Books and Documents

Islamic Culture (17 Jul 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi (Part Two)

By Pervez Hoodbhoy

04 July 2017

Josh Was Anti-Imperialist Yet Pro-Modern

At the crack of dawn on 23 March 1931, the twenty four year old revolutionary Bhagat Singh, together with his two colleagues Sukh Dev and Raj Guru, were hanged until pronounced dead. They had courted arrest after throwing bombs – which did not cause casualties – to protest the British occupation of India. Specifically, they had expressed their opposition to the visit of the Simons Commission. Charged with determining the quantum of freedom allowable to the natives, the Commission had no Indian members. Widespread public protests had had no effect upon the court’s decision to award capital punishment to the three revolutionaries.

A sorrowing Josh composed a poem which he read out in the same city, not far from where the three young men had been executed:

سنوارے بستگان زئلف گیتی     ندا کیا آ رھی ھے آسماں سے

کہ آزادی کا ایک لمحہ ہے بہتر    غلامی کی حیات جاوداں سے

(A rough translation: Hear this all who care for life and love in this world. A voice speaks from the sky. That a moment of freedom is better than a life of slavery.)

Josh’s admiration for Bhagat Singh was not merely because this young man was a fighter, but also because he was a free-thinker and atheist. With a keen sense of history and commitment to his goals, Bhagat Singh had educated himself in matters of society and politics before picking up the gun. In this he differed from most others engaged in fighting the British who had thought little about the likely contours of a post independence society.

For Josh, a Muslim, the fact that Bhagat Singh was a Sikh was irrelevant. What mattered was the inherent injustice of being ruled from afar, and the violent oppression of the colonizers. Even as they prepared for an eventual exit, a class of sycophants was assiduously cultivated by the British. They would remain as instruments for colonial domination, rule from afar. Josh thunders against this elite, who had donned the mantle of their former masters:

بر طانیہ کے خاص غلامان خانہ ساز

دیتے تھے لاتھیوں سے جو حب وطں کی داد

جن کی ہر ایک ضرب ہے اب تک سروں کو یاد

وہ آیٗ سی ایس اب بھی ہیں خوش وقت و بامراد

   شیطان ایک رات مین انسان بن کےٗ

جتنے نمک حرام تھے کپتان بن گےٗ

 (Rough translation: These special friends of the British. Whose cudgels had rained upon us blow after blow. Blows, that our still-aching heads cannot forget. Yet today they thrive and thrive. In a flash devils have turned into angels. They are now the captains of our ship of destiny)

Josh’s clear-headed, secular thinking was not shared by most Indians, Muslim or Hindu. Religious reasons competed with secular ones for fighting the British. The “Sepoy Mutiny” of 1857 was triggered when the British introduced new rifle cartridges rumoured to be greased with oil made from the fat of animals. The fat of cows was taboo to Hindus while Muslims protested the pig fat. Although Muslims had suffered more than Hindus, they tended to oppose the British for religious reasons more than Hindus.

The reason goes back into history. Although colonization had hit all native peoples hard, it left Muslims in India relatively more disoriented and confused than Hindus or Sikhs. Three hundred years earlier, the development of modern science in the West had led to the emergence of a capitalist order that provided the impetus to forcibly expand Western access to markets and sources of raw materials. Conquest by forces from across the oceans changed forever the comfortable world of India’s Muslims who had dominated India for a thousand years. The establishment of British dominion during the 18th and 19th centuries dealt a death blow to the Moghul empire. Elsewhere, Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 led to a series of changes that ended with the break-up of the Ottoman Empire, the last of the great Muslim empires.

European countries colonized virtually all the Muslim world from East Asia to West Africa. A mercantilist and industrializing Western metropolis was on the ascendancy. The old Indian order gasped and then died, unable to withstand the forces unleashed by Scientific Revolution. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Moghul emperor, vengefully blinded by the British, spent his last days in captivity. He wrote beautiful Urdu poetry which many people have on their lips even today. But he stood for little besides a decadent monarchy and an order of things that could offer little to the people of India.

The brutalization of a pre-scientific native people by scientifically minded colonists drew a variety of responses ranging from cooptation and despair, to non-cooperation and resistance. Humiliation and helplessness, and a deep sense of resentment, made it difficult for most to see the diversity of the West and its great achievements of the Enlightenment. In any case, the orthodoxy had little use for scientific rationality and democratic pluralism. For them, the Firangees (foreigners) were simply Kafirs.

The anti-Firangee movement amidst the Muslim religious orthodoxy was centred around Deoband, a town in northern India. The Deoband madrasa operated under the slogan that Islam was in danger. Established nine years after the 1857 uprising, it set itself the task of training Islamic revolutionaries who would fight the British; today Pakistani Deoband Ulema provide the ideological basis for the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Deoband school became particularly active in demanding the restoration of the caliphate, which had been eliminated by Kamal Ataturk in 1924. Under Maulana Mahmud ul-Hasan and Maulana Husain Ahmad Madni, Deobandis were politically radical, but the movement was socially conservative. Their goal mission was to preserve traditional Islamic learning and culture.

Although it was strongly opposed by the Deobandis, a movement of Muslim modernists emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century. Centring around Syed Ahmad Khan, it sought acceptability for an interpretation of Islam consistent with science and reason. The Muslim elite expanded its educational horizon by allowing its children to study the English language, science, and other secular subjects. Nevertheless, the bulk of Indian Muslims remained rooted in the past and education remained confined to religious subjects for the Muslim masses. The Maulanas of Bengal, like the Deobandis of Uttar Pradesh, were adamantly opposed to secular education. In 1835 they collected 8000 signatures against the education reforms proposed by Lord Macaulay, a member of the Supreme Council of South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi 8 Josh Literary Society lecture by Pervez Hoodbhoy India. But these very reforms had been welcomed by the Hindus of Bengal who earnestly supplicated the British for still more schools and colleges. These supplications earned them the contempt of Muslim leaders, who charged that they were sucking up to the rulers.

Muslim conservatism in education was to have grave consequences for Muslim societies everywhere. In the 21st century the results of this resistance are evident: India stands at the threshold of being a major technological and economic power while Pakistan remains mired in the backwaters. Pakistan’s is being devastated by an Islamic resurgence in the form of Talibanisation which, as it gains further ground, threatens to send its people back to the darkest of ages.

In those times, could one have been for progress and yet have been fighting against colonialism? Josh Malihabadi, like other secular Muslim Indian nationalists, thought this was certainly possible. British rule had to be resisted because it was coercive, unequal, and discriminatory even if it had brought elements of the Enlightenment with it. He therefore hated using the English language. But, a half-century before Josh was born, Muslim progressives had already been deeply divided on these questions. For example, Jamaluddin Afghani had sought to bring scientific enlightenment to Muslims while also energetically seeking to overthrow colonial rule across the Muslim world. But he was at loggerheads with another forward-looking contemporary, Syed Ahmad Khan, who had firmly allied himself and his Muslim followers with India’s masters, and wanted Muslims to learn science and English. Nevertheless, Afghani and Syed Ahmad agreed on one central point – they both saw traditional cultures as having run their course and now out of steam. They knew that the obstacle to social, cultural, and economic progress was not imperial occupation alone, but also fossilized thought rooted in ancient times.

Josh’s position is probably closer to Afghani’s rather than Syed Ahmad Khan’s. He was against the British – and the English language – but he reserved his strongest attacks against tradition and culture as instruments of mental enslavement. His rhythmically fascinating poem, murdo’on ki dhoom , or, “The Cacophony of the Dead” is a powerful blow against the fossilization of thought:

مخلوق کو دیوانہ بناےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

یاروں کے دماغوں کو چراےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

اوہام کے توفان اتھاےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

عقلوں کو مزاروں پہ چرھاےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

آفاق کو سر پر ہیں اتھاےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

دعکھہ کہ ہیں کیا دھوم مچاےٗ ہوےٗ مردے

(A rough translation: The dead drive our people mad. The dead steal the minds of the living. The dead unleash mighty storms of superstitions. Our minds are trapped in tombs and morgues. The sky too belongs to the dead. Look! Listen to the cacophony of the dead!)

In this poem, Josh speaks equally to Hindus and Muslims, city elites and rural poor, educated and illiterate. Held down firmly by the dead hand of belief and tradition, they drown in superstition and illogic. They pray for rain, attribute earthquakes to the wrath of god, think supplications to heaven will cure the sick, seek holy waters that will absolve sin, look to the stars for a propitious time to marry, sacrifice black goats in the hope that the life of a loved one will be spared, recite certain religious verses as a cure for insanity, think airliners can be prevented from crashing by a special prayer, and believe that mysterious supernatural beings stalk the earth. These superstitions hold as much today as they did decades ago.

The bizarre illogic sometimes boggles the mind. For example, India’s 1998 nuclear tests were preceded by serious concern over the safety of cattle at the Pokharan test site. Former Indian foreign minister Jaswant Singh writes “For the team at the test site – which included A. P. J. Kalam, then the head of the Defence Research and Development Organisation – possibly death or injury to cattle was just not acceptable.”

India aspires to being a world power, but no Indian politician today can suggest that cows can be eaten. No politician in Pakistan dare suggest that praying for rain won’t work. Yet, these neoliths have nuclear science and both countries can annihilate each other in a matter of minutes

The Cacophony of the Dead continues:

لیلاے تفکر کو سنورنے نہیں دیں گے

دریاے تو ہم کو اترنے نہیں دیں گے

تحقیق کی نبضوں کو ابھرنے نہیں دیں گے

تقلید کا شیرازہ بکھرنے نہیں دیں گے

اس بات کا بیڑہ ہیں اٹھائے ہوئے مردے

دیکھو کہ ہیں کیا دھوم مچائے ہوئے مردے

(A rough translation: The dead will not let reason flower. They will not block flowing rivers of superstitions. They will not let minds question and research. They will not allow blind belief to be disobeyed. But they certainly ensure that nothing changes. Look! Listen to the cacophony of the dead!)

Deeply conscious of the calamitous decline in the intellectual energy of Muslims since the Golden Age of Islam, Josh wondered aloud at the causes. What caused a wonderfully alive and intellectually productive civilization to falter, then collapse? Allama Muhammad Iqbal, who is Pakistan’s national poet, in his epic dialogue with God (Shikwa and Jawab-e-Shikwa), saw the straying of Muslims from the True Path of the Quran as the reason. But Josh adopts the diametrically opposite path of the “Muatizilla” tradition of Muslim rationalist philosophers.

The dominance of the Muatizilla over long periods of time between the 9th and 13th centuries accounts for practically all of Islamic scientific progress in those times. Their ultimate defeat – marked by bloodshed and persecution – marked the end of Islam’s Golden Age. The Muatizilla, who battled their Ashari adversaries on the central issue of freewill versus pre-destiny, believed that Allah had empowered man with the power of reason, the use of which could lead him to choose between alternatives.

The contrary opinion – that of the traditionalists – was that Man was a mere creature of fate, an irrelevance in the greater scheme of things. A straw in the wind, he could be blown hither and thither. All had been predetermined; it was useless to struggle against destiny. Therefore, supplicate Allah and heed his Book; that is the best that can be done.

Striking hard against this notion of helplessness, Josh’s Aadmi Nama (In the Name of Man) is a paean of extraordinary eloquence to the powers of Man:

اے نگاہ مولوی معنوی

دیکھ سوئے عزّہ جاہ آدمی

آدمی ہے بوئے گل رنگ حنا

موج کوثر، موج مے، موج غنا

(Rough translation: Look and listen, o’ revered mullah. Look at Man’s dignity and grace. Man is the flower of life’s essence. Man gives colour to this world, meaning to its existence, waters the arid desert, creates the wealth of the universe. )

Josh’s attack is head-on, without hesitation or apology. His poetic eloquence pushes him deep into dangerous territory. Perhaps, some might argue, a bit too far. Aadmi Nama continues:

دست آدم ، بت تراش و بت نما

نطق انساں ،موجد حرف خدا

وہم انساں۔ بانی لات ومنات

فہم انساں ، شارع ذات و صفات

ذہن انساں، پابجوں لاں سوئے ذات

درک انساں ، ہادم قصر صفات

آدمی کہسار ظن، قطب یقیں

آدمی پروردگار کفرو دیں

آدمی دانائے اسباب و علل

فاتح مستقبل ، دیو اجل

(A rough translation: With his hand Man fashions idols and images. With the power of words he creates the gods. With his superstition he makes the angels. With his intelligence he discovers qualities of the mind. With his mind he walks towards understanding himself. With his understanding he finds the house of knowledge. Man, source of knowledge and worthy of knowing. Man, creator of belief and disbelief. Man, who knows of cause and effect. Man, who shall one day win over death.)

But where did Man come from? Josh was an unabashed believer in the processes of physical law which have produced the wonders of nature culminating in the most wonderful of them all – the human race:

آدمی دانائے اسباب و علل

فاتح مستقبل ،دیواجل


دست آدم ، بت تراش و بت نما

نطق انساں ،موجد حرف خدا

وہم نساں۔ بانی لات و منات

فہم انساں ،شارع ذات و صفات

ذہن انساں ، پابجولاں سوئے ذات

درک انساں، ہادم قصر صفات

آدمی کہسار ظن، قطب یقیں

آدمی دپروردگار کفرو دیں

(Rough translation: Life is the proud result of Evolution. Life is a gift of water and fire, the miracle of earth and dust.)

While other poets – Ghalib, most notably – have sniped from the sides, Josh declares open war on blind belief. His opponents screamed: Idolater! Worshipper of man! But little happened because Josh was an old man when died, his poems were little understood, and he had certainly lived in better times. One wonders: were he alive today, would he still be able or willing to write these lines? Most probably this poet would have been ripped to shreds by a shrieking mob, perhaps like the ones which burnt churches in Shantinagar and Gojra, or that in Shabqadar which had chased a terrified Ahmadi up a tree and shot him as he pleaded for his life.

Nationalism, Religion, Language: The Fatal Triangle

Every reader of this essay almost certainly carries a passport: Pakistani, Indian, Canadian, American, or whatever. Our world is presently divided into nations, which we tend to think of as permanent entities while forgetting how utterly recent they are. The League of Nations in the 1930’s had a maximum of 58 members. This is less than one third of the current 192 members of the United Nations. In other words, about 80 years ago, two thirds of the world’s current nation-states did not exist.

Even the oldest nation-state is but a few centuries old. I will not take sides in the academic debate of whether Peace in Westphalia, signed in 1648, actually marked the beginning of the first sovereign state. But much before that – fifty thousand years ago or more – our hunter-gatherer ancestors lived in tribes. Loyalty to the tribe was natural, a necessary condition for collective survival. Tribal markers – tattoos, piercings, bones through the nose or ears, binding of feet, dances and songs, giving particular names to children, festivals, marriage rules – were bonding elements because they identified who belonged to which tribe. Attachment to one’s tribe was unequivocal and total: the tribe could never be wrong. The individual did not matter, and must be ready to kill or die for the tribe.

Nationalism emerged as an advanced form of tribalism. In Europe, the invention of cannons, roads, and printing presses had made domains of control larger. Coalescing tribes, and larger tribes, could do better than fragmented ones. The notion of a nation slowly emerged. It built upon the myth of a common ancestry, reinforced by similarities of physiognomy, language, culture, or religion. The nation was seen as marching together towards some shared future destiny, and hence that it must work together. This strengthened its capacity to cope with the challenges of a hostile environment, and to compete successfully with other groups animated by similar beliefs.

But there is a downside to nationalism. Wired for “group think”, humans tend to assume that their particular group or nation has no peer or rival. However, since obviously not South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi 13 Josh Literary Society lecture by Pervez Hoodbhoy every nation can be the best of nations, this assumption simply has to be wrong. If it was just a harmless assumption who would care? On the other hand, when one group insists on its absolute superiority, there is high risk because the other is automatically reduced to an inferior position. My nation, the true patriot asserts, is better than your nation. We are spiritually pure, you are intrinsically corrupt. Nationalism can then become the justification for mass murder and genocide.

This is why Einstein called “nationalism an infantile disease, the measles of humanity”, and Erich Fromm declared that “nationalism is our form of incest, is our idolatry, is our insanity”, and that, “patriotism is its cult”. Einstein and Fromm both, of course, were Europeans.

Europe, which invented nationalism in the Age of Enlightenment, has suffered more than any other part of the world from nationalism, which soon spun out of control. The two world wars left 70-80 million dead, and many times more permanently disabled. The lessons of Europe must, therefore, be carefully studied by people from Pakistan and India.

It is interesting to see how nationalism laid out its roots in Europe. For example, in the 17th and 18th centuries, French culture had imposed itself on many parts of continent. Frederick the Great of Prussia and his court spoke and wrote in French, but they really thought of themselves as Germans. Indeed, a nascent German nationalism was beginning to stir. Even before the establishment of a German national state, the romantic German nationalist, J.D. Herder, wrote a poem in protest against the French culture of Frederick’s court in Prussia:

Look at other nationalities! Do they wander about So that nowhere in the world they are strangers Except to themselves? They regard foreign countries with proud disdain. And you, German, alone, returning from abroad, Wouldst greet your mother in French? Oh spew it out before your door! Spew out the ugly slime of the Seine! Speak German, O you German!

About two hundred years later, Konrad Lorenz, the Austrian Nobel-Prize winning zoologist and ornithologist, studied animal traits. But he also explored the biological roots of human aggression. Living in pre-WW II times, he warned against the growing German nationalism:

“We have seen on the screen the radiant love of the Fuhrer on the faces of the Hitler Youth... They are transfixed with love, like monks in ecstasy on religious paintings. The sound of the nation’s anthem, the sight of its proud flag, makes you feel part of a wonderfully loving community. The South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi 14 Josh Literary Society lecture by Pervez Hoodbhoy fanatic is prepared to lay down his life for the object of his worship, as the lover is prepared to die for his idol.”

Konrad observed that men may enjoy the feeling of absolute righteousness even while they commit the worst atrocities. Indeed, in situations of war, conceptual thought and moral responsibility descend to their lowest ebb. My revered physicist colleague from Denmark, Dr. John Avery, in his remarkable book “Space-Age Science and Stone-Age Politics”, (translated into Urdu and freely available at www.mashalbooks.com) quotes a Ukrainian proverb that says: “When the banner is unfurled, all reason is in the trumpet”. Thereafter, men stop being human and turn into killing machines.

In South Asia, as in Europe, tribalism is generally considered to be on the retreat. But, perhaps paradoxically, in large parts of Pakistan it has been enhanced by technology and protected by modern weapons which tribal people can easily acquire from the developed world. Whether urbanization will create a melting pot, or temporarily lead to a re-solidification of ethnic and linguistic boundaries that will re-tribalise society, is an open question. But the appeal to a larger entity will surely win here too at some point in the future.

The enormous power latent in nationalism was revealed in 1947 yet again. Nationalism dovetailed with religion to create ab-initio the first Islamic nation-state in history, Pakistan. This world-shaking event posed a fascinating paradox: major Muslim political parties, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind, fiercely opposed the creation of Muslim nation state. Nevertheless, the personally secular Mohammed Ali Jinnah captured the Muslim mood with his “Two-Nation Theory”.

In his 1940 presidential address delivered in Lahore, Mr. Jinnah asserted that Muslims and Hindus were two separate peoples who had separate customs, histories, heroes, and outlooks. Thus they belonged to two separate streams of humanity that could never intermingle nor live in peace together. Without this core belief, there would not have been a Pakistan. Mr. Jinnah assumed as a matter of course that Muslims – by virtue of sharing a common faith – could live together harmoniously and they naturally constituted a nation.

The strength of Mr. Jinnah’s Muslim League in the Muslim-majority provinces of India was put to the test during the 1945-46 election campaign. Consequently in the public meetings and mass contact campaigns the Muslim League openly employed Islamic sentiments, slogans and heroic themes to rouse the masses. This is stated in the fortnightly confidential report of 22 February 1946 sent to Viceroy Wavell by the Punjab Governor Sir Bertrand Glancy:

The ML (Muslim League) orators are becoming increasingly fanatical in their speeches. Maulvis (clerics) and Pirs (spiritual masters) and students travel all round the Province and preach that those who fail to vote for the League candidates will cease to be Muslims; their marriages will no longer be valid and they will be entirely excommunicated… It is not easy South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi 15 Josh Literary Society lecture by Pervez Hoodbhoy to foresee what the results of the elections will be. But there seems little doubt the Muslim League, thanks to the ruthless methods by which they have pursued their campaign of “Islam in danger” will considerably increase the number of their seats….

When Mr. Jinnah finally succeeded in creating Pakistan, Josh’s reaction to the partition of India was one of dismay. His Rubayi “Mourning Independence” (Matam-e-Azadi) was written in India in 1948 and Josh recited it to a public gathering in front of Delhi’s Red Fort on India’s first Independence Day:

اے ہمنشیں ! فسانہ ہندوستان نہ پوچھ

روداد جام بخشی پیر مغاں نہ پوچھ

بربط سے کیوں بلند ہوئی ہے فغاں نہ پوچھ

کیوں باغ پر محیط ہے ابر خزاں نہ پوچھ

(A rough translation: Blame me not for the sorry tale of Hindustan. Blame not the seller of wine if it produced no joy. Nor blame the musical instrument for producing mere discordant noise. A cold autumn rain falls on the garden. Those beautiful roses that could have grown will grow no more. Thorns there shall now be many, flowers no more. )

By now the carnage of Partition had already occurred. Neighbour turned against neighbour, friend against friend. A frenzy of bloodletting, murder, arson and rape enveloped the cities, towns, and villages of India. Hindus and Sikhs slaughtered Muslims, and Muslims slaughtered Hindus and Sikhs. Trains filled with corpses arrived at railway stations in Lahore and Amritsar, on opposite sides of the newly established border. A mass transfer of population left a million people died in one of the most catastrophic events of the 20th century. Even today that bitterness is far from gone.

 Josh could find no reason to be joyful:

کیا کیا نہ گل کھلے روش فیض عام سے

کانٹے پڑے زباں میں پھولوں کے نام سے

(A rough translation: Little good does this wine bring. Spring comes without its bright colours. Conversations are limp and lifeless. Even the wine brings little cheer. Drink as much as you want but it still does not help. The night of our celebration is dark and joyless.)

Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister of India, who was present in the audience, was visibly unhappy with the poem, but then listened to it again in a private gathering. He is said to have protested that Josh should not have read it in front of the general public, to which Josh curtly retorted “but it was meant for them”3 .

Among Josh’s most brilliant and hard-hitting poems, one must certainly include Zindaane-Musulus: Lasaan, Adyan, Autan (The Triangular Prison: Language, Religion, and Nation). Some excerpts follow:

ابھرے تو جوش بادہ گساراں نہیں رہا

بادل گھر ے تو رنگ بہاراں نہیں رہا

باتیں کھلیں تور قص نگاراں نہیں رہا

بوتل کھلی تو مجمع یاراں نہیں رہا

کوئی سبیل بادہ پرستی نہیں رہی

مستی کی رات آئی تو مستی نہیں رہی

کب تک رہیں گے آخر یہ طنطنے ، یہ تیور

یہ تیر، یہ کمانیں، یہ نیمچے ، یہ نشتر

یہ آدمی، یہ شاہ آفاق و میر دوراں

نکلے گا کب حصار جغرافیہ سے باہر

(A rough translation: How long shall this pomp and façade last? These bows and arrows, these knives and daggers? Man, who presides over the universe, the king of our times. When shall he escape the narrow confines of geography? )

The essence of the last line above is the concept of territoriality. This is so universal and commonplace that it is simply taken for granted. Individuals internalize territorial dominance as part of the formation of a personal identity. Now an established concept in social ethnology, territoriality was once a survival imperative. Like their ape ancestors, humans had to compete for resources necessary for the individual or group. Boundaries had to be defined. Some territorial mammals use scents secreted from special glands, to create their demarcations. Dogs and cats also establish their territories also using scent marks, but through urination or defecation. Humans draw maps.

Shall these boundaries remain until eternity? Josh answers:

کب تک بنے رہوگے اے وارثان آدم

اپنوں میں آب کوثر، غیروں میں تاب خنجر

یہ ’ غیر‘ کا تصور افلاس آگاہی ہے

رہتے نہیں ہیں پیارے ’ اغیار‘ اس زمیں پر

مشرق سے تابہ مغرب، اک نسل ، اک نسب ہے

اس آسماں کے نیچے ،اور اس زمین کے اوپر

قوموں میں بانٹاہے جو نسل آدمی کو

مشرک ہے او رکافر، کافر ہے بلکہ اکفر

کس کھوہ میں ہے آخر تیراخطیب اعظم

اے راستی کی محراب ، اے روشنی کے منبر

ہاں وحدت خدا کا اعلان ہوچکا ہے

اب وحدت بشر کا ، دنیا کوئی پیمبر

(A rough translation: O’ descendant and inheritor of Adam. Until when shall you want peace for yourself and a dagger for others? This notion of the “other” is so primitive. Remember, my friend, there are no “others” on this earth. From east to west we are all one species, one race. All under this sky and upon this earth are the same. Some work to split us into nations. They play God and are Kafirs. Nay! They are not Kafirs but the most sinful of Kafirs! )

 In decrying nationalism, Josh could be equally speaking to Americans who have waged dozens of wars in the last century, invaded countries, dropped atom bombs, levelled cities, starved populations and tortured prisoners. Or he could be addressing the Japanese who today are a peaceful nation. But in 1937 they murdered hundreds of thousands of Chinese and raped between 20,000-80,000 women in one of the worst episodes of human brutality. It is hard to imagine that the Turks, who are almost integrated into Europe, could have slaughtered 100,000-200,000 Armenians. The list goes on.

It is a depressing fact that today, in a world shrunk by internet and mass communication, we still live in nation-states for which people feel intense emotions of loyalty very similar to the tribal emotions of our cave-dwelling ancestors. Tsunamis of patriotism have again South Asia’s Apostle of Secular Humanism – Josh Malihabadi 18 Josh Literary Society lecture by Pervez Hoodbhoy and again brought forth millions of patriots anxious to slaughter those on the other side. Somehow the ape within us refuses to go away.

 So should one love the country one was born in? Hate it and love another? George Monbiot, a British citizen and columnist for the Guardian, states his position:

I don't hate Britain, and I am not ashamed of my nationality, but I have no idea why I should love this country more than any other. There are some things I like about it and some things I don't, and the same goes for everywhere else I've visited. To become a patriot is to lie to yourself, to tell yourself that whatever good you might perceive abroad, your own country is, on balance, better than the others. It is impossible to reconcile this with either the evidence of your own eyes or a belief in the equality of humankind. Patriotism of the kind Orwell demanded in 1940 is necessary only to confront the patriotism of other people: the Second World War, which demanded that the British close ranks, could not have happened if Hitler hadn't exploited the national allegiance of the Germans. The world will be a happier and safer place when we stop putting our own countries first.

URL of Part One: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-culture/south-asia’s-apostle-of-secular-humanism-–-josh-malihabadi-(part-one)/d/111798

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-culture/pervez-hoodbhoy/south-asia’s-apostle-of-secular-humanism-–-josh-malihabadi-(part-two)/d/111850


Compose Your Comments here:
Email (Not to be published)
Fill the text
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the articles and comments are the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of NewAgeIslam.com.