Monday, 4 November 2013


Prophet Mohammad interacted with the Hindus on several occasions. A certain Hindu raja is said to have sent his Vizier to Medina to ‘study’ the religion that Prophet Mohammad was propagating. This vizier spent a few years in Medina, so much so that several traditions of Prophet Mohammad are narrated through him. As per a tradition, Prophet even sent one of his trusted companions – Abuzar Ghaffari - to India at the request of the aforementioned king. Ali, Prophet’s closest aide and true adherent to Islamic teachings, trusted the treasury of Basra to a regiment of Jats, while fighting with Muawiya. Hindu Brahmins must surely be interacting with Husain, Prophet’s beloved grandson as we find that a good number of Brahmins, referred to in books as Husaini Brahmins, went to his aide at Karbala but reached there only after Husain, his friends and relatives had been slain by the army of Muawiya’s son, Yazid. However, such was their love and respect for Prophet’s grandson that these Husaini Brahmins stayed back in Iraq and later we find them fighting shoulder-to-shoulder with Mukhtar, in avenging the martyrdom of Husain. Several pursuant of knowledge, belonging to Sindh, are said to be studying in the ‘university’ founded by Imam Jafar Sadiq.

Yet the Muslims couldn’t keep record of how the Prophet or his close companions treated the Hindus; since there is no record that all these aforementioned people had changed their religion. The Muslims in Arabia were too engrossed in petty disputes to have recorded these details minutely. It was too much to expect from a community that failed to unite to this day on the day their Prophet died; if they were not united on the day when the Prophet was born, it was understandable, but disunity on the day of death, when the entire Arabia had accepted Islam, clearly shows the extent to which their Islam and love for their Prophet was superficial.

Unmindful of Prophet and his Ahlul-bayt’s (People of the House [of Mohammad]) close relationship with the Hindus, when the Muslim armies knocked on the doors of India, they were quick to label the local Hindus as Kafirs (infidels), without even attempting to understand the Hindu religion. The Muslims had come more as conquerors and less as practicing Muslims and it suited them most to label the Hindus as Kafirs, as through this labeling they were able to justify their reasons for fighting to their own soldiers for whom it was jehad. There must have been several Muslims who would have refrained from fighting if they got to know that they were fighting for territory or war-booty. Fighting with the Kafirs not only gave a real reason to fight but would have surely resulted in a lot many new recruits, who wanted to participate in the jehad.

We will show later how the true face of Islam got distorted within 50 years of Prophet’s departure. And the first real Muslim attack on India took place in 710 A.D., nearly 8 decades after the Prophet’s death. Consequently, majority of present-day Muslims in India are those who converted for various reasons to a religion that was already far removed from its base.

Historically, though Arab traders used to visit the west coast of India before Mohammad, and presumably continued to do so even after his death, Islam as such reached India when about 710 A.D., Mohammad bin Qasim invaded India and conquered the whole of the Indus Valley from the delta of the river up to Multan. Since the teachings of Prophet Mohammad had not by then completely faded from the Arab mind or had not been totally distorted by corrupt monarchs who justified their conduct by fictitious hadeeses prepared to order by subservient mullahs, Mohammad bin Qasim represented a more humane face of Islam. This also happened in the period in Indian history when the tolerant era of Buddhism had been brought to an end and Brahmin reaction had triumphantly restored Brahmins as the dominant caste. It is therefore not strange that, on one hand, Mohammad bin Qasim was welcomed and even assisted in his conquest by local Buddhists and a large section of lower caste Hindus and, on the other, greatly resented by the proud Brahmins.

It is evident from historical narrations that Mohammad bin Qasim’s motivation was conquest and not conversion. It can be seen from an answer Mohammad bin Qasim received to a dispatch of his from the front. This also reveals that the Hindus were not being considered Kafirs as long as some remnants of true Islam remained.

“. . . The letter of my dear nephew Mohammad bin Qasim has been received and the facts understood. It appears that the chief inhabitants of Brahmanabad had petitioned to be allowed to repair the temple of Budh and to pursue their religion. As they have made submission and agreed to pay taxes to the Caliph, nothing more can be properly required of them. They have been taken under our protection, and we cannot in any way stretch out our hands upon their lives or property. Permission is given them to worship their gods (who were actually the devas who took birth as Ahlulbayt). Nobody must be forbidden or prevented from following his own religion. They may live in their houses in whatever manner they like . . . .”

What is astonishing is the extreme lengths to which the early Arabs went to safeguard the interests and welfare of subjugated peoples. In spite of Mohammad bin Qasim’s high birth which had made him a general at eighteen and in spite of his brilliant generalship, he was recalled to Arabia and sewn alive into the hide of an ox, on the mere suspicion, later proved unfounded, that he had misbehaved with the wife and daughter of Dahir, the Hindu ruler of Sindh who had been killed resisting the invasion.

There is no provision or ruling in Islam which sanctions such a death, as was given to Mohammad bin Qasim, that too on a mere suspicion. This shows that though some remnants of real Islam still remained, most of the true teachings had been forgotten.

Most of the mullahs in the then Muslim world had become subservient to the monarchs of the period. This can be seen from the cursing on Ali that was done from 70000 pulpits every Friday, under the sanction of Umayyad rulers. Evidently, 70000 imams of mosques all across the Muslim world were being paid from state exchequer to curse Ali and his family. As per Islamic rule, particularly in the light of importance that the Prophet bestowed on Ali, the Quranic injunctions regarding his truthfulness and purity and his contribution to Islam during the initial years, such cursing actually made all these mullahs Kafirs. But they continued to curse Ali, even if they knew it was unIslamic, for petty gains. No surprise they kept silence when Mohammad bin Qasim was put to death in a totally unIslamic manner.

Not just Mohammad bin Qasim, several prominent people including revered companions of Prophet, were imprisoned or put to death in the most torturous ways. Mohammad bin Abu Bakr was put inside a donkey’s skin and burnt alive. Companions like Hajr bin Adi and others were tortured to death. Abuzar Ghaffari was banished to die from thirst, hunger and fatigue. This is not to speak of the treatment meted out to the Prophet’s own members of house, the Ahlul-bayt. While Prophet’s elder grandson, Hasan, was poisoned to death, his most beloved Husain was martyred along with handful of friends and relatives, not excluding ‘soldiers’ as old as 6-month old infants. Womenfolk and children of Husain’s household were taken as prisoners to Damascus. Since the rulers in Damascus were calling themselves as ‘Caliphs’ and had the tacit support of all those Imams of Mosques who were actually doing what the rulers wanted them to do, the outside world continued to look at this period as the extension of Islam brought by Prophet Mohammad. The truth remains that while true adherence to Prophet Mohammad’s religion enables a person to reach the loftiest heights of spirituality, a Muslim when removed from the true teachings becomes the greatest tyrant; a statement most vividly seen in the conduct of Talibans.

Most disturbing truth is that majority of Muslim writers continue to see the tyrannical Umayyad and Abbasid periods as the Golden Period of Muslim rule; thereby highlighting the state of their mindsets.

Despite this downward march which derailed Islam from its true teachings shortly after Prophet’s death, the great force that the message of Islam had generated in the minds resulted in Arab supremacy in science and other related fields for the next 200 years. This spirit of scientific enquiry carried to Indian shores by the Arabs was also in sharp contrast to the Hindus, as it proved to be for the Europeans. Says Nehru in ‘The Discovery of India’:

“There were many contacts during this period and Arabs learnt much of Indian mathematics, astronomy and medicine. And yet, it would appear, that the initiative for all these contacts, came chiefly from the Arabs and though the Arabs learned much from India, the Indians did not learn much from the Arabs. The Indians remained aloof, wrapped up in their conceits, and keeping as far as possible within their own shells. This was unfortunate, for the intellectual ferment of Baghdad and the Arab renaissance movement would have shaken up the Indian mind just when it was losing much of its creative vigour. In that spirit of intellectual enquiry the Indians of an older day would have found kinship in thought.”

It is the greatest tragedy that the cultural liberalism of the early Arabs gave way to the cultural chauvinism which holds Muslims in thrall till today.

No truer words have been written than: power corrupts; and power did corrupt, for history is full of references to the sweep of “Muslim” armies, “with the sword in one hand and the Quran in the other,” over parts of Europe. There were certainly over-zealous commanders who gave the conquered the choice between conversion and death. Death was certainly prescribed for Kafirs (those who conceal the truth, after knowing it) and for Muslim apostates, but subjugation and jaziya for “people of the Book” or Zimmis. It would, however, be too much to expect that, except for a few leaders, the conquering Arabs would be conversant with such fine points of theology. But it would seem that the eruption from Arabia was due not so much to religious zeal as to the exuberant chauvinism of the newly emerged Arab nation. It could also be that the concept of Muslim Umma was utilized by the Arabs with the statecraft of imperialists to give a pan-Islamic ideological rationale for what was pure imperialism. Moreover, would one be dubbed a Muslim apologist if it were suggested that if the temples of those who paid taxes were spared, iconoclasm, when it was not for loot as in the case of wealthy Somnath, might have been the method of forcing others to pay, and a punishment for those who did not?

But the spirit of tolerance taught by Prophet Mohammad must still have influenced Mohammad bin Qasim and his superiors. The spirit faded both in the Arabs and non-Arabs alike and subsequent “Muslim” invaders of India acted in a very different manner. The Caliphs had become emperors. Dissension and corruption developed in the wake of imperial power with its decadence and luxury, and the Mongol conquest of Baghdad and murder of the Caliph finally destroyed the hegemony of Arab Islam. Whereas the early Arabs had rationalized their remarkably enlightened imperialism, considering the period, as pan-Islamism, other races now emerged, such as the Turks, who having adopted Islam much later adapted Islam to give the seal of religious approval to their military adventures and, much like the Spanish conquistadors in South America, to act as a cloak under which they tarnished the name of Muslims for all time and inflicted deep wounds on the Hindu ethos which have not yet healed, and which, recoiling on the Muslims, intensified the Hindu’s innate social separatism immensely.

Contrary to this reputation, Mohammad bin Tughlaq, according to the distinguished historian, R.C. Majumdar, was an exception to the general pattern of obscurantist despots. The times, of course, were despotic, and some of his actions were fantastically ill-conceived; but he refused to accept the advice of orthodox Muslim divines, and supported the Ahl-e-maqulat against the Ahl-e-manqualat. If he had not been so ill-balanced, some of his ideas might have taken root.

But something more than the atrocities of Muslim races or Hindu separatism prevented synthesis. There were certain basic ground rules on which Hindu assimilation was based, and which the Muslims broke. Hindu society was like a jig-saw puzzle which only formed a whole picture if each separate piece fitted into the pattern. This meant, in practice, that immigrants were accepted and tolerated provided they kept their place. Assimilation was peaceful coexistence in a heterogeneous system which presupposed passivity on the part of the assimilated. This was easy in the case of Greeks, Scythians, Parthians, and Huns who did not belong to established religions. Parsis brought their own priests with them and there being no proselytization in Zoroasterianism they fitted in smoothly. But the Christians, to a lesser degree, and the Muslim races, even when they had ceased raiding and had settled in India, were by no means passive and did not keep their place. Moreover, whereas Islam had no country, apart from some minor emigration, India was exclusively the land of the Hindus. Further, India, the Bharat Mata, had from earliest times been deified. This resulted in an amalgam of territorial chauvinism and distrust of non-Hindus. To even cross the kala pani was to incur religious excommunication. Conversion therefore came to be regarded as defection from the national religion, and the converted as traitors to the religious nation. The defection was all the greater because the converted Hindus underwent a double conversion. Not only did they opt out of the Hindu religion but, because of Arabized Islam and westernized Christianity, they also opted out of Hindu culture. Since the first proselytizing races to enter India were Muslim, it was they who first offended Hindu national religious susceptibilities.

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