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.