The Fractured Ideology
|Unprecedented changes have taken place in the world during past three decades. These are more prominently visible in international relations, geo-political strategies and social configuration.
A great leap forward in technological and scientific advancement has abridged distances, shrunk time, opened marvellous opportunities of economic progress, and immensely improved the quality of living. While developing countries had to refashion their socio-economic structures to accommodate and even absorb imperatives of rapid development, technologically advanced countries with strong economies thrust much faster innovative options on them. As a result, developing societies are feeling the pressure of transition to ultra-modernism. In such a prospect irritants are likely to come into view. In particular, there is growing demand for social justice and economic parity.
Soviet Union’s incursion of Afghanistan was a foolhardy act of a totalitarian regime undertaken at a very wrong time. As Iranian revolution progressed, Islamic world looked at it with anxiety and with an air of expectancy. In their thinking, Islam was pitted against the greatest power on earth. Evidently, Soviet recklessness in Afghanistan could not have produced consequences other than what it did. It boosted Islamic orthodoxy and facilitated opportunistic camaraderie between its extremist religious segments and hegemonic America. The Soviet Union had to pay a heavy price; it broke.
The urge for recognition of identity among the Muslims world over has become almost contagious. Some commentators try to dig into the history of western colonialism to look for the causes of radical Muslim resurgence. Today the US and her allies are fighting with intrepidly the harsh consequences of a movement in whose resurgence they had a pivotal role. Those whom they once proudly called mujahideen, the liberators, are now patented as “terrorists” and “Theo-fascists”. People are divided, societies are divided and countries are divided on the basics of this occurrence and the means of tackling it.
Muslims and Islam are at the centre of this phenomenon. But notwithstanding Iran’s show of determination and adroitness, the difference in the resurgence of Islam in Iran on the one hand and in Afghanistan-Pakistan region on the other is vital. In Iran, popular Islam rose against American imperialism whereas in Afghanistan-Pakistan, political Islamic revival drew succour from the same source. What an irony? As we see, the Muslim world stands divided between supporters and opponents of western bossism. To put it crudely, one may say that imperialism became an instrument of causing polarisation of Islamic communities.
This divide has run into Muslim polity in another form --- revivalists and reformists. Curiously, the divide exists despite the proviso of ijtihad or re-interpretation and reconstruction... However, the divide is not of recent history; it has been there since the days of Caliphate. Exploiters have used the yawning chasm to further their interests.
How and why did this debate rise in Muslim scholastic circles? History will answer that question. A very vital issue of far - reaching consequences was raised by the great Muslim historian-scholar Ibn Khaldun in late 13th century in Baghdad. Known as father of the science of Philosophy of History, he said that Arabs had conquered and islamised a vast region of Asia in which long established societies with splendid civilizations existed prior to the advent of Arabs and the faith brought by their Prophet. A day would come, he asserted, when Muslims will have to consider how to adapt Islamic teachings, traditions and ways of life to healthy and pragmatic socio-cultural trends of the conquered peoples.
Ibn Khaldun was a profound scholar of social history and a visionary, who shuddered at the thought of Muslims not willing to come out of their cocoon, and bask in the of prospective synchronized civilizations that would inevitably take shape when the era of conquests came to an end, and sedentary societies regulated life.
In all probability, Ibn Khaldun took the cue from Ismaeli thinkers and outstanding philosophers of the 10-11th century A.D. who attached supreme importance to logic as the instrument of arriving at the truth. Foremost among these great Islamic intellectuals was Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avecinna), the philosopher-physician of Turkistan, and the celebrated author of al-Shifa and al-Qanun. His al-Shifa is part of current syllabus of medical studies at Sorbonne University, Franc. Ibn Sina argued that the proof of even the most sensitive subjects like the prophet-hood, the divine message, the revealed book etc. could be brought forth through inductive and deductive process and not necessarily through faith alone. This revolutionary idea indirectly challenged the entrenched attitude of blind faith. Ibn Sina and many thinkers of his times initiated the great debate on the subject of belief and reason, which has seized the mind of the Muslims ever since.
This takes us a couple of centuries back in Islamic history, and we mean the days of the Abbasid Caliphate. (7/8th century A.D). In the days of Haroon ar-Rashid, a bureau called baitu’l-hikmat (House of Knowledge) was established in Baghdad. Actually it was a bureau where the works of great Greek masters like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Galen, Hippocrates and others were translated from Greek into Arabic. Many eminent scholars, of different faiths, particularly the Jewish and Zoroastrian polyglots, assembled at the bureau to make their contribution. Mansoor ordered that remuneration for each great work translated into Arabic would be gold equal to its weight. This priceless fund of knowledge passed on to the Roman Empire, and later on, got disseminated to various European societies. Renaissance of mid - 16th century in Europe was a sequel to this transfer of scientific fund of knowledge. On that base, ultimately came up the powerful and magnificent structure called modern European or western civilization.
The crux of this unique service of the Muslims to human civilization was to establish the fecundity of reason and rationality in comparison to blind faith. Ibn Sina tells us that he had access to this great fund of knowledge at the library in Khwarazm where he rummaged box after box of manuscripts to drink deep from the works of great masters.
In centuries that followed, Muslim scholars of eminence took up the challenging task of interpreting the thoughts of great Greek masters now available to them in their own idiom. At Alexandria (Iskandariyah) in Egypt, scholars engaged themselves in robust debates on basic issues touched upon by the masters. It was here that differences of opinion on various issues surfaced among Islamic scholars, theologians and liberals. Surely, in a relatively liberal environ, difference of opinion was not too surprising. Controversy on crucial issues had raged for a long time till Ibn Sina pronounced the historic judgement. He said that there was no controversy in the thoughts of Aristotle or Plato; the problem was with the interpreters who interpreted according to their understanding.
Reverting to the theme of logic versus blind faith logjam that gripped Muslim society in early Middle Ages (11 – 13 century A.D.), the rise of dominant satraps in Khurasan (11-12th century A.D.) --- the semi - autonomous but crucially important eastern province of the Caliphate --- and their support to and dependence on feudal structure of society came as a shot in the arm of Islamic orthodoxy. Thinkers following Greek school of thought, or the logicians among Muslims (istadlaliyun) became the target of the wrath of traditionalists, the upholders of the ideology of blind faith (muttakallimun). Ghazali, the traditionalist, wrote Tahafatu’l-Filasafa in which he strongly underrated those who called logic the mother of all sciences. Thus onwards of 12th century A.D., feudalism and orthodoxy became complementary to each other establishing canonical inseparability of religion and politics for the inheritors of the Caliphate. This marked the beginning of the decline of the age of reason in Islamic societies; belief and tradition over reached the institutions of an Islamic state.
Industrial Revolution in Europe towards the second half of the 17th century gradually reduced the power of the church. With that, rational argument, hitherto almost banished from the Islamic world, found a fertile ground to flourish in European societies with new and fascinating dimensions. Martin Luther’s reformative agenda had opened great vistas that strengthened the position of the age of reason. Alas, neither an industrial revolution of sorts nor a thinker of Martin Luther’s vision was thrown up by the Muslim society for many centuries to come. The fund of science and knowledge, which Muslims so painstakingly brought into limelight, illuminated the houses of others while Muslims relapsed into darkness. With each passing century, the gap between the two grew wider. No wonder, therefore, that 21st century, a high watermark of socio-economic development in Western societies, is seen as potent threat to cynical disregard of creative faculty of the best of the God’s creation (ashrafu’l-makhluqat). Man’s absolute surrender to the Supreme came in clash with his innovative and creative potential. Iqbal subtly alluded to this fundamental contradiction:
Main khatakta hun dil-e yazdan main kante ki tarah
Tu faqat allah hoo allah hoo allah hoo
It means that introspective minds within the Islamic fold did recognize the role of human intellect and reason in the process of social evolution and reconstruction. Nevertheless, their circumspection is an enigma and a baffling question dogging the Muslim community as menacingly as ever.
And then the proposition has another vital dimension. Quite understandably, in a society steeped in unending controversy over predestined and freewill (jabr wa qadr), acceptance of western view that leaves the future of mankind to the interplay of forces of intellect, is almost outlandish. In their view it is tantamount to questioning the omnipotence of the Supreme: it undermines the entire structure on which Islamic concept of relationship between Man and his Creator rests.
For western existentialists, reason remains a prescription for ascent to higher levels of temporal life. For them, each passing century endorsed and re-endorsed the veracity of logic as the mother of all sciences. Great scientific discoveries that followed Industrial Revolution of A.D. 1688 in England established the fact that science and technology were the future arbiters of the destiny of mankind. While veering to this inference, western societies left the divine and divinity to the care of the clergy or to benign negligence.
But in contrast, to the Muslims ultimate power rests with Allah and the ultimate arbiter of destinies is Allah. Therefore in Islamic culture, the source of a triumph or a tragedy is Allah. Absolute surrender to Allah is one of the basic tenets of Islamic teaching. He is the arbiter (jabber and qahhar).
This then is one of the basic hindrances in Islam’s interaction with the western world and its ideological tributaries. But the struggle is not necessarily between the technology savvy west and tradition ridden Islam. Apart from this dilemma, a major part of the struggle lies within the broad Islamic fold itself. It is the revival of the long drawn struggle between the istadlaliyun and muttakallimun of 12the century in its new avatar of “pure” and “fake” Islam.
Ordinarily, no external player is either qualified for or interested in settling this domestic argument of the ummah. Awakening has to come from within. It is important to realise that overt or covert role of an external entity will be only for its self aggrandisement. It is for the Muslim leadership of contemporary times to lead the community out of the labyrinth of conflicting convictions and debilitating contradictions. The question of settling score with the West will recede once internal conflict is set at rest, and a cosmopolitan system of ‘Islam at work with other civilizations’ is produced. It should be possible to evolve a viable mechanism of reconciling imperatives of contemporary scientific age with belief without eroding pristine principles of faith. It is also equally important to come out of a fossilized mindset, and give new direction, vitality and animation to the process of socialization.
More than twenty million Muslims of Asian and African origin have migrated to the western countries including the US. Millions more are waiting in the wing. These émigrés have adjusted to the western way of life without losing their identity; thanks to west’s secular credentials. This means that for Muslims adjustability in non-Muslim surroundings is neither elusive nor discordant. Therefore, the question of discrimination, drilled into the heads of youth in seminaries, has economic or political but not religious trappings. Governments of western countries are prepared to compensate Muslim families handsomely if they volunteer to return to their countries of origin bag and baggage. But they do not want to leave. Why so, is a very profound question, which Muslim traditionalists and revivalists must try to answer.
Two non-Semitic regions that came under Islamic sway with Arab invasion, namely Iran and Central Asia, converted fully to the faith of the invaders. But the case of the Indian sub-continent is somewhat different. India of those days was identifiable not necessarily with Hindu religion but surely with sub-continental civilization. The vast land mass of India accommodated many nations and their indigenous cultures but at the same time it supported an over-arching civilization. Muslim conquerors coming from abroad primarily focussed on raising an empire and ruling over the subjugated nations. Conversion of local people to the new faith was a by-product of this goal. The concept of providing civilizational base to the empire was conspicuously absent in their philosophy of statehood. It has already been said that the question of victorious Muslims, their kingdoms and principalities, adapting to indigenous traditions of a conquered region with manifest symbols of deep rooted civilization was raised as early as the 12th century by Ibn Khaldun. Except for Jalalu’d-Din Akbar, no Muslim authority in the sub-continent tried to translate Ibn Khaldun’s remarkable vision into practice. But Akbar, too, failed in his half-hearted attempt because his radical socio-cultural reform was a super structure without a base. Carving a Muslim State in India in 1947 was a practical expression of the ideology of separatism, something unusual to the history of state building in Islam. It was the outcome of the chronic ideological conflict dogging the ummah for many centuries: its managers rejoiced at the triumph of orthodoxy.
Jammu and Kashmir State is contiguous to the Islamic State of Pakistan. We have a majority of Muslims in the State and their predominance is to the tune of 98 % in the region of Kashmir Valley. Islam came to Kashmir around 1339 A.D. not through invaders but through missionaries from Iran and Central Asia. These missionaries were former proselytes who volunteered for a proselytising mission in Kashmir --- a deadly combine of elements.
For nearly two thousand years of her pre-Islamic history, Kashmir was ruled by autocratic and mostly imbecile Hindu kings. Kashmir polity under the Hindu rule, and particularly towards its fag end, was groaning under oppressive Brahmanic nobility that drew strength and influence from feudal chiefs, dare-devil warriors and villainous ministers. For long Kashmir peasantry was the first to bear the brunt of state oppression. The advent of Islam that promised new ideas of social behaviour and new norms of intra-community relationship was, historically and psychologically, bound to have a strong impact on the masses of Kashmiri people.
But some fundamental questions remained. Did replacement of a culture of authoritarian mould by one of exclusivist relationship mean much in terms of material reconstruction of Kashmirian society? Did Islamic mission in Kashmir end with the conversion of the non-Muslims to the faith and their temples to mosques? Was Kashmiri Islam to remain perpetually entangled in trivial theological squabbling and not think of a wholesome policy that would infuse new blood into social, economic and political veins of her society?
An entirely new phenomenon of Kashmir history, after the advent of the Muslims, was that ultimate ruling authority passed into the hands of non-indigenous actors. When in commanding position, their treatment of locals, subordinates and camp followers, repudiated the much touted theory of fraternal relationship of Islamic construct (ukhawwat). Conspiracies and calumny, the Kashmirian brand of, Machiavellian statecraft was canker to Kashmirian society. In a sense, the rot that ate into its vitals during the last two centuries of Hindu rule, continued in its full fury even though royalty had changed hands and civilizational transition had happened. Something was wrong with Kashmirian psyche.
Physical geography of Kashmir hindered, rather virtually blocked, its brisk interaction with the mainstream Muslim world at this point of time. The rise of ferocious Mongols, warlike Central Asian satraps and adventurous warriors and their bloody exploits disrupted traditional network of trade and trade routes in the Asian region. It choked Kashmir’s trade arteries to the ancient Silk Rout. Kashmir’s economy crumbled.
For this and other reasons indicated above, Muslim polity under the Sultans soon degenerated into a spectre of misrule and mismanagement. The rise of powerful kingdoms and principalities beyond the southern borders of Kashmir posed serious threat to national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Kashmir kingdom, now steeped in a milieu of social disorder and economic depression.
To make this situation more precarious, sectarianism raised its head in Kashmir Muslim society. In late 15th century, Iran, after having left behind its long era of fragmented sovereignty, was inching towards the consolidation of State and centralisation of power. A viable social support - structure was desirable and welcome. This marked the beginning of stirring up Shia' sensitivities in Iranian social milieu, which culminated in the establishment of official Iranian Shia’ State under powerful Saffavis in the second half of the 17th century A.D..
Reverberations of rumblings in Iranian society could not be missed in sections of Kashmirian Muslim society that had, by now, got acclimatised to the cult of early missionaries from Iran. Division of society on sectarian basis prompted some fixated elements to seek support from external actors who dominated political scenario at that time. This was the beginning of the most painful phenomenon of Kashmir history --- people and leaders looking beyond physical borders of their native land to get their political differences arbitrated by a third party. Little did they know that in their neighbourhood stood strong imperial powers coveting more lands and more resources? Did Kashmiris voluntarily opt for their enslavement? Did they abysmally lose faith in the independence of a nation? Were they condemned to eternal degradation and isolation? This is the core issue that has unfortunately overflowed to our times.
After passing through millennia of darkness, oppression and destitution, after braving tyranny and coercion by repressive Rajas and despotic Sultans, after passing through the rapacity and avarice of feudal lords, petty chieftains, and highland robbers from the times of her known history to the beginning of the 19th century, Kashmir was drawn into the vortex of regional political game plan of two European imperial powers --- Great Britain and Tsarist Russia--- vying for supremacy in Asia. In a bid to check the march of Tsarist legions south of the Hindukush --- the Central Asian watershed between the territories of Tsarist Russia and British India --- the British policy planners decided conversion of the north-western region adjoining Punjab into a separate entity because at that point of time, the non-descript region already happened to be an appendage of the Sikh Kingdom of Lahore. It was placed under a powerful Jammu chieftain, who acquired possession of the valley through a sale deed, and of northern areas of Gilgit, Baltistan, Ladakh and Zanskar through force of arms. Thus came into existence in A.D. 1847 the modern State of Jammu and Kashmir. The issue of the sale of Kashmir has been frequently used to deride the Dogra autocratic rulers. But Kashmir is not an isolated case in world history. The Presidents of the US purchased many states of America, like Texas and California, which now form part of the US mainland. Not too far back, Russia sold Alaska to the US. This is not to exonerate the imperialistic mentality of parties involved in the transaction, but the real problem lies not in the sale of Kashmir but somewhere elsewhere.
It has to be recalled that inviting external actors to rule over Kashmir just out of some vendetta or emotion or for gaining sectarian supremacy was worse than the sale of the land.
With the emergence of bi-polar power structure on international plane, and division of India into two states --- one of the two along communal lines --- after World War II, the two major world powers conducted their regional strategies mostly through their proxies. Creation of Pakistan was the triumph of orthodoxy, which the growing impact of science and technology had put under strain. Kashmir significantly figured in the game plan of those whose hand kept moving behind the curtain.
Propaganda blitzkrieg emerged a powerful weapon of cold war era. Victory of the Allies was labelled as victory of democracy and freedom of expression. For self-styled custodians of democracy, it became the rock- hard stick to beat its “enemies” with. People did not realise that democracy did not end with the drama of the ballot.
In the communist state of Soviet Union, Great Britain envisioned a much more formidable enemy than in Tsarist Russia. After World War II, economically debilitated Great Britain focused more on post war reconstruction at home. In a vacuum of sorts created by her inability to play the traditional colonial role actively in Asia, the United States of America stepped in. The British had smelt oil in the Gulf in 1905 and then taking into account its importance as a powerful weapon of political arbitration, the world was to witness in years to come the hegemony of American “democracy”.
Reverting to Kashmir situation, for the first time in her chequered history spanning nearly two thousand years, a mass movement demanding institutionalising of Kashmiri identity surfaced in the first decade of the 20th century. Indian leaders were influenced by the socialist movement in Europe including Russia. British intelligentsia, with which emerging Indian leaders remained in touch, became the catalyst to the Indian National Congress’ great nationalist struggle under stalwarts like Hume, Naoroji and Gandhi. Congress movement was not only a movement against colonial domination of India. It was also a movement against a social - cultural order that stood in the way of nation building process. Thus participation not separation was the hallmark of the movement. Congress movement could be weakened by striking at the root of this hallmark; that was the game plan of the colonial power when it was convinced that it had to quit the sub-continent sooner or later. India was partitioned.
The pioneers of Kashmir freedom movement were those Kashmiris who went to Lahore and other cities of India for educational pursuits at the beginning of the 20th century. They came into contact with nationalists of all hues irrespective of caste or creed. They compared the backwardness of their State with other parts of India and came to the conclusion that unless people rose in unison to reconstruct their destiny, things would not change. Therefore, in line with the ideology of Indian National Congress, it was desirable to launch a movement for doing away with the autocratic rule in Kashmir. Muslim Conference of J&K State lacked originality of ideas and subsisted on the crumbs of Muslim League. The basis on which Pakistan came into being was the theory of separatism and religious homogeneity, which as it should have been, proved the biggest of myths.
Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah’s decision to support State’s accession to India in 1947 was not only on the basis of ideological similarity between National Conference and National Congress. There was one very important facet to this solidarity. It was a stupendous effort of harmonising conservatism with liberal scientific temper of 20th century through democratic process of nation building. This was of greatest concern to the Muslims in the sub-continent who had opted not to shift to the Islamic State newly carved out on the basis of religion.
Application of this analysis to Kashmir is of singular importance. The land to tiller programme of Naya Kashmir meant a frontal attack on the feudal - conformist combine that had arisen around the 9th/10th century in the eastern parts of Islamic Caliphate, and determinedly dogged the Muslim ummah through subsequent centuries. It held the ummah a hostage to non-resilient ecclesiastical institutions.
In that sense, Sheikh Abdullah made a historic contribution to pull his people out of a frozen and fossilised mindset. This was a unique attempt of hammering reconciliation between blind faith and reason. He strongly thought that Kashmirian society had the capacity to absorb the process of fusion of faith and reason, which some people in our days were disposed to call, albeit inadvertently as Kashmiriyat. And yet he did not dismiss the possibility of this fusion ultimately culminating in independent identity of Kashmiris for which they had begun their long struggle in the first decade of the 20th century. That was the basis on which he opted for accession to India.
It has to be said that before turning to Indian Union in October 1947, the Sheikh tried to have an experiment with the founders of Pakistan if they were agreeable to ensuring Kashmiris the urge for recognition of their identity. Behind this demand of the Sheikh, stood the ghostlike saga of two thousand years of our slavery, coercion and subjugation. Pakistani authorities spurned his demand not only because they never trusted Kashmiris but also, and perhaps more probably, because they had no grasp of the history of the peoples and the regions. This also explains the spirit behind incorporation of Article 370 in the Indian Constitution.
What are the objectives of those who sponsored and abetted armed militancy in Kashmir in 1990? They have goaded revivalists into intensifying traditional strife against liberalism. In doing so, they count on emotionalism of the Kashmiris, which stems from a unique psyche of a landlocked people oppressed by harsh conditions of rugged Himalayan heights. It aims at disrupting all conditions and settings that would help Kashmir wriggle out of a frozen mindset and endemic economic vulnerability: it wants Kashmiris to acquiesce to the domination of feudal-revivalist combine as of yore. In an independent Kashmir, it sees the image of its own failure as a theocratic state...
The quest of Kashmiris to revisit their identity will not let them down in the on going struggle. They need to plan the future course of our action. It should be possible to resort to the powerful instrument of ethics of reason, as did Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. But of course we need a couple of Gandhis and Mandelas to pull us out of the quagmire of the cult of violence thrust on us by outsiders. Kashmiris have to be a friend to all and foe to none. Kashmir has to be the home of all who are the product of this soil.
In the age of globalisation, we shall need to interact with countries and nations to build our own. We cannot afford to let our society get fractured at the instance of this or that element. We must look beyond the lands and climes; we must be part of the vast Indian nation that safeguards our identity. We have many friends and we must widen the circle.
I have briefly traced some facets of Islamic history. The purpose is to highlight the power of reasoned action and the need for it in transforming Kashmirian society. Logic controls emotion and we have always been the victims of emotion. The time has come to cast a glance on our past, our drawbacks, and try to rectify them.
Islam has tremendous capacity of accommodation and adjustment. Its ethos has also the quality of adaptability. Sharp edges of politicised Islam need to be replaced by reforms that harmonise tradition with modernity. The example of India in this respect is appreciable because she is trying to harmonize extremist religious elements with her vision of a multi-religious society.
The crux of my essay is what is stated in the preceding paragraphs. Sad as it is, we are led by directionless leadership. My fear is that in their unabated quest for identity, personality and freedom, Kashmir militants are becoming victims to the villainy of elements holding them hostages to their self interests. As a free and equal partner in the agenda of India Union, we shall have to interact with our neighbours for trade and commerce, for economic and social development, for promotion of democratic and secular norms, for scientific and technology advancement and much more. We shall have to maintain thousand and one bonds with them, all in good faith. We have to live with them as decent neighbours.
|*K.N. Pandita: Born in Baramulla, Kashmir in 1929 did graduation from St. Joseph’s College in Arts with English literature. The tribal raid of October 1947 destroyed his family like hundreds of other Kashmiri Hindu families in Baramulla.
After doing M.A. from Punjab University, he served as Lecturer in State Degree Colleges and in 1958 earned a scholarship from the Indian Ministry of Education for higher studies at the University of Teheran, Iran. Four years of study and research at the University of Teheran earned him a Ph.D. in Iranian Studies. He joined Kashmir University in 1963 and it’s Centre of Central Asian Studies in 1976. He rose to become Professor and Director of this Centre till his superannuation in 1987. He is not only the first Kashmiri to obtain Ph.D. from Teheran University but is also the first to have worked in close collaboration with a number of Central Asian Academies of Science particularly the Tajik Academy. His travelogue titled My Tajik Friends won him Sovietland Nehru Award 1987.
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