Life is getting better for Arzals after the Modi govt came to power, this puts Muslim clerics ill at ease - they fear their grip on them would loosen up
Maulana Arshad Madani is a responsible leader of a recognized organization. What he recently said at a Ramlila Maidan meeting might have been in haste. Islam was born in Hejaz, i.e., the land of Mecca and Medina, and not in India. Its ancestors were Judaism and Christianity; the father of all three was Abraham, followed by Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad.
The first Muslim tourist or visitor to India is not recorded; however, the first Islamo-Arabic invasion took place upon Sindh by Mohammad bin Qasim in 712 AD. If Maulana Madani had said that most Muslims were converted to Islam in India, he would have been likely to be closer to the truth. The poor, backward, suffering Arzals (the lowest social segment among Muslims) certainly convert, as do the better-off Ajlafs. Only the Ashrafs (socioeconomically the highest segment of Muslims) are likely to have come overland from other countries. They are the only group who may be averse to gharwapsi (reconversion to their ancestral faith).
It was mainly the Ashrafs who wanted Pakistan as symbolic of a New Medina. Most others liked the sound of the word ‘Pakistan’ but did not know what its shape would be. Jinnah had deliberately not examined the details of what Pakistan would look like. The reason was that the Muslim-majority provinces like Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Sind, and Bengal were satiated, as they had their legislative majority in their provincial assemblies as well as their elected chief ministers. They had no desire to be deprived of a unified Indian market in the event of any geographical vivisection. In the provinces where Muslims were in a minority, they had nothing to gain and everything to lose in a partition. In any case, Mohammad Ali Jinnah addressed all his meetings only in English; he did not know Urdu. One could be assured that hardly any Arzal or Ajlaf understood what Jinnah spoke at his rallies or even private interactions. As far as the ashraf and elite are concerned, had they stayed in India, they would have been drowned or overshadowed in the Indian political scene. But as leaders of Pakistan, they would get to rub shoulders with the elites of other countries. In the bargain, they went out of their way to solicit support for Partition.
The question is: whither the Arzals of Pakistan? His Indian counterpart at least has his belly full. By looking at social media in the current scenario, one can unmistakably realize that the common people in Pakistan are not only hopeless but desperate. After all, how many meals can a human being miss? At the same time, Maulana Madani is not correct in equating Allah the Merciful with the sacred sound of ‘Aum’. The way he has expressed himself means he is telling the Arzals that he is not very different from those who chant ‘Aum’. He is, therefore, already there and does not need any gharwapsi. Maybe he is right. If the renaming of various places in India, which has taken place over the last few years, has any message to convey, it is that the ancient ethos of the nation is reawakening and will continue to assert itself. Allahabad has reverted to its original name Prayagraj, Mughal Sarai has become Deen Dayal Upadhyay Junction, Hoshangabad has been named Narmadapuram, and so on.
With Pakistan facing despair and indigenous Arzals being despondent, it is but natural that the ulema in India feel anxious as to what will happen. The Arzals in India have suffered and continue to suffer poverty, economic backwardness, and social inequity for centuries. It is only under Narendra Modi that vistas of a better life and future have opened up for them. Many among them have been talking about voting for Modi. The fear among the clergy is that this may loosen the hold of religion over the flock.
The economic collapse and impending breakup of the New Medina, i.e., Pakistan, has become the cause of much consternation for their ultra-conservative co-religionists on this side of the border, particularly the clergy. Not only is Pakistan on the verge of an economic washout, its constituents Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (the erstwhile North-West Frontier Province), and Sind now want to break free of the shackles of the dominant and domineering Punjab province. Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is in such a ferment that its reunion with India is but an inevitability.
Pakistan’s economic quagmire is the consequence of its grotesque mismanagement ever since that country came into being on August 14, 1947. It has been ruled by the elites for only the elites. Down to a bare $3.2 billion of foreign reserves (of which $3 billion are the UAE’s money), its latest plea to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a loan of $1 billion has not been met. The IMF might act only after a green signal from the USA; Washington is much invested in India to risk jeopardizing that relationship. Pakistan’s ‘all-weather’ friend China has preferred to keep its distance. Islamabad’s past behavior does not inspire any trust.
This has led to understandable churning among the ulema in India. Maulana Madani’s recent utterances of equating ‘Aum’ and Allah are the outer manifestation of this churn.
(The writer is a well-known columnist, an author, and a former member of the Rajya Sabha. The views expressed are personal)