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Why More in India?

Reader comment on item: Intimidating the West, from Rushdie to Benedict
in response to reader comment: Why in India?

Submitted by Arun (United States), Sep 30, 2006 at 23:11

Some pre-Independence, pre-Partition observations by Dr. Ambedkar: A third tenet which calls for notice as being relevant to the issue is that Islam does not recognize territorial affinities. Its affinities are social and religious and therefore extraterritorial. Here again Maulana Mahomed Ali will be the best witness.

When he was committed to the Sessions Court in Karachi Mr. Mahomed Ali addressing the Jury said :— " One thing has to be made clear as we have since discovered that the doctrine to which we shall now advert is not so generally known in non-Muslim and particularly in official circles as it ought to be. A Musalman's faith does not consist merely in believing in a set of doctrines and living up to that belief himself; he must also exert him self to the fullest extent of his power, of course without resort to any compulsion, to the end that others also conform to the prescribed belief and practices. This is spoken of in the Holy Koran as Amribilmaroof and Nahi anilmunkar , and certain distinct chapters of the Holy Prophet's traditions relate to this essential doctrine of Islam. A Musalman cannot say : ' I am not my brother's keeper ', for in a sense he is and his own salvation cannot be assured to him unless he exhorts others also to do good and dehorts them against doing evil. If therefore any Musalman is being compelled to wage war against the Mujahid of Islam, he must not only be a conscientious objector himself, but must, if he values his own salvation, persuade his brothers also at whatever risk to himself to take similar objection. Then and not until then, can he hope for salvation.

This is our belief as well as the belief of every other Musalman and in our humble way we seek to live up to it; and if we are denied freedom to inculcate this doctrine, we must conclude that the land, where this freedom does not exist, is not safe for Islam. " This is the basis of Pan-Islamism. It is this which leads every Musalman in India to say that he is a Muslim first and Indian afterwards. It is this sentiment which explains why the Indian Muslim has taken so small a part in the advancement of India but has spent himself to exhaustion 67 [f23] by taking up the cause of Muslim countries and why Muslim countries occupy the first place and India occupies a second place in his thoughts. His Highness the Aga Khan justifies it by saying 68[f.24] :— " This is a right and legitimate Pan-Islamism to which every sincere and believing Mahomedan belongs—that is, the theory of the spiritual brotherhood and unity of the children of the Prophet. It is a deep, perennial element in that Perse-Arabian culture, that great family of civilization to which we gave the name Islamic in the first chapter. It connotes charity and good-will towards fellow-believers everywhere from China to Morocco, from the Volga to Singapore. It means an abiding interest in the literature of Islam, in her beautiful arts, in her lovely architecture, in her entrancing poetry. It also means a true reformation— a return to the early and pure simplicity of the faith, to its preaching by persuasion and argument, to the manifestation of a spiritual power in individual lives, to beneficent activity of mankind.

The natural and worthy spiritual movement makes not only the Master and His teaching but also His children of all climes an object of affection to the Turk or the Afghan, to the Indian or the Egyptian. A famine or a desolating fire in the Muslim quarters of Kashgar or Sarajevo would immediately draw the sympathy and material assistance of the Mahomedan of Delhi or Cairo. The real spiritual and cultural unity of Islam must ever grow, for to the follower of the Prophet it is the foundation of the life of the soul. " If this spiritual Pan-lslamism seeks to issue forth in political Pan-lslamism, it cannot be said to be unnatural. It is perhaps that feeling which was in the mind of the Aga Khan when he said 69[f.25] :— " It is for the Indian patriot to recognise that Persia, Afghanistan and possibly Arabia must sooner or later come within the orbit of some Continental Power—such as Germany, or what may grow out of the break up of Russia—or must throw in their lot with that of the Indian Empire, with which they have so much more genuine affinity.

The world forces that move small States into closer contact with powerful neighbours, though so far most visible in Europe, will inevitably make themselves felt in Asia. Unless she is willing to accept the prospect of having powerful and possibly inimical neighbours to watch, and the heavy military burdens thereby entailed, India cannot afford to neglect to draw her Mahomedan neighbour States to herself by the ties of mutual interest and goodwill. " In a word, the path of beneficent and growing union must be based on a federal India, with every member exercising her individual rights, her historic peculiarities and natural interests, yet protected by a common defensive system and customs union from external danger and economic exploitation by stronger forces. Such a federal India would promptly bring Ceylon to the bosom of her natural mother, and the further developments we have indicated would follow.

We can build a great South Asiatic Federation by now laying the foundations wide and deep on justice, on liberty, and on recognition for every race, every religion, and every historical entity. " A sincere policy of assisting both Persia and Afghanistan in the onward march which modem conditions demand, will raise two natural ramparts for India in the north-west that neither German nor Slav, Turk nor Mongol, can ever hope to destroy. They will be drawn of their own accord towards the Power which provides the object lesson of a healthy form of federalism in India, with real autonomy for each province, with the internal freedom of principalities assured, with a revived and liberalised kingdom of Hyderabad, including the Berars, under the Nizam. They would see in India freedom and order, autonomy and yet Imperial union, and would appreciate for themselves the advantages of a confederation assuring the continuance of internal self-government buttressed by goodwill, the immense and unlimited strength of that great Empire on which the sun never sets.

The British position of Mesopotamia and Arabia also, whatever its nominal form may be, would be infinitely strengthened by the policy I have advocated. " The South Asiatic Federation was more for the good of the Muslim countries such as Arabia, Mesopotamia and Afghanistan than for the good of India,70 [f.26] This shows how very naturally the thoughts of Indian Musalmansare occupied by considerations of Muslim countries other than those of India.


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