By Mozaffar Islam
The Calcutta high court on November, 21, 1996 banned the use of loudspeakers at all places of worship, irrespective of religion. A division bench of Justice Bhagabati Prasad Benerjee and Justice A.K. Chakraborty in their ruling stated that as India is a secular state the ban would cover all religions and steps to control noise pollution should cover all religious communities. The ban which minimised noise levels in the city during the durga-pujas and Kalipujas would also cover gurudwaras and Mosques all over West Bengal.
On December 25, 1996 in the evening Milad-un-nabi (religious programme) was held in the Masjid campus near Gate No.1, in Dum Dum Airport area of Calcutta when loudspeakers were used. Officials of the State Pollution Control Board arrived there and found that the sound of the mike-system was 85 decibel (65 decibel was the limit prescribed by the Court). The matter was reported to the High Court which issued a contempt of court notice against the Masjid committee for violating its order. On 31-1-1997 the court found them guilty and imposed a penalty of Rs.2500/- to be deposited with the board. To be absolutely fair it should be added that nearly two dozen Durgapuja, Kalipuja and Jagadhatripuja Committee of Calcutta, Howrah, South -24 Parganas and Hooghly districts also were charged with the contempt of court for violating the noise pollution order and fined Rs.1000/- each.
Mr. Jyoti Basu, Chief Minister of West Bengal, held a meeting with religious leaders of the Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities at writers Buildings in Calcutta on March 6, 1997. Moulana Mohammad Shabbir of Nakhoda Mosque, Moulana Abdul Quyum, Imam of Solana Masjid and Moulana Masudi, member of the State Waqf Board attended.
The Chief Minister informed them of the Calcutta High Court ban order and requested them to abide by it. The imams told Mr. Basu their problems in abiding by his request. While accepting the spirit of the judgement, they said that if they don’t use loudspeakers, the message of Azaan (call to prayer) will not reach the Muslims. If necessary, they would move the Supreme Court against the order, but would not tolerate any interference in Mosque affairs.
Representatives of the Sikh Community told the Chief Minister that they would act as per the court order. Agreeing to the judicial restrictions, Mr. C.N. Penn Anthony, the Christian representative, along with the clergy from Churches said that the peal of Church bells was never the cause of noise pollution.
Mr. Buddhadev Bhattacharya, Home Minsters after the meeting said that the Govt. would shortly intimate the High Court about the proceedings of the Chief Minster’s meeting with religious leaders along with the Muslim community viewpoint. According to him, the West Bengal Govt. has decided to go easy on the question of banning loudspeakers at places of worship keeping in mind the people’s right to practise their faith.
The Muslims all over the state are aggrieved over the Court ruling. More than one lakh devout Muslim pilgrims who attended a Urs celebration very recently in Hoogly district for various parts of West Bengal and Bangladesh expressed their discontent with the high court ban. Pious members of the Community believe that Azaan through PA system carries the message of Allah to a large number of people as well as calls them for prayers. If it is prohibited, the objective of the Azaan will be defeated.
Once the ban order is enforced in West Bengal, it would gradually be extended to other states in the country. As such The West Bengal Govt. who is sympathetic towards the difficulties of Muslims in regard to Azaan and other religious duties, before implementing the order, should approach the high court to review its blanket ban and amend it to the extent that the sound of the PA system must not exceed 70 to 75 decibel at places of worship and religious functions (65 decibel is prescribed by court). The Muslims will definitely accept the modified order and the religious dispute may thus be settled amicably.
By Hasan Mansur.
It was Pope Pal II and Pope John Paul II who called on Christians to commit themselves to inter-religious dialogue as an essential mission of the day. Years ago, the Pope sent a message to Muslims on the completion of the fast of Ramzan, greeting them for their piety and devotion; thus began the dialogue between these two faiths.
The initiative for this dialogue has been reinforced in a communication to all Major superiors by the superior General of the Society of Jesus (SJ). It is necessary to recall briefly the genesis of SJ. Ignatius Loyola, born in 1491 in the Basque country of Spain was ordained by the Pope in 1537 and he founded the SJ in 1540. The SJ is engaged in activities promoting education, health, development and of course Christian piety. It has direction of 53 universities, 45 University Colleges, 400 secondary schools and 4500 primary schools the world over. It is interesting to recall that Akbar the Moghul Emperor, invited the Jesuits to his court.
In his letter, the Superior General points out Islam as the most important phenomenon of the modern world and describes it as the fastest growing religion because of its clear and uncompromising positions in matters of morality and life style. According to him, it constitutes a socio-economic power and he calls on all Christians to cooperate with Muslims to build a just world.
In the “Final Declaration-Islam Today”, outcome of a meeting of Jesuits working among Muslims, held in Tanail in Lebanon during 9-15 April, 1996, the following points are made: the universal call of Islam is addressed to the whole of humanity; it integrates the totality of human activities, social, familial, cultural and political and how Islam seeks to be the truth and fulfilment of revelations of Old and New Testaments, thus presenting itself as the real solution to problems of the modern world. Further, it dwells on the force of Islam which lies in the simplicity of its monotheistic faith, its defence of certain values and its power to integrate communities, thus offering an attractive alternative to all other faiths.
This Final Declaration exhorts Christians to work in collaboration with institutions and personalities of the Muslim community for the good of humanity. It wants the Church to take note of questions and criticism Islam poses to Christian theology. It stresses the spiritual dimensions of these encounters with Muslims to discover the best aspects of Muslim heritage. It calls on Christians to break out of their isolation and overcome biases, fear and hatred ingrained in history in order to understand their Muslim neighbours.
Muslims have to recall the verse in Qur’an, “You will surely find the nearest in affection to those who believe, are the ones who say, ‘We are Christians’ (Surah 5, Verse 82). The “Final Declaration” has relevance as well as significance in view of the sensitive communal situation prevalent in the country today. There is a crying need for understanding and co-operation between these two communities. There have been many instances of Christian individuals and institutions that have played a positive role in defusing communal tensions. Christians have an important role to play as peace-makers, mediating between communities to restore trust and faith.
It has to be reiterated that amity and love binding together minorities, Dalits and the backward classes would be the most enduring bulwark against resurgence of communalism of all hues. This alliance could be creative and positive in promoting human values embedded in love, compassion and understanding. Let Muslims follow in world and deed those immortal words in Quran, “And the servants of Allah/Most gracious are those who walk on the earth. In humility and when the ignorant address them, they say, peace” (Surah 25, verse 63).
By Chandra Muzaffar
It is significant that in the wake of each of the so-called religious riots in Indonesia in recent months, leading Muslim groups and personalities here condemned in unequivocal terms the burning of Christian churches and Buddhist temples. They have pointed out that Islam expects its followers to respect the places of worship of people of other faiths. The protection of the religious and social rights of non-Muslim minorities is a fundamental principle of Islamic governance.
Indeed, Indonesia itself, the World’s largest Muslim nation, has a good track record when it comes to looking after the interests of its non-Muslim minorities. Not only are religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism accorded official status in the Indonesian Constitution (together with Islam) but the Indonesian state has also provided financial support to these religions and ensured that there is space in Indonesian society for their practice and propagation. There is perhaps no better example of this in recent times than the growth of Catholicism in East Timor. In the words of the noted Catholic theologian and thinker, Fr.Thomas Michel, “In the eighteen years since integration with Indonesia, the Catholic Church in East Timor has grown more quickly than anywhere else in the world. From embracing less than a third of the population in 1974, the Catholic Church today includes more than 92% of the inhabitants of East Timor.”
That is why the deliberate targeting of Churches and other non-Muslim places of worship seems so totally incongruous with Indonesia’s accommodative attitude towards religious minorities. It has led to the suspicion that at least some of the recent riots were provoked or manipulated by elements that are out to discredit certain Muslim groups and Islam in general.
This does not mean that there are no genuine grievances behind the riots. But these grievances, it has been argued, have very little to do with religion as such. Most political analysts within and without Indonesia are of the view that widening economic disparities, conspicuous elite consumption, endemic corruption, political atrophy at the apex of society, inadequate channels for the expression of political dissent, the lack of access to the bureaucracy for the majority of the people, apart from pent-up frustrations with the wielders of power at the local level, have contributed to the periodic eruption of public anger. If this anger has, on occasions, assumed a communal character it is because ethnic Chinese who are mostly Christians and Buddhists, own and control a disproportionately larger chunk of the nation’s wealth.
The solution to this lies in a more equitable distribution of wealth so that the majority of indigenous Indonesians would become economically enfranchised. The Indonesian case shows that even if a country has succeeded in reducing absolute poverty from 60% in 1970 to 15% in 1993 it may still face a much more formidable challenge in the form of economic and social gaps that separate the ‘Have-a-lot’ from the ‘Have-a-little’. It also proves the point that political stability obtained at the expense of genuine popular participation is only a mirage. Most of all, Indonesia illustrates yet again the danger of deluding oneself into believing that mere rhetoric is enough to convince the masses that one is sincere about eliminating elite corruption. Sooner or later, the game will be up.
Of all the methods devised by hide-bound experts of conventionality to enable the bridegroom of the Muslim upper class to break his neck with the minimum of delay this one of foisting on him an eight-foot ‘Sehra’ weighing a ton just about takes the caks, this ‘Sehra’ being a thick, massive wall of jasmine and other flowers, covering his entire face and reaching down right up to his toes and beyond. Circumstances force the poor devil to remain concealed behind this forest of flowers. Intended as a disguise to foil the police in case they were looking for him this Sehra is of course ideal. But bridegrooms are human beings and must breathe sometimes which this kind of Sehra never allows. And when, after the ‘nikah’ ceremony, he tries to get up from the ‘royal’ chair this eight-foot-long Sehra comes to his aid by tripping him up and offering him on a plate this once-in-a-lifetime chance of breaking his neck. The giant bouquets thrust into his hands by some unfriendly hands also help in the process by denying him the chance to grope his way about. If by the greatest of luck he has managed to stay on his feet, though not on his toes, and saved his neck there still lurks the danger of asphyxiation from about a thousand aspirants waiting to embrace and congratulate him non-stop as demanded by tradition, this being one of the crosses a Muslim bridegroom just married has to bear. By the time he is only half-way through this embracing binge his poor neck is about ready to part company with the parent body, his head has begun to swim and he gladly welcomes the stretcher waiting to carry him to the Intensive Care Unit of the nearest hospital.
The length, thickness and weight of the Sehra is generally directly proportional to the social status of the contracting parties. The only way to get out of the curse of the Sehra would seem to be for the intending bridegroom to give away his wealth to the poor or remain a bachelor.
Another cross the affluent Muslim bridegroom of yesteryear had to bear was to arrive at the bride’s residence on horse-back in order to get married. But when horses started throwing the bridegrooms and breaking their necks in large numbers, resulting in an acute shortage of healthy bridegrooms, this practice had to be dispensed with, with flower-bedecked luxury cars taking the place of horses.
Prof.Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan
Islam has guaranteed unique and unparallel status to human beings by proclaiming to the world that there is no stigma or social distance between two individuals or two groups or individuals. Any kind of segregation or discrimination on the grounds of social, economic or family background is un-Islamic. Any such practice negates the very basic social philosophy of Islam.
But there has been a persistent feeling among Non-Muslims that Muslims also have all the disadvantages inherent in the Hindu social order. The worst symptom of social pathology that is eating away the Hindu dharma or values is the existence of the caste system, ‘Caste’ is the monopoly of Hindu social system. The whole Hindu society is vertically divided into various castes with the Brahmins at the top and the Scheduled castes at the bottom. In between there are hundreds of castes with varying social status and recognition. Feeling of superiority and inferiority based on the birth of the concerned persons is a common feature of the Hindu social psychology.
The Salient features of the Hindu caste system are:
1. Determination of one’s place in the society based on birth.
2. Restrictions on food.
3. Restriction on occupation.
4. Restrictions on social interaction or movements.
5. Religious and cultural disabilities.
6. Belief in the doctrine of Karma or deeds of the previous life.
Do we notice the presence of all these features in Muslim society? Some non-Muslims emphatically observe that Muslims have also caste considerations. Are Muslims prepared to accept this contention or reject this by providing valid counter arguments and evidences? Prof. Imtiaz Ahmed of Jawaharlal Nehru has provided substantial and relevant material on this theme. He has rejected caste systen per-se in the Muslim society.
Yes, it is true that there is no caste-system as such in the Muslim society. The status of purity and pollution is not governed by the birth of a person. There are no restrictions on food. What food one can take or avoid is common to all, irrespective of their social or economic status. The restrictions are based only on ‘Halal’ or ‘Haram’. But there is no question of purity or pollution arising in the context of the birth of the persons.
Similarly, there are no restrictions on the occupational choice of Muslims. There is no pressure exercised by one group over the other that persons of one group should undertake certain type of occupations or avoid such occupations. Muslims as a group are free to choose their own occupations.
Muslims are free from the imposition of restrictions in their movements or social interactions. They can reside in any area, visit any area at any point of time. The question of purity and pollution does not arise.
All Muslims are equals in the eye of Islam. There are absolutely no religious restrictions. Any Muslim can visit any Mosque or Arabic Madrasa. While offering prayers in a Mosque or any other place of religious institution, there are no prohibitions or restrictions on people based on birth or status.
Islam does not permit a Muslim to believe in the doctrine of Karma. What Muslims have achieved in their life is solely due to their own efforts. But it could be that we appeal to “Allah” to be merciful and grant us bountiful rewards or facilities. But it is also said that God will help only those who help themselves. Deprivation is due to one’s negligence or carelessness. There is no relevance of previous life to Muslims.
Thus, the aforesaid arguments disprove the contention that there is caste system among Muslims. But there are some ground realities which lend valuable support to the contenders that Muslim society is not free from the operation caste system. An objective analysis and assessment is needed here. Let us be prepared for self-introspection. Let us examine the following features that one observes in our day to day life and then say. Whether we have or do not have caste system.
The existence of two broad-based groups ‘Sunnis’ and ‘Shias’ and the restrictions imposed on practises by these groups against each other in matters relating to marriages, intimate social interactions and cultural practices definitely lend valuable support to the contention that Muslims are also governed by ‘Caste’.
Similarly, the division of the Muslims society into Sheikh, Sayyed, Moghal, Patthan, Patwegars, Quraishis, Nadafs, Mehadis (Mehadevis), Bohnas, Saits, Cutchimemons, Ahlehadis, etc has also added fuel to the fire or salt to the wound. It is definitely a matter of shame that we have fragmented the Muslim society, whereas Islam ensures a perfect egalitarian society. Egalitarianism is the most striking feature of Islam. There is absolutely no evidence anywhere in Islamic literature enabling Muslim practice discriminatory attitudes towards one another. As a matter of fact even Christianity is not totally free from this social pathology. For instance, the established differences and consequent restrictions imposed on the Catholics and Protestants in matters relating to places and modes of workship, matrimonial alliances, etc, demolish the very concept of egalitarianism among the Christians. Similarly the acute difference between the Dalit Christians and non-Dalit Christians bring disgrace to Christianity.
Whereas, in Islam there is no room for such differences between neo-Muslims converted from the low-caste Hindus and those from the high caste Hindus. Social equality prevails. Nevertheless, there will be some social reservations on inhibitions in matters relating to matrimonial alliances for some time. But well meaning Muslims with a clear understanding of Islamic spirit and letter do not make such differences.
As said and done, the evasive basic question is, do Muslims have caste system? The simple answer “No”. But the next question is, why then non-Muslims feel that there is caste system among Muslims? The simple answer again is that people who say oh feel so have not understood the salient features of the ‘Caste system’ in the Hindu society. When we apply the salient features of the caste system to the Muslim society and examine its relevance, then we find that the non-Muslims have failed to understand the operational system in Muslim society. It could be said emphatically that the Hindu caste system is totally irrelevant to Muslim society.
But we should concede that Muslims have unnecessarily invited non-Muslims to make such observations by our mis-deeds, deviation from Islamic ways of governance of our social behaviour, social relationships, matrimonial alliances, egalitarian concept, and so on. As a result of this, we are being questioned. As a penalty, we should be prepared to receive for our sins and crimes, the minimum comments, whether we like or not, that caste-like features have crept into Muslim social system in violation of the true spirit and letter of Islamic social system.
Prof.Dr. Mumtaz Ali Khan has been nominated as a member of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Foundation, New Delhi by the Govt. of India. This prestigious Foundation has judge of the Supreme Court, Chairperson of University Grants Commission etc. Though it covers development issues of the S.Castes, it also covers the minorities Prof.Khan has also been nominated as a Member of the Advisory Board of Devaraj Urs Research Institute, by the Govt of Karnataka. Muslims are also covered as a part of the Backward classes.
By Syed Osman Quadari
It is an incontrovertible fact that the main aim of establishing the Deeni-Madaris is to initiate the children and youth in to the holy teachings of Islam (Quran) and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad(Pbuh).
These Madrasas and oriental colleges are functioning from centuries past without any change or any interruption from any quarter. A latest review or survey of Madarasa curriculum in order to make the education more purposeful.
Now a days the fast development of Biological and Physical Sciences and Technology tempts people to lean towards it heavily. For example the Hakims and Tabibs have become prone to resort to the allopathic system of medicine and prescribe the same even if they have the usual Unani medicine to fall back upon.
Some Arabic and Deeni-Madaaris also have become the victim of this changed thinking and they too have introduced modern methods of knowledge, and are opening the Nursery Type Schools.
The Managing Committee of Madrasas mostly comprise the rich people who hardly know the full importance and intricacies of Shariat. As they are the people mostly drawn from business communities, they naturally think in terms of “Profit and Loss”.
The illiterate public now-a-days are also persuaded to think on the same lines. Their only laboured question is, ‘can the product of the Madrasa get a job?’ Even so one can always get a job in a Mosque or the Madrasa, Which do need man power. He also thinks that if subjects like English, Maths and Technical subjects such as Computer, Tailoring, Carpentry are introduced he can easily earn a lively hood.
That the Deeni-Madaris need a new direction and change of syllabus to include technical education etc., is not a new bright idea or new suggestion. Although their sincerity in making these suggestions is not suspect, they are in a way un-knowingly aiding and abetting the forces hostile to these institutions whose aim is to strike at the root character of these sacred places of learning and alter this complexion itself. These suggestions have been made many times in many hackneyed phrases such as to ‘sail with the wind’, “to go with the flow”, ‘ Adaptation to modernity’ etc., and the parlance goes endlessly and have been time and again answered suitably. Let it be said plainly that only the dead fish go with the flow. The lively ones are those who have the determination courage and strength to sail against the wind and “Swim against the flow”.
The avowed faith and Epitome of Madrasa-Education is ‘Ilm’ a divine coined word by Allah in the Holy Quran which cannot be translated as education. Similarly every Educationalist cannot be called an “Aalim” who commands unique veneration. The connotations ‘Ilm’ and ‘Aalim’ have divine reverential content especially related to the knowledge of “Holy Quran” “Hadith” and “Taqva” (Abstentions) and cannot be confused with the earthly and mudane education of Biological and Physical Sciences. The madrasas impart holy ‘Ilm’ which has to be “Sought” and acquired to serve the real purpose of life and is the same for which seekers of yore had beaten a path to Bukhara, Samarkhand and Rome and Spain for attainment, and which treasure of knowledge had contributed in no small measure to modern philosophy, logic, genesis of earth water human physiology and spirituality, character and morality and functioning of planets, skies, cosmos and heavens and the general order of nature.
Seen through a Jaundiced eye these sciences appear old, antiquated obsolete, conservative, medieval just because these are not job-oriented and do not help feed the belly. “Ilm has its own purpose. Knowledge is for knowledge’s sake. Nothing more and nothing less. Linking it with a living, that is judging it from the angle of employment, is fallacious thinking.
Let it be assessed at the outset whether the saints and scholars of yore travelled to far off seats of learning like
Bukhara and Samarkand (at present in Uzbekistan) for acquiring knowledge, only with the intention of getting a job? Did the Imams of four schools of guidance acquire knowledge for a job? Were they not self-employed? If Deeni Aalim cannot help acquire a job can you for-sake it? One will have to cocede that Deeni knowledge is for knowledge’s sake only, and not meant to acquire a job.
So it is not necessary and it is also true that products of Madrasas are not invariably Moulvies or Pesh-Imams only. Many have opened businesses, shops, sales agencies, small industries etc. This forges the Maxim that religious education is for religion only and not for a job. Education is for education’s sake only. Making out a living is a different issue not to be confused with religious knowledge. A full grown up businessman or professional can equally enter a Madrasa for a short abbreviated course in religious study, Islamic philosophy-logic etc.
The Arabic proverb goes, ‘if you try to learn all, you can learn nothing’.
That is “Jack of all trades and master of none”. Another proverb says for every work there are designated persons. Duties are earmarked and assigned. Those who aspire for Technological and Computer courses and Arts and Sciences need not look to the Madrasas, at all. They have lot of other schools for it and if exclusive ones are needed let the other concerned bodies take care of the problem.
The critics and advisers have also to delve deep into the resource aspect of Madrasas and infrastructures. Leave alone furniture because even coir mats will do. The salaries are dependant entirely on the quantum of ‘Chandas’. (contributions). Residential Madrasas are more difficult to manage and find resources for. Truly there are a few affluent persons who are able to manage residential and non-residential schools, run on commercial basis, and they resort to charging fees for tuition as well as for boarding. Such valuable suggestions can be directed towards those few only, but certainly not for all madrasas mainly run on charities, for the seekers of knowledge are from among the poor folk.
The student of a madarasa is therefore free to take to any profession. He need not necessarily be a pesh-Imam or teacher on the move changing places and living out of a suit case as goes the general view. Let it be pointed out here in reply to such critics that if these madarasas do not produce Pesh-Imams’ ‘Hafizs’ and accomplished and convocated. (Leaving the drop-outs who also serve), whither do we wander for human resource to man the alcoves (Mehrab) of various mosques which (thanks to Allah) are multiplying? Whence would you get translators, professors of oriental language tutors Heads of the department of Arabic and Persian and Urdu in Universities? So the argument that the “Madrasa-Taaleem” does not help get jobs does not pass muster. True, the scope would be limited. This can be improved by attaching a Madrasa (Maktab) to all the Mosques whereby three teachers can be employed. One for Nazira and Hafiz one for elementary alphabets and one for higher study.
As already stated above the Deeni-Madaris are sanctimonious residential Schools where ‘Ilm’ is imparted with boarding and lodging all free. The cycle of routine activity in a Madrasa from “Fajr” Namaz to “Esha” and after (Night study) does not admit of squeezing in any other activity or subject into it. This cycle is a prescribed routine which influences the young mind to proceed in a prescribed direction without distraction. It may be stated here that consistent with the sanctity of the Madrasa traditions the practical aspect of a working knowledge of the regional language, English is being taken into account and arranged as optional subjects, as these would be helpful to introduce and explain Islam to non-Muslims and remove misgivings, by participation in debates, seminars and competitions or answer even through conversations.
Let us not pollute the atmosphere of Madrasas with methods alien to it and strive to preserve their unique identity of authenticity and sanctity. To conclude it is Prima facie objectionable that a Moulvi or a Haafiz should be diverted from his main aim as the survey recommends. Which would result in losing personal identity and veneration as an “Aalim”. Even now the products of these Institutions are in glorifying respectable posts, such as Chief Khazi, District Khazis, Arabic, Urdu and Persian Professors, Lecturers and Teachers, Translators of Arabic works into the regional language, like passport copies, agreements etc.,
Crowns fell, Kingdoms vanished, governments changed educational policies and curriculums changed rapidly but the great Holy Quran and ‘Ilm’ based on it on commands of Allah have survived the vicissitudes of time with no change and it shall continue to be so.
(The Author is the Principal of Latheefia Arabic College, Hazrath Makan VELLORE -632004. T.N.)