Arrival of Muslims in a Culturally Isolated India

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When the Muslims had set their feet on the Indian soil, there were here the ancient sciences and philosophy and an abundance of food and raw materials, but, culturally, India had lapsed into isolation from the civilized world for a long time. The mighty mountains on the north and the sea on the other three sides had prevented it from having a regular intercourse with the world that lay beyond its frontiers. The last foreign invader to visit India before the Muslims was Alexander the Great. During the period intervening between the two events India had remained severely cut off from the outside world. There had been no exchange of knowledge with the foreign countries. No new idea, no fresh cultural impetus had reached it from abroad, nor had it been able to send out anything from its own ancient fund of wisdom.

Starting of Age of India’s Contact with the Outside World

It was at a time like this that the Muslims made their debut on the Indian stage. They were, in those days, the most advanced community in the East. They brought with them to India a new, practical and highly rationalistic religion, mature knowledge, a progressive culture and an evolved civilization which included within it all that was best in the cultural stock of many nations—it represented a synthesis of the natural wholesomeness of the Arab disposition, the dainty refinement of the Iranians and the rugged simplicity of the Turks.

Why Non-Muslims should learn about Islam?

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For the different nations and communities of the world to live together in peace and co-operation and with affection and goodwill or in other words, in a state of peaceful co-existence; it is imperative not only that they obtained an adequate understanding of each other’s temperamental characteristics, ideology and traditions, cultural heritage and the great things they have done in the past, and, so forth, but also learnt to appreciate them and to hold them as precious and worthy of encouragement and preservation.

For this reason it is considered necessary everywhere to acquire a proper knowledge of the language and literature, culture and civilization, history and even fine arts of other peoples. Many countries send their missions comprising men of culture and learning to other countries to study their psychological, literary and cultural patterns. Bodies and institutions are set up universally with the object of promoting cultural lies and understanding with the rest of the world and funds are made available to them with commendable generosity. In pursuance of the same objective, the Government of India has established a big organization called the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and there are also in operation here in our country several other private and semi-official bodies, like the Indo-Arab and the Indo-Iranian Societies, which strive through various means to foster and strengthen cultural ties with the peoples of other lands.

Strange Condition of Non-Muslims in India

Thus when there is found a general desire all over the world, to forge intimate contacts with far-flung lands at personal, intellectual and cultural levels, even our national self-interest calls for it and so also the issue of world peace, does it not seem necessary that within a country itself one section of the population did not remain ignorant of the past intellectual and cultural attainments, natural propensities and urges and aspirations of another section that had been living side by side with in millions of numbers for several centuries and had played a decisive role in the shaping of the country’s destiny? It is, indeed, one of the curious contradictions of Indian national existence that one important part of the population here is almost totally in the dark about the ancient heritage and background of the other important part, it has no appreciation of the basic facts with respect to it. It does not know what part it has played in the progress and development of the motherland and in the recent struggle for its freedom—what contribution has it made in the country’s many-sided evolution up to the present day—what are its desires and ambitions, and what are its needs and difficulties in the existing national set-up. This strangeness and ignorance in spite of the fact that the two communities have been living with each other for hundreds of years and participating unitedly in the various tasks of life is a drawback which should be felt strongly and removed without further delay. Unity, trust and harmony are among the diverse elements which are a prerequisite for national integration and progress, but these elements cannot be produced till we remained unaware of each other’s spiritual and emotional make-up, history and social background and the possibilities we hold for the future.

Concerted Efforts to Malign and Discredit Muslim History

The tragedy however, is not confined only to ignorance. What is worse and more disconcerting is that there has got created in our country a powerful tendency to black-out and reject the history and the cultural stock of a whole community, its past achievements and the glorious contribution it has made to the national fight for independence. There is afoot a campaign to present the history of our land in a manner as if the Muslim era in India was an era of foreign, imperialistic domination; it was devoid of all virtue and greatness and failed miserably to produce a single noteworthy personality, a single remarkable achievement in the domains of thought and culture, a jungle act of unpolluted, selfless service to the country’s welfare and development of which the nation could be proud; and that in the long-drawn battle for freedom against the British the role of the Muslims was nothing more than that of a disinterested spectator, and if they did, accidentally, take a part, it was not worthy of attention.

By acting in this manner we are thoughtlessly depriving the lofty, evergreen tree of India of a rich, fruit-bearing branch and proving to the world that for about a thousand years this mighty tree remained barren and utterly unproductive, with the season of autumn reigning supreme all over the country, though it is entirely in opposition to what history tells, apart from casting a sad reflection on the innate human richness and fertility of our land. We, in this way, not only perpetrate a cruel injustice on a community which dwells in our midst in millions, but also cease to be fair and honest to the motherland—to its past and to its future generations that are going to need badly that lives of the illustrious figures belonging to that period of their history were presented before them as models for their conduct.

Further, we can introduce India advantageously and in a more effective manner to the Islamic countries, whose friendship we wish to cultivate, by spotlighting the memorable achievements of the Muslim Period, and win recognition for it of its glory from their educated and enlightened circles. The people of those lands being already familiar, more or less, with the main personalities and land-marks of that span of Indian history, such an endeavor is, again, not likely to present any great difficulty.

The realization of this very truth and need is responsible for the writings on this blog. Due to one reason or another, it is not possible these days both for Muslim and non-Muslim friends to read voluminous works in Persian and even in Urdu of the old style to inquire into the manifold cultural, literary, material and political achievements of that period of our history; what is needed therefore, is brief and easy-to-read articles which may present in glimpses the story of those days and the picture of that way of life, and, thus, serve, so to speak, as mediums of introduction.

It is hoped that writings on this blog will be read with interest among the educated circles of the various communities that go to make our people and prove of some value in reducing the ignorance and the attitude of indifference which exist in the sister-communities towards the Muslims. It may, further, be helpful in promoting the growth of a broad, realistic, national perspective the country so badly needs today.

Perhaps it is not too much to expect that; apart from non-Muslim friends, many educated Muslims too will find in these writings something which will be new to them and add to their knowledge and in some way, however little it may be, go towards ridding them of the inferiority complex they have developed lately, but for which there is no justification. The Muslims are not only citizens of an equal status with anybody in India; they are also among its chief builders and architects, and hold position second to none among the peoples of the world for selfless service to the motherland. They gave to India and the Indian civilization a new life and a new dimension and awakened its people to a new set of moral and spiritual values. Every patch of this land and every particle of this soil bears the imprint of their greatness and is a monument to their industry, earnestness and creative genius. In every aspect of Indian life and civilization can be seen evidences of their noble aestheticism and cultural richness.

P.S. The article has been created from the works of great Islamic scholar Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan)

Coming of Earliest Muslims in India

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Muslim Saints and Preachers

Muslims came to India, supremely unconcerned with worldly aims and ambitions and guided solely by the lofty sentiment of religious-service. They brought with them the Islamic message of equity and social justice in order to show to men thirsting for light and freedom in a dark and narrow world the way to break their shackles and avail themselves of the priceless bounties of nature that were lying scattered over God’s wide earth. The best instances of these dedicated, high- sou led preachers are offered by the lives of the devoted servants of Islam under whose benign shadow thousands of oppressed members of the Indian society not only found shelter but also began to live as their own, beloved kinsmen. The names of Hazrat Ali Hujweri, Khwaja Moinuddin Ajmeri and Syed Ali bin Shahab Hamadani Kashmiri are richly representative of this holy order of men.

Rulers and Conquerors

Sometimes, they came as warriors and conquerors and deep-hearted rulers, such as, Mahmud Ghaznavi, Mohammad Ghori and Zahiruddin Babar. These men of courage and ambition laid the foundations of a magnificent empire that continued to prosper for hundreds of years and carried the country to glorious heights of progress and prosperity.

Permanent Settlement and Spirit of Service

But, whatever the capacity they came in the Muslims always treated India as their home. Their belief was that the earth belonged to God and He gave it in the supervision and keeping of whom He pleased. They considered themselves to be the Divinely appointed trustees of His land and servants of His people. “Every country is our country for it is the country of our Lord” was their motto.

The Muslims unfailingly regarded India as their own country of permanent abode from which they could never turn their eyes away. They ungrudgingly gave of their best mental, physical and spiritual resources, their choicest natural abilities and talents, in its service, thinking that the contribution they would make to its development and prosperity would ultimately be to their own advantage, for was not their future linked inseparably with it? The attitude of Muslim settlers towards India, thus, was radically different from that of the British and other foreign imperialistic Powers that came to hold sway over the land, or parts of it, at a later stage of its history. The object of the Western imperialists in India was simply to make hay while the sun shone. They treated India like a cow which had come into their hands for a few days, and were eager to milk it as thoroughly as they could. The devotion with which the Muslims strove for the advancement and prosperity of India can be understood only in this context.

P.S. The above article has been created from the works of Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan) 

What is Muslim Personal Law and why Muslims need it.

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The All-India Muslim Personal Law Board is a representative body of all the important religious, political and cultural organizations of the Indian Muslims. Being a non-political organization it also enjoys the support of an overwhelming majority of the representatives of Muslims in various national political parties, Muslim legislators, scholars, lawyers etc., and thus it is the only organization that can authoritatively speak for all the Indian Muslims, belonging to all sects and schools, barring, of course, a few individuals who have no following whatsoever among the Muslim masses. The Board has no apologies, no excuses to offer, nor to explain away or make acceptable to others what has been laid down by the Quran and the Prophet in regard to Muslim Personal Law and what has been so consistently accepted and adhered to by the Muslims. Its stand is clear and unequivocal: No change in the Personal Law of Muslims. The Presidential address delivered by Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi at the conference of All-India Muslim Personal Law Board held at Calcutta on April 6 and 7, 1985, candidly explains the Muslims’ point of view in this regard. It gives the reasons why Muslims cannot agree to any change in their Personal Law, the background as well as the reasons for not appreciating the Muslim view-point, the fine distinction between the concept of revealed law and modern legal philosophy and the unreasonableness of the demand for an uniform civil code in a way which would not only be found instructive by the Muslims but would also be appreciated by broadminded non-Muslims who want to understand the reason for reluctance of the Muslims to any change in their Personal Law.

What are the objections of non-muslims and Shariah ignorant muslims

There are many people who hold the view that the Muslim Personal Law is stagnant, it was glorious for its own time, but is a handicap for our own times and purposes, and hence it must be changed/discarded/invalidated like other laws. Their argument is that due to changes in human understanding, progress in standards of civilization and lifestyle, which is considered to be linear in time, and advances in technology are all very genuine pressures on the Shariah to change or to give up those parts which do not seem to rhyme with the changing time.

Have humans really changed?

The fundamental question we need to analyze is that whether humans really have changed with passage of time? Essential human nature, its motives and drives, its emotions and desires have remained virtually unchanged throughout the ages. Technology has certainly advanced and some ways of looking at the world have altered but no new definitions and concepts like ‘cruelty’, ’civilized’, ‘justice’, ‘equality’, have emerged which can command universal acceptance. Man’s lusts and fears, hopes and anxieties, loves and hates, aspirations, yearnings and longings remain what they have always been and they would remain as such till last breath of humans on earth.

Similarly, the idea that something which evolves later in time is necessarily superior to that which preceded it is also untenable. The only absolute everlasting and universal criteria can be those given by God, the All-­knowing, whose words are above any change.

Experience has shown that the conflicting demands of law—stability and change—have never been reconciled. The law that is based purely on reason carries the seeds of its own destruction, for human reason is fallible and erring actually, the tension caused by the demands of stability and change calls for balance and harmony which are conspicuous by their absence in the modern laws of the West. They lack balance and stability since they have to serve the interest of an ever-changing society.

Divine law is distinct from human made laws which are continuously subjected to change and correction. Divine laws have their own method and ethical norms of good and bad which serve to keep social change itself within bounds. Divine laws control the society and are not controlled by it. Undoubtedly it is eternal and immutable for the simple reason that it has to exercise its controlling force on the society. It has, as a matter of fact, kept the social fabric of Islamic society compact and secure throughout the last fourteen hundred years. Its objective is to give rise and guide a ‘moral-spiritual society. It has accordingly established, in the words of Hamilton A. R- Gibb, ” norms for all Muslim institutions and societies, which have ever since remained the sheet- anchor of Muslim culture through the many and terrible vicissitudes of later centuries; it expressed and went far to creating a united Muslim community, in spite of political fragmentation and conflict; and it is still, not­withstanding all the criticisms of Muslim modernists and reformers, the sole embodiment of what would otherwise be merely formal unity of faith among all Muslims.”1

Divine laws handle changing circumstances

Such a law has necessarily to be immutable yet it contains broad principles that admit of interpretation which can accommodate changes in life. Such is its capacity to reconcile stability with changing need of life that the Branch of Oriental Statutes of the International Congress of Comparative Law held in Paris on the 7th of July, 1951, and attended by eminent scholars and professors of law from both the East and the West, adopted the following resolution

“The delegates, being interested in the problems brought about during the ‘Week of Islamic Law’ and in the discussions which demonstrated the indisputable value of the principles of Islamic Law, and the fact that the variety of schools within this great juridical system implies a value of juridical elements and remarkable techniques, allowing this law to respond to all needs of adaptation required by modern life.”2

But, let it be understood clearly that the overall scheme of the Shari’ah and its various specific provisions for meeting the changing needs of life are determined by the way Islam resolves the perennial question of tension between the individual and society, in accordance with its own objectives and within its own framework. It needs no outside interference whatsoever.

1.Hamilton A. R. Gibb. Studies on the Civilization of Islam. London. 1962, p. 200.
2.Islamic Studies Quaterly. Vol. XXIII, No. 4 (Islamabad, 1984), P- 387 (cited from Law and the Problems of Stability and Change by Dr. M. Muslehuddin).

P.S. The above article has been created from the speech of Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi (Ali Miyan) as the President of All India Muslim Personal Law Board Conference at Calcutta on 6-7 April, 1985.

Why Quran was revealed gradually on Mohammad (pbuh) and not all at once

The entire noble Qur’an was not revealed to the Holy Prophet Mohammad all of a sudden. On the contrary, it was revealed, little by little, over a span of nearly twenty three years. At times, the angel Jibrael would come with a small verse, or even with some unit of a verse. Then, there were times when several verses would be revealed at one time. The smallest portion of the Quran which was revealed as such is

ghairu olid dharar

(al-N isa: 4:94) which forms part of a long verse. On the other hand, the whole of Surah al-Anam (Chapter 6) was revealed at one time.

Rather than being revealed all at once, why was the Quran revealed little by little? The polytheists (mushriks) of Arabia had themselves put this question to the Holy Prophet. Allah Almighty has taken it upon Himself to answer the question in the following words:

why hasnt Quran sent down all at once

It is sufficient to understand a gist of the wisdom behind the gradual revelation of the Holy Quran as stated by Imam al Razi in his explanation of this verse. He says:

  1. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) was ummiyy, that is, being unlettered, he did not know how to read or write. So, had the entire Quran been revealed at one time, it would have been difficult to remember and document. Contrary to this, Prophet Musa knew reading and writing, therefore, the Torah was revealed to him at one single time.
  1. If the entire Quran had been revealed all at once, the immediate compliance of all its injunctions would have become obligatory, and this would have gone against the wise graduation which has featured as a matter of concern in the Shariah of Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
  1. The Holy Prophet (pbuh) had to go through ever-new tortures inflicted by his people. That Angel Jibrael came, again and again, with the words of the noble Quran, made his stand against these tortures bearable, and gave strength to his heart.
  1. A large portion of the Quran is devoted to answers given to people who posed questions, while some other portion refers to various particular events. Therefore, the revelation of those verses was appropriate at the time when those questions were asked, or those events came to pass. This increased the insight of Muslims and when the Quran unfolded that which was unseen, its truth became all the more manifest.

 

Cause and background of revelation of particular verses (Sabab al nuzul)

The verses of the noble Quran are of two kinds. In the first place, there are the verses that Allah Almighty revealed on His own. Their revelation was not caused by some particular event or a question asked by someone. In the second place, there are those verses which were revealed in answer to some question or with reference to some event. This could be termed as the background of these verses. This background is known, in the terminology of the commentators, as the sabab of nuzul (cause of revelation) or the shan of nuzul (the background of revelation). The background of revelation is, therefore, very important in the exegesis of the noble Qur’an. There are many verses the meaning of which cannot be correctly understood unless the circumstances underlying their revelation become known.

Why humans need Divine Guidance or Revelation (Wahy)

Allah Almighty has sent man into this world as a matter of test, and in return for his being obligated with certain duties, the whole universe has been placed at his service. For this reason man, once he is in the world, must do two things:

  1. He should make the best use of this world, and of things created in it.
  2. While using this world to his advantage, he should keep the injunctions of Allah Almighty in sight and do nothing that goes against His will and pleasure.

For these two functions man needs knowledge. Therefore, unless he knows the reality of this world, the properties of different things and the manner in which they can be put to use, he cannot use anything in this world to his advantage. Likewise, unless and until he knows the will of Allah Almighty as to what pleases Him and what displeases Him, it will be impossible for him to lead a life in line with the will of Allah Almighty.

Sources of acquisition of knowledge and their functional limits

Allah Almighty, along with the creation of man, has created three things through which he could continue receiving knowledge of the above-mentioned matters of concern. These are:

  1. Man’s senses, that is, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, the hands and the feet.
  2. The reason.
  3. The Wahy.

Consequently, man finds out many things through his senses, many others through reason, and the knowledge of things he cannot get through these two sources are bestowed upon him through Wahy.

The arrangement between these three sources of knowledge is such that each one has its limits, and a particular sphere of activity beyond which it does not work. In natural sequence, the knowledge of things

man collects through his senses cannot be deduced through bland reason. For instance, you know by seeing a wall with your eyes that its colour is white. But, should you close your eyes and try to find out the colour of that wall on the sole strength of your reason, this will then be impossible. Similarly, the knowledge of things that comes through reason cannot be discovered by senses alone. For instance, you cannot find out as to who made that wall by simply seeing it with your eyes or touching it with your hands. Not at all, you rather need reason to arrive at that conclusion.

In short, reason gives no guidance as far as the five senses work efficiently, and when the five senses become helpless, reason starts functioning. But, even the guidance given by this reason is not unlimited. This too stops at a certain limit. Then there are things the knowledge of which can neither be acquired through senses nor through reason. For instance, to find out about this very wall, as to what manner of its use will please Allah Almighty and what manner of its use will displease Him, is possible neither through senses nor through reason. In order to give man the answer to such questions, the source that Allah Almighty has prescribed is what is known as Wahy. And the method it follows is that Allah Almighty selects one of His servants amongst the mankind, ordains him as His messenger and to him He reveals His Word. This Word is Wahy or divine revelation.

This makes it clear that Wahy is the highest source of knowledge for man and it offers to him the answers to questions about his life which cannot be solved by means of reason and senses, but, he still essentially needs to have that knowledge. This further explains that reason and perception alone are not enough to show man the way. It is rather all the more necessary, almost inevitable, that the Divine Wahy be there for his guidance.

Absolute comprehension of Allah’s command isn’t a prerequisite for following it.

Since Wahy is basically needed where reason does not work, it is, therefore, not necessary that everything communicated through Wahy be compulsively comprehended through reason. On the contrary, as reason is no help in finding out the colour of some object since that is the job of the senses, so is the knowledge of many religious beliefs, the gracious giving of which is the sole prerogative of Wahy and not of reason. Furthermore, trusting reason alone for their comprehension is not sound and correct.

To begin with, it is totally senseless to discuss the issue of Wahy with a person who, God forbid, does not accept the very existence of God. But, for a person who believes in the existence of Allah Almighty and has faith in His perfect power, it is not at all difficult to understand that Wahy is a rational need, that it is possible and that it is there for real.

If you have faith in the fact that this universe has been created by an absolutely powerful entity and He is the One who has sent man down here to accomplish some particular mission, how then is it possible to imagine that He, after once having created man, would leave him off in total darkness, without ever telling him why did he come into this world, what his duties were, where was he destined to go and how could he realize the purpose of his life? How could a person, whose sanity is still there, send one of his servants on a certain trip under a designated mission without ever telling him the purpose of the trip while he is leaving, nor explaining it to him later on through some message as to why he has been sent out there and what duties he is supposed to carry out during the trip? When a man of ordinary reason cannot do something like this, how can something like this be imagined with respect to the most Holy Lord of the Universe under Whose ultimate wisdom this whole system of the universe is functioning? After all, how is it possible that the Being, that did create such a mind-boggling system composed of the moon, the sun, the sky, the earth, the stars and the planets, would remain unable to institute some arrangement of communication with His servants, through which human beings could be given guidance about the purpose of their lives? If there is faith in the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty, then admitting that He did not forsake His servants in the dark, will become all the more necessary; rather on the contrary on a serious and honest reflection it will become amply clear that He has surely instituted some regular system for their guidance. And so, this very regular system of guidance is known as Waby (Revelation) and Risalah (Prophethood).

This makes it crystal clear that Waby is not only a religious belief but also a rational need and the rejection of which amounts to a rejection of the ultimate wisdom of Allah Almighty.

Why this blog ?

islamic

For the different nations and communities of the world to live together in peace and co-operation and with affection and goodwill, or, in a word, in a state of peaceful co-existence, it is imperative not only that they obtained an adequate understanding of each other’s temperamental characteristics, ideology and traditions, cultural heritage and the great things they have done in the past, and, so forth, but also learnt to appreciate them and to hold them as precious and worthy of encouragement and preservation.

It is hoped that this blog, will be read with interest among the educated circles of the various communities that go to make our people and prove of some value in reducing the ignorance and the attitude of indifference which exist in the sister-communities towards the Muslims. It may, further, be helpful in promoting the growth of a broad, realistic, national perspective the country so badly needs today.

It will also, perhaps, not be too much to expect that; apart from non-Muslim friends, many educated Muslims, too, will find in these pages something which will be new to them and add to their knowledge about themselves and go some way, however little, towards ridding them of the inferiority complex they have developed lately, but for which there is no justification.