Friday, October 10, 2008

Secular, Religious, Educated, Illiterate

By Ishtiyaque Danish, "Osama not the face of Indian Muslim" - The Times of India - India
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Every time bomb blasts rock an Indian city, police and media zoom in on 'culprits' who idolize Osama bin Laden, the name that is synonymous with Islamist terrorism.

Bin Laden may enjoy cross-border popularity, indeed notoriety, but to project him as the ultimate hero of Indian Muslims is a gross mistake.

Indian Muslims are as divided as any other socio-religious group. There are the Sunnis and Shias, Deobandis and Brelvis, Hanafi and Salafi, among others. This list does not include fundamentalist Islamists. Then there are several religious socio-cultural and political organizations, such as Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Tableeqhi Jamat, Jamiat-e Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, which command a large following. Then there is Sufi Islam, which appeals equally to the secular and the religious, as well as the educated and illiterate.

Those known as wahhabis, especially the ones with jehadist tendencies, are mere fringe elements. Osama's popularity can be attributed to his perceived stand against countries that oppress Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is certainly not his 'salafism' that appeals to Indian Muslims. His popularity simply does not cut through the existing sectarian divides.

Salafism, derisively called wahhabism, is a historical movement, which demands that Muslims return to Islam as it was practiced in the early period when the deviations we see today were non-existent. Salafist ideology seeks to restore the 'Islam' practiced by the Prophet, his companions and their immediate followers. This is the 'Islam' that the great classical jurist Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal sought to establish. In the 18th and 19th centuries, three noted figures sought to revive Salafism. They seem to exercise a great deal of influence across the world even today.

Shah Waliullah was a great 18th century scholar. Born when Muslim rule was on the wane in India, Waliullah addressed every section —- the ruling elite, ulema, sufis and the masses - and demanded it mend its ways. He failed to arrest the political decline of Muslims but his views on religious issues continue to exercise a great deal of influence. It is a pity that sections of the ulema today study Walilullah's philosophy only to prove his Deobandi or Brelvi roots. This is wrong as these sects and sectarian beliefs originated long after his demise.

The second noted figure who tried to revive Salafism was Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed, born towards the end of the 18th century. In association with Shah Ismail Shaheed, grandson of Shah Waliullah, he launched a religio-political movement. It appealed to Muslims to return to pristine Islam and wage jehad to establish an Islamist government in India. They first confronted the Sikh rulers of Punjab and then the British. They went down fighting and are remembered as martyrs. Both exercise a great deal of influence on religious scholars and the masses. The Brelvis, however, are critical of them; they derisively call them wahhabis. Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed and his associates were active in India when the wahhabis were battling to establish ideological supremacy in Arabia.

Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab is a greatly misunderstood personality. Born in the 18th century, he studied in Basra and Makkah. He believed that Muslims had deviated from true Islamic teaching and was particularly acerbic about the practice of visiting the tombs of saints to seek their intercession with god. He formed an alliance with the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia's ruling family, and sought to eliminate religious deviations. He was greatly influenced by Ibn Taimiya and followed the jurisprudence of Ibn Hambal.

The Saudi ulema continue to be associated with the House of Saud. The alliance has helped both sides throughout. The wahhabis prefer to be called unitarians. Their writ runs in Saudi Arabia and they command a huge following in Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen and Bahrain and some other countries. They also have considerable influence in South Asia. The salafis or Ahle Hadith group in India, are in fact, unitarians. With Saudi help they are well-organised but do not command a huge following among Indians.

Through a countrywide network of madrasas, Deobandis greatly influence Indian Muslims. The sect is close to the unitarians in matters of faith but differs on issues like tasawwuf or sufism.

Then there are the Brelvis who differ from the Deobandis on a number of issues, though these differences are no longer so intense as in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both Deobandis and Brelvis follow the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.

Jamat-e-Islami is a revivalist religious organisation. Cadre-based, the closely knit formation wields considerable influence but has never been a mass movement. Both Deobandis and Brelvis are critical of some of Jamat's ideas. The Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind waged India's struggle for freedom alongside Congress. Firmly against Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory, it has an all-India presence and is influential. Its religious beliefs are similar to those of the Tableeghi Jamat and Deobandis.

But the Unitarians or wahhabis hold little appeal for Indian Muslims. So, how does one explain the Osama bin Laden 'phenomenon', which millions of Indians hear of every day when police arrest suspected terrorists with apparent loyalty to the Saudi millionaire?

Bin Laden's many business interests meant he was close to Saudi royals, especially Salman Ibn Abd al-Aziz, governor of Makkah during the Afghan jehad. The Saudis urged rich citizens to donate to fund the jehad. Not only did bin Laden donate generously, he also went to Afghanistan to participate in the jehad. Notably, the Saudis and the Americans were impressed by his generosity, boldness and bravery. Bin Laden was instrumental in forging the alliance between the Arab-Afghan mujahideen and the Saudi-CIA combine. In so doing, he compromised his principles, as did the Americans.

After defeating the Russians, the Saudis asked their men to return, as did the US. But bin Laden had changed and wanted to establish an Islamic government. Against Saudi advice, he continued to finance the Afghan mujahideen. An angry Saudi government stripped him of citizenship and forced him to seek refuge abroad, first in Sudan and then, in Afghanistan.

It is undeniable that sections of India's marginalised Muslim youth are impressed by bin Laden. They respect him for giving up a life of luxury for that of an Islamist warrior. They respect his fight against Americans everywhere.

Many Indian Muslim youth seem to be influenced by Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed, but in a way that could only be the result of a selective study of his life story.

The marginalised and the persecuted identify with the sacrifices of revolutionary figures. This can explain some Indian Muslims' fascination with Osama bin Laden.

Take it from an insider though, that the great majority, however, remains unimpressed.

1 comment:

Suprih and Isti said...

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You have a cool blog.

Don't had stopped contributing your sparkling idea in this blog. I was convinced this blog really useful.

May you be successful …….

Hope you can browse here:
http://www.enblog-gh.blogspot.com

Friday, October 10, 2008

Secular, Religious, Educated, Illiterate
By Ishtiyaque Danish, "Osama not the face of Indian Muslim" - The Times of India - India
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Every time bomb blasts rock an Indian city, police and media zoom in on 'culprits' who idolize Osama bin Laden, the name that is synonymous with Islamist terrorism.

Bin Laden may enjoy cross-border popularity, indeed notoriety, but to project him as the ultimate hero of Indian Muslims is a gross mistake.

Indian Muslims are as divided as any other socio-religious group. There are the Sunnis and Shias, Deobandis and Brelvis, Hanafi and Salafi, among others. This list does not include fundamentalist Islamists. Then there are several religious socio-cultural and political organizations, such as Jamat-e-Islami Hind, Tableeqhi Jamat, Jamiat-e Ulema-e-Hind and Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, which command a large following. Then there is Sufi Islam, which appeals equally to the secular and the religious, as well as the educated and illiterate.

Those known as wahhabis, especially the ones with jehadist tendencies, are mere fringe elements. Osama's popularity can be attributed to his perceived stand against countries that oppress Muslims in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan. It is certainly not his 'salafism' that appeals to Indian Muslims. His popularity simply does not cut through the existing sectarian divides.

Salafism, derisively called wahhabism, is a historical movement, which demands that Muslims return to Islam as it was practiced in the early period when the deviations we see today were non-existent. Salafist ideology seeks to restore the 'Islam' practiced by the Prophet, his companions and their immediate followers. This is the 'Islam' that the great classical jurist Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal sought to establish. In the 18th and 19th centuries, three noted figures sought to revive Salafism. They seem to exercise a great deal of influence across the world even today.

Shah Waliullah was a great 18th century scholar. Born when Muslim rule was on the wane in India, Waliullah addressed every section —- the ruling elite, ulema, sufis and the masses - and demanded it mend its ways. He failed to arrest the political decline of Muslims but his views on religious issues continue to exercise a great deal of influence. It is a pity that sections of the ulema today study Walilullah's philosophy only to prove his Deobandi or Brelvi roots. This is wrong as these sects and sectarian beliefs originated long after his demise.

The second noted figure who tried to revive Salafism was Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed, born towards the end of the 18th century. In association with Shah Ismail Shaheed, grandson of Shah Waliullah, he launched a religio-political movement. It appealed to Muslims to return to pristine Islam and wage jehad to establish an Islamist government in India. They first confronted the Sikh rulers of Punjab and then the British. They went down fighting and are remembered as martyrs. Both exercise a great deal of influence on religious scholars and the masses. The Brelvis, however, are critical of them; they derisively call them wahhabis. Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed and his associates were active in India when the wahhabis were battling to establish ideological supremacy in Arabia.

Muhammad Ibn Abd al Wahhab is a greatly misunderstood personality. Born in the 18th century, he studied in Basra and Makkah. He believed that Muslims had deviated from true Islamic teaching and was particularly acerbic about the practice of visiting the tombs of saints to seek their intercession with god. He formed an alliance with the House of Saud, Saudi Arabia's ruling family, and sought to eliminate religious deviations. He was greatly influenced by Ibn Taimiya and followed the jurisprudence of Ibn Hambal.

The Saudi ulema continue to be associated with the House of Saud. The alliance has helped both sides throughout. The wahhabis prefer to be called unitarians. Their writ runs in Saudi Arabia and they command a huge following in Qatar, Kuwait, Yemen and Bahrain and some other countries. They also have considerable influence in South Asia. The salafis or Ahle Hadith group in India, are in fact, unitarians. With Saudi help they are well-organised but do not command a huge following among Indians.

Through a countrywide network of madrasas, Deobandis greatly influence Indian Muslims. The sect is close to the unitarians in matters of faith but differs on issues like tasawwuf or sufism.

Then there are the Brelvis who differ from the Deobandis on a number of issues, though these differences are no longer so intense as in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Both Deobandis and Brelvis follow the Hanafi school of jurisprudence.

Jamat-e-Islami is a revivalist religious organisation. Cadre-based, the closely knit formation wields considerable influence but has never been a mass movement. Both Deobandis and Brelvis are critical of some of Jamat's ideas. The Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind waged India's struggle for freedom alongside Congress. Firmly against Mohammed Ali Jinnah's two-nation theory, it has an all-India presence and is influential. Its religious beliefs are similar to those of the Tableeghi Jamat and Deobandis.

But the Unitarians or wahhabis hold little appeal for Indian Muslims. So, how does one explain the Osama bin Laden 'phenomenon', which millions of Indians hear of every day when police arrest suspected terrorists with apparent loyalty to the Saudi millionaire?

Bin Laden's many business interests meant he was close to Saudi royals, especially Salman Ibn Abd al-Aziz, governor of Makkah during the Afghan jehad. The Saudis urged rich citizens to donate to fund the jehad. Not only did bin Laden donate generously, he also went to Afghanistan to participate in the jehad. Notably, the Saudis and the Americans were impressed by his generosity, boldness and bravery. Bin Laden was instrumental in forging the alliance between the Arab-Afghan mujahideen and the Saudi-CIA combine. In so doing, he compromised his principles, as did the Americans.

After defeating the Russians, the Saudis asked their men to return, as did the US. But bin Laden had changed and wanted to establish an Islamic government. Against Saudi advice, he continued to finance the Afghan mujahideen. An angry Saudi government stripped him of citizenship and forced him to seek refuge abroad, first in Sudan and then, in Afghanistan.

It is undeniable that sections of India's marginalised Muslim youth are impressed by bin Laden. They respect him for giving up a life of luxury for that of an Islamist warrior. They respect his fight against Americans everywhere.

Many Indian Muslim youth seem to be influenced by Sayyid Ahmad Shaheed, but in a way that could only be the result of a selective study of his life story.

The marginalised and the persecuted identify with the sacrifices of revolutionary figures. This can explain some Indian Muslims' fascination with Osama bin Laden.

Take it from an insider though, that the great majority, however, remains unimpressed.

1 comment:

Suprih and Isti said...

Today You published "Secular, Religious, educated, illiterate",I thought you were creative, so you could make a great content.

You have a cool blog.

Don't had stopped contributing your sparkling idea in this blog. I was convinced this blog really useful.

May you be successful …….

Hope you can browse here:
http://www.enblog-gh.blogspot.com