Books and Documents

Islam and Pluralism

I am happy that finally someone has had the courage to frankly articulate the suppressed hopes and fears of mainstream Muslims in India. Addressing a public meeting of the Sufi Maha Panchayat at Moradabad, Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kachochavi declared: “Hamey Wahabiyon ki na Immanat kabool hai, na kayadat Kabul (We reject both the belief and politics of the Wahabis”). The gathering attended by thousands of Shia and Sunni Muslims applauded as he said: “lf anyone knocks on your door with the message of extremism, hand him over to the nearest police station.” Politics is the bane of all religions. But unlike other faiths, the Wahabis have enormous petrodollars at their disposal, funded by the so-called Saudi charities that have wrought havoc worldwide. Hopefully, the resilient multi-layered syncretic culture of Indonesia will be able to prevent the Wahabis from turning this picturesque secular country into another Pakistan where rose petals are being showered on the killer of the liberal Punjab governor Salman Taseer,--  Madanjeet Singh 

I call the above question tricky for a number of reasons. For anyone who is not aware, the most dangerous minority to be in Pakistan is not (contrary to popular belief) an Ahmadi, but an atheist, a disbeliever in any form of God(s); an apostate and therefore, directly wajibul qatl. While there may still be some room for debate about the discriminatory mention of Ahmadis in Pakistan’s constitution, so great is the taboo of atheism that it cannot even be whispered in close quarters with friends and family, let alone in parliament, the courts or the broader media sphere. Simply put, there is no room for atheism in Pakistan, so how can anyone possibly talk about it? You cannot praise an atheist in our land of the pure, as that is a tricky and dangerous minefield to tread. Even if the mullahs don’t get you, there is always the clear and present danger of marching out yet another awful journalistic cliché not unlike our fashion industry’s “brave” fashion shows to “defeat the Taliban mindset”. No, atheism framed as a (farcical) response to extremism in the country is also a joke, aside from the potential threat to life and limb. -- Jahanzaib Haque

....the site of the barbaric blitz by Breivik, once again ignited the shock that rocked not only Norway but every devotee of democracy, peace and sanctity of life anywhere on earth. It has also, rather warmly, accommodated immigrants from almost every faith and culture like Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, Sikhs and Muslims. About one fifth of its five million strong population are not Christians while nearly one hundred thousand of them are Muslims including about 32,000 from Pakistan. Yet this multiculturalism also rankles some rather refractory factions still yearning for the revival and exclusive supremacy of the pure Nordic breed and Christian faith. The extremists in the western and Muslim world, thus despite their venom and vitriolic against each other, are out to scuttle the shared world ideals for peace, democracy and a symbiotic global interaction to combat hunger, disease, degradation of the environment and the quality of life and habitat.-- Elf Habib


One important constituent of faith in Islam is that a Muslim should also have faith in all the earlier prophets and holy books and scriptures revealed to them along with having faith in the holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Islam’s divine book, the holy Quran has forbidden Muslims to speak ill of other religions and their gods and deities. In this way the Quran advocates a multicultural society where the followers of all religions live together and believe in peaceful coexistence. …

As all the prophets preached the same religion of tauheed (oneness of God), the ummahs of all the prophets were in principle, considered one ummah collectively. Because the prophets were human beings and lived a physical age, they had to die one day. That’s why God sent one prophet after another to continue the mission of spreading his message. However, God gave every ummah a different way of worship. But men also created differences to give their religions a new shape altogether. ... The followers of one religion believe that only they are on the right path and all the other religions are false and so deserve to go to hell. But contrary to their belief, the holy Quran says that the follower of any Abrahamic religion is righteous in the eyes of God if he obeys the teachings of his prophet, has faith in the unity of God, has faith in the Day of Judgment and abstains from sins. On the one hand, the Quran chides those who believe only in the truth of their own religion and, on the other, it gives glad tidings to all the righteous persons of every ummah:

“Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day and do righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”(Al Baqra:62) -- Sohail Arshad, New AgeIslam.com

Sri Ramanand Saraswati Pustakalaya (SRSP) sits on a high plinth, overlooking green paddy fields and a swollen Ghaghra river. Mainly housing tomes in Hindi, SRSP is pride of Jokahra, a dusty village in Azamgarh, a district in UP with abysmally low literacy rate but high incidents of crime. It faces serious charges of nurturing several alleged terrorists, including Abu Salem. But more than the library, it's the librarain who is a centre of attraction for many."I was arrested too and imprisoned where I met Samad. He would get lavish home-cooked food and would often share it with me," he recalls. Before Samad was slapped with National Security Act (NSA) and transferred to another jail in Akola, he had promised Sharma that he would get him out. Though another jail bird, a builder, paid for Sharma's bail amount of Rs 2000, it is gangster Samad to whom Sharma returned after release.  "I had promised Samad that I would join him once I was out of jail. He too was released and I joined him," says Sharma without a trace of remorse. -- Adab Nawaz, NewAgeIslam.com


A few kilometers before it reaches the holy city of Ayodhya, the ancient river Saryu passes through Faizabad, founded by Awadh Nawab Shujaudaullah who also made it the province's capital. Faizabad doesn't have Ayodhya's aura or its festering religious controversy - neither does it have Lucknow's political skulduggery to keep it in the national eye. But thanks to a frail 70-yearold called Mohammed Sharif, the town has lately been acquiring some recognition. Sharif, an ordinary Muslim clad in traditional white kurta-pyjama and skull cap, is Faizabad's most famous Good Samaritan. This pious Muslim takes unclaimed Hindu corpses to a burning ghat and thinks nothing of stoking the burning pyre with a bamboo pole, something which is part of Hindu funeral rites. He does the same for unclaimed Muslim corpses as well, giving them a decent burial. "I believe every human being deserves the dignity of a funeral. I try to accord this to the unclaimed corpses that would otherwise rot in morgues or be thrown to the elements, “says Sharif, sweating profusely from the heat of a pyre. Little wonder then that every Faizabadi, whether from the crowded narrow streets of the chowks or the clean, leafy Civil Lines area, knows and loves "Sharif chacha". -- Mohammed Wajihuddin, Times News Network

Many people would readily blame religion for such killings but things are more complex. Religion is a tool which can be used for both establishing peace as well as for waging war.  Much depends on either individual or on group with certain ideology one belongs to. Obviously all individuals do not kill nor do all groups adopt far right ideologies. Is peace more integral to religion or hate?  Does one who hates ‘other’, loves one’s own people? I do not think answers are as simple as we would like to be. Religion can be what we want it to be. There are instances of religion being used for peace and also those of spreading hate. There are many deeply religious people who devoted their lives for the cause of peace and harmony. Foremost among them in our own times is Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. from USA. Gandhi stood for non-violence and so interpreted his religious tradition as well as other traditions like Christianity and Islam as to establish peace. Similarly a Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh firmly stood for peace in the face of horrible acts of violence committed by America in Vietnam.  We often condemn those who use religion for killing others as fundamentalists but interestingly those who use religion for peace too make very hard use of religion and are, in that sense, no less ‘fundamentalists’. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes and activities, known as Islamophobia, are increasingly finding place in the agenda of ultra-right wing political parties and civil societies in the West in their anti-immigrant and anti-multiculturalism policies, as was evident in the manifesto of the Norway killer. Their views are being promoted under the banner of freedom of expression while claiming that Muslims do not respect that right. No one has the right to insult another for their beliefs or to incite hatred and prejudice. That kind of behaviour is irresponsible and uncivilized. We also cannot overlook the fact that the world is diverse. The Western perception on certain issues would differ from those held by others. We need to be sensitive and appreciative of this reality, more so when it comes to criticizing or expressing views on issues related to religion and culture.--Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu

In the face of strong protests, over the years the Indian state was compelled to extend Scheduled Caste status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of these groups that number in the tens of millions. It is a patent act of discrimination on the basis of religion engaged in by the Indian state itself. It compels Dalits to identify themselves (often against their will, given the degraded status that Hinduism consigns them to) as ‘Hindus’, thereby artificially inflating Hindu numbers. Although the Brahminical texts, the basis of what is called ‘Hinduism’, clearly do not recognize Dalits as members of the Hindu society, treating them as ‘polluting’ beings and as avarnas or outside the four-fold Varna system, below even the degraded Shudras, by insisting that the Dalits identify themselves as ‘Hindus’ if they wished to enjoy Scheduled Caste status, in one stroke the Indian state engaged in a massive act of religious conversion, converting, through the force of law, millions of people to a religion that is predicated on the denial of their humanity. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Iftaar at a mosque from every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahhabi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence. During the month of Ramadan, most mosques bring guest Imams and here at the Momin Center, Imam Nabi Raza was visiting from San Jose, California. He is from Richmond Town, Bangalore, and a fellow Bangalorean and has been in the states for nearly 20 years. He was excited about my visit to every mosque during Ramadan so we can learn to respect the uniqueness of each tradition. He talked about the extensive programs they have in the bay area Mosques where all the Sunnis and Shias gather up on occasions. He mentioned that they gather up 15-20,000 Audience in Bangalore to celebrate Prophet’s birthday (Maulood, Milaad). Insha Allah, God willing we may coordinate visiting Bangalore as I give a talk “Prophet the peace maker” every act of the prophet had one thing in common – conflict mitigations and goodwill nurturance. -- Mike Ghouse


When Islam emerged on the scene in early seventh century, Arabs were divided among different tribes but nevertheless spoke one language Arabic and more or less followed one religion (though had different traditions) i.e. worshipping different idols placed inside Ka’ba and some idols which were outside Mecca. Thus we cannot call that society a pluralist society. Of course there were Jews in Madina and Christians in some parts of Arabian Peninsula. So in that way it was a multi-religious society to an extent as Christians and Jews were in small minorities. We do not know about any religious conflict between pagan-Arabs and Jews and Christians. Though Judaism and Christianity were organized religions and Arabs had none, pagan Arabs were wary of accepting these religions for fear of political consequences. They thought Christianity is official religion of Roman Empire and converting to it may subjugate them to Roman Empire and they may lose their independence. Also, some Arabs in the border area who embraced Christianity were far from happy and they faced persecution from Roman Empire. Later they embraced Islam as mainly religion of the Arabs. -- Asghar Ali Engineer

Behind the current conflict lies a long struggle for self-determination by the Uighur people. Although Xinjiang is in the far north-west of China, it is also culturally part of Central Asia and the Uighurs, who are the largest single ethnic group in Xinjiang, are Turkic-speaking Muslims. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and the Muslim Central Asian states gained their independence, the dormant Eastern Turkestan independence movement in Xinjiang was stirred into a revival. Religious activities, which have become less restricted in the rest of China, were curtailed in Xinjiang; children under the age of 18 and Communist Party and government officials were forbidden even to enter a mosque for prayers.-- Michael Dillon


The work is an outstanding and deep act of empathy. Not only has Collier managed an extremely balanced, historically accurate and engaging novel on the famous ruler, he has also written a book deeply engaged with Islam and with the righteous notes of the Islamic past. Given that Collier lives in Europe, which has developed a violent antipathy to Islam, his achievement is even more singular. ... When he proclaimed the Din-e-Ilahi, his attempt at a universal deism, and asked Man Singh whether he would take oath on that, the great Rajput is said to have responded, “My lord, I know only two religions, Hinduism and Islam, if you ask me to become a Muslim I will do so but I do not understand this third way!” That did not stop Akbar from instituting Sulh-e Kul, peace with all as the guiding force of his Empire. No wonder he has ever provided the role model for our secularism, a secularism that is as statist and government-heavy as it was under Akbar.-- Mahmood Farooqui(Photo: Book Cover: The Emperor’s Writings: Memories of Akbar the Great)

The inherent secular nature of Islam is evident from the following Quranic verses: “Had God willed, they had not been idolatrous. We have not set thee as a keeper over them, nor art thou responsible for them” (6:107) and “Do not revile those unto whom they pray beside God, lest they wrongfully revile God through ignorance” (6:108). Islam does not preach coercion of believers of other faiths as the Holy Quran says, “There is no compulsion in religion” (2:256) and “(So) for you is your religion and for me is my religion” (109:6). According to Abu Dawood 3:170, the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Beware! If anyone dared oppress a member of minority community or usurped his right or tortured him more than his endurance or took something away forcibly without his consent, I would fight (against such Muslims) on his behalf on the Day of Judgment.” At another point the Prophet (PBUH) said, “Whoever killed a member of a minority community, he would not smell the fragrance of paradise though fragrance of paradise would cover the distance of forty years (of travelling)” (Ibne Rushd, Badiya-tul-Mujtahid, 2:299).

The phrase ‘laa ilaaha illa Allah’ (there is no deity except God) is one of the major pillars of the Muslim faith. The phrase echoed in the slogan “Pakistan ka matlab kya: Laa ilaaha illa Allah” as the struggle for the creation of Pakistan was nearing its completion, despite the fact that most of the religious leaders and parties were against this idea and joined the chorus at a later stage when the creation of a separate homeland became inevitable.-- Dr. Irfan Zafar

Muslims and Secularism
Ghulam Mohiyuddin, Writer, Commentator
Muslims and Secularism
Ghulam Mohiyuddin, New Age Islam

What our Prophet brought to us was a religion for the masses. It is a religion of common sense. It builds on our innate sense of what is right and what is good. Getting such a simple and pure religion wafted about by ‘scholarly’, long-winded and futile disputations is unfortunate. Particularly problematic are statements of many Islamic leaders expressing their insistence on establishing ‘Sharia Laws’, and their opposition to democratic and secular forms of government. Our ulama and scholars should instead expound on what the Quran has to say about issues such as the following: (1) Getting along with our non-Muslim neighbors. (2) Respecting the religions and beliefs of non-Muslims. (3) Equality of men and women. (4) Freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom to dissent. (5) Using only humane forms of punishments for criminals. (6) Democratic forms of government. (7) Secularism, separation of state from religion, and equal rights for minorities. (8) Avoiding violence and considering murder of innocent civilians to be an abominable act. (9) Resolving problems through reconciliation and compromise. (10) Not being spiteful or vindictive and (11) upholding the dignity of men and women.

Isn't it astonishing that those who argue from a certain point of view ascribe such power of definition to the Muslim religion, whilst simultaneously opining that for decades now the societal significance of Christianity has been diminishing? Would it not be more accurate to regard religion as one element among many that shape the identities of both Muslims and Christians? One should not, of course, base one's view of either community on the situation and mentality of those whose religion is also their profession, i.e. theologians, priests, imams, leaders of mosques. For the majority of 'ordinary' Muslims, the influence of religion on their everyday life is decreasing, just as it is for Christians. -- Rainer Oechslen

This is possible if the moment is grabbed by the Valley’s leadership — both intellectual and political — with the support of the central government. Secular Kashmiris must establish direct contact by phone, e-mail and Facebook with their Pandit brothers and sisters. Seminars and conferences must be arranged in Srinagar, Jammu, New Delhi and elsewhere where the Kashmiri Pandits live.House to house visits and invitations must be made for them to return home. We must accept the level of disillusionment suffered by the Pandits that has often forced some of them to adopt a communal stand. Kashmir belongs to all of us, but more to its original inhabitants — the Muslims and  Hindu Pandits of the Valley. It was this singular secularism of Kashmir that motivated Abul Fazl to carve out the following lines on the gate of a Hindu temple in Kashmir: “Heresy to the heretic,/ religion to the orthodox,/ but the dust of the rose petal,/ belongs to the heart of the perfume seller.”-- Najeeb Jung

This was the deadliest attack yet on the sect — which has 200,000 to 500,000 followers in Indonesia — that subscribes to most of the tenets of Islam but recognizes its founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, as a prophet. Sunni Muslims, the great majority of Indonesians, believe that Muhammad is the last prophet, and any claim to the contrary is considered offensive to Islam and thus blasphemous. Under great pressure from Muslim conservative groups, the Indonesian government has been trying to persuade — to no avail — Ahmadis, followers of Ahmadiyah, to cease all “deviant” religious activities and “return to the right path,” or at the very least drop their claim to being Muslims. This is the gist of a 2008 joint decree signed by Indonesia’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Minister of Home Affairs, and Attorney General.  Deriving its legal basis from an anti-blasphemy law originally promulgated in 1965, the joint decree also enjoins that Muslims refrain from attacking Ahmadis. -- Endy M. Bayuni

Religious symbolism became a shield for these Muslims to protect their identities against the threat of rising, rabid Hindutva. Compromise seemed impossible even in the exchange of economic development. So when Congress workers told this writer recently that Muslims were paid by the BJP to support it in the civic elections, it was paradoxical, even if the claim were true. People generally refuse to involve themselves in cost-benefit calculations and reach a self-serving decision on issues of a sacred nature when given material incentives in exchange. Assuming some Muslims did accept money from the BJP in exchange of support, does it mean they are no longer looking at the 2002 post-Godhra violence as an attack on their religious identity? If the Congress is not a favourable alternative and the BJP a lurking ethnic threat, why vote at all?

“The BJP will always be anti-Muslim, that is its identity. But the benefits it has given to Hindus, say in the Sarkhej ward, have indirectly reached Muslims,” says Shahid Ali, a Muslim entrepreneur. A Congress supporter, he is open to the BJP if it continues to welcome Muslim candidates. Speaking of former top cop Al Saiyed, who contested on the BJP ticket, he says, “I would not mind having a Muslim candidate like Saiyed. At least I have someone of my own to hold accountable for any sloppy work.” Mr. Saiyed, who managed to get over 13,000 votes in Sarkhej, himself believes that the recent change in political behaviour is driven by educated Muslims and those who have realised the need to be in the mainstream. “If we do not assimilate with other communities, it's the end of us!” he says. -- Raheel Dhattiwada

A Pluralistic Past
Huma Yusuf
A Pluralistic Past
Huma Yusuf

ONE of the most peaceful places in Pakistan is the Buddhist monastic complex of Takht-i-Bahai near Peshawar. Situated on a hill, the grand cluster of Stupas, courtyards, residential cells, and meditation chambers remains enveloped in mist and mystery. The site’s beauty and sense of timelessness inspires awe, but also melancholy that comes with the realisation that Pakistan’s greatest treasures are undervalued and endangered....

Madrasas in many rural areas in Bihar have been rendering eduational services to the Hindu community as well because many villages do not have Hindi medium high schools. The students particularly girls have to discontinue their studies due to lack of Hindi medium schools in their villages or towns. Not only that, many Hindu students, after passing out from these madrasas got the job of Urdu teachers in madrasas and Urdu schools. Thus these madrasas are not only promoting communal harmony and a love for the language but also providing bread and butter to the Hindus and the Muslims alike.  In 2010, about 100 Hindu students passed Madrasa Board Examination. Their parents far from being apprehensive of their sons and daughters studying in madrasas appreciated madrasa education saying that the students in madrasas were more disciplined. -- Md Ekram Siddiquee, NewAgeIslam.com

Dr. Zakir’s thinking is extreme on so many levels I cannot list them all.  But to truly evaluate his thinking, we must demand proof that he has incorporated into his argument all the tenets, precepts, values, morals and ethics in Islam, and especially those guidelines in the Qur’an that pertain to the view of Christians.  For example, the Qur’an devotes more than a whole chapter anticipating and describing the birth of Jesus. Muslims believe in all God’s Prophets and Books and are shown how to talk to the People of the Book (Christians and Jews-Surah 29:46). In fact, God has made their food and women lawful to Muslims, which seems to me to scream, beyond any doubt, that we are supposed to form good relations with them in society, even strong kinship bonds.  I wonder what Dr. Zakir would recommend you do at Christmas dinner at the home of your in-laws. -- Mary Lahaj

Photo: Dr. Zakir Naik is the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation


Darul Harb versus Darul Aman: Can Pakistan or Saudi Arabia be considered a Land of peace for Muslims?
Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam
Darul Harb versus Darul Aman: Can Pakistan or Saudi Arabia be considered a Land of peace for Muslims?
Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam

Pakistani blogger Mr. Aamir Mughal has raised a very important issue in a comment posted in relation to the article below: Demolish Kafir/ Mushrik/ Munafiq-manufacturing factories, says Sultan Shahin, defending New Age Islam against Talibani onslaught  http://www.newageislam.com/ijtihad,-rethinking-islam/demolish-kafir/-mushrik/-munafiq-manufacturing-factories,-says-sultan-shahin,-defending-new-age-islam-against-talibani-onslaught/d/1143

which needs to be debated threadbare- that of Darul Harb and Darul Aman. I live in India. Suppose I were to consider it a Darul Hrab - which of course, I don’t - on the basis of the mere fact of it being a non-Muslim majority country - though it would appear that only so-called Darul Harbs are Darul Amans, lands of peace, in today's world - which Darul Aman, a Muslim country, would accept me as a full-fledged citizen, that India accepts me as? Pakistan will not even give me a visit visa, perhaps, unless I give it a host of false and forged documents. Saudi Arabia and all other countries, I can live and work there, if I find a job, for hundreds of years, but I would never get any citizenship rights. Only countries that I can think of which can give me full citizenship rights as India does would be countries of the West, like the UK,  USA, Canada, Australia, other European countries. It won't be easy but it is doable. However, according to Mr. Aamir Mughal's definition, these are all Darul-Harbs, so what would be the point of shifting from one Darul Harb to another? What kind of Islam and what kind of Darul Harbs and Darul Amans are you talking about Mr. Aamir Mughal? Do you consider Pakistan a Darul Aman for Muslims, where Muslims are killed routinely during prayers in mosques, and where even the Muslims for whom this country was created do not get even visit visas? --

---- Sultan Shahin, editor, New Age Islam

All Roads lead to this non-descript Gujarat-Maharashtra border town. Everybody wants to meet him — the devout from the interiors of Maharashtra to some from South Africa, journalists seeking to know his views on issues ranging from the Ishrat Jehan encounter to jehad, to even the Gujarat president of the RSS-backed Rashtravadi Muslim Morcha....

Few spare a glance for the Jamia Islamia Ishataul Uloom in Akkalkuwa, started originally as a seminary, that mentors an unusual educational experiment. Melding Islamic teachings with mainstream education, it takes care of the needs of 1.7 lakh students across India and even bordering Nepal. Vastanwi, or Bade Hazrat, as they call him, is central to this initiative.

Many quietly point out that in the scale of operations, it is the Akkalkuwa seminary which is larger, while Deoband’s is important for historical and religious reasons. “There are 3,000-odd students at Deoband, but here we manage 1.7 lakh students. Deoband’s importance lies in its historical influence,” says one of Vastanwi’s confidantes. -- Ayesha Khan

In many Muslim countries, Christians face institutional discrimination regarding marriage and inheritance laws, taxes, government employment, and time, place and manner of permitted worship. Conversion to Christianity is frequently a capital offense, and in Saudi Arabia, Christian worship of any kind is banned. Those carrying Bibles or other religious materials are subjected to police harassment and confiscation of the dangerous devotional items. Dissenters from these Shariah-based violations of religious freedom face charges of blasphemy and stringent punishments. According to an October study by Freedom House, such blasphemy laws reach well beyond their purported purpose of protecting religious dogma and are used to stifle all manner of expression and political dissent. – Editorial in The Washington Times

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