Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Shariah was never in India

Islam was brought to India by the invading Mughals and propagated with force. The natives were converted with force alright, but the invaders found it monumentally difficult to inculcate conduct in compliance with the Hadits or Shariah. Local customs and practices continued to be followed and Shariah could never be imposed on the converts. After all, it is difficult to change centuries old practices in the first place and that with something that was devised 1400 years ago in a far off foreign land much to the frustration of the Mughals. Try as they might – as Aurangazeb did – to impose the Islamic way of life, it was simply too difficult to force a foreign way of life.

One of the founders of Jamia Milia Islamia (and eventually it’s Vice-Chancellor), Prof. M. Mujeeb, records in his book Indian Muslims, that Shariah could never be enforced in India. And with the wane of Mughal rule after Aurangazeb, Shariah became even more irrelevant. The British began imposing laws that were far, indeed the opposite of Shariah.

The Khilafat movement was the fillip the orthodoxy needed and it brought them back to the table. Now the movement itself fizzled of course when the Caliphate was abolished in 1924, but significant momentum was gained. That led to evangelist movements to spread Islam and ‘purify’ it which in turn eventually led to the demand for Muslim Personal Law. Until then, Muslims all over India were governed by local Hindu customs and laws.

Muslims in Malabar and South Canara were followed the Marumakkathayam and Aliyasanthana laws. Local Hindu laws were followed by Bohras, Memons of Kutch, Khojas. Similar was the case in U.P. It was no different in Punjab, North West Frontier Province and other places. In fact, here’s Dr. Ambedkar countering Muslims members of the Constituent Assembly demanding an exclusive law for the Muslims alone –

My first observation would be to state that members who put forth these
amendments say that the Muslim personal law, so far as this country was
concerned, was immutable and uniform through the whole of India. Now I wish to
challenge that statement. I think most of my friends who have spoken on this
amendment have quite forgotten that up to 1935 the North-West Frontier Province
was not subject to the Shariat Law. It followed the Hindu Law in the matter of
succession and in other matters, so much so that it was in 1939 that the Central
Legislature had to come into the field and to abrogate the application of the
Hindu Law to the Muslims of the North-West Frontier Province and to apply the
Shariat Law to them. That is not all.
My honourable friends have forgotten,
that, apart from the North-West Frontier Province, up till 1937 in the rest of
India, in various parts, such as the United Provinces, the Central Provinces and
Bombay, the Muslims to a large extent were governed by the Hindu Law in the
matter of succession. In order to bring them on the plane of uniformity with
regard to the other Muslims who observed the Shariat Law, the Legislature had to
intervene in 1937 and to pass an enactment applying the Shariat Law to the rest
of India.
I am also informed by my friend, Shri Karunakara Menon, that in
North Malabar the Marumakkathayam Law applied to all-not only to Hindus but also
to Muslims. It is to be remembered that the Marumakkathayam Law is a Matriarchal
form of law and not a Partriarchal form of law.
The Mussulmans, therefore,
in North Malabar were up to now following the Marumakkathyam law. It is
therefore no use making a categorical statement that the Muslim law has been an
immutable law which they have been following from ancient times. That law as
such was not applicable in certain part sand it has been made applicable ten
years ago. Therefore if it was found necessary that for the purpose of evolving
a single civil code applicable to all citizens irrespective of their religion,
certain portions of the Hindus, law, not because they were contained in Hindu
law but because they were found to be the most suitable, were incorporated into
the new civil code projected by article 35, I am quite certain that it would not
be open to any Muslim to say that the framers of the civil code had done great
violence to the sentiments of the Muslim community. [

But the Muslim Personal Law, hoisted on India in 1937, itself is not fully compliant with Shariah. The law board is divided from within and has split a few times with different sects and women forming their own boards. And when you learn that few Muslims abide by it, it becomes clear that the demand for Shariah is a political tool for the orthodoxy to remain relevant and to seek concessions from the state and most importantly, to counter uniform civil code as mandated by the Constitution (article 44) which states "The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India." The demand for Shariah or personal law is retrograde, backward looking and contradicts our Constitution.

(Much of the above can be found in Arun Shourie's A Secular Agenda).

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"a mind with a secular bent"

The recent Swiss referendum to ban constructions of new minarets has riled every "mind with a secular bent". One such mind, Vishnu Som of the NDTV, declared -

"It represents a fundamental threat to millions of Muslims in our country" [Link]

It would seem strange that someone would declare a ban which is the result of a democratic referendum in a sovereign country and which is applicable only within the country's borders to be a fundamental threat to Muslims of another country. And this question was rightly asked by Nitin and others (follow the debate here). The response from Vishnu was unsatisfactory to begin with and entirely typical of "a mind with secular bent". His answer -

"This is as easy to comprehend as it gets." (Complete answer here)

What he seems to imply here is that the issue is so simple only a fool could not comprehend the threat to Muslims. The long, meandering response is anything but an answer. Instead it is a "secular mind" wondering why "right wingers" fail to get it. And Vishnu is guilty of doing the same things he accuses others are doing. In his response he says -

"I cannot tolerate such a generalisation and cannot tolerate people who believe that to be the truth. And it is generalisations like this which represent a fundamental threat to Muslims in India and around the world." [Link]

He disapproves of generalisations yet he paints all those who criticized his views as having a "right-wing edge". So any view that is not congruent to that of a "secular mind" is automatically "right-wing". And the connotations associated with "right-wing" are well known in India. Ergo, all contrary views are invalid. Only Vishu's, possessing a "secular mind", are correct. Indeed in this very first comment he sets a prerequisite to win any debate, one needs "a mind with a secular bend" to understand what he said. After this a "right-winger" can never win.

Another thing that's typical of a "secular mind" is the desire to jump to speak on behalf of the Muslims. If the Indian Muslims feel threatened by something that happened to Muslims elsewhere, let them say so, why should Vishnu feel compelled to do so? The Indian Muslims are capable and have the necessary freedom to do so. Indian Muslims are Indian, Swiss Muslims are Swiss and sovereignty of nations must be respected.

Much of what I feel has been articulated very well here, here and here. This is a very good example of the techniques the left uses when debating, declare your's is the right way, label opponents as "right-wingers", continue arguing "right-wing" is wrong hence anything it says is invalid and declare victory -

"Enough of the great minaret debate. Horrified by the right wing wall I ran into. New subject today ... Will tweet later today." [Link]