Friday, March 22, 2019

Saudi-zation of Indian Islam


The landscape in Indian subcontinent is changing. A couple of years back I had heard on an Pakistani radio channel where this lady said that “Allah Hafiz ” is the correct phrase and not the ubiquitous “Khuda-Hafiz”! I was surprised. Here is an article which addresses this point and others that are changing the Indian face of Islam.

“I was an apolitical Muslim, scared to ask questions,” Patel says until he met one Dr Zakir. Patel was only 15 then but he says Zakir convinced him about the connection between logic, science and the Quran. “Many centuries ago, the Quran had foreseen science as we know it today,” he says, “and it offers answers to all problems around.” He quotes chapter and verse as he argues his case even if it’s the need for the hijaab (“it’s pragmatic,” he says, “read Chapter 33, Verse 59”).

So how does this square with the current debate over the need for reforms in the religion? Patel evades a direct answer. As a follower of the Ahle Hadees school (which essentially says that all debate or interpretation of the Quran must end and Islamic jurisprudence be based on valid teachings and actions of the Prophet), he is motivated about what he believes in and is fighting his corner till you tire. “Those who spread terror in the name of Islam are simply un-Islamic,” he says. “What is needed is a revival of the true fundamentals of Islam.”

No one has chronicled the extent of this “revivalism” but interviews with several Muslim clerics, teachers and professionals, suggest that Zaid Patel isn’t alone.

Whether a sense of persecution leads to revivalism or if the revivalism has led to the community being further marginalised is a difficult question. But they admit that there are some disturbing straws in the wind.

For one, several middle-aged and young Muslims, like Zaid, are now increasingly ending meetings by saying Allah Hafiz, as opposed to Khuda Hafiz, (Khuda is the generic God, in Persian, Allah the specific Arabic word.) The significance is more than semantic.

In recent times, a lot of the “back to the basics” argument in Islam (in the subcontinent at least) can be encapsulated in the march of the phrase “Allah hafiz”. Says Firoz Batatawala, a garment exporter from Jogeshwari — the same neighbourhood that was home to the dozen who were detained in Amsterdam — and also member of the World Sufi Council: “This is Saudi-isation of Indian Islam. It’s on the rise as more people are going to Saudi Arabia for work, their children are employed there, and they think all that is being practiced there, the Sunni Wahhabi Islam, is a purer form of Islam, something quite alien to the form of Islam that came to Kashmir, or even western India, through trade, the more inclusive way. God has 999 names in Islam. Shall we now say Rahim-Hafiz?”

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The panache of a writer is proven by the creative pen he uses to transform the most mundane topic into a thrilling story. Desh - the author, critic and analyst uses the power of his pen to create thought-provoking pieces from ordinary topics of discussion. He writes on myriad interesting themes. Read the articles to know more about his views and "drishtikone".