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Muslim Legacy In India :: Do Muslims Deserve The Hatred Of Hindus? ::
"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.
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.
. Historical memories and nation building in India. M.Rmakrishnayya.. Booklinks corporation. Hyderabad, 500 029 India.
. The preaching of Islam. T.W.Arnold. SH. Muhammad Ashraf. 7, Aibak Road (New Anarkali) Lahore. Pakistan.
. Modern Muslim India and the Birth of Pakistan. SM Ikram. Kazi Publications. Chicago, IL
by courtesy & © 2003 Javeed Akhter
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