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The spirit of Islam -- a response

Vinod Kumar


Hiranmay Karlekar's 'The Spirit of Islam' (The Daily Pioneer April 20, 2001)
is another example of an emerging trend among so-called Indian intellectuals
of distorting facts to suit their bias and then argue through baseless assertion
when even that does not suffice. What motivates them to such excesses
of political correctness is an interesting topic in itself which need
not concern us here.

Karlekar states that to many Hindus Islam is an intolerant and violently
proselytizing religion whose followers effect conversion at the pain of
death, destroy shrines and idols of other religions. He claims that
Hindus misperceive Islam because they judge it by what Mahmud or
Muhammad bin Kasim did, or what the Taliban are doing. He asserts that
these are mere aberrations and not in keeping with the letter and the
spirit of Islam. To support his argument, he points out that 'Islam'
means 'peace' and 'surrender.'

Whatever the word 'Islam' means, what is relevant is what Islam says
about the issue of demolition of non-Islamic cultures and their people. Merely labeling a cow as a bird does not endow it with the ability to fly.

The Holy Koran is very specific about idols, idolatry and its practitioners.
It says in no uncertain terms that idolatry is worse than carnage and then

goes on to command the faithful to slay the idolaters wherever ye find them.

It describes, without any condemnation, how Prophet Abraham destroyed the idols of his own people.

The Koran repeatedly says that Islam is the Only True Faith and all others are paths of error.

If these revelations were not enough to rouse a true believer to smash the idols and kill the idolaters, then in their Prophet they have the living example about what is to be done to the idols of others.

After his victory over Mecca, the Prophet first destroyed all the idols of the

Meccans, a fact which is recorded in the Koran also (17:81). But then he

did not content himself with purifying the Kaaba and abolishing idolatry in his

native city. He sent forth his captains at the head of armed bands to cast down idols of different tribes in neighboring towns and villages and to convert
their worshippers to his faith.

Why is what Prophet Muhammad did is so important? Muslims regard Prophet Muhammad as a living embodiment of Koranic values and as a superb model to emulate in every respect.

Karlekar's assessment of Mahmud as a vandal departs from the assessment of Mahmud's coreligionists. Caliph al-Qadir Billah sent him a robe of investment and honored him with titles of "Yamin-ud-Daulah" and "Amin-ul-Millah".

Contrary to what Karlekar thinks the Muslim chroniclers have regarded him as one of their greatest kings and a great champion of Islam. Pakistan, a country
based on Islam, has named one of its deadliest weapons in his honor. Ironically, present day Pakistan is the area that Mahmud devastated most frequently.

Karlekar is also wrong about Kasim being a debased vandal. Again, what Kasim plundered most is present Pakistan. And Pakistan has named its modern port in his honor. One does not name the icons of one's modernity after the plunderer of one's own land unless the plunderer is immensely worthy.

Muhammad bin Kasim was sponsored by Hajjaj, his cousin and the governor of

Iraq. His instructions were to wage war against the Hindus, to destroy their temples and their property.

Nothing could be more explicit than Hajjaj's letter to Kasim:

"My dear cousin, I have received your life-augmenting letter. On its receipt
my gladness and joy knew no bounds.... The Great God says in the Koran: '0 true believers, when you encounter the unbelievers, strike off their heads.' The
above command of the Great God is a great command and must be respected and followed."

Later on in the campaign he wrote again: "My distinct orders are that all those
who are fighting men should be assassinated, and their sons and daughters
imprisoned and retained as hostages."

Karlekar might think of the Talibans also as "most debased vandals" but most
Islamic scholars would disagree. Even the Islamic Republic of Pakistan does not share Karlekar's view of the Taliban. Sahib Zada Khalid Jan Binuri, head of Pakistan's most influential seminary thinks "The Talibans are the truest kind of Muslims." Had the Talibans been "most debased vandals", why would a truly Islamic country like Saudi Arabia where the Holy Koran is the constitution recognize such 'vandals' as the rulers of an Islamic state?

Karlekar has set himself the task of defining who the most debased
vandals of Islam are? However, his judgement is not echoed by the Year
Book of the Muslim World, published from Delhi in 1996. In that book, Mahmud of Ghazni rates 31 lines, Aurangzeb (who ordered the demolition of
Hindu temples across his empire) receives 29 lines. Akbar, for being
tolerant to other faiths, receives only 5 lines.

Islamic commentator Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi heaved a sigh of relief on the death of Akbar and called him as "what was prohibiting Islam" and welcomed Jahangir as "accession of the king of Islam".

Swami Vivekananda did not have any illusions about the Muslims and Islam. When he talked of "an Islamic body and a Vedantic heart" he was thinking of Hindus having the same fighting spirit as is associated with Islam -- not for ravaging others' countries but for protecting one's own. He knew that according to "the Muslim mind, the Hindu is idolatrous, the hateful Kafir; hence in this life he deserves to be butchered; and in the next, eternal hell is in store for him".

However, I fully agree with Karlekar that it is necessary that "Hindus and Muslims respect each other" but this cannot happen as long as the Muslims subscribe to the ideology that "Islam is the Only True Faith." Why would a Muslim respect the followers of what they believe to be a faith of error?

Unless the Hindu spirit of "ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti" -- there is one truth but sages call it by different names -- pervades the basic ideology and thought of a Muslim also, any amount of wishful thinking or distorting the facts of the past is not going to bring any change -- either today or ever in the future.

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