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HVK Archives: Preface to ISLAM IN INDIA'S TRANSITION TO MODERNITY

Preface to ISLAM IN INDIA'S TRANSITION TO MODERNITY - Orient Longmans Ltd.,

M A Karandikar ()
1968

Title: Preface to ISLAM IN INDIA'S TRANSITION TO MODERNITY
Author : M A Karandikar
Publication: Orient Longmans Ltd.,
Date: 1968

PREFACE

The Constitution of India seeks to speed up the process of modernization in
the country. Yet during the last twenty-one years there are hardly any signs
of the gathering of any momentum to the change in the social structure. In
fact one wonders whether the anti-secular and anti-modernist forces have got
an upper hand in the country. In the scientific and technological fields
considerable progress has been made. However, it is not reflected in the
modes of thought which are based on rational rather than irrational,
obscurantist and sentimental considerations. The forces of obscurantist
revivalism, linguistic and other forms of parochialism have prevailed over
the forces of modernization. Many chauvinists of countries not so friendly
to India have successfully exploited the irrational and sentimental urges of
these people in a determined bid to destroy secularism in India. The very
concept of secularism is being distorted and new definitions of
non-communalism, progress etc. are being put forward to hide one's own
communalism and revivalism. Hence while the Constitution aims at a common and
equal citizenship-based secularism by abolishing all obstacles towards
equality whether on the ground of religion or otherwise, religion is being
put forward as a determinant of social structure in order to perpetuate the
usual old forms of discrimination in the name of God. While the pragmatism of
the politician aiming at gaining power or maintaining power, though
thoroughly unjustified, can be understood, one fails to appreciate the stance
taken by many self-styled, non-political, secular modernists who bruise
chosen to swim with the current. The ideals of secularism and modernity are
thus hampered by many forces. In November 1965 the Indian Law Institute
organised a seminar on secularism at Delhi; Asok Mehta presided over group
discussions on the subject of secularism and social morals. Giving a correct
lead to the thinkers he observed :

"A rational solution to the problem of secularism is possible only through
rational analysis. However, the present practice of phoney courtesy in
behaviour is most deplorable. We have now reached a stage where we can talk
freely but with an objectivity. Infected parts will have to be opened rip and
then only would the cure of the disease be possible."

During the past few years many infected parts such as obscurantist and
revivalist Hinduism, linguistic chauvinism etc. have been opened up.
However, hardly anyone has paid ,my serious attention to the problems created
by revivalist Islam in India. This is an old infected part ignored all these
years. One may say that rather than being ignored, it has been
soft-pedalled, tolerated and even encouraged. The collaboration between the
forces of revivalist and obscurantist Islam and the secular, modernist
non-Muslims commenced during the freedom struggle and even after two decades
of freedom it is continued with the same vigour. Muslim revivalists and
communalists have attained a position of undeserved respectability. Apart
from its reaction in the form of a matching obscurantist and revivalist
Hinduism, it has had a disastrous effect on the already very weak modernist
and secular forces among the Muslim Indians. They are enveloped in clouds of
utter frustration. The agony of this class of modernist thinkers has been
ably described by Maj. Gen. F. Habibullah in article in Mainstream (15th
August 1968):

"It is shameful to think that communal Muslim politicians who gave the League
impetus and shape, still receive considerable Political deference and
encouragement because they, have a following of Muslims. Thus the frustration
among those who have no time for the communal causerie becomes daily more
bitter."

It is true that in the present context Hindu obscurantist revivalism poses a
great threat to secularism and modernity. However, it is difficult to agree
with those who seem to equate secularism with tolerance towards and indirect
encouragement to obscurantist Islam. The two do not cancel each other. On the
contrary they have a long history of coexistence and sustenance from each
other. The attempt to isolate Hindu obscurantism for incessant attacks would
not solve the problem. The experiment has failed over the last two decades.
On the other hand we witness a steady growth of Hindu obscurantism. Few have
tried to see the reasons for this phenomenon. As long as Muslim orthodoxy
continues to have a stranglehold over the Muslim community any attempt to
strike at Hindu obscurantism is bound to fail. There is no doubt that Indian
secularism, in practice, has not been a great success. This leads to
despondency and frustration among those Muslims who feel, rightly or wrongly,
that they have been denied equal opportunity in this secular state which has
for its foundation the principle of common and equal citizenship. However,
though the South Indian Muslims, unlike in North India, suffer much less from
discrimination, there are hardly any signs of a growth of non-communal,
modernist movement in the South. In fact there are more non-communal,
modernist Muslims (here I refer to those who are vocal) in North India than
in the South. The reasons are not far to seek. Every secular party in South
India (as elsewhere) has condemned Muslim communalism in theory and has
actively co-operated with it in practice, at one time or the other. These
double standards of the non-Muslim secularists have proved the bane of the
Muslim modernist movement in India. On the other hand, the President of the
Indian Secular Forum, Prof. A. B. Shah and its General Secretary Hamid
Dalwai who have been attacking obscurantism wherever it is found have been
able to make a greater impact. Thousands of people in many cities of
Maharashtra have purchased tickets for the lectures of Hamid Dalwai, who in
his speeches has been lashing out at both Hindu and Muslim obscurantism. The
new generation of Muslims seems to have been attracted to this new movement
and a number of young vounteers of Hindu communal organisations have started
rethinking on account of the speeches of Hamid Dalwai.

The present work is, therefore, addressed to all those who have faith in
modernity and secularism. Many years of patient research have gone into
writing of this book. For many years I have been concerned over the communal
problem in the country. In order to understand it better, I studied medieval
history for my M.A. at Aligarh Muslim University in 1959-1961. The communal
problem in India is, to a large extent, the outcome of uneven development of
modernity in India. Various groups passed through the stages of opposition
to English education, followed by an equally ardent movement for English
education and modernization, unstinted loyalty to the British rule, which
ended in a growth of self-consciousness and separate ego. The Muslims were
the last to take to modern education and were far behind when the educated
Hindus and Parsis started demanding a share in the administration. The vested
feudal interests exploited the backwardness of the Muslim community for
perpetuation of the feudal order which depended solely on the continuance of
British rule. They successfully thwarted further growth of a modernist
movement in India and diverted it towards revivalist Islam. The alliance of
these feudal interests and British Imperialism led to partition in the face
of the growing movement for national liberation. It could have been avoided
only if any of the several freedom movements had actually succeeded in
over-throwing British rule.

Though partition was inevitable, it was also t blessing in disguise to the
extent to which it enabled the Constitution-makers to frame a
common-citizenship-oriented secular constitution for India. It is time for
those who call themselves non-communal secular modernists to see the danger
of their double standards towards Hindu and Muslim communalism and
obscurantism. If they raise their voice against discrimination in any form
against a male or a female, irrespective whether the person belongs to one
caste or the other, one caste or the other or one language group or the other
and strike at communalism wherever it is found, India's secularism will be
translated into actual practice and would produce astoundingly favourable
results in the political and social fields. The present work is intended to
bring home to the secularists the implications of their double standards,
their soft-pedalling of Muslim communalism and obscurantism.

A number of Muslim and non-Muslim friends have helped me collect the source
material. A relative who has been studying Scriptures of various religions
first brought to my notice the importance of a proper understanding of the
Koran on the basis of a chronological sequence of the revelations which were
spread over a long period of twenty-two years. The English translation of the
Koran by A. R. Dawood is also an attempt to arrange the revelations in t
chronological order. Many Muslim and Western scholars have written
extensively on their view of the correct chronological order. When I read
Koran with the assistance of these authorities and along with my relation, it
gave me new light on the incoming of the Koran. On that basis I published
two articles in Delhi's monthly 'Shakti' two years back. The articles were
captioned - 'Indian Secularism and Orthodox Islam'. Many of my Muslim friends
at the Delhi University and elsewhere took interest in these articles. Some
of them also congratulated me for this new way of looking at the Scripture.
It is learnt that in Lebanon, the scholars are publishing a new version of
the Koran in chronological sequence. These are indications to show that an
increasing number of Muslims are taking interest in a true understanding of
the Koran. The first chapter is based on a limited use of the new method of
understanding the Koran. It gives an account of the religio-political career
of the Prophet as seen from the Koran. This and the subsequent two chapters
would serve as a background for a proper understanding of the problem about
Islam in India. The remaining chapters cover a long period of Indian history.
When the scope of a work is so wide certain weaknesses are bound to creep in.
Some of the chapters cover so vast a field that in order to do justice to
the subject separate volumes would appear necessary. However, I have
primarily dealt with the ideas that moved Muslim thinkers and politicians
during the last thirteen centuries. At the same time I have tried to see that
clarity is not sacrificed for the sake of brevity while describing the
ideological battles which are far more interesting and absorbing than the
violent ones.

I am of the firm opinion that if Muslim intellectuals in India try to delve
deep in the Arab past, they will find in it enough material for a fresh look
at Islam. I have an abiding faith in the ability of modernist Muslim Indians
to serve as a vanguard for the modernization process for the country. The
present negative role of the orthodox, I am convinced, is a temporary
aberration. But apart from the educated Muslims, this work is intended for
those self-styled non-Muslim modernists who have, in practice, looked upon
secularism as being equal to and coterminous with toleration and support to
Muslim orthodoxy.

Perhaps, the orthodox revivalists would react very strongly and accuse the
present author, as they have done Shri Jay Prakash Narayan, of being a
partisan or an agent of Hindu communalism. This quite fits in with the
revivalist's 'kalam'. They have dubbed Hamid Dalwai as a Muslim Sanghist. To
them I have only to say that the sooner they realise that the days of phoney
courtesy are over, the better for all of us.
A number of years have gone into the study of various sources used for
preparing this volume. A number of friends, Muslim and non-Muslim, have
helped me in collecting the material. I am grateful to them all as also to
the Sangam Press, Poona, and to the publishers for helping this volume to see
the light of day. Thanks are due to Dr. Mrs. S. Karandikar, my wife, for
correction of the proofs, for preparing the index and much other invaluable
help. And last, though most important it is that I am extremely grateful to
Shri Achyut Patwardhan for the constant encouragement lie gave me while I was
preparing the manuscript and for agreeing to write the "Foreword."

M. A. Karandikar

Delhi,
Dated, the 1st September, 1986.


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