The Muslim Community and Their Leaders

Some Statements of the Leaders!

Maulana Mahmood Madani, General Secretary of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind while addressing a rally in Delhi on March 5, 2013 demanded reservation for Muslims in proportion to their population along with various other demands for the community.

Last month Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, President of Zaqat Foundation of India put forward a 15-point charter of demands for Muslims like establishment of Indian Waqf Service, de-reservation of Muslim dominated constituency, evolving procedure to nominate Muslims in public position and establishing equivalence between Madrasa and other education.

In March 2012 Syed Shahabuddin in a public meeting appealed to the Muslims not to vote for Congress if their demand for reservation in Government jobs and educational institutions is not fulfilled.

Raising repeated communal demands is not new for the Muslim leaders. With never ending demands through various organisations like Muslim Personal Law Board, Waqf Board, Muslim Personal Law Board, Minority Commission and various other Islamic organisations and institutions, the Muslim leadership not only debars the community from developing a sense of national identity and a scientific outlook but also push them under the control of the Islamist orthodoxy.

The Islamist Mullahs, not to be outdone, tend to form an alliance with these self-seeking Muslim leaders to keep the community away from the mainstream secular and democratic environment and goes for a separate identity for their community which would only harm the interests of the community in the long run.

Historical Background:

Historically, the Muslim ruling class belonging to Arab, Turk, Central Asian and Afghan ancestry always treated the natives of the sub-continent as conquered and subject race. Ironically, they even kept the local converts isolated from the socio-religious life of mainstream Muslim society and treated them as inferior Muslims.

A Turkish cleric Ziauddin Barani, a leading courtier of Mohammad bin Tughlaq (1325-1351) issued aFatawa-i-Jahandari appealing the Sultan to protect the Ashraf (High born Muslims) and keep the Ajlaf (Low born Muslims) firmly under their control. Referring Quran in support of his views, he insisted that the Sultan should consider it as a religious duty to deny the Ajlaf access to knowledge, branding them as mean and despicable. He further advised that "teachers of every kind are to be sternly ordered not to thrust precious stones down the throat of dogs or to put collars of gold round the necks of pigs and bears ...". (Yoginder Sikand quoting Mohammad Habib & Afsar 'Umar Salim Khan, The Political Theory of the Delhi Sultanate and translation of Ziauddin Barani's Fatawa-i Jahandari Circa 1358-9 A.D. page. 49). The subsequent Ulema often quoted Barani’s Fatwa-i-jahandari to prove this widely shared superior attitude of medieval Muslims towards the Ajlaf.

Despite the prevailing hate-native mindset of the ruling class Muslims, Moghul Emperor Akbar ((1556-1605) adopted a strategy to win over the Hindu rulers by encouraging marriage alliance between the daughters of the Hindu kings and the Muslim ruling class, accommodating some Hindus in his court and withdrawing the jaziya tax imposed on the Hindus. He himself married the sister of Man Singh. He also introduced Deen-e-Ilahi in 1582 to accommodate the ethical aspects of different religions. But the other face of Akbar is not known to many even now.

Many do not know that Akbar changed the name of Prayag to Allahabad (also pronounced as Ilahabad) in 1583 to commemorate Deen-e-Ilahi. This was much against the religious sentiments of the Hindus who still revere Prayag as Tirthraj (King of all the religious places). Similarly, there was hardly any instance that girl from ruling Muslim class ever married any Hindu.

Enter Sarhindi:

Whatever little effort Akbar might have made to woo the confidence of the Hindu rulers, the orthodox Islamists particularly a hate-Hindu and hate Shia activist Shaykh Ahmad Sarhindi (1564-1624) of Naqshbandi Sufi order declared Akbar’s actions to be blasphemy to Islam and denounced his reign as where "the son of guidance was hidden behind the error".

For his work in rejuvenating Islam and opposing the heterodoxies of Akbar, Sarhindi is described as Mujaddid (Renovator of Islam). His tirade against the Hindus and Shia Muslims through letters written in Persian not only to his disciples but also to the influential Muslims in the court of Jahangir had a great influence in turning the heterodoxies of Akbar to orthodoxies, which were pursued by all the successive Muslim rulers from Jahangir to Aurangzeb. His considerable and long lasting influence on Muslim intellectuals had a permanent impact in putting a stamp on Islamic orthodoxy to Indian Islam.

Shah Waliullah:

With the fading glory of Islamist rule followed by political disorder after the death of Aurangzeb, Shah Waliullah (1704-1762) another Islamic mystic of the Sufi tradition of Sunnism carried forward the legacy of the Islamist orthodoxy of Sarhindi and propagated his religio-political thought that was based on the 'Persio -Islamic theory of kingship' (Shah Wali Allah and his Time by Saiyid Athar Abbas Rizvi, page 397). He wanted the Muslim society to return to the Prophet era for the political unity of the then Muslim rulers. He translated the writings of Sirhindi from Persian to Arabic to inspire the Muslim Indians.

The political rise of non-Muslims like Maratha, Jat and Sikh powers was so unbearable to Shah Wali Ullah that he took it as a consequent danger to Islam of its political heritage. He therefore, wrote to Shah Abdali, Amir of Afghan saying, "…all control of power is with the Hindus because they are the only people who are industrious and adaptable. Riches and prosperity are theirs, while Muslims have nothing but poverty and misery. At this juncture you are the only person, who has the initiative, the foresight, the power and capability to defeat the enemy and free the Muslims from the clutches of the infidels. God forbid if their domination continues Muslims will even forget Islam and become undistinguishable from the non-Muslims" (Dr. Sayed Riaz Ahmad in his book 'Maulana Maududi and Islamic state' - Lahore People's Publishing House, page 15 - 1976). It was the effect of Waliullah’s letter that Abdali attacked India and defeated the Marathas in third battle of Panipat in 1761.

Waliullah’s political Islamic theory not only kept alive the religious life of Indian Muslims linked with their inner spirit for re-establishment of Islamic political authority in India but also deprived them of a forward-looking vision. Being so much obsessed to his Arab origin he was strongly opposed to the integration of Islamic culture in the cultural cauldron of the sub-continent and wanted the Muslims to ensure their distance from it. "Waliullah did not want the Muslims to become part of the general milieu of the sub-continent. He wanted them to keep alive their relation with rest of the Muslim world so that the spring of their inspiration and ideals might ever remain located in Islam and tradition of world community developed by it". (The Muslim Community of Indo-Pakistan subcontinent by Istiaq Hussain Qureshi, 1985, page 216). "In his opinion, the health of Muslim society demanded that doctrines and values inculcated by Islam should be maintained in their pristine purity unsullied by extraneous influences" (Ibid. page 215). The religio-political ideology of Wali Ullah made a permanent crack in Hindu--Muslim relation in this sub-continent, which undermined the self-pride and dignity of integrated Indian society.

Waliullh's son Abd al Aziz (1746-1823) carried forward the legacy of his father as a result India faced violent communal disorder for decades. Aziz's disciple Saiyid Ahmad of Rai Bareli under the deep influence of the jehadi spirit of the faith propounded by Waliullah and Sunni extremism of Maulana Wahab of Saudi Arabia launched jehad against the non-Islamic power of the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh with a view to restore Dar-ul-Islam (A land, where Islam is having political power). Though, he was killed in the battle of Balkot in May 1831, Muslims in the sub-continent still regard him as martyr for the cause of Islam.

Islam in Danger:

The slogan of 'Islam is in danger' - is profoundly embedded in the hate- ideology of Sarhindi, Waliullah and Sayid Ahmad Barelvi. The successive Muslim thinkers drew inspiration from their religio-political thought and carried forward his mission, which ultimately gave birth to the Islamic politics in India.

Tired with their successive failures and final loss of the Moghul Empire to the British in 1857, the demoralised Muslim leaders adopted a new strategy to re-strengthen the community by launching movement for Islamic revivalism.

Since the loss Muslim power to the British in 1857, the former ruling class Muslims developed a sense of embattled community and were bent on retrieving their lost status. They were suspicious of the formation of Indian National Congress and took it a well designed conspiracy of their former subjects to frustrate their attempt to restore the lost Islamic power.

The post-Mogul leaders from Sir Syed Ahmad to Mohammamad Ali Jinnah while carrying the ideological legacy of Sheikh Ahmad Sarhindi, Shah Waliullah, Abd al Aziz Syed Ahmad Barellvi and Mawlana Wahab of Saudi Arabia succeeded in creation of Pakistan which was the logical outcome of their separatist frame of mind.

Post Partition of India:

The problem of the Muslim masses in post-partition India is that their leaders were mostly the descendants of the pre-British ruling class that was still suffering from the medieval mental load of superiority to the native Indians whom they treated as a conquered and subject race during Muslim rule. They stayed back in India after partition voluntarily but were not ready to either understand the secular and democratic reality of the country or prepared to be content with the constitutional right of equal citizenship. They have no problem in enjoying special constitutional privilege, democratic dividends, complete political, economic, educational and religious liberty, but have no inhibition in raising communal demands when it suits them.

Therefore, instead of guiding their community members for living together with the non-Muslim majority as equal citizens they have turned them into a demanding community in the name of religious minority.

Using religion as a protective device for their communal politics they create irrelevant emotions by equating Islam with language, things, culture, tradition, ideas and values of Persio-Arab regions not only to keep the Muslim masses under the perpetual mental siege of medievalism but also to push them away from fundamental issues that face the whole of the country. They do not realise that introducing religion for political game is counterproductive as it would only communalise the Indian society.

These leaders remain insensitive towards the political, social, economic and educational aspirations of the Muslim masses as they treat them also as a subject race because of their Indian origin. They never think in terms of the modern world view of democracy and secularism as their objective is mainly to secure acceptability in Indian politics by using the descendants of the native converts as personal vote bank.

The most unfortunate part of the situation was that those leaders who considered themselves superior to the people of Indian descent did not re-formulate the neo-political aspirations of the whole community in the changed scenario. A free hand was given to the Islamic clerics for continuing the movement for Islamic revivalism.

Jamaat-Ulema-e-Hind dominated Muslim leadership due to the mental burden of self-acclaimed cultural superiority to the natives remained so obsessed to the loss of their socio-political domination over the former subjects that they "hardly seem (ed) to be in a mood to be content with the mere rights of equal citizenship"(Narahar Kurundk ar, "The Muslim Problem in Indian Politics," in Quest 67, October-December 1970).

Initially, the Muslims were a demoralised minority after partition. Their leaders compromised with the ruling establishment and maintained low profile but within a couple of decades when the political dominance of Indian National Congress started diminishing with many states coming under the rule of coalition partners, they could recover and exploit the vote-greedy political parties. The financial support from the oil-rich Muslim world added to their organisational growth. The gradual consolidation of the voting strength of the community and rise of regional and caste-centric parties when coalition government helped them.

Although, Maulana Azad tried to convince the community members to be realistic in the new political environment, his appeal to the community for their integration in the secular democratic mainstream of the country failed to get desired result.

The leaders of the community never made any effort to counter the movement of the organisation like Tabligh Jamaat marching from village to village and encouraging Islamic obscurantism which even condemned the Muslims who were not keeping beard or wearing traditional Indian dresses etc. No campaign was launched by any Muslim leader to guide the community that how should they live in secular and democratic environment.


It is a fact that the Muslims cannot come to power at their own but it is also a fact that so long the political parties are caste and region centric none of them is in a position to come to power without the support of the Muslims. The leaders of all political hues without exception are responsible for this state of affairs

How does one deal with the combative statements quoted in the beginning of this paper? The remedy has to come within. These leaders who do not appear to be interested in the welfare of community make irresponsible demands for their own personal ends. They must be rejected by the common man and woman of the community.

First published in

Also read
1. RESERVATION FOR MINORITIES –Constituent Assembly Debate - Revisited
2. Aligarh Movement
3. Arabization of Indian Muslims and its ill-effects
4. History of Urdu
5. India – Empowerment of Pasmanda Muslims is a must.

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