The petition against the Quran served to wake Hindus up from their slumber.
By filing the Writ Petition for a ban on the Quran, Chandmal Chopra has invited attention to a subject which Hindus have neglected for long and at great cost to themselves. They have yet to examine critically the claim of the Quran as a sacred scripture and of Islam as a religion. If Hindus now take up this study in all seriousness and educate themselves about the character of Islam, the Petition will have served its purpose.
Mahatma Gandhi on Hindu Psychology
The panic shown by the State and Union governments in the face of violent Muslim mobs, points towards a psychology from which Hindus have yet to free themselves.’The thirteen hundred years of imperialistic expansion’, wrote Mahatma Gandhi, ‘has made the Mussalmans fighters as a class. They are, therefore, aggressive. Bullying is the natural excrescence of an aggressive spirit. The Hindu has an age-old civilization. He is essentially nonviolent ‘Predominance of the non-violent spirit has restricted the use of arms to a small minority; not knowing their [arms] use nor having an aptitude for them, they [Hindus] have become docile to the point of timidity or cowardice.1
He was convinced that Muslims will not stop being bullies so long as Hindus continue to be cowards. He saw no hope for a healthy relationship between the two communities till this imbalance was corrected. ‘But my own experience,’ he observed ‘confirm the opinion that the Mussalman, as a rule, is a bully and the Hindu, as a rule, is a coward. If the Hindus wish to convert the Mussalman bully into a respecting friend, they have to learn to die in the face of the heaviest odds. Hindus must cease to fear the Mussalman bully.2
How the Quran became a ‘Holy Book’ for Hindus
The story of how Hindus came to accept the Quran as a ‘holy book’ is long and painful. There are very few Hindus now who know the story. Generation after generation of Hindus has been brainwashed by slogans of secularism and sarva-dharma-samabhava to believe that they have always revered the Quran, and accepted Islam as a dharma.
But history is a witness that during the centuries of Islamic invasions and rule, Hindus hated Islam as barbarism and fought the Muslim marauders tooth and nail. They had, however, also to live for several centuries as terrorized subjects of Islamic military states which ruled in most parts of India at one time or the other. Under the Islamic ‘law’ that prevailed, it was a crime punishable with death to question the final prophethood of Muhammad, the divinity of the Quran, and the monopoly of Islam as a religion. Medieval Muslim historians have mentioned in passing some prominent instances of Hindus attracting the supreme penalty for committing one or the other of these ‘crimes’. Many more cases must have remained unmentioned. Small wonder that Hindus under Muslim domination, had to pretend all the time that they harboured nothing but the highest sentiments for the Quran. Pretension tended to become belief as it was passed down by one generation to another.
Pioneering Work of Swami Dayananda
Some Hindus did try to have a close look at the Quran when the nightmare of Muslim rule was over. The pride of place in this respect goes to Swami Dayananda, the founder of the Arya Samaj. He tore through the theology of the Quran and brought up to the surface the criminal psychology camouflaged by it. At the same time, he made an appeal to the Muslims to reflect upon how they would feel if the kAfirs started doing to them what the Quran has prescribed for the kAfirs. Some subsequent scholars of the Arya Samaj followed the lead given by Swamiji and did commendable work. Hindus started waking up and wondering. whether the Quran was at all worthy of the reverence expected from them.
Political Expediency triumphs over Truth
But it proved to be a passing phase. The leaders of the Freedom Movement against British rule which was surging forward and which aroused emotions deeper than the ‘controversy about the Quran’, were eager to draw the ‘Muslim minority’ into the national struggle in order to be in a better position to bargain with the British. They thought they could win over the Muslims by praising the Prophet, by holding up the Quran as a holy book, by espousing Pan-Islamic causes, and by looking the other way when faced with facts of history. Starting with the Swadeshi Movement in Bengal, this flattering of Muslims by praising Islam culminated in Mahatma Gandhi’s sarva-dharma-samabhava – the opiate which lulled the Hindus into a deep slumber such as they had never known vis-à-vis Muslim aggression.
Some national leaders even made a bold bid to revise medieval Indian history. Muslim heroes were presented as national heroes. On the other hand, Hindu heroes who had fought against Islamic imperialism were ‘cut to size’. Lala Lajpat Rai propagated the proposition that ‘the Hindus and Muslims have coalesced into an Indian people, very much the same way as the Angles, Saxons, Danes and Normans formed the English people of to-day’ and that ‘the Muslim rule in India was not a foreign rule.3
These were leaders of great stature. They had made great sacrifices. Their words carried a weight which specialists of the subject like Professor Jadunath Sarkar could not command. Thus the atmosphere became highly discouraging for any serious and comparative study of religions. On the other hand, puerile nonsense like the Essential Unity of All Religions by Dr. Bhagwan Das became very popular. Anyone who questioned the pious proposition that the Quran was as good as the Vedas and the Puranas, ran the risk of being nailed down as an ‘enemy of communal harmony’. There were quite a few casualties in the public life of India caused by this euphoria for the Quran.
Blinded by the Make-Beliefs
The experiment was a stupendous failure as it was bound to be, based as it was on no more than mere make-beliefs. Every concession made to the ‘Muslim minority’ helped only to whet its appetite for more, it staged street riots whenever the ‘Hindu majority’ showed some resistance to its mounting demands. In the end, it opted for separate nationhood and established another Islamic state on the soil of India.
But instead of laying the blame where it really belonged, the political leadership blamed British imperialism for creating the ‘communal divide’ and ‘Hindu communalism’ for ‘deepening the crisis’ which culminated in Partition. This Big Lie was sold on a large scale after independence when political power passed into the hands of self-alienated Hindus who paraded themselves as ‘progressive’, ‘leftist’, ‘revolutionary’ , etc., and who harboured an incurable animus against everything native and national. Once again, the Quran came out quite unscathed.
Muslims start the Game Again
That part of the ‘Muslim minority’ which had voted for Pakistan but had chosen to stay in India, restarted the old game when India was proclaimed a secular state pledged to freedom of propagation for all religions. It revived its tried and tested trick of masquerading as a ‘poor and persecuted minority’. It cooked up any number of Pirpur Reports.4 The wail went up that the ‘lives, liberties and honour of the Muslims were not safe’ in India, in spite of India’s ‘secular pretensions’. At the same time, street riots were staged on every possible pretext. The ‘communal situation’ started becoming critical once again.
History to be Re-written
And once again, the political leadership came out with a make-belief. The big-wigs from all political parties were collected in a “National Integration Council”. It was pointed out by the leftist professors that the major cause of ‘communal trouble’ was the ‘bad habit’ of living in the past on the part of ‘our people’. Most of the politicians knew no history and no religion for that matter. They all agreed with one voice that Indian history, particularly that of the ‘medieval Muslim period’, should be re-written. That, they pleaded, was the royal road to ‘national integration’.
Muslim History is the best Commentary on the Quran
Hindus who had suffered from the Islamic onslaught in medieval times had written no history of what they went through. It was only the medieval Muslim historians who had preserved with meticulous care and great glee, the record of what the ghAzis had done to the kAfirs and mushriks, again and again. Historians like Zia-ud-din Barani5 believed that the treatment meted out to the Hindus by the Muslim swordsmen was a part the divine plan which was unfolding according to promises Allah had made in the Quran. Thus the best and the most honest commentaries which the Hindus could read on the Quran, were the histories written by medieval Muslim historians.
A determined effort was now launched by Stalinist professors, particularly of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi, to keep away these commentaries from the Hindus. Muslim historians, particularly of the Aligarh school, came forward to lend wholehearted cooperation. If the Quran could be divorced from the history it had created in the past, it could retain intact the hallow which Hindus accorded to it in the present. Professional historians in most places fell into line. It was too bad to become known as a ‘Hindus communalist’ in the “All India History Congress” which had, meanwhile, been captured by the Stalinist and Muslim ‘historians’.
Warning from a Veteran Historian
The only voice which was heard against this nation-wide exercise in suppressio veri suggestio falsi in the field of medieval Indian history, was that of the veteran historian, R.C. Majumdar. For him, this ‘national integration’ based on a wilful blindness to recorded history of the havoc wrought by Islam in India, could lead only to national suicide. He tried his best to arrest the trend by presenting Islamic imperialism in medieval India as it was, and not as the politicians in league with Stalinist and Muslim historians were tailoring it to become.
‘Political necessities of the Indians during the last phase of British rule’, he wrote in 1960,
underlined the importance of alliance between the two communities, and this was sought to be smoothly brought about by glossing over the differences and creating an imaginary history of the past in order to depict the relations between the two in a much more favourable light than it actually was. Eminent Hindu political leaders even went so far as to proclaim that the Hindus were not at all a subject race during the Muslim rule. These absurd notions, which would have been laughed at by Indian leaders at the beginning of the nineteenth century, passed current as history owing to the exigencies of the political complications at the end of that century. Unfortunately, slogans and beliefs die hard, and even today, for more or less the same reasons as before, many Indians, specially Hindus, are peculiarly sensitive to any comments or observations even made in course of historical writings, touching upon the communal relations in any way. A fear of wounding the susceptibilities of the sister community haunts the minds of Hindu politicians and historians, and not only prevents them from speaking out the truth, but also brings down their wrath upon those who have the courage to do so. But history is no respecter of persons or communities, and must always strive to tell the truth, so far as it can be deduced from reliable evidence. This great academic principle has a bearing upon actual life, for ignorance seldom proves to be a real bliss either to an individual or to a nation. In the particular case under consideration, ignorance of the actual relation between the Hindus and the Muslims throughout the course of history – an ignorance deliberately encouraged by some – may ultimately be found to have been the most important single factor which led to the partition of India. The real and effective means of solving a problem is to know and understand the facts that gave rise to it, and not to ignore them by hiding the head, ostrich-like, into sands of fiction.6
A Voice in the Wilderness
But his voice remained a voice in the wilderness. Fourteen years later, he had to return to the theme and give specific instances of falsification. ‘It is very sad’, he observed, ‘that the spirit of perverting history to suit political views is no longer confined to politicians, but has definitely spread even among professional historians’. It is painful to mention though impossible to ignore, the fact that there is a distinct and conscious attempt to rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards Hindu religion. This was originally prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Musalmans in a common fight against the British but has continued ever since. A history written under the auspices of the Indian National Congress sought to repudiate the charge that the Muslim rulers broke Hindu temples, and asserted that they were the most tolerant in matters of religion. Following in its footsteps, a noted historian has sought to exonerate Mahmud of Ghazni’s bigotry and fanaticism, and several writers in India have come forward to defend Aurangzeb against Jadunath Sarkar’s charge of religious intolerance. It is interesting to note that in the revised edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, one of them, while re-writing the article on Aurangzeb originally written by William Irvine, has expressed the view that the charge of breaking Hindu temples brought against Aurangzeb is a disputed point. Alas for poor Jadunath Sarkar, who must have turned in his grave if he were buried. For, after reading his History of Aurangzib, one would be tempted to ask, if the temple-breaking policy of Aurangzeb is a disputed point, is there a single fact in the whole recorded history of mankind which may be taken as undisputed? A noted historian has sought to prove that the Hindu population was better off under the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers.7
Falsification of History becomes State Policy
This caravan loaded with synthetic merchandise has, however, continued to move forward. Eight years later (1982), it was reported that History and Language textbooks for schools all over India will soon be revised radically. In collaboration with various state governments, the Ministry of Education has begun a phased programme to weed out undesirable textbooks and remove matter which is prejudicial to national integration and unity and which does not promote social cohesion. The Ministry of Education’s decision to re-evaluate textbooks was taken in the light of the recommendations of the National Integration Council of which the Prime Minister [Indira Gandhi] is Chairman. The Ministry’s view was that history had often been used to serve narrow, sectarian and chauvinistic ends.8
Feeding people on such palpable falsehoods can sometimes produce a complete collapse of their mental and moral faculties. An instance is provided by Shalini Saran’s article, Akbar, The Great Unifier, published in Readers Digest (Indian edition) of October, 1985. She hails Akbar by asserting that ‘Centuries before his time, this versatile emperor helped make us one nation’. One of her strong arguments in support of this thesis is that ‘Akbar could be ruthless in his drive for unity: after the fall of Chitor, he ordered all its 30,000 inhabitants massacred.’
It did not occur to her that Akbar had arrived in India only 14 years before he invested Chittor in 1568. He was at that time too much of a foreigner to fancy any idea of an Indian nation. His invasion of Mewar was a copy-book exercise of earlier Islamic invasions ‘a jihAd ‘ as depicted in Chapter 6 above. Every Islamic imperialist from Alauddin Khilji onwards had tried to reduce this defiant Rajput state to slavery.
She is also blissfully oblivious of what Akbar’s contemporaries have recorded as his reason for slaughtering so many non-combatants in cold blood. Abul Fazl and Badayuni have not tried to hide the truth that Akbar was inspired by the time-honoured tenets of jihAd which enjoin a total destruction of ‘infidels’ after they have been defeated. The ‘infidels’ in this instance had also aroused Akbar’s ire by offering a very stiff resistance.
Shalini Saran’s eulogy of Akbar will make the most blatant apologist of Islamic imperialism blush with embarrassment. But she is not alone. She represents a whole tribe who depend entirely upon their ideological predilections for concocting India’s history. Only they do not extend that bias to the British period. Holding the British responsible for everything that went wrong, is still the progressive platform.
Though, by the logic of this tribe, the best promoters of India’s unity were the British. They did far more and succeeded to a much greater extent in imposing a unity on India. By that logic, General Dyer of the Jallianwala Bagh fame comes out with flying colours as the foremost builder of an Indian nation. He was also very ruthless in gunning down unarmed people who were not impressed by the ‘benefits of the British Raj’.
The Fundamental Failure
These perverse efforts to re-write medieval Muslim history in India are bound to fail in solving the ‘communal problem’ because the psyche which created that history continues to pulsate in the Quran. The Quran cannot be re-written by re-writing that history. On the other hand, an honest presentation of that history can help immensely an understanding of the Muslim behaviour pattern which is shaped by the Quran. Let there be no mistake that Hindus will never be able to tackle the ‘Muslim minority’ unless they understand the source of its behaviour pattern.
But Hindus have so far failed to study the Quran with any seriousness whatsoever. That is why they have readily conceded the Muslim claim that the Quran is a ‘religious scripture full of lofty messages, moral and spiritual’. They have confused the language of the Quran with the language of Hindu spirituality so that Allah passes for the ParmAtman and the Prophet for the Purushottama. They feel puzzled when Muslims ‘fail’ to live upto their expectations. But they never care to examine the assumptions on which those expectations are based. On the contrary, they appeal to the Muslims in the name of the Quran. Muslims cannot be blamed if they feel amused at this presumptuousness on the part of ‘accursed infidels’.
It is high time for Hindu scholarship to come forward and make a serious study of the Quran with the help of Islamic theology and history. It is high time for Hindus to have a close look at the character of Allah which is the seed from which everything else in Islam has sprouted. The results will be very rewarding.
‘Hindus have fought Muslim invaders’, writes Ram Swarup,
land locally established Muslim dynasties but neglected to study the religious and ideological motives of the invaders. Hindu learning, or whatever remained of its earlier glory, followed the old grooves and its texts and speculations remained unmindful of the new phenomenon in their midst. For example, even as late as the thirteenth century, when Malik Kafur was attacking areas in the far South, in the vicinity of the seat of Sri Ramanujacharya, the scholarly dissertations of the disciples of the great teacher show no awareness of this fact.
He continues: ‘Hindus were masters of many spiritual disciplines; they had many Yogas and they had a developed science of inner exploration. There had been a continuing discussion, whether the ultimate reality was dvaita or advaita. It would have been very interesting and instructive to find out if any of these savants of Yoga ever met, on their inner journey, a Quranic being, Allah (or its original, Jehovah of the Bible), who is jealous of other Gods, who claims sole sovereignty and yet whom no one knows except through a pet go-between, who appoints a favourite emissary and uses the latter’s mouth to publish his decrees, who proclaims crusades and jihad, who teaches to kill the unbelievers and to destroy their shrines and temples and to levy permanent tribute on them and to convert them into zimmis, into hewers of wood and drawers of water. Even today, the question retains its importance. Is the Allah of the Quran a spiritual being? Or, is he some sort of a mental and vital formation, a hegemonistic idea? Does he represent man’s own deepest truth and reside in his innermost being? Or, is he a projection of a less edifying source in man’s psyche? Is he discovered when a man’s heart is tranquil, desireless and pure? Or, does he originate in a fevered state of the mind? Is his source the Samadhi of the Yogic bhumi or some sort of a trance of a non-Yogic bhumi? In the Yoga-darshana, this distinction is fundamental but it is not much remembered these days.9
Hindus should Appeal to a Higher Court
The ‘law’ which prohibits Hindus from having a public discussion on the Quran, embodies a disability which was once imposed upon them at the point of the sword. The law courts cannot be helpful so long as that lawless law remains on the statute book. Its repeal is a task to be undertaken by an informed public opinion. India is a democracy in which the sword of Islam is not supposed to have any sway.
There is, however, a court higher than the Calcutta High Court or the Supreme Court of India. That is the court of human reason, of human values, of human conscience, of human aspiration for a purer and loftier life. The Quran should be brought before that court. The devotees of the Quran should be invited to defend it in that court rather than in the streets.
It was not so long ago that the Bible enjoyed a stranglehold similar to that of the Quran over vast populations in the West. The theocracies propped up by the Bible in Europe and America had enacted similar sagas of slaughter and pillage for several centuries. But a sustained Western scholarship showed up the Bible for what it was. ‘It would be more consistent’, proclaimed Thomas Pain, ‘that we call it [the Bible] the work of a demon than the word of God’. The spell of Jehovah was broken. The god of the Bible, according to Thomas Jefferson, ‘is cruel, vindictive, capricious and unjust’. The rest is history. Christianity is now seeking a refuge in countries like India where its rout in the West remains unknown.
A similar scholarship will not only put the Quran and its Allah in their proper place but also restore the image of Hindu spirituality which has suffered due to an adulteration of religious language by the gibberish of the biblical or prophetic creeds. The Muslim mullah and the Christian missionary had an upper hand so long as Islamic and Christian-Western imperialism prevailed in this country. A class of Hindu scholars learnt from them how to process Hindu spirituality and culture in terms of Islamic and Christian monolatries. It is that class which still passes for what is known as India’s ‘intellectual elite’. In fact, that class has grown stupendously in numbers as well as influence, after India attained independence; it had been created by a system of education which we have chosen to continue.
Islamic and Christian imperialisms have been defeated and dispelled from the greater part of the ancient Hindu homeland. There is no reason why aggressive and inhuman ideologies brought in by those imperialisms should continue to flourish. They shall stand exposed as soon as Hindus evolve appropriate methods for processing those ideologies in terms of their own spirituality and culture.
‘Hitherto’, observes Ram Swarup,
we have looked at Hinduism through the eyes of Islam and Christianity. Let us now learn to look at these ideologies from the vantage point of Hindu spirituality – they are no more than ideologies, backing as they are in the integrality and inwardness of true religion and spirituality. Such an exercise would also throw light on the self-destructiveness of the modern ideologies of Communism and Imperialism, inheritors of the prophetic mission or ‘burden’ in its secularized version, of Christianity and Islam. The perspective gained will be a great corrective and will add a new liberating dimension; it will help not only India and Hinduism but the whole world.
He concludes: ‘A fateful thing has been happening. The East is waking up from its slumber. The wisdom of Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism is becoming available to the world. Already, it is having a transforming effect on the minds of the people, particularly in countries where there is freedom to seek and express. Dogmas are under a cloud; claims on behalf of Last Prophethood and Only Sonship, hitherto enforced through great intellectual conditioning, brow-beating, and the big stick, are becoming unacceptable. Religions of proxy are in retreat. More and more men and women now seek authentic experience. Borrowed creed will not do. Men and women are ceasing to be obedient believers and are becoming seekers. They no longer want to be anybody’s sheep, now that they know they can be their own shepherds. An external authority, even when it is called God in certain scriptures, threatening and promising alternately, is increasingly making less and less impression; people now realise that Godhead is their own true, secret status and they seek it in the depth of their own being. All this is in keeping with the wisdom of the East.10
1. Young India, 30 December 1927.
2. Ibid., 5 June 1924.
3. Cited by R.C. Majumdar (ed.), The History and Culture of the Indian People, Preface to Volume VII, The Mughal Empire, Bombay, 1974, p. xii.
4. A report prepared by the Muslim League in 1938 listing ‘atrocities heaped on Muslims’ by the Congress Ministries which ruled in seven Province from 1937 onwards.
5. Another disciple and contempory of Nizam-ud-din Awliya.
6. R.C. Majumdar (ed), The History and Culture of the Indian People, Volume VI, The Delhi Sultanate, Bombay, 1960, p. xxix. Emphasis added.
7. R.C. Majumdar (ed.), Ibid., Volume VII, Preface to The Mughal Empire, Bombay, 1974, p. xii. Emphasis added.
8. Indian Express, New Delhi, 17 January 1982. See Sita Ram Goel, The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India, Voice of India (1982), Second Revised Edition, 1994, for full discussion of the guidelines laid down by the Ministry of Education in this context. Also, Arun Shourie, Eminent Historians: Their Technology, Their Line, Their Fraud, New Delhi, 1998.
9. Introduction to Mohammed and the Rise of Islam by D.S. Margoliouth, Voice of India reprint, New Delhi, 1985, pp. xvii-xviii.
10. Ibid., pp. xix-xx