The Tragedy of Muslims

By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

In the Delhi based Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz of November 15, 1994, a Muslim intellectual wrote that the Indian Muslims suffered from a persecution complex. Theirs was a psychology of deprivation which demoralized them, and rendered them unfit for any positive struggle.

Most of us would concede the truth of this statement. Just before reading this analysis, I had occasion to ask a student of the Aligarh Muslim University how his fellow students felt about this state of affairs. He replied that everyone was haunted by the fear of there being no scope for them in India. It was a fear which loomed large on everyone’s horizon. During the previous two years, on extensive travels throughout the length and breadth of the country, I had heard the same tales. Everywhere Muslims were in the grip of fear and despondency.Despondency is held unlawful in Islam. The Qur’an is explicit on this point: ‘No one despairs of God’s mercy except those who have no faith’ (12:87). According to early commentators on the Qur’an, in particular, Qatada and Zahhak, despondency is counted among the major sins (Tafsir-e- Qurtubi 9/252). Yet, here, we have an entire community falling a prey to frustration. How do we explain a community, which has successfully distanced itself from major sins — even in the world of today — being caught up in this particular sin?

Having thoroughly mulled over this question, I have to conclude, ultimately, that it is, in fact, our incompetent Muslim leaders who are to blame for this uncalled for tragedy. These so called leaders have repeatedly led Muslims in the direction of goals which were unattainable. With such a goal placed before them as realistic and achievable, Muslims would rise with great zeal and fervor to the task. But they would finally discover that, despite their struggles and their sacrifices, they had achieved nothing. Continuous failures on every front pushed them to the extremes of despondency. Consciously or unconsciously, they came to feel that they had no future in this country. A close examination of the actual state of affairs will reveal, however, that it was in fact their own attitude and approach to problems which were out of place in God’s world. If they lacked opportunities, they felt that they were being denied them because of discrimination and prejudice. They came to the conclusion that there were no opportunities for them in this country, without stopping to consider that this might only seem so as a result of their own misguided or ill-considered course of action.

A major contributor to this mindset was Iqbal, the poet. His were the flights of poetic imagination which encouraged Muslims to slip into unrealistic thinking. In thrall to his guidance, appreciative leaders and intellectuals began with great zeal to disseminate his poetic message. Thrilled by the eloquence of his words, a gullible public heard and accepted a ‘message which bore no relation to reality.

Iqbal’s message to the people was: "Allah ke sheron ko aati nahin rubahi" (God’s lions know no cowardice). Statements like this caught the imagination of the people, without their realizing that no such lions existed in the world of God. They did not pause to consider that the lions of the jungle created by God never spared even a thought for the heroic deed, for all their instincts led them along the path of avoidance — call it cowardice, or call it good sense. However, by setting up Iqbal’s imaginary lion as an ideal, — "Well said, Iqbal!" — Muslims have opted for the path of conflict and confrontation on the mistaken premise that this is what is meant by bravery, and that what they are doing amounts to a jihad (crusade).

For instance, when Hindus lead processions through the streets, there are generally certain aspects of them which are displeasing to Muslims. A sure solution to all this unpleasantness is be the pursuance of the policy of avoidance as a wise strategy. But under the influence of Iqbal, Muslims feel that such a policy smacks of cowardice. So, holding up their imaginary lion as an ideal, they set themselves on a collision course with the processionists. The result is bloody, communal rioting.

Muslims adopt the way of the "lion" on the assumption that their action would boost the morale of the whole community. But such an action always proves to be counter-productive, because now we have a situation in which Muslims feel that their lives and property are no longer secure in their own country. And the degree of frustration they suffer on that score has if anything been intensified.

The most notorious experiment along these lines was, of course, their demand—at the urging of their great leader Jinnah—for the division of the country in 1947, so that the separate state of Pakistan might come into existence. They were told that once a powerful Muslim state was in position at the Indian border, it would act as a strong safeguard for all their rights in India.

At the cost of enormous sacrifices on the part of Indian Muslims, Pakistan came into being. Instead of decreasing, however, their problems only increased. This was because their lawyer Leader was blissfully unaware of the fact that the emergence of a strong Muslim state across the border after independence would necessarily be paralleled by the emergence of a strong Hindu state. It was this fatal miscalculation of the development of future events which brought Muslim expectations tumbling to the ground. Even then, incompetent Muslim leaders failed to learn their lesson from this tragic experiment, and continued to make mistakes of the same nature.

A whole horde of Muslim leaders, led by Dr Abdul Jalil Faridi, came on the scene in the wake of 1965-66 general elections. By making fiery speeches, they succeeded in rallying Muslims under the banner of the "politics of agreement." Muslims thronged to join this political campaign, and after entering into electoral agreements with opposition parties, they gave them their vote. In this way, the Congress was ousted. But when these newly elected governments were formed, Muslims found to their horror that they were even worse off than they had been under Congress rule. This entire edifice of hope—barely erected—soon collapsed.

Similarly, when the Babari Mosque issue came into the limelight in 1986, Syed Shahabuddin conceived the far-fetched idea that it should be projected beyond its local significance and turned into an all-India issue. He thought that in this way the problem would be solved. Almost all of the religious and secular leaders extended their full support to Mr. Shahabuddin on this score. The entire country reverberated with public meetings and processions designed to achieve this goal.

What happened, in fact, was that once the entire Muslim minority had been aroused over the Ayodhya issue, the entire Hindu majority became united in their repudiation of Muslim demands. In the ensuing confrontation, the scales were bound to tilt in favor of this overwhelming Hindu majority. Forcing their entry into the Babari mosque, they razed it to the ground. No Muslim leader dared enter Ayodhya to put a stop to the destruction, and if failing to emerge victorious, be martyred.

The tragic incident of December 6 has pushed Muslims back into the deep dungeon of despondency. What is worse is that this time their feelings of frustration are accompanied by a deep sense of humiliation.

Now a new group of the so-called Muslim intellectuals has emerged on the horizon of the Muslim community. Their gambit is to make an issue of reservation for Muslims in government services, as if that were some kind of master card which would solve all Muslim problems. Urdu dailies have been publishing their articles and statements to this effect couched in high flown language, and once again, Muslims are thronging to listen to their rabble-rousing speeches.

Muslims form fifteen per cent of the country’s population. So they demand that Muslims should be given the same percentage of reservations in government services. I have no doubt that this is asking for the impossible. Even supposing, for the sake of argument, that the government, by legislation or presidential decree, ensured fifteen percent reservations in government jobs for the Muslim community, it would, in practice, be impossible for enough Muslims to come forward to fill these posts.

What is actually going to take place is the massive rallying of Muslims to the chant of high-sounding reservation slogans. There will be a demonstration of the rhetorical power of the leaders. Then, after a long period of hectic activity, it will ultimately dawn on these Muslims that they have given time, energy and money to support these feverish campaigns, but that they have in no way benefited from them.

To lead the community in pursuit of unattainable goals is a dastardly and inimical act: such hot pursuits lead not to the heights of success but to the depths of despair.

It is high time that Muslims understood the bitter truth. They should carve out their future on the basis of facts and reason, and not in a welter of emotion and sentiment. They should live like real lions created by God and not like the imaginary lions of poets’ creation. What solved their problems in the past is what will solve their problems as a community today. No alternative solution is forthcoming in the reality of today’s world.


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