Muslims Have To Live WITH Islam

Dr. Manzoor Alam

The Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, has been in the forefront of pioneering Islamic research and understanding in India, particularly in the context of Muslims living as minorities in Non-Muslim lands. Dr. Manzoor Alam, the Chairman of the Institute, who was in Bangalore recently consented to an interview with the editorial team of Young Muslim Digest. In his brief discussion with Biju Abdul Qadir, Senior Editor at YMD, he covered a host of issues ranging from the ‘Islamization of knowledge’ project, the future of the Muslim community in a communally polarised India, the potential of Da’awah, the idea of the Hijrah and the prospects for Islamic Economics in the near foreseeable future. The abridged text of the interview is reproduced hereunder.

Q. Can you briefly describe for us the role and development of the IOS?

 A. The IOS works as a think tank. When I use the word think tank, it carries the meaning: to plan for the future. Of course, in planning for the future it covers the Islamic perspective, the Muslim perspective, the Indian perspective, the international perspective as well as the perspective of human rights. From the point of view of such planning the Institute has the short term planning, the intermediate term planning, the long term planning, crisis management planning and conflict management planning. The Institute has twenty three academic committees which cover the social sciences, humanities, law, management and revealed knowledge which is normally called Islamic studies. The use of the term revealed knowledge refers, basically, to the Qur’an, the Seerah and the ahaadith in addition to every study which is to be made in the light of the Qur’an. The Institute produces two journals called Journal of Objective Studies and Religion and Law Review. One bulletin that is released by the Institute is called Human Rights Today while an Urdu bulletin released by the Institute is the IOS Khabar Naama. There is also a monthly newsletter of the Institute called the IOS Newsletter. We have been undertaking various kinds of projects. One of the leading projects that has been undertaken, and which is progressing at present, is an eleven-volume work on the Empowerment of Muslims. There are eleven segments under this title. These include: Educational empowerment, Social empowerment, Psychological empowerment,Political empowerment, Economic empowerment, Youth empowerment, Women’s empowerment and also a volume on the reasons for dis-empowerment and finally a volume on the recommendations of all these segments that are to be empowered. We are also adopting procedures in coordinating our approach with different communities. That is why we have taken up the issue of fostering inter-community linkages in India. While the publication work of twenty books is already in the pipeline, the IOS has, in the meanwhile, produced one hundred and fifty books in recent times. In this connection, one of the important themes has been ‘Islam and the promotion of knowledge’. This is one of the finest books that may be referred if one is to learn from the history of the prophet (pbuh) today. Furthermore, the IOS has also produced three books on humanitarian affairs as well. So the IOS has been involved in various activities. 

Q. Does the IOS have any collaboration with other International research & development organisations? 

A. Yes, it is also working in collaboration with the International Islamic University, Malaysia. Also, it has an intellectual understanding with many other institutions but not always in the formal way. However, being an NGO of the United Nations, the institute does have privileged access to various other intellectual organisations.

 Q. How far has the IOS been able to pick up the theme of ‘Islamisation of knowledge’ where it was left off by the late Dr. Ismail Raji al Faruqi, who was killed in 1986? 

A. Not exactly in the term of Islamisation of knowledge. Instead, we are more into taking up knowledge in the Islamic perspective, and it has been a major ingredient in our project. My referring to the work “Islam and the promotion of knowledge” is a pointer in this direction, and a lot many other projects too are running on these lines.

 Q. Recently, there has been the Supreme Court order to have excavations carried out at Ayodhya. But considering the fact that there have been various excavations carried out at the site since 1976, could not the court directive be seen as just another attempt by the government to force a stand off between the two communities?

 A. Yes, the court has, from the very beginning of the dispute, stated that it will take a very scientific approach before giving its final decision. Excavations are a part of this scientific approach. It may be the requirement of justice itself. Nevertheless, if the government has, indeed, forced it, it will create further difficulties for it. Now, it will have to wait for the results of the excavations, and will not be able to impose their (Hindu extremists’) version of history and events so easily. 

Q. What implications does the communal policies and agenda of the Centre supported Sangh Parivar have for the minorities – especially the Muslims – in India?

 A. We are living in a country called “Democratic”, and in a democratic country every organisation and every community has the right to flourish according to their own belief and faith. The RSS, too, has an approach, even if, that approach does not tally with the spirit of the constitution due to its being rife with their sense of animosity towards Muslims, which is the real hurdle in the development of the nation as a whole. However, we have to realise that despite its hatred towards Muslims, the RSS has not taken over the army or engineered a revolt through the army to come to power. They took to the process of elections, and adopted a clever (although unfair) policy. Only then could they gain access to power, and now, when their members are in power, maximum support will naturally be extended to them. Therefore, the implications are obvious: there will come about a greater polarisation, there will take place more injustice, the blood of Muslims will be continued to flow. Hence, the question before us is “What should Muslims do in such a scenario”? The answer is simple: we require immense planning even as we keep the constitution in our view. The demographic composition of the so-called Hindus is also an important factor in this planning because the larger section of the Hindu population consists of the Dalits (untouchables) who have been persecuted and exploited by Brahmanism for centuries. So it is all up to Muslims as to what wisdom they exhibit and policy they adopt.

Q. Considering the fact that we have seen the BJP propaganda machine exploiting the Dalit feeling leading to a dangerous precedent where Dalits were prompted to attack Muslims during the Gujarat pogrom, do we not face a difficulty in educating the Dalits if such false propaganda can so easily turn the Dalits against the Muslims?

 A. Naturally, yes. But the point to be made lies somewhere else. When I referred to the demographic composition of the country, I meant to say that the task is not one that can be done with a magic wand or by just wishing or conducting a few meetings. It requires us to reach to the roots of the problems and difficulties that have fallen to the lot of the Muslims and to seek solutions for them from the perspective of Islam. The real solution lies in Da’wah, i.e., to provide people correct information about Islam in order to clear away their misunderstanding. No doubt, the role of the Dalits, in the Gujarat happening, was largely due to their poverty and illiteracy because of which they were used against Muslims, even as they were lured  in the post-independence period into such wanton acts of destruction by being fed with the false notion that all Muslim properties would turn theirs if they managed to wipe out the Muslims. However, nobody can deny the fact that there had been, to a great extent, their blindness to Islam. They do not have proper information on Islam and the values for which Islam stands. They are not aware enough that Islam, in fact,stands for equality and brotherhood. So, despite whatever that might have happened, I do not draw the conclusion that they (i.e. Dalits) are inherently against Muslims.

Therefore, showing the real face of Islam to them by our words as well as reflecting it in our deeds is the most pressing need of the hour. When this misunderstanding is removed and they are fully aware that Islam is much better for them than Brahmanism under which they have been suffering from ages past, nobody can hold the Muslims back from making their way into the corridor of power because this is a democratic country where the value is for quantity not for quality and the Dalits form almost seventy per cent of the total population. The actual minority in the country represented by Brahmanism or the so-called Hindutva lobby know it quite well, and therefore, they have already initiated two steps: to stop the conversions and keep them under the Brahmanical hegemony, and to, simultaneously, mobilise them through a well-organised hate-campaign against Islam and Muslims. This will, ideally, prevent them from using their own rational thinking to understand what Islam actually is. It is in this context that it becomes obligatory on us to strain our every nerve in the Da’wah field.

Q. We are aware that, ideologically speaking, Islam calls upon the believers to enter into it in full… to implement all aspects of Islamic law. But in a democratic country where the Muslims are a minority this is not possible. What, then, is the option that the Muslims face apart from trying to educate the other minorities in the country? Is the option of the Hijrah to a place wherein the Muslims can hope to practice their religion more fully, and in more security, valid in these circumstances?

 A. But, I see no such place. It must be realised that there is no such piece of territory that can be termed to be better than this or that stretch of land. When the Qur’an required of the Muslims to enter into Islam fully, it never meant that one had to do so only after Islam was established in its totality. The order simply means that one had to struggle to the utmost of one’s capability to create the settings for an Islamic environment wherein one can hope to practice Islam fully. Asked, what, then, the possibilities are, its certain that the dynamic force of Islam lies not in the bullet etc. but in Da’wah. Is there any restriction in this country regarding Da’wah process? I think not. Are there any restrictions in India with regard to the Muslims’ removing the ills of their community? I think not. Furthermore, there are no obstacles concerning the economic growth of Muslims in this country provided they put in the efforts. Moreover, it must, also, be known that the Hijrah is not valid until the doors are closed to Islam itself. That is why the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not migrate initially with a few of his companions, even though he allowed others of his companions to do so, because he knew that there was no such a situation in Makkah as faced by the prophet Noah before him, who having strained every nerve propagating the message of Almighty Allah for nine hundred  and fifty years, finally, asked Allah to make his Judgment with regard to his people. As yet, there is no such situation in this country. In fact, to my opinion, we have accomplished just only 2 to 5% of the work of Da’wah and have yet carry out the remaining 95% of it. So, even if there were a veritable heaven for the Muslims where they could move into, the option of Hijrah is, at least for the moment, a premature one. 

Q. How is the Muslim to know that he, or she, has done enough of Da’awah work? Is there a point in time when we can know for certain that the work of Da’awah is, indeed, complete?

 A. This is a very easy thing to realise. Let each one of us ask our own hearts as to how many people we have contacted from our childhood for this purpose. We should realise that this is a task of every individual. Indeed, once the individuals begin the job in the proper manner, the collective results will follow. We are still oblivious of the importance of Da’wah just as we remain unmindful of the obligation on us as Muslims.

 Q. How can the effectiveness of Da’wah work be gauged properly when there is every possibility that the non-Muslim community will reject the call and that, too, in such a fashion that the Muslims themselves are unaware of the reality that the non-Muslims have not accepted their call?

A. Firstly, our model is the prophet (pbuh) and no one else. So, we need not worry whether the message is accepted or rejected. What we have to worry about is whether we are shouldering our job fully and duly or not. We are duty-bound to convey the message and keep with it, no matter what else. Secondly, it must be realised that proper propagation of the message never means that we sit in a good hotel-room somewhere, make a few comments on Islam and think Da’wah is accomplished. No, this is not the way. Instead, we have to reflect the Islamic teachings in ourselves and show the true face of Islam by our deeds and actions in every sphere of life, even as the prophet and his companions did.

 Q. There were calls for the implementation of a common civil code in the country some time back. Is such a code still possible or are there serious obstacles in its implementation?

 A. Firstly, there has been no civil-code over here before. Every community has its own way, right or wrong. Now, if any of these is imposed upon other communities, it will, naturally, cause problems for them and ultimately they will oppose it because many things of it may be against the one of their own. For example, in some Hindu tribes the man is allowed to marry the daughter of his own sister. Obviously, others cannot accept it. Secondly, this idea is just against the spirit of the constitution as well. Therefore, it is not easy for the government to implement such a common civil code.

Q. The IOS has been involved in Islamic Economics projects for sometime now. The involvement seems to be particularly deep in the case of people like Abdul Azim Islahi with whom we have been in some correspondence over the years. How do you rate the contributions of the Indian Ulema in connection with Islamic Economics which is a field of study that is gaining ground throughout the world today?

 A. Well, Islamic Economics is a very new discipline, which is coming up in different parts of the world. However, very little is being done on this subject in our country. The Ulama here do not have full knowledge of Economics itself, naturally, their contributions have not been up to the mark. This has been so because unless we understand Economics, our ideas in the field of Islamic Economics will not fit into the modern text on the subject. Nevertheless, Islamic banking has drawn some of the finest brains in the country. This, of course, includes non-Muslims as well, who have even joined hands in this project at several places. For all that, we have, still, to do much more in this field. For instance, we have yet to produce an authoritative textbook on Islamic Economics, which we have been unable to do because we require lots of good material for doing so. Therefore, we are still in the preliminary stage, and until we cross the stage, we cannot claim to have gained ground in this new discipline.

 (Abridgement courtesy: Zafar Aejaz)