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Page last edited on 23 April, 2003

Islam a victim of distortion

Dr Rafiq Zakaria

Ignorance, it is said, is bliss; but for Indian Muslims the ignorance of the Hindus about Islam has been a curse. Every now and again some respectable Hindu gets up and asks them to define the world
‘kafir’ and to explain whether it applied to the Hindus. In the first place, the term is not derogatory; secondly no Indian Muslim, to the best of my knowledge, has used it for Hindus.

In the mediaeval age, the courtiers of some Muslim rulers might have referred to the Hindus as kafirs; but why should the present generation of the Muslims be castigated for it? The logic behind such a perception, especially on the part of some fanatic Hindus, is that the Muslims are taught by their religion to be contemptuous of the Hindus and Hinduism; this is a travesty of facts.

The truth, on the contrary, is that Hindus all along had contempt for the Muslims; the Madan and Sri Krishna commissions have testified that police officers, during the riots, referred to the Muslims as
“langdes” while giving instructions to their subordinates.

Muslims are often called by their Hindu detractors as “melachas”. Even during the heyday of Muslim rule, the eminent chronicler al-Biruni has reported that Hindus had “the most inveterate aversion towards all

Ibn Batut, after his travels through India, wrote that no Muslim was allowed to enter the house of a Hindu or give food in the same vessels as theirs. He observed, “If a Muslim is fed out of their vessels, they either break the vessels or give them away to the Muslims.”

The term ‘kafir’ is derived from the world ‘kufr’, which means ‘to hide or cover up’; it is generally used for disbelievers — those who deny the existence and unity of God.

The Quran devotes a whole chapter to them, which is called surah ‘al-kafirun’. It is, in fact, a testament of co-existence, which guarantees freedom of worship. 

It consists of the following verses in which Allah commends Muhammad to tell the disbelievers: “I do not worship/ What you worship/ Nor do you worship/ What I worship/ I will not worship/ What you worship/ Nor will you worship/ What I worship/ To you, your
religion/ And to me, mine.”

Hence the term ‘kafir’ does not apply to Hindus, because most of them believe in the oneness of God; those who do not are ‘kafirs’, but the Quran has made it clear that they can freely go about in their own

There is a well-known Quranic injunction: “There is no compulsion in religion.” In the Encyclopaedia of Islam, which gives a long survey of the use of ‘kafir’ through the ages, there is no mention of its
application to Hindus.

Religious places

It is also a gross misrepresentation to say that Islam sanctions the destruction of the places of worship of other religions; the Quran, in fact, has firmly denounced it. In surah al-Baqara, verse 117, it is
clearly stated: “Who commits a greater wrong/ The one who hinders prayers/ And tries to ruin in his zeal/The places of worship of others.”

Likewise in surah al-Haj, verse 40, it is mentioned, “Had God not intervened… monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques… would surely had been pulled down.” 

There are several other verses to this effect; in surah al-Nam, verse 52, Muslims have been warned: “Drive not away those/ Who worship their Lord/ morning and evening/Seeking His Grace/ In no way are you
accountable/ For what they do/ Nor are they accountable/ For what you do/ Hence do not drive them away/ And become evil-doers.”

Similar admonition has been given in the same surah in verse 108; “Do not revile those who/ Worship other gods/ Lest in their ignorance/ They revile your God.”

How is Islam responsible for what Aurangzeb did? Or, for that reason, any other Muslim ruler did? In fact the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate as well as the Mughals were hardly acquainted with the real teachings
of Islam.

The celebrated alim, Syed Sulaiman Nadvi, has pointed out: “The Turks, Afghans and Mughals, who successively conquered northern India, certainly professed Islam, but it is wrong to hold Islam responsible for all their actions, good or bad. The tribal hordes, who
poured in through the Khyber Pass, though nominally Muslim, did not, in fact, represent Islam. They were mostly emancipated slaves, newly converted, who had practically no knowledge of the Quranic teachings or the traditions of the Prophet.”

Misunderstood verses

Some misguided Hindus take certain verses of the Quran out of context and show that these enjoin Muslims to fight non-Muslims and either convert them forcibly or kill them.

They lack a proper understanding of the background of the revelations; these were sent to the Prophet not at one time, but from time to time over a period of 23 years. Many of these dealt with particular occasions when the Prophet faced a life-and-death struggle.

To meet each occasion, a revelation was sent; it was, in fact, a directive to the Prophet to meet a particular challenge. Taken out of context, it appears as a call to fight non-Muslims, whenever and wherever possible.

For instance, verse 5 in surah Tauba was revealed when the pagans had broken the terms of the treaty with them and plotted to fight the Muslims; to counter it, the directive was given: “But when the forbidden months/ Are past, then fight and slay/ The pagans wherever you find them/ And seize them, beleaguer them/ And lie in wait for them/ In every stratagem of war.”

Likewise, when the pagans mounted a war on the faithful they were told in verse 14: “Fight them, and God will/ Punish them at your hands,/ Cover them with shame,/ And He will help you/ To overcome them.” In surah Muhammad, verse 4, the instructions were more
specific: “Therefore, when you meet/ The unbelievers at war/ Smite at their necks/ And subdue them/ Thereafter show generosity/ By granting them ransom.”

These verses do not have a general bearing, but were specific for those occasions.

Sometime in 1985, on the basis of such verses, a petition was filed before the Calcutta High Court to ban the Quran as a threat to peace and communal harmony; it was admitted by the judge who was satisfied that there was a prima facia case.

However, when it came for final hearing, Justice C C Basak, after hearing both sides at length, dismissed the petition, stating, “In my opinion, it cannot be said that the Quran offers any insult to any other religion. It does not reflect any other deliberate or malicious intention of outraging the religious feelings of non-Muslims. Isolated passages picked out from here, and there, read out of context, cannot change the position.” Thereafter no appeal was filed against the judgement.

Misusing jihad

The term ‘jihad’ has also been much misunderstood, especially because of its misuse by terrorists; suffice it to say that the so-called jihadis, who operate for instance in Kashmir, violate every
injunction of the Quran and the Traditions of the Prophet. Their acts have been condemned by the highest religious dignitaries, including those of the Kaaba in Mecca and the al-Azhar of Cairo.

There is only one instance of the use of terrorism by a group of Muslims in the 11th century; it was condemned in the strongest terms by the greatest theologian of those times, Imam al-Ghazali, who is
revered as “the rejuvenator of Islam”. He warned Muslims that if they did not destroy terrorism, terrorism would destroy them.

Babar and Ayodhya

Again, to associate the Babri Masjid with Emperor Babar is not right. He had nothing to do with it. The mosque was built for the Shias by one of his generals, Mir Baqi, a Shia. In those days, there was no wireless or satellite communication; nor did generals take instructions from the emperor during their military campaigns. They generally acted on their own.

In his memoirs, Babar, who has recorded every important event, does not mention either the destruction of the Ram Temple or the construction of a mosque at Ayodhya, which he never visited.

Moreover in his will to his son and successor Humayun, Babar asked him “not to damage the places of worship and temples which fall within the boundaries of our rule”. Hence, there is no historical basis to what happened in Ayodhya, a city Babar never visited. Worse, it is absurd to call Indian Muslims Babur-ki-aulad; neither would the emperor have owned it, nor do Indian Muslims appreciate it.

Allama Iqbal, the greatest poet-philosopher of modern Islam, has said that it is historical Islam that is taken by non-Muslims as Islam and not religious Islam; there is a world of difference between the two. The communal Hindus are unfortunately ignorant of both; they relish the canards and do not bother to know the truth.

[source: http://in.news.yahoo.com/020617/57/1q5se.html]

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Last updated on 13 March, 2003

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