A Response to Muslim Legacy in India --
Do Muslims deserve Hatred of Hindus
This is in response to Mr. Javeed Akhter's article Muslim Legacy In India :: Do Muslims Deserve The Hatred Of Hindus? In the issue of 25 November 2003 USA.Media Monitors.net website.
The title is rather provocative and makes the assumption that the Hindus hate the Muslims.
Do Muslims deserve hatred of the Hindus? Well, the answer to this is quite simple. No one deserves hatred of anyone. And there is no reason to think or assume that the Hindus hate the Muslims. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this. To the contrary the Hindus will contend that they have gone out of their way to please the Muslims. A gesture which has never been reciprocated by the Muslims at any point in history.
It is quite a long article -- 5802 words. It quotes many sources -- mostly selectively without giving the correct picture and leaving out facts that don't suit writer's preconceived notions or contradict what he is trying to prove. It is thus an excellent exercise in deception.
He has tried to portray a positive picture of Islam in India which, mostly, does not match its record. In one way his attempt can be equated to a man looking at the sky at night and proclaiming there is no sun in the world. He thus sees only what he wants to see and ignores the rest. In order to sound realistic and balanced, he, a few times, does show some ugly details about the Muslim invasions and rule of India but only to paint over these with a rosy picture.
In this response which I will not really call it a rebuttal but I will try to address the points he has raised and present a more realistic picture -- the good and the bad. Sentiments expressed by Mr. Akhter are not unique, most Muslims of the Indian subcontinent harbor such ideas about the nature of Hindu Muslim relations.
Readers, please bear with patience with me. It is rather long.
Violence in Gujarat:
He starts the article with the riots in Gujarat saying:
"The violence against committed Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 was in some ways a continuum of the periodic riots that have gone on for decades. In other ways it was a watershed event. The level of violence against women and families reached horrific proportions never seen before. The ruling party in Gujarat planned and carried out the violence with the active support and connivance of the government and the law. The mobs that perpetrated apocalyptic violence against Muslims were taunting their victims by calling them "Babur ki aulad" that is progeny of the Mughal emperor Babur. The implication in their mind was clearly that Muslims are the descendants of brutal foreign invaders and need to be thrown out of India. Their understanding of the Muslim legacy in India is similar to that of an occasional historian. "
For whatever reason, the 2002 riots in Gujarat have become a "watershed" for the Muslims and pseudo-secularists of Indian subcontinent. Whatever the topic of discussion, the discussion is always brought around to Gujarat. In a way, when it comes to bashing the Hindus and Hinduism, it has replaced the "caste" system.
No one can ever justify killing of any human being -- not just women and children -- on any ground. In that sense, I highly deplore the violence perpetrated in Gujarat. Having said that let us not get carried away in hyperbole and rhetoric. Let us discuss the Hindu Muslim relations in the Indian subcontinent in a more rational and logical way. Any discussion of this topic must also include Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Mr. Akhter's narrative of Gujarat riots and his qualification of these as "was in some ways a continuum of the periodic riots that have gone on for decades" implies that the riots in India have been going on periodically for decades and reading it one is likely to be led to believe that in India periodically riots are committed against the Muslims.
Religious violence is not new to India. To limit it to just "for decades" is outright intellectually dishonest and historically wrong. The history of religious violence is long -- for over a millennium would have been more appropriate. We shall come to it in our response as we go along.
Mr. Akhter has raised the ante by saying "the level of violence against women and families reached horrific proportions never seen before". (Italics mine) Just saying that level of violence was "horrific" would have been enough but in saying "never seen before", he went too far and has indulged in rhetoric. Let me recall just one of many riots that happened a few decades before Mr. Akhter's memory can reach. This is not to justify either the Gujarat riots or the violence there in.
This is just to make a point -- horrific violence in riots is not unusual. There is no need for rhetoric or superlatives.
I will try to as brief as possible. Those who want to know further can read from The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. 11, 2nd Edition 1988, pp. 360-365 or other relevant informed sources.
I describe below a short extract from a long harrowing tale of misery as written in a memorial by the women of Malabar to Lady Reading:
"It is possible that your Ladyship is not fully apprised of all the horrors and atrocities perpetrated by the fiendish rebels; of many wells and tanks filled up with the mutilated, but often only half dead bodies of our nearest and dearest ones who refused to abandon the faith of our fathers; and of pregnant women cut to pieces and left on the roadsides and in the jungles, with the unborn babe protruding from the mangled corpse; of our innocent and helpless children torn from our arms and done to death before our eyes and of our husbands and fathers tortured, flayed and burnt alive; of our helpless sisters forcibly carried away from the midst of kith and kin and subjected to every shame and outrage which the vile and brutal imagination of these inhuman hell-hounds could conceive of; of thousands of our homesteads reduced to cinder-mounds out of sheer savagery and a wanton spirit of destruction; of our places of worship desecrated and destroyed and of images of deity shamefully insulted by putting the entrails of slaughtered cows where flower garlands used to lie or else smashed to pieces....."
The perpetrators of these horrendous acts of savagery were not Hindus.
Well, as stated earlier, this is, in no way, to justify the horrors of Gujarat and, by no means, was it either the first religious violence in India. The first religious violence in India occurred when King Dahir of Debal's defeat by Muhammad bin Kasim was followed by three days of general massacre. Temples were demolished and mosques founded; prisoners were taken captive and plunder was amassed. Akhter, of course does not mention this in his narration of Kasim's victory in Sind. We shall come to again later when we discuss that particular incidence as Akhter brings it up in his article.
Conveniently Akhter does not mention any of the other acts of religious violence. No, I am not talking of what was done from the eight to eighteenth centuries -- that s another story, parts which I will cover in this response -- but just in the twentieth century alone like the Calcutta holocaust or the religious cleansing in West Punjab and in Sindh in 1947. The entire population of Hindus and Sikhs were killed, converted or expelled from the lands they had lived since the dawn of civilization on the subcontinent. Million were killed and millions made homeless.
To give another example how horrific religious violence in India has been, let me quote from Tarikh Yamini by Utbi. On the conquest of Thanesar, he describes the scene:
"The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously, that the stream was discoloured, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink."
This is not enough. He continues:
"Had the night not come on and concealed the traces of their flight, many more of the enemy would have slain."
And he makes God a partner in this, "The victory was gained by God's grace, who has established Islam for ever as the best of religions, notwithstanding that idolaters revolt against it."
Did they stop with just killing?
"The Sultan returned with plunder which it is impossible to recount. -- Praise be to God, the protector of the world, for the honour he bestows upon Islam and Mussulmans."
This is the account of just one massacre and plunder. We shall cover more of Mahmud Ghaznavi later in the response. Just suffice to mention that such massacres of the Hindus and Mahmud Ghaznavi are not unique or alone. This was rather the norm for centuries. But Mr. Akhter for reasons best known to him makes no reference to these in his mention of Gujarat riots or discuss its causes.
Nothing still justifies the Gujarat riots but let us keep the relevance in perspective. In any of the other incidents there was no provocation of the part of the Hindus. But in case of Gujarat Mr. Akhter, again quite conveniently forgets to say anything about the burning of innocent Hindus. Or is it if the Hindus are killed; it does not count as violence? Is it the reason that he never talks of other religious violence perpetrated in India?
Akhter then goes on to quote famous line for Will Durant about Muslim conquest being the bloodiest story in history calling the assessment "shockingly negative" and then in the next paragraph counters it with Jadunath Sarkar's quote of Islam's contribution to India.
Firstly, he did not learn much from Sir Jadunath Sarkar what history is all about and secondly, what he quotes from him is very selective and hardly representative of his analysis of Muslim rule of India.
Jadunath Sarkar's view of history are:
"I would not care whether truth is pleasant or unpleasant, and in consonance with or opposed to current views. I would not mind in the least whether truth is or is not a blow to the glory of my country. If necessary, I shall bear in patience the ridicule and slander of friends and society for the sake of preaching truth. But still I shall seek truth, understand truth, and accept truth. This should be the firm resolve of a historian."
He further clarified his position on history in a letter to Dr. Rajendra Prasad in 1937. He wrote: "National history, like every other history worthy of the name and deserving to endure, must be true as regards the facts and reasonable interpretation of them......"
Since Akhter is writing history in his article as we go along we shall see how closely he has followed the guidelines of history? Or has he let personal bias color his view of history?
He quotes Jadu Nath Sarkar as writing:
" He feels India reached new heights of civilization during the Muslim rule. Some of the benefits of Muslim rule that he assesses include, internal peace over a long period of time, uniformity of administration, uniformity of social manner and dress irrespective of creed, common lingua franca, rise of vernacular literature, monotheistic religious revival, rise of mysticism (Sufism) and a general improvement in civilization.
He lists no significant negatives!"
"He lists no significant negatives" Akhter writes of Jadu Nath Sarkar. What can one say? He quotes Jadfu Nath Sarkar and fails to follow his very basic philosophy regarding history.
What Jadu Nath Sarkar thought of Islamic State in India and of its monotheistic character?
What Jadunath Sarkar says of the impact of the Muslim rule on the Hindus mind?
Let me quote:
"When a class of men is publicly depressed and harassed (as under Muslim rule)... it merely contends itself with dragging on an animal existence. The Hindus could not be expected to produce the utmost of what they were capable..... Amidst such social conditions, the human hand and the human mind cannot achieve their best; the human soul cannot soar to its highest pitch". The "barrenness of the Hindu intellect" is just one more bestowal of inheritance of Muslim rule in India."
In the 12th year of his reign (9th April, 1669) Aurangzeb issued general order to "demolish all the schools and temples of the infidels and to put down their religious teachings and practices."
As a result of this edict, in one year, sixty-six temples were broken to pieces in Asmebr alone, sixty-three at Chitor, one hundred and twenty-three at Udaipur; and over the site of a Benras temple, especially sacred to the Hindus he built, in deliberate insult a Mohameddan mosque. Will Durant goes on to observe "as a result of his fanaticism, thiusands of the temples which had represented or housed the art of India through a millennium were laid in ruins. We can never know, from looking at India today, what grandeur she once ossessed."
Durng the Muslim rule of India, the Hindus were led to lead a meagre existence. Aurangzeb was not the only one in his fanatical zeal towards the Hindus. Alauddin Khilji had given orders that the Hindus shall not be allowed to possess more than what is required for a bare subsistence.
These are by no means unique or isolated incidents. This was the norm, barring rare exceptions, during the Muslim rule of India.
Mahmud Ghaznavi and Alberuni:
Akhter's depiction of Mahmud Ghaznavi is classic example of how history can be distorted.
Of Mahmud he writes:
"He was in the tradition of kings like Alexander and was motivated by desire for power and personal glory. His wars were not waged for the glory of Islam or motivated by Islamic principles. Nevertheless, in the Hindu psyche, he remains a potent symbol of the Muslim invader because of his attacks on the Somnath temple."
From his narrative, one, not familiar with history, is likely to infer that Somnath was the only temple that he attacked. Very cleverly, even while talking of Somnath temple, he does not mention its demolition. Like many of modern Muslim historians, he wants others to believe that Mahmud was not a religious zealot. His wars were solely for his individual glory.
Firstly, Somnath was not the only Hindu temple that Mahmud demolished and plundered. This was the last one in a long list of temples demolished and plundered by Mahmud. Every town and city that he raided, all its temples were demolished; its idol broken to pieces, the city plundered; men, women and children massacred or taken captives to be sold in Ghaznin and beyond.
Describing just one plunder, Utbi, his contemporary biographer tells us that "God bestowed upon his friends such an amount of booty as was beyond all bounds and all calculation, including five hundred thousand slaves, beautiful men and women. He directed that "the polluted infidel, Jaipal, should be paraded about, so that....... the fear of Islam might fly abroad through the country of the infidels."
Akhter quotes Alberuni with regard to Mahmud and how he ruined the prosperity of the country. Let us see what Alberuni had to say about Mahmud's "attack" on Somnath temple.
After describing the origins of the Somnath temple and its idol, Alberuni goes on to say that the idol was destroyed, by Prince Mahmud -- may God be merciful to him! -- A.H. 416.
Then what he did Mahmud do to the idol?
"He ordered the upper part to be broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, Ghaznin, with all its coverings and trappings of gold, jewels, and embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippodrome of the town, together with the Chakraswamin, an idol of bronze, that had been brought from Thanesar. Another part of the idol from Somnath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet."
Jaipal, the King of the Shahi dynasty sent a deputation to Amir Subktigin soliciting peace, promise of paying down a sum of money, and offering to obey any order he might receive ..... The Amir Subuktigin consented on account of mercy he felt towards his vassals, or for some other reason but Sultan Mahmud refused to abstain from battle telling the messengers in a harsh voice. He said " he would obtain a complete victory suited to his zeal for the honor of Islam and of Mussulmans, and one which he was confident God would grant to his arms."
Had Mahmud been solely "motivated by desire for power and personal glory" as Akhter asserts, firstly there was no need to break religious idol of the Hindus. Accumulation of wealth is a common human weakness, as wealth is usually synonymous with power and glory. So if Mahmud had just plundered wealth, it would be fully understandable. Even the massacre of population and capture as slaves can be justified as part of "desire for power and personal glory." If it were not for the glory of Islam, where demolition of idols is a pious and religious act, how would one would one justify breaking of idol of stone and putting it in before the door of the mosque so that people can clean their feet? Were their no stones in Ghaznin to use for this purpose?
Akhter has done a rather poor job in whitewashing the crimes of Mahmud. Muslim historians, almost without exception regard Mahmud as champion of Islam. If it were not for the glory of Islam, why would Caliph bestow on him titles of "Yaminu-d daula Aminu-l Millat, the friend of the Amir-l muminin."
The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has named its most valued missile after Mahmud Ghaznavi -- an irony that is lost upon the government of Pakistan. It was the area that is now Pakistan, that Mahmud plundered first and last. It was the Shahi dynasty of what is now Pakistan that were the first victim of Mahmud's Islamic fury. Why would Pakistan honor its own plunderer, must only be comprehensible to Pakistan? The only possible explanation is that Islamic Pakistan regards Mahmud as Champion of Islam.
These are but just a few facts about Mahmud. Akhter has done a rather poor job of whitewashing the record of Mahmud. He is not even a good apologist for Mahmud.
Akhter in his article had also quoted Alberuni; but again in his own twisted way. Alberuni admired the Hindu intellect. Had Akhter taken the trouble to read the whole of Alberuni, he would have realized how advanced Hindu sciences were before the Muslim occupation of India. In order to look balanced he quotes few words of praise of the Hindus by Alberuni and then goes on to quote negative views of the Hindus held by Alberuni. There is nothing wrong with that.
Alberuni mentions Hindus aversion to Muslims and people of other countries. Akhter quotes those views but had he read Alberuni carefully he would have learnt, from Alberuni himself, why Hindus were so disposed?
Akhter has covered many points in his long article. To expose his bias will take a whole book. I have presented a short view of reality of Hindu Muslim encounter in India. There is no better book on this subject than the history written by the Muslim chroniclers and the memoirs of Muslim invaders themselves regarding why they did what they did to the Hindus. We don't need apologists like Akhter to interpret them to us.