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Islam and Politics (25 Nov 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Dr Firoz Khan as ‘Sanskrit Professor’: Critical Questions to both Hindus and Muslims for a Genuine Interfaith Scriptural Understanding and Bonhomie in India

New Age Islam Special Correspondent

25 November 2019


Dr Firoz Khan Sanskrit a teacher at Banaras Hindu University


While the uproar on Dr Firoz Khan’s appointment as Sanskrit teacher at Banaras Hindu University (BHU) refuses to die down, some critical questions need to be posed to both Hindus and Muslims concerned with this issue. First to our Muslim brethren:

Before we look into the thematic issues, let’s keep in view that most Hindus and nearly all Muslims stand with Khan's academic credentials, integrity and his teaching rights, and have defended him avidly. Even many of the BHU students have marched yesterday in solidarity with Khan. Hundreds of students reportedly on Wednesday came out in his support and loudly spoke out: “We are with you,” and “Language has no religion,” at the rally in support of Mr. Khan, held from the Lanka gate to the Ravidas Gate near the university campus.

But the main contention made by the student protestors against Dr Firoz Khan's appointment is that the appointment is not about teaching the language (Sanskrit) but the religion (Dharma). Their protest is supposedly against the appointment of a Muslim professor in the Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan in the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) which is not about the language but it rather relates to the purely divinity-based Hindu theology known as ‘Dharma Vigyan’. “We have no problem with a qualified Muslim scholar teaching Sanskrit language and literature. However, it is about teaching certain rituals and chants (hymns) where a proper Brahmin (Purohit) is required”, the protestors argued. If the case is believed to be so, the question arises: Will Islamic Studies departments in AMU, JMI, MANU and Hamdard universities (all central universities except the late which is deemed), allow non-Muslim scholars to teach Islamic theology?

This is just an introspective question! In the Aligarh Muslim University, the Faculty of Theology has two distinct departments; Sunni Theology (Sunni Diniyaat) and Shia Theology (Shia Diniyaat). Teachers in these purely theological Islamic branches are respectively Sunni and Shia. Now an honest question would be to ask the theologians at the AMU whether they would also be willing to break this exclusivity.

Examples of theological integration and inclusivity have surfaced in the Arab countries where Islamic studies centres and academic institutions have hired the qualified Christian, Jewish and sometimes even Hindu scholars on Islamic studies. Top Sunni seminary in the world Jamia al-Azhar has often invited the Vatican to deliver address to work together to fight religious extremism. But while Muslims in UAE, Jordan and Egypt—for instance—are progressing to the extent of constructing Churches, Synagogues and Temples for non-Muslims, let alone inviting and hiring non-Muslim scholars, Indian Muslims are still not ready to turn their back on religion, theology and divinity. It seems Muslims in India only learn how to don an Arabic dress like Jubba or wear Burqa, but not how to progress on constructive lines in the modern times!

Now Some Pertinent Questions To The Hindu Brethren:

Bigotry is not Dharma. At a time when the country is fed up of people who want to divide the religious communities, and even the educated, urban population doesn’t seem to uphold the cause of communal harmony, Firoz Khan teaching Sanskrit in Banaras and Gopalika Antharjanam, a Brahmin scholar teaching Arabic in Kerala is the best thing that could happen. Significantly, Dr Firoz Khan is not just a Sanskrit scholar but also a man well-rooted in the Indian culture and ethos as candidly clear from lots of his work and life experience. He was the only Muslim student in his batch when he opted Sanskrit. In fact, he is an example of genuine mutual respect and appointing him would be the way forward to stem the tide of communalism. We need Lakhs more such interfaith scholars and teachers in this country. But regrettably, a language-based exclusivity is stemming from the growing misconception that Sanskrit is Hindu and Arabic or Urdu are Muslim. In a country known historically for Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava (Paths followed by all religions are equal), people are now studying each other's faith traditions and creeds, not to understand but to criticize each other. What was actually supposed to be the subject matter of "Comparative Religion' has now turned into "Competitive Religion”. The question to all Indians and particularly to the student protestors at the BHU is that is this the way we moved forward as a pluralistic country in our age-old Vedic history?

Another major contention by the students against the appoint of Dr Khan is that it would be an attempt to dilute the efforts of Madan Mohan Malviya, the BHU founder and noted Indian educationist. This argument has been flagged often by the angry students and social media handlers. But to their utter surprise, Malviya's writings suggest otherwise. They candidly show that a Muslim scholar as Sanskrit professor is not antithetical to the BHU principles but very much in harmony with the university’s foundational objectives. The grandson of Madan Mohan Malviya and the varsity's current chancellor Justice (retd) Girdhar Malviya told the media: "Had Malviya ji been alive, he would have immediately appointed Dr Firoz Khan."

In fact, the BHU can break the theological barrier which has been erected in several Indian central universities. It would be good start for all theology departments. Let’s not forget that the Brahmin woman scholar, Gopalika Antharjanam taught Arabic in Kerala for 29 years of service. When she began to teach in 1987, there was an uproar. People would ask “How come a Brahmin would teach Arabic?”. Similarly, Firoz Khan was the only Muslim student in his school in the Sanskrit batch. Both stories will have to win against all odds in the modern India for it to remain as pluralistic and multicultural as it was lived in ancient times.

If a Hindu becomes a scholar on Islam, (s)he will understand that the Holy Qur'an mentions the words "Zubur al-Awwalin" (texts of the most ancient) which Dara Shikoh said is the Upanishads and the Vedic scriptures. Similarly, if a Muslim becomes an expert on the Vedas, (s)he will discover that Vasundhara Kutumbakam (‘the world is one family’) is the deep conviction of Indian civilisation symbolizing that Indians have always considered the entire world “as one united family”. While Dara Shukoh is one of the most eminent Muslim figures in the Indian history for his translation of the Upanishads and several Vedic texts into Persian and for promoting a genuine scriptural understanding, Emperor Akbar and most of the Mughals appointed the Rajput to high posts. The Kachhwaha Rajput of Amber held the highest military posts in the Mughal army.

URL:  http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-politics/new-age-islam-special-correspondent/dr-firoz-khan-as-‘sanskrit-professor’--critical-questions-to-both-hindus-and-muslims-for-a-genuine-interfaith-scriptural-understanding-and-bonhomie-in-india/d/120356

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  • Theology, Divinity are not jurisprudence.
    Regret that we can't show some instances where Hindus are teaching Islamic theology, not language or literature, in any Indian University.
    Same holds true for Dharma which if taken as 'Hindu Darsiyaat', not Shashtra.
    Today, Hindus greatly study Islam and Islamic theology. Even in JMI and AMU, there were a few excellent research scholars but I'm not aware of any single appointment in theology.
    More or less, the same pity situation is in almost all Islamic studies departments in the country, though not clearly stated in their objectives.
    By GRD - 11/26/2019 1:53:02 AM

  • A few more genuine question can be posed:
    Why BHU has to offer classes in Sanskrit Vidya Dharma Vigyan purely by a Hindu theologian?
    Why a Central university in India should be producer of Maulvis, Pandits or Padris?
    Why Islamic studies department of JMI or Sunni/Shia theology department of AMU are now hub of Maulvis or Alims rather than critical thinkers and philosophers?
    Academics must provide critical study of Islam or Hinduism, not plain jurisprudence or Quranic/Vedic commentary.
    By GRD - 11/26/2019 12:50:50 AM

  • If the contentious issues of Hindus and Muslims come to an end, India will become superpower! 
    But Angrez gaye to batwaara karke aur wirasat me bahut saare issues bhi chod gaye. 
    History tells, jews and christians were the biggest enemeies for each other, but they are friends and establishing events of fightings in Arab world to capture oil and increase power, but saala hum Hindustani hain ki in agnrezon ki cleverhood ka andaaza bhi nahi lagate 
    we are never to come out of sanskrit and arabic fighting! 
    Lage raho bhayion, desh taraqqi kar raha hai!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    By Haazir - 11/26/2019 12:38:37 AM

  • Dear Aayina,
    Read and recall Swami Vivekananda time and again:
    For the significance and vibrancy of Hindu Muslim unity he wrote in 1898; ” For our own motherland a junction of the two great system, Hinduism and Islam… is the only hope”.
    At a time when every thing is in a chaotic situation let us at least invoke Sawami Vivekanada.
    By GRD - 11/25/2019 11:37:52 PM

  • Hindus never trust this Article, see what Muslim are saying, they accept the Suprme court verdict but they are saying it was bias, Shameless Sultan shahin why do not stop this fooling to Hindus p, you had one fooled and had made part of your life. This called Zale pe Namakh Chidkna, stop this fake article of interlregious harmony, your fake had. Not put single Article of KK Muhammad to change the mind of Muslims, KK Mohmmad work was scientific base, if you were genuine you had done something that how Ram Janmbhoomi is important to Hindus and Muslims might have been aproroched by people like you sciencetifically and rationally. Your Scilence support to hatred of Hindus and their faith is enough to tell hypocracy
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:48:27 PM

  • Never trust this Article, Hindus never trust Afetr Dara Siko p, we in our own country humiliated for Ram Janbhommi by this Muslim.
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:40:09 PM

  • Hindus never trust Muslims, we get in millions one Dara Siko, but than we had Pakistan and Bangldesh with no Hindus left.
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:38:16 PM

  • I have said Sultan Shahin is pure hypocrite I am waiting for more such hypocritical article from his website and him too. His own words and website is enough to expose him, his Jakir Naik advance version of deccivmess.
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:30:59 PM

  • Hypocrate sultan Shain, Is trying to decive like other Muskims, Muslims had been in India since 1000 years nine them able to make Ram as their discourse, may they have consider some his good values and adopted him as part of Muslims tradition
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:28:08 PM

  • This Sultan Shahin hypocrite, Hindu readers Just its Bad Muslim and Good Muslim Game
    By Aayina - 11/25/2019 9:25:11 PM

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