On ‘Protecting the Quran’, Religion and Amini’s wet pajamas
“Pointless reading Verse Quran if the Quran within our Soul is not understood” Fakir Lalon Shah
- History reminds us that the 1971 War of Independence was fought primarily due to ceaseless insinuations of the Pakistani ruling class whenever we demanded freedom that Islam is in Danger, with more despicable salt rubbed-in; Bengalis are lesser Muslims led to the calls of arms and the bloody birth of Bangladesh. The fault line drawn by Pakistani experts and Bengali cohorts in those ill-fated times institutionalized a fear psychosis that neighboring India would gulp us and haram of all harams – convert Muslims to Hindus?
- A covert design was also in place. Because the 1947 partition of India was precipitated by tragic carnages engineered by the Brits and triggered by Muslim and Hindu elements on the lunatic fringe, Pakistan conjured the sealant of Islamic Ummah (Brotherhood), that would apparently keep intact the geographical absurdity of an Islamic Republic located in ‘two wings’ over 1000 miles apart, as also drive a wedge right through the heart of its enemy - ‘Hindu’ India.
- Conveniently forgotten was there were cumulatively more Muslims living in India in 1947 than in the-then Pakistan, and that reality remains undiminished to this day! The wedge also served as a leveraged barb to introduce and firmly implant the puritanical Wahabi/Shariati brand of Islam that never ever had an iota of acceptability in Bengal. Its toiling masses were then as even today, are genetically inclined to Ma’arefati Islam with its lofty ideals of Ijtehad with options i.e. debate, logic, rationale, enquiry, examination etc open at all times.
- Pakistan turned a blind eye to the rich and vibrant Bengalee culture which prides itself in syncretism of all faith and belief systems in the region, from Buddhism, Vaishnavism, Christianity together with Tasauf (commonly Sufi or Sufism) traditions of which Ma’arefat is a composite, the core reason inhabitants of Bengal converted to Islam in large numbers.
- Islam’s acceptance in South Asia other than in its plural and egalitarian characteristics was its ability to cohesively assimilate with cultures it made inroads into. Contrary to popular misconceptions Islam arrived in the region neither by coercion or the sword wielding Mughal barbarians – but centuries earlier through Music wielding Sufi Saints ranging from Khwaja Mainuddhin Chisti in Ajmer to Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, to Shah Ali Baghdadi in Dhaka.
- In Bangladesh the earliest Sufi Saint Shah Sultan Mohammed Qamrudddin reached Madanpur, in Netrokona from Turkey about 1000 years ago. Legacies of our spiritual lineage extend to later day patron Saints - Fakir Miran Azaan Shah in Assam down to Fakir Lalon Shah in Kushtia, among others, with agnostic monotheism embraced as a way of life by millions.
- That brings me to the most difficult post-Independence issue. For one, while we fought the communal and murderous ethnic cleansing Pakistani mindset, Western Secularism per se was NEVER our agenda or the reason why our people went to war. One doesn’t need any more affirmation than the 7th March 1971 speech of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his clarion call for a last ditch stand.
- Please check back to the number of times he referred to Allah and/or Muslims in his speech – and the famous line, if blood is the price to pay, we shall over pay, but we shall free the people of our country Inshallah. There were absolutely no indications of either communalism or secularism in his prophetic words.
- Therefore when Secularism was introduced as a pillar of the State in 1972, the diction of neo Secular Khalifahs were completely alien and left us confused, shocked and divided. Disaster struck when fossilized Awami League backed intellectuals joined the bandwagon and started ‘preaching’ without the faintest clue that Secularism had been existent in our culture for centuries! Secular possibilities within Sufi Islam also went unexplored.
- Finally when debates in the public domains erupted with a damming indictment; does Secularism mean a rejection of Islam - we realized way too late that a very delicate bridge has been burnt. It is precisely the time Mullahs from the Deobandi order closed in for the kill.
- Rest was easy. Wahabi/Shariati Islam with heavy infusion of cash from Saudi Arabia was cemented, Ijtehad condemned to obscurity and a new generation of ‘born-again Muslims’ emerged. Their little understood slogan of Jihad – the lowest form of ‘struggle’ in Islam and one God abhors, made our identity crisis critical.
- In my column of 13th May I mentioned how our politicians have been sermonizing on subjects they have absolutely no knowledge about. The frequencies have magnified alarmingly in recent weeks and the vexed issue is the proposed women’s policy of the Government. What I find bizarre is why this unnecessary debate and why now, when clearly equal rights to women is already guaranteed and enshrined in our Constitution?
- The buzz word to the controversy is ‘awareness building’ making it obvious that there is surely a donor angle to it all, with deception and flaks inevitable. Awareness is not measurable nor can anyone assign a number value to the same. While corrupt NGO’s maybe counting American greens, the Government instead of choosing a face-to-face democratic dialogue with women, opted to the whims of just one woman, the Prime Minister, who unfortunately is as myopic as the Mullahs.
- Resultantly what we are now witnessing in the fogs of chaos is only the tip of the iceberg. The Mullahs are on a gloves-off counter sermon offensive and the Government has failed to display any maturity in handling them thus far. Mufti Amini and his brigands in recent days launched a movement to protect the Quran and the State Minister for Home Affairs Shamsul Islam was quoted saying - religion is safe in Hasina’s hands?
- What I find disconcerting is why hasn’t anybody in Bangladesh challenged the vulgarity of either statements or filed public litigation suits as they tantamount to hurting religious sentiments of citizens; punishable under the laws of the land? Neither party has apparently any doubts that it is only them i.e. humans who have the mandate to protect both Quran and religion. But what does the book state?
- Being no theologian or even knowledgeable on the subject, I sent a mail to my friend Edip Yuksel an Islamic scholar and professor of philosophy of Turkish origin and co-author of the ‘Quran: A Reformist Translation’ in the US. In reply, Edip drew attention to the frequency of references to God in Verse 15:9 that promises full protection and breaks the record in the Quran by referring to God four or five times in just seven words!
- He then reminded us the implication of such an emphasis: "It is not you or your holy ancestors who are protectors of the Quran; it is the author of the Quran that will protect it." Edip also had a terse one liner in his mail: “Anyone who assumes the task of protecting the Quran is an imposter and lying tyrant.”
- Where does that leave us folks? How long are we going to sit back and create near perfect opportunities for more murder mayhems all in the name of God or religion? Importantly what mechanisms do we have in place to counter bigots who pathologically refer to spurious and misogynist Hadith and Sharia to further add to the division of faith?
- Like it or not, religion will no longer remain private or personal in the days ahead. Clearly the Prime Ministers ‘sermons’ or even those of sycophants in the Awami Ulema League have been rendered irrelevant. To confront the likes of Amini and gang the need of the hour is to demand a LIVE and televised Public Ijtehad.
- Trust me; we won’t need knowledgeable theologians to bail us out when we take on these murderers. All we have to do is mobilize ‘unlettered and illiterate’ Baul, Boyati, Shadhu and Fakirs from rural Bangladesh. Men and women who I can vouch will sing and dance, all in praise of the Quran and God and with their rustic and grounded logics compel the likes of Amini and Sayeedi to piss in their pajamas publicly!
- The resultant effluents of 20,000 Madrasas from which Amini apparently draws strength may cause water in the Bay of Bengal to rise a few centimeters; but that’s a minor aberration really, compared to the benefits we stand to accrue in the long run!
New Age XTRA Print version
Friday 3rd June 2011