Today the restive Muslim youths of Arab world are aggressively clamouring for democracy and protesting against their despotic rulers who with a strategy to remain in power have never allowed them any freedom to think beyond mosque, madrasa and the Haj. Contrary to it, the Indian Muslims or the descendents of native converts instead of enjoying their freedom in a secular and democratic environment are marching in with step with their mental subservience to Arabian Indians.
From the time of loss of their political domination in the sub-continent, the Arab Indians had launched a movement for Arabisation of native converts in the name of Islamic revivalism. Their sole objective appeared to be to use them as their unpaid soldiers to fight for their self seeking interest of sharing political power in the changed political system in the region. The uneducated Indian Muslims who had not lost their pre-Islamic consciousness failed to understand the clever design of their co-religionists, fell in their trap of Arabisation by sharing Arab customs and traditions which have nothing to do with the spiritual aspects of Islam. Under the process of Arabisation which is still continuing, they are irretrievably losing their emotional bondage with pre-Islamic sense of belonging to the cultural consciousness of this land which has been the inner strength of Indian society for hundreds of years
This uninterrupted movement which began since mid eighteenth century was basically to regain the political domination of Arabian Indians. It was practically a ploy to subvert the Indian Muslims’ emotional loyalty towards their indigenous traditions and customs they have lived with for generations, replace them with the cultural traditions and customs of Arabs and thereby push for a homogenous Islamic identity based on the civilisational consciousness of Arabs. Apart from the loyalty to family they also preached for a greater loyalty to pure Islam which they interpreted as imitation of the socio-religious conduct of Arabs.
Despite the absence of any Quranic sanction of Arab superiority over non-Arab Muslims, the Arabian Indians while launching the movement for Islamic revivalism linked Islam with Arab culture and traditions and thereby campaigned for Arabisation of Indian Muslims. They also included the imitation of dress code of early Arabs and many traits of the personal life of Prophet Mohammad as a mandatory requirement for a Muslim. Mawlana Iliyas, the pioneer of Tabligh Jamaat, an offshoot of Deoband Movement was so obsessed with the puritan Arab tradition of Islam that when a much praised Muslim youth who had completed his study of the Quran, but was clean- shaven, was presented before him during his travel, he was distressed to see the absence of Islam on his outward appearance (The Faith Movement of Mawlana Ilyas by Anwarul Haq page, 108-09).
Such imposition of dress code on Indian Muslims was nothing Quranic but a part of the movement for Arabisation of Indian Muslims. Similarly, if one looks to the institutional song and flag of Aligarh Muslim University there is hardly anything which is rooted to Indian tradition and culture. The university Tarana (song) does not contain a single word in praise of India but it glorifies such things as the evening of Egypt and the mornings of Shiraj. The university flag has greater resemblance with the flags of Muslim countries, with moon and palm tree stamped on it, than with that of India (Aligarh Muslim University and Muslim Politics by Dr. S.S.Gupta, 1992, page79).
Contrary to the laws of classical sociology and ethnology which demand even the native converts to remain an integral part of their civilisational roots, the Arabian Indians took the role of guardians of Indian Muslims and pushed them for a cultural consciousness of Arab world by interpreting Islam in Arab matrix of culture and tradition. They not only guided the native converts to consult them for giving name to their children in Arabic an Persian words but also for adopting the manner, etiquette, social behaviour and customs of the people living thousands of kilometres away from them. Although, their forefathers adopted Islam centuries ago their gradual transformation to a new socio-anthropological mould which was amazingly a mental subjugation to Arabian Indians, their innocent and harmonious physical features were blurred with imitation of beard style and dress to such an extent that they created a confusion of being aliens in their own land. The Islamic revival movements were thus not only a source for potential tension and conflict but also one of the causes of the resurgence of fundamentalism.
Before the end of Muslim rule there was hardly any visible difference between the Muslim neighbours and others as they were wearing similar dress, speaking same language’ visiting the shrines of Sufi saints together and so on. Although the only bond of Indian Muslims with Arab was Mecca where Islam was revealed to an Arab in Arabic language, with the movement for Arabisation, there was a massive shift in their self-identification with Arabs. Growing trend of keeping beard, wearing skull caps and Kurta –Pyjama by men and Hijab by women, using Arabic-enriched local language in conversation, preference to seek employment in Middle-East countries, and opposing Indian tradition and customs were the results of Arabisation. One can go further and state without doubt say that the growing resurgence of fundamentalism is the direct influence of Arabisation which in turn is an extension of Wahabism born in the middle of eighteenth century in Arabia.
Even some non-Muslim political leaders with a view to appease the Indian Muslims tried to show their solidarity by wearing their Arab dress on special occasions. Shibu Soren former Chief Minister of Jharkhand appeared in the dress of an Arab to attend the party hosted by the Governor Sibte Razvi in 2010. He looked more like a comic character in a B grade Bollywood movie!
It is an irony that Indian Muslims do not understand that in spite of accepting Arabised identity, they are still treated as Azlafs (low category of Muslims) by Arabs and Arabian Indians Arabs who claim themselves Ashrafs (Noble Muslims). They are living under colonial psyche by sending their children to Arab sponsored low level education in madrasa. Instead of taking lessons from the plight of the people of Arab world, they look towards them as a part of one nation community that is Ummah and feel proud in sending their children to serve them mostly even in low category jobs.
Historically, the ideological foundation for Arabisation of Indian Muslims was laid by an Arabian Indian Shah Waliullah a reputed Ulema in the second half of eighteenth century AD when the Muslim ruling class felt the awful fire of the first challenge to their over five hundred years of rule in the sub-continent following the loss of Bengal in the battle of Plassey in 1757 AD to the East India Company and the rise of Marathas and Jats in the regions contiguous to Delhi, the centre of Muslim Empire. Sensing this humiliation of Muslim power as a danger signal to Islam, he invited Shah Abdali, the ruler of Afghanistan to save the Muslims from the Hindus and also devised a strategy for Arabisation of native converts and their transformation into Islamist soldiers for launching Jihad against the Qafirs (Infidels). His interpretation of Islam was based on the thesis of Arabian Indians’ supremacy not only over the Hindus but also over the Azlaf Muslims (low category of Muslims) by the Muslims of Arab origin.
Exactly after a century when the Islamic power of Arabian Indians in the sub-continent took its last breath in 1857, his disciples and supporters having Arab ancestry put his ideology in operation by launching Islamic revival movements known as Deoband Movement and Aligarh Movement which were meant to gradually inspire the native Muslims to forget their pre-Islamic traditions and customs of generation after generation.
In their analysis of the collapse of Islamic empire the Arabian clerics felt that only Arabisation of the native converts can only transform their loyalty to the Arab land. Accordingly, they institutionalized the movement for recruitment of Islamic warriors for the restoration of Arabian imperialistic power in the sub- continent.
Aligarh did not initially have a common methodology of Islamic revival movement with that of Deoband. While Deoband Movement was for the restoration of Islamic power, the Aligarh Movement was for Islamic modernism without any dilution of Islamic fundamentalism. Modernity requires separation of religion and politics but Islamic modernism of Aligarh movement was a modified version of Islamic fundamentalism. Since the prominent leaders of both the movements had Arab ancestry, they were always alert to ensure that the vested interests of Arabian interests were safe guarded.
The Moplahs in the coastal regions of Kerala who were mostly descendants of Arabian fathers and native mothers took advantage of Khilafat movement and revolted against the Hindu landlords who never objected to the settlement of the alien Arabs in their land for their livelihood. The history of the violent Moplah movement is not known to many and the only detailed account written by the then chief of the Malabar Special Police is yet to be placed in public domain.
The Arabian Indians’ carefully woven strategy was so powerful that it entrapped hundreds of Indian Muslim intellectuals particularly Allama Iqbal ( His grandfather Sahaj Ram Sapru, a Kashmiri Hindu was converted to Islam and took the Islamic name Mohammad Rafiq) and Mohammad Ali Jinnah ( His grand father, Poonja Gokuldas Meghji was a Hindu Rajput from Gujarat who was converted to Islam) who were responsible for not only the geographical partition of the sub-continent but also paved the way for the mental partition of India on communal lines. So long as Allama Iqbal remained connected with his indigenous cultural consciousness he proved his commitment to Indian nationalism by composing a poem ‘Sare Jahan se Achha Hindostan Hamara’ but once he was entrapped in the web of Arabisation, he lost his inner strength and became the ideological father of Pakistan. Similarly, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was known as ambassador of Hindu-Muslim unity because of deep rooted Indianness in him but once he was overpowered by the alluring bait of Arabian Indians which was to fulfill his egoistic ambition, he gave a call for ‘Direct Action’ in 1946.
Ironically, the division did not end even after partition of the sub-continent. All the Arabian Indian leaders who stayed back in India overnight became ‘nationalist Muslims’ and Indian National Congress accommodated them in party and the government suitably. Gradually, a sizeable number of neo-Arabian Indians jointly produced by Aligarh and Deoband also with the support of Arab money particularly after 1970s when there was a boom in the price of oil took over the command of carrying forward the legacy of Arabising Indian Muslims. Whether it was Shabano case or Babri mosque-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute these neo-Arabian Indians took the lead in mobilizing the Indian Muslim masses for their own interests..
When Will the Indian Muslim masses wake up from the slumber of Arabisation and deliver themselves from Arab Indians? Will the events we see in the Arab World have any effect on them? We will have to wait and see.
First published in http://www.southasiaanalysis.org:80/
1. Aligarh Movement
2. Iqbal and Wahabhi Movement
3. The Legacy of Syed Ahmad Barelvi in India
4. The Moplah Rebellion