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In Search of an Anchor: Muslim Thought in Modern India

Muslim intellectuals in India share a set of specific concerns that set them apart from their counterparts in other religions. These concerns are the relationship between faith and modernity and that between revelation, plurality of beliefs and culture which have led to a number of political positions. This paper highlights the features of six influential positions through the writings of one significant thinker from each tradition. Every one of these thinkers responded differently to two overarching concerns. They either engaged with the philosophical principles of modernity, or thought that modernity as a set of skills could be grafted onto the foundational principles of Islam or that a different world could be created by picking out the principles ingrained in the Islamic tradition.


In Search of an Anchor: Muslim Thought in Modern India

Valerian Rodrigues

Muslim intellectuals in India share a set of specific concerns that set them apart from their counterparts in other religions. These concerns are the relationship between faith and modernity and that between revelation, plurality of beliefs and culture which have led to a number of political positions. This paper highlights the features of six influential positions through the writings of one significant thinker from each tradition. Every one of these thinkers responded differently to two overarching concerns. They either engaged with the philosophical principles of modernity, or thought that modernity as a set of skills could be grafted onto the foundational principles of Islam or that a different world could be created by picking out the principles ingrained in the Islamic tradition.

Valerian Rodrigues ( teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

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t is important to note that Muslims in India1 are deeply caught in class and status divides (such as Ashrafs, Ajlafs and Arzals), multiple sect-based identities (such as Shias and Sunnis), subscribe to different juridical (such as Hanafi, Hanbali, Shafii and Maliki) and ethnic (such as Bohra, Navayat, Moplah) lineages, and are divided into diverse populist as well as orthodox versions of religious practices. Besides, the linguistic and regional diversities in India and distinct historical legacies inform their understanding and have left their mark regarding who they are. Such sociological divisions are not unimportant to their specific understanding and reach to ideas and concerns. The differential understanding arising therefrom has an important bearing on the political stances adopted by Muslims over the years.2 But it is also important to note that Muslim intellectuals across their diverse divisions also share a consciousness of a kind and a set of specific concerns that mark them off from their other religious counterparts in India.

These concerns can broadly be divided into two types: (1) The relationship between faith and modernity, and (2) The relationship between revelation, plurality of beliefs and culture. While all Muslim thinkers in India dwelt on these twofold concerns, they assigned different weightages to their significance. The first relationship came to the fore under colonial modernity during British rule, which was seen by an important section of the traditional intelligentsia as posing a fundamental challenge to their deeply held beliefs. The second concern was highlighted by Muslim intellectuals in their engagement with the national movement as they confronted the prospect of living within the fold of a nation where the majority owed their allegiance to another religion. These twofold specific concerns, however, led to several political stances, six of them becoming widely influential and often throwing up distinct institutional complexes for their pursuits. While there were varied and multiple overlapping considerations across these stances, there were significant differences among them too. While some of these stances were primarily represented by an epochal thinker, others were much more institutionalised as schools of thought with distinct sets of practices. These six stances can be denoted as follows: (1) Islam within the paradigm of modernity. (2) Islam/Muslim as a continuing tradition.

(3) Modernity under Islam. (4) Modernity under a Muslim nation state. (5) Primacy to Islam. (6) Equality of religious pursuits within a single nation state.

In this paper, an attempt is made to highlight the characteristic thinking of each one of these stances, generally through the writings of one of its important thinkers, with regard to the two central concerns mentioned above.

1 Islam within the Paradigm of Modernity

With the consolidation of British power in India, one of the earliest and most critically influential thinkers, who called for the realignment of Islam with modernity, was Syed Ahmed Khan (18171898).3 He distinguished modernity from colonialism and British rule, and argued that their contingent association should not be conflated to judge the significance of modernity as such. He saw modernity as a specific mode of reasoning, science and technology, and their institutionalisation into conceptions of knowledge, division of labour and engagement with nature. In this sense, he underscored the universal import of this development. He also thought that resources and opportunities in the future would increasingly be assigned in proportion to one’s capacity to engage with this development. Modernity, therefore, had opened up new prospects before everyone, including Muslims. Therefore, Muslims, instead of living in their past glory and without looking at their institutions of yore for authoritative guidance, needed to look to modernity as their future. The future of Muslims, according to him, lay in embracing modernity.

1.1 The Relationship between Faith and Modernity

Syed Ahmed’s positive assessment of modernity did not make him reject religion but led him to the reformulation of the relationship between religion and science. Islam was perceived by him as being not against modernity. He sought a reinterpretation of the same by employing tools of modern scientific research. He proposed not only ijtehad (re-interpretation) but a modern Ilm-ul-Kalam (structure of knowledge), a new conceptual framework to review the relevance and significance of Islam in the postenlightenment age. His central argument in this regard can be formulated as follows: There is an essential harmony between the word of god and the work of god. Therefore, there cannot be a contradiction between the teachings of the Quran and the laws of nature. If there are such contradictions, they are merely apparent and they have to be resolved through ijtehad.

Such a stance led him to a radical re-interpretation of many beliefs, and stipulation of the relations between the sources and traditions of faith afresh – he denied all the miracles attributed to the prophets in the Semitic religions. He also argued that Quranic verses pertaining to jinns, satan, angels, creation, the immaculate conception of Jesus, ascension of the prophet to the divine presence, paradise, hell, seat of god, etc, cannot be read literally. He minimised the role of archangel Gabriel as the conduit of divine revelations and argued that it was the disposition and attunement of the prophet that made his revelatory experience possible.

He argued that the Quran has to be understood holistically and the word of god in it lends itself to appropriation differently by different people across time and cultures. While the word of god in the Quran will always be the expression of truth, the readings of the same across ages may significantly vary. It is not on account of the defects in the Quran but on account of the limited understanding of the human mind. The former will always be abreast with scientific progress. The role of Quranic exegesis should be to interpret the verses in the light of the latest scientific developments. While the Quranic verses are anchored to the textual structure, our understanding, and interpretation of them

44 will be within the parameters of the framework of thought of a specific age. While our understanding depends upon the deployment of appropriate scientific understanding, the body of propositions constituting the Quran will permanently remain immune to change and devoid of any limitations or faults.

Syed Ahmed insisted that interpretation of the Quran called for a great deal of methodological, hermeneutic and exegetical skills. It demanded appropriate understanding of Islamic and Quranic sciences, Arabic lexicography, grammar, morphology, syntax, semantics, styles and other features of language and literature. At the same time, he felt, one should be aware of the sources of misinterpretation such as historicisation, culturalisation or positivist readings of the text as they are likely to undermine the transcendental character of Quranic verses. Such misinterpretations can also lead to unending disagreements. The Quran is not merely a descriptive account and does not lend itself to literal translation. It is multifunctional – descriptive, assertive, informative, declarative, expressive, interpretative, symbolic, allegorical, metaphorical, analogical, etc (Mir 2008: 148). He thought that the classical exegesis of the Quran based on the reported sayings of the prophet read through Greek philosophical speculations lent itself to several misinterpretations. He argued that the Quran took root in a conceptual milieu in which mythological accounts and miraculous elements had been predominant. The biblical stories that find a place in the Quran are often caught in miracle mongering and mythological accounts violating rational justification and natural laws. Often, in the miraculous accounts, the classical scholars saw manifest the supreme and absolute power of Allah. In all such endeavours, there is the human agency that leads to the corruption of the word of god. Such endeavours are also deeply caught within sectarian motivations, denominational ambitions, personal angularities and professional skills. Further, given the inadequate development of experimental sciences, there were no adequate resources to make the necessary distinction between fact and fiction.

Greek philosophy had a significant impact on Muslim intellectuals. In this context, Syed Ahmed advanced the following exegetical criteria: (1) The interpreter needs to grasp and appreciate the nuances, the mood and the style of the Quranic use of words;

  • (2) seek help from one verse to the meaning of another verse;
  • (3) the stipulations of a word and designated meaning must be in accord; (4) a word should not be used outside the meaning accorded to it in a particular context; (5) when a word is used equivocally, the exact meaning assigned in different contexts has to be marked; (6) the literal and figurative usage of words must be distinguished; (7) it is important to underscore whether a particular discourse is amenable to allegorical interpretation;
  • (8) the interpreter should ensure whether the designated meaning of a word is context specific or not; (9) certain phrases like god sitting on the throne, hand of god and face of god cannot be taken literally, either because they are impossible for rational consideration, militate against divine laws or are not in tune with the ordinary experience of man. Therefore, it is important to underscore whether words are employed in a univocal, monosemic or in a polysemic, polyvocal way; and (10) it is important to distinguish between what he called intended speech (kalam-i- maqsood) and
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    unintended speech (kalam-i-ghairmaqsood). The unintended speech does not state a fact but is meant to reinforce the intended principle. This is evident in phrases such as “to those who reject our science and treat them with arrogance no opening will be there of the gates of heaven, nor will they enter the garden, until the camel can pass through the eye of the needle” (Mir 2008: 152).4

    While convinced of the perfection of Din (religion) and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad, he did not accept the finality of the sharia. The sharia, according to him, is an ongoing and evolving legal mechanism bound up with interpersonal, sociopolitical and economic ways of life, and undergoes change according to changing conditions and the cultural context. The claims of Din should not, therefore, encompass the entire range of such temporal and culture-bound activities. He, therefore, rejected the totalising version of religion. He did not see it as a complete code of conduct. He felt that Muslims had lost their initiative due to the totalising interpretation of Islam, and ought to find a solution to their sociopolitical and economic problems without getting their guidance from theologians and jurists. Therefore, it was important to demarcate the jurisdiction of religion from other spheres of life. He argued that in the process of expansion and propagation, the core teachings of Islam came to be enmeshed in cultural and situational processes, but that it was important to distinguish between the two. While the nuclear core of Islam, i e, its moral and spiritual perspectives, are universally valid, situational practices cannot claim the same. Therefore, the sharia can never be conclusively or definitively formulated. It is obligatory on Muslims of every age to engage with their social, political, economic and cultural concerns within the overall matrix of the modern and spiritual meaning of Islam.

    1.2 The Relationship between Din, Religious Plurality and Culture

    The concept of the qaum, or community, is quite central to Syed Ahmed and he saw a polity generally as constituted of different qaums. Syed Ahmed used the terms mulk, millat and qaum interchangeably, as well as to denote communities of different types. In this sense, the usage of the word was fuzzy. In the former sense, he says, “The Qaum is used for the citizens of a country. Various peoples of Afghanistan are considered Qaum and different peoples of Iran are known as Iranis. In a nutshell since olden times the world Qaum is used for the inhabitants of a country, even though they have characteristics of their own” (Malick 1970: 138-39).

    Syed Ahmed thought that common history and interests beget bonds across communities. It is based on sharing a common soil, political authority, mode of social cooperation as well as hardships such as famines (ibid:138). Generally, he was emphatic about Hindus and Muslims as the two constituents of India and called for their unity in one heart and soul. When it came to political affiliation, he confined the usage of the term Muslim to the territorial boundaries of India. He excluded from its connotation affiliation to Persia and Arab lands, which were so central to his collective heritage. In his chronology of Delhi kings, he focused on the legacies of the ancient Hindu kings. He saw the exemplar of rulership in Akbar rather than in Aurangzeb (Gandhi 1986:22). Against the Hindi chauvinists who were trying to delink Hindi

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    from Urdu, he argued that the latter was the connecting bond between Hindus and Muslims in India: “If Hindus persistently demanded the adoption of Hindi in preference to Urdu it would result in the total separation of the Muslims from the Hindus” (ibid: 139).

    Syed Ahmed saw India as being made up of numerous communities. He also felt that nationalism had a complicity with majoritarianism. Muslims, being a minority in India, would be the losers if they un-problematically joined the national mainstream. It was, therefore, important to strive after minority rights so that Muslim interests could be safeguarded in India. He also thought that relative to Hindus, Muslims had remained backward under the colonial dispensation. If they joined Hindus in the national movement, their inequality would be further exacerbated. He, therefore, argued that Muslims should strive to be on par with Hindus in education and employment rather than just be content as the tail end of the national movement.

    Syed Ahmed was opposed to pan-Islamism and was not welldisposed towards the concept of a universal Muslim Khilafat, although he did not want to see Indian Muslims being isolated from the rest of the Dar-ul-Islam. He drew up the argument that in Islam, the authority of the ruler has its basis in divine sanction. Therefore, affront to authority is not justified. In The Causes of the Indian Revolt, he argued that the revolt of 1857 was not a religious war and, therefore, cannot be termed jihad. According to him, the British had not interfered in the religious practices of the Muslims (Khan 1858). He was opposed to those challenging British political power in India, which he felt was securely established.5 He emphasised his loyalty to the British Indian government and not to an external Khalifa.

    At the same time, given the social heterogeneity of India, Syed Ahmed felt that a mode of representation based upon the majority principle was not suitable to India. He argued, “I am convinced that the principle of election, pure and simple, for representation…would be attended with evils of greater significance than purely economic considerations...the larger community would totally override the interests of the smaller community” (Appadorai 1973:255). He believed that a system of representation in India, even in the best of the situations would result in “four votes of the Hindu to every one vote for the Mahomedan” (Khan 1888: 12).

    While Syed Ahmed endorsed British authority over India, at the same time he felt that there was an absence of representation to express the grievances of the people as there was not a single Indian legislative council member. As a result, the people were unaware of the intentions of the government and some of the laws and regulations passed by the British were not in tune with established customs and practices. Similarly, there was an ignorance on the part of the government with regard to the condition of the people. He also thought that there was an overenthusiasm among a section of the British establishment to spread Christianity in India (Khan 1858:149). He felt that this hiatus between the people and the administration had to be removed for the sake of good government. A differentiated system of representation, with adequate representation to minorities, was needed for the purpose.

    The kind of position Syed Ahmed espoused, internally coherent and endorsing a version of the modern/liberal position, finds widespread acknowledgement among a section of Muslims in India even today. But it has been subjected to criticism with regard to both his stances, i e, his reading of the relation between faith and modernity on the one hand, and religion, pluralism and culture on the other. On the first count, this stance has been seen as positivist and in one blow undermining the significance of Din to the believers. It is accused of ignoring the mystical/intuitive dimension of human consciousness and its moral and spiritual role in the march of civilisation. There is a reduction of faith to modernity. Many have seen in it trappings of deism, which implies that god created the world and left it entirely to the charge of man. Critics feel that the Syed Ahmed kind of reading of Islam does enormous harm to its central doctrines. In this background, his contribution to the discussion on god is seen as mostly prosaic and betrays a tragic absence of genuine religious sensibility. Those such as Alam Khundmiri, who do not wish to disown his entire legacy, however feel, “Ultimately Syed Ahmad’s mistake was to impose the limits and also the possibilities of physical science upon Human knowledge” (Ansari 2011:79).

    In relation to religious pluralism and human agency, Syed Ahmed bequeathed a specific legacy. The basic social units in his thought were religious communities, although he underscored many shared practices and institutions bonding Hindus and Muslims. The liberalism in his stance had little place for discrete members of communities and their rights. In comparison, during his time, leaders such as justice Ranade were centrally drawing attention to rights and claims of discrete citizens and not merely to national independence. The shared social life that he spoke about was mainly confined to the elite, and the masses at the most were bonded in certain shared religious practices and occupations. Worse still, the community categories that Syed Ahmed was invoking were not different from those of the colonial dispensation. At the same time, the separate treatment that Syed Ahmed was marking to have a level-playing field for minorities was invoking the language of rights. It is important, however, to note that what it means to have shared bonds and what kind of special considerations ought to be extended to Muslims could beget different considerations. Syed Ahmed’s position can be read as making place for group rights as well as cultural belonging. But such a politics of difference was not based on a strong invocation of equal rights as Azad was to do later. Muslims in India were deeply plural and were not always in a minority, but those upholding Syed Ahmed’s kind of stance generally assumed Muslims across India to be homogeneous. He rightly warned against undermining Urdu as the uniting bond across communities. But the developments on this front went against his stand (Rai 2000). His opposition to the Congress has been variously interpreted – its political aggressiveness, the domination of the Hindus in it, etc. But it could be argued that his location as a Muslim is an important factor in this direction (Kalam 2008: 23536). The colonial ideology, including the orientalist scholarship, had a deep complicity in Syed Ahmed’s commendable efforts in bequeathing to posterity institutions and political tendencies that were to have profound consequences subsequently. Unfortunately, such deve lopments gave little heed to the enormous but yet undefined creative space that he had opened up.

    2 Islam/Muslim as a Continuing Tradition

    There were several thinkers/schools of thought who justified Islam as tradition, handed down over the ages, and did not see the need to go for a break in it, as was suggested by Syed Ahmed. They also defended it as the only mode of life available to Muslims. There is innovation possible within tradition, but in a traditional way. While there are several versions of this stance, the one represented by the madrasa at Deoband has been better known and is widely influential (Metcalf 2005). What unites all these versions is not a justification of tradition, qua tradition, but as possibly the only way their respective protagonists could envisage a good life. It is important to point out at the outset that they had all appropriated elements of modernity, sometimes covertly but often overtly, to make their respective ways of life viable. But all such usages were seen by them as being in accord with tradition, or at the most as instrumental to sustain their cherished way of life rather than caving in to the values and concerns of modernity.

    2.1 The Deoband School
    2.1.1 The Legacy

    Shah Wali-Ullah (1703-62) is said to have inaugurated a new Idiom of Islamic understanding at the juncture of the weakening of Mogul authority in India (Jalbani 1967). He called for the purification of the prevailing Muslim way of life from corruption by pre-Islamic traditions and ways of life, including those of Indian origin. What we have here is an attempt to retrieve a tradition and mark it off from those considered illegitimate in a context where little authoritarian guidance was forthcoming from political authority. The illegitimate and impure practices were also projected as responsible for the sorry state of affairs of the Muslims. Wali-Ullah thought that ignorance of the Quran and the prophetic traditions was responsible for it. At the same time, he called for a rational and broad-minded interpretation of Islamic beliefs and practices and, in furtherance of this call, he himself translated the Quran into Persian. In many ways, it was a widespread endeavour to reinstate an alternative religious authority. In this endeavour, the ulema fell back on their strength rather than that of their rulers. It was a widely shared concern. The Farangi Mahall family of Lucknow, the Chishtiyyah in Punjab and the Naqshbandiyyah in Delhi too attempted to reflect on the viability of tradition without the sustenance afforded by political power. While there were significant differences across them, their collective effort led to the growth of Islamic practices based firmly on the Quran, the Hadiths and the sharia. In this endeavour, we can mark a tendency to outgrow the localisms of the Sufi traditions and an attempt to reach out to universal forms. This line of thinking and the effort to institutionalise it contributed a great deal in the making of Deoband,6 and in other modes of mobilisation and institutional practices.

    Metcalf points out that much of this effort to reassert the continued validity of tradition even without the sustaining support of political authority was inspired by two normative

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    considerations – one is Tajdid, which denotes a process of renewal and commitment to the way of the prophet; and the second is jihad, which denotes effort or action to conform to the way of god. Apart from external behaviour, jihad also denotes intention and purpose.7 There is a shared moral stance in both these considerations – the present troubles that Muslims confront are attributed to individual moral corruption. The enemy would not be strong if one were oneself strong. This could lead to an excessive emphasis on training and disciplining the individual (Metcalf 2005: 5).8 As a result, the self-reflective Muslim constituency far outweighed their peers in other religions from the latter part of the 19th century.

    2.1.2 Faith and Modernity

    Deoband’s initial inspiration came from the ulema, who, according to Metcalf, “chose a strategy of turning within, eschewing for the time all concern with the organisation of the state and relation with other communities. Their sole concern was to preserve the religious heritage… and to disseminate instruction in authentic religious practice and belief. They sought to be, and to create in others, personalities that embodied Islam” (ibid:11). However, in this context, they selectively appropriated elements of institutionalised dispensation of instruction that western, and particularly British universities were devising in the mid-19th century. Rejecting the traditional mode of imparting instruction, they devised several new ways – they did not opt for the hitherto prevalent family lineage mode of instruction, but chose the madrasa as the institutional basis of their work. Given the dwindling royal patronage, they tapped other sources of finance and set up an organisational structure geared to elicit efficiency and accountability to be achieved within a time frame (ibid:94).9 The institutional code stipulated that instructors should forgo individual inclinations in the service of the common programme, i e, “Instruction should be that already agreed on or later agreed on by consultation” (ibid:96). The ulema of Deoband, from early on, also tried to establish a system of branch schools subjecting them to some kind of loose control in both curriculum and administration by the mother institution, following the pattern of affiliating universities in Britain. However, personal ties continued to be very important in this regard rather than a regimen of rules (ibid: 125).

    2.1.3 The Relation between Din, Plurality of Beliefs and Culture

    The Deobandi ulema did not entertain any definite political position but reached out to political parties that they thought were conducive to the advancement of Muslim interests. Leading Deobandis, however, participated in the Jamait-Ulema-i-Hind (JUH), founded in 1919, which supported the Indian National Congress, spearheading the movement for Indian independence, and did not entertain the demand for a separate Muslim state. JUH did not espouse parliamentary democracy but thought much more in the framework of the millat system – they believed that with independence, “they could in fact form their own community, with their own Shariat based codes and their own educational institutions, inhabiting the same space as Hindus but

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    culturally apart” (ibid:14).10 However, a small section of Deobandis came to support the Muslim League demand for a separate Muslim state and organised themselves as Jamait Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), which became a political party in Pakistan after independence.11

    Deobandis did not have much place in their framework of thought for shared practices across communities. They rejected Shia practices and were opposed to Muslim observances that they thought were adulterated by local beliefs. A large heritage of Sufism and pir-related practices was rejected by them. They associated themselves with the Hanafi school of law. One of their great achievements was the issuance of numerous fatwas over the years, giving authoritative opinion on what is legitimate and what is not within the tradition. They threw scorn at efforts such as that of Syed Ahmed, calling him nechari (play on the term, “naturalist” in a pejorative sense). Within the community itself, they drew a sharp line between the Barelwis and the Ahl-i-Hadis.

    2.2 Other Versions of Continuing Traditions
    2.2.1 Tablighi Jamaat

    One of the important versions of the “continuing” tradition is the Tablighi Jamaat.12 While it owes its basic religious understanding to the Deoband, its approach is very different. It was inspired by Maulana Muhammad Ilyas Khandhlawi in the late 1920s. He made an attempt to reach out to the peasantry who had little grooming in Muslim religious life and were susceptible to appeals for religious conversion from other proselytising bodies. The Tablighis focused on the discrete believer and developed support processes through which he practised his religious beliefs in ways that the community would appreciate. They developed a network of lay leadership to monitor as well as to persuade members to fall in line. Its members kept themselves away from political involvement and shunned territorial political linkages. The emphasis was not so much on book-learning but face-to-face, heart-to-heart communication. The Jamaat persuaded ordinary Muslims to go out in groups to remind their co-religionists to fulfil their fundamental ritual obligations. Thereby, it strove to develop a religious sociability as well as to make ordinary Muslims commit themselves to scrupulous adherence to Islamic behaviour and persuade others to do so. The Jamaat avoided debate and argumentation, and shunned wholly any physical coercion in its work. A member’s persuasive effort was supposed to be crowned with sukun, i e, the peace that one experiences as a foretaste of paradise itself (Metcalf 2004: 173-90).

    The Tablighi Jamaat experience inducts an adherent into a dense network of believers forming a community across time and space. Often, belonging to the Jamaat leads to a highly disciplined life of sacrifice. It is an experience of mission of jihad by peace. It calls for self-purification. It attends to personal/private life rather than political transformation. Its focus remains on the global ummah, and its reach and concern is not confined to the nation state. It is, however, important to point out that on the adherence to strict Islamic codes and practices, the Tablighis are in agreement with the Deoband and some of the organisations inspired by it such as the Taliban. The Taliban, for instance, has emphasised on rigourous enforcement of the Islamic code and displayed its opposition to “custom-laden ceremonies such as weddings and pilgrimages to shrines”, “practices associated with the Shia sect” and insisted on “seclusion of women as a central symbol of a morally ordered society” (Metcalf 2005: xxii).

    2.2.2 The Barelwi Ulema

    The Barelwi Ulema are opposed to the Deobandis, the Tablighi Jamaat and the Jamaat Ahl-i-Hadis. Barelwi organisations such as the Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat represent the mainstream of popular Islam in south Asia, drawing on the work of the theologian Raza Ahmad Khan (1856-1921). In the Barelwi tradition, the prophet is an exalted presence participating in divine light (nur). There is a strong emphasis on his mediatory role and right dispositions and practices for the same. It subscribes to intercession to god through pirs or holy personages, who form a chain that reaches all the way to the prophet. To the contrary, in the Deobandi tradition, the prophet is projected as a perfect human (insan-i-kamil) and it is believed that the Barelwi position compromises divine unity (tauhid). The Barelwis venerate the tombs of pirs and holy relics. Deobandi groups argue that these practices are heretical deviations from the scriptures.13

    2.2.3 Ahl-i-Hadis (People of Hadis)

    While the Deobandis, Tablighis and Barelwis reached out to the Muslim masses, the adherents of Ahl-i-Hadis primarily hailed from the intellectual and traditional elite. They decried the controversy among the ulema in the name of ijtehad and sought a standard of interpretation to avoid all uncertainties and ambiguities. They favoured a return to the original Hadis (sayings of the prophet) and denied the legitimacy of the four major law schools. They stressed on individual religious responsibility rather than on putting one’s trust on the learning of the ulema. They were strongly opposed to the Sufism of the shrines and the customs of the sharia. They also looked down upon such practices as the urs, qawwali and pilgrimages.

    2.2.4 Muslim Being a Way of Life

    The different schools of thought mentioned above invoked a conception of tradition rooted in an ideal past and argued for its continued salience across the ages. But there were others who thought that their lived way of life as Muslims embodied an ideal which remained valid in spite of the challenges presented by modernity. Such a conception did not exclude the Quran and the ways of the prophet, but saw them as internal to their mode of life. Often, this approach was open-ended and afforded extensive discretion to the concerned believer. There were varied manifestations of this approach, particularly given the complexity of Islam in India. One of them was clearly highlighted by Hakim Ajmal Khan, who played a major role in advancing a differentiated conception of Indian nationalism (Metcalf 2004: 99-172). Proponents of this approach believed in the continued salience of tradition, but at the same time thought that modern reasoning and science could offer correctives in certain respects. They did not think that there was anything missing in the moral and cultural project they were located in, and in that sense were little

    48 beholden to the modernity that confronted them. At the same time, they were prepared to accept certain aspects of experimental sciences because they would help in critically interrogating certain degenerative and formalistic elements of their own under standing and instil a sense of rigour in their project. Hakim Ajmal Khan, for instance, strongly advocated the Unani14 system of medicine as still valid, although developments in western medical sciences were helpful in instilling the necessary correctives with regard to certain aspects of its understanding and techniques. He was also opposed to the reformist and purificatory zeal of the ulema and their unending contestation on right beliefs and practices. Although a Sunni belonging to the Hanafi school of law, he was not opposed to taking recourse to Sufi saints. Islam as lived life had a wide base but few connecting threads across its vast diversity. Only a small section of the elite related to the ruling dynasties could wear it on their sleeves.

    For most thinkers subscribing to this line of thought, their cultural inheritance also linked them to non-Muslims and constituted a shared heritage around which a conception of the nation could be built. There were Islamic elements in it but not as a distant, disembodied doctrine but as a lived way of life. They generally disparaged the public contestation between doctrinal groups such as the Deoband and Barelwi schools. While they disdained the abrasiveness of colonial authority in India, they generally thought that rulership was important and that there was nothing wrong in extending obedience to the British. However, there was a caveat here. When they perceived that political authority was not in tune with what they thought was significant in their way of life, and if there was an alternative that was available, they could easily be inclined towards the latter. Further, these people did not see the political as the domain of interaction of atomised individuals but as that of communities. They often invoked larger totalising entities such as Hindus and Muslims in their discourse but not necessarily perceiving their relation in a conflictual sense. A section of the Muslim elite was quite comfortable in assuming this stance given their long association with Muslim rule in India, or otherwise ensconced in the prevailing Indian milieu. This position was also highly precarious as it rested upon the confidence of the unity of the elites. Any kind of deep division across the elites or the assertion of the masses from below could make such a position fragile.

    The different schools of Muslim thought in India that argued for the continued vitality of tradition under condition of modernity succeeded in reaching out to diverse sections of the Muslim masses and forging a bond between them, which secular nationalists found difficult to reimagine in alternative ways. Therefore, even when they issued a call for national unity, they had to describe it as Hindu-Muslim unity. These schools have continued to attract much talent, particularly from the Muslim youth but the reach of their ideas has been highly confined, if not wholly clannish. While Islamic scholarship of this kind has argued that it has a holistic conception for the organisation of human life, it has not succeeded in demonstrating such a conception in practice. It has little alternative to offer to the epistemological and economic demands of modernity.

    These schools have not succeeded in creating new bridgeheads to communities and cultures markedly different from their own.

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    While in a certain sense, the positions adopted by Hakim Ajmal Khan and that of the Barelwi school seem to find an echo among sections outside the Muslim community, such bonds are increasingly becoming weak and have little capacity to reach out to new groups. In fact, tradition in all the five formats that we have discussed has remained cocooned. At the same time, they have succeeded in regulating the “private” domain and reinforced a specific axis between the temporal and spiritual domains. It has had deleterious consequences, particularly on Muslim women, peasantry, and other working masses, in making their claims heard.

    In the way these schools have articulated themselves, they are deeply caught in complicities of power, although they claim to be apolitical. Power as control and regulations has become the tool of the doctrinaire groups. They also have the capacity of eliciting submission by the threat of exclusion. When such ideology comes to be armed, it can become not merely ruthlessly messianic, but internally repressive as well.

    3 Modernity Infused with Islam

    In many ways, this is one of the most complex stances to have emerged in India, calling for not merely a critical acquaintance with the Quran and the Islamic tradition, but also a close understanding of the philosophical foundations of modernity in the west. The framework it employed took overboard certain central concepts and understanding of the Islamic tradition and on that basis, attempted to reach out to related notions both within this tradition and outside on a comparative basis. In carving out a central place for faith under modernity, very few approached this issue with the subtlety employed by Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938).

    3.1 The Relationship between Faith and Modernity

    Iqbal made the god-issue central to the modern project. Man’s knowledge and attunement with himself and the world around would not be possible without bringing god into the picture. god’s creative power is writ large across the universe, although Iqbal distanced himself from taking an overt pantheistic or a monistic stance in this regard as many Sufi saints had done earlier. God is both immanent and transcendent. He does not merely create the world, and keep himself aloof from it in the bliss of his eternity, but intervenes in it. His creative activity is still extant in the world. Therefore, the universe in many ways outgrows itself. For Iqbal, this did not involve a limitation in the plenitude of god because he encompasses time itself in his eternity. God has created free conative subjects. Freedom in an ultimate sense means inability to anticipate or predict action. In this sense, human freedom also constitutes limits on god’s omniscience. But it is not limitation but an enhancement of his own greatness. It is not a limitation that is externally imposed but born out of his own creative freedom. Thereby, men work together with god for the realisation of his purpose, i e, men are co-workers with him; they are “participants of his life, power and freedom” he subscribes to the idea of “meliorism”, i e, god helps man in his mission of bettering the world, provided man takes the initiative.

    Reality itself is both contingent and interconnected. Beings have a natural orientation to exert themselves and to outgrow

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    their limitations. Following a strain of Islamic teachings, Iqbal argues that there are various levels of beings, the highest being man himself. Man is capable of knowing the nature of things, but his capacity of intuition is able to fathom reality in its comprehensiveness and in a way feel attuned to divine knowledge itself. Iqbal, therefore, appreciates the great dignity that human beings command in the universe and calls man the vice-regent of god on earth.

    Iqbal strongly affirms the world, alongside appreciation for human capacity of enquiry, freedom and self-affirmation. These latter strivings necessarily flow from the very dignity of man himself. Therefore, when a system of law or rituals, instead of being a facilitator, begins to prescribe goals and purposes it violates not merely the essential strivings of man, but routes them against the very divine purpose. He, therefore, developed a stringent critique of those moments in Islamic history which led to modes of closure of human ingenuity and creative investigation.

    Piecemeal reasoning stuck in an empirical context of subjectobject dichotomy has little capacity to grasp reality as a whole. Iqbal makes the distinction between rational consciousness and mystic consciousness central. While ordinary rational consciousness takes reality piecemeal, in mystic consciousness, diverse stimuli merge and form an “unanalysable unity in which the ordinary distinction of subject and object does not exist”. While mystic experience is “essentially a matter of inarticulate feeling, untouched by discursive intellect”, Iqbal thinks that like all feeling, it has a cognitive element and this cognitive element lends itself to the form of idea. Its guarantee of truth is twofold – intellectual test and pragmatic test. The first involves critical interpretation that leads to testing reality of the same character as is revealed by religious experience, and the latter judges it by its fruits. Religious experience is limited to the one who has experienced it. However, such experience can become inter-subjective when “others begin to live through it with a view to discover for themselves its effectiveness as a method of approaching the real” (Iqbal 2003: 294).

    Iqbal thought that the reasons that propelled modernity and gave a new lease of life to the west have their creative wellsprings within the Islamic tradition. The Quran demands man to engage with the world, to transform it and affirm himself through his creative engagement with the world. Such engagement is not an assertion of pride but connects itself to the creative design of god himself. However, mainstream modernity foisted in the west has severe limitations; it severs man from the creative impulses of his own traditions on the one hand and the larger cosmic purposes in which human action is situated, on the other. Thereby, it makes man as an end in himself and his aggressive designs the reason for his existence. Iqbal thought that the re-articulation of the modern project informed by the Islamic vision would provide to it a different anchor and purposiveness. He felt that the revival of an epistemologically informed Islamic science that linked Islam with modern science was the key to this endeavour. At the same time, he thought that engaging with the scientific and intellectual legacy of Europe was not an alien imitation but should lead to accessing those values and their fruits that Muslims had handed over to Europe.

    For Iqbal, Islam was a religion which took the empirical world seriously. In fact, he contrasted it against Indic religions, which in the pursuit of the divine, neglected the empirical universe. In fact, Islam calls upon its adherents to engage with god’s continuous creative intervention in the world. According to him, “The Quran, recognising that the empirical attitude is an indispensible stage in the spiritual life of humanity, attaches equal importance to all the regions of human experience as yielding knowledge of the ultimate reality” (ibid: 15). For him, “The naturalism of the Quran is only a recognition of the fact that man is related to nature, and this relation, in view of its possibility as means of controlling her forces, must be exploited in the interest, not of unrighteous desire for domination, but in the nobler interest of a free upward movement of spiritual life” (ibid: 16). However, there were philosophical tendencies within Islam which sometimes laid a one-sided emphasis on naturalism or exclusively emphasised on the dependence of the human on the divine, undermining human autonomy. Iqbal felt that this was responsible for the decline of Islam. However, the way science and technology had developed in the west had led to a highly circumscribed understanding of reason begetting a human self almost tailor-made for the purpose.

    Iqbal called for the employment of a wider conception of reason than is expressed in the natural sciences, tapping the deeper movement of thought which is “capable of reaching an immanent infinite”. Therefore, din is entirely comfortable with reason. Such reason needs to be imbued with three sources of knowledge – nature, history and qalb, i e, heart, by which he meant an inner intuition or insight. Nature is teleological and there is some sort of rudimentary spiritual life in physical matter. Intuition is not a mysterious special faculty; it is rather a mode of dealing with reality in which sensation, in the physiological sense of the word, does not play any part.

    One of the central concepts that Iqbal introduces is khudi or self. Khudi is creative individuated self and he sets it up “against mystical notions of fana or the annihilation of the individual self in the presence of god” (ibid: 20). Fana is the disappearance of all feeling of separation or ignorance from the divine as experienced by the mystic. Within Sufism, the language of fana and baqa were quite common and denoted annihilation, extinction of the seeker in the everlasting life or duration of god. While Iqbal engages in the aesthetics of Sufism, he criticises it for its view that the knower and the known are one and for collapsing the distinction between the human subject and god. It involves a loss of personal identity or khudi.

    In his conception of the universe, Iqbal saw the nature of the universe as made of a system of primary selves which are substantial realities, not static but evolving and moving. The human selves, that he termed “egos”, approach god but in this intimacy they become more individuated rather than get absorbed. “The end of the ego’s quest is not emancipation from the limitations of individuality: it is, on the other hand, a more precise definition of it” (ibid: 156-57).

    Iqbal also denoted god in the language of ego. Both god and human selves are conceived through the same concept. They are differentiated by the degree of self-hood they possess. It is the degree of i-amness that determines the place of a thing in the scale of beings. Sometimes, even Iqbal resorted to slippage between the two terms, almost making khudi akin to god by playing on the Sufi usage of ishk, which often denoted the merger of the seeker with the sought. But in Iqbal, ishk is related to khudi: “love individualises lover as well as the beloved. The effort to realise the most unique individuality individualises the seeker and implies the individuality of the sought” (Nicholson 1993: xxvi).

    Sometimes, Iqbal resorted to the description of the human self as god’s “co-worker” who “shares in the life and freedom of the ultimate ego”, being an entity “consciously participating in the creative life of his maker” (Iqbal 2003: 87). In other words, Iqbal thought man is potentially a microcosm and it is quite possible for him to develop his attributes, making him akin to god. The archetype in this regard is Prophet Mohammad, who becomes almost the theophany of god-head himself. At the same time, Iqbal resorts to a great deal of struggle and prevarications in the march of the human self towards such perfection, as Javid Nama (Arberry 1966), his great poem depicting the journey of the self to the divine, depicts.

    Alongside khudi, Iqbal was equally emphatic about the significance of community. In his Mysteries of Selflessness (Arberry 1953) he argues that liberty (ikhtiya) is being born from constraint. In order to be free, one has to willingly submit to the law. This willing submission of the self to the lord is necessary for the formation of an Islamic community. Iqbal uses a wide range of terms to denote community such as qaum, watan, millet, jamaat, sohbat, etc. Selflessness or Be-khudi however does not mean the overbearing of the community over khudi; ultimately, khudi is the motor force but it cannot act unless it is situated in a community (Majeed 2009: 53-57).

    Iqbal celebrated the Islamic community and appropriated the term pan-Islam in his own way. As a poet, he was angry with god for allowing the decline of Islam worldwide, as compared to the global spread of Islamic civilisation in the past (ibid: 59). But while upholding the equality of all Muslims, he acknowledged the centrality of Hijaz, the sacred Arab land, to the Islamic project. In contrast to this, he denoted the Persian world by the pejorative term Ajam, meaning the barbarian. He spoke about the inroads of Persian “Magianism” into the teachings of Islam, and saw the Ahmediyya movement as a re-assertion of a form of Magianism, contesting the finality of the prophet.

    3.2 The Relationship between Din, Religious Pluralism and Nation

    Iqbal defined Islam against nationalism and racism. According to him, the national idea suffered its final fate in Islam. He felt that one of the great contests in the present was whether Islam would succeed in assimilating and absorbing nationalism, or whether nationalism would affect the basic structure of Islam as such (Tariq 1973: 425). In this context, he saw Islam as a living force for freeing the outlook of man from the geographical limitations of nationalism and as an expression of an alternative set of values. In this conception, Islam becomes a universalising religion that calls for de-racialisation. In the context of the historical tension between Arabs and non-Arabs with regard to Islam, Iqbal’s

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    attempt was to empahsise, transcendence of ethnic differences. He saw nationalism as “racialising the outlook of Muslims” and contrasted it against the “humanising work of Islam”. Among the different terms that were widely used to denote the nation, he established a hierarchy. Qaum meant a party of men which might be expressed in umpteen forms on the basis of tribe, race, colour, language, land and ethical values. He contrasted it with millet or ummah, which refers to the carving of a new and common party out of different parties. He said that the term millet had increasingly come to mean nation, which was not the case earlier (Majeed 2009: 68).

    Iqbal made a very critical review of the diverse traditions around which the relationship between human striving, engagement with the world and the relationship with god are posited in Islamic history. There are two aspects of this review: (i) an assessment of the Islamic tradition; and (ii) relation between Islam and other religious traditions.

    Iqbal felt that there were moments in Islamic history when human reason came to be deeply suspect and man was asked to place his faith in the revealed word of god. Thereby, there was an entrenchment of traditions grounded around authority. On the other hand, there were mystics and saints who did not let themselves be tied down to a set of rules regulations or dominant interpretations. While such strivings contributed to the reopening of fresh regions of the self, particularly with regard to the exploration of inner experience, they often resulted in deep fragmentations. While the former expressions led to loss of creativity, the latter led to a sense of denial of community united in belief and shared practices. In many ways, Iqbal attempted to recapture both the spirit of reason as well as interiority in his body of thought. To capture this sense of interiority, he took recourse to poetry, myths and symbolism.

    Iqbal also believed that Sufism had a powerful impact on the common masses in Muslim countries and an alim (scholar) was not accepted unless he was imbued with the ecstasies of a Sufi. He also felt that Sufism has been partly responsible for the decline of Islam as it fostered other-worldly attitudes, debilitating people from actively engaging with the world. He felt that his critique of Sufism was particularly relevant in the Indian context, where it had resulted in the accommodating of several Hindu practices into Islam. In this sense, Iqbal contrasted Aurangzeb against Dara Shikoh, appreciating the former Mughal prince for his steadfastness in Islam, against the latter, for seeking a rapprochement with Hinduism.

    Iqbal believed that the texture of scholastic Islamic theology or ilm-e-kalam, which was rooted in Greek speculative sciences, had broken down and required reconstruction. He argued for the necessity of reconstructing Islamic Law (fiqh) and felt that it could be done only through ijtihad. But for him, it was not an interpretation of a provision of tradition here and there but a larger philosophical project. Only religious obligations or ibaadat, he argued, were beyond the law of change since they constituted the rights of god. But worldly matters (muamalaat) relate to the rights of people and are subject to change and modification. He felt the latter needs to be modified through a continuous process of ijtihad to make them appropriate to the changing times. He

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    also felt that Muslims should not let themselves be exploited by the semi-literate mullah (Iqbal 2004).

    Iqbal saw the necessity of a community of believers who can in a way become the laboratory of god’s authentic community and design a modern project which is singularly different from the kind of modernity that the west has put in place. He did not think that living as a minority within a deeply diverse society like India would allow such a space. The reason that prompted him to make the demand for Pakistan was largely premised on this understanding and not on the idea of nationalism central to the idiom of Jinnah. He thought that democracy in a country like India would perpetuate the slavery of the minority and serve the purpose of the majority.

    In the course of philosophical musings and poetry, Iqbal seemed to be suggesting several discordant projects simultaneously. He envisaged a profoundly challenging modern project with few defined anchors and placed it at the behest of a potential political community that had no parallels before. He sought to retrieve an existing modern project and inject it into a philosophical orientation, that he himself acknowledged had little basis in the present. He thought that several deeply contentious pursuits could be blended together – community and agency; the divine and the human; equality and significance, etc. He interjected intuition into realms where reason had no access, while, at the same time, attributing reasonableness to intuition. He employed the deeply porous spaces of Urdu and Persian poetry to bail him out when his philosophical arguments could not be kept abreast.

    Part of the problem with Iqbal was his great exposure (Ma’ruf 1987). He was a witness to the great philosophical debate in Cambridge University at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, that was linked to the advances in natural sciences. His doctoral study on The Development of Metaphysics in Persia brought him into close acquaintance with the great debates with regard to the nature of Islam, particularly in its early centuries. He was also a witness to the debate within the anti-colonial movement in India with regard to the role and place of minorities in the emerging national life. Above all, he inherited the powerful traditions of Urdu and Persian poetry, with their profound beguiling impact. This complex heritage, and daring to engage with it all, makes Iqbal’s thought a much more open-ended endeavour rather than a set of closely argued positions on the basis of which policy concerns can be mounted.

    4 Modernity under a Muslim Nation State

    This stance posited something called a distinct Muslim nationality in India, which was in search of its own statehood. It rejected the idea of pan-Islam and wanted to base the Muslim question on a distinct way of life. It invoked both Islamic civilisation and modernity and felt that under certain conditions, the former15 could be the basis of nationalism. At the same time, it saw modernity as a universal project which could be grafted onto any civilisation. Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948)16 took over this stance into his control over the years.

    4.1 Faith and Modernity

    Much of the available literature tells us that Jinnah did not confront the problem between faith and modernity, unlike the other protagonists in this paper. It is generally assumed that Jinnah was committed to a modern project and did not want it to be dovetailed to faith-considerations. At this stage, I can only suggest the following caveat that seems to go against this grain of wisdom – Jinnah was very comfortable with religion-based demarcation of communities. He often thought of himself as the connecting bond between them. However, when the concept of community constructed on the basis of a religious divide was problematised by Gandhi, who sought a religious bond across diverse religions, Jinnah was obviously uncomfortable. When the issue of democracy based on equality of citizenship came to be raised, Jinnah was at a loss. He had a feeble response to new communities such as those based on linguistic affiliation, which threatened to undercut religious community ties. The essentialised modernity that he took overboard, in which much of the language of negotiation was worded in universal terms, had little place for the complexities that he confronted.

    4.2 Din, Plurality of Religions and Nationalism

    Three ideas are central to Jinnah with regard to the conception of the political in deeply diverse societies such as India – a distinct concept of minority; religions as not merely faith-communities but as distinct social systems in south Asia; and the idea of nationalism. Over the years, he increasingly deployed them together to argue the case for the separate nationhood of Muslims in south Asia. However, whenever hard cases arose, he resorted to one or the other of the three options. Such options depended on political power and its prudential use.

    Jinnah argued that Muslims constituted a distinct political entity and, therefore, could not be simply subsumed within the category of “minority”. Given the fact that it was a distinct political entity, it needed to find a unified representation. Further, he felt that Muslims should be represented by themselves rather than others speaking for them. These two ideas remained with him across changing political fortunes. At the same time, the options open to minorities depended upon the possibilities offered by specific conjunctures. We can illustrate this by his response to a Muslim delegation from Coorg in south India, on the eve independence when India and Pakistan became separate political entities.

    The delegation sought to know from him what should be their political approach in independent India given the fact that Muslims had succeeded in securing an independent Pakistan. Jinnah told the delegation that even after partition, a significant section of Muslims would continue to remain in India. They should not sacrifice their identity and individuality. If they were to sacrifice both these ideals, they would have lost everything. Maintaining their identity, he told the delegation, they could “serve the best interest of your country. It is only then that your position as a cultural and historic minority will be recognised and as a minority with these distinctive features you will be able to compel others to respect you” (Noorani 2003: 38). Jinnah, however, was acutely aware of their power quotient – he told the delegation to “avoid occasions of conflict with the majority community and show by dint of your merit and intellectual capacity that you cannot be ignored” (ibid: 38). He asked them to be loyal to India

    52 as there was no alternative to it. He further suggested that they should be useful citizens by registering educational and economic advance, particularly in technical and professional fields and also in “business activities” (ibid: 38). But he felt that political disintegration is likely to emerge in India soon due to “lack of homogeneity in the ruling junta”. Under such conditions, Muslims should strive to be the “balancing factor in the power politics” (ibid: 39). At no time during this conversation did Jinnah employ the rightsbased argument.

    Jinnah argued that religions in south Asia were not a private and personal matter. In his article, “The Constitutional Maladies of India” in the London journal, Time and Tide, he said that both Hinduism and Islam “are definite social codes which govern not so much man’s relation with his god as his relation with his neighbour. They govern not only his law and culture but every aspect of his social life. And such religions, essentially exclusive, completely preclude that merging of identity and unity of thought on which western democracy is based” (Guha 2010: 234). Therefore, democratic modes of governance, based upon a “homogeneous conception of the nation such as England” are not applicable to “heterogeneous countries such as India”. Therefore, equality of citizenship, without registering their difference marked by community affiliation, cannot be the basis of founding an independent polity in India. He further argued that if the parliamentary system is adopted in India, it would mean “the rule of the major nation” because the Hindu “as a general rule, will vote for his caste fellow and the Muslim for his co-religionist” (ibid: 234). He repeated these arguments over and over again and concluded that being distinct social orders, “it is a dream that the Hindus and Muslims can ever evolve a common nationality” (ibid: 235).

    Jinnah increasingly argued that Hinduism and Islam are not merely distinct social codes but different nations as well, “as distinct from one another in origin, tradition and manner of life as are nations of Europe” (ibid: 234). Being separate nationalities they have a right to separate statehood. In his famous address to the Muslim League in Lahore in 1940, where the resolution for Pakistan came to be passed, Jinnah stated that the issue between Hindus and Muslims is not “inter-communal” but “international”. Therefore, they should be allowed to have their own separate homelands “by dividing India into autonomous national states” (ibid: 235). While the Indian National Congress was using the concept of the nation in an inclusive sense, Jinnah resorted to the harder essentialised characteristics of a nation to mark the difference of Muslims from Hindus – “The Hindus and Muslims belong to two different religious philosophies, social customs, literatures. They neither intermarry nor inter-dine together and indeed they belong to two different civilisations which are based mainly on conflicting ideas and conceptions. Their aspects on life and of life are different. It is quite clear that Hindus and Musalmans derive their inspiration from different sources of history. They have different epics, different heroes and different episodes. Very often the hero of one is a foe of the other and, likewise their victories and defeats overlap” (ibid: 235-36). He rejected the term minority to describe Muslims in India – “they are a nation according to any definition of a nation, and they must have their homelands, their territory and their state”. Only

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    thereby Muslims will be able to grow to their fullest in their spiritual, cultural, economic, social and political life in accordance with their ideals and their genius. As a matter of fact, he said, “Pakistan has been there for centuries; it is there today and it will remain till the end of the world” (ibid: 239).

    Even after four years of the Lahore resolution, Jinnah was repeating almost verbatim the same definition of nation in his letter to M K Gandhi:

    Muslims and Hindus are two major nations by any definition or test of a nation...we are a nation with our own distinctive culture and civilisation, language and literature, art and architecture, names and nomenclature, sense of value and proportion, legal laws and moral codes, customs and calendar, history and traditions, aptitudes and ambitions – in short we have our distinctive outlook on life and of life. By all canons of international law we are a nation (Jinnah 1973: 238).

    Jinnah employed certain notions such as community, minority, nationality and modernity, which existed in the marketplace of the emerging public sphere in India and read a set of formal connotations into them. These were deeply contested notions with their diverse sociological moorings, but Jinnah crafted them as self-same everywhere. He read the sociopolitical reality that he confronted into these terms and erased the counterfactuals that were galore. The modernity framework in which these terms were set was as much totalising as some of the Islamist frameworks that were advanced for the allegiance of Muslims. It is important to point out that there was little place in Jinnah’s modernity for rights and freedoms, and if it was, it was primarily based on political opportunism.

    5 Equality of Religious Pursuits within a Single Nation

    Rich traditions of living with plurality of religions17 came to be invoked during the national movement in India and found expression in positions such as sarva dharma sama bhava (consider all religions as equal) of Gandhi or India’s distinctive versions of secularism, which did not necessarily seek absolute separation between state and religion or strict neutrality between the state and citizens (Bhargava 1997). While several stances of Muslim thought found a complex overlapping with these positions, it was Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958), who provided a distinctive defence of this position both in his thought as well as in his political practice.18

    5.1 Faith and Modernity

    In his translation of and commentary on the Quran, the Tarjuman-al-Quran,19 Azad concentrates on three attributes of god that are enshrined in the opening verses of the Quran, i e, rububiyat, rahmat and adalat, i e, divine providence, mercy and justice. T N Madan has pointed out that when Azad reflects on these attributes, he reads them as pertaining to the entire humanity rather than Muslims alone (Madan 1998: 164). In the section on divine providence, Azad argues that god provides for, nurtures and sustains all creation. God also confers an inward impulse in all created beings and things, “to make the right use of the provisions afforded” (Azad 1962: 27). In other words, god not merely provides for all but instils in them the capacity and disposition to access the universal through his providence (taqdir) and

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    guidance (hidayat). Azad also argues that through his mercy, god sends prophets to all people, not merely affording them the benefit of revelation but also “opportunities for improvement”. In other words, god’s salvation is available to all and not merely to Muslims. He cites the prayer of the prophet: “O God, I bear witness that all people are brothers to one another. Differences they might have created among themselves, but you have united them together with a single bond of humanity” (Shakir 1986: 157).

    At the same time, Azad stressed on the essential unity of Din – it is not an exclusive preserve of Muslims and to be a Muslim does not remain the essential condition to be saved. With regard to hidayat, Azad argued, “the directive force of divine revelation is meant to afford guidance to every one without distinction, and has to be distinguished from all other forms of so-called guidance which have become the exclusive preserve of particular communities and have divided mankind into a variety of rival religious groups” (ibid: 152). Based on this interpretation, Azad concludes by saying “any religion other than this or conflicting with it is not religion in the strict sense of the term” (ibid: 151).20 Therefore, for Azad, “Islam does not want to establish any new religion, but its mission according to its own testimony, is simply that the followers of all religions in the world be established in their original and unadulterated truth” (Douglas 1988: 94). With such a theological shift, Azad came to stress virtues such as mutual tolerance and peaceful coexistence with other religions. Hindu-Muslim unity became an end for Azad rather than merely a means to bring about national solidarity. It was no longer seen merely as a means to federal unity. Through this reading, Azad called for a return to one’s own religion because the fundamental beliefs of all religions are in accord.21

    With this shift, Azad saw differences between different religions as those of law (sharia) and not of faith (Din). It is Din that constitutes the spirit of religion while the sharia is only an outward manifestation of the same. The former seeks devotion to god and calls for a righteous life. Azad, therefore, did not see a conflict between the right pursuit of Hinduism and Islam. He quoted from the Quran to say, “Why should one fight another in the name of God and religion?” (ibid: 182). Azad’s interpretation of Din and the way he set up its relationship to other belief systems was far removed from all existing interpretations in this regard. While no one doubted Azad’s scholarship on Islam, even the sympathetic ulema saw his reading as devaluing the finality of the doctrine of the prophet and core beliefs of the revelation. It is, however, important to point out that Azad did not necessarily endorse the existing articulation of religions but what he thought were their ideal prototypes. He sought purification of existing religions. In many ways this position of Azad was akin to that of Gandhi (Rodrigues 2011: 56-66).

    This position that Azad assumed from 1920 onwards was significantly different from the cause that he avowed earlier. We can distinguish different phases of the shift that occurs in his thinking over the years. Initially, he had argued in his journal, Al-Hilal, as well as in his speeches, that the Muslims were related to their brethren in Turkey not because they belonged to the same religious fraternity but because every nation must have a religious centre. All Muslims worldwide constitute one nation. The Turkish Khilafat was the political centre of the Muslim community and all Islamic movements should rally in its defensee. Further, the primary strivings of Muslims should be not Hindu-Muslim unity and freedom but the unification and consolidation of Indian Muslims as a distinct community under their own national leader owing allegiance to the Khalifa. He called such political authority Imarat and himself wished to become the supreme Ameer of the Imaarat, who would enter into an agreement with the Hindu leaders. In fact, in 1920, he issued a fatwa that Indian Muslims could opt for hijrat (voluntary migration to a free land) as India had become an enemy of the Khilafat under the British (Gandhi: 1987: 227).

    Following his release from jail in 1920, there was a marked shift in his position. Now, he argued that the basis of Islamic sympathy is not on account of a common domicile or common parentage, but a common outlook on life and common culture. He envisaged the new Khalifa as a democratic institution, elective and not dynastic, and the holder of the office would be chosen on grounds of his godliness and his devotion to Islam. In the third, post-Khilafat phase, Azad shifted his position yet again, reconciling himself to the abolition of the Khalifa. He argued that in Islam, spiritual leadership was due to god and his prophet alone.22 By abolishing the Khalifat, the Turkish government had rectified an anomaly that existed. He tried to redirect Khilafat committees towards social reform, education and the economic progress of India’s Muslims.

    5.2 Din, Plurality of Religions and Nationalism

    One of the themes that runs through the writings of Azad from early on is the emphasis on the duty of Muslims to fight for their freedom: “They should either remain free or perish. There is no third part in Islam” (Hameed 1990: 61). The legitimacy of rule cannot be based on power but on the sanction of the community or nation. Therefore, it was the duty of the Muslims to make every effort to achieve independence (ibid: 35). He also spoke of the inseparability of religion and politics for Muslims, and drew a contrast with Hindus in this regard, saying, “For the Hindus patriotism might be a secular obligation, but for the Muslim it was a religious duty” (Madan 1998: 160). His early arguments to join hands with the Hindus in the struggle for independence were based on prudence, as this combination was seen by him as necessary to fight against the mighty British. Against the argument that Muslims were likely to be swamped by a vast majority of Hindus, he told Muslims that they should stand on their own feet; that they are “the army of God” and are bonded to a large community worldwide, and have little to fear from the much lesser community of “idol worshippers” of India.

    But by the early 1920s, Azad saw Hindu-Muslim unity as a matter of principle. Azad found support for the idea of civic nationalism in Islamic theology and jurisprudence. So long as Indians were not hostile to Islam, Muslims had an obligation to be non-separatists. According to him, the hadith, the traditions of the prophet, supported such a policy. The prophet had entered into a covenant with the Jews and pagans at Medina. This covenant produced “one nation”, a Umma Wahida, regardless of those

    54 who were its members. The suggestion that religious affinity could unite all Muslim countries into one world-state was, he argued, “one of the greatest frauds” foisted on Muslims (Azad 2009: 227). Azad eventually came to strongly argue the case of a single nation (Umma-al-Waida) of Muslims and Hindus in India. It was also his considered opinion that it was the duty of the Muslims to be “united with the Hindus” and said that “it is in accordance with the tradition of the Prophet” (Douglas 1988: 226). Azad also viewed Islam as a liberating force and argued that “ours is essentially a democratic age and the spirit of equality, fraternity and liberty is sweeping over all the people of the world” (Kabir 1959: 44). He deployed a series of arguments to drive home the issue that diversity of religions does not come in the way of belonging to one nation, particularly in the context of India.

    Azad reinforced the scriptural argument for Umma Wahida with the argument of shared heritage. In his presidential address to the Indian National Congress in 1940, he stated, “I am a Muslim and profoundly conscious of the fact that I have inherited Islam’s glorious traditions of the last 1,300 years. I am not prepared to lose even a small part of that legacy. I am equally proud of the fact that I am an Indian, and essential part of the indivisible unity of Indian nationhood” (Hameed 1990: 161). Azad also offered an explanation for this twofold affiliation,

    it was India’s historic destiny that its soil should become the destination of many different caravans of races, cultures and religions… this vast and hospitable land welcomed them all and took them to her bosom…these common riches are the heritage of our common nationality and we do not want to leave them and go back to the times when this adventure of a joint life had not become (ibid 162).

    He also stressed on common shared achievements:

    Eleven Hundred years of common history have enriched India with our common achievements. Our languages, our poetry, our literature, our culture, our art, our dress, manners and customs, the innumerable happenings of our daily life, everything bears the stamp of our joint endeavour. There is indeed no aspect of our life which had escaped this stamp (Ghose 1975: 362).

    Azad’s arguments were highly innovative and threw up interesting possibilities of engaging with the religious question, particularly given the fact that he was acknowledged as a great Islamic scholar even by adversaries. But his views, like those of Iqbal, called for much greater elaboration and specification in order to engage with the institutionalised forms of Islam and Hinduism in India. Further, by the time he had formulated these arguments, the political slide had already tilted against his stance

    – the social constituency in which Azad’s argument mattered had already been won over to a form of Islam which rhymed little with his approach. The Indian national movement too, apart from Gandhi, was not serious about frontally invoking the religious issue in the public domain. Most of the national leaders sought unmarked secular mobilisation and believed that it would create durable bonds between Hindus and Muslims.

    6 Integral Islam

    The theological position that Islam is an integral doctrine encompassing both spiritual and secular life was a recurrent theme among the ulema as well as in several Islam-inspired movements

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    in south Asia. However, there were significant differences with regard to the understanding of this relation. Abul Ala Maudoodi (1903-79) was to provide a distinct emphasis to it and transform Islam into an ideology of power.

    Maudoodi was initially associated with the Jamaat-ul-Ulemae-Hind but broke away from it as he did not agree with its support to the Indian independence movement led by the Indian National Congress. He argued that nationalism was a western concept and was a false idea to pursue. He also condemned the demand for Pakistan pursued by the All India Muslim League in the name of separate nationhood. Such a state would “safeguard merely the material interests of Indian Muslims and neglect their spiritual life as none of its leaders had an Islamic mentality” (Ahmad 1967: 214). He founded his own organisation in 1941, the Jamaat-e-Islami (the Islamic Association), based on the assertion that there cannot be an Islamic state without an Islamic revolution. Even though he was opposed to the demand for Pakistan, once it was established, he migrated there and campaigned for the conversion of Pakistan into an Islamic state, by which he meant an Islamic constitution and Islamic sharia, and pitted it against western secular democracy. The Jamaat also actively engaged itself in the domain of civil society approving and denouncing trends, and often resorting to violent agitations. Two of its earliest struggles were against the Ahmediyyas, who questioned the finality of the prophet, and for the incorporation of Kashmir into Pakistan, respectively. While Maudoodi denounced the Deoband Madrasa, the latter issued a Fatwa asking Indian Muslims to shun his organisation. But Maudoodi’s influence was to spread not merely across south Asia but also influenced such ideologues as Sayyed Qutb of the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt and political leaders such the late Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan.

    6.1 Faith and Modernity

    According to Maudoodi, the central message of the Quran was “that Allah alone should be taken as Ilah (object of worship) and Rab (Sovereign Master) (Maududi 2003a). He interpreted the concepts of Ilah and Ibadat (worship) to imply “continuous service and un-remitting obedience” (ibid: 9) to Alahu. Maudoodi saw western enlightenment as “the rule of Jahiliya (ignorance)”, which should be replaced with “Nizam-e-Islami” or the rule of Islam (Maududi 2003b). He rejected the notion that Islam should be measured in terms of modern ideologies such as democracy and communism. The legitimacy and defence of Islam does not rest on its compatibility with fashionable modern ideologies. For him, Islam was a “well ordered system, a consistent whole, resting on a set of clear-cut principles... the various phases of Islamic life and activity flow out from these first principles exactly as the roots of a tree sprout from the seed” (Maududi 2003a: 6-7).

    For Maudoodi, the root cause of evil and mischief in the world was the domination of man over man and if one does not “believe in God, some artificial God will take His place”(ibid: 15), illustrating it with the hold of the Communist Party in Soviet Russia and of “a handful of Wall Street Capitalists” in America (ibid: 16). When such overlord-ship and domination (Ilahiyyat and Rabubiyyat) gets established, man is deprived of his natural freedom. What is required is the “repudiation and renunciation by man of

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    all masters and the explicit recognition by him of Allah, Almighty, as his sole master and Lord” (ibid: 18). Such a turn would deliver man from injustice, slavery of false gods, domination of man over man and exploitation of the weaker by the stronger.

    According to Maududi, Islamic political theory argues that legislation and command should rest in Allah because sovergnity belongs to him alone. Islam subscribes to a version of theocracy, where a community of believers submit themselves to the law of god. But in effect, such a rule is the rule of the whole community of believers, united in his law and therefore, he calls it “theodemocracy”, i e, “limited popular sovergnity under the suzerainty of God” (ibid: 22). Maudoodi did not vest ijtehad in any strata of Muslims. According to him, “every Muslim with a developed power of judgment and sufficiently advanced knowledge of Islamic principles is entitled to interpret the Law of God” (ibid: 22). But even men united in faith cannot change explicit commands of god and his prophet.

    Maudoodi rejected the distinction between the public and private spheres. He believed that the Quran and the Hadis should direct our public concerns as much as they do our private. In fact, the distinction itself is invalid. Maudoodi criticised the traditional Ulema for reducing Islam to the five pillars – profession of faith (iman), prayer (namaz), fasting (roza), alms-giving (zakat) and pilgrimage (hajj). To the contrary, he saw Islam as a comprehensive system that provides for a way of life covering the entire spectrum of human existence – individual, social, economic and political – which must be obeyed and implemented in its entirety. He felt that a person cannot be a true Muslim if he fulfils Islamic obligations in his personal life but neglects them in his political and economic life. Muslims, according to him, must “try to make the whole of Islam supreme over the whole of life”.

    Maudoodi himself compared and contrasted this understanding with other totalitarian systems such as fascism and Stalinist state socialism – in an Islamic state “no one can regard any of his affairs as personal and private… the Islamic state bears a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist regimes” (ibid: 29). At the same time, he thought that the Islamic state was vastly different, from the modern totalitarian and authoritative state, since Islam upholds “individual liberty” under the sovereignty of god; it is the united rule of the community of believers and not dictatorship; and it is a balanced system which cares for different segments of the society as directed by law. Maudoodi also argued that in such a system, there is an active participation of members in their self-rule: “All believers are repositories of the caliphate. The caliphate granted by God to the faithful is popular viceregency. There is no reservation in favour of any family, class or race. Every believer is a caliph of God” (ibid: 32). In such a society, there are no class divisions or distinctions of birth and social position. The only element that counts is one’s personal ability and character. Maudoodi also provided an elaborate scheme of distribution of social goods based upon such a principle.

    Maudoodi called for a return to the real and original fountains of Islamic ideal (Murad 1984: 71) inspired under divine guidance

    – the law that god gave is comprehensive and perfect; the sharia is a complete scheme of life and an all embracing social order; it lacks nothing and there is nothing superfluous in it (Adams 1966: 388). Whatever was not clearly given, he argued, could be derived from the original sources. Maudoodi’s attractive slogan was, “It will not do to say that Islam accords with reason; one must assert that true reason accords well with Islam” (Madan 1998: 147).

    6.2 Din, Plurality of Religions and Nationalism

    Maudoodi rejected nationalism on the grounds of parochialism and thought that “Islam and Nationalism are diametrically opposed to each other”. He distinguished between political nationality, i e, people bound together and governed by one political system irrespective of their social and ethnic composition, and cultural nationality, i e, those who share a thick array of things and intimacies in common such as ideas, sentiments, feelings, moral standpoints, viewpoints, the sacred and the profane, habits, temperaments, leanings, social and ethnic bonds and historical traditions (ibid: 532-33). He said that nationalism is strongly associated with the second rather than the first and termed cultural nationalism as “inflamed nationality”. He was of the opinion that nationalism divides people and inflames passions, making one to accord “preference to his nationality over other nationalities” (Appadurai 1972: 530). On the other hand, Islam makes people transcend their narrow confinements and reach out to universality. It investes man with dignity and, irrespective of his social and ethnic location, calls him to equality. It deals with “man as man”, presenting “to all mankind a social system of justice and piety based on creed and morality” (ibid: 530) and “inviting all towards it”. Maudoodi further argued that “those who accept the principles of Islam are not divided by any distinction of nationality or race or class or country. The ultimate goal of Islam is a world state in which racial and national prejudices would be dismantled and all mankind incorporated in a cultural and political system with equal rights and equal opportunities for all” (ibid: 530).

    Maudoodi declared universal jihad as the central tenet of Islam. He accorded a specific connotation to it, departing significantly from the earlier meanings associated with the term. Jihad, according to him is not holy war to convert the infidel nor a mode of self-defence, but the revolutionary struggle to seize power for the good of all humanity. He feasted power and presented Islam as a dynamic and activist political ideology which must acquire state power in order to implement its social, economic and political agenda. He believed that religious preaching too is integral to it. This tended to make his version of Islam a political programme rather than a religio-intellectual movement (Ahmad 1994).23 The aim was to establish a Nizam-e-Mustafa (rule of the prophet), where each Muslim would conduct himself as a true Muslim person and the rest remain subject to the Islamic community. He distinguished between a “Muslim country” and an “Islamic State”. The former is predominantly populated by Muslims and the religion of its rulers is Islam, which provides a limited space for Islamic governance, while the latter is governed in accordance with the sharia.24

    At the same time, Maudoodi proposed that the methods of government should not be authoritarian – the heads of state and government would be elected for a fixed term through free elections based on universal adult franchise. Similarly, members of the shoora (parliament) too would be elected by the people. The

    56 Islamic state would rest on the distribution of power to three organs – the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. The Islamic way, according to him, respects the independence of the judiciary, and none, including the head of state, would be above the law. He did not recognise the right of any religious person or group to rule in the name of god.

    Maudoodi favoured a free economy in which individual initiative and economic freedom of the people are safeguarded and their right to property is upheld. He made the distinction between halal (permissible) and haram (forbidden) methods of earning and spending, and prescribed the necessary restraints. He argued that Islam does not favour concentration of wealth in a few hands, disregarding the interests of the weaker sections of society. He was in favour of abolition of monopolies in the means of production so that there would be no permanent privileged classes. At the same time, those who excel in entrepreneurship should be rewarded, if such a pursuit was done lawfully.

    Maudoodi’s thinking is convertible to any other messianic vision of the world, except for its ability to tap the resources of an Islamic constituency nurtured over decades in south Asia, the political organisations that it has spawned and its call for a revolutionary transformation of the world. Maudoodi inserted his call for action into familiar, but emaciated, trajectories of political transformation such as Bolshevism and fascism. At the same time, this thinking has the capacity to nibble into the peripheries of other stances of Muslim thinking that we have discussed above. Given the way Maudoodi celebrated a universal Islamic state under the sovereignty of Allah, any slippage from an inclusive political order is likely to favour his position wherever there is a significant Muslim minority to heed his call.

    7 Conclusion

    All the six stances of Muslim thought in modern India, that we have discussed, acknowledge the primacy of the Quran and the Hadis. They also uphold the need for ijtehad. Most of them believe that Islam offers directives and guidelines to regulate secular as well as spiritual affairs. In fact, they regard the distinction itself as illegitimate. However, the agreement stops there. Beyond these generalities, there are significant differences with regard to the interpretation of the tradition; the significance of tradition itself in the interpretation of tradition; the agency appropriate to undertake interpretation; and its acceptability. While the existence of schools and legacies minimise, to an extent, the space of this uncertainty on many crucial issues, the gulf could be opened wide. But beyond ijtehad, there are thinkers such as Iqbal and Azad who raise fundamental philosophical questions. Several questions that Iqbal raised arose from his intimacy with the philosophical debates in the west and the uncertainty of Islamic tradition in advancing authoritative guidance under conditions of modernity. Many of Azad’s queries arose in the interface with religious pluralism, the larger question of culture and Gandhi’s creative intervention in the domain of religion.

    While there are several facets of the modern project, some of its core beliefs such as primacy of reflective human reason; a specific mode of engaging with the human on the one hand and the non-human on the other; distancing public life from religious

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    beliefs and the reflection of these developments in science, reviewing this issue afresh. Simply stated, Azad argued that god’s techno logy, industry and division of labour, have fundamentally revelation is available to one and all and this is the message of the challenged core Islamic beliefs. This paper has argued that there Quran. However, there are pluralities of religious forms and have been variegated responses from thinkers to these concerns, practices. Eventually, the course open to a believer is to practise from upholding a continued validity of tradition to calling forth a one’s own religion in the best way possible. Being true to one’s review of the foundational principles of modernity itself. At the own belief will also connect on to god’s revelation. Formulating same time, there are thinkers who feel that the philosophical issues in this particular fashion helped Azad to negotiate with principles of modernity cannot be wished away and have to be such phenomena as nationalism, justice and rights much more engaged with, while there are others who think that modernity than others, who invoked the primacy of an Islamic community as a set of skills and competencies can be grafted on to the foun-of believers. dational principles of Islam. But there are also thinkers such as There has been an unusual emphasis on human agency among Maulana Maudoodi, who think that a different world can be con-all the Muslim thinkers in south Asia and an incessant activity to structed by simply teasing out the principles ingrained in the redraft and re-envisage Islam and situate a believer’s role in it. Islamic tradition and that such a political vision is superior to This mobilisational activity, involving large sections of Muslims what liberal democracy, or for that matter Marxism, has to offer. in India, in one form or the other, has resulted in several orienta-

    Most Muslim political thinkers in modern India work on the tions, from a reassertion of tradition to calls for jihad. It is one of proposition that Islam is the final and complete revelation of god the arguments in this paper that the discomfort with the existing through the prophet. Therefore dialogue with other religions situation is pervasive among Muslim thinkers in modern India. cannot mark any advance. But scholars such as Maulana Azad While some of the expressions of this discomfort are distressing, acknowledging religious pluralism, and the defence that each others may even be regarded as salutary to reimagine a new and religion has to offer, throws open interesting possibilities for different world.


    1 Islam reached India quite early, through traders to south India in the 7th century and through political invasions in north India in the 8th century.

    2 There are people who have argued that we approach the social world of Muslims through the same categories as employed for others (see Shakir 1986: 142-60). In recent years, Ali Anwar and others speak of the Pasmanda Muslims, whose status is akin to untouchables (see Anwar 2001). While Muslims in India are caught in class and caste-like relations, it is important not to miss the difference that marked mobilisation of Muslim masses in India over time both religiously and politically. While the lower classes among Muslims in India, for instance, extended overwhelming support to one set of movements rather than another, they also brought their distinctive emphasis to bear on them, whenever they had an occasion to do so. For instance, the Muslim masses participated massively in the Wahabi and Faraizi movements, which were directed both against British colonial authority and local oppression. There was a strong class tilt to these movements (see Ahmad 1981: 44). The salience of “commu nity” in the nationalist movement has been highlighted by Barbara D Metcalf (2004: 173-89).

    3 Sir Syed Ahmed Khan started the Anglo-Mohammedan Oriental College in 1877 (later known as Aligarh Muslim University) for imparting modern liberal education. Apart from starting the journal, Tahzib al-Akhlaq (Social Reform, first issue: 24 December 1870) he wrote extensively and his works included Asar-us-Sanadid (Monuments of the Great), Delhi, 1847; Khutbat-i-Ahmadiyah (Essays on the Life of Mohammad, initially published in London, Trubner Co, 1869), Lahore, Fadl-I Din, 1870; Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (Causes of the Indian Revolt), Delhi, 1857; Tabiyin-ul-Kalam (The Mohomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible), in 3 Vols, Ghazeepore, Author (Private Press), 1862-1865; and Tafsir-ul-Quran (Commentary on the Quran, Vols 1-7 , Vol 7 published posthumously), (Vol I-VI) Aligarh, (Vol VII), Agra, 1880-1904; all in Urdu. He founded a scientific society in 1864 to provide Urdu translations of European works in modern sciences. Unfortunately, we still do not have an authoritative edition of the collected works of Syed Ahmed in English.

    4 It is important to point out that there is a strong impact of the study of Biblical exegesis that developed in Europe on the approach that Syed Ahmed adopted towards the reading of the Quran.

    5 This was particularly important in the context of movements such as the Faraizi that sought to delegitimise British power by invoking the idea of Dar-ul-Haram.

    6 It was founded in 1867 in a small town near Delhi, presently located in western Uttar Pradesh.

    7 Often, there is a distinction made between greater Jihad (Jihad-i-Akbar), which denotes the inner struggle of the individual, moral discipline and commitment to Islam, and lesser Jihad (Jihad-i-Asghar), which denotes legitimate political and military action.

    8 Therefore, even when one resorts to terrorism the justification is to create a religious person as the basis of a new society.

    9 Many of the founders of the Deoband knew British educational initiatives in India first-hand.

    10 In fact, Barbara Metcalf refers to Muhammad Zakariyya, a leading Deobandi Ulema, who when asked about migrating to Pakistan at the time of Indian Independence, supposedly said that he was unacquainted with politics, “but certainly this much is in my mind that the Doab, i e, the place between the Ganga and Jamuna, which became a centre of knowledge, spirituality and piety through the blessed power of the honoured Gangohi, Nanautawi and Thanawi... is such that it has no equal in the world today… the section allocated to Pakistan has no one equal to these leaders nor can such figures emerge there” (ibid: xi).

    11 It is important to point out that the Afghan Taliban ideology is largely inspired by the Deobandi Ulema of Pakistan. Many of the leaders of the Taliban studied in Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan’s Frontier Provinces, particularly in the 1980s, when, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, millions of Afghans settled as refugees in the area.

    12 For an interesting account of the Tabliquis, see Masood (2000).

    13 The Pakistani separatist movement derived much of its support from the Barelwis, and the Indian National Congress from the Deobandis. After the Partition, however, the Deobandis flourished in Pakistan. The late Pakistani ruler, Zia-ul-Haq, apparently threw his weight behind the Deobandis to contain Shias, but in the process made way for the intensification of the rivalry of the former with the Barelwis. Both, however, are equally prone to jihadi enthusiasm.

    14 Unani, meaning Greek, was a system of medical practice that took its core elements from the formulations of Galen and Hippocrates, and came to be developed as a relatively comprehensive system under the Abbasid dynasty in Iraq. Several elements of the Ayurveda tradition too came to be co-mingled with it over the years.

    15 There were many other thinkers who employed the language of civilisation in the beginning of the 20th century to denote a distinct way of life, such as the great scholar on Buddhist art, Anand K Coomaraswamy.

    16 Jinnah was born in Karachi in December 1876. He initially associated with the Indian National Congress, his moderate stance being at home with the likes of Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopalkrishna Gokhale, who sought liberal-constitutionalist reforms under the colonial dispensation and harmony across religious communities. He left the Congress in 1920 and eventually became the principal votary of the idea that Muslims are a separate nationality in India and that the country should be partitioned for this purpose.

    17 Some of the important ones among them were the doctrine of Anekantvad (many paths, one pursuit) in Jainism (Sethia 2004); the Upanishadic doctrine of Eko Brahma; vigya bahudha vadanti (One Supreme Being; it is the seeker who assigns many names) (for an introduction, see Hume 1983: 1-73) the teachings of Kabir in the 16th century (see Hess and Singh 2002); and the doctrine of Din-i-Ilahi (Divine Faith) of the Mogul Emperor Akbar (see Habib 1992: 68-72).

    18 Azad began his public life as the most forceful advocate of the Khilafat and claimed the position of Imam, i e, the Khilafat deputy, but over the years changed his position significantly and eventually became the president of the Indian National Congress for seven years. He was an erudite Muslim scholar who made important contributions to Islamic scholarship through two of his significant works, Tarjuman-al-Quran and Ghubar-e-Khatir (Urdu literary prose). Azad was interned for four

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    years from 1916 to 1920 for his political views. There was a substantial change in his approach to the Hindu-Muslim question following his release. He interacted with Islamic scholarship across the world and was widely read in different religious texts.

    19 The first volume was published in 1931. Syed Abdul Latif, edited and translated the first volume into English in 1962. Vols 2,3 and 4 were published by Sahitya Academy, New Delhi (in Urdu) in 1966, 1968 and 1970, respectively. Azad was not able to complete this work due to his growing political engagements.

    20 With regard to Hinduism itself, Azad was much more inclined towards its Upanishadic version as it invoked the concept of unity of god centrally. He remained deeply apprehensive of the “polytheistic” and “idolatrous” elements in popular Hinduism, which were perceived as a perennial threat by Muslim orthodoxy from early on.

    21 This stand of Azad had few takers among Muslim scholars as it did not acknowledge the core beliefs of Islam and finality of the prophet. Subject to this criticism, Azad had to reassert the same. But such reassertion did not seem to have affected his substantial argument and his approach to religious pluralism.

    22 Madan (1998: 161-62) has argued that this stand of Azad is in accord with the stand that he had taken in Tarzuman.

    23 Ideological combat has been very important for the Jamaat. Its sites of action , generally, are not mosques and madrasas, as is the case with the

    traditional ulema, but elected assemblies, trade unions, university and college campuses, professional organisations, publishing houses, seminars, conferences and research institutions.

    24 Maudoodi often drew parallels between this thick teleological vision and that of Soviet Marxism.


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