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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Shivraj Chouhan govt 'forgets' Muslim martyrs: Media reports force officials to wake up, accept 'mistake', promise to rectify the error

The Madhya Pradesh government built a huge memorial in memory of its brave soldiers but forgot the Muslim martyrs.

Param Vir Chakra Abdul Hamid and Brigadier Usman whose tales of valour are known to everybody in the country, were 'forgotten'.

Madhya Pradesh government sayss that while there are many war memorials in the country, it is the first memorial that commemorates the tales of bravery of Indian soldiers. Journalist Alok Pandey's report in Hindi newspaper Patrika [see above].

However, the Culture department of the MP government didn't provide a space to these legendary figures of Indian army. The 'Shaurya Smarak' has been built by MP government on a vast land at Arera Hills.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, especially, came to Bhopal, to inaugurate the memorial. After newspaper reports mentioned how these great martyrs did not find a place in the gallery of great soldiers, the MP government accepted the 'mistake'.

Such an innocent error! No tale of brave men of Indian army is complete without a mention of 'Naushera ka Sher' Brigadeir Usman and Abdul Hamid. The latter had single-handedly destroyed the 'famed' Patton tanks of Pakistan.

Patrika, the mass circulated Hindi newspaper, carried the story as lead on its front page. Subsequently, Culture department Principal Secretary (PS) Manoj Srivastava admitted the mistake and said that the mistake would be corrected.

Muslim artists perform Ram Lila in Lucknow: Communal Harmony Project-33

Communal harmony is not a term that's just used in books or speeches.

It the spirit of this country, even if people ignore numerous incidents around themselves.

The photograph on the left can give you an indication.

Lucknow is known for its communal harmony and composite culture.

Ram Lila is annually held in Bakhshi Ka Talab locality here and it has mostly Muslim artists.

Either it is Sabir Khan who is the director and has also played roles in the Ram Leela in the past or Safaraz Khan, audience simply love them for their unique presentation.

The Ram Lila brings to fore the life of Lord Rama on the stage. But apart from the Bakhshi ka Talab event, there are other Ram Lilas that too have Muslim characters and Muslims among organisers-patrons.

The convenor of the Lucknow Ramlila Association says that the biggest of all--Ram Lila at Aishbagh in Lucknow, is unimaginable without the partcipation of Shamsur Rahman Naved. Lucknow is known for its communal harmony.

But all over the country, Ram Lilas are staged with Muslims as organisers, artists, audiences and supporters. In Mewat region too, it is part of the culture. Either in Punhana or Tavdu, Muslim artists--musicians, actors, take part in the presentation. Photo courtesy, Hindi daily Patrika [Patrika.com]

[Harmony exists all around us but is often ignored. Instead, stories of hate, discord and communalism get spread easily.

There are a million examples in our daily lives across India but they don't get promoted, hence, news of hate and discord gets heard more. Let's change it, now. This is a small attempt to change it through Communal Harmony Project]

For reading similar reports on this blog, Click the link HERE and also find out more about Communal Harmony Project

#communalharmony #communalharmonyproject #india

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

When a leading Deobandi scholar supported 'Tazia', Muharram rituals

Can you imagine a Deobandi scholar supporting the practice of 'Tazia-dari' or performing rituals during Muharram?

Unimaginable, isn't it? Maulan Ashraf Ali Thanvi was passing by rural part of Northern Rajasthan that falls in Mewat region.

He reached a Muslim hamlet where most people had little awareness about religion.

They neither prayed, not could recite Quranic verses. Maulana Thanvi, a leading light of Deoband, asked them if they organised any event. "We have a platform, which is called Imam Husain Ka Chabutra. Here Tazia is kept during Muharram", came the reply.

"If a person who can read arrives, the Shahadatnama is read out here". Maulana Thanvi told them to ensure that the rituals were performed with more zeal and urged them to call 'Aalims' from outside during Muharram, for 'taqreer' [discourses].

After leaving the place, his companions who were quite surprised, asked him that how come Maulana Thanvi who always opposed these rituals, encouraged the locals and told them to continue the 'Azadari' [Tazia, Ashura related] rituals.

Maulana Thanvi replied, "these people have no link with Islam, except Imam Husain's name. If I discourage them at this point, there is little chance that there association with the religion would remain and they may turn towards irtidad.

However, if they continue the practices and call clerics from outside, the link would remain and they may learn basics of Islam too viz.prayers, fasting et al. Hence, it was important, to tell them to continue the practices", he said.

Clearly, it was his tact--hikmat. If he had begun with denouncing them, calling them ignorant or branding them as non-Muslims, it wouldn't have helped at all. Unfortunately, today, it has become a norm for people to call fellow Muslims, 'mushrik', without even realising that it is not permissible an one doesn't have the authority to pass such judgments.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Stop judging fellow Muslims: Criticizing other sects, targeting their beliefs, itch to raise objections on Muharram rituals

The Islamic month of Muharram has begun. With this, the annual ritual to criticise the practice of mourning and 'maatam' is also being witnessed.

On social media, there is a flood of messages through SMS, WhatsApp and social media posts, calling mourning and maatam [self-flagellation] as un-Islamic, wrong and backward practices.

This is a matter of belief--mourning the martyrdom of Prophet's grandson and his family in the battle of Karbala.

Shias perform 'maatam' to express their grief at the tragic events. Many Sunnis too mourn*, though they don't perform maatam.

Worse, people use abusive terms for those who perform these rituals.

What do you gain by questioning their practices or condemning them? They are a different sect and they have their own beliefs-traditions.

It hurts them when they are constantly targeted. How upset we [Muslims] feel when questions are raised on Qurbani during Eid-uz-Zuha [act of slaughter termed violent], and there is criticism of the practice by many non-Muslims.

It is unrealistic to expect that everyone will act as per your beliefs. And who are you to decide who is 'Muslim' and who is 'outside pale of Islam'. If you are a believer you should be humble and worry if you are on right path, rather than targeting-abusing others.

Weird: Expecting others to be like you!

Who has the authority to issue certificates of 'Islamic' and 'un-Islamic' behaviour? It is absolutely between God and the individual.

Besides, it is irrational to expect that everyone will behave just like you and adhere to religion exactly in the way, you have seen in your family or grown accustomed to.

Those who object to Muharram practices and call them 'wrong', 'cheap' or 'un-Islamic', should better introspect about their own thinking. When your ways are questioned, you get upset and get ready to pick up fight, don't you?

The sectarian itch prompts you to brand others, blame others. In recent years, this bug has bitten a huge populace. The arguments, counter-arguments and you get another reason to feel special--you are expert 'sectarianist'.

Obsession with sectarianism

"We must correct them, islaah is needed", is the standard answer. Really! So there is nothing else to correct--from social issues to educational matters, from language to character, and why not start it from your house?

The belief is that only we are right and others are wrong, is troublesome. Isn't it better to focus on improving oneself and one's family? Also, there are counter-arguments that Shias practice 'tabarra' and abuse the first three Caliphs.

Ask if you have ever heard anyone do it publicly and there is no response. The belief that all Shias do that is also strange. And, if someone does something in their homes, what will you do? Isn't this plain-hate?

How different is it from the right-wing extremists who presume that beef is cooked in a house and kill Akhlaq. Isn't this hypocrisy? The same majoritarian communalism towards a minority within your society!

When sects are different, why do you judge them?

It is a strange disease [most of us suffer] to target anyone who is not like 'us'--the us is what we have seen growing up in family or neighbourhood. You're are just not aware of the kind of cultural, sectarian and social differences, that exist across the world.

This is totally irrational and also against the basic tehzeeb [manners, decency] of living in a society. Everyone can't be like you. Still, if you insist on calling them names, then forget talk about Ummah and unity among Muslim sects.

In fact, a strange passion overcomes people when it comes to sectarianism. Sane people get into a totally different mode, writing posts after posts, dozens of comments, as if this is the biggest issue on the planet.

Sects are a reality, accept it

Sects are a reality. Not just Barelvi-Deobandi, but Ismaili to Bohra, and so on. When it comes to interpretations and 'hadith', people go as per their own sect's interpretation, terming other 'hadith' as zaeef or ignoring it.

For nearly 1300 years there were Muslim aalims who never so easily branded other as 'non-Muslims'. Aga Khan was in fact considered one of the major leader of Indian Muslims till Partition.

Many prominent leaders of Muslim community were Shia, Ismaili, even Mehdavia and those belonging to the other sects. There was less objection to others' practices and minor differences were ignored.

But in recent decades, it has become a favourite pastime to do tanqeed [criticism] and target others. People strongly feel what they feel, calling them that they are on wrong path, all the time, doesn't help at all.

READ: Either Barelvi or Deobandi. Difficult to be 'simply Muslim' amid growing sectarianism

[*The processions are taken out by Sunnis and Shias on Muharram. Shias carry 'Alams' and perform maatam. Tazias are mostly carried by Sunnis and also some Hindus. However, many urbane people dismiss Tazias as Hindu influence and look down upon even those Sunnis who take part in this rituals]

Friday, September 30, 2016

'Either Deobandi or Barelvi': Difficult to be simply Muslim amid growing sectarianism

More than the Shia-Sunni sectarian differences, these days you hear about Barelvi-Deobandi schism.

The Sunnis, who form a majority of population among Indian Muslims, are seen as 'Either Deobandi or Barelvi'.

There are many non-Muslims who claim to have studied Deobandi and Barelvi sects, and have emerged as experts lately.

The truth is that the nuances and the nature of beliefs is such that they can't understand them. It is not easy to comprehend the complexities, similarities and differences, especially, for an outsider. Damn confusing, I must say. Worse, it is the sweeping generalisation, and nomenclature that has compounded the problem.

*Those who are not Deobandis, are all considered Barelvis.
*And those who are not Barelvis, are all termed Deobandis.

But the reality is not as simple. There is a huge Muslim population that may not fit in this caterogization, which is often thrust on them even though these terms are of recent origin, in the long history of Islam.

This post has been written after witnessing the huge amount of energy spent on social media by followers of these sects in recent times. There is a strange passion and people are ready to go to any limits, severing relationships over perceived differences. Initially it may be difficult reading but do read till the end, especially from point 7-10, and the concluding text.

1. Categorising someone is so simple. Let me first start with those Muslims who don't subscribe to Deobandi school of thought. By default this population is termed Barelvi but many of them may not have even heard of Ala Hazrat [Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi], let alone visited his shrine or have any special regard for him.

2. Similarly, many non-Deobandis feel that anyone who is against visiting Dargahs, is a Deobandi [or Wahabi]. This is also untrue. Deobandi beliefs are seen more in sync with the Salafis who rule the Saudi Arabia.

However, it is the Ahl-e-Hadith sect in India, which has spread more in recent decades, and it represents the Salafis here. As rituals vary from region to region and even family to family, it ironically comes to the point that what one has seen in his household, is 'true' for the person.

3. Your parents didn't follow a ritual, so you believe that the other person who performs it, is outside the pale of Islam. On social media, there are people who can readily call a fellow Muslim, 'non-believer' just because he wears an amulet.

4. Many from both the sides may even be on the same page when it comes to women--issues like women going to a grave yard, but would still brand the other group for the 'undesirable practice'. In fact, this is endless.

5. From participating in a 'Milad' to going to a 'Urs', any practice may be condemned. But if you belong to a sect that opposes it and yet it is your family tradition, you justify it.

6. Similarly, the counter-charge would be that the particular sect is trying to lessen the love for Prophet. With the Saud family's hold and the manner in which heritage has been destroyed in Arab, it makes for a strong argument. The Khanqahis [associated with Dargahs] are also considered as Barelvis by default.

7. Though there are Sufis whose love for Ali reaches the stage where they are termed close to Shia doctrine, there also Pirs and Sufis who are now close to Deobandi beliefs. Of later, we have been hearing that Barelvis are more liberal or accommodating.

8. But, when it comes to the sole Muslim public event--Muharram, both Deobandis and Barelvis are against it. The mourning procession on the day of Yaum-e-Ashurah is generally believed to be taken out by the Shias.

While Shias take 'alam' and perform 'maatam', it is only Sunnis or some Hindus who take out 'Tazias' or organise the 'akhadas'.

Shias don't take out Tazias. Now, all these Sunni Muslims are termed Barelvis.

9. But Imam Ahmad Raza Khan's stand was quite harsh on these practices.

He opposed them, issued fatwas and his followers are also against these Muharram observances.

So who are these people who are on streets during Ashura?

Of course, Muslims--the Sunni Muslims, in fact, the ordinary Muslims, who mourn the killing of their Prophet's grandson and his family at Karbala. Unfortunately, it's so easy to compartmentalise and categorise!

Of course, most of these people are poor [it is the poor among Hindus too who mostly participate in Dussehra, Dahi Handi or similar events].

10. The Barelvis dislike them. The Deobandi too, who is more urbane, decides that these people are 'non-believers' or 'corrupt'. The 'elite' [moneyed] declares that these practices are not in sync with his sophisticated lifestyle and terms them as 'jaahil' [ignorant].

Even more recent phenomenon is that a section of 'elite Shia' are also seen avoiding self-flagellation or attending the mourning processions where blood is shed. Is it like elite Hindus these days who often claim that they don't play Holi like the louts!

Despite Islamic injunctions to avoid judging others, it has become routine to call the 'other', 'unbeliever' just because his/her sect is different. And there lies the real tragedy. Somewhere in between, may come the Tablighi Jamat enthusiast.

If he finds you not inclined to go with them, they might look down upon you as someone of 'lesser faith'. This is all internecine Sunni differences. We haven't touched Shias as yet. The reason is that it is Barelvi-Deobandi dispute which is tearing apart the community.

--Ahmad Raza Khan Barelvi was born in 1856
--Darul Uloom Deoband was established in 1866. Maulana Qasim Nanutvi was born in 1833
--Tablighi Jamat movement started in 1926


The sectarian bug is much more severe than any religious divide.

People openly write on invitation cards that a person of other sect [in case he might have got the card by mistake because the sender wasn't aware of his sect], must not attend the wedding ceremony.

In many parts of the country, the grave yards are now separate for those belonging to these two different sects.

In real life and on social media [after debates], people shun old friends just because they discover that the other person performs a particular ritual or has a different take on certain things.

Again, it is the same obsession to turn everyone like yourself. To prove your point, you may bring your citations or examples, the other person also has his own.

What exactly is this sort of obsession and silly arguments over traditions and practices?

Not just Quran and Hadith, but innumerable other examples are given and this adds to more bitterness--the idea and the effort is just to convert the other person to your exact position on every ritual.

Even more interesting is the lack of knowlege. As few read Quran along with the translation, and even few have gone through the Hadis [Hadith], the arguments are for the sake of argument and the aim is to somehow prove the other person wrong, as only your sect should be on right path.

In order to win argument, they ultimately go to the cleric of their own sect or search on internet--from websites favourable to your sect to videos on YouTube. Why all this effort? Ego trip, what else? Tell me with your hand on your heart.

In the era of social media boom, when you find forwarded posts by friends and relatives on WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, on every festival and observance--asking you to either shun or embrace some ritual, in order to fall in line, how do you cope? How much you can ignore.

It is damn irritating. Imagine, there are cities where people fear to go to a new mosque where they haven't gone before, because the way they offer prayer may incur wrath of the sect that controls the mosque.

In this backdrop, I am asking, is it possible to be 'Simply Muslim'? I ask this question myself, often. Still there are the vast majority of Muslims--simple Muslims, who are still not afflicted with this sectarian bug. However, the pace at which the sectarianism is growing, is scary.