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Islam and Pluralism (17 Dec 2008 NewAgeIslam.Com)



Indian Muslims: A wonderful model and challenge to the rest of humanity

Media silent as Indian Muslims forego holiday

By Marc Gopin

 

Washington, DC - Millions of Muslims across India decided to temper or even cancel festivities on their most cherished week of holy yearly celebrations, Eid al-Adha, which commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son in obedience to God and His mercy upon him as a result, in protest of violent acts committed in the name of Islam by the criminals who murdered so many in Mumbai.

 

According to a Times of India article, "They wore black ribbons, carried placards of peace, sent out emails and SMS's reiterating harmony and put up banners saluting those who died in the 26/11 terrorist attack.

 

Some Muslims even avoided festival purchases such as new clothes. From Chennai's Thousand Lights Mosque to Delhi's Jama Mosque, from the Khwaja Banda Nawaz Dargah (shrine) in Gulbarga to the mosques of Mumbai – Eid celebrations were subdued, in a symbolic declaration of Muslim protest against terrorism.

 

"At every shrine prayers were said for the grieving families in Mumbai. In the cities of Ajmer Sharief, Kaliyar Sharief (Uttarakhand) and Barabanki's Deva Sharief, communities came together burying their differences to focus on one thing: communal harmony. By showing our unity, we have spoilt the terrorists' Eid," said Qari Mohd Miya Mazhari, editor of the Urdu daily, Secular Qayadat.

 

"The festival of sacrifice also became a platform of protest both for celebrities as well as ordinary citizens.

 

"In Mumbai, actor-director Aamir Khan wore a black band on his arm. So did Jab We Met director Imtiaz Ali, lyricist Javed Akhtar and his actor-director son, Farhan Akhtar. A news agency reported that other Bollywood biggies such as Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan too preferred to stay away from the festivities."

 

This is an act of solidarity with the victims – Hindu, Jew, Muslim, and Christian alike – and this despite the fact that the prejudice and structural injustice that Indian Muslims experience is widespread and systemic. I have always sensed from my readings and studies that Indian Islam, the religion of one of the largest Muslim communities in the world, has always articulated a deeply ethical form of Islam. It historically has been a model to the world of a minority community asserting its identity and simultaneously arguing for a strongly non-violent ethic of religiosity.

 

Why does the world ignore millions of good simple people when they stand up for non-violence but keep everyone riveted when 20 or so criminals hijack a city? More importantly why is a hijacking a "Muslim event" but not the peaceful protests and statements of solidarity with Hindu victims of millions of people?

 

We cannot have a deep understanding of the problems facing humanity if this prejudice against peaceful expressions of religion goes on in the media. I know that "if it bleeds it leads" in the media, but the lack of attention to the majority who are peaceful is creating at least as much bleeding as the acts of terrorism.

 

The three Abrahamic religions share a story of Abraham and his son being prepared to offer the greatest sacrifice to God, and this Muslim holiday celebrates God's response to such devotion. I say what I am about to say in protest against the haters in our midst: I am grateful that God saved this son of Abraham so that a great culture, civilisation and religion could be born, a culture and civilisation of the Arab and Muslim world.

 

And I refuse to join the haters in my midst who look at these sad brainwashed criminals of the Mumbai attack and say, "They are the flower of Islam". They are no more the flower of Islam than Timothy McVeigh and his Christian Identity Movement, or the Ku Klux Klan and their burning Christian crosses, are the flower of Christianity.

 

Crime is crime, and we must honour the millions of Indian Muslims today who are surrendering their holiday spirit in solidarity with the innocent.

 

What a wonderful model and challenge to the rest of humanity.

 

###

*Dr. Marc Gopin is the director of George Mason University's Centre for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution, and author of <www.marcgopin.com. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

16 December 2008, <www.commongroundnews.org>

Copyright permission is granted for publication at NewAgeIslam.com.

***

 

 

'All should wear black bands to denounce Mumbai carnage'


On the occasion of Bakr-Eid Tuesday, Muslim film personalities will show their solidarity towards the Mumbai terror victims by wearing black bands and stress that terrorism has no place in Islam. But some feel that all Indians, irrespective of their religion, should adopt the symbolic gesture.

 

Farhan Akhtar: My request is that all Indians should wear a black band regardless of their religion and community to show terrorists and those who try and exploit this situation in the upcoming elections that their tactics to divide us will no longer work.

 

Irrfan Khan: Yes, I will wear the black band to send out the message that terrorists are the enemies of Islam. And they cannot divide Indians in the name of religion.

 

Naseeruddin Shah: The trouble with these symbolic gestures is you feel you've done your bit. We should hold on to this feeling of dissatisfaction and helplessness so that we are galvanised into action. Muslims feel obliged to take up token gestures to distance themselves from the terrorists behind the 26/11 horror. But why are Indian Muslims perpetually required to prove their patriotism?

 

Shabana Azmi: I'll most definitely wear the black band and urge all Indians to do so.

 

Iqbal Khan: Yes, I'll be wearing the black band to show that there is nothing called Islamic terrorism. I'm a Muslim and I know for a fact that Islam does not have anything to do with terrorism.

 

Anees Bazmi: Surely I'd be wearing a black band. Terrorism has no place in Islam.

 

Kabir Khan: Terrorists have no religion and this is something any thinking person would easily understand. I'm a little uncomfortable with the thought that Indian Muslims have to go that extra mile to prove their allegiance with tokens of protest like the black band. Why just Muslims? Every Indian should be wearing black bands on the same day so that all of us can stand and be counted as one nation. This would be a befitting reply to those failed nations that were created on the basis of religion. The media should give us space to condemn these madmen who have hijacked Islam with their lunatic interpretations.

 

Abbas Tyrewala: Yes, I'll be wearing a black armband. No clever or quotable reason for it. Just as a mark of support, solidarity and love for my city and community. And to show my rejection of violence in the name of religion, not just Islam.

 

Adnan Sami: Sorry, I won't wear the black band. These gestures are meaningless and cannot undo the ghastly tragedy that has fallen over our beloved city. Pardon me for saying this, but I think lighting of candles, etc is all humbug. Where was the state security when our Mumbaikars were being mowed down? We were calling the Black Cats from Delhi! Why don't we have our own Black Cats in Mumbai? After all it is the financial capital of India. What difference is a black band going to make? Will it resurrect the dead? My heart bleeds for all those who died because of these barbaric brutal misguided fools who crept in from sea to drown us in shame and sorrow.

 

Dia Mirza: Of course, I will wear a black band. It will give out a token signal against polarisation in the nation. It is important for the Muslim community to speak up at this time and protest against acts of terror.

 

Zoya Akhtar: Yes, I will and I hope all Indians and not just the Muslims, do so.

 

Imtiaz Ali: Yes, the black band will symbolise that disease that has hit the Muslim population-terrorism and mainstream Muslim's resolve to get rid of it.

 

Amna Sharif: First of all there's nothing to celebrate. And yes, I'd wear a black band on an auspicious day like Bakr-Eid, but not only as a Muslim, but also as an Indian. All of us should stand united against the brutal terrorists who are enemies of humanity and peace.

 

Zayed Khan: I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with all my brothers and sisters from every religion against the evil and cowardly act. I will wear the black band on Bakr-Eid and urge every Muslim who loves India as much as I do to do the same. We must send out a clear and strong message to the perpetrators of this ghastly act that they can never ever win.

Indo-Asian News Service

Mumbai, December 09, 2008


URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-pluralism/indian-muslims--a-wonderful-model-and-challenge-to-the-rest-of-humanity/d/1056





TOTAL COMMENTS:-   2


  • RE: Photo caption: Film Star Shabana Azmi: I'll most definitely wear the black band and urge all Indians to do.

     

     

    A historian sans blinkers

     

    The late scholar and historian, Dr. Bishambhar Nath Pande’s research efforts exploded myths on Aurangzeb’s rule. They also offer an excellent example of what history has to teach us if only we study it dispassionately.

     

    The Muslim rule in India lasted for almost 1,000 years. How come then, asked the British historian Sir Henry Elliot, that Hindus “had not left any account which could enable us to gauge the traumatic impact the Muslim conquest and rule had on them?” Since there was none, Elliot went on to produce his own eight–volume History of India from with contributions from British historians (1867). His history claimed Hindus were slain for disputing with ‘Muhammedans’, generally prohibited from worshipping and taking out religious processions, their idols were mutilated, their temples destroyed, they were forced into conversions and marriages, and were killed and massacred by drunk Muslim tyrants. Thus Sir Henry, and scores of other Empire scholars, went on to produce a synthetic Hindu versus Muslim history of India, and their lies became history.

     

    However, the noted Indian scholar and historian, Dr Bishambhar Nath Pande, who passed away in New Delhi on June 1, 1998, ranked among the very few Indians and fewer still Hindu historians who tried to be a little careful when dealing with such history. He knew that this history was ‘originally compiled by European writers’ whose main objective was to produce a history that would serve their policy of divide and rule.

     

    Lord Curzon (Governor General of India 1895–99 and Viceroy 1899–1904 (d.1925) was told by the Secretary of State for India, George Francis Hamilton, that they should “so plan the educational text books that the differences between community and community are further strengthened”.

     

    Another Viceroy, Lord Dufferin (1884–88), was advised by the Secretary of State in London that the “division of religious feelings is greatly to our advantage”, and that he expected “some good as a result of your committee of inquiry on Indian education and on teaching material”.

     

    “We have maintained our power in India by playing–off one part against the other”, the Secretary of State for India reminded yet another Viceroy, Lord Elgin (1862–63), “and we must continue to do so. Do all you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling.”

     

    In his famous Khuda Bakhsh Annual Lecture (1985) Dr Pande said: “Thus under a definite policy the Indian history text–books were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval (i.e., Muslim) period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Muslim rule. And there were no common factors (between Hindus and Muslims) in social, political and economic life.”

     

    Therefore, Dr. Pande was extra careful. Whenever he came across a ‘fact’ that looked odd to him, he would try to check and verify rather than adopt it uncritically.

     

    He came across a history textbook taught in the Anglo–Bengali College, Allahabad, which claimed that “three thousand Brahmins had committed suicide as Tipu wanted to convert them forcibly into the fold of Islam”. The author was a very famous scholar, Dr Har Prashad Shastri, head of the department of Sanskrit at Calcutta University. (Tipu Sultan (1750–99), who ruled over the South Indian state of Mysore (1782–99), is one of the most heroic figures in Indian history. He died on the battlefield, fighting the British.)

     

    Was it true? Dr Pande wrote immediately to the author and asked him for the source on which he had based this episode in his text–book. After several reminders, Dr Shastri replied that he had taken this information from the Mysore Gazetteer. So Dr. Pande requested the Mysore University vice–chancellor, Sir Brijendra Nath Seal, to verify for him Dr Shastri’s statement from the Gazetteer. Sir Brijendra referred his letter to Prof. Srikantia who was then working on a new edition of the Gazetteer.

     

    Srikantia wrote to say that the Gazetteer mentioned no such incident and, as a historian himself, he was certain that nothing like this had taken place. Prof Srikantia added that both the prime minister and the commander–in–chief of Tipu Sultan were themselves Brahmins. He also enclosed a list of 136 Hindu temples which used to receive annual grants from the Sultan’s treasury.

     

    It transpired that Shastri had lifted this story from Colonel Miles’ History of Mysore which Miles claimed he had taken from a Persian manuscript in the personal library of Queen Victoria. When Dr. Pande checked further, he found that no such manuscript existed in Queen Victoria’s library. Yet Dr. Shastri’s book was being used as a high school history text–book in seven Indian states, Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. So he sent his entire correspondence about the book to the vice–chancellor of Calcutta University, Sir Ashutosh Chaudhary. Sir Ashutosh promptly ordered Shashtri’s book out of the course. Yet years later, in 1972, Dr. Pande was surprised to discover the same suicide story was still being taught as ‘history’ in junior high schools in Uttar Pradesh. The lie had found currency as a fact of history.

     

    The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (born 1618, reigned 1658–1707) is the most reviled of all Muslim rulers in India. He was supposed to be a great destroyer of temples and oppressor of Hindus, and a ‘fundamentalist’ too! As chairman of the Allahabad Municipality (1948–’53), Dr. Pande had to deal with a land dispute between two temple priests. One of them had filed in evidence some firmans (royal orders) to prove that Aurangzeb had, besides cash, gifted the land in question for the maintenance of his temple. Might they not be fake, Dr. Pande thought, in view of Aurangzeb’s fanatically anti–Hindu image? He showed them to his friend, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, a distinguished lawyer as well a great scholar of Arabic and Persian. He was also a Brahmin. Sapru examined the documents and declared they were genuine firmans issued by Aurangzeb.

     

    For Dr. Pande this was a ‘new image of Aurangzeb’; so he wrote to the chief priests of the various important temples, all over the country, requesting photocopies of any firman issued by Aurangzeb that they may have in their possession. The response was overwhelming; he got firmans from several principal Hindu and Jain temples, even from Sikh Gurudwaras in northern India. These firmans, issued between 1659 and 1685, related to grant of jagir (large parcel of agricultural lands) to support regular maintenance of these places of worship.

     

    Dr Pande’s research showed that Aurangzeb was as solicitous of the rights and welfare of his non–Muslim subjects as he was of his Muslim subjects. Hindu plaintiffs received full justice against their Muslims respondents and, if guilty, Muslims were given punishment as necessary. 

     

    One of the greatest charges against Aurangzeb is of the demolition of Vishwanath temple in Banaras (Varanasi). That was a fact, but Dr. Pande unraveled the reason for it. “While Aurangzeb was passing near Varanasi on his way to Bengal, the Hindu Rajas in his retinue requested that if the halt was made for a day, their Ranis may go to Varanasi, have a dip in the Ganges and pay their homage to Lord Vishwanath. Aurangzeb readily agreed. 

     

    “Army pickets were posted on the five mile route to Varanasi. The Ranis made journey on the palkis (palanquins). They took their dip in the Ganges and went to the Vishwanath temple to pay their homage. After offering puja (worship) all the Ranis returned except one, the Maharani of Kutch. A thorough search was made of the temple precincts but the Rani was to be found nowhere.

     

    “When Aurangzeb came to know of this, he was very much enraged. He sent his senior officers to search for the Rani. Ultimately they found that statue of Ganesh (the elephant–headed god which was fixed in the wall was a moveable one. When the statue was moved, they saw a flight of stairs that led to the basement. To their horror they found the missing Rani dishonoured and crying deprived of all her ornaments. The basement was just beneath Lord Vishwanath’s seat.”

     

    The Rajas demanded salutary action, and “Aurangzeb ordered that as the sacred precincts have been despoiled, Lord Vishwanath may be moved to some other place, the temple be razed to the ground and the Mahant (head priest) be arrested and punished”. (B. N. Pande, Islam and Indian Culture, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 1987). 

     

    Dr. Pande believed in the innate goodness of human nature. Despite all that senseless hate and periodical outbreak of anti–Muslim violence after independence, he remained an optimist. When one of the worst riots took place in 1969 in Ahmedabad, in which more than 2,000 Muslims were killed and 6,000 houses burnt, Dr. Pande travelled there to see whether there was “any humanity still alive”. 

     

    Yes, it was in one locality, Mewabhai Chaal, where he found that all the houses had been burnt down. Did they all belong to Muslims? No. Only 35 belonged to Muslims; some 125 belonged to Hindus, he was told. So, it meant, the arsonists came in two different waves; one destroying the Muslim houses and the other the Hindu houses? No, it was only one wave, said Kalyan Singh. That one, there, he pointed out to smoke billowing from what used to be his house and his tyre-shop. He was a Hindu and he had lost property and business worth 200,000 rupees. The miscreants had asked him to point out the Muslim houses so they could spare the Hindu houses. Kalyan Singh refused, and watched as the mob set fire to all the houses – including his own. How could I betray my Muslim neighbours? he asked Dr. Pande rhetorically. 

     

    Dr. Pande also went to the Muslim students’ hostel. One–third of its residents were Hindus. “Come out all you Hindu students,” yelled a murderous mob gathered outside the hostel. No, we won’t, shouted back the Hindu students and locked the gate from inside. In the event, the entire hostel was evacuated by the army and then left to the mob to loot and burn. The Hindu students were told they could take with them their books and research papers. Dr. Pande met a young DSc scholar, named Desai, who had left behind his more than three years’ labour, a ready–for–typing dissertation, to be burnt by the arsonists. Desai said he couldn’t think of saving his thesis while some of his Muslim friends were in similar position with their theses. A noble soul! Dr. Pande who had been looking for humanity found it there as well.

     

    The inhumanity did not lie in the Indian nature, but the nature had fallen victim to the evil heritage of colonial history. Few realised how 1,000 years of their history had been stolen from them. Many tended to buy the fake and doctored version handed down to them as part of their colonial heritage. Some even saw a little political advantage in this trade. Dr. Pande heard a leading Hindu Mahasabha politician and religious leader, Mahant Digvijaynath, telling an election meeting that it is written in the Qur’an that killing a Hindu was an act of goodness (thawab). Dr. Pande called upon the Mahant (High Priest) and told him that he had read the Qur’an a few ti mes but didn’t find such a statement in it, and he had, therefore, brought with him several English, Urdu and Hindi translations of the Qur’an; so would he kindly point to him where exactly did the statement occur in the Qur’an? 

     

    Isn’t it written there? said the Mahant. I haven’t found it; if you have, please tell me, replied Dr. Pande. Then what does it say? It speaks about love and brotherhood, about the oneness of mankind.

     

    What’s jihad then? What is jizyah? How then India got partitioned? The Mahant went on asking, and Dr. Pande kept on explaining, hoping the Mahant would correct himself. 

     

    However, the Mahant’s ideas were fixed, in prejudice and in ignorance. Dr. Pande himself had been a senior member of the ruling Congress party which he had joined at a very young age. He was a disciple of Gandhi, a friend of Nehru; he had taken part in each and every non–cooperation movement against the British and gone to jail eight times. The Congress was supposed to be an all–Indian nationalist platform and yet Dr. Pande’s party was hardly free from the bias and ignorance of a cleverly deconstructed history. The rise of militant Hindutva tendency is only recent, but before it all became overt, the Congress itself was doing the same, albeit a little covertly. All the horrific anti–Muslim carnage took place during more than four decades of Congress rule. The doors of the Babri Mosque were opened for Hindu worship during the tenure of Nehru’s grandson, Rajiv Gandhi. The Mosque itself was pulled down during the regime of another Congress Prime Minister, P. V. Narasimha Rao.  Dr. Pande was, however, just one individual. That made his work all the more important, not just from the Muslim but from the point of view of the entire country. India’s deconstructed history is like a time bomb; unless it is defused, India cannot survive in one piece. Not for very long. 

     

    (Bishambhar Nath Pande born on 23 December 1906 in Madhya Pradesh of Umreth; member UP Legislative Assembly (1952–53); member UP Legislative Council (1972–74); twice member of the Rajya Sabha (1976 and 1982); governor of Orissa state (1983–88); recipient of Padma Shri (1976); author of several books, including The Spirit of India and The Concise History of Congress; died in New Delhi on June 1, 1998).    

       

    (Courtesy: Impact International, London, Vol 28, July 1998).


    By Aamir Mughal -



  • Muslims of India

    Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (India's Prime Minsiter 1947-64) in ‘The Discovery of India,’ 1946, p. 218, 225.

     

    “The coming of Islam and of a considerable number of people from outside with different ways of living and thought affected these beliefs and structure. A foreign conquest, with all its evils, has one advantage: it widens the mental horizon of the people and compels them to look out of their shells. They realize that the world is a much bigger and a more variegated place than they had imagined. So the Afghan conquest had affected India and many changes had taken place. Even more so the Moghals, who were far more cultured and advanced in the ways of living than the Afghans, brought changes to India. In particular, they introduced the refinements for which Iran was famous.”

     

    Dr. Pattabhi Sitaramayya, Presidential Address to the Fifty-fifth Session of the Indian Congress, Jaipur, 1948.

     

    “(The Muslims had) enriched our culture, strengthened our administration, and brought near distant parts of the country... It (the Muslim Period) touched deeply the social life and the literature of the land.”

     

     

    N.S. Mehta, in 'Islam and the Indian Civilization,'

     

    “Islam had brought to India a luminous torch which rescued humanity from darkness at a time when old civilizations were on the decline and lofty moral ideals had got reduced to empty intellectual concepts. As in other lands, so in India too, the conquests of Islam were more widespread in the world of thought than in the world of politics. Today, also, the Islamic World is a spiritual brotherhood which is held together by community of faith in the Oneness of God and human equality. Unfortunately, the history of Islam in this country remained tied up for centuries with that of government with the result that a veil was cast over its true spirit, and its fruits and blessings were hidden from the popular eye.”

     

     

    Dr. Gustav le Bon in 'Les Civilisations de L'Inde'

     

    "There does not exist a history of ancient India. Their books contain no historical data whatever, except for a few religious books in which historical information is buried under a heap of parables and folk-lore, and their buildings and other monuments also do nothing to fill the void for the oldest among them do not go beyond the third century B.C. To discover facts about India of the ancient times is as difficult a task as the discovery of the island of Atlantis, which, according to Plato, was destroyed due to the changes of the earth... The historical phase of India began with the Muslim invasion. Muslims were India's first historians."

     

     

    Sir William Digby in 'Prosperous India: A Revelation,' p. 30.

     

    "England's industrial supremacy owes its origin to the vast hoards of Bengal and the Karnatik being made available for her use....Before Plassey was fought and won, and before the stream of treasure began to flow to England, the industries of our country were at a very low ebb."

     

    Brooks Adams in 'The Law of Civilization and Decay,' London, 1898, pp. 313-17.

     

    "Very soon after Plassey the Bengal plunder began to arrive in London, and the effect appears to have been instantaneous, for all authorities agree that the Industrial Revolution, the event that has divided the l9th century from all antecedent time, began with the year 1760....Plassey was fought in 1757, and probably nothing has ever equaled the rapidity of the change which followed....In themselves inventions are passive, many of the most important having laid dormant for centuries, waiting for a sufficient store of force to have accumulated to have set them working. That store must always take the shape of money, and money not hoarded, but in motion.  "...Before the influx of the Indian treasure, and the expansion of credit which followed, no force sufficient for this purpose existed...."

     

    Muslim Legacy In India :: Do Muslims Deserve The Hatred Of Hindus? :: by Javeed Akhter (Tuesday November 25 2003)

    "Hope for a better and peaceful future for all those who live in the sub-continent does not lie in the rise of a charismatic leader who would lead all communities to utopia. The era of heroes is past."

    The violence against committed Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 was in some ways a continuum of the periodic riots that have gone on for decades. In other ways it was a watershed event. The level of violence against women and families reached horrific proportions never seen before. The ruling party in Gujarat planned and carried out the violence with the active support and connivance of the government and the law. The mobs that perpetrated apocalyptic violence against Muslims were taunting their victims by calling them “Babur ki aulad” that is progeny of the Mughal emperor Babur. The implication in their mind was clearly that Muslims are the descendants of brutal foreign invaders and need to be thrown out of India. Their understanding of the Muslim legacy in India is similar to that of an occasional historian.

    For example the noted historian Will Durant notes in his book the “Story of Civilization”, “The Mohammadan
    conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precarious thing, whose delicate complex of order and liberty, culture and peace may at any time be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying with in.”

    His assessment of Muslim history is shockingly negative!

    On the other hand, Jadu Nath Sarkar, a Hindu historian, comes to a diametrically opposite assessment of Muslim legacy. He feels India reached new heights of civilization during the Muslim rule. Some of the benefits of Muslim rule that he assesses include, internal peace over a long period of time, uniformity of administration, uniformity of social manner and dress irrespective of creed, common lingua franca, rise of vernacular literature, monotheistic religious revival, rise of mysticism (Sufism) and a general improvement in civilization.

    He lists no significant negatives!

    Where does the truth lie? What is a factual and fair assessment of Muslim legacy in India? Is it possible to attempt an analysis in an unbiased manner? For me the answer is clear. Muslims have to analyze their past with honesty. If Muslims have to learn from the past they have no choice but to look at their legacy in an objective manner and let the conclusions fall where they may. Truth is cathartic as it liberates one’s soul and may lead to reconciliation with the past and lead to a peaceful future.

    The First Muslim In India Wasn’t Babur

    The murderous mobs of Gujarat who were screaming, “Babur’s progeny, go away to Pakistan or die” were wrong on one fundamental historical fact. Muslims came to India long before Babur. The first Muslims in India were traders. The Malabar Muslims, on the west coast of India, are the descendants of Arab traders who may have arrived in India in the late 7th or early 8th century.

    The first Muslim military incursion carried out by Muhammad Bin Qasim also in the 8th century CE was a rescue mission. Muslims could be called Qasim’s progeny. A ship carrying widows and children of Arab traders that had died in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) ran aground at Debul near the modern city of Karachi in Pakistan. Dahir a Hindu ruler of the area known today as Sind took them captive. The first two expeditions sent to free these Muslim women and children failed. The armies were decimated by heat, exhaustion and scurvy. The soldiers in the third expedition soaked cotton with vinegar to suck on as a brilliant prophylaxis against scurvy. This third expedition was lead by Muhammad bin Qasim who defeated Dahir and captured the city of Brahmanabad. He ruled over Sind for only two years between 712 and 714. When Hajjaj, Muhammad Bin Qasim’s father-in-law and a notoriously brutal governor of Iraq died, the new governor took revenge against all who were close to Hajjaj. Muhammad bin Qasim was recalled from Sind imprisoned and tortured to death.

    Muhammad bin Qasim’s incursion into India was to free captives followed failed attempts to resolve the issue
    without force. Even by modern international law it might be considered justifiable and even noble. It succeeded partly because Dahir was an unpopular Hindu king that ruled over a Buddhist majority. Buddhists
    all over India were being simultaneously assimilated and persecuted by Hindus. Muhammad bin Qasim was noted to be humane and considerate. A contemporary historian Baldhuri records that when Qasim was recalled, “people of Hind wept for Qasim and preserved his likeness at Karaj”. Another contemporary record the “Chach-nama” notes the following highlights of Qasim’s rule. He permitted all to practice their religion freely, Hindus were included in the “ashabul kitab” (people of the book) category and the status of Dhimmis (protected people) was conferred upon them. Property destroyed during hostilities was compensated. As a sign of respect to his Hindu populace an edict was issued banning cow slaughter in Sind and Multan.

    Muslim rulers who followed Muhammed bin Qasim did not distinguish themselves in any way. Dahir’s son Jaisimha who had obviously converted to Islam for expediency recanted. Multan was taken over by Ismailis. They destroyed an old and historic temple in Multan that bin Qasim had protected and built a mosque in its place.

    For the next three hundred years there was no further extension of the Muslim rule in India. In fact there was a gradual erosion of control till the first group of Turks/Afghans arrived in the late 10th century.

    India of the 8th century was not a nation state

    Another myth about India of the seventh century is that it was a unified whole, a nation state, living in peace. In fact it was a divided country. The two major religions Hinduism and Buddhism were at loggerheads
    with Buddhism losing ground fast. The caste system, against which Buddhism came as a reaction, was well entrenched and unshaken. There was no sense of India as a nation state. The South was far removed from the
    North culturally and in the languages it spoke. To an outsider India must have looked like a fractured country with permanent civil strife, an easy target for ethnic Turks that ruled neighboring Afghanistan.

    The Sacking of the Temple at Somnath

    Subuktigin a Turkish slave becomes the first king of the Ghazni dynasty in an area of Afghanistan contiguous with India. Historians note friction with the neighboring Hindu king. Jaipal who defeats Subuktigin but in turn is defeated by Subuktigin’s more active son Mahmud. There is resentment against this Afghan/Muslim invader who returns to India more than once. Hindu women sell their ornaments to help with the war effort. Nevertheless Mahmud is victorious. After defeating the Hindu king Mahmud makes deep forays into India. The most dramatic is the sacking of the temple at Somnath in Gujarat. This attack on Somnath takes two years of planning and great tenacity. The purpose is to plunder the jewels and other treasures the temple is known for. This act appears to be motivated by greed rather than by religious zeal. The argument that Mahmud’s actions were motivated by desire for personal aggrandizement rather religion is supported by the fact that he had many Hindu officers and men in his army as a counter weight to his Muslim enemies. These Hindu officers are used to suppress a Muslim revolt in Sistan. His army massacres Muslim rebels in a Mosque in Zarang. On another occasion his army kills Christians in their church proving that he was an equal opportunity tyrant.

    One of the scholars Mhamud patronizes is the well-known historian al-Biruni who makes the following observations that give an insight into the times. Writing about Mahmud he says, “He ruined the prosperity of the country and performed wonderful exploits by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions. Those scattered cherish of course the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason why Hindu sciences have retired to far away places like Kashmir and Benares”. About Hindus he writes, “They had many philosophers, mathematicians and astrologers. They behaved as if there was no country like theirs, no nation, no kings, no religion----. They were haughty, self conceited, foolish and stolid. They withhold themselves from men from another caste and of course from any foreigner.”

    In addition to the inveterate aversion that resulted from the invasion the sacking of the temple at Somnath has left a deep and abiding scar on Hindu psyche and Mahmud of Ghazna has become a symbol of the Muslim invader. In the broader context of Muslim legacy in India he was an aberration. Moreover Mahmud’s legacy is complex and contradictory. In Afghanistan he is known for his patronage of arts and literature. The
    historian Gibbon assesses Mahmud as “a brave and resourceful general and a cultured monarch”. He was in
    the tradition of kings like Alexander and was motivated by desire for power and personal glory. His wars were not waged for the glory of Islam or motivated by Islamic principles. Nevertheless, in the Hindu psyche, he remains a potent symbol of the Muslim invader because of his attacks on the Somnath temple.

    Many peaceful contacts between Hindus and Muslims occurred during this era. Caravans traveled regularly
    between Khurasan and Hind. Muslim communities sprang up even in Benares and Kashmir.  Mahmud’s successors established a more liberal pattern of dealing with their Hindu subjects. There were 150 years of respite. This initial Muslim rule by Turks/Afghans gave way to the curious “slave dynasty” that lasted a hundred years.

    The Slaves Who Would Be Kings

    The slave dynasty owes its origins to Shihabuddin Ghauri (1175). He was an adventurer who established control over northern India. He is known for the legendary battles with the last important Hindu king Prithviraj Chauhan of Ajmer. In the first battle Chauhan defeated and nearly killed Ghauri. However there was return engagement in which Chauhan was killed. Chauhan has grown in modern mythology as the last defender of the Hindu motherland when in fact Ghauri had the support of many Hindu Rajas. Moreover Shihabuddin Ghauri was known for his tolerance of other faiths and traditions. He was a prudent leader and wisely made Chauhan’s son the governor of Ajmer. Ghauri did not have any sons himself but owned a large number of slaves that he raised as his own children. One of his slaves succeeded him and started the “slave dynasty”. This is one of two dynasties of slaves in the Muslim history. The other held sway in Egypt. This startling phenomenon of slave kings, the ultimate contradiction, speaks volumes to how slaves were treated in Muslim societies. Can one imagine Roman slaves ascending to the throne peacefully and with the consent of their masters?

    Two of the slave kings deserve special mention. Qutubuddin Aibak who was lovingly called Lakh Baksh (Giver of, Lakhs, hundreds of thousands) was known for his open handed generosity. He was not interested in conquests and pursued a policy of reconciliation. He was a patron of letters and built two magnificent mosques one in Delhi and the other in Ajmer. Qutubuddin Aibak’s successor Shamsuddin Iltutmish was an even more endearing personality. He would refuse to sit on the throne preferring instead to stand in the same row as his nobles. He often stated that he was one among many equals and indeed treated his peers as equals. He consolidated the dominions under his control. Hindus continued to enjoy the “Dhimi” (term used for protected subject in a Muslim state) status. He was a god-conscious pious man. He built the Qutub Minar, one of the tallest towers of its time in Delhi in the memory of the Sufi Qutubudin Bakhtiyar Kaki. His daughter Razia Sultan was highly educated and groomed for assuming the throne that she did briefly after his death. Razia remains the only Muslim woman ruler in Indian history and possibly only one of two female sovereigns, the other was the Queen of Jhansi, till the prime minister ship of Indira Gandhi in modern India.

    Up to this point in history there is no evidence of any significant spread of Islam in India

    The Unintentional Byproduct Of Changez (Gingis) Khan’s Invasion Of Baghdad. The Flight Of Muslim Mystics To India And The Spread Of Islam

    Illtutmish ruled when Changez (Gengis) Khan’s armies were ravaging Baghdad in modern day Iraq. Many refugees, that included scholars, artisans and the Sufis, fled east to India. This arguably had a greater impact on India than all of the Muslim invasions.

    “Thousands of Muslim theologians, Sufi saints and missionaries migrated to India to escape Mongol terror. The devastation of Khurasan was to the benefit of India.” Historians Edward Maclagan and Quanungo both conclude that the spread of Islam was largely the work of Muslim Sufis. Quanungo writes that in Bengal during the Balaban’s regime “saints of Islam excelled the Hindu priesthood in acts of piety and foresight and started proselytizing on a wide scale by the fervor of their faith and exemplary character. They lived and preached among the low class Hindus”. This moral and religious conquest followed the military and political conquest by about a century. Muslim “Khanqahs” (fraternities) rose in every corner of India with many set up by design outside the boundaries of a Muslim state.

    Historically the Sufi dynasties have had a profound and long lasting impact on Indian history. Two of the more important Sufi dynasties are the Suhurwardi in Multan that is now part of Pakistan and the Chishti in Ajmer, Rajhastan. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti the founder of the Chishti sisila (continuum) knew neither the local languages nor was he conversant with local customs. Yet he was able to set his Khankhah (monastery) literally in the middle of nowhere, under the shadow of hostile Hindu king, and successfully spread Islam. He is known for his charisma, piety, simple living and love for the weak and poor of the society. One of the techniques he employed in spreading Islam was the use of Sama (spiritual music) that has survived as the art form known as the Qawwali (devotional music of the Muslim mystics).

    Early 14th century was more remarkable for great advances in culture. The Sufi Nizamuddin Auliya and his brilliant disciple Amir Khusro were making waves. Urdu as a language was born, Sitar was invented, many new Ragas (musical scores) were written and there was a general efflorescence of art. The relations between Hindus and Muslims were in general peaceful and productive.

    The Jizya Tax. Permitted But Imprudent

    Jizya (tax imposed on the protected subjects) looms large in Hindu history as an unfair tax imposed by the ruling Muslims on their populace. It was considered humiliating by those who were forced to pay it. It is also evident that Muslim rulers were ambivalent about its imposition. Firoz Shah Tughlaq imposed it and Sikander Lodhi abolished it. Akbar and other Mughals did not use it but Aurangzeb did. The Jizya controversy existed long before Aurangzeb although is associated mostly with him. For some rulers the motivation for imposing this tax was religious and for others monetary.

    A Jizya like tax is neither a new concept nor is it exclusive to Islam. Romans had a tax on all non-citizens; the Persians levied a capitation tax that they called “gezit”; the French called it “host tax” and the Germans “common penny”. In England it went by two different names, “scotage” and “victual money”. The Qur’an allows its use in a revelation at the beginning of the Madinah period of Prophet Muhammad’s mission.

    Fight those who believe not in Allah or the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission --. (Qur’an. 9:29)

    Once the hostilities ceased Jizya was to be levied for the purpose of protection of life and property of the population under occupation. It was levied at four different levels. Rich paid four dinars per annum, the middle class two per annum and the poor one per annum. Women and children were exempt. As the Muslim invasion and rule of India did not have the same motivation as the early Muslim conquests, the rationale for Jizya wasn’t as clearly defined. Jizya tax clearly did more harm than good to Muslim Hindu relations and a prudent ruler would have avoided using it.

    The Schizophrenic Record Of Human Rights Under Muslim Rule

    Although arbitrary it is practical to analyze Muslim rule in two sections as before the Mughal period and the Mughal period itself. There were numerous Muslim kings that ruled before the Mughals for about 700 years. They had differing personalities and their record on human rights was as different as their personalities. Iltutmush was an exemplary ruler and human being and his successor Balban was the total opposite, brutal and ruthless. Sometimes the same individual displayed schizophrenic behavior. The well-known historian Ibn Batuta writes that Muhammad Tughlaq was on the one hand an intellectual who enjoyed the company of philosophers and artists and also one of the worst abusers of human rights. “His gate was hardly free from the corpse of a man who had been executed”. No one including Muslims was spared. “Every day hundreds of people were brought with hands fastened to the neck and feet in shackles. Some were killed, some were tortured and others beaten.” His son Firoz Tughlaq, was horrified by this and without naming his father writes “In the reign of former kings the blood of many Musalmans has been shed and many varieties of torture employed. Amputations of hands, feet, ears and noses, tearing out of eyes, poring molten lead into the throat, crushing the bones of hands and feet with mallets, burning the body with fire, driving iron nails into the hands feet and bosom and cutting the sinews sawing men asunder. These and many similar tortures were practiced. The great and merciful God made me his servant hope and seek for mercy by devoting myself to the prevention of unlawful killings of Musalmans and the infliction of any kind of torture upon them or upon any man”. The God conscious among the Muslim kings had a better human rights record. Those that followed the old Roman or Persian model of the emperor were the worst abusers of human rights.

    The Differential Impact Of Muslim Invasion On Various Castes

    A few general conclusions may be drawn form the study of contemporary accounts by historians on the impact of Muslim rule on various castes in India. During invasions and military operations Hindus suffered loss of life and property. Loss of sovereignty affected mostly the two higher castes the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas. Even those who were given exalted positions in the state regarded their patrons as malechas (impure).

    The famous Hindu, Santana who was the private secretary to the Muslim king Alauddin Hasan Shah abstained from visiting the temple at Jagannath for he felt his association with the Muslim had defiled him.

    The land ownership and use was unaffected. The Banya, moneylender caste, remained and essential part of the societal fabric. In general non-Muslims were considered a protected minority and governed by their own personal laws and had basic safe guards. The historian al-Baruni records, “In Delhi idols are publicly worshiped and traditions adhered to with greater insistence than before. The infidels are honored, distinguished, favored and made eminent. They live in delight and comfort. The poor Musalmans beg at their door.”

    The lower castes were ecstatic at the liberation from the tyranny of the Brahmins. “Caste dissensions will be broken,” says one lower caste song “for there is a Musalman in the Hindu family.” Islam gained the greatest success in areas on the eastern and western fringes of India away from the Hindu heartland. 

    Official Proselytization Or The Lack Of It

    As a rule there is no evidence of conversions under duress, and interference with worship. The policies practiced were mostly conciliatory and there were constant attempts at rapprochement. There were no attempts by the state to proselytize. The reason for the lack of an attempt at aggressive spread of Islam may have been the precarious hold the early dynasties had on the throne. William Crooke observes, “Early Mohammedan dynasties were too precarious to any general propaganda, the emperors too engrossed in schemes of conquest to take up proselytization in earnest. Their power depended on alliances with Rajput princes. The native princesses they married brought Hindu blood into the royal line.” Tolerance was the hallmark of some Muslim rulers like Iltutmish but many others were indifferent to the concept and some were
    intolerant of all

    Occasionally Muslim warriors destroyed temples and monasteries, which only strengthened Hindu nationalism and idolatry. Some “darghas” (mausoleums) and “Khanqahs” were built on the sites of these ruined places of worship. The Makhdum-kund at Rajgir was built on the site of Sringi Rishi-Kund. More intriguing is the transfer of old Hindu and Buddhist legends into the miracles of saints and ghazis (warriors).

    Nevertheless Islam did spread, with approximately 30-40% of Indian continent converting to Islam. As pointed out earlier this was largely the result of the Sufi influence.

    Cultural Rapids

    When different faiths and traditions come together there is inevitable friction and turbulence that creates many cultural rapids. Both traditions are influenced by the others cultural and moral norms. This exchange of ideas and ideals occur at many levels that may change both the victor and the vanquished. A dramatic example of this in Muslim history happened when the Mongols that invaded Baghdad in about two generations converted to Islam and their native culture was metamorphosed beyond recognition.

    In India the fierce monotheism of Islam spawned a number of reform movements and inspired reformist leaders. Guru Nanak of Punjab, Chaitanya of Bengal, Tukaram and Namdev of Maharashtra and Kabir all owed all or part of their reformist messages to Islam. Brahmo-Samaj a tolerant and monotheistic sect of Hinduism owes its origin almost directly to Islam in India.

    Sufism that was already a strong spiritual movement within Islam took on many Hindu traits. Worshipping at
    the Sufi-Saint’s grave, miracles attributed to the Sufi-Saint and the use of Qawwali music that has the Bhajan (Hindu devotional music) as its counterpart in the Hindu tradition are some examples. Early marriage and the stigma attached to widow marriages amongst Muslims of the Indian subcontinent is also a Hindu influence. Even the obnoxious caste system entered Muslim culture with categories like the Sayyids that might be called the Muslim Brahmins.

    Babur ki Aulad - (The progeny of Babur) - The Mughals

    As pointed out earlier a lot of Muslim history happened before the Mughals and Babur arrived in India. Nevertheless Muslim rule in India is considered synonymous with the Mughals. Historians point out that although of Turkish descent the Mughals set down roots in India and considered themselves Indian. This is not an accurate statement as it was Akbar the third Mughal ruler considered himself truly Indian. Babur himself was reluctant to settle down in India. His heart was in his native province of Farghana and he is buried in Kabul. He came to India partly because his rivals threw him out of Farghana and partly because of the court politics. The governor of Punjab, a relative of the ruling King Ibrahim Lodhi, invited him to assist him in his insurrection against the center. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodhi and subsequently the Hindu king
    Rana Sangha before ascending to the throne at Delhi.

    Babur was an exceptionally erudite man and wrote his memoirs in a book called “Babur Nama.” Of his new country India he writes, “Hindustan is a country that has few pleasures to recommend it. The people are not
    handsome; they have no idea of the charms of friendly society, of frankly mixing together or of familiar intercourse. They have no genius, no comprehension of mind, no politeness of manner, no kindness or fellow-feeling, no ingenuity, no mechanical invention in planning or executing their handicraft, no skill no knowledge in design or architecture. They have no horses, no good flesh, no grapes, or muskmelons, no good fruits, no ice, no cold water, no good food or bread in their bazaars, no baths, no candles, no torches not a candlestick.” Babur never really considered himself an India.

    Humayun, his successor, struggled to stay on the throne. He had to battle two different Muslim governors, Bahadur Shah on the West and Sher Shah on the East. Sher Shah prevailed and almost killed Humayun. Sher Shah ruled for about five years and is considered a better administrator and just ruler than Humayun. Nevertheless Humayun was able to reclaim the throne but died six months later after falling down the steps of the Delhi library.

    The third ruler in the Mughal dynasty, Akbar excelled himself as a conqueror, administrator as well as a pluralistic leader. Some criticize his pluralism as mere appeasement. The most successful of the Mughals, Akbar, was very pluralistic in his outlook and actions. His pluralism extended to a policy of “Sulh-i-Kull” (universal tolerance) and the protection of all inhabitants. He even attempted to synthesize the common elements of all religions in a new faith he called the “Din-Ilahi” (Godly faith) with himself as the prophet of this new tradition. His Hindu wives that practiced their religion freely, Jizya tax on Hindus was abolished and temples and churches thrived.

    Jehangir who succeeded him was large hearted and well meaning but loved the easy life style. Nur Jehan, his
    wife, was the de facto ruler of the kingdom. She was a very effective ruler, had good taste, spent large sums of money in charity and was given to noble impulses. Gracious living became the “summun bonum” of human
    existence. Their interest in Islam was at best perfunctory. The practice of courtiers doing sajada (prostration) before the king, that started with Akbar continued. This practice violates a cardinal Islamic belief of never prostrating oneself before anyone but God and constitutes committing Shirk (opposite of monotheism and unity of God). Shaik Mujaddid of Sirhind, a man of conviction, refused to prostrate himself before the king and had enough popular support to survive his wrath.

    The next emperor in line Shah Jehan is known of his monumental projects the Taj Mahal, the Jama Masjid of
    Delhi and the Red Fort. Mughals are remembered more for these grandiose structures than anything else. These expensive projects may have a huge impact on the state treasury that led to the eventual unraveling of
    the Mughal Empire. During his reign there was a great deal of internal peace. Shah Jehan was initially a fairly orthodox Muslim and tried to rule by strict Sharia tenets. Later he was influenced by Sufism and mellowed a lot. During his time there was a widespread practice of Muslim girls being converted to Hinduism. This became a large enough problem that he had to open a department to deal with it. The next ruler was Aurangzeb, the man who presided over the demise of the empire.

    By now the Mughal Empire was beset with financial problems as well as insurgencies at the fringes of the empire. One of the Sikh gurus Tegh Bahadur was executed for insurgency and at the instigation of Hindu kings another Sikg Guru Gobind Singh was attacked. Gobind Singh himself escapes but his sons are captured and executed. Gobind Singh pens a long epistle about the event in Persian called the Zafar Namah. These two events are at origin of the long-standing resentment of the Sikhs toward Muslims. Sikhism that started out as a faith that attempted to bring Hinduism and Islam together was initially very sympathetic to Islam. In the West the Maratha king Shivaji and later his son Sambhaji were in constant conflict with Aurangzeb. Although Shivaji is portrayed as Hindu hero king fighting the evil Muslim invader his insurgency was no different than the uprising by the local Muslim governor in the South who later declared independence and formed the Nizam dynasty 

    Inspite of these constant conflicts during his reign, Aurangzeb attempted many reforms. He banned Sati, widow immolation on husband’s pyre, abolished cultivation of opium, gambling, alcohol and prostitution. He also abolished rahdari (inland transport duty) and octroi. Surprisingly he also banned cow slaughter. However he re-imposed the Jaziya tax that had been cancelled a hundred years ago. He destroyed some temples and closed down others. But he gave money to restore other temples and gave running expenses to still others. He did not interfere with the celebration of private religious Hindu worship, or the teaching of religion by Hindu priests. Personally he was brave and industrious and lived a life of simplicity and purity. The well-known poet Iqbal called him the “first exponent of Muslim nationalism in the Indian sub-continent.”

    The impact Of British Rule On Muslims And Hindu-Muslim Relations. The Decimation Of Babur’s Progeny

    The Most severe impact of British conquest of India was on the Muslims. This is understandable because Muslims were the rulers. The British went after the Mughlas with vengeance. The last king Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled and died in Rangoon that is modern Myamar. With one exception all the Mughal princes were publicly hanged in front of the Red fort. Some surviving members of the last surviving prince live quietly in the Indian city of Hyderabad. Many other Muslims who resisted the British were either killed or lost power. Those who cooperated with the British lived in subservience. Tipu Sultan of Bangalore resisted the British and died and the Nizams of Hyderabd cooperated and ruled till independence.

    The British had a deliberate policy of dividing the two communities and fanning suspicion between them. Sir H.M.Elliot, the British foreign secretary to India, authored a history book titled “History of India as told by its own historians. The Muhammaden period in the name of himself and Dawson.” This book tried to teach the Babus (Indians trained to help the British) the great virtues of British rule and divide India on communal lines.

    Babur ki Aulad: Pakistan ya Qabristan! (Babur’s progeny, die or go to Pakistan.) - The Continuing Fallout Of Partition

    The other slogan the killers and rapists in Gujarat were shouting alluded to the role of Muslims in the formation of Pakistan. The argument is that Muslims were responsible for dividing India. Moreover the argument goes as Muslims have their own land they have no business to live or have rights in India. The story of formation of Pakistan is far more complicated than the common understanding is. The popular construct that Muslims are responsible for dividing India fails to answer the question as to why Jinnah the most secular of individuals and a champion of Hindu Muslim unity turned into a champion of the “Islamic republic Of Pakistan?” What role did the introduction of religion onto politics by Gandhi had? What role did
    the intransigence of Congress in sharing power at the center playing this saga? Is it not a fact that the one of the first calls for partition came from the Bengal Congress that feared living as a minority in a Muslim majority Bengal? Isn’t the story of partition really the result of two distinct faith groups lacking trust in each other and fearful of living with each other?

    What Is The Real Legacy Of Muslims In India?

    Even this brief overview should be sufficient to persuade anyone from the foolhardiness of generalizing about the legacy of Muslims in India. There are many different legacies. Is the legacy of Mahmud Ghazni the
    true legacy of Muslims or is it the legacy of Iltutmish? Should we be looking at Muhammad bin Qasim or Akbar? Does Babur and other kings really represent anyone? Is it the legacy of the mystics, poets, architects and artistes that is more important?

    In spite of the violence that is the inevitable consequence of any invasion, Muslims in India played a significant humanitarian and liberating role. Islam offered to many of the outcastes and untouchables that were leading a sub-human existence liberation by providing within its fold complete equality and an opportunity for social, economic, intellectual and spiritual development. William Hunter writes “Its (Islam’s) missionaries were men of zeal who brought the Gospel to the unity of God and equality of man in its sight to a despised and neglected population.” 

    Muslim legacy is also that of opening up India to the outer world, providing internal peace, uniformity of administration and a common language. There was a monotheistic revival in religion and increase in spirituality. Many of the indicators of civilization like arts, literature, architecture and good living went up.

    The more relevant question today is does it really matter what the Muslim legacy is? To my kids growing up in diaspora in the west this question of legacy seems so remote and irrelevant that they would not spent a minute on the issue. For those living in the Indian sub-continent what appears to matter is a mythological memory of history far removed from objective facts. In fact most Indians would fail a quiz on the basic facts of Indian Muslim history partly because it has been essentially written out of history books. So Babur becomes the ultimate fall guy. A mosque built in his name the symbol of the myth of the brutal Muslim invaders that destroyed local tradition and culture and imposed their own. The fact that there is no evidence that Babur or the majority of Muslim rulers did any thing to destroy the local culture and change the faith and traditions of the population seems lost to most

    Hope for a better and peaceful future for all those who live in the sub-continent does not lie in the rise of a charismatic leader who would lead all communities to utopia. The era of heroes is past. Instead the best hope for a better future lies in education, dispaaionate analysis of history and a grass root movement of thoughtful individuals that share a belief in the common goodness of all humans. Hope lies in those intellectually honest souls that can look at the past objectively, without flinching and built upon it constructively.

    Selected Bibliography

    [1]. Historical memories and nation building in India. M.Rmakrishnayya.. Booklinks corporation. Hyderabad,
    500 029 India.

    [2]. The preaching of Islam. T.W.Arnold. SH. Muhammad Ashraf. 7, Aibak Road (New Anarkali) Lahore. Pakistan.


    [3]. Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan. SM Ikram. Kazi Publications. Chicago, IL

    http://world.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/2430


    By Aamir Mughal -



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