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Indian Muslim: An Asset or Liability?

Noor Ul Shahbaz

Faith of every Muslim is that the first human being on the planet who is the father of entire human beings was Prophet Adam (A.S). He was also the first Prophet and the human races started from him. According to Islamic theology, some 1, 24,000 Prophets were sent to guide mankind and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the last one. All of them called human beings towards the one Almighty Allah and given books too. That was the reason that the Almighty Allah sent Prophet Muhammad (SAW) for the guidance of mankind and now said that it the Almighty’s responsibility to protect the Quran, the book which has been revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and not let anyone make any change in it. And till now across the globe, the Quran is one and there are no changes in the original texts. Idol worship is one of the ancient traditions of Hindu culture and it was being practiced even before Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was born or appointed as a prophet. Hindu mythology says that there are a number of gods and goddess but Islam strictly asks its followers to follow monotheism i.e. belief in the oneness of the Allah. Hindus believe the concept of rebirth after death and Islam teaches life hereafter and the Day of Judgment and the concept of heaven and hell. But despite two extremely opposite views, there are not any mentioning of tension or tussles in the early period when Islam reached India in the 7th century. Islam is the second-largest religion in India, with 14.2% of the country’s population, approximately 172.2 million people, identifying as adherents of Islam. It makes India the country with the largest Muslim population outside Muslim-majority countries. Muslims ruled India for over 600 years and contributed in many ways to Indian culture and society. Muslim contribution to literature, art, culture and architecture is part of India’s glorious history. The economy was so rich during the Muslim rule that India was known as the “golden bird”. Islam came to Indian coastal cities through traders and travelers. When Muslim traders came to India, the local population was very inspired by their attitude, characters and righteousness. Soon many people especially those who were downgraded most in the Hindu caste system, were attracted towards Islamic teachings of brotherhood and equality. Soon after, Islam spread in many coastal cities such as Calicut, Madras (Now Chennai), Kokan etc. later on, the role of Sufis became very important. Lots of people converted to Islam after seeing their simplicity, equal behavior to everyone, love and affection to common people. Still lots of people, including Hindus, visit Sufi shrine across the country. Arab traders and travelers were very familiar with India and were frequent visitors. In the early 8th century some Arab ships were plundered by pirates in Sindh. Hajjaj, the then ruler of the Muslim world, asked for compensation from King Dahir of Sindh which he denied. In 712 AD, Hajjaj sent an army under the commandment of Muhammad bin Qasim. He was only 17 years old. Since Muhammad bin Qasim another phase of Muslims started in India that led various rulers in various parts of the country and it ended on the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar in 1857. British who came to India for business analyzed this situation very deeply and as a result, they started increasing the footsteps of the East India Company. After the battle of Plassey in 1757, they captured the whole Bengal province. In 1805, British defeated Marhatas and captured Delhi too and then the whole country was gone into the British raj. The role of Muslim clerics was very crucial and important throughout the fight with the British against the occupation. In the early days of British rule, the role of Shah Waliullah and his family was very important. In 1803, his son and noted cleric, Shah Abdul Aziz Dehlavi had given the first and formal call for Jihad. Following his commandment, Syed Ahmad Shaheed Barailvi and Syed Ismail Shaheed had initiated an arms struggle. He was martyred in 1831. His movement was very much instrumental to restore confidence among Muslims in India. Another ruler who fought very bravely with British was Tipu Sultan. He was a ruler in Southern India and his capital was Srirangapatna that is now located in the province of Karnataka. He was martyred while fighting with British in the battlefield. According to Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, Tipu Sultan is the innovator of the world’s first war rocket. Two of such rockets that were captured after he died in Srirangapatna war, are in the Royal Artillery Museum in London. 1857 is also important juncture for Indian subcontinent because now British had realized that if Muslims and Hindus will oppose them and fight against them until then it would be very difficult for them to survive in India. As a result, they started practicing their infamous protocol ‘divide and rule’. As time passed, their feeling had been increased and there came to the conclusion that the British won’t leave the country unless they managed to divide the Hindu-Muslim strong bond. Western forces including British had known Muslims since crusade wars in the Middle East. After the fall of the Ottoman Empire Muslim worlds were divided into many small countries and the entire Muslim population didn’t have a common political centre. In this scenario, Indian subcontinent had numerous importance and Muslims of the Indian subcontinent were largest in the world. They knew that if they get a chance to retrieve themselves then it will be dangerous for their expansionist and imperialist policies and also existence even in Europe. Therefore, they decided to divide India and the result was two nations India and Pakistan. The struggle against British was fought by Muslims and Hindus shoulder to shoulder and after independence, India became a ‘sovereign socialist secular democratic republic’ and the Constitution of Indian has given various rights to minority communities under Articles 25, 26, 29 and 30. The constitution has also given special rights and reservations to communities who were social, economic and educational backwardness and termed as Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The aftermath of the Partition of India in 1947 saw large scale sectarian strife and bloodshed throughout the nation. Since then, India has witnessed sporadic large-scale violence sparked by underlying tensions between sections of the Hindu and Muslim communities. These include the 1969 Gujarat riots, the 1970 Bhiwandi riots, the 1983 Nellie massacre, and the 1989 Bhagalpur violence. The sense of communal harmony between Hindus and Muslims in the post-partition period was compromised greatly by the razing of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh the demolition of which took place in 1992. This gave rise to Bombay riots and the 1993 Bombay bombings, the native Kashmiri Pandits had to leave Kashmir during 1990’s, one of the most violent events that took place was the Gujarat riots in 2002, where it is estimated one thousand people were killed, most allegedly Muslim. Some sources claim there were approximately 2,000 Muslim deaths. There were also allegations made of state involvement. The riots were considered in retaliation to the Godhra train burning in which 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from the disputed site of the Babri Masjid, were burnt alive in a train fire at the Godhra railway station. In the 2010 Deganga riots, rioting began on 6 September 2010 in West Bengal. At least 77 people died and 400,000 people were displaced in the 2012 Assam violence between indigenous Bodos and East Bengal rooted Muslims. The 2020 Delhi riots, which left more than 50 dead and hundreds injured, were triggered by protests against a citizenship law seen by many critics as anti-Muslim and part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist agenda. But as for the worldly matters, today’s Indian Muslim is better fed, better clothed, better educated, and most well-off with other fellow countrymen. Since much has happened in the interface between religion and politics, today’s ordinary Muslim is the most empowered Muslim ever. She is an equal citizen, fully enfranchised, who votes, and gets voted to from Panchayat to Parliament. Never in history, and rarely in a Muslim country, have these taken-for-granted entitlements been hers. The contribution is like this, that firstly India has seen three Muslim Presidents and many Chief Ministers of State Governments have been Muslims. Apart from that, there are and have been many Muslim ministers, both at the centre and at the state level. Out of the 12 Presidents of the Republic of India, three were Muslims – Zakir Husain, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and A. P. J. Abdul Kalam. Secondly, Mohammad Hidayatullah, Aziz Mushabber Ahmadi, Mirza Hameedullah Beg and Altamas Kabir held the office of the Chief Justice of India on various occasions since independence. Mohammad Hidayatullah also served as the acting President of India on two separate occasions; and holds the distinct honor of being the only person to have served in all three offices of the President of India, the Vice-President of India and the Chief Justice of India. Thirdly, the former Vice-President of India, Mohammad Hamid Ansari, the former Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, the former Director (Head) of the Intelligence Bureau, Syed Asif Ibrahim. Sixthly, Dr. S. Y. Quraishi served as the Chief Election Commissioner of India. Seventhly, Prominent Indian bureaucrats and diplomats include Abid Hussain, Ali Yavar Jung and Asaf Ali. Zafar Saifullah was Cabinet Secretary of the Government of India from 1993 to 1994. Salman Haidar was the Foreign Secretary from 1995 to 1997 and Deputy Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations. Eighthly, the most influential Muslim politicians in India include Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Dr. Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah (former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir), Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, Mehbooba Mufti, Sikander Bakht, A. R. Antulay, Ahmed Patel, C. H. Mohammed Koya, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Salman Khurshid, Saifuddin Soz, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Asaduddin Owaisi, Azam Khan, Badruddin Ajmal, and Najma Heptulla. Ninthly, India is also well-known all around the world through its film Industry and the most popular and influential acclaimed actors and actresses of the Indian film industry are Muslims. These include Yusuf Khan (stage name Dilip Kumar), Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Madhubala, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naseeruddin Shah, Johnny Walker, Shabana Azmi, Waheeda Rehman, Amjad Khan, Parveen Babi, Feroz Khan, Meena Kumari, Prem Nazir, Mammootty, Nargis, Irfan Khan, Farida Jalal, Arshad Warsi, Mehmood, Zeenat Aman, Farooq Sheikh and Tabu. Some of the best known Muslim film directors of Indian cinema include Mehboob Khan, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, Kamal Amrohi, K. Asif and the Abbas–Mustaan. Indian Muslims also play pivotal roles in other forms of performing arts in India, particularly in music, modern art and theatre. M. F. Hussain is one of India’s best known contemporary artists. Academy Awards winners Resul Pookutty and A. R. Rahman, Naushad, Salim–Sulaiman and Nadeem Akhtar of the Nadeem–Shravan are some of India’s celebrated musicians. Abrar Alvi penned many of the greatest classics of Indian cinema. Prominent poets and lyricists include Shakeel Badayuni, Sahir Ludhianvi and Majrooh Sultanpuri. Popular Indian singers of Muslim faith include Mohammed Rafi, Anu Malik, Lucky Ali, Talat Mahmood and Shamshad Begum. Another famous personality is the tabla maestro Zakir Hussian. Eleventh, an international figure Sania Mirza, from Hyderabad, is the highest-ranked Indian woman tennis player. Twelfth, the prominent Muslim names in Indian cricket (the most popular sport of India) include Iftikhar Ali Khan Pataudi, Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Mohammad Azharuddin, who captained the Indian cricket team on various occasions. Other famous Muslim cricketers in India are Mushtaq Ali, Syed Kirmani, Arshad Ayub, Mohammad Kaif, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan, Yusuf Pathan and Wasim Jaffer. Thirteenth, India is home to several influential Muslim businessmen. Some of India’s most prominent firms, such as Wipro, Wockhardt, Himalaya Health Care, Hamdard Laboratories, Cipla and Mirza Tanners were founded by Muslims. The only two South Asian Muslim billionaires named by Forbes magazine, Yusuf Hamied and Azim Premji, are from India. Fourteenth, High ranking Muslims in the Indian Armed Forces include: Lieutenant General Jameel Mahmood, Lieutenant General Sami Khan, Lieutenant General Pattiarimmal Mohamed Hariz, Air Marshal Syed Shahid Hussein Naqvi, Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain, Major General Afsir Karim, Major General SM Hasnain, and Major General Mohammed Amin Naik.
Last but not the least Dr. Abdul Kalam, one of India’s most respected scientists and the father of the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) of India, was honored through his appointment as the 11th President of India. His extensive contributions to India’s defence industry lead him to being nicknamed as the “Missile Man of India” and during his tenure as the President of India, he was affectionately known as “People’s President”. Syed Zahoor Qasim, former Director of the National Institute of Oceanography, led India’s first scientific expedition to Antarctica and played a crucial role in the establishment of Dakshin Gangotri. He was also the former Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, Secretary of the Department of Ocean Development and the founder of Polar Research in India. Other prominent Muslim scientists and engineers include C. M. Habibullah, a stem cell scientist and director of Deccan College of Medical Sciences and Center for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Hyderabad. In the field of Yunani medicine, one can name Hakim Ajmal Khan, Hakim Abdul Hameed and Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman. Saleem Ali was an Indian ornithologist and naturalist, also known as the “Birdman of India”. It is pertinent to mention that in the list of most influential Muslims list by Georgetown University, there were 21 Indians (in 2017) like Maulana Mahmood Madani, Akhtar Raza Khan, Dr. Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Abul Qasim Nomani, Syed Muhammad Ameen Mian Qaudri, Aamir Khan and Abu Bakr Ahmad Musliyar. On a slight paraphrase of the above writing one important question will always seek answer from the Republic of India dominated by Hindu majority that, whether your fellow Muslim countrymen is an Asset or Liability?

Noor UL Shahbaz
Guest Lecturer and former acting Principal at Sopore Law College
Cell: 7006367405