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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Indian Ulema's commendable stand on Yoga, Terrorism, other issues

Though Ulema prefer to remain away from worldly matters, certain recent events have forced me to praise the progressive Muslim clergy that is now playing an active role in the country.

They are doing lot of things that should be termed progressive. Through gestures, actions and conferences, Indian Musim clergy has done something remarkable recently. Let me explain it:

On Yoga

Just to remind you that sometime back there was a controversy when Pope Benedict had warned Christians from practising Yoga. Several other Christian organisations and preachers having termed Yoga as anti-Christianity and a cult.

A famous former Yoga practitioner had even said, 'When I practiced yoga, often I could leave my body but didn't know who entered it in the meanwhile'. He urged Christians to stop Yoga.

But when some Malaysian cleric asked Muslims to desist from Yoga, one of the most influential seminaries of Islamic world, the Darul Uloom Deoband, came forward and said that there was nothing un-Islamic, Muslims could practise it and said that Namaz was also like Yoga.

Noida encounter: Again refusal to bury terrorists' bodies

Dozens of Muslim organisations including Ulema came forward and refused to let the bodies of suspected terrorists killed in encounter in Noida (UP) on Republic Day eve.

Though as per Islam and even as per humanitarian tradition, after the person is dead the body should at least be given the last rites as per the tradition of the dead, the strong decision has been taken, which has amazed Muslims in other countries.

The Qaris, Maulvis, Maulanas and clerics in unison said it. Mind you, this is no ordinary thing. They met district administration officials and police, to protest the burial and refused it.

Terrorism & Vinay Katiyar

One of the most hardliners of all Hindutva faces of BJP, Vinay Katiyar, had recently demanded a ban on Deoband seminary. This was too provocative a statement. In fact, it is shameful and shows ignorance as the role of Deoband clerics in the freedom struggle is second to none.

But the Ulema and Muslims didn't get angry. They instead took a step forward and formally invited Katiar at Deoband. Surprised by the invitation, Katiyar has now retracted, and has now announced that he is going to visit the place (probably in a week or two).


Fatwa is an opinion and it's not binding though non-Muslims generally don't know it. However, Deoband's recent fatwas including the ones like 'adult girl can marry boy of her choice, against parents' wishes' and the one on yoga, are just a reflection of their attitude.

On cowslaughter, again the Deoband issued an edict recently and said that Muslims shouldn't slaughter the cow, as the cow is sacred to Hindus and our 'brethren shouldn't get hurt' because of our actions.

In between there may be a couple of less pragmatic fatwas like the one on triple talaq, but again, it was not causing any disharmony among sections of India and communities in this country.

They earlier issued a fatwa on terrorism, condemning it in harshest terms. They gathered tens of thousands of Muslims in Hyderabad where they issued it, at a grand conclave.

Not just for the sake of politically correctness

Its not that Ulema have suddenly become progressive. The fact is that blaming Ulema and Madarsas is a favourite occupation of a section of columnists, politicians and right-wing rabblerousers.

They forget that the 145-year-old Deoband doesn't need to have said it. They could have remaied mum on these matters. But they did speak and tried to reach out to the entire nation, speaks volumes about their efforts.

Still, TV channels and mass media doesn't show their positive side. They don't need to be politically correct all the time or go out of the way to prove something. But they are doing it. And this needs to be praised.

In a situation when there is no major Hindu organisation trying to reach out to Muslims, the role of Ulema is creditable. Muslim organisations don't abuse others, though they of course, raise voice and protest, which is a democratic right.

But even that is termed as 'fundamentalism'. Not many voices came in support for the youths of Hyderabad, who had been tortured for the Mecca Masjid blasts, in which they were not involved. [The police had to accept it later].


However, no Indian Muslim politician or cleric has every condemned or criticised Hindus or Hinduism despite the fact that many leaders and rabble-rousers from Togadia to Thackeray have openly blamed not Muslims, but Islam, and linked it to terror.

When Pramod Muthalik's speeches urge for a Pragya Thakur in every household and Bal Thackeray asks for Hindu suicide squads, far from getting provoked, the Indian Ulema not just talk about harmony but also try to reach out to everybody.

I think this is really laudable. Ulema get unnecessary criticism for far trivial things. Tthe portrayal of Ulema is newspapers and channels isn't fair. And I must say, I also feel a bit surprised, at the way Indian Ulama are coming out forward, to keep the liberal and secular ethos of this country intact.


Nbz said...

Beautiful and very eloquent.
If possible could you please highlight more the role of the ulema (more precisely - Deoband) during the freedom struggle.

Chevalier said...

Thank you for writing like you do! This is great to know - each time I try to make the argument that the Indian muslim community has been the rare religious community around the world to become more moderate and less fundamentalist over the last ten years, I find myself woefully short of facts & numbers and anecdotes to support my argument :-). Your post is helpful in this regard....

Anonymous said...


Your post is so relevant. I am forwarding it to my friends.


Nimmy said...

Well put..

Forget non-muslims,even muslims doesn't know that fatwa is non-binding..Ofcourse nobody is going to follow these fataws,but they do indeed play a role in forming conclusions regarding a topic..For eg,Talaq in drunken state is valid' was an insane fatwa..Forget fatwa,a drunkard is going to do whatever he likes,no amtter it is the Pope or Priest or Maulana is saying good..But stuff like these sent out a wrong message.Even a 10 yr old can know that since drinking itself is unislamic,how can an important decision like divorve be islamic while in drunken state..Still these people issued such a fatwa..Forget them,but the saddest part is that nobody ,no cleric came forward to say that 'No,this is wrong'..there we,as a community,went wrong..

Usually,only the crazy fatwas get highlighted in media..I will spread your word..

Nimmy said...

There is no priesthood in Islam but attimes,i have felt that we have given overdue importance to these people..Maybe they needn't involve in politics,but sadly,we don't have a platform to raise our issues-in unity.So,living in a multi cultural soceity,i think they need to be more responsible and more proactive..

Just my thoughts..I needn't be right.

Kagaz ki kashti said...

I always learnt since childhood from my mother that Islam is very scientific & very convenient religion. It was only made complexed with undesirable fatwas.
I hope with now the ulmas have opened thier thoughts on all progressive things, no doubt there will be a good change among all sections of muslims and the world will witness this good change soon.
Thanks for this good post.

indscribe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
indscribe said...

Nbz, Chevalier, Anon: Thanks. I was also thinking of writing about the role of Deoband Ulema in freedom struggle.

Nimmy: Actually, political leaders voted by Muslims don't raise their issues and present the image of community properly.The Muslim leadership is either non-existent or is a failure.

Unfortunately there is now a strong Muslim middle-class across the India, that has at last come up after 60 years of independence, but this middle-class doesn't do its bit to clear the myths or reach out to others to approach mediamen and authorities to stop linking Muslims with terror. This silence and almost near inactivity of our educated class--when lawyers refuse to defend any Muslim suspect or when Muslims don't get houses or when poor Muslim kids suffer due to lack of schools and orphanages-- has forced Ulema to come out of their seminaries.

This middle-class doesn't care much about charity or doing social work of any kind for Muslims and for rest of the society. There are serious problems.

When destitute Muslim girls in Nari Niketans of North India pass the marriageable age with nobody marrying them, it was the Ulema and some local politicians who went and arranged for their marriages and well-being.

Munching biryani at AMUOBA (AMU old boys association, I am just givin an example) like gatherings and always regretting 'ki kitna kharab daur aa gaya hai', that's the role most of us play.

That's why when the Ulema are taking lead, they are welcome. I accept that there are a few fatwas that were irrational.

True, when sharaab is 'haraam', how come something which is spelt under the influence of liquor could be deemed legal.

But there are mistakes. They seem trying to improve the system and reach out to everybody.

Kagaz ki Kashti: Thanks again.

Anser Azim said...

Nice post and educative as always.

The role that this Islamic learning center has played in the freedom struggle and bringing law and order in the name of religion in the society is beyond doubt and needs lots of appreciation. They have kept their cool all along in spite of many odds. Thanks for bringing this up.


nimis540 said...

So true that the middle class educated muslims are in a silent and denial mode and they open moth only to rant about discrimination and oppression..Of course we ahve it around us,but it is hypocritical to make comments alone and do nothing about it.and yes,it is appreciable that Ulema is speaking out,especially the cow slaughter fatwa was indeed an excellent one..I am not degrading them or just finding fault,but just saying that we need much more effort as to bring out a notable chnage in community..Again as you said,it is the fault of every educated muslim who has it and still choose escapism..Lets hope that we make a shift in attitude as soon as possible..


syahi said...

nice post dear.
The days gone by has taught many lessons to Indian muslims and I am not exaggerating if I say,they reflected more mature and wise to many burning issues in the recent past.
Offcourse there are some or few local leaders who think muslim issues means opposing taslima or issuing a hardcore statement against israel or organising a sher o shayeri function annually is all to keep muslims in their fold.

The mindset is changed and is changing.We need someone who can tell them to use their energies to develop themselves as individuals and progress with fellow nationals in general.

saima said...

very educative piece. its surprising that none of this was known to me and my family and friends. how come the media almost never highlights such things?!

Danesh said...

As usual, Masha Allah. great post. I've shared it through twitter - http://twitter.com/daneshzaki/status/1177118478

Anonymous said...

It looks like a defensive brief for our ulemas! The enigmatic Deobandi ulemas, like the pendulam of grandfather wall clock, have switched from one extreme to the other!
Ulema is the plural of aalim, which means a very much learned man, particularly in 'Islamics'. The Muslim commoners look upto them to guide them lead a successful Islamic life in these trying times.
And also dispel the wrong notions non-Muslims have developed over the years.What the ulemas are indulging in India , today,is nothing but doing politics"!Haali has rightly lamented :"pasti ka koyi hadh se guzarna dekha!Islam ka girkar na ubharna dekha!"Indian Muslims have suffered much by listening to the secular politicians for long! Now these Mullas want to replace them!
"allah jaane kya hoga?"

Anonymous said...

What do you have to say about bigots like Zakir Naik, who openly denigrates Hindus?
This person has justified the death penalty for converting from Islam into any other religion. He openly supports terrorists like Osama bin Laden. Why hasnt the Ulema reigned in this person?
Its not all hunky dory as this post suggests. There is a Saudi funded radicalization going on among Indian Muslims.

indscribe said...

Shurkia Anser sb, Nimmy, Saima, Syahi and Danesh bhai for encouraging words.

Anon: There is void because educated middl-class with a mission doesn't come and work at grassroots and later contest elections. So Ulema are at least taking up the cudgels. They are also human beings.

Anonymous: I have no love for Zakir Naik. For your information there was a fatwa from Lucknow against Zakir Naik sometime back over the same issue.

I wish you also track such things. If you only find wrong things with Muslims and Ulema, you will not see positive aspects.

Every community should reach out to others. Blame game won't help. Go to madarsas, meet people befriend them, rather than viewing them as a different species.

Anonymous said...

Why sudden love/respect towards Ulema. You always seem to be critical of clergyman/Mullahs

Cool4u said...

1.though i cannot but be impressed, how may it be possible to cross check the authenticity of the statements made by you in the post? particularly in the absence of links to News articles.
2.Secondly, as u seem to be one of the progressive and truly broad minded Indian Muslim, who is concerned about the image of Islam in India and the world at large, would u care to read and comment on this piece here: http://maverickindianmusings.blogspot.com/2008/12/islam-at-crossroads.html
Note: i am not trying to publicize my blog.

indscribe said...

Anon: When I found a pattern, I felt such gestures that are good should be welcomed. Shouldn't we hail if someone days something positive?

Cool4you: All these reports have been published in almost all the papers, though they may not hav got, great coverage in terms of space. Of course, the anti-terror fatwa had got good coverage.

So I thought I don't need to provide all links. As you can find them on any news website or hundreds of news items on these recent incidents from various sources through google search easily.

Saif said...

Bro.. yea badlaw aur ummid ki aandhi hai.
Yunan misra rooman sab mit gaye jahan se..
Kuch baat hai ki hasti mitati nahi hamari..
It is the time for Muslims to believe in their values with Conviction.
May be late , however Deoband has realized importance of being pragmatic.
Post 9/11 we hit the bottom, post shoe-cide(ala Muntazir Al Zaidi-Bush Episode) god willing it will be the upside story from here...

Milind Kher said...

There is no doubt that all the talk about madarsas being a breeding ground for terrorists/extremists is a myth.

Madarsas are places where children, mostly from underpriviliged backgrounds come to acquire expertise in scholastic theology.

Somehow, I think this needs to be emphasized again and again.

indscribe said...

Saif: Good one. I feel optimistic too.

Milind bhai: Welcome and Thanks.

Trailblazer said...

Superb, Adnan. The Ulema's stand on many issues is brilliant. Their recent condemnation of the al-Qaeda is a slap on the face of people who say there are no Muslim moderates.


Anonymous said...

ulema should e respected