in it. In this way it became a true representative of Indian languages and nationhood and soon it became common man’s language or lingua franca and thereafter it became the language of journalism and political activity. It became the most important means of inter relationship and exchange of ideas and as a result became the most popular language of the country. It became virtually the mother tongue of the people of UP, Bihar, Punjab, Hyderabad, Delhi and its suburbs. After some English newspapers, the maximum number of newspapers published and read are in this language.

Urdu was the second official language (after English) of the country and was being used in courts, government offices and schools. The former governor of UP, Sir Anthony Mc Donald for the first time declared Hindi as the court language, thereby sowing the seeds of discord and enmity between the two languages and its speakers, Hindus and Muslims. Urdu was exiled from different states of India, particularly UP and Delhi which were centres of Urdu and where its literature evolved and developed. The existence of Urdu could not be tolerated even in the primary and secondary stages of education.

Today the population of Muslims in India is around 15 per cent of its total population which has a special significance in India’s secular democratic system during the past half a century. This is because the role of this minority community in India’s past and present ups and downs has been very significant and hopefully will be so in future as well. But the problems of Muslims are increasing day by day, because during the past few years the state authority is being wielded by certain political forces whose sphere of influence has increased because of adoption and propagation of such slogans and ideals under which the minority sections of this country have been, and are being, made the biggest target. The future of Muslim professionals and working class, traders etc has been very greatly affected.

A major portion of Muslim population is very backward and more than fifty percent of them are leading a life below poverty line. This is in contrast to Hindu population, thirty five percent of which are leading a life below poverty line.

In the educational field also Muslims are very backward whereas the building and development of any community or nation depends upon its educational status and standard.

The condition of religious madrasas is also pitiable. After completing their education form these madrasas, the students do not find themselves fit for any jobs nor are they acceptable anywhere else because they are not trained for the requirements of modern times like computers, engineering, medical courses, information technology, accountancy, shorthand, typing etc. No positive and practical changes are being introduced in the syllabi of educational institutions functioning in Deoband and Lucknow and other madrasas as a result of which their products are found utter misfits elsewhere in this competitive world.

A great problem and handicap for Muslims is their religious and mutual differences which is eating into their progress. The truth is that there are great differences among themselves on the basis their social, economic, educational, cultural, linguistic, regional, sectarian and other factors. Shia, Sunni, Deobandi, Barelwi etc are clear examples. These differences are also to a great extent responsible for their decline and backwardness. Muslims are also devoid of dynamic, sincere and farsighted political leadership and a community suffering from above poisonous ailments and lacking in effective leadership will find it difficult to progress.

Muslims have to introspect themselves. They will have to seriously review and judge the performances of their educational and other institutions like Waqf Boards and their properties, social and economic organizations, welfare associations and many others. They should also judge as to how far their political, religious leaders and intellectual have solved their problems. They should also seriously ponder over the question mark put on Muslim leadership for the first time after demolition of Babri Masjid so that the existence, survival and honour and progress of Muslims of this country could be ensured.
There is no time and occasion for Muslims to lead a life of ease and comfort, lethargy and indifference, seclusion and dependance on others for solving their problems. The whole nation needs to be roused and strongly shaken from its slumber and lethargy and mobilized for continuous struggle with unity and determination so that Muslims could achieve, or even grab, all their legitimate rights and lead a life of honour and respect, peace and progress in this country and also contribute their mite for the building and development of this country. Disappointment and frustration is blasphemy. We have to pursue the path of progress even under unfavorable and difficult circumstances. (Translated from Urdu)

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