To have the freedom to conduct a respectful life and a peaceful death is the minimum birth right of any human being. But nowadays Indian Muslims are under severe anxiety even with respect to this right. How come this 120-130 million 'large' (strong will not be the right word !) fell into such a despicable existence? How did the inheritors of such a progressive and vibrant ideology like Islam manage this metamorphosis into faceless and voiceless crowd? If we, the Indian Muslims, can objectively analyze and find the root cause of this deterioration, it will be rather easy to get out of this 'agni- pareeksha' - the literal test through fire - we are in today. Perhaps, if we all make an earnest effort, it might be possible to deduce some positive results even among the prevailing confusion in our society.
As per our belief, Islam is the religion of this universe and this faith was perfected in the final form through our beloved prophet, may peace and blessing of Allah be showered on him. Our ancestors in India could not remain indifferent to this light of consciousness shone amidst the desolated Arabian Desert. The new message had reached Indian shores almost immediately and flourished in it's fertile soil within a few centuries. We are not aware of any threats or opposition the miniscule Muslim community faced in those early years. On the contrary they were accorded warm welcome by Hindu kings. Muslims progressed to rule most of the country for many centuries.
Even otherwise, they have never felt any insecurity under Hindu rulers of Calicut, Mysore or Maharashtra, to name a few. Bahadurshah Zafar was the unanimous choice of Hindus, Muslims and the Sikhs for Delhi throne during our first war of independence. It was the British colonial power who scientifically injected the communalist virus into Indian society. It seems the first 'historian' who identified Babri masjid as the birthplace of Lord Ram was a western monk! The 'divide and rule policy ' test marketed through the division of Bengal could finally succeed in dividing our country. Along with the land was partitioned the Muslim nation as well. The 'faceless voiceless' Indian Muslim was born! Oblivious of this act of neutralizing our own strengths and opportunities, large majority of the Muslim community supported partition. The few like Moulana Azad and Gafar Khan could not sway the Muslim mood away from the mass hysteria.
There were yet others, notably the religious scholars, who were neither enthusiastic about partition nor acted decisively against the same. We may argue that Muslims were not entirely responsible for this tragedy. Still I believe that we had our fare share and this is the single most factor, aided to breed and perpetuate hostility against the Muslims in India. If we do not acknowledge this fact, any further analyzes and conclusions will only be superficial. Let us have a look at the most common 'solutions' we get through various media these days: To strive for removing misunderstanding about Islam and to effectively neutralize the historical lies and exaggerations about Islam. Islam promotes polygamy, women are persecuted in Islam, Islam is contradicting science, Qur'an is full of war cries, Islam was spread by sword, Tippu Sultan forcibly converted Hindus, muslims are pampered by politicians etc are examples. These are being spread sometimes intentionally and sometimes innocently. Promotion of face to face dialogues; social campaigns, awareness through the media etc. are suggested remedies for this.
To strive for the uplifting of Muslim masses in education, employment, economical and social spheres.· To have long term strategy for developing selfless leaders of the stature of Moulana Azad and Zakir Hussain. To approach the sensitive issues, which attract most of the criticism, like Muslim Personal Law, women's freedom in Islam etc. in a realistic manner. Such issues shall be taught and understood in the true spirit of Islam. Muslims shall be trained and compelled to follow what is written in the 'Book' rather than defending the misuse of the provisions there in. To strive for strengthening the secular fabric of the country by supporting secular political parties and identifying ourselves with other marginalized sections of the society like untouchables and backward classes. Nobody will disagree the relevance of all these suggestions, but these still lack the willingness to investigate and accept the root causes. A well-written secular constitution, dependable legal system and a working democracy are the most prestigious institutions in India. Every one of us shall be proud of these. To sustain and strengthen these institutions is the best guarantee for every one of us, Muslim or non-Muslim. What are the prime issues we need to attend for the same?
If the most severe injury for Indian secularism was partition, Kashmir issue is the prime factor, which still prevents healing the wounds of partition. (I am tempted to buy a theory of colonial conspiracy in the haste in which the country was partitioned, at the same time keeping issues like Kashmir unresolved!) While accepting the right of self-determination for Kshmiris, let us not ignore that, it is in the best interest of the huge Muslim population in rest of India, to have Kashmir continue as an Indian state.
Kashmiris still can negotiate and avail maximum freedom - perhaps much better freedom than on the other side of Line of control- within the Indian constitution. Many other states within the Indian union have managed much development and progress. Kashmiris can do better, if only they divert the energy they spend now in confrontation, towards peaceful negotiation and selfless service of their people. We don't find any better chance for Kashmir, looking at the record of last 55 years across the borders.
If Kashmiris themselves decide to continue to be in India, the bone of contention between India and Pakistan will disappear on its own. Will the Muslim leadership - Muslim personal Law Board, Babri committees (!), any body worth the name- try to bridge Delhi and Srinagar? If peace and stability prevails in the subcontinent, the beneficiaries will be all - Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, everyone. Any efforts towards this noble cause will be more Islamic than the present day suicidal 'jihad'! Nobody will deny the tremendous improvement it can bring to this region, if India, Pakistan Bangladesh and the rest of SAARC countries join together in the model of European union or still better, the USA. It is high time for the citizen of all these countries to dream about such an entity. Indian Muslims particularly deserve the opportunity to lead such a movement, which may be termed as our third war of independence.
The continuing conflict in Kashmir, that has taken a toll of several thousand lives, today still shows no sign of ending. India and Pakistan as well as the several self-styled jihadist groups active in the region appear completely unwilling to make any major compromise in their respective positions. As an Indian Muslim, a student of Islam, and as someone who is seriously trying to practise my faith and understand it objectively, I feel that because the conflict is often framed as an Islamic jihad it is necessary to examine it to see if this labeling is legitimate at all. If indeed it fits the case of an Islamic jihad there can, to my mind, be no question of not supporting it. On the other hand, if, despite the claims of various militant groups, the war cannot be considered an Islamic jihad, I personally believe that there can be no Islamic justification for it. It might well be considered to be a struggle for national self-determination, but cannot be said to be an Islamically legitimate jihad.
Scholars of Islam are unanimous in agreeing that jihad, understood here as physical battle against non-Muslim enemies, is possible only under certain circumstances. There are strict rules governing the declaration and conduct of jihad, and in order to judge whether or not the current militant movement in Kashmir is indeed an Islamic jihad, it is pertinent to examine it in the light of each these conditions.
Many Muslim scholars hold that resort to armed jihad is not allowed against a state that grants its Muslim citizens the freedom to practise their faith. All other problems that Muslims might face by living in such a state have social or political causes, and hence must be solved through social and political means, and not through armed conflict wrongly labeled as jihad.
India, at least in theory, is a secular state, and its Constitution guarantees full freedom of religion, including of the practice and propagation of religion, to all its citizens. It is true that the rights of non-Hindus, particularly Muslims, in India are being trampled upon today and that the Indian Muslims are being actively persecuted by Hindutva groups, often in league with the state. However, no fair-minded person will deny that the growing popularity of the appeals of Hindutva groups in India owes, among other factors, to the widespread fear psychosis among many Hindus triggered off by self-styled jihadists in Kashmir. When groups like the Lashkar-i Tayyeba claim, as they repeatedly do, that their ultimate aim is to have the Islamic or Pakistani flag flying atop Delhi's Red Fort, and when such groups attack and kill Hindus in Kashmir and elsewhere with impunity, it is bound to have a reaction, and naturally this works to increase the support of right-wing anti-Muslim Hindutva groups among Hindus in India, leading, in turn, to increasing attacks on Muslims in the country. It cannot be denied that the violent rhetoric and actions of Hindutva groups and self-styled Islamist groups active in Kashmir feed on each other. In other words, true freedom of religion for Muslims (and for others) in India, which is what the aim of any legitimate jihad should be, can be secured only through active struggle against both right-wing Hindu as well as self-styled Islamist groups. The rhetorica and tactics of the self-styled jihadists in Kashmir, therefore, are completely counter-productive from the Muslim point of view itself.
In this regard, it must also be remembered that prior to the launching of the militant movement in Kashmir in 1989, and even today, for that matter, the Government of India has not placed any restriction on the freedom of religion of Muslims in Kashmir or elsewhere in India. In fact, it is a well-known fact that even prior to the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir, the region had hardly any Islamic institutions, despite Muslims being a majority. Students who wanted to go in for higher Islamic education would generally take admission in madrasas and universities in other parts of India. Almost no Islamic literature of note was produced in Kashmir, and even the Islamist Jamaat-i Islami of Kashmir, which has been in the forefront of the anti-Indian movement, was dependent almost entirely on the literature produced by the Jama'at-i Islami Hind. Islamic bookshops in Srinagar and other towns stocked, as they still do, books almost entirely published by Muslim scholars from other parts of India, there being very few Kashmiri Islamic scholars who had devoted themselves to such literary pursuits. If at all the uprising in Kashmir was indeed motivated by purely religious concerns, one wonders why this was the case.
Jihad must always be done 'fi sabil illah' or 'in the path of God'. In other words, it must be undertaken simply for the sake of the faith. If it is launched for personal or worldly aims, such as for political independence, joining accession to another country or acquiring political power, it cannot be deemed to be a jihad.
The Kashmiri militant movement was launched not by Islamist groups, but, rather, by the secular Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). It was only later that when Islamist groups such as the Jama'at-i Islami felt that the JKLF was emerging as a major challenge to their own authority that they reluctantly decided to join the militant movement. Further, Pakistan also decided to lend armed and other forms of support to the Islamists, finding that their goal of getting Kashmir to join Pakistan worked more in its interest than the pro-independence JKLF. In other words, the militant movement was launched not 'in the path of Allah' (fi sabil illah), which is a precondition for a legitimate jihad, but simply for the sake of a particular political agenda. This means that the movement cannot be considered to be a jihad in the Islamic sense of the term.
Jihad, as a rule, is a defensive war. The Qur'an is replete with exhortations to the believers to desist from aggression against others. It allows for the taking up of arms only when Muslims are persecuted on account of their faith. On no account can Muslims attack non-Muslims who are not opposed to them. The Qur'an explicitly states that God does not forbid Muslims from being kind and dealing justly with those who have not fought them because of their faith. In the course of the war in Kashmir, militants (as well as, of course, the Indian army) are known to have committed considerable atrocities against innocent civilians, Muslims as well as others. This goes completely against the rules of Islamic jihad. In the case of some self-styled Islamist groups such atrocities have been no minor aberrations or exceptions. For instance, the Lashkar-i Tayyeba has consistently sought to present all Hindus as 'enemies of Islam' and hence as legitimate targets. This is completely un-Islamic, and one regrets that Islamic organizations have not had the courage to openly issue fatwas to condemn this as totally unacceptable and declare the Lashkar and similar groups as enemies of Islam.
Islam gives the utmost importance to peace. In fact, Islam is the only religion whose very name means 'peace' (salaam). One of the names of the attributes of God is also al-Salaam or the very embodiment of Peace. The Qur'an repeatedly tells the believers that if aggressive non-believers incline towards peace, they, too, should make every effort in the same direction. Jihad, in the sense of defensive war, is governed by strict codes of conduct. Thus, unarmed enemies, women, priests, children and the elderly are not to be harmed.
It is true that the Government of India's proposals for dialogue with the militants have not been unconditional and that it has always insisted that the status of Kashmir as an 'integral part of India' is non-negotiable. That in itself is, of course, unacceptable. Yet, in accordance with the Qur'anic dictate that if one's enemies incline towards peace, Muslims, too, must do so, it was incumbent on the militants to actively work for peace, rather than creating even greater strife. The word 'Islam' means peace, as Muslims believe, the Prophet was sent as a 'mercy (rahmat) to the world', but how far, if at all, we must ask, have the Kashmiri militants been able to abide by the commandments of Islam and the model of the Prophet in this regard? In actual fact, as will be readily admitted, they have done the gravest damage to the image of Islam. By their bloody actions they have only succeeded in convincing many non-Muslims that Islam is a violent, bloodthirsty religion that has nothing to do with peace. In other words, they have done grievous harm to Islam rather than serving it.
Before launching a jihad, Muslims must make every effort to convey the message of Islam to those opposed to them. This is, what, in fact, the Prophet did when he and his early disciples had to suffer great persecution at the hands of the Qur'aish in Mecca. In the absence of efforts to convey the message of Islam to their opponents before launching a defensive war, no armed struggle can be considered a legitimate jihad. Furthermore, in accordance with the tradition (sunnah) of the Prophet, Muslims must first seek to migrate from the land where they are being persecuted (hijrat), and only then, after all other efforts have failed, can they take up arms in self-defence.
As mentioned above, a precondition for declaring armed jihad is that first all efforts should be made to convey the message of Islam to one's opponents. If they refuse to accept it and still carry on active persecution of Muslims on account of their faith then only is it allowed for Muslims to take up arms in their defence, and that too provided only if they continue to be oppressed. The Kashmiris have done nothing in this regard. No recent Kashmir 'alim or Muslim scholar or organization is known to have made any effort whatsoever in da'wah work among non-Muslims in Kashmir or elsewhere in India. None of the militants involved in any of the various self-styled Islamist outfits have ever made any such efforts. On the contrary, by their actions and rhetoric they have only made da'wah work even more difficult, having led many non-Muslims to believe that Islam is a religion of terror. This clearly suggests, then, that their struggle can in no way be considered a legitimate jihad.
Muslim scholars are generally agreed that the jihad can only be launched when Muslims possess enough military strength to combat their opponents. If they lack this strength, war would cause even more damage to the Muslims, and therefore it cannot be considered a legitimate jihad. It is also argued that if war would create more problems for Muslims than it would solve it may not be legitimate.
It is readily apparent that the Kashmiri self-styled jihadists are no military match for the Indian army. In the course of the last almost two decades, most of the several thousand people who have lost their lives in Kashmir have been Muslims. Thousands of Muslim women have been widowed and many more Muslim children have been orphaned. The war has caused unimaginable damage to the Kashmiri Muslims while not bringing them any substantial gains. Further, it is also undeniable that the conflict in Kashmir has made life for the Muslims in the rest of India much more difficult and insecure. The activities of self-styled jihadists in Kashmir have given a tremendous boost to Hindu terror groups, who now attack Muslims with impunity. If Kashmir succeeds in separating from India the pressure on the Muslims remaining in the country would bound to increase. Their credentials would be held in even greater suspicion than now and demands would even be made that they should leave the country. The Muslims in the rest of India, taken together, number more than 10 times the Muslim population of Kashmir. Hence, from a strictly Islamic perspective, the interests of the former take precedence over the latter. Since it is in the interests of the Indian Muslims that Kashmir stay with India, the Kashmiri militants must recognize this if they are sincere about their commitment to Islam.
It is high time concerned Muslims stand up and defend the fair name of their religion from being sullied by self-styled Islamists in Kashmir and elsewhere who are motivated simply by hatred of people of other faiths and who are using religion for their own base motives. It is tragic that Islamic organizations and Muslim 'ulama choose to remain silent on the continued abuse of Islam by such groups. They are ever eager to pass fatwas of infidelity against anyone threatening their personal interests, but turn the other way when terrorists misuse the faith for their own political agendas. This is not to deny the equally culpable role of the Indian state and Hindu terrorist groups. They too are equally condemnable. However, as Muslims it is our duty to see that our actions are in accordance with the teachings of our faith. Others would be held responsible by Allah for their own actions.
These are just some random thoughts that emanate straight from the heart. I do not claim to be an Islamic scholar, and my understanding of Islam is indeed limited.