Volume 15-10 No:178
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern Islamic World is a major reference work on the current Islamic world to have appeared on the scene. Though the four volumes pack a lot of basic information on textual Islam, the significance of the work essentially lies in focusing on events, issues, personalities and movements in the Islamic world during the last three centuries. This era has seen momentous changes in the Islamic world as it came under the sway of the colonial powers of Europe, underwent social changes in the wake of emergence of nation-states, import of ideologies and concepts, interaction with foreign languages, scripts, cultures, laws etc. and infusion of modern technology. These have been greatly instrumental in shaping up the political course of the nations, social actions and even thought process. Though there have been efforts to formulate such reference works even earlier – The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Leiden, 1908 being one such -- they relied heavily on classical text and medieval history rather than putting them in modern context. Therefore the contemporary movements, events and issues always left a big scope to be explained in relation to time and society.
Iranian revolution in 1978-79 administered a rude jolt to the West. It pointed out as to how less informed the West was about Islam and Islamic societies in all their diversity, more particularly the United States. Rushdie’s blasphemous fictionalization of Islam’s holiest figures, festering disputes in Palestine, Kashmir and the Philippines etc. and the overall struggle of Muslims all across the Islamic world to reclaim their souls from the erstwhile colonial powers necessitated documentation of currents and undercurrents in their social, political and economic dimensions.
The Oxford Encyclopedia is therefore an answer to the longstanding need for quick access to information on say, Arab Nationalism, Baath Party, Sannausi movement of Tunisia, Faraizi Tehrik of Bengal, Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Imam Muhammad bin Abdul Wahhab, or Mehdi Bazargan or as concepts as modern as interest-free banking, or a profile of Islamic Foundation, Leicester et al.
The Encyclopedia involves a well-represented editorial board and contributors’ panel, the latter comprising over 400 experts, of diverse origin and varied expertise in Islamic sciences and history. It is a guarantee against the work suffering from the usual pitfall of Orientalism which rendered them unpopular and worthy of rejection among the people they dealt about. The team was headed by John L. Esposito, professor of religion and international affairs, School of Foreign Services, Georgetown University, Washington D.C., who served as Presidential advisor on religious affairs during the Clinton era. This is likely to serve as a handy tool for reference for practitioners in media, publications and research etc and fill an intellectual void.
The Oxford Elementary Learner’s Dictionary is a very handy and elegantly brought out compendium for Urdu learners. The brings home meanings of 15,000 words not merely by providing Urdu equivalents but through a variety of means. Usage is shown through sentences in both languages. Comprehension is further facilitated through pictures and pronunciation.
For an English to Urdu translator, richness of English is often a nightmare. For instance, one is perplexed to see several words describing the varied hues of red e.g., scarlet, vermilion ruby or crimson. The dictionary has attempted some distinctions in Urdu too. Some meanings such as Bagad Billa for scarecrows and Hijri Dhancha for fossils are indeed innovative. However meanings for newly popular words such as ‘cyber’ or ‘cloning’ are still missing from the dictionary. Cultural differences emanating from ethnic and cultural backgrounds of Urdu and English speakers, such as first names or surnames and their position or status in the nomenclature of people, compact terms used for describing relatives in English and use of prepositions in English expressions have been explained through grey boxes as well as pictorially. A more intelligent effort is seen in providing common expressions for nuances involved in transferring expressions associated with time, date, figures and their fractions, shapes, temperature, directions, degrees and marital status of people. A common Urdu speaker has often found himself at a loss in translating such terminology. Differences in American and British spellings too have been outlined. A glossary of standard names for countries too has been provided at the end.
The learner’s dictionary is expected to generally ease the transfer of text from English to Urdu. One only hopes the publishers will attempt an advanced version in due course. They also deserve kudos for the elegance in Urdu calligraphy and for imparting clarity through usage and pictures.
It is a grim irony that the Mughal emperor who lent India the greatest geographical dimensions – from Tiruchirappalli in South India to Ghazni in the Northwest -- is today sought to be projected as the cruellest bigot among the Muslim rulers of India.
Emperor Aurangzeb is the prime victim of distortion of history in India. But just how the historian could be unjust to Aurangzeb becomes evident from, Ahad e Aalamgiri ke Darbari Akhbar, a compilation of accounts from Mughal Court Chronicles of that age. These Persian chronicles are preserved in archives in Jaipur, Calcutta and Royal Asiatic Society in London. Since Aurangzeb remained pitched in the Deccan for over 25 years (from 1680 to his death in 1707) in order to suppress Maratha rebels, a lot of interest has been shown in Maharashtra about the history of the period. Initially, Marathi historian and author Sethu Madhav Pagri translated these chronicles from Persian to Marathi at the behest of Maharashtra Government and they were published in three volumes. Now advocate Syed Shah Ghaziuddin of Osmanabad has come out with an Urdu translation in one volume. The chronicles highlights some interesting facets of Aurangzeb’s personality and the affairs of his government, which were being conducted from wherever Aurangzeb was stationed with his huge garrison consisting of nearly two lakh persons.
From these accounts, far from being a bigot, Aurangzeb appears an extremely able administrator, a veteran warrior, a down-to-earth ruler and above all a very affectionate person. The accounts throw light on how he was conscious of minimizing losses to trade and crop from movement of his troops, the tight control he exercised over administration and how generosity was employed to woo the favour of people and their leaders as the Mughal army marched into the crevices of the Deccan. Particularly engaging are the accounts of his treatment of Shahuji, the young son of Sambhaji and grandson of Shivaji, the main challenger of Mughal rule in the Deccan. Sambhaji, as is well known, was killed by Aurangzeb for having given asylum to Aurangzeb’s rebellious son Akbar and waging war against the Mughal rule. Shahuji was conferred with the title of ‘Raja’ and was given a stipend of Rs. 7,000. The extended families of Shivaji and his sons were stationed in Bahadurgarh, looked after by the Aurangzeb’s administration. Shahuji was brought up as a prince and the emperor himself arranged his marriage with daugher of Bahadurji Jadhav, a Maratha feudal lord. The detailed accounts of the marriage are contained in the chronicle dated June 14, 1704. Even according to Marathi historian Dr. Kunte, this treatment of enemy’s son by Aurangzeb is something of an enigma. More such accounts of several of Shivaji’s sons and grandsons will surprise readers.
Ahad e Aalamgiri ke Darbari Akhbar contains many more such interesting facets of Aurangzeb’s life and provide a place to the emperor on a pedestal much higher than even common Muslims thought him to be. Ghaziuddin has done a commendable service by translating this reference work in Urdu. Ahad e Aalamgiri ke Darbari Akhbar is available at Institute for Deccan History, 209-Shaniwar Peth, Sholapur-413002 at Rs. 140.
1) Sir. Syed Ahmed Khan: A centenary tribute by Asloob A. Ansari, published by Adam Publishers, Chitli Qabar, New Delhi-6: It is a collection of essays on the Muslim educational activist and thinker Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Writers include Prof. Irfan Habeeb, Z.U. Malik, Shafey Khidwai, Asghar Ali Engineer, Zafar Ahmed Siddiqui etc.
2) The RSS and the BJP: A divison of labour by A. G. Noorani published by LeftWord, New Delhi-1. The author exposes the skillful use of ambiguity and division of labour maintained within the Sangh Parivar with BJP putting up a moderate face and RSS indulging in deceit and gore.
3) The Miracle in the Spider by Haroon Yahya and translated by Carl Rossini, published by goodword books, New Delhi- 13: The book stresses the theory of creation by God rather than evolution. It is proved through characteristics of the spider.
4) Rahnuma (Urdu) by Mubarak Kapdi, Published by National Educational movement, Dongri, Mumbai: Urdu writer Mubarak Kapdi has collected in this book his weekly columns in Daily Inquilab on Muslim educational issues. The book figures out the mass educational awareness among the Muslims of Maharashtra following the events of 1992