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Books and Documents

The War Within Islam

Islam and Indian Patriotism
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam

Although these clerics were extremely conservative in religious and social matters, particularly on the issue of gender, they were unflagging in their commitment to a form of Indian nationalism that transcended religious boundaries. In doing so, they insisted that there was no contradiction between being Muslim and Indian. Ironically, today the Deobandi clerics, claimants to the legacy of these men, are notorious for their obscurantist fatwas, and, in Pakistan and Afghanistan, for their passionate support for Taliban-style rule. …

In addition, several companions of the prophet, thousands of Muslim saints, martyrs and scholars made India their home and died and were buried here. All these facts clearly suggest, Miyan contends that from the Islamic point of view the 'greatness' of India is 'undeniable'. Hence, he stresses, it is the religious duty of the Muslims of India to work for the sake of the unity and prosperity of the country as a whole. Madani and Miyan were far from being isolated voices among the Indian Muslim clerics of their times. While some of their fellow clerics did oppose them and supported the Pakistan demand, numerous others spoke in similar terms, forcefully opposing the Muslim League, radical Islamists as well as Hindu chauvinists. These voices cry out to be retrieved and highlighted today. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

 

Pakistan has lost its soul. I heard educated and refined Pakistanis support the death of Salman Taseer and it reminded me of Nazi Germany. First ordinary people were in denial, then they were indifferent and later they accepted the propaganda that made another human being worthy of killing. Pakistanis are now in the acceptance stage. This mindset was confirmed on March 2, 2011 when Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was gunned down in Pakistan. The elephant in the room in Pakistan is the dreaded Blasphemy Law which few want to discuss, leave alone abolish. The history of the Blasphemy Law as we see it today is that British colonizers of the sub-continent  had made it a criminal offence to commit “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of ANY (stress mine) class by insulting its religious belief.” From their perspective, this law was meant to protect the diverse faith groups that lived in pre-partition India. After partition, the law was retained but in his presidential address to the constituent Assembly of Pakistan on August 11, 1947, the founder of Pakistan Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah said “what are we fighting for? What are we aiming at? It is not theocracy – not for a theocratic state. -- Raheel Raza

The book under review, War Within Islam, is an attempt to present the essentials of Niyaz Fatehpuri’s thinking and to underline its importance, particularly in the context of the present global situation wherein the Islamic Civilization is seen to be in clash with other major civilizations. The author, Juhi Shahin, holds Master’s degrees in Islamic Studies from the McGill University of Canada, and also from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. She now happens to be a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History at an American University. This book is a revised version of her M.A. thesis at the McGill University.

According to the author, Niyaz believed in the need for a re-interpretation of Islam in the light of the new knowledge that had become available by then. He also advocated and practiced a rational interpretation of Islamic principles. Thus his main targets of criticism were the Ulema whom Niyaz considered to be ‘responsible for the stagnation in Muslim religious thinking, and which in turn, was making them suffer in social and economic spheres.’ Giving an example of what Niyaz called ‘rational thinking’; the author has quoted the view of Niyaz in relation to the position of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Generally Muslims consider God first in order of importance, followed by the Quran and the Prophet (PBUH) in that order. However, Niyaz assigned the top position to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), then the Quran followed by God. His reasoning for this was the fact that Quran came to us from the mouth of Mohammad (PBUH) and we know about God from these two. A natural corollary of such a concept was the question whether the Quran was a Divine Revelation or was it the work   (na’oozo billah) of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) himself? -- SABIH MOHSIN in South Asia (January 2011)

Ever the proponent of Jinnah's founding vision, Bhatti pioneered interfaith initiatives. He built bridges. He spoke at large mosques at the invitation of senior imams and eventually, in July 2010, secured a groundbreaking joint statement from religious leaders to denounce terrorism. He further launched a network of “district interfaith harmony committees” to encourage dialogue and unite communities through common concerns. Bhatti had big plans and saw Pakistan leading the way for other countries. In his own words, he wanted to “make this world beautiful by delivering a message of peace, togetherness, unity and tolerance.” His mother, four brothers and a sister survive him. -- Annabelle Bentham

Photo: Shahbaz Bhatti

The menacing threat that radical self-styled defenders of Islam today pose to the Pakistani state is, undeniably, a logical culmination of the very ideological basis of that state. It is certainly not an aberration or a betrayal of the ideals of the founding-fathers of Pakistan, that some of the Pakistani scholars at the seminar insisted on characterizing it as. The very notion of Pakistan is based on the untenable argument that the Muslims and Hindus of pre-Partition India were not just two distinct communities, but, more than that, two entirely different nations. It was claimed by the founders of Pakistan—and this continues to be official policy—that the Hindus and Muslims of India had nothing at all in common, and that, therefore, their very differences necessitated the setting up of a separate state of Pakistan for the Muslims of the subcontinent, where they would be free of Hindu domination and could, so the argument goes, be free to develop in accordance with the teachings of Islam. ... This task gains particular salience given the fact that ulema and other scholars who publicly articulate progressive and inclusive understandings of Islam that challenge the ideology of Islamist radicals are such a rarity in Pakistan today. There are several reasons for this, and I will identify only two. The first is sheer fear—of being declared an apostate, a heretic, an agent of this or the other ‘enemy of Islam’, and even of being killed for daring to critique, even if by using counter Islamic arguments, dominant discourses about Islam, particularly on issues such as jihad, inter-community relations and women.  …  A second reason for this state of affairs, as a Pakistani friend mentioned in a conversation in Delhi just a fortnight ago, is that the Pakistani elites, including the ‘modern’ educated intelligentsia, who might seem to be most in need of an enlightened Islamic discourse, have generally taken little or no interest in Islamic scholarship themselves. For them, so says my friend, religion is either some sort of taken-for-granted identity or else mere mumbo-jumbo superstition and a sign of backwardness, and hence something fit to be left to the mullahs to monopolise.--Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

A call aimed at a generation brought up on the historical and ideological narratives manufactured by some in the military and theocratic elites. Why then was Hamid hounded out from a state-owned university but was successful in finding a more receptive audience at private colleges and universities? The answer to this is not all that complex. All these groups are largely political in orientation with controversial histories in which each played a leading role in various democratic movements but at the same time also got embroiled in some serious violence. History has not been very kind to them as far as the new generation of Pakistanis is concerned; most simply see these groups as thugs. This is also the generation that in the last 15 years has opted to join the many new privately-owned universities and colleges that do not allow conventional Pakistani student political groups to operate.-- Nadeem F. Paracha

 

THE cold, calculated assassination of Shahbaz Bhatti, federal minister for religious minorities, in Islamabad yesterday is yet another blow to the idea of Jinnah’s Pakistan. Mr Bhatti’s killers may have escaped the scene of the crime, but the real culprit is known to all: an extremist mindset that has, with the sponsorship of some institutions of the state, spread far and wide in Pakistani society. The tragic irony of a country created to protect the rights of a minority — Muslims in unified India — turning into a killing field for those standing up for the rights of minorities evokes a deep sense of pathos and helplessness. Yet, the second high-profile killing in less than two months in Islamabad linked to the issue of the country’s blasphemy laws raises at least two hard questions. -- Editorial in Dawn, Karachi

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Pakistan is not the only Muslim country that is facing this siege within. Extremism has emerged as a serious, if not the greatest, threat to Muslim societies everywhere.  Of course, we can go on endlessly debating the historical, political and social factors responsible for the phenomenon. Which we have done for far too long without getting anywhere. It’s about time we came up with some effective steps and concrete action to take on extremism — and those who cling to it as their way of life — head on. ...

Extremism, rampant crime and gun culture are eating into the vitals of the South Asian country that also happens to be a nuclear state. Everything is falling apart. This doesn’t have to be like this. If anyone can change this state of affairs, it is none but the Pakistanis themselves. A resilient and enterprising lot, they have proved time and again they could achieve anything if they put their mind to it.  It’s time to rediscover that fighting spirit of Pakistan to win this war on extremism. -– Editorial in Arab News

Also: Editorial responses from Pakistani and Indian newspapers

Barelvi Mullah says Every Pakistani is KAFIR

Fatwa ka Bazar by M.A.N.

 Maulana Tariq Jameel firing on Shia and Deobandi "beghairat, " "sab se ganda hai phir bhi sunni kahklata hai.". "Sahaba-e-Huzoor Salam are kafir "(Nauzbillah). "Shia and Deobandi are both kafir. But the bigger Kafir is Deobandi, Shia at least proclaims he is not ahle sunnat, whereas Deobandis claim tobe ahle-sunnat."

Bara Kafir Deobandi hai. Wajibul Qatal (fit to be killed) hai, Aur is mein shak karne wala bhi wajibul qatal hai. (Deobandi is the bigger kafir and any one who doubts that is also kafir and  fit to be killed like the Deobandis.)

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Maulana Tahirul Qadri firing on Deobandis: sab kafir hain. Wahhabis are Murtad, kafir, kuttay, dogs,  terrorist, lanati, Yazidi, kerbala kay terrorist, Muslim mamalik kay badshah dallay, brokers and prostitutes. Listen to  Moulvi Syed Irfan Shah Ashadi.

The media has been lending almost tacit support to the currency of intolerance. The country, already battered by bloody terrorist onslaughts, is being further forced to fend off the fury and fanaticism of some hitherto apparently silent segments that have infiltrated into the most treasured security shields

The shock, sorrow and anger that stormed the nation after Salmaan Taseer’s assassination brought home stark realities to highlight the unbridled intolerance, fanaticism and obsession that seem set to obliterate the slightest dissent from the obscurantist notions of faith, conduct and behaviour. The widespread condemnation, mourning, memorial messages, vigils, candle-lighting, processions and protest rallies to vent love, reverence, grief and concern were in perfect order. However, far more potent and concerted steps are needed to reorient the maverick mindset and the attitudes that have abysmally sunk into some circles to enable them to act as self-styled vigilantes, judges, jurists and executioners. -- Elf Habib

Deoband: War of the Mullahs
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

From what these Deobandi Maulvis are alleging about the men behind the anti-Vastanvi campaign—fellow Deobandi Maulvis, led by the Madni gang that has monopolized the Deoband Madrasa for decades—one thing is clear: that for many mullahs, religion and religious institutions are simply tools to feather their own nests and to whip up the support of the credulous by projecting themselves as pious defenders of the faith. As rival factions of the Deobandi mullah community continue to battle each other, the sordid role of the 'secular' Congress Party in backing the most obscurantist sections of the mullahs, as represented by the Madni clique, is also becoming increasingly evident.  Needless to say, in this symbiotic nexus, the common Muslims, sacrificial victims of the machinations of political parties and the mullahs, have everything to lose, even the faint glimmer of hope for educational empowerment that Vastanvi's appointment had appeared to promise. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Deoband: Smash These Idols
Arshad Alam, NewAgeIslam.com
Deoband: Smash These Idols
Arshad Alam for NewAgeIslam.com

Let me add a caveat here. I am not arguing that Vastanwi will or would have brought some kind of a revolutionary change in the seminary. The politics of Deoband -- its being antithetical to lived Islamic traditions and therefore anti-pluralism--will continue irrespective of Vastanwi or anyone else. Yet there are three important reasons why I think Vastanwi should be allowed to continue as the rector of Deoband. The first is that even piecemeal reformist change within the institution is welcome and Vastanwi had the potential as well as the experience to do that. The second is that he symbolizes a wider Muslim discontent over the fact that a large number of important Muslim institutions have been monopolized by few prominent Muslim families and individuals. The third and related reason is that Vastanwi comes from the Islamic periphery and by his mere presence makes Muslim politics more inclusive. His presence is a signal that the fate of Indian Muslims need not be tied to the fate of feudal and decrepit UP Muslim elite.     

 Signals are that Vastanwi would not give up without a fight. It is great news that a section of students and teachers have rallied behind him. If this is a sign of internal churning within Muslims for meaningful change, then it is most welcome. Muslims in the Arab world have had enough of their dictators. It is time Indian Muslims in general and Deoband students in particular start articulating a similar demand and start smashing the living idols within their community. -- Arshad Alam for NewAgeIslam.com

 

Earlier, peaceful meetings were held by supporters of Maulana Vastanvi in Saharanpur and elsewhere. Clearly, though Madanis and Qasmis have ruled the roost in Deoband for over a century, an outsider like Maulana Vastanvi too has supporters in the Saharanpur area for his agenda of change. Indeed, the Maulana has been a member of the Shoura for the last 18 years. But opening fire in a meeting being held by the Qasmi groups of ulema of Darul Uloom allegedly by Maulana Vastanvi’s supporters, if true, deserves severe condemnation.

The powers-that-be at Deoband are not going to leave their power and privilege so easily. They have been in politics for long and like other politicians they too must have supporters with arms and ammunition. Majlis-e-Shoura should not give more time to mischief mongers from either group to succeed in inflicting damage to Darul Uloom and call its meeting as soon as possible and take a decision once and for all to prevent the situation from going out of hand. The firing should stir the Majlis-e-Shoura into action or it may be too late. The battle should not enter the third round: death and bloodshed. - New Age Islam Edit Desk

 
Are all Ahaadith authentic?
A. Faizur Rahman, NewAgeIslam.com

At a recent Islamic conference held in Chennai, a hardcore Salafi scholar spewed venom at the munkireen-e-ahaadith (the rejectors of  hadiths). “These people” he said, “claim that if a Hadith goes against the Quran or common sense, it should be rejected” thereby giving the impression that all hadiths are to be followed in their entirety without subjecting them to intellectual scrutiny. Short of inciting his captive audience to lynch the munkireen-e-ahaadith this so-called scholar heaped all the expletives in his vocabulary against them and demanded that Muslims shun these “enemies of Islam.”  It therefore becomes imperative to discuss further the place of Ahaadith (sing., Hadith) in Islamic law and also in the lives of Muslims.

In a nutshell a hadith may be defined as a report concerning the sayings and the doings of the Prophet Muhammad which has reached us through a chain of narrators. The Quran described the Prophet as the Muallim (teacher) of Allah's Book and its Wisdom and as such his sayings and doings constitute an exposition of the philosophy of the Quran. This also means that no Prophetic saying or deed can go against the Quran, for how could the Messenger violate the very Message he brought? But what if there are Ahaadith which contradict the Quran? Of course they need to be questioned and their authenticity examined because it is possible such traditions may have wrongly attributed to the Prophet what he did not say or do. Muslim scholars have rejected several Aahaadith on this basis without their Eeman or motives being questioned. Therefore, it must be understood that rejection of questionable Ahaadith does not amount to the rejection of the Prophet. It only amounts to a rejection of unreliable reports wrongly attributed to our beloved Prophet. -- A. Faizur Rahman, NewAgeIslam.com

Rapidly altering levels of aspiration over the past two decades have impacted the minorities as much as anyone else. Old inhibitory factors have been blown away by new pulls: opportunity, hopes for a better life for younger people, the unspoken comfort provided by a fairly long spell of governance without needing to debate or fortify themselves from destructive elements on the right. There have been pushes too: for example, the collapse of traditional crafts (which Muslims have depended upon in clusters) has forced people out of old networks. Government largesse has been more innovative; scholarships, bicycles, housing loans, education opportunities and a promise of more, even in BJP-ruled states, have expanded the space for the Indian Muslim. The virtual collapse of Pakistan as an ideal Islamic state (with Shia-Sunni conflicts and Hanafi-Wahhabi strife tearing the country apart, making even offering prayers in mosques a risky proposition) has also sobered down those who may have secretly yearned for the comfort of being “there”. -- Seema Chishti

Faith — mosque, temple or church — has been a traditional sanctuary of the people in their constant struggle against innumerable forms of autocracy and dictatorship that have been the tragedy of human history. The institutions of God provide a comfort zone to the individual persecuted by institutions of man, particularly during moments of distress. Faith is often a symbol of resistance, as autocratic Arab regimes are discovering today when the streets are finally alive with the thunder of long-overdue protest against smug dictatorships that confused their harsh intelligence services with intelligence...

Deoband is often demonized by a Western-influenced discourse. Yes, there is a fringe that has converted Deoband into a fatwa factory for regressive pronouncements; and some of its influences have been distorted to justify violence. But every great centre of education produces a few children who dishonour their intellectual parent. Deoband is a tremendous resource for those Muslims who do not have the advantage of birth or lineage. It is the hope and dream not only of those who want to serve Allah through the mosque, but also young men who see in its educational repository a chance for a better life. The place it commands in the affections of Muslims makes Deoband a power centre; and where there is power, there will be politics. What we are seeing at the moment is a political battle between factions, and the vested interests that feed off them, for the control of Deoband. -- M J Akbar

Deoband Stir: History Repeats Itself
Shakil Khan, NewAgeIslam.com

It is not that the Deoband madrasa is new to such petty politics, being used as a tool to promote the political designs of certain mullahs who claim to speak for Islam and for all the Muslims of India. What Arshad Madani and Mahmood Madani are being accused of doing today is in itself nothing novel. Indeed, they appear to be faithfully following in the footsteps of the late Asad Madani, the man behind a similar controversy in the Deoband  as we are witness to today, that caused a major split in the madrasa which still remains unhealed after more than three decades. That controversy, and the deadly politics behind it, bears eerie parallels with the current anti-Vastanvi agitation, showing the depths that self-styled religious ‘leaders’ can stop for the sake of power and pelf. -- Shakil Khan, NewAgeIslam.com

Photo: Maulana Mahmood Madani

The Ahl-e Hadith and the Shias are inveterate foes, each insisting that their own brand of Islam is the only authentic one, branding the other as not just heretics but even as ‘enemies of Islam’ and as wholly outside the Muslim fold. But they are one on the status of the Deobandis, whom they regard as hardly proper Muslims at all. In turn, the Deobandis virulently castigate both the Ahl-e Hadith and the Shias as deviants and even worse. Deobandi mullahs have written dozens of tomes and have issued innumerable fatwas denouncing the Ahl-e Hadith as a dangerous fitna or source of un-Islamic strife, and, therefore, as hardly Muslim. Many Deobandis regard Shias as not just non-Muslims but even as vociferous ‘enemies of Islam’. Ahl-e Hadith and Shia clerics hold similar views about the Deobandis. Given this, some critics are now asking why it is that these two Urdu papers, one run by men affiliated to the Ahl-e Hadith, and the other by a group of Shias, are leading the anti-Vastanvi campaign and are fiercely backing his opponents—specifically, the Madni family that has been treating the Deoband madrasa as its fiefdom for decades, with the blessings of the Congress Party. Is it not curious, they point out, that in order to oust Vastanvi, these two Urdu papers are even projecting the Deoband madrasa as the world’s ‘leading centre’ of Islamic learning, and are fiercely backing Vastanvi’s contenders for the post of rector in order, so they claim, to defend the madrasa and the Deobandi sect, although the Muslim sects that the owners of these papers are affiliated with are vociferously opposed to the Deobandis? Is it not bizarre that all this is happening despite the fact that their own sects and brands of Islam have been consistently condemned as deviant and even worse by the mullahs of Deoband? Daal mai zaroor kuch kala hai, they insist. -- Shakil Khan, NewAgeIslam.com

LAST Sunday, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement ( MQM) urged the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo motu notice of the doubling of crime in Punjab province and recommended that the army should take control of the province. Not so long ago, the MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, who is ensconced in the safety of London, had exhorted Pakistanis to launch a “ bloody revolution” to overthrow the feudal ruling classes. Indeed, he had gone so far as to say that “ patriotic generals” should step in to save the country once again...

Therefore the less said about the MQM’s demand for “ patriotic generals”, “ bloody revolutions” and “ martial laws”, the better. It is part of the MQM’s tactics to keep its powder dry in a potential election year. It is desperate to extend its vote bank in rural Sindh and get a toehold in Punjab, which is why it is railing against General Sales Tax on services ( biggest impact in Karachi) and demanding tax on agricultural incomes of big landlords ( in Sindh and Punjab). -- Najam Sethi

 
Dr. Zakir Naik: New Target of Mullah Ire
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Qasmi’s major grouse against Dr. Zakir Naik is what he regards as the latter’s temerity of interpreting the Quran on his own. The Quran describes itself as a book for the whole of humankind. It has been translated into numerous languages, and, therefore, is easily accessible to and understandable by ‘ordinary’ folk. One does not need to be a trained religious scholar, spending a dozen-odd or even more years in a madrasa, in order to understand it. In fact, the Quran stridently condemns priests and religious intermediaries, whose claims to authority rest on their supposed expertise in understanding the scriptures, and who routinely misuse this ‘expertise’ to mislead the gullible. Yet, the mullahs insist that they alone are qualified to interpret the Quran. This in itself is hardly surprising: after all, it is on this claim that their authority and the special position that they demand for themselves in Muslim society rest. Naturally, therefore, they are wary of non-mullahs interpreting the Quran on their own, not hesitating to denounce those who do so, and who interpret it in ways distinct from theirs, as heretics and even apostates.

To shore up his claim that the mullahs alone have the right to interpret the Quran, Qasmi insists that one needs expertise in ‘seventeen kinds of religious sciences’ (which he curiously leaves unnamed) in order to be qualified to interpret the scripture. Presumably, these ‘religious sciences’ are taught only in the madrasas, and, therefore, only the mullahs have knowledge of them all. Since Naik lacks knowledge of these ‘sciences’, he suggests, he has no right to interpret the Quran on his own in any manner that departs from the interpretation of the mullahs. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Photo: Islam-supremacist Televangelist from Ahl-e-Hadees sect  Dr. Zakir Naik

 

THE DEBATE on the “contentious” statement made by the Darul Uloom Deoband’s newly appointed rector, Maulana Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, it seems, is dying down after his offer to step down. However, the manner in which this episode has been interpreted and analysed, especially by the media and political elite, raises a few fundamental questions about our awareness of the complex religious identities of Muslim communities and their practices of secularism. Let me begin with the actual incident. In a news report based on an interview, Vastanvi was quoted as saying that all communities “are prospering in Gujarat” and there was “no discrimination against the minorities in the state as far as development was concerned”. Although Vastanvi did not give a clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi in this interview on the 2002 pogrom, he stressed that it was now time to move on. -- Hilal Ahmed

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan on the Blasphemy Controversy
Translated by Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

In the wake of the dastardly killing of Salman Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, the controversy over the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan continues to rage. Is this law really ‘Islamic’, as many ‘Islamic’ organizations and their leaders insist? Does Islam indeed lay down death for blasphemers? In 1997, the New Delhi-based noted Indian Islamic scholar, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, published a book on the subject of blasphemy, being a compilation of a number of articles he had penned in the wake of the Satanic Verses controversy.  The book, in Urdu, was titled Shatm-e Rasul ka Masla, Quran wa Hadith aur Fiqh wa Tarikh ki Roshni Mein (The Question of Blasphemy Against the Prophet in the Light of the Quran, Hadith, Fiqh and History). The book raises numerous issues that are pertinent to ongoing debates about the anti-blasphemy law in Pakistan today. Below are some excerpts translated from the book by Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com.

 

Muslim clerics distort Quranic verses to suit their purpose

 

 

Deep-rooted and rigid deeni-duniyavi dualism in the Mullah mindset needs to be corrected

Ill-founded conspiracy theories that the mullahs and likeminded folks spin are often simply a convenient ruse to deny the culpability of some Muslims or mullahs in the problems that they are forced to face, as well as a convenient way to clamp down on legitimate critique and internal dissent. Often, they indicate a stubborn refusal to recognize that Muslims or the mullahs, are in large measure, to blame for many of their own problems, and that many of these are actually self-created. They also do nothing whatsoever to promote much-needed introspection. Often—certainly in the ongoing agitation over Vastanvi’s appointment—conspiracy theories that describe problems as having been created by menacing conspiratorial non-Muslim ‘others’ are invented and most aggressively propagated by those who are themselves to blame for creating these controversies. ...

If there is one lesson to be learnt from the ongoing sordid controversy centred on Vatsanvi, it is that there is an urgent need for a fundamental reform in the mullah mind-set, so that would-be mullahs can articulate socially-engaged, progressive and relevant understandings of their faith and provide sensible guidance about the duniya in order to truly serve the people they claim to lead. And, if that happens, we might be spared the ignorance that Vastanvi propagates when he spouts meaningless clichés praising Modi’s model of ‘development’, blissfully unaware of the harsh realities about this model’s many victims. We might also be spared the bizarre conspiracy theories that his fellow mullah critics are now so aggressively circulating and the wild intolerance that they are vigorously displaying in a bid to unseat him. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

The problem, it would seem, stems from Vastanvi’s desire to take Muslims out of the ghettos of economic and social backwardness without compromising their religious identity. As Vice-Chancellor, he has been stressing the importance of blending religious instruction with more meaningful study of ‘secular’ disciplines such as the sciences, medicine and management. Given the symbolic importance of Deoband to Muslims in the whole sub-continent, the curriculum shift in Darul Uloom is calculated to send a powerful reformist message to the whole community.

This may be welcome to most of India but the educational and economic empowerment of Muslims and their ability to compete on equal terms in the marketplace poses a potential threat to those who play broker between the Muslim masses and the political elite. As long as Muslims are nervous, defensive, educationally backward and hark back wistfully to a lost court culture in Awadh and the Deccan, they need the services of those who can leverage their significant electoral clout for advantage. The last thing these political middlemen need is an atmosphere of calm bereft of both loony Islamists and loony Hindus, where people can go about their primary mission in life: Self-improvement.

By questioning a fundamental tenet of this contrived tension, Vastanvi has been guilty of the gravest ‘secular’ offence. He has argued that Muslims are normal Indians, driven by the same urges and aspirations of everyone else. He has, in fact, actually challenged Islamophobia in a nuanced fashion. But he has also threatened the rozi-roti of the merchants of fear. If their assault on him is successful, it may bolster many of the worst stereotypes of the Muslim community. -- Swapan Dasgupta

The brutal murder of the Pakistani leader Salman Taseer for daring to question his country’s draconian blasphemy law which lays down death for insulting the Prophet Mohammad has ignited furious debate as to whether or not Islam prescribes this extreme punishment for such an act. Predictably, as on many other issues, there seems to be no unanimity among Muslims themselves on this question. While Islamist and mullah ideologues insist that Islam demands death for traducers of the Prophet, liberal Muslim scholars, relying on the same texts as their opponents, stoutly deny that this is so. --Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Deoband’s Internecine War Takes a New Turn
Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

The fate of Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, the newly-elected vice-chancellor (muhtamim) of India’s largest madrasa, the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband, hangs in the balance as a storm of protest gathers momentum against a controversial remark that he made some days ago. Vastanvi may not have provided an unqualified ‘clean-chit, as his detractors allege, to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in an interview given to the Times of India, but by appearing to overlook the various forms of discrimination that Muslims in Gujarat continue to labour under and by even going so far to naively claim that Muslims were prospering unhindered under Modi’s rule, Vastanvi committed a major goof-up. Although he subsequently issued an apology, his remarks set off a loud chorus of protest in his own Deobandi circles.

Vastanvi’s remarks about Modi are now being added to by a host of other allegations levelled by his opponents among his fellow Deobandi mullahs, including rivals for the post of vice-chancellor of the Deoband madrasa, to further galvanise the movement for his dismissal from his new post. One such allegation, which an influential section of the Urdu press has quickly lapped up and is now highlighting with much exaggeration, sensation and alarm, is that Vastanvi is ‘guilty’ of the sin of ‘distributing idols’. Since idolatry is a heinous sin in Islam, this charge very directly questions Vastanvi’s credentials as a sincere Muslim to make him out to be simply unfit for the job as the head of the world’s most influential madrasa. This allegation has even prompted Vastanvi’s critics to approach important Islamic organizations in India affiliated to the Deobandi school of thought for a fatwa on the matter. The fatwas they  received, condemning the act of ‘distributing idols’ (without mentioning Vastanvi’s name), have been widely publicised in some sections of the Urdu press and is being added to Vastanvi’s remarks about Modi to further press the demand for his immediate resignation. -- Yoginder Sikand, NewAgeIslam.com

Photo: Ghulam Mohammad Vastanvi, the newly-elected vice-chancellor (muhtamim) of India’s largest madrasa, the Dar ul-Uloom at Deoband.

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NEW COMMENTS

  • Very nice article,full of objectivity and vision.
    ( By Shrikaant Saxena )
  • have you come back from your pathological world tour? welcome home....
    ( By hats off! )
  • یہ بھی خیال رکھیں کہ ائمہ کرام نے مذکورہ بحث میں ایک معروضہ قائم کرکے اس کا جواب بھی قلمبند کیا ہے ۔وہ یہ کہ ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • @KF and Satish, you too should know that, one of the Hanafi Principles of Jurisprudence is that Amr bil Feil (commanding any specific...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • bahut khubsurat aur INTERESTING science hai ye, suna hai is science ko hum sahih se padhenge....
    ( By Talha )
  • حنفی فقہ کا ایک اصول ہے کہ امر بالفعل یعنی کسی کام کا امر (حکم) تکرارکا تقاضہ نہیں کرتا ۔یعنی کسی شخص نے آپ کو ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Amir bittakraar ki bahas mujhe samjha den. mujhe aaj tak ye bahas samjh me nahi aayi. mujhe....
    ( By KF )
  • Hats Off will utter any mean-spirited lie as long as it maligns Muslims! This has become his pathological obsession!
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )
  • heaven and earth were never an integrated mass. you seem to be much more ignorant....
    ( By hats off! )
  • معاف کیجئے گا جناب ، میں نے آپ کے لیے ادھرملازمت کرکے ادھر بھی لڈو اور ادھر ملازمت کرکے ادھر بھی لڈو کا استعمال ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • رہی بات حنفی ، شافعی ، مالکی اور حنبلی ائمہ کرام کے جہاد پر مبنی اقوال کی تو سیدھی بات یہ ہے کہ ان اقوال ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • The question is: are you indirectly blaming newage for paying for dishonesty? My answer is: not at all. You should....
    ( By GGS )
  • People think they can attain Marifat by spending hours but this is not the sole truth, but rather there lies some sort....
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Alhamdulillah, since 6 years I have been writing on newage but I have never been forced to write against my faith....
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • I do not need to be accountable to you or Mr Sultan Shahin on religious issues. I may be accountable to him for office hours ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Astaghfirullah.'
    ( By GGS )
  • GGS, apki tabiyat kharab to nahi hogayi hai. '
    ( By arshad )
  • GGS, when you refute jihadi ideology, you should honestly criticise not only the ihadi organisations....
    ( By arshad )
  • GGS, once again you proved that you are suffereing from a superiority complex. Read my comment once again. I...
    ( By arshad )
  • How did you know I am Sahab, I can be Shahiban. What is relevant to age '
    ( By Aayina )
  • G, khushfahmi dur karne ki niyyat se zarur likhen. Yahi maqsad rah gaya hai...
    ( By GGS )
  • dara shikoh is a hero only for the hindus. as far as most...
    ( By hats off! )
  • Qur'an had nothing to do with the scientific explosion in the islamic....
    ( By hats off! )
  • Allah ka Karam hai.Zara masruf tha isliye apke comment ka jawab...
    ( By Arshad )
  • शहद दिखाए ज़हर पिलाए, कातिल डायन शौहर कुश इस मुर्दा र पर क्या ललचाया दुनिया देखी भाली है
    ( By Paaji )
  • Wow. Tabiyat kaisi hai Janab
    ( By GGS )
  • It is imperative that interfaith cooperation is developed....
    ( By Kaniz Fatma )
  • ISIS has been destructing Muslim countries but it remains a potent....
    ( By GGS )
  • Comment 8- on the usage of zulm in the Quran God Almighty says....
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Comment 7- on the usage of Zulm in the Quran Allah Almighty says,....
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Later madrasa products shunned science and engaged in the " created....
    ( By Arshad )
  • Tauba Tauba. So-called Muslims'
    ( By GGS )
  • Comment 6- The usage of Zulm in the Quran The Quran reads, وَإِذْ قَالَ مُوسَىٰ لِقَوْمِهِ يَا قَوْمِ إِنَّكُمْ ظَلَمْتُمْ أَنفُسَكُم بِاتِّخَاذِكُمُ الْعِجْلَ فَتُوبُوا....
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • Aayina sb, you say to Satish, “Satish Your expectation is wrong and this people lie vey easily”. I have grounds to disagree with you when you ...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • If we should think of what our divine commands guide us to, we should think of it with genuine heart, indepth feeling,...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • @KF & Satish, please take the following passage to the depth of your consciousness, only to understand it properly, but...
    ( By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي )
  • hatts off is write world will catch up in rape and lust activity to achieve women's body, even men....
    ( By Aayina )
  • To Satish NAI can you leave the spacing in paragraphs as they easy to read and understand, I have seen when...
    ( By Aayina )
  • Do we not tolerate when you say 'unholy things' about the Holy book?
    ( By GGS )
  • Making comparisions between flourishing Western science and (non-existent) Islam-inspired science...
    ( By Ghulam Mohiyuddin )