By Danish Raza
Jun 21, 2012
New Delhi: It was the summer of 1995. “Papa, it is Hizbul Mujahideen,” said a panicking Juhi handing over the phone to her father Sultan Shahin. It was a death threat to Shahin, who had written in a national daily, countering Hizbul’s call that the war against India was validated by Quran.
For Shahin, it was one of the numerous encounters with extremists. “I invite such people to discuss the differences over tea. I tell them please intimate me before you kill me so that there is no collateral damage,” says Shahin, laughingly.
He is serious about sorting out differences though. In 2008, Shahin launched newageislam.com— a website to prompt Muslims to ‘rethink’ Islam and challenge the petro-dollar funded Wahabi ideology.
More than one lakh readers visit the site every day and the electronic newsletter reaches out to around 2.5 lakh people.
Earlier this month, Delhi High Court ruled that a Muslim girl could marry as per her choice at the age of 15 if she attained puberty. New Age Islam published articles highlighting two aspects to this judgment: Muslim girl can marry as per her own choice, is a welcome step; allowing the girl to get married at the age of 15 years may not be a good idea.
New Age Islam hosts news articles and columns on a gamut of political and theological issues which hardly find space in the mainstream media and which are seldom debated even among liberal or enlightened Muslims. The idea, says Shahin, is it to provide an alternative to the opinions propagated by clerics who seem to have hijacked Islam.
Sultan Shahin at his East Delhi office Danish Raza/First post
“Take any contemporary issue regarding Islam. You will find that by and large, the only view point circulated will be that of Mullas. Why can’t an educated person, who has not attended a madrasa and has a private job, speak on behalf of the community? On the website, we allow an open debate on matters. All schools of thought can have their say on,” says Shahin.
“Islam, in the New Age avatar, is pluralistic, inclusive and cohesive. It promotes belief with reasoning.”
Recently, New Age Islam hosted debates on the politics around Salman Rushdie’s India visit, Madrasas and Right to Education, the practice of female circumcision in Bohra community and Islamophobia. Debates concerning Islam, conducted on different forums across the world also find a place on the site along with articles from Urdu press in India and Pakistan.
On the website, Niyaaz Fatehpuri, editor of Urdu periodical Nigaar is featured as a better personality than Mumbai based televangelist Dr Zakir Naik because the former is considered rational and the latter as someone who promotes Islam’s supremacy over other religions.
Roughly, 50 percent of the readers of New Age Islam are based in India. Rest is spread across Pakistan, the Gulf, United States, United Kingdom and Australia.
However, Shahin is aware of the fact a website has its limitations and it may not transform ideologies. “Debates cannot influence people with vested interests. But it can certainly help one who is seeking answers and has an open mind,” he says, referring to the urban Muslim professionals, majority of whom end up getting exposed to Wahabi literature on the Internet, while seeking alternatives to traditional Islamic practices of their forefathers.
Ironically, Shahin grew up among the very people whom he lambastes now. Son of a Maulvi, Shahin spent his childhood in Aurangabad where he gave tuitions and worked in local Urdu dailies. In 1972 he joined Radiance — the weekly magazine of Jamaat-e-Islami, in Delhi. This was followed by a seven years long stint with the weekly called Asian Times in London where Shahin got exposed to divergent Islamic views prevalent in the West. “That was early 1980s. This preacher called Omar Bakri used to propagate radical Islam. He had a great influence on youth. He was a phenomenon in London at that time. He used to openly recruit youngsters for jihad,” recalls the 60-year-old. “Lately, these radicals have attracted followers in the East.”
In 2005, Shahin shifted base to Suriname, South America where his wife Pragya (Yes, she is a Non- Muslim) got posted as Indian cultural attaché. As a house husband, Shahin launched New Age Islam while in Suriname.
The website is run by a team of nine, including Shahin, from a flat in East Delhi’s Patparganj area on a shoestring budget.
Before and after the launch of New Age Islam, Shahin has rubbed the fanatics in the wrong way more than once. He says he has received death threats twice on the website in the form of comments. On various occasions, clerics told him the website is his short-cut to hell. Opponents, who are often in majority, have silenced him during various talks and conferences. His lecture in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, was cut short and he drew flak from various quarters. “I was asked to remain quiet if I were to return home. I realise that radicals in India don’t open their cards. There is hardly any scope for argument.”
mohd. yunus, You say: "But according to my understanding these are your compiled views not written in Quran in comprehensive passages."You know that the Qur'an is divine speech. At least I and all the Muslims world over believe it to be so. How can then I insert something else for it. The Qur'an had warned the Prophet that if he tampered with the Qur'an in any way, He will severe his aorta and no one will be able to help him. How can I dare to say something quoting the Qur'an if it is not there. All my articles are merely compilation of correlated Qur'anic verses in a reader friendly narrative. I say nothing of my own volition except to draw corollaries and conclusions.
Your mind is possessed with doubts and I have done my best so far to repel your doubts. May God make you a good human being and if you are already good, a better one. Let us terminate our dialogue at this point, because we seem to be going round and round and round with each side saying the same thing again and again and again, getting nowhere. May God bless you and guide you.
Mohd Yunus. Thanks for joining the thread of my comment.You state: “according to new ageislam site moderators Hadith is not a part of Islam.”My late father died in 1977. From what I saw of him since my childhood (I was 32 at his death) he may have descended from early Muslims, as he had a far more universal notion of Islam and placed immensely more values on adab, manners, conduct and behaviour and taqwa than on rituals and symbols. He asked us not to read any of the Hadith books that were there in his meagre collection. In retrospect, while considering your comment it occurred to me that people whose ancestors had been Muslims dating from the early centuries of Islam conflate the Islamic faith with the Qur’an and regard Hadith as supplementary materials that were used to communicate the Islamic morals through illustrations. They NEVER conflate the Qur’an with the Hadith. Hadith were specific to an era and provided social and moral underpinning for that era. Undoubtedly there are a lot of good things in their narrations. But they also have materials that the learned Swami and those whose ancestors entered faith only in the later centuries of Islam talk about. They do so probably to cast doubts on their faith they probably hate because of its social, moral and ethical demands. Subconsciously they want to convince themselves that their faith is flawed so that they do not feel obliged to meet its callings – to share their wealth with the poor, to forgive their past enemies, to respect their women, to keep from adultery, to respect people of other faith, to be discerning, to treat all regardless of relationship with justice, to eschew lust, greed, trivial talk, arrogance, excessive suspicion, cheating, fraud, and other forms of immorality. Such people should have no hesitation to leave the fold of Islam, for there is no compulsion in religion. They are the present day hypocrites whom the Qur’an warns as follows: “The hypocrite men and women are of the same kind. They enjoin the evil, and forbid the good, and hold back their hands (from giving to the needy). They are oblivious of God and God is oblivious of them, and without doubt, they are the deviants (fasiqun) (9:67). God has promised for them as well as the unbelievers (kuffar), the fire of hell and that is enough for them; for them is the curse of God and an enduring punishment” (9:68).“Whether you (O Muhammad) seek forgiveness for them (hypocrites) or you do not seek not forgiveness for them (it makes no difference.) Even if you ask seventy times for their forgiveness, God will not forgive them, because they have rejected God and His Messenger, and God does not guide the deviants (fasiqun)” (9:80).And never (O Muhammad) pray for any of them (hypocrites) who dies, nor stand at his grave, for they were unfaithful to God and His Messenger, and died as deviants (fasiqun)” (9:84). “The nomadic Arabs are the worst in disbelief (kufr) and hypocrisy (nifaq), and more likely to be ignorant of the limits of what God has revealed to His Messenger, for God is All-Knowing, the Wise” (9:97). “God will punish the hypocrites - men and women, and the mushrikin - men and women; and God will pardon the believers in One God - men (muminin) and women (muminat), for God is Forgiving, Merciful” (33:73). “(God will) punish the hypocrites - men and women and the mushrikin - men and women, who conceived an evil opinion of God; an evil turn of fortune awaits them. God is angry with them and has cursed them and prepared for them hell – a wretched abode (48:6).“They (the hypocrites) have made their oaths a cover; they hinder (others) from God’s path, so they shall have a humiliating punishment” (58:16).Don’t waste your time finding fault in these verses not knowing their context but you can see that there is a general warning for those who pledge themselves to be a believer in the Qur’anic revelation but them regard the Hadith that evolved in the first two centuries of Islam as its co-equal and then pick at those narrations that the compilers themselves had warned against. Please read my indicated article before shooting of your question. If you do not understand the article in first reading please red again. If you still fail to grasp it try again and again till you are convinced either way - that attempt to capture the truth or they are simply made up to please Sultan Shahin.'
Sultan Shahin Saheb. Ref the Swami's charging of Islam with "pornography" as you mentioned, no Muslim scholar who has read the Ahadith back to back should be shocked. The following extract from the Conclusion of one of my recent articles referenced below purports to substantiate his allegations:
"There can be no denying that the authenticated (Sahih) Hadith compilations e some accounts that sound most bizarre and purport to provoke sexuality, induce terrorism, foment inter-faith hatred, and stand deeply misogynist, scientifically untenable, self contradictory and Qur’an-incompatible "
The Article explains the background or reason for such lethal accretions by adding the following remarks in the Conclusion:
"The early compilers confronted hundreds of thousands of accounts in oral circulation and applied the prevalent isnad (integrity of narrators in the transmission chain) based screening methodology to accomplish their works. Human reason was in its primitive form and what appears most bizarre and grotesque today, did not register as such in the minds of the common people of Islam’s early centuries, as they were accustomed to believe in legends and fairy tales. The great Imams, who were among the most learned in their era, were cognizant of the ingress of forged and fabricated Ahadith in their compilations, but they were not in a position to delete the suspect Ahadith as long as they met their criteria of screening. Accordingly they warned the community and posterity about it. This happened a little over two centuries after the Prophet’s death. The canonization of the Hadith as indirect revelation and repository of all worldly knowledge happened after another two centuries or so."
Next question: Why are they still there in authentic collection?
The Conclusion of the article answers this:
"The problem therefore lies with the orthodoxy for failing to carry out any further scrutiny of the Ahadith over the last millennium. The problem also lies with some of the Ulema as well as secular minded anti-Islamic Muslims and non-Muslims who selectively pick preposterous and anti-Qur’anic Ahadith to launch fatwas and make high sounding statements to demonize Islam, and to bring shame and disgrace to the early compilers of Hadith." Since the Qur'an is often explained in light of Ahadith, some of the lethal material (pornography in today's perception may have entered its pages or margins.
What is the way out:
The Conclusion of the Article offers the way out in these words: “there is a long-standing need to treat the Hadith corpus in its historical, regional and cultural perspective as a closed domain and to restructure the curriculum of traditional religious schools by displacing the Hadith and other theological disciplines with a focused study of the Qur’anic message, and the diverse branches of universal knowledge and art forms” .
Age Islam reader Mr. Attatapattu Swami has
posted some verses from the holy Quran probably paraphrasing from some Hindi
translation and some extremely obscene Hadees from Muslim and Bukhaari,
expressing his bafflement over such pornography in seemingly sacred books and
asked us to explain what does this mean. He thinks that we are an aiyyash,
lecherous, depraved community, a lecherous people as even our God allows us and
encourages us to engage in aiyyashi, licentiousness, depravity. These quotations
are too filthy to be allowed to be published. Or maybe in Hindi/Urdu they sound
more indecent than in English translations that I usually read.
Mr. Swami has given
references from too. I don’t need to check these references as I know that following
the wholesale massacre of Prophet’s family members, character assassination of
the Prophet was the favourite pastime of the Salafi Muslims of the first
generations of Islam, as it is today of the followers of Salafi Islam in the
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and beyond. Whatever evil they wanted to practice they
would ascribe that to the Prophet and invent a so-called Hadees, saying of the
Prophet, to justify that.
As I have said
before, we should not consider and treat people like Mr. Attatapattu Swami as
enemies of Islam. We have discussed this subject several times before. Mr.
Swami can search for the same using the site’s internal search engine using
keywords like Hadees and Hadith in both the article and comments sections.
I would also
request some writers, commentators, to post some links to articles on the site
or elsewhere explaining this phenomenon. And please do not come up with a
response, (though I will have to allow that too to be published as we do not censor
anything except offensive language and hateful expressions,) saying that such
and such sacred books of other religions too contain pornographic material. That
is no answer and we do not want us to get embroiled in an unnecessary
slanging match that serves no purpose at all.