Books and Documents

Islam and Pluralism

One of the spouses believes in Oneness of the Almighty Allah Kareem, also that all creatures are created by Him only, and one cannot supplicate before anyone except the Almighty Allah Kareem. On the other hand, someone worships idols in the same house. One of the parents teaches Islamic tenets and principles to the children and the other parent forces them to worship idols and visit temples. In such a confusing situation, how can an atmosphere of mutual trust or confidence be built? The life of the children will be miserable, living in severe mental tension affecting their studies. It is seen in the inter-communal marriages, either one party converts to other’s religion or the matrimonial relation is snapped due to domestic tension and intense difference, depriving the children of the father’s affection and the mother’s love. -- Maulana Khalid Saifullah Rahmani

Translated from Urdu by Raihan Nezami


There is no scope for Taliban culture in this age of globalization. This is absolutely unbearable, totally insupportable.

What are the causes of Islamic decline? Most scholars and historians who have studied the tragedy seem to agree that this was caused mainly by the fact that Muslims went away from modern education during the British rule over India. The Muslim tragedy is generally attributed to their lack of modern education under the guidance of ulema. Madrasas under the management of Ulema completely ignored modern education. The important subjects in the syllabus of Deoband were Arabi, Sirf, Naho, Mantique, Riyadhi, Balaghat, Fiqqah, Usool Fiqqah, kalam and Tafseer etc. The religious madrasas had fully deprived their own and the future generations of the benefits of scholarly research, and modern learning. They considered it a grave danger for the Faith and Iman. -- Shaikh Abdul Majeed, Germany, Translated from Urdu by Syed Raihan Ahmad Nezami


MUMBAI: Salman Khan and Govinda on Monday joined several Mumbaikars in biding emotional adieu to Lord Ganesh on first day of Salman Khan 'visarjan' (immersion). Among the prominent personalities who visited Salman's residence at suburban Bandra for the Ganesh puja ahead of immersion were MNS chief Raj Thackeray, cricketer Yuvraj Singh and actress Katrina Kaif. Thousands of Ganpati idols, mostly household ones, were immersed at beaches and lakes like Girgaum Chowpatty, Juhu, Marve, Gorai and Dadar admist chants of `Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudchya Varshi Lavkar Ya' (a popular slogan hailing the elephant-headed God and urging him to come early next year). -- PTI Report


According to estimates, the number of Zoroastrians in Iran has decreased from 60,000 in the late 1970s to 30,000 today. Most adherents now live in the Diaspora. Bombay, above all, has developed into a pivotal hub for the exiled Iranian community. Yet, says Mehraban Firouzgary, there are additional factors responsible for the loss of community members. "Many Zoroastrians have emigrated, but we are also a dwindling community because nowadays the younger generation in Iran marry later and have fewer children," he explains.

"Our resources are extremely limited – even when it comes to disseminating our faith." In addition, the problem is exacerbated by the fact that so many marriages are taking place outside of the Zoroastrian community, says Firouzgary. Today, a number of Zoroastrians have Muslim spouses or have themselves converted to Islam. -- Arian Fariborz


... history reveals that Islam – as preached in the Koran and exemplified by the life of the Prophet Muohammad and his companions – actually accepts, celebrates and even encourages diversity.... According to Islamic principles, everyone who lives in a Muslim state is entitled to enjoy the same rights of citizenship, despite the differences they may have in their religion or population size.

In 622, when the Prophet Mohammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in the Arabian Peninsula and started to build the first Muslim state, he ensured that its Muslim and non-Muslim inhabitants could coexist in harmony. There was a substantial Jewish community in Medina, and the Prophet proposed an agreement of cooperation – between Muslims and the 11 Jewish tribes – called the Constitution of Medina, which Muslim historians and scholars generally accept as the first written state constitution. -- Maher Y. Abu-Munshar

The discourse on religious pluralism and its political ramifications has roots in Islamic political and intellectual history and continues to be interpreted and re-evaluated today. For some, the core of this discourse lies in the definition of the "People of the Book", a Qur'anic term that refers to those to whom Muslims must extend full religious tolerance. Many Muslims assume it covers Christians and Jews only, as those were the People of the Book during the Prophet Muhammad's life in 7th century Arabia. However, as well-known South African Muslim scholar, Farid Esack, points out in his article, "Muslims Engaging the Other and the Humanum", throughout Islamic history the term was not defined in terms of who was considered a Person of the Book; rather, it defined how religious groups treated those in need. -- Asma T. Uddin

Islam and Inter-Religious Dialogue
Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi

In a plural society, where people of different religions, ethnicities, language groups and cultures live together, every group must be given equal rights and the same opportunities to progress. This can only be ensured and sustained through continuous inter-community dialogue. In my view, the only way to prevent inter-cultural or inter-religious conflict, as well as to promote harmonious inter-community relations in a plural society and at the global level, is serious dialogue that aims at improving relations between different communities so that they jointly work for establishing peace. I believe that the first stage in inter-cultural dialogue is for members of different cultural communities to identify issues of common concern as well as common interest, particularly those problems that are a hurdle to better relations between various communities. The second step is to evolve means to address these issues through peaceful and sustained dialogue. But this must be carried out in a spirit of mutual respect, for no dialogue can succeed if it involves abusing or debasing the religious feelings and beliefs of other communities. -- Maulvi Syed Nikhat Husain Nadwi (Translated by Yoginder Sikand)

For the first time in 95 years, Armenians were permitted to celebrate a religious ceremony in the region – and they were not received by the Turks of Van with hostility, but rather with open arms. This event, however, does not mean that complete freedom of religion has been established over night in this country seeking membership in the EU. Yet, many are of the opinion that the religious service marks a break with the past and that there is no going back for Turkey. -- Susanne Güsten


Early on cracks developed between Black America and Muslim America, because of the attitudes of some people among us.  This has now become a gap, which is widening. Soon it will be unbridgeable. This is now being followed by the disillusionment of Muslims, who happen to be black. This is the biggest tragedy of our time. We are leaving a terrible legacy for the future generations. They will read the verse that we discussed before, then look out and see the reality in stark contrast to the fiction in their hands. For non-Muslims it will be a bonanza. With clear proof they will be able to point out the “the Grand Islamic Hypocrisy” which is unveiling in America. If we want to avoid this catastrophe, we have to act now. If we are able to stop this slide into ignominy and build the only real multiracial Islamic community in the world, we will have perfected the practice of the Message. We are standing at a crossroads. One road leads to disaster and the other to glory. Now, which one do we take? -- Waheeduddin Ahmed

This distrust of contemporary learning on the part of the madrasa community was sustained in the post1947 period when the predominant destination for Afghan students of religion switched from India to Pakistan. Travel to India became too complicated, with visa requirements and two borders to be negotiated. It was also comparatively expensive for Afghan religious students to travel to far-flung centres of Islamic learning in Deoband, Delhi and Lucknow. As relations between India and Pakistan deteriorated, travel to Deoband from Afghanistan became a distant dream. Religious students from Afghanistan had to do with the centres of learning in Pakistan: Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar, Akora Khattak, Multan.

But the politicisation of religion implicit in the establishment of a State in the name of Islam turned to radicalisation in the 80s when it suited various governments to promote jihadist ideologies among the border Pashtun tribes -aimed as this jihad was against the Soviet Union. Religious madrasas were not able to remain immune from this politicisation, followed by radicalisation. The world is still living with the consequences of this promotion of militancy and radicalism. -- John Butt

Photo: Beyond the scriptures: A madrasa in Jammu

Let us Focus on the Future
The Liberhan report may explain certain things but in the end it would not serve any purpose, as the wounds that have been healed, would freshen up. It is therefore advisable for the Muslim community not to make a big issue of it and disturb the hard earned unity and solidarity of the country.
There is no point in revisiting the past. The demolition of Babri Masjid, carnage of Gujarat, bomb blasts and other extremists activities are the things of the past. Muslims have to put all these events behind to look forward for future. The people of India have given a fresh mandate to the UPA govt rejecting altogether the communal elements, as they valued secularism as a cherished goal of the country.
Let all of us, belonging to Muslim community, join the rest of the population in extending our support for the govt to concentrate on development activities that would lead to economic recovery which is of greater importance in the life of our country men than holding who is guilty or not of the already demolished Babri Masjid. It would not help Muslims to resurrect the past. Let us bury it deep into history.
Let us all remember that we may not be saintly enough to forgive and forget our enemies, but for the sake of our own health, the betterment of our own lives, let us forgive and forget them. Muslims better remember this and march forward. -- A.M. Jamsheed Basha

Montreal: Buddhism and Islam are two religions we do not hear mentioned in one breath very often. So it was with great excitement that I went to attend the conference, Buddhism & Islam – Encounters, Histories, Dialogue and Representation held at McGill University, May 29 and 30, 2009. The conference indeed turned out to be eye-opening. …

This conference gave a much needed comparative religious perspective. More such efforts are needed to bring out the fact that most religious people when left to themselves are able to live together in a collaborative and cooperative way, enriching all the cultures and religions involved. This ‘cultural translation’ is an ongoing process, in spite of the hoopla surrounding fundamentalisms of all sorts today. - Juhi Shahin

Towards Muslim-Christian understanding
Saleem H. Ali and Hiba Zeino

There will always be theological differences between various faiths; differences that external players will always attempt to manipulate for broader purposes. However, in a politically volatile region such as the Middle East, it is essential to build better relations between two of the world's largest religious groups. It is also important that Muslim-Christian unity should not be at the expense of alienating other faith communities; their collective relations as people of faith should transcend the minutiae of theological differences.

Pope Benedict's symbolic gesture of visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the positive reception he received there from the imam of the site must be reinforced with a specific renunciation of negative narratives on both sides. Both faith traditions share the blame for abusing historical incidents as a means of propagating a sense of alienation from each other. In an increasingly globalized world, we must strive to learn from history but not let the past hamper our progress toward mutually advantageous human relations. -- Saleem H. Ali and Hiba Zeino


Steeped in a volatile mix of anger and destitution, subject to being “suspect” for far too long, Indian Muslim communities are finally showing signs of fighting back against preconceived prejudices. When respected Ulema start to speak out about secular traditions and democratic structures, a strategic shift based on community feedback is apparent. Whether this wave of positivity will turn into a tsunami of inter-cultural bonding is yet to be assessed. - Aijaz Ilmi

Who is responsible for this growing ghettoisation of the Muslim population? Undoubtedly civil society is to blame. The Bhagalpur riots of 1989 were responsible for the migration of rural Muslims in north India and the demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992 and the resultant backlash all over the country were the last nail in the coffin of Hindu-Muslim neighbourhoods. In contrast, there are fewer incidents of non-Muslims, particularly Hindu families, living in Muslim-dominated areas that have faced a similar situation during communal riots.

The question to ask is: Does this represent the death of our hitherto composite culture, with its liberal, tolerant and understanding outlook? Or can we still do something to save it? What can be done to set the clock back and foster secularism? It will take a lot of courage and will to figure out the answers but that is the only way Indian democracy can survive. -- Ather Farouqui

…Jesus had a beard. The iconic prophets of the Old Testament certainly wore beards, … Not all prophets had beards; Solomon had one, but David seems to have shaved regularly.

There is nothing specifically religious about a beard in Judaism, Christianity or Islam. A beard is not a Quranic injunction, or a fundamental commandment of the faith. But some Muslims wear it out of admiration for, and in imitation of, their prophet, whom they adore as the true exemplar of humanity. There are those who keep it as a mark of identity, or even an assertion. ….

…the Virgin Mary, Jesus’ mother, would never have got admission in France’s state schools. There is no image, statue or painting, in which she does not have her head covered.

The judgement opens up an interesting can of minority rights. A large number of madarsas in West Bengal have Hindu students. Would the maulvis in the madarsas be within their rights to demand that every girl come in a veil and every boy wear a beard? Should they make it compulsory for non-Muslim students to fast during Ramadan? I would hope not. Hindu children in Muslim-run institutions come for an education in the three R’s, reading, writing and arithmetic, not in the fourth R, religion. Does the Supreme Court verdict mean that a Sikh child can be forced to shave if he joins a Catholic school?

--- MJ Akbar

I do think that autonomous schools should be allowed to set their own rules without the pressure of religious diktat. But I didn’t think the court should have equated the desire for a beard with the vile fundamentalism of the Taliban. That observation clearly stretched the point. Yet, scratch the surface of the subject and there are no easy answers. -- Barkha Dutt

Religious Freedom Is Indivisible: Muslims Should Seek it in Islamic Societies Too
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Religious Freedom Is Indivisible: Muslims Should Seek it in Islamic Societies Too
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

The Swiss ban on minarets is having an echo in India. Abdul Sami Bubere of the Mumbai- based Sahyog Cultural Society is reported to have said: “The extremely provocative decision undermines the freedom of religion and principle of co- existence. The referendum is akin to tyranny of the majority. It will only encourage fundamentalism. The ban should be immediately lifted as it would serve the purpose of jihadis who misinterpret Islam.”

Though I won’t use such strong words, I fully agree with the sentiments and thoughts expressed in the above sentiment. The analysis that “it will only encourage fundamentalism” is also correct. It is actually happening. The fundamentalists are taking advantage of the situation created by the Swiss ban on minarets and the French ban on burqas (veils).  But then the question arises in my mind, how come we get agitated only when our own religious freedom is at stake in non-Muslim societies. We do not worry when Muslims themselves, not to speak of non-Muslims, are not allowed religious freedom in Islamic societies.

We were permitted to defend ourselves with arms (a form of Jihad, albeit a lesser form) because if we had not done so, people may not have been able to worship in temples, monasteries, churches, synagogues, etc., all those places of worship were God is remembered and God’s praises are sung.

Renowned Pakistani scholar Javed Ahmad Ghamidi writes: “The Qur’ān asserts that if the use of force would not have been allowed in such cases, the disruption and disorder caused by insurgent nations could have reached the extent that the places of worship – where the Almighty is kept in constant remembrance – would have become deserted and forsaken, not to mention the disruption of the society itself:

وَلَوْلَا دَفْعُ اللَّهِ النَّاسَ بَعْضَهُمْ بِبَعْضٍ لَهُدِّمَتْ صَوَامِعُ وَبِيَعٌ وَصَلَوَاتٌ وَمَسَاجِدُ يُذْكَرُ فِيهَا اسْمُ اللَّهِ كَثِيرًا (٤٠:٢٢)

And had it not been that Allah checks one set of people with another, the monasteries and churches, the synagogues and the mosques, in which His praise is abundantly celebrated would have been utterly destroyed. (22:40) ...

Not only that. We have scholars who claim that while non-Muslims have perfect freedom to practice their religion in an Islamic state, (though in practice they are not mostly allowed that freedom), Muslims do not have that freedom. Once born to a Muslim parent, you are doomed for ever to be a Muslim or else. Well, your throat will be slit, no less. Indeed, there are “revered” ulema (scholars of Islam) in various schools of thought who say that if someone is seen so much as not attending Friday prayers, his throat should be slit.

Sample the following:

Those who do not attend Friday prayers “should simply be killed. Slit their throats!”: Deoband  

“A person greatly admires Hazrat Maulana Rashid Gangohi, the outstanding scholar who was one of the founders of the Deoband madrasa. The gentleman to whom I refer is a kindly soul, who can be depended upon for help by others. However, when in the course of conversation I chanced to remark that the most basic virtue lay in kindness towards others, he contradicted me. Kindness, he contended, was reserved for “pious, practicing Muslims”. As for others, they should be given a chance to mend their ways, after which “they would be Wajibul Qatal (liable to be killed)”. Another person I chanced to meet — a finance man, no less — feels that people who do not attend Friday prayers “should simply be killed. Slit their throats!”

“Now, this kind of sanguinary verbal ferocity is very different from the traditions of quiet piety and gentle acceptance in which most Muslims were brought up.” -- Salman Tarik Kureshi


also, sample the following from a supposedly enlightened scholar of Islam:

“Freedom is a neutral word. Accordingly, affixing it with religion would mean a liberty of a  person either to have or not to have a religion, either to practice or not to practise, either to propagate or not to propagate, either to embrace or not to embrace, either to change or not change one’s own religion. If he decides to do so he has the freedom to do it without any interference of others. This is the meaning of freedom as it appeared in the above examples.

“Is a Muslim allowed to enjoy such freedom? As a matter of fact, under Shariah law, a Muslim is not free to do so, no matter whether he is under Muslim rule or non-Muslim rule except with dire necessity. In fact the meaning of Islam itself, that is submission and surrender to the will of Almighty Allah (swt), is inimical to the vague meaning of freedom (cf.hurriah) in its absolute sense. Thus, a Muslim cannot enjoy freedom in respect of articles of belief (Iman) and practicing of pillars of Islam, (arkan al Islam) and observance of codes of life, because, these are essential of keep him a believer and a Muslim. He may enjoy a guided freedom with regards to those matters that do not fall under the basic and obligatory tenets and pillars of region.” – Freedom Of Religion in Shariah by Dr. ABM Mahboobul Islam of the International Islamic University of Malaysia....

I hope Mr. Abdul Sami Bubere of the Mumbai- based Sahyog Cultural Society and other people who are bothered about the Swiss ban on minarets or the French ban on burqa or India’s Hindu Right demanding the abolition of Muslim Personal Law will also express their disgust, if they feel it, over the lack of religious freedoms to non-Muslims and more so Muslims in so-called Islamic societies. So-called Islamic scholars go to great lengths to prove that Quranic dictates like “La Ikraha fid Deen” (There can be no compulsion in religion) or Lakum Deenakum waleya Deen (For you your religion and for me mine) have no meaning and relevance for the Muslims today and should be banished from our consciousness. Shame on such scholars!!!

Until we start fighting for religious freedom in our own societies (of both Muslims and non-Muslims), our struggle for religious freedom in non-Muslim societies will be rightly treated as just an instance of Muslim hypocrisy. -- Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

The terms Darul Amn and Darul Harb are neither found in the Quran nor are they authentic sayings of the Prophet. This artificial division was introduced by Muslim jurists decades after the death of the Prophet to identify nations that were hostile to Islam. Darul Harb thus refers to a “nation at war” with an Islamic state, and Darul Amn is that nation which, even while not being an Islamic state, allows Muslims the freedom to profess and practice their religion as a matter of right. This makes India Darul Amn without any doubt.

Unfortunately, some extremist theologians have exploited the concept of Darul Harb to refer to all states and countries that are not under Islamic rule though they may enjoy peaceful relations with the Muslims. This position, which has been one of the major causes of disunity between Muslims and non-Muslims, is not in consonance with the egalitarian ideology of the Quran and must rejected as a supremacist interpretation of Islam. ...

But in the case of the VHP it is its own guilt that makes it suspect the loyalty of the Muslims as a reaction to the communal hatred perpetrated by some Hindu extremist outfits. The truth is that Muslims have always considered themselves as equal citizens of India and therefore the question of designating their own country as hostile to them does not arise. On the contrary, it is the Hindutva groups who must prove their loyalty to our constitution by issuing a ‘fatwa’ that India is not for the Hindus alone.

The idea of Hindu Rashtra must be given up and Hindu institutions should condemn the anti-social activities of organisations such as the MNS, the Sri Ram Sene, the Abhinav Bharati and a host of others. -- A. Faizur Rahman

Why are Indian Ulema Baying for Maulana Mahmood Madani's blood?
Why are Indian Ulema Baying for Maulana Mahmood Madani's blood?
Sultan Shahin, Founder-Editor, New Age Islam

Islam teaches respect for all previous religions

A number of Indian Deobandi ulema (religious scholars) are determined to scale new heights of stupidity this week. They are baying for Maulana Mahmood Madani’s blood, prepared to pounce upon him as soon as he comes in their view and lynch him. They are encouraging a protest demonstration by the brainwashed students of Darul Uloom-e-Deoband against Maulana Madani. And all this because the learned scholar committed to fight Islamic terror said at the recent India Today Conclave 2009: “The Dalai Lama made some valuable suggestions in the first session. If we follow them, it will mean a solution to 90 per cent of our current problems.” 

This is being interpreted to mean that Maulana Madani has given primacy to Dalai Lama over our beloved Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), even though the Prophet was not at all in the picture and no comparison was being made. The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader was saying essentially the same things that the Prophet would have been saying had he been alive today to provide us guidance in person. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was saying the same thing that our Holy Book the Quran teaches us. In any case our belief is, or should be; at least, that his religion, Budhism, is a previous version of Islam, so there should be no surprise in that either. It is being said that this leader of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind has accepted the spiritual leadership of the Tibetan Buddhist leader and forsaken Islam. So the great sons and daughters of Indian Islam are asking him through banner headlines in Urdu newspapers that he should renew his Islamic vows, probably get a shuddhi done in the Islamic way, whatever that is, and become a Muslim again. Apparently he stands expelled from Islamic religion for praising a spiritual leader of another religious community.

Madrasas in Kerala do not churn out fatwa-hurling mullahs holding bone-chilling views on politics, women and non-Muslims -- Yoginder Sikand

While western-style secularism calls for a strict separation of state and church Indian secularism, some of whose features are anticipated in Akbar's liberal principle of Din-i-Ilahi, recognises the coexistence of many faiths and spiritualities.  -- A Times Of India editorial comment

We have room for all faiths at the Dargah in Ajmer Sharif, in Darbar Sahib (whose foundation stone was laid by Mian Mir) or San Thome. Fewer Pakistanis understand that it is easy or natural for an Indian to listen to Jafar Hussain Badayuni's rendering of Amir Khusro's `Bahut kathin hai dagar' or `Ek pita ekas ke hum baarek' by Bhai Maninder Singh and Bhai Jitender Singh or `Jai Madhav Madan Murari' by Jagjit Singh on any morning. In Pakistan today, we see images of mullahs leading a march to medievalism. In India, we see the young and exuberant marching into the 21st century. We are still behind the rest of the advanced world but are determined to catch up. Across the border, they wallow in a sense of victimhood, and blame everyone else for their plight. -- Vikram Sood

POINT: The Miserable End of Jews – the Followers of Falsehood will suffer humiliating Torment and Perish. Jews are an accursed community and Muslims have to fight them till the end - An essay by A’bdullah U’smani in the light of Qur’an and Sunnah in the Urdu Daily Sahafat, Delhi

Translated from Urdu by Syed Raihan Ahmad Nezami

(Can one really fault the world, with these kinds of views expressed in mainstream Muslim Press and no protests against them, for thinking that the entire Muslim community is potentially a community of terrorists? -- Editor.) 

Counterpoint: Why Muslims Are Powerless? A compilation of statistics showing the brilliant success Jews have acquired in almost every field of human endeavour (apparently by the grace of God, Editor) -- Dr Shabbir Ahmed

Muslims forbidden from participating in Valentine’s Day celebration

No love lost: Religious police see red _ or not _ as Valentine's ban

takes over Saudi Arabia by DONNA ABU

On Valentine’s Day by Fouzia Khan

Presented here is an evolving proposal/plan to amicably resolve the Ram Mandir/Babri mosque issue that has continued to ignite communal passions in India for so long. Currently, a bulk of this plan is from the point of view of the Indian Muslims, though it may not be agreeable to all Muslims. Our basic proposal is that the Indian Muslims should withdraw their claim on the Babri Masjid land on certain conditions that ensure safety of further monuments, and peace in this country.

The broader roots of the eruption of protest in China's far-west region of Xinjiang lie in the experience of the Uighur people under Beijing’s rule, says Yitzhak Shichor.

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