Switch to Hinduism and back
Today I convert, though momentarily but happily, willingly. For all my faith, I am determined to consider the Babri Masjid issue without my skullcap on. I tried being a Hindu for a while, not quite the practising way, but hopefully sincerely enough to reflect on what the dust of the Babri mosque should give rise to.
As I pitch tent in a different quarter, I wonder what many would make of this. It is likely that this would be panned as pretentious posturing of a ‘masked’ Muslim. It is any way difficult to go off the beaten track and not pay a small price here and there.
Truth is, as far as the issue of the Babri mosque is concerned, I have always believed that Muslims, more than Hindus, should step out of their emotional torpor and unrelenting, craven adherence to passion. To overcome the trauma of a razed mosque, passion is a net we must flee.
The “darkest chapter”, the “black spot” of history, the papers have described the hurtful demolition of a disused mosque built by the Moghul emperor Babar. The issue is back from the rubble to make news.
The M.S. Liberhan commission, set up to inquire how and who were behind the demolition, has turned in its report after 4,000 or so sittings and 17 Decembers.
Seventeen years is a long time. The tide of toxic Hindutva (an antiphrasis of blissful Hinduism) whipped up by the BJP no longer ‘bestirs the hearts of men and angels’. Congealed by time, the lacerating wound of Muslims no longer squirts boiled blood. A superficial scar nonetheless remains.
What Muslims ought to do now? They should simply let law take its course because that’s what they have promised. Forgive, forget and shut the damn case up.
Is that easier said than done? Am I oversimplifying things, when the ground reality could be much more complex?
No, and to the contrary, reconciling life without the Babri masjid should be less difficult than Muslims imagine it to be.
Our final conciliatory gesture will only have the benefit of it being presaged by an already conciliatory stand we have taken.
Even as a strife-torn quest to rebuild a mosque failed, Muslims took the first big step towards conciliation without even realising it.
For, as things stand today, the position taken by the All-India Babri Masjid Action Committee (there are other splinter movements with similar names) is commendable. Whatever the verdict, Muslims will abide by it, is the committee’s stand.
What is this but a step to conciliation and rightful resolution?
“If court says mandir (temple), then mandir. If court says mosque, then mosque. Faisla hamaare haq mein ho ya na ho, hum court ke faisle par amal karenge (Regardless of which way the verdict goes, we will accept it,” Babri movement leader and former diplomat Syed Shahabuddin had told me sometime ago. I had called by his humble home in a less salubrious part of south Delhi for some small talk over afternoon tea.
If we want reason to guide us to a way out, these two questions must invariably be asked. How incontrovertible is a Ram temple at Ayodhya? On the other hand, how sacrosanct is a mosque for Muslims at the same site?
Only a devout Hindu can answer the first question, though the temple issue was born not in the hearts of the apolitical, spiritually preoccupied clergy but in the slanted laboratory of RSS-BJP-espoused Hindutva and its self-appointed minsters.
So, I tried being a Hindu for a moment. I find that I believe in a pantheon of Gods, among them Lord Rama. Devotees nonetheless have the freedom to pamper their own special Gods over others, a unique thing. A Hanuman devotee swears by his agility, a Durga devotee by her prowess to surmount evil. Lord Rama nonetheless has an overarching lore attached to his image and persona.
The place of his birth, therefore, regardless of whether it is mythical or historical, is then of the highest importance. When this importance is deliberately whipped up and brought to the surface by an organised movement, backed by political leaders, it takes the shape of an obsession. An unfinished task that must be completed.
To that end, a Ram temple at Ayodhya is irreplaceable. BJP leader LK Advani chose to round off this grain of ideology (in Bhopal ahead of the recent polls) this way: “Yeh hamare aastha ka mamla hai. (This is a matter of our Hindu sentiment).” For a Hindu, a culmination of these factors makes a Ram temple such an important thing.
How indestructible is a mosque then at this disputed site. The answer would have been completely different had the mosque still stood in its place.
Understandably, it is not possible for a Muslim to simply consign a standing mosque to another faith.
It is one thing to give up a living mosque, quite another to keep on struggling to rebuild a razed one. It’s perhaps the will of Allah that the mosque was pulled down. In the interest of the community and the country, Muslims should simply give the case up.
This is not a one-off view. Famous Islamic scholar Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, whose son Zafarul Islam Khan edited the Milli Gazette for a while, had articulated long time ago that in order to respect sentiments of their Hindu brethen, Muslims should readily give up their claim of the disputed site. I was meaning to call on the maulana lately to urge him to reiterate his stand, now that Liberhan has submitted his report. But I have woefully failed to take time out of my daily grind.
Muslims can find sanction for such sacrifice of the mosque in the Quran itself. This will only reinforce the Muslim belief that the Text is an intimation to immortality, one that can be peeled of its many layers to attune it to existing needs.
Surah Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage) or Chapter 22 of the Quran states: “Had not Allah checked one set of people by means of another, there would surely have been pulled down monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques, in which the name of Allah is commemorated in abundant measure.” (Translation by Yusufali, cited by Centre for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, University of Southern California).
The Quran therefore clearly forbids destruction of any place of worship, temple or mosque. Muslims could apply this verse to the Hindu argument that a temple pre-existed at the disputed site.
Muslims could also draw on Surah Al-Kafiroon (The Disbelievers, Atheists): “Unto you your religion, and unto me my religion.” (Translation by Pickthall, cited by Centre for Muslim-Jewish Engagement, University of Southern California).
Maulana Abulala Maududi, the founder of Jamaati-e-Islami, had made a similar prescient speech. Addressing the general assembly of the Jamaat in Madras on April 25, 1947, he said: “Persisting in old attitudes would be harmful because the efforts of the Muslims to preserve their rights will only help intensify the communal prejudice of the Hindus more strongly. Hence, we should try to create, on a large scale, public opinion among Muslims that they should as a community have nothing to do with the government and its administration (Pakistan) and should assure Hindu nationalism by their attitude that there is no competing Muslim nationalism. This is the only way to remove the extraordinary prejudice the non-Muslim majority has against Islam.”
Sometime ago, I bumped into lawyer-politician Subramanian Swamy at Deoband’s government guesthouse. Swamy, a Ram temple advocate, was there to attend a yagna organised by an RSS-backed ashram, just yards away from the famous Islamic seminary Darul Uloom.
We got talking over tea and we talked the issue of Ram temple. It was a heart-to-heart. At least, that is my lasting impression. Swamy told me a Ram temple was incontrovertible for Hindus and a way had to be found out. He agreed with me that we could not afford to pass the burden of mistrust between the two communities to remote posterity. “If Hindus can convince legally or otherwise that the disputed site is associated with Lord Rama’s birth, then this will automatically negate a mosque. Muslims cannot offer prayers at a place of idol worship after all,” he told me. I agreed.
Reason can overcome a bit of bathos over a downed mosque. We can go build another one elsewhere, better and bigger.