The Horrific attacks in Paris has cleaved my heart in pieces and every piece goes out to my brothers and sisters in Paris , Beirut and wherever the ISIS thugs have struck.
Momentarily this tragedy made me too numb to react and I almost ended up laying the responsibility of these attacks at the doors of Islam, the religion of more than a billion people on this blue planet. Then I saw a post written by a friend which stated “And my guess is the renaissance of Islam may well start with India, the world’s best example of peaceful and symbiotic (though with minor hassles now and then but we are perfectly capable of handling them) co-existence” which re assured me about us Indian Muslims .
The answer to current success of Indian Islam lies in the past, in the story of the evolution of Islam in the Middle East and in India . A story which started and progressed simultaneously almost at the same time i.e. the 7th century.
Islam had touched the shores of India at Malabar and Gujarat in 7th Century where Arab traders who were frequenting the coastal India (even before the advent of Islam) brought it along with them. The First Mosque in India ( Cheraman Juma Masjid,Thrissur) was built on the Malabar Coast in 629 AD during the times Prophet himself was alive ( Prophet breathed last in 632 AD). In 11th Century there was an influx of Sufi Saints who landed in Bengal Province . From 7th to 12th century is the time when Islam grew slowly in these parts, steadily assimilating itself in the all encompassing culture of this great country we call India. I am consciously avoiding the history of political Islam in India because Indian Islam’s History is not the history of Kings but is the history of Raheem , Raskhan, Ameer Khusro or the lives of Sufi saints like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti , Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya and Sheikh Hamdan.
When the crusades (and later colonialism) were hammering the Islamic world of the Middle East which eventually forced the Islamic identity into a cocoon, there was something remarkable happening in India where Islamic thought was assimilating itself slowly into the spirit and identity of the country. The story of the fall of Muslim Middle east is juxtaposed with the rise of an Indian Muslim thought and identity . Indian Muslims had created a syncretic Indian identity which was clearly distinguishable from the Pan Islamic Identity. It was an identity which was bereft of any exclusivity and was clearly Indian pluralistic identity having strong Indian cultural influences rather than Arabic. The daily life of Muslims in India and social customs during birth, death marriages etc were and still are clearly Indian with little resemblance with cultural practices of Middle Eastern or central Asian Muslims.
Indian Muslims never had an illusion of a Pan Islamic identity and perhaps that is the reason why they are still mentally miles away from concepts like Pan Islamic Jihad .
Culture was and remains the main bonding agent among people of Indian subcontinent and an Indian Muslim, a Pakistani Muslim and a Bangladeshi Muslim has much in common with their Hindu, Christians or Buddhist brothers and sisters than an Arab Muslim in Middle East or the ones in central Asia.
The Success of Indian Muslims lay in acceptance and nurturing of their clearly definable Indian Muslim identity and probably that is where the problem of Pakistan’s Muslims and Muslims elsewhere starts. Denying the Indian Muslim Identity the intelligentsia and leadership of Pakistan tried to adopt a fake Middle Eastern Identity, the project which remains an abject failure even today. Jihad network gets easy recruits from troubled Af-Pak region but finds it really difficult to get recruits in India. A remarkable achievement by every standard and which our government has proudly presented to the world. Perhaps here we should give due credit to Indian Liberalism (which Nehru Recognised and nurtured well and which gets its major strength from Gandhian Thoughts ) for creating such a powerful Indian Social Fabric and erecting a stable and strong nation from the remnants of a broken country which could have easily drowned itself in the whirlpool of religious politics post the trauma of partition.
In a world where ISIS, Taliban or other Jihad networks have almost hijacked the Islamic thought it is Indian Muslims who are in best position to lead the world to the real Islamic thought. It is only Indian Islam which is in a position to salvage Islamic thought from Jihadist Onslaught.
Indian Islam which is as old as Islam itself is arguably the best role model for the world today.