Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind’s 25 resolutions passed on November 3 at Deoband are ominous for the country. The reason behind the portent is popularly unknown. The Jamiat does not recognise the Constitution of India as a national document to guide the governance of the country. Instead, in its own words, the Constitution represents a contract entered into by Muslims with the non-Muslims since Independence to establish a secular state. In Urdu language, such an agreement is called muahadah which, the Ulema contend, is similar to the one entered into during Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime between Muslims and the Jews of Medina.
It was specifically a ‘civic’ covenant, implying that it was unconnected with the political life of the city. The Muslims were free to rule without having to share power. Sure enough, before long the muahadah was violated and the Jews were either driven out or killed. Sir William Muir in The Life of Mahomet records: how a breach first occurred between the Quraish and the Jewish tribes who did not acknowledge Mohammad as Prophet. Since then no kafir or non-believer has been allowed to set foot in Medina or, for that matter, Mecca.
Another example of a muahadah was the 720 AD compact between Caliph Umer II and the Christian and Jewish leaders of Hejaz or inner Arabia whereby the latter had to agree to be zimmis or dhimmis. By virtue of the agreement, they became protected citizens, not required to fight for the state. In exchange, zimmis had to pay jaziya; they could carry no arms nor ride a horse in the presence of a Muslim nor live in a house taller than a Muslim neighbour’s and so on. A Christian had to have a blue label on his dress while a Jew a yellow one. This was the example with which the Taliban in Afghanistan compelled the Hindus and Sikhs to wear a yellow mark on their shirts!
The Jamiat’s perception is : The Constitution of India, which the Muslim community’s elected representatives unanimously supported and to which they swore allegiance, represents this muahadah. The specially Islamic duty of the community within India now, in their eyes, is to keep loyalty to the Constitution and to work out within the national life, as an acknowledged minority within the larger society, such personal and social aspects of the total Islamic requirements. The question of political power and social organisation, so central to Islam, has in the past always been considered in yes-or-no terms. Muslims have either had political power or they have not. Never before have they shared it with others. To the question, “Can Muslims be fully Muslims without a state of their own?” both Indian and Pakistani Muslims said “No”-with resounding assurance, according to Wilfred Cantwell Smith in his Islam in Modern History. The Muslims of India in fact face what is a radically new and profound problem; namely, how to live with others as equals. This is unprecedented; it has never arisen before in the whole history of Islam. An Indian Muslim is both an Indian and a Muslim. The desperate attempt to deny or reject this duality has failed. An attempt to integrate the two has hardly yet been seriously put forward.
The 25 resolutions passed in Deoband add up to a fundamentalist manifesto for Muslims in India. They express a determination of the ulema to mark time on values which were declared when Islam was founded 14 centuries ago. They categorically wish to have no truck with modernity. They want to shun modern dress and today’s media including television and all. The question of the ulema allowing Muslims to join the Indian mainstream does not arise. They are prepared to coexist with non-Muslims provided their community remains separate and exclusive. In short, they plan to construct a darul Islam within a darul-Harb which some polite scholars call darul-Amn.
The Jamiat was established in 1919 by Dar ul-Uloom as a channel for its political ambitions. In deference to British goodwill Deoband had to repudiate rebel Mahmood ul-Hasan, the Uloom’s Arabian associate who had been politically active. Sayyid Abulala Mawdudi was then a young activist of the Jamiat. It was only after the Pakistan resolution of 1940 at Lahore did Mawdudi separate to form the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in August 1941. Although the sentiments at Deoband were exclusivist, the organisation did not favour Partition for that would split the Indian ummah. Together, its leaders could manipulate, if not also influence, an undivided India. The Ulema were also put off by MA Jinnah being a Shia, a modern man and his speech to the Pakistan constituent assembly at Karachi on August 11, 1947 confirmed that he was also too secularistic to be a good Muslim. On the other hand, the Jamiat continued to be orthodox and promoted as many madarsas as possible. According to the Pakistani Minister of Religious Affairs, quoted by Charles Allen (in his God’s Terrorists, Little, Brown, Great Britain, 2006), there were 7000 Deobandi madarsas which taught 12 and a half million students. The training given to students in India is additional.
Ambedkar had the vision to foresee today’s times 69 years ago when he wrote his Thoughts of Pakistan on the morrow of the Muslim League passing the fateful resolution at Lahore in March 1940 : “Which is then better for the Hindus? Should the Musalmans be without and against or should they be within and against? If the question is asked of any prudent man, there will be only one answer, namely, that if the Musalmans are to be against the Hindus, it is better that they should be without and against, rather than within and against.”
(The writer can be contacted at 145, Sunder Nagar, New Delhi-110 003)