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Islamic Personalities (01 May 2018 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Why Shah Waliullah’s Thesis should be Repudiated by Indian Muslims



By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam

01 May 2018

Shah Waliullah (1703-1762) is considered one of the foremost intellectual figures within the Islamic world and more so in the South Asian context. His intellectual imprint can be seen in all divisions within the sub-continental Islamic wetenschhaung: from the Barelwis to the Deobandis to the Ahle Hadees, all claim him to be their own. Within much of the literature produced on Shah Waliullah, he is considered a reformist par excellence. It is this legacy that the present article is considered about. I want to ask how his reformist ideas have panned out and whether his ideas have any value in relation to the question of diversity and pluralism. Specifically within the Indian context, I want to ask what relevance do his ideas have in the present context.

One of the first charges against Shah Waliullah is that he did not have the interest of India at heart. In trying to save the Mughals from the Marathas, he wrote to Ahmed Shah Abdali to invade India and save the Muslims here. Now, there is every possibility that one can read this act as an instance of pan-Islamism and national betrayal. But then, he is not the first or the only one to do so. We have many more such examples, where ‘foreign’ powers have been besieged by Indians, both Hindus and Muslims, to intervene for one reason or the other.

We also need to understand that the idea of nation was very feeble during the 18th century: the period in which Shah Waliullah was living. As such his call to the Afghans should not be seen as an anti-national act but rather to re-energise the supremacy of the Mughals, something which Shah Waliullah was committed to. However, it cannot be overlooked that Shah Waliullah was primarily looking at events around him through an Islamic lens. Moreover, he was convinced of the superiority of Islam over all other religious traditions. For him, the re-establishment of the supremacy of Islamic rule was a religious act and not a result of the tottering fate of an empire in India. His constant use of the word infidel to describe the Marathas and other Hindus only betrays the mind-set within which he was operating.

He was very categorical that Islam had to become the ruling dispensation of the world. And for this reason, he quite early understood the power of a centralised authority to enforce and establish Islamic regime. His notion of the caliphate therefore is central to his understanding of Islam: without the caliphate, Islam can never be enforced. Thus, rather than the caliphate being a moral compass, in Shah Waliullah, it becomes an agency in express service of Islam. Years later, Maududi would take the same concept forward and argue that the modern state was fundamentally important for the existence of Islam. For it was only through the agencies of the state that the Sharia could be implemented. Shah Waliullah would brook no opposition to the enforcement of Islam. Completely assured of the superiority of Islam, he would go on to argue that Islam had to be forced down the throat of the non-Muslims like a bitter pill. But for that to happen, leaders of non-Muslim communities who refused to accept Islam should be annihilated, the strength of that community reduced and their property confiscated.

Furthermore, when in position of strength, Muslim Imams should preach against the falsity of other religious traditions (read Hinduism). Other religious communities should be stopped from worshipping their Gods. And discriminatory social and political laws should be imposed on non-Muslims so that they are forced to convert to Islam. Clearly then, this Shah was writing from a position of power: assuming that Islam would be the dominant political force.

 However, he was also a realist and in the Indian context, he also had a solution for Islam in case the religion did not ascend to a dominant role which he really hoped for. In a context in which Muslims were to find themselves without the patronage of the state, they should strive to strengthen what Shah Waliullah called the Batini Khilafa (inner caliphate). This was necessarily a re-negotiation of Islam through a non-dominant position. Whereas in the Zahiri Khilafa (outer caliphate), he gave the ruler the absolute authority to enforce Islam as he deemed fit, within the Batini Khilafa, this role was to be played by the Ulema. Without the backing of political power, the Mullahs were to tread carefully but essentially the role ascribed to this class was the same: to become the custodian of Islam. More than anyone else, it was Shah Waliullah who gave a new lease of life to the Mullahs and thought of them as a political class. Much later, his ideas would be put into action by Gandhi who pandered to the Mullahs during the Khilafat agitation thus giving a legitimate political role to the Mullahs for the first time in Indian history.

But what were these custodians of inner caliphate supposed to do? The blueprint had already been given Shah Waliullah. He argued that Muslims had lost their prime political position because they had strayed from the true path of Islam. The rediscovery of this supposed true path lay through the study of Hadees.

Not surprising therefore that Shah Waliullah would popularise the study of Hadees within his intellectual circle. It is also not surprising that the prime mover of Waliuallahi though in the sub-continent was Deoband madrasa which is till today known for its Hadees studies. The politics behind this hermeneutical move towards Hadees was simple: it would provide the standard and the rationale through which the Islamic habitus will be created. In the absence of any law enforcing agency, Muslims were supposed to become embodied living Hadees themselves. The popularisation of Hadees studies would also serve another purpose for Shah Waliullah: it would rid the Muslims of the sub-continent of any trace of shared cultural and religious memory with other communities.

Thus more the knowledge of Hadees became embedded within the Muslim community, more the distance with other communities, particularly the Hindus. The Muslim must become puritan in order to relive the supposed lost glory of Islam. For this, purging itself of all accretions and all traces of syncretism was to become the sine qua non of Indian Muslims. As a political project, this tradition continues to this day through the activities of Deobandis, the Ahle Hadees and even the Barelwis. More than anything else, Shah Waliullah’s writings seem to be a fatal recipe for the political future of Muslims in India.  

Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-personalities/arshad-alam,-new-age-islam/why-shah-waliullah’s-thesis-should-be-repudiated-by-indian-muslims/d/115107

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  • Allah/God had decided to depute his Messenger to redeem the moral standard of human beings, which was composed of lakhs of social linguistic and ethnic groups.Countries were divided by Long range of Mountains and wide Seas. Could ONE MAN GUIDE THE ENTIRE POPULATION OF OUR EARTH ? The notion that Mohammed was the Messenger of God and his sent to guide the entire human beings ie all countries. One can believe Mohammed was sent to guide Arabs-but not the entire world.Such beliefs project God/ allah as simpleton.
    By dr.A.Anburaj - 6/1/2018 5:37:27 AM

  • The holy Quran was revealed only in Arabic language.

    By dr.A.Anburaj - 6/1/2018 5:30:39 AM

  • To Gulam Ghus Siddique.
    You showed the all grammatical need, other than it is hard to tell the intentions.
    Even keeping the word same meaning can be change, otherwise after 1400 year we will be still not discussing the word "Kafir"
    Words can be dragged into different meaning and applications.
    Whatever you tell but Quran is still producing it fruits in violent manner and endangering humans from it freedom of expression to freedom of worship, I am not intrested in repeated quotes and lines from Quran, lot had been said, it looks like hypocracy or blunt lie on face of non followers of Quran.

    By Aayina - 5/10/2018 9:32:28 PM

  • Ayina sb,

    The case is not similar to matter of the Quran. The Quran is still safe and true.

    But Why Hazrat Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) burnt the copies of the Quran that had dialects other than the Quraishi dialect? The answer is as follows;

    The holy Quran was revealed only in Arabic language. The Quran has only one original Arabic copy. Unlike today, the Arabic language had 7 dialects 1400 years ago.  There exists today one original copy of the Quran in Saudi Arabia today.  A copy of this original copy also exists in Turkey today as well.

    The Quran was revealed in Arabic, and in the Quraishi dialect.  The Quraishi dialect is the most proper Arabic dialect that properly uses the Arabic words without altering their sound.

    The Quraishi dialect was the most popular dialect in the Middle East at that time, and is today the dialect used among Arabs who speak Proper Arabic.  The dialect that books teach at schools is also a Quraishi dialect today.

    Back in the Middle East 1400 years ago, the Quraishi dialect was not the only one used among Arabs.  There existed 6 other dialects along with it, but as I said, it was the most popular.

    It is very important in the Islamic faith that when we recite the holy Quran, we recite it in the Quraishi dialect or what we call today in the proper Arabic.  We can't pronounce for instance "th" as "sa" or "za".  We can't pronounce "la" as "laman".  We can't pronounce "ja" and "ga", etc...

    There are no variances or missing parts in the holy Quran.  These are all false and baseless assumptions by some anti-Islamic elements.  The Arabic dialects had problems with each others, and that's why standardizing the holy Quran with its original Quraishi dialect was essential to keeping it as a perfect Holy Book:  For instance, take the letter "j".  Did you know that some Arabs don't pronounce the "j"?  They always pronounce it as "g" or "ga".

    Take "the" as another example.  Some Arabs also don't pronounce "the".  They pronounce it as "za".

    Another example, and this is an important one in my opinion, is that some Arabs used to have a dialect which originated from Yemen, where they would add "an" at the end of a noun. Take for instance the popular word of today "Taliban", as in the Taliban in Afghanistan.  "Taliban" is the same as the Arabic word "Talib" which means "Student".

    The Afghans today use the old Arabic dialect from Yemen which dates even older than 1400 years ago when the holy Quran was revealed.  Back then in Yemen, as I said, they used to add the word "an" for nouns.  So if they for instance wanted to refer to a stone "sakhr (in Arabic)", then they would refer to it as "sakhran", even though it would be written in Arabic as "sakhr".

    In Islam, properly reciting the Words of Allah Almighty is the way it must be practiced.  Otherwise, it would be considered a sin and disrespect toward Allah Almighty and the individual would be disobeying Allah Almighty and would gain bad deeds that will count against him in the Day of Judgment if he did it intentionally.

    By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي - 5/5/2018 3:51:59 AM

  • To Gulam Ghaus Siddiqi
    Important here is not there alteration of thought and fabrication, but people had accepted as truth, 
    This is similar case Where Muslims believes that  Quran is true even though it is well known fact that Uthman buried all original copies and created this one which you Muslims are never miss chance to tell that not a single word has been change.
    The case is sura Tuba is even exclusive(( which has given exclusive right to kill all non-Muslim), a sudden old man appear from some where to confirm that yes this ayat was there.
    I think Muslims are reaping for their own karma((( Sanchit Karma )))which they have committed by hiding the truth of compilation and burning of your Ture holy copies and replacing with political one.

    By Aayina - 5/5/2018 12:28:53 AM

  • It should be known that in the thought of Shah Waliullah, alterations and fabrications have been made in three ways; 1) the fake books have been referred to him, 2) fabrications in his famous books and 3) self-made interpretations in his thought.
    The grandson of Shah Rafiuddin and a publisher of Shah Waliullah’s books have mentioned two fake books referred to Shah Wali. These two books are Tuhfatul Muwahhedin and Al-Balagh al-mubin (Anfas al-Arifin, Matbua Ahmadi, Delhi) 
    By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi غلام غوث الصديقي - 5/2/2018 4:19:43 AM

  • I agree with Arshad sahib. Supremacism and exclusivism have no place in modern Islam. Equal respect for all belief systems should be the sine qua non of contemporary ethos.
    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/1/2018 1:11:04 PM

  • Your article provides a contextualised understanding of how Islam and it’s varied interpretations need to be reflected upon. What we require is an acceptance of
    pluralist ideas that create synergy for all religions to coexist. 

    By Meera - 5/1/2018 4:05:33 AM

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