Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Muslim Renaissance in India

By N. Jamal Ansari
Muslims are scattered all over India yet they have much in common. They pray to one and same Allah, follow more or less the same Shariat laws, observe same rituals and share same cultural traits. But it is equally true that they are underdeveloped, non-industrialised and particularly backward. The result is ignorance and poverty. They lag behind other communities in every field.

Though Islam emphasised upon social equality but Indian Muslims slowly moved towards social gradations. Broadly, they are divided into two so-called groups: Ashraf ("noble" or upper caste) and Ajlaf ("rough" or lower caste) Muslims. Though not as rigid as among Hindus, Muslims do maintain a caste-like feature. In fact, Muslims are passing through a crisis. To arrest this trend they need a renaissance.

Among Hindus, awakening began in the early 19th century, much before Muslims. The renaissance movements among Hindus and other non-Muslims may include Brahmo Samaj founded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy in 1828 in Bengal, the Prarthana Samaj founded by Keshab Chandra Sen in 1867 which was carried on by Justice M.G. Ranade and Bhandarkar in Maharastra, the Arya Samaj founded by Swami Dayanand Saraswati in 1875, Ramakrishna Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda in 1897, the Theosophical Society established by Colonel Cleott and subsequently developed by Annie Besant, the Rehnumai Mazdayasan Sabha by Dadabhai Navroji in 1851 and Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam founded by Shri Narayan Dharma, Paripalana Yogam founded by Shri Narayan Guru in 1903 in Travancore. All these movemetns were essentially geared at reform and sought the abolition of the caste-system, encourage gender equality and social commitments.

But we, Muslims, never tried to mobilise our masses for social causes. There were some half-hearted attempts but most of them developed into religious movements leaving aside their original goals.

The Tariqah-e Muhammadiya (Muhammadan Way) Movement was founded by Syed Ahmad Barelwi Shahid (1789-1831). He was deeply concerned about the religious and political degradation of Muslims. It was not a simple revivalist movement. It was directed against superstitions and ignorance. The Tariqah-e Muhammadiya was based on nationalism and was directed against the British rule. Although they opposed modern education but this was primarily due to hatred towards the British. Shariatullah launched the Faraizi Movement in Bengal. Peasants were organised under Faraizi banner to oppose the oppression of Zamindars.
The Deoband Movement was also an offshoot of the Tariqah-e Muhammadiya. It attaracted youths not only from India but also from other countries. Unfortunately all these movements kept Muslims preoccupied with religion and failed to address their social and political aspirations.

Tablighi Movement was started by Maulana Ilyas (1886-1994) in 1927 among the Meos of Mewat region south of Delhi. This movement was a response to the Arya Samaj’s drive of Shuddhi which was aimed at converting Muslims to bring them “back” to the Hindu fold. Maulana Ilyas gave the slogan: "Aye Musalmano, Musalman bano" (Muslims, become Muslims). He began reforming them through six basic articles: recitation of the first Kalimah (there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is His messenger), Namaz (offering five-times daily prayers) Ilm (acquiring knowledge), Dhikr (remembrance of Allah), Ikram-e-Muslim (respect for Muslim), Ikhlas-e-Niyat (faithful intention) and Tabligh (spreading the message of Allah). Tablighi Jamat holds large gatherings of Muslims but there is hardly any other issue discussed except religion. Unfortunately, the movement keeps distance from politics leading to a negative attitude among its followers towards major issues confronting the Muslim community.

The Aligarh Movement was the modernistic movement launched by Syed Ahmad Khan which resulted in social change among Indian Muslims. Syed Ahmad Khan started a journal called Tahzib-ul-Akhlaq for popularising his ideas and message. In due course of time he founded the M.A.O. College in 1875 which is now Aligarh Muslims University where western thoughts and European learning were disseminated along with Islamic heritage. This movement was directed towards educational upliftment of Indian Muslims.
Most of these movements were inspired by the degradation seen in the Muslim community.

Another movement, called Tulu-e-Islam, should also get attention. This movement was started by Ghulam Ahmad Pervez of Punjab. In 1938, he started publishing a journal, Tulu-e-Islam. Parvez got discredited because of his rejection of Hadith as a major source of legislation in Islam. Its main object was to unite Muslims as a whole leaving aside geographical boundaries. Some other organisations like Jamiat-ul Ulama, Jamaat-e Islami and Ahrar-e-Islam too engaged themselves in reforming the Muslim community.

In post-independence India some movements were launched like Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal by radical reformer Hamid Dalwai which failed to influence Muslims because Hamid Dalwai was influenced by Hindu communalists. A very important movement, called "Awaz-e-Niswan", was launched by Hasina Khan in 1985. Its main aim was to awaken Muslim women. Side by side these movements, some Muslims OBC movements also took roots. But they were confined to themselves.
Presently, we have a grim future in respect of Muslim renaissance. Despite laudable attempts as Syed Shahabuddin’s AIMMM, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and some other small organisations, Muslim awakening is very slow. Publication of The Milli Gazette by Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan also aims at this direction.

Though quite late in compar
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ison to Hindu brothers, there is now some awakening after the demolition of Babri Masjid and genocide of Muslims in Gujarat. Only religious awakening will not do. Educational and economic issues should also be dealt with. The Muslim elite should come foreword in this connection as they did at the time of Syed Ahmad Khan. Every small or big issue related directly or indirectly to any group or caste should arouse the minds of Muslims as a whole.

Muslims cannot remain aloof. They must act fast. Hence, a powerful socio-politico movement should be launched to unite and awaken them. If the present trend of living in dreams is not checkmated, the days of falling into the era of Jahalat (ignorance) will not be too far. This would be the tragedy of our times.

Woman: Her position in Islam

By Shah Abdul Halim
The writer is the Chairman of Islamic Information Bureau Bangladesh.
Tue, 29 Aug 2006, 09:46:00
In my article 'Islam and Democracy: How far Compatible' published in The New Nation on 11 March 2006 I discussed, as a corollary of the women's political participation and empowerment, the question whether it is obligatory on the part of Muslim women to fully cover face or use nikab

In response to my article Mr. Mohammad Sakhi in the every first paragraph of his article under the heading 'Islam and Democracy' published in The New Nation 0n 17 April 2006 pointed out that I have written that 'veiled women are not required to lower down their gaze when she faces opposite sex'. This statement does not correctly represent the words as to what I have said in my article although some might infer such a farfetched conclusion. I would request Mr. Mohammad Sakhi to read my previous article. I shall however further explain here at this stage my position on 'lowering of gaze' for the benefit of readers.

The question that I discussed in my previous article is whether the Muslim women shall have to fully cover the face or use nikab. Referring verse to 24: 30-31 wherein both men and women have been asked to lower their look when fall on the opposite sex I took up the position that "the instruction of the verses quoted above is that both men and women are required to keep their eye cast down, so that when they meet each other, neither should men stare at women nor women at men. The natural question that arises is why man should lower his gaze if the face of woman is totally covered? From the text of the verses it is clearly evident that the face of the woman is not to be covered and therefore man has been advised to lower his look". My understanding of the Text of the Quran is that women are not required to cover face or wear nikab. Others might differ with me.

Imam Abu Hanifa and majority of the scholars support the view that women need not cover their face although some other scholars hold different view.

Amazingly enough, the most important thing today is that the opinion cited should be old; the writer's reputation or the work's value does not matter. There is however no reason to think our earlier generations have done all the research and investigation and we have nothing to add. In this connection, the Farewell Pilgrimage message of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is very pertinent in which he called upon those who are present on the occasion to convey his message to those who are not present adding that those who will come to know about his message later might understand the inner meaning and significance of his message more than who are present [Zahir Ahmed, Muhammad: Glimpses of the Prophet's Life & Times, Royal Book Company, Karachi, Pakistan, p 200. Also Prof. Syed Ali Asan, Muhammad: Seal of the Prophets, Dhaka, p 345 and Dr. M. Said Ramadan Al Buti, The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography & A Brief History of the Orthodox Caliphate, Dar Al Fikr, Damascus, pp 651-652]. It is no good to conclude that 'modern Muslims influenced by western philosophy and technology are inclined to imitate them at the cost of our culture and civilization … have developed a mentality of western path' as Mr. Mohammad Sakhi in his article has observed while making comments on my position on Hijab.

We must not overlook the general practice of Hijab by women in Indonesia, Malaysia, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Egypt and Morocco where they keep their face open and they do not cover their face with nikab. Women in the Saudi Television also appear without nikab, without covering the face. Even the women leaders of Ikhwan-al-Muslimin, Muslim Brotherhood throughout Middle East, including eminent Ikhwan leader of Egypt Zainab al Ghazali known for his monumental work "Return of the Pharoah: Memoirs in Naser's Prison', do not cover their face. It is obligatory that women must not cover their face during Hajj.

In this connection, it would be appropriate to quote Hadith of Prophet Muhammad in which he said: Hazrat Ayesha reports a Tradition that her sister Asma once came in thin clothes and Prophet Muhammad turned his face away from her and remarked: O Asma when a girl attains maturity, she is not permitted to expose any part of her body except face and hand" [Abu Daud quoted in Muhammad Sharif Chaudhury's Women's Right in Islam, Adam Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi, 2003, pp 99, 104. Also see Katherine Bullock, Rethinking Muslim Women and the Veil: Challenging Historical & Modern Stereotypes, IIIT, U. S. A., 2003, p 232].

Now let us discuss Mr. Mohammad Sakhi's observation that 'if husband does not allow her (wife) to go for pilgrimage (Hajj) she cannot go'. Hajj is a obligatory ibadah, prayer also for woman if she fulfills the conditions for Hajj namely she is in good health, she has her own money, wealth and resources to bear the expenses and a muharram- a brother or a son and so on who is willing to accompany her during pilgrimage.

Husband cannot stop wife from performing Fard, obligatory prayer and there is no obedience that contradicts obedience to Allah and His Prophet and obedience is only on maruf and not on munkar [Bukhari Muslim quoted in Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi's Islamic Law and Constitution. Bengali tr Islami Rastro O Shongbidhan Dhaka, 1997, p 129], that means we can expect obedience only lawful commands, on good things and we cannot expect obedience when the command is on unlawful matter, on doing evil [Bukhari, Muslim, Tabrani and Sharhus Sunnah quoted in ibid p 252].

Mr. Mohammad Sakhi's observation that 'woman cannot be summoned to the court if she is prudah observing'. This is something not understandable. Indeed some Muslim scholars have engrossed themselves in woman studies emphasizing biological and psychological differences, thereby attempting to derive evidence from Islam to support their attitude. Such a decidedly un-Islamic bias has prevented Muslims scholars from considering the issue of the woman's testimony in the light of broader Quranic teachings of equality.

Shaykh Taha Jabir Al-Alwani, President of The Fiqh Council of North America and Member of the OIC Islamic Fiqh Council observed: "In essence, Muslim jurists and Quranic commentators allowed their cultural prejudices to color their discussions on women" [The Testimony of Women in Issues in Contemporary Islamic Thought, IIIT, U. S. A., 2005, p 166]. Imam Abu Hanifa is of the view that that "since the Quran indicated that women may serve as witnesses in financial transactions, they may also judge on financial and other matters" [Dr. Jamal Badawi, Islamic Teachings Course, Islamic Schools Trust, 2 Digswell Street, London N7 8JX, England, vol. 3, p 50. Bengali tr. Islami Shikkha Series, BIIT, Dhaka, 2006 p 328]. "Witnessing is mentioned seven times in the Quran, and on only one occasion is there a requirement that if two men are not present, a man and two women will suffice (2: 282). In verse 24: 6-9 it is clear that the testimony of a woman is equated exactly with that of a man in case of adultery: where one spouse accuses the other of infidelity, the accusation by one spouse is held to be just as valid as the denial by the other. In other five verses on witnessing (4:15. 5:106-107, 24: 4, 24: 13, 65: 2), the Quran does not specify whether witnesses should be men, women or a combination of them" [Abdul Qadr Auda, Criminal Law in Islam, p 315, quoted in Dr. Jamal Badawi's Islamic Teachings Course, vol. 3, pp 51-54. Bengali tr. Islami Shikkha Series, pp 330-333]. "Sayings from the prophetic tradition seem to contradict the view that, as in financial matters, there must be two men or one man and two women; for instance, according to tradition, the Prophet is reported as having settled many disputes on the basis of one statement under oath and one witness - there is no indication whether the witness was a male or female i.e. it could have been either" [Dr. Jamal Badawi, Islamic Teachings Course, vol. 3, p 52. Bengali tr. Islami Shikkha Series, p 331]. If we fall back on history we find that woman as witness appeared before the Qadi during the four rightly guided Caliphs and afterwards during the Umayyad and the Abbasid period. Even today Muslim women appear in the courts in Saudi Arabia and Iran not to speak of other Muslim countries.

In this connection it would be appropriate to quote Hadith of Prophet Muhammad: Wael-b-Hujr reported that a woman came out at the time of the Messenger of Allah intending to say prayer. A man forced her and dragged her and satisfied his lust with her. She raised alarm but he went away. She passed by a host of the refugees and said: That man did with me such and such thing. They over took him and came with him to the Messenger of Allah. He said to her: Go back because Allah has forgiven you and he said about the man: Stone him to death. [Tirmizi, Abu Daud quoted in Women's Right in Islam, p 78]. Is this not a proof that a lady appeared before the Court of Prophet Muhammad.

Mr. Mohammad Sakh observed: 'Our scripture never allows free mixing (of men and women) and soft speech (by women) with unknown persons … how far modern female is correct when she defies Allah's command in the public hall meeting and Parliament House, when she speaks and announces in radio and television and serves as a hostess in aircraft with smiling face and sweet tone'. Prof. Dr. Yusuf Al Qaradawi is of opinion that "Islam prohibits Khulwah between a man and a woman who are outside the degree of mahrem relationship" [The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam, American Trust Publications, U. S. A., p 150. Bengali tr. Islame Halal Haramer Bidhan, Khairun Prokashani, Dhaka, 1999, p 200]. What is not allowed in Islam is "meet in private" and "male and female should not be alone together" [Islamic Teachings Course, vol. 3, p 71. Bengali tr. Islami Shikkha Series, p 357]. As regards soft speech it appears in verse 33: 32 of the Quran and the verse is "directed to the wives of the Prophet … it applies only to them" [Maha Azzam, Gender and the Politics of Religion in the Middle East in Mai Yamani ed. Feminism and Islam: Legal and Literary Perspectives, New York University Press, U. S. A., 1996, p 224]. We must not overlook the fact that Hazrat Ayesha, herself a Fuqaha, taught Quran and Hadith to the Companions of the Prophet.

Women can go out when necessary and Prof. Dr. Yusuf Al Qaradawi is of opinion that women can be a Member of Parliament and can serve as judge [Dr. Zeenath Kausar, Political Participation of Women: Contemporary Perspectives of Gender Feminists & Islamic Revivalists, published by A. S. Noordeen, Kuala Lumpur, 1997, p 31]. In Turkey only recently Marve Kavaki, a woman Member of the Parliament from an Islamic Party entered the House in decent dress, in proper Hijab - keeping the face open, and she was expelled from the Parliament. People made uproar not because she has become a Member of Parliament but why she was denied to stay in the Parliament with Hijab.

Replying a question: 'Can it be said that the way in which a woman overturned a proposal by Umar to limit the amount of mahr that is paid resembles the modern parliamentary process' Dr. Jamal Badwi replied: "There are six ways in which it is possible to draw a parallel between what happened during the reign of Umar and what happens today in parliament. (a) When Umar stood up in the mosque to propose a ceiling in the amount that was payable for mahr, it was in fact the Government producing a proposal to reform a particular aspect of marriage law. (b) The venue for the discussion may not have been a parliamentary building, (it was the mosque), but in Islam, the mosque is not just a place of worship. The mosque has traditionally been used by Muslims to discuss and decide on social issues, political issues etc. - armies were often sent out from the mosque, foreign emissaries were received there and so on.

Although there were no official delegates serving as members of the House, nevertheless it was similar to parliament because people would gather there to hear what their ruler had to say and have discussion with him. (c) The fact that Umar made his proposal in public suggests that people were entitled to express their opinion about his decisions. (d) People from all walks of life were present and could freely criticize if they wished. (e) In the event it was a woman who voiced criticism of the proposal, and the basis of her objection was that the proposal violated the terms of the Constitution: for Muslims the Quran, the word of Allah, is the Constitution and no human being can change any aspect of its provisions. (f) Umar, on understanding the point that the woman made, immediately withdrew his proposed law, conceding that it was unconstitutional" [Islamic Teachings Course, vol. 3, p 49. Bengali tr.Islami Shikkha Series, pp 326-327].

To sum up, I have tried in the three articles (Part 1, 2 and 3) to answer some of the issues raised by Mr. Mohammad Sakhi which I thought important and relevant. I did not however respond to some other problems pertaining to Egypt and Turkey raised by Mr. Mohammad Sakhi though important as the article has already become too big in size for publication in newspaper.

I want to conclude with the observation that what has been discussed here is not the last word and Allah knows the best. Allah hu A'alam.

[This article (Part - 3) has been written in response to Mr. Mohammad Sakhi's article on Islam and Democracy.]

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Traveling across Borders of Hate By Professor Nazeer Ahmed

History is a great teacher and a sign from the heavens to draw humankind towards divine presence. Unfortunately, nations have turned it into a compendium of self-serving myths, dividing themselves, and erecting borders of hate. The passions that erupt in the flames of war arise in the hearts of men and women. It is here, in the deep recesses of the human breast, that love and hate wage their battle and manifest themselves on the stage of history. The fuel that propels them is the perception of history, often self-serving, subjective and tailored to keep those passions alive.

There are many such borders of hate in the modern world: Bosnia-Serbia, Greece-Turkey, Chechnya-Russia, India-Pakistan, Ethiopia-Eritrea, Israel-Palestine, Israel-Lebanon. And the list keeps growing by the day. Often, these borders are trans-national. At other times, they exist within the same geographical entity.

That hatred is now institutionalized with governments feeding their nationals as well as the visitors to their borders with doses of prejudice about their perceived enemies. Hatred has now become embedded into tourism. Travel brochures deliver carefully crafted misinformation. Travel guides transmit it, sometimes in subtle tones and at other times brazenly.

I had the occasion to travel across one such border recently, that between the Greek and the Turkish worlds, where neighbors who live within a stone’s throw are separated by emotional chasms a thousand miles wide.

I have visited Turkey many times, enjoyed the hospitality of its beautiful people, savored its sumptuous foods and have marveled at the magnificence of its monuments. I have stood in reverence at the tombs of Mevlana Rumi and Ayub Sultan, Companion of the Prophet. The Bosporus is where Asia and Europe meet. It is where the axes of three great world religions, Islam, Catholic Christianity and Orthodox Christianity intersect. If you disregard the hassles at the Istanbul airport, Turkey is a land one must visit at least once in a lifetime.

While in Istanbul I have spent days absorbing the Greek architecture of the Aya Sophia and the engineering marvels of the ancient underground Byzantine water reservoirs of Istanbul. What you see in Istanbul whets your appetite for Greece. So, on this visit I traveled to Athens. I was full of enthusiasm and curiosity. This was the land of Socrates and Plato, Aristotle and Alexander, Euclid, Herodotus and Demosthenes. The legacy of its civilization is claimed by the West and imbibed in the East. It sparked the Renaissance in Europe and was instrumental in the Mu’tazalite eruption in the Islamic world.
The Greeks are also a handsome people, friendly, good natured with a love of Mediterranean food and wholesome music. But here the analogy with the Turks stops.

The Greeks and the Turks hate each other.
My first stop was at the Acropolis on which stands the Parthenon, a magnificent structure of engineering perfection. The Acropolis is a rocky hill with a commanding view of the area surrounding it. From ancient times it has been a location of a temple dedicated to whichever deity the local population believed in at the time. For this reason it is also called the sacred rock of Athens. The imposing Parthenon which dominates the hill was built by Pericles around 447 BC.

“The Turks were responsible for much of the destruction at the Acropolis”, started the tourist guide on the hill. “They built a store house here for gun powder which was hit by a shell during a siege by Venice in 1687. Many buildings caught fire and were destroyed”. This was a jarring prelude to a long litany of complaints about the Turks. As I followed the guide around, he pointed to every stone that was supposedly moved by the Turks from the temple to build a wall around the Acropolis. The historical fact is that the Venetians laid siege to Athens (1687 CE), bombarded the Acropolis, occupied it, and used material from the ancient structures to build a wall around the hill. When the Turks recaptured the town (1689) they reinforced the wall. The Greeks themselves tore down the temples of earlier civilizations to build their structures. Evidence of this may be found in the extensive underground water Cistern in Istanbul built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 532 CE. .

The following day we took a taxi from Athens to Mykenia, a distance of about sixty miles. The Mykenian civilization (circa 1200 BC) was a forerunner of the Hellenistic civilization (circa 750 BC to 100 BC). The Mykenians were master builders, skilled craftsmen in the bronze age, advanced in the art of administration and used a numerical system based on alphabets. An understanding of the Mykenians is a must for anyone studying the classical Greek civilization.

“We were slaves of the Turks for four hundred years”, began the taxi driver’s version of history. “When they occupied Greece”, he continued, “many churches were destroyed and our culture was ruined”. The historical fact is that under the Milli system, the Ottomans gave complete autonomy to the Greeks (and other Christian Orthodox people in Eastern Europe). The Greek Churches were protected by Christian waqfs and administered by the Patriarch of Istanbul. This patronage enabled the Greeks living in the hills and those in the plains develop a kindred sense of belonging to a common heritage. Indeed, a sociologist may develop a plausible thesis that it was the Ottoman patronage under the milli system that ignited the consciousness of a unitary Greek nation among peoples of Greek heritage living in isolated islands and different parts of the mainland.

We proceeded on to Nafplion, the first capital of modern Greece. It was here in 1829 that the Greek rebels, incited and abetted by the British, declared their independence from the Ottoman Empire. The old city plaza is still there and the Turkish flavor endures. The jami masjid of Nafplion is now a museum, a fate better than those of other masjids in Greece that were converted outright to churches. But the Greeks have their eyes closed to the excesses that they committed. They have no recollection of their invasion of Turkey (1921-24) in which they killed, burned and destroyed much of Western Anatolia. It is an asymmetrical memory, which stores only what the Turks did to them.

We took the flight from Athens to Larnaca in Cyprus. This was a week before the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon flooded Larnaca with thousands of refugees. We visited the Sultaniye Tekke which dates back to the first Arab attempt to conquer Cyprus during the reign of Amir Muawiya, circa 670 CE. Larnaca had a sizable Turkish population until 1964. On Christmas night of that year, the Greeks invaded the Turkish quarters and slaughtered thousands forcing the Turkish population to flee north to what is today the Turkish Republic of Cyprus.

I wanted to make a telephone call from Larnaca (in Greek Cyprus) to Lefka (in Turkish Cyprus). I was firmly reminded by the receptionist at the hotel that there was no such place as Turkish Cyprus, and that it was “occupied Cyprus”. “You cannot make a call to occupied Cyprus from here”, she continued, “you must first call Turkey and from there the call is directed to Lefka”. A sadness consumed my heart as I realized that a bird could fly across a border in a minute but it would take a human voice a thousand miles to reach a neighbor. Cyprus is a small island but it is separated into two parts by borders of hate.
Greece and Turkey are not the only neighbors wherein the borders are sealed with suspicion, distrust and outright hatred. On a recent trip from Delhi to Sirhind on the India-Pakistan border, I noticed how complete was the obliteration of Islamic monuments (except Sufi tombs) in Eastern Punjab. Prior to partition (1947) East Punjab was more than one-third Muslim (as opposed to Western Punjab which was more than seventy percent Muslim). Today it is less than one-twentieth Muslim. One cranes ones neck in vain to see if there is a minaret here and there. The destruction was mutual across the border. Partition erected barriers of hate right across the heart of Punjab.

Sometimes the barriers of hate exist within a geographical or national boundary. Several years ago I visited the ruins of Hampi, near Hospet in Bellary District, Karnataka State, India,  the ancient capital of the Vijayanagar kingdom in the Deccan on the Tungabhadra river. It was here that the combined armies of the Bahmani sultans defeated the raja of Vijayanagar in 1565 CE at the battle of Tylekote. It was one of the decisive battles of history that destroyed a great medieval empire and replaced it with the (Shia Muslim) Bahmani sultanates. The (Shia) Safavids of Persia, who were at that time engaged in a fierce struggle with the Great Mughals for control of Afghanistan, saw a golden opportunity to circumvent the Mogul empire and made overtures to the Bahmani sultans for a common stand against the (nominally sunni) Moguls. It was this Persian interference into the affairs of Hindustan which provoked the Great Mughals and brought the Mogul armies hurling south into the Deccan, first under Akbar, and then under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. In any case, Hampi was destroyed in the battle of Tylekote.

“The Muslims destroyed Hampi”, began the guide, repeating this litany as he showed me each monument or every piece of sculpture lying on the ground. What was a power struggle between a raja and his neighbor sultans was now presented as a war based on religion. When I asked some pointed questions, the guide realized that I was a Muslim and his tone changed. I wondered how many thousands of ordinary folks who had no knowledge of history and whose only interest was to visit the ruins of an ancient city had received a poisonous dose of anti-Muslim tirades from this and other guides at the site.

History is an interpretation of events. It happens only once but is narrated in a hundred ways. In modern life, as tourism has increased and people travel in increasing numbers from one country to another, a subjective view of history has penetrated the tourist industry. Millions of tourists each year are bombarded with distorted versions of historical events and return home with the prejudices which are thrust upon them during the tours. Men and women of goodwill who strive to build bridges of understanding across religious and cultural divides would render a service if they worked together to reform the tourist industry so that history becomes a mechanism for healing not of hate.
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Pluralism and Islamic Civilisation

I was perplexed –and perturbed — by the remark attributed to the State Mufti of Perak, Dato Seri Harussani Zakaria that pluralism was an attack upon the faith of the Muslims. (Star 14 June 2006).
What does pluralism mean in the Mufti’s dictionary? Pluralism in the social sciences refers to “the existence of different types of people, who have different types of beliefs and opinions, within the same society”. There are different dimensions to pluralism. Political pluralism for instance is characterized by a diversity of political ideas often expressed through a multitude of political parties. The presence of different cultures and traditions within a society signifies cultural pluralism. When different religions co-exist within the same polity it is religious pluralism.
No civilization in history has demonstrated a more resolute commitment to pluralism than Islam. The principles of pluralism are anchored in the Noble Quran itself. A number of verses attest to this.
And among the Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the variations in your languages and your colours: verily in that are Signs for those who know. (Surah 30:22).
To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an open way. If God had so willed He would have made you into a single people, but (His Plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. (Surah 5: 48).
To every people have We appointed rites and ceremonies which they must follow: let them not dispute with thee on the matter, but do thou invite (them) to thy Lord: for thou art assuredly on the right Way. (Surah 22: 67)
O mankind ! We have created you from a single (pair) of a male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).
(Surah 49:13).
If thy Lord had so willed, He could have made mankind one people: but they will not cease to dispute. (Surah 11: 118).
The Quranic message on pluralism and diversity was reflected in the Charter of Medina which the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) formulated. It brought together different religious and ethnic communities bestowing upon each of them equal rights and responsibilities. The treaty which the Prophet forged with the Christian monks of Najran, protecting their monastery and guaranteeing them freedom of religion was yet another testimony to pluralism.
It was largely because of the inclusive, accommodative approach to religious and cultural diversity embodied in the Quran and the Sunnah that generations of Muslim scholars and philosophers from the 9th to the 14th centuries opened their minds to the vast corpus of knowledge found in all the other religious and cultural civilizations, be it Hindu and Confucian or Greek and Roman. A positive attitude towards ‘the other’ was undoubtedly a major factor in the emergence of Islamic civilization as the fount of learning and the harbinger of the modern scientific method.
This was further evidenced in the enthusiasm that some of the scholars showed for the study of other religions and religious communities. It was a Muslim Abu Rahyan Al- Biruni (died 1051) who undertook the first comprehensive scientific analysis of another religion and community in his magnum opus, Kitab Al-Hind. The empathy that he displayed for the Hindus of India was echoed in the writings of other Muslim savants such as Ibn –a-Nadim ( died 995 ) , Al-Shahristani ( 12th Century ) and Rasheeduddin Fadlullah ( 14th Century ) in their studies of Buddhism and Buddhist communities. It was Shahristani who authored the first encyclopaedia of religions.
None of these illustrious scholars felt that their faith (aqidah) was threatened by their attempts to understand other religions. On the contrary, many of them were revered by the people for their piety. It was because openness was an outstanding characteristic of the early Islamic intellectual tradition that famous Muslim kingdoms from Granada in the West to Melaka in the East were homes to diverse religious and cultural communities. Pluralism in that sense was synonymous with the splendour of Islamic civilization.
If pluralism was such a cherished principle and practice how does one explain the narrow, exclusivist attitude of a section of the ulama today who project themselves as defenders of the purity of the faith? In Islam, as in other faiths, there has always been a segment of the religious elite who regard an inclusive, universal, rational outlook as a challenge to the integrity of their religion. It is not widely known for instance that even in the past, a section of the ulama reviled and derided illustrious scholars such as Ibn Sina (980-1037), Ibn Rushd (1126-1198) and Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) for their rational, cosmopolitan thinking which sought to highlight the quintessence of Islam. It was this type of ulama that insisted upon closing the door to ‘ijtihad’ (creative intellectual effort guided by the Quran and the Sunnah) and perpetuating their own monopoly upon the divine truth. However, they failed to stifle the intellectual dynamism of Islamic civilization in the early centuries largely because of a whole string of enlightened Rulers like Harun Al-Rashid and Al-Mansur who were willing to provide patronage for scholarship inspired by a rational, universal vision of the religion...
But when the centres of Islamic civilization in Central and West Asia were devastated and destroyed by the Mongol invaders in the 12th and 13th centuries and when Muslim kingdoms in Andalusia were defeated and demolished by Christian conquerors in the 15th century, the influential strata within the ummah lost its vigour and vitality, became inward looking and began to develop a siege mentality. It was this mentality that the conservative ulama exploited as they sought to promote an exclusive worldview obsessed with a narrow notion of religious purity. If anything, the long centuries of Western colonial domination that followed from the 16th century onwards reinforced this mindset within the ulama and the ummah.
It is this huge historical baggage that the Muslim world carries on its shoulders in the present post colonial decades. It explains why for a significant segment of the ummah a narrow, exclusive idea of Muslim identity defined in terms of forms and symbols, rites and rituals has such a powerful appeal while the substance of the faith expressed through a Tauhidic (oneness of God) worldview embodied in perennial values and principles has limited attraction. The situation has been worsened by the double standards and gross injustices prevalent in the existing Washington helmed hegemonic global system, vividly mirrored in the sufferings of the Palestinians and Iraqis. It has heightened the siege mentality within the ummah and consequently tightened the grip of the narrow-minded defenders of a pure, exclusive religious identity. It is a notion of identity which has been promoted aggressively for a few decades now at the doctrinal level by the bigoted, dogmatic Wahabi oriented interpretation of Islam.
There is no doubt at all that many Malaysian Muslims under the tutelage of the ulama subscribe to such interpretations of the religion. It is reflected in their blind adherence to certain aspects of the Fiqh (jurisprudential) tradition which have been discarded in other parts of the Muslim world. If a narrow interpretation of text and tradition in order to bolster an exclusive notion of religious identity has tremendous pull among Malaysian Muslims it is partly because of the country’s delicate ethnic balance which reinforces the siege mentality on all sides. Nonetheless, narrow thinking has been kept in check by a variety of factors, including a national leadership which since Independence has opted for a more inclusive, rational and contemporary approach to Islam.
Let us hope and pray that this remains so for all times.
Important note to learn and online quran recitation

Doing Quran recitation is the religious duty of every Muslim.  In saheed Sunnah, it is encouraged to do the recitation of Quran in a melodious voice by the holy Quran reciter by making the voice more melodious and interesting. Reading quran online and Making it melodious does not mean that it should be made more in singing tone but once should at least recite and read quranic Arabic in a good tone so that he/she himself feels good while listening to it and others also feel good while listening to quran. and plz do spread the true knowledge as much as you and Allah knows best listen quran online of the top online quran reciter with English and Urdu translation for quran teacher live