Dr Rafiq Zakaria on Indian Muslims

Dr Rafiq Zakaria’s new book, ‘Indian Muslims: Where have they gone wrong?’ to be released today at the Nehru Centre, has already created a stir due to its incisive analysis of the Indian Muslim’s problems, hopes and aspirations, and its attempts to end once and for all myths and misconceptions about the community. In this excerpt from the book, Dr Zakaria suggests ways to counter vituperative attacks against Muslims by communal forces.

Do the Indian Muslims fit into the concept of Hindutva, which has become the creed of the ruling BJP? According to its author V D Savarkar, they don’t, because he considered them a separate nation, much before Jinnah did. Its arch ideologue, Guru Golwalkar, clarified that under Hindutva, they can at best be second class citizens.

Only Deen Dayal Upadhya called them ‘blood brothers’, but no sooner than the ousted and only Scheduled Caste President of the BJP, Bangaru Laxman, repeated it, he was asked not to. Recently, the neo-proponent of Hindutva, Sir Vidiadhar S Naipaul, the Nobel Laureate, has reinforced the Savarkar edict by explaining it in his characteristically peculiar style.

According to him the Indian Muslim, being a convert, “his world view alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own, he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab world. The convert has to turn away from everything that is not his.” So how can Muslims converts be a part of the Indian story? This is nothing but travesty of both facts and history.

Apart from the Quran, which is in Arabic and the life, mission and traditions of the Prophet, the non-Arabs have contributed the major part in developing Islam.


As Sir Sayed Ahmad Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University, had pointed out: “In the very first two centuries of Hijra, men of diverse creeds and cultures embraced Islam and, as a result of this admixture, strange notions began to gain currency. In order to avoid any misinterpretation inherent in such a situation, the legal system of Islam was codified by several eminent jurists.

“The purpose of their attempt was to lay down certain broad principles for the derivation of laws. They presented a set of rules, based on the fundamentals of Islam, for the guidance of the common man in his daily life.”

Of those who formalised the shaping of Islam and provided it with both the theological and legal foundations, most of the eminent thinkers and scholars have been non-Arabs. It is they who took care of the requirements of different countries, and brought about the necessary adjustment with the locals in the rites and rituals of different groups.

More than Arabic, it has been Persian which was more used by most Muslims and later even Turkish, especially during the Ottoman rule. The major contributors throughout the history of Islam have been non-Arabs, including Indian Muslims.


For instance, Imam Abu Hanifa, the founder of the Hanifi School, which has the largest following among Sunnis, almost 80 per cent of the total population were Iranians. So was Imam Gazzali, who is hailed throughout the Muslim world as the ‘Reuvenator of Islam’. He was also an Indian.

Imam Bukhari, the greatest of the traditionists hailed from Central Asia. His compendium is regarded by Muslims as second only to the Quran. Its authenticity and sacredness are universally accepted. Shah Walliullah, an Indian, rationalised the ideological framework of Islam.

There are many other distinguished theologians, whose contributions were no less distinct. Each of them gave the territorial flavour to their interpretations, safeguarding the national roots. The magnificent civilisation that Islam gave for almost seven centuries to the world represents all the hues, tones and tempers of different countries.

The ignorance of Sir Vidia is amazing; he does not know that the Prophet himself had admitted that he received fresh air from India in the formulation of his religion. Iqbal has put it thus:

Merr-I-Arab ko aiyee thandee bawa jahaanse,
Mera watan wohi hai, mera watan wohi hai.
The land which gave fresh air to the leader of Arabia
That is my motherland, that is my motherland
The Prophet has also declared that “the love of the country is a part of one’s faith”. Iqbal told Hindus:
Pathar ki mooraton may samjha hai too Khuda hai
Khaq-e-watan ka mujhko bar zarra devta hai
You revere the idol in stone as your God
I worship every particle of the dust of my motherland.


Sir Vidia supports his argument about the convert’s alienation from the land of his birth by stating that because the Prophet was an Arab, Islam makes its followers second class Arabs. If so, why does he not apply the same argument to Judaism and Christianity?

Moses was an Egyptian slave and Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Jerusalem. Both spoke Hebrew and so was the language of the Bible. Their followers are also converts, so what about their national and territorial roots, have these also been destroyed as those of Muslims?

Sir Vidia also denounces the pilgrimage to Mecca by Muslims for Haj which they are obliged to take once in their lifetime; he gives it as another proof of the alien mentality that Islam is said to have developed in a convert, but what about the millions of Christians and Jews who go to Jerusalem, which is their holy land?

In fact, Christians all over the world fought crusade after crusade to recover it from the Muslims in the Middle Ages. If Mecca is not in India, is Jerusalem in England or America? He also forgets that many more millions of Muslims go on pilgrimage every year to Ajmer to pay their homage to the memory of the great saint Moinuddin Christ; even a large number of Hindus do so.

The trouble with Sir Vidia is that he himself has lost his roots; he has never lived here nor have his parents.

Hence, he is absolutely unaware of the impact that Hinduism has had on Islam. In my latest book, Communal Rage in Secular India, I have given numerous examples of how the rites and rituals and stule of living of Indian Muslims have been Indianised, so were their arts, literature, music and culture. An Aligarh professor has written a thesis on it and shown the integration between the two cultures.

Indian Islam is very much different from Islam in the Arab world; its social moorings have no relation with it. Its religious literature is all in Urdu, a language with Indian origin; no Arab can read it. Likewise, Malaysian and Indonesian Islam are also of different varieties; infact, Indonesian Muslims bear Hindu names and their Islam has drawn heavily from Ramayana and Mahabharata.

Many eminent Hindus have acknowledged these facts; of the other two Nobel Laureates, Rabindranath Tagore lauded the interaction between Islam and Hinduism; while Prof Amartya Sen, an economist of the highest calibre, has commended it.

Both of them are genuine Hindus; Sir Vivida, who struggled hard and lobbied for a decade to get the Nobel prize, is a fake Hindu. As someone has said, he is really a ‘Yellow Sahib’, who has taken over the whiteman’s burden, to do the dirty work of dividing Hindus and Muslims.

He is at pains to convince Hindus that Indian Muslims are aliens, more Arabs than Indians in their religious and cultural bearings. He goes further and even implies that converted Muslims are drags on their countries.

He has, no doubt, served the cause of Hindutva, but what surprises me is why did he marry a converted Muslim woman from Pakistan, which is nuturing the most obnoxious and bigoted form of Islam, openly sponsoring terrorism.

However, there is no need for Indian Muslims to get agitated over such intellectual tirade against them; they should keep their cool and encourage intellectuals among them to logically rebut such denunciations.

Holding demonstrations and shouting slogans on the streets, causing traffic jam and creating law and order problem only harm their cause.

Such attacks should either be ignored or intellectually rebutted. The language should be sober and care must be taken to see that Muslims do not indulge in vituperation against Hindus as retaliation; it only intensifies ill will between the two communities and causes further alienation between them and the Hindus.

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This post was last updated: Nov. 21, 2013