For clarity’s sake

10 11 2008
10 Nov 2008, 0050 hrs IST, ARIF MOHAMMED KHAN

Source: TOI
The announcement by Jamiat Ulama-e- Hind to issue a new declaration against terrorism signed by around 6,000 muftis at its conference at Hyderabad is a welcome decision. Still more important and ambitious is its proposed plan to redefine ‘jihad’ so as to enjoin the terrorists from hijacking Islam by misquoting the Quran.

Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind is a religio-political organisation of Indian Muslim clerics formed in 1919 in the wake of the pan-Islamic Khilafat movement. Initially Jamiat consisted of Muslim scholars drawn from all over the country but later it came to be dominated mainly by Deoband clerics.

The Jamiat had rallied around Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress during the freedom movement and opposed the creation of Pakistan. But there was a sizeable group of the Deoband ulema like Mau-lana Ashraf Ali Thanvi who did not endorse the politics of the Jamiat. The differences led to split and a parallel organisation headed by Mufti Shabbir Usmani was established in 1946 that actively supported the Muslim League and the demand for a separate state of Pakistan.

The Jamiat described participation in freedom movement a religious duty and not a national obligation asserting that “religious freedom was more important than political emancipation”. So much so that it claimed that its flag was a “replica of the flag carried by the Prophet and his companions”. It exhorted Muslims to support the Khilafat movement as a religious duty, to boycott foreign goods as enjoined by the sharia and to fight the British as ordained by God.

It was this practice of invoking religion in every affair that irked Maulana Azad to say “the effect which the words ‘nation’ and ‘motherland’ have on the rest of the world is produced on the Muslims by the words God or Islam. You can stir the hearts of thousands simply with one word — nation — but in the case of Muslims the only comparable word for the purpose is God or Islam”.

There is no doubt that the Jamiat had adopted a nationalistic stance on the questions of Indian freedom and common nationality. But the demands it has been pressing from time to time also deserve an objective assessment as to its impact on the Indian polity.

I would like to draw attention to one of its resolution adopted in the 1939 session to protest against the Wardha scheme of education. The Jamiat censured the new scheme as anti-Islamic and said, “The Wardha scheme emphasises the philosophy of non-violence, and presents it as a creed. We have accepted non-violence only as a policy. This cannot be accepted as a creed. This is against the teaching of the Quran which encourages the Muslims to jihad.”

It is clear from the wording of the resolution that the Jamiat believes that the concept of jihad runs counter to the principle of non-violence. But, it has been contested by several Islamic scholars who insist that Quranic jihad is only a defensive measure against religious persecution. The resolution referred to is very old but it is part of the Jamiat’s official record and finds mention in several books and academic papers. Unless withdrawn it continues to reflect the ideological position of the Jamiat. It is not difficult to surmise the impact of such resolutions on impressionable minds, which become vulnerable to the exploits of the agents of violence and terror.

The other part of the resolution is even more shocking where it says “the danger of the Wardha scheme is that children will be indoctrinated in such a way that not only would they be friendly to other religious groups, but they would also consider every religion of the world a true religion. This belief is un-Islamic”.

The claim made by the Jamiat resolution defies any explanation. They are great scholars but even a layman can see that the Quran has more than 10 verses in which it enjoins the faithful “to believe in all the Prophets and make no distinction among them”. The exercise to redefine jihad will require withdrawal of all such resolutions to make it clear that jihad is no licence to indulge in violence.

The writer is a former Union minister.

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