Islam Versus InsÃniyat (Humanism)
A few friends had expressed misgivings about my starting upon this series on the basis of a report in the Indian Express. They were apprehensive that in the process I may have been unfair to the NCERT.
A journalist friend has now kindly given me an authentic copy of Guidelines And Tools For Evaluating School Text-books From the Standpoint of National Integration. I have studied the mimeographed document and compared it carefully with the report in the Indian Express. I find that Mrs. Coomi Kapoor’s reporting of the official position was fully faithful.
My heart sinks at the very idea of such a sinister scheme being sponsored by an educational agency set up by the government of a democratic country. It is an insidious attempt at thought-control and brainwashing. Having been a student of these processes in Communist countries, I have a strong suspicion that this document has also sprung from the same sort of mind. This mind has presided for long over the University Grants Commission and other educational institutions, and has been aided and abetted by the residues of Islamic imperialism masquerading as secularists.
India is not a clean slate on which any ideological language can be transcribed at will, even if the inscriber happens to be a leviathan which the state in India is increasingly tending to become. India happens to be a country with a hoary history. National memory and consciousness of cultural traditions instilled by that history can be ignored only if we are prepared to pay the price in terms of self-forgetfulness which will render the task of national integration well-nigh impossible.
Proper Basis of National Integration
A worthwhile climate for national integration can be created only on the basis of truth, justice, and a deeper perception of human culture. If we ignore these criteria and surrender to the unjust demands of intolerant ideologies, either because we are impelled by temporary political expediency or because we are moved by a shallow and self-defeating Secularism, the result will inevitably be national disintegration, and, in the prevailing conditions of our encirclement by an aggressive Islamic Bloc, national enslavement.
Hindus were never very good political historians or biographers. Their historical interest was always centred on the life-stories of exceptionally outstanding heroes and saints, where also they enlarged the merely terrestrial in the image of the transcendent. One searches in vain the entire corpus of Itihasa-Purana for such historical data as the Greeks, the Romans the Chinese, and the Muslims have datelined about their kings and other luminaries. The three RajatarañgiNis written by KalhaNa, Jonaraja, and Srivara are the only exceptions. What passes as Hindu political history before the advent of the Islamic invaders is mostly a patchwork pieced together by modern scholars out of epigraphic evidence, accounts of foreign travellers, and some indigenous literature. There is hardly anything in this history of India which needs correction except the perspective which has suffered substantial perversions, wittingly or unwittingly, during the days of the white man’s supremacy.
It is only when we come to Islamic invaders of India that we have voluminous historical materials collected and compiled by hundreds of Muslim chroniclers. These materials have been carefully collated, compared, edited, annotated, and translated by a band of Western and Indian scholars. No one who is familiar with the results of this scholarship and wants to be fair can fail to vouchsafe that the scholars concerned have been, by and large, scrupulous and painstaking. It will be difficult to find significant instances of distortion and misrepresentation in this great endeavour, except when we come to the Stalinist ‘historians’ like Mohammad Habib and Romila Thapar, to name only two from a fraternity which has multiplied fast under Nehruvian Secularism. It is not the fault of modern scholarship if the histories written by medieval Muslim historians are so damaging to the democratic, equalitarian, humanistic, and religious pretensions which Islam puts forth at present. The scholars have not invented any of the stories which sound so monstrous even after plenty of pruning away of what may be honestly held as poetic exaggeration.
Some other scholars have gone further and tried to find out if the monstrous deeds from which most Muslim monarchs, mullahs, and sufis derived such great satisfaction, are sanctioned by the basic tenets of Islam as expounded in the Quran, the Sunnah of the Prophet, and the sayings and doings of the first four pious caliphs. They have confirmed, more or less unanimously, that the enormities are enjoined by the scriptures of Islam in such an unequivocal language as leaves no scope for any misunderstanding whatsoever. The heroes of Islam can take legitimate pride that they have literally and very faithfully followed the teachings of Islam, and the legacy left by the Prophet and the pious caliphs.
A healthy and humanitarian system of education would have placed all these facts before our young men and women coming from the Muslim community, and put to them the following proposition: These are the words and deeds credited to Muslim kings, saints, and theologians by the historians of Islam in medieval India; these words and deeds compare very well with the words and deeds of Islamic kings, saints, and theologians in all other lands swept over by the armies of Islam; these words and deeds also conform quite closely to the tenets of Islam as expounded in the Quran and the Sunnah and the Shariat; we do not want you to evaluate these words and deeds and tenets in terms of any non-Islamic religion or culture; our only appeal to you is to evaluate them in terms of natural human reason, man’s natural moral sense, and elementary principles of human brotherhood without resort to the casuistry marshalled by the mullahs and sufis, or the apologetics propped up by the Aligarh and Stalinist schools of historians; you have in you as much of the rational and the moral in human nature as the young men and women belonging to any other community; we wait for your verdict.
I am quite hopeful that approached in this manner most Muslim young men and women are likely to respond in a positive manner. At least a good beginning would have been made in opening up the minds and hearts of these young people to normal human values, and leading them out of the prison-house of Islam in which most Muslims have lived over the past so many centuries. Muslims in India as elsewhere have been living in a Dark Age ever since they were forced or lured into the fold of Islam, the same way as the Christians in the West had lived during the medieval period presided over by the Catholic Church. Christians in the West experienced an Age of Reason and Renaissance when they processed Christian doctrines and history in terms of rationalism and humanism, and reawakened to some extent to their ancient pagan heritage. There is no reason why the Muslims in India and elsewhere should not experience the same reawakening, once they recover the ancient cultural traditions of their respective countries, and start standing by rationalism and humanism.
Is Islam a Religion?
Some people are prone to confuse Islam with its victims, that is, the Muslims, and condemn the latter at the same time as they come to know the crudities of the former. This is a very serious confusion, which should be avoided by all those who believe in building up a broad-based human brotherhood as opposed to narrow, sectarian, self-centred, and chauvinistic nationalism or communalism. Let there be no doubt that an average Muslim is as good or bad a human being as an average Hindu or, for that matter, any average person belonging to any race, religion, or culture. What concerns us here is the worth of Islam as an ideology, and not the worth of Muslims as human beings.
This is not the occasion to discuss the deeper question whether Muhammad was a prophet, or whether what he claimed to be the Quran, is a revelation from some divine source. I am also postponing for the time being, and leaving for better minds than my own, the discussion whether Islam is a religion or a political ideology of imperialism. Here I will only ponder over some of the persistent pretensions of Islam - pretensions which have so far remained unquestioned in this country or elsewhere.
The first pretension of Islam to which many learned or pious people fall an easy prey is Monotheism as contrasted with Polytheism, that is, the pitting of ‘True One God’ against ‘false many gods’. The mere sound of the word ‘monotheism’ spreads such a hypnotic spell over certain minds that they suspend their thought operations, and refuse to look into the meaning and implications of this concept which is shared in common by the three prophetic creeds - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Ram Swarup has studied the scriptures of Christianity and Islam, and meditated over Monotheism and Polytheism for a number of years. I will reproduce below what he has to say on this subject in his book, The Word As Revelation: Names of Gods:
‘The fact is that the problem of One or Many Gods is born of a theological mind, not of a mystic consciousness. In the Atharvaveda (2.1.1), the sage Vena says that he ‘sees That in that secret station of the heart in which the manifoldness of the world becomes one form’, or as in the Yajurveda (32.8) where the ‘world is rested in one truth’. But in another station of man where not his soul but his mind rules, there is opposition between the One and Many, between God and Matter, between God and Gods. On the other hand, when the soul awakens, Gods are born in its depths which proclaim and glorify one another.
‘The Hindus do not call their Gods either ‘One’ or ‘Many’. According to them what they worship is One Reality, ekam sat, which is differently named. This Reality is everywhere, in everything, in every being. It is One and Many at the same time and it also transcends them both. Everything is an expression, a play, an image, an echo of this Reality.
‘Spiritual life is one but it is vast and rich in expression. The human mind conceives it differently. If the human mind was uniform without different depths, heights and levels of subtlety; or if all men had the same mind, the same psyche, the same imagination, the same needs, in short, if all men were the same, then perhaps One God would do. But a man’s mind is not a fixed quantity and men and their powers and needs are different. So only some form of polytheism alone can do justice to this variety and richness.
‘Besides this variety of human needs and human minds, the spiritual reality itself is so vast, immense and inscrutable that man’s reason fails and his imagination and fancy stagger in its presence. Therefore, this reality cannot be indicated by one name or formula or description. It has to be expressed in glimpses from many angles. No single idea or system of ideas could convey it adequately. This too points to the need for some form of polytheism.
‘A purely monotheistic God unrelieved by polytheistic elements tends to become lifeless and abstract. A purely monotheistic unity fails to represent the living unity of the spirit and expresses merely the intellect’s love of the uniform and the general.
‘In the cultural history of the world, the replacement of Many Gods by One God was accompanied by a good deal of conflict, vandalism, bigotry, persecution and crusading. They were very much like the ‘wars of liberation’ of today, hot and cold, openly aggressive or cunningly subversive. Success in such wars played no mean role in making a local deity, say Allah of certain Arab tribes, win a wider status and assume a larger role.’
God and the Neighbour
Ram Swarup has further simplified the proposition and placed it in a social context in another work which is yet to be published. He says:
‘In the spiritual realm there are two categories: God and your neighbour. And correspondingly there are two ways of looking at them: you could look at God through your neighbour or at the neighbour through your God. In the first approach, you will think that if your neighbour has the same needs and constitution and impulses as you have, then his God, in whatever way he is worshipped and by whatever name he is called, must mean the same to him as your God means to you. In short, if your neighbour is as good as you are, his God also must be as good as yours.
‘But if you look at your neighbour through your God, then it leads to an entirely different outlook. Then you say that if your God is good enough for you, it should be good enough for your neighbour too. And if your neighbour is not worshipping the same God in the same way, he must be worshipping Devil and qualifies for conversion or liquidation.
‘The first approach promotes tolerance, though it gives a plurality of Gods and varieties of modes in worship. The other approach gives one God and one mode of worship, but breeds intolerance. The one idea tries to generalise itself through conquest and calls itself the truly one, the truly universal.’
Monotheism Is Disguised Materialism
If the theologians of Christianity and Islam can be considered authoritative exponents of Monotheism, it means that God or the Supreme Power or whatever the name we give to the Ultimate Reality, remains outside the Cosmos, that is, becomes extra-cosmic after the act of Creation. These theologians praise God as Omnipotent and Omniscient, but frown at any association of Omnipresence with Him. The very thought that God could be present in the human heart (antarayamin), in the Universe (sarvanivasin), in Nature, in animals, in plants, and even in matter is denounced by them as Pantheism which, according to them, is as great, if not greater, a blasphemy as atheism itself. Islam denounces Polytheism as shirk, that is associating creatures with the Creator, which, according to it, is the same as thing as seeing God’s presence in his creation.
Looked at in this manner, an inescapable implication of Monotheism is that the Cosmos is completely denuded of any inherent Divinity, and made very, very material. There is no divinity inherent in human beings, or animals, or in material things. Monotheism thus becomes a disguised form of Materialism. What is worse, it leads to the lowest type of idolatry because it places God at the mercy of an historical person, hailed as the Prophet or the Son on whom the extra-cosmic deity must depend for communicating with his creatures. Songs and sermons in praise of a Jesus or a Muhammad soon surpass the hymns addressed to God Almighty.
Allah Is an Ego-God
The Allah of Islam is not even a monotheistic God of the initial Biblical conception. On the contrary, it is what Ram Swarup calls an Ego-God:
‘The Upanishads say that God chooses whom he will. This is true in a deeper sense. It means that He is beyond our choices and preferences, our likes and dislikes, and our conceptions of Him, or definitions of right and wrong, false and true.
‘But there is a sense in which we choose our own Gods. God made man in His own image. But man also makes God in his own image. Our God is what we are. If our heart is pure, our God is also pure, but if our hearts are impure, our Gods too are impure.
‘Most men want a God who humours them and gratifies them, who vindicates and justifies their way of life, who sanctifies them in their own eyes and in those of their friends They want their kingdom to extend, they want war-booty, particularly in the form of gold and young girls; they want their enemies to be slain and humbled.
‘Ego-Gods come fully into their own when our desires take on moral and theological disguises: when the Ego uses a higher principle for a lower satisfaction, the truth itself is perverted and Ego-Gods are born. We worship the Ego-Gods when we worship the lower in the higher.’
This is the true import of the Kalima - there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Prophet. It seems that the prophet of Islam had no use for a God who could have his own independent will, who could have and express his own opinions of men and matters, and who could exercise his own judgement about right and wrong. On the contrary, the Prophet needed a proxy disguised as god who would echo precisely, though in a pompous language, the personal proclivities of the Prophet in every situation, domestic as well as public, which the Prophet had to face. This conclusion is confirmed by a reading of the Quran in a chronological order, side by side with the orthodox biographies of the Prophet. The close correspondence between what the Prophet was planning or pining for in his normal moments, and what was revealed to him in a state of wahy that followed soon after, is quite striking. The chronological confusion in the compilation of the Quran has helped a good deal to hide this correspondence.
So much for the first pretension of Islam.
Brotherhood of Bandits
The second pretension of Islam is that it stands for human brotherhood and social equality as contrasted with the caste divisions and class hierarchies rampant in other societies, particularly the Hindu society. Many people with socialist preferences or pretensions are duped by what they describe as the ‘social progressivism’ of Islam. We have in this country a whole battalion of Hindu-baiters who have no use for Allah or for Muhammad but who strongly recommend Islam on the rebound because they have come to believe that Islam stands for better social values. And there is no dearth of Hindus, who, while they love their own religion and culture, admit at the same time that Hindu society has a lot to learn from Islam in matters of brotherhood and equality.
Islam had never put forward these claims before the rise of democracy and socialism in modern times. The old theologians of Islam were meticulous in placing various people in their proper places. The mu’mins (believers) constituted the master class (millat) entrusted with the mission of imposing the faith and law of the Prophet on all mankind. The kafirs were the scum of the earth who were to be consigned to eternal hell-fire whenever they could not be killed or converted outright. The zimmis were people who accepted the supremacy of the Islamic state and agreed to live as non-citizens under severe disabilities. The slaves were mere merchandise who could be bought and sold in the bazar, and killed without any compunction if they tried to escape into freedom. And the women (zan) were men’s personal property comparable to gold and silver (zar) and land (zamin), to be kept veiled and hidden in the harem if they happened to be legal wives, or to be presented as gifts if they happened to be newly captured beauties, or to be circulated among friends if they happened to be concubines. Within the millat itself, the Quraish had primacy over the plain Arabs at the start of Islamic imperialism. The civil list devised by Caliph Umar for monetary grants given to Arab families out of the booty obtained in wars, reflects this class hierarchy in Arab society. As the Arab empire expanded east and west, the non-Arabs everywhere were treated as inferior people, in law as well as in practice, even when the latter became mu’mins. Later on, the Turks took over the Arab legacy of being a master race. Islam has never known any brotherhood or equality even within its millat.
But the theologians of Islam look the other way when Islam gets sold in a new garb, and that too by people who do not profess Islam. They are also prepared to participate in the crudest casuistry in interpreting the Quran in line with the latest demagogies of social philosophy. The ‘only true faith’ has to be served even if it means a fraud on the ‘hallowed scripture’.
The Quran is quite frank and straight-forward on the subject of human brotherhood and social equality. It says: He who seeks a faith other than Islam will never be accepted (3.85). You fight them till not a trace of unbelief is left (8.39). When you meet the kafirs, cut their throats until you have made a great slaughter amongst them, and when you have defeated them, take them prisoners so that you may earn ransom. Fight them till they surrender (47.4). War is prescribed for you, and you dislike. But it is possible that you dislike what is good for you (2.216). And so on, it all reads like a manual of war on mankind rather than a charter of human brotherhood. It neatly divides humanity into mu’mins and kafirs, and leaves not the slightest scope for any mutual understanding or normal morality between the two.
So much for the second pretension of Islam.
Islam Brutalised Arab Society
The third pretension of Islam is that it rescued Arabia from an era of darkness (jahiliyya), and put her squarely on the path of cultural progress. The proposition needs a very close examination. No records of pre-Islamic culture have survived except a bit of poetry, which by itself is a telling evidence of the havoc wrought by Islam on a society whose only fault was that it did not take seriously the prophethood of Muhammad. Even so, something of the pre-Islamic Arab society and culture shines through the lies told about them by the biographers of Muhammad. It was a tribal society no doubt. But the tribes had a long tradition of large-hearted religious liberalism which made the worshippers of many Gods and Goddesses live peacefully side by side. The Jews and the Christians also enjoyed full religious freedom in this environment of tolerance and understanding. It was this liberalism and tolerance which permitted the prophet of Islam to preach and practise all that he did. If pre-Islamic Arab society had been what Islam made of it after Muhammad’s mailed fist had triumphed, there would have been no prophet and no Islam.
The pre-Islamic Arabs were honest in their dealings with other people, and chivalrous towards their enemies. They practised a code of honour in all give and take. The women in pre-Islamic Arabia had a very high status. They presided over business and commerce. They took part in public debates and poetic contests. They rode freely by themselves for visiting friends and lovers. They accompanied and stood by their men on the field of battle. They never wore the veil which Islam forced on them.
It was this simple, straight-forward, and essentially human society which Islam divided by mutual hatred sown by a monopolist of ‘divine revelations’. Brother was turned against brother, sons and daughters against parents, wives against husbands, and neighbour against neighbour. A ruthless gang of wholetime hoodlums was let loose on this society by a preacher of ‘perfect virtue’. This gang led many surprise expeditions against unsuspecting tribal settlements without any provocation whatsoever, looted caravans which were not expecting to be waylaid, massacred many innocent men and women and children in the most cruel manner, enslaved many more who had always been free citizens, forced many helpless women into slavery and concubinage, and deprived whole communities of their inherited as well as hard-earned properties, movable and immovable. The victims were at first baffled by this unprecedented and uncivilised conduct on the part of those whom they regarded as their own kith and kin. They fought back half-heartedly when their patience was exhausted. And they surrendered to superior military strategy and armed force which they had neither the time nor the resourcefulness to match.
The Arab people were brutalised after Islam destroyed their ancient and humane culture, and forced them to fulfil its fiendish behests. The Arab people now became a brotherhood of bandits who fell like hungry wolves on the neighbouring lands, who massacred other people en masse in the name of Monotheism, who desecrated and demolished other people’s places of worship in the name of Allah, who looted and pillaged whole countries and populated them with bastard progenies begotten on helpless native women without number, and who carried away whole masses of men and women and children and sold them into slavery. This ‘civilizing’ mission of Islam was taken over by the Turks at a later stage, particularly in India.
It is high time that we see through the pretensions of a pernicious political ideology masquerading as religion, and expose the truth which is being suppressed by the hawkers of Nehruvian Secularism. It is high time that the Muslims everywhere are made to know that Islam has been and remains as far from Insaniyat as the North Pole from the South Pole. The Dark Night which dwells over many lands invaded by Islam and which is trying to spread farther afield with the help of petro-dollars, has to be rolled back till every Muslim receives his normal share of daylight. A beginning of this mission can be made in India, the land of Sanatana Dharma.
But before we set out to accomplish that mission, we have to use discretion in defining what is dharma. We should not sloganise the truths of Sanatana Dharma as is evident when we practise sarva-dharma-sama-bhava vis-a-vis Islam and Christianity.