Even after some 800 years of association, Hindus and Muslims are unable to communicate clearly with one another. Is the lacuna because of insufficient contact? Or is it because the two communities function on the basis of two distant presumptions rigidly cherished? It would be interesting to delve into the latter and discover the presumptions, if any. This writer had a teacher for conversational Urdu for eight long years until he died.
As it happened, the relationship also grew into a friendship, spontaneously enabling free and frank conversations. Agha Iqbal Mirza was a graduate of what was the Delhi College, who dressed in a suit and on most days, wore a bow tie. Unfortunately, early in his life he tried to do business again and again, but seldom clicked. Once, when asked, he boldly declared that he was a Muslim first, a Muslim second and everything else later, but not a pro-Pakistani. He was a Mughal, whose ancestors had come from Central Asia; he should not be confused with an Afghan Pathan, who calls himself a Khan.
His family name was Mirza; it could also have been Baig. As the relationship grew, the writer once asked him as to why he suffered from an entitlement complex, his reply was that his attitudes were based on what he considered were his rights. Being a Mughal, he knew that his clansmen had ruled India from 1526 AD to 1758 AD, a good 250 years. Ziauddin Babar had captured his Delhi throne by defeating Ibrahim Lodi, a Muslim. The same throne was lost to the East India Company and not to a Hindu.
We, therefore, do not look upon the Hindus as enemies. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last poet-emperor, was captured and exiled to Rangoon (now called Yangon in Myanmar or Burma). When asked: What about the Hindus? Mirza’s response was: what about them? The Mughals built so many forts and monuments and most of the time, ruled the country efficiently. Incidentally, the architecture is still earning India tourist money. Look at all that Emperor Akbar did to encourage agriculture and collect fair revenue from it. But when Mirza was questioned as to why Muslim rulers did not develop any modern industry, or do anything in that direction, his reply was that for one thing the Mughal rule ended too early for an industrial revolution. He added that we must remember that fundamentally Islam believes that what Allah the merciful provides, Muslims should be satisfied with. For them, he went on, it is advisable to gracefully accept what Allah gives.
Flapping about for money is like complaining to the Almighty that He is not giving enough. This could imply that He is not being fair, or not doing justice. How could one ever allege that against God? We work as best as we can and thereafter leave it to Him. When this writer expressed his belief that a person’s duty is to put in his best and we call it karma and hope that it would be rewarded commensurately bhagya (fate or fortune), Mirza intervened with vehemence to say I was wrong. Your Gita, he said, exhorts you to work but, without attachment to the fruit of your work. Is that not true? How is your theology superior?
The writer quietly asked: Isn’t there a difference between accepting what one gets and trying hard to get what one wants? If you do not get it, the message for the Hindu is to not break his head over it. Mirza chose not to pursue this argument any further. Instead, he diverted to history and how Muslims have been given a raw deal. What right had Robert Clive to come to Murshidabad, displace and kill Siraj-ud-Daulah? By and large, the nawabs in Bengal had been providing good and fair governance. To the British, they had provided a large part of Calcutta and several commercial special rights.
“I am sure, Mirza asserted, that the big Hindu businessmen secretly helped the British. Incidentally, Bengal was the richest suba of India. And yet this mischief. This was therefore a big blow to Islam in India. From rulers, the Muslims in the region overnight became subjects. Mirza quoted Rahimatullah Sayani, a business magnate of Bombay and President of the Congress, as saying “how a stroke of ill luck brought-Muslims down to the level of their Hindu countrymen”? Soon hereafter was imposed English education, which the Hindus took to happily because they had become used to learning the languages of their rulers; Mirza meant Persian.
This turned the tables with Hindus gradually becoming superior and ousting the Muslims from their positions. Mirza must have got the figure from somewhere; by 1867, as many as 88 Hindus had become graduates and Masters, and believe it or not, not a single Muslim. The good teacher continued, what else can you expect but the TwoNation Theory and eventually Pakistan? In an undivided India, all or most Muslims would have sunk to the bottom of the sea. Are you not seeing my fate? Above everything else, my education and all, I am the proud grandson of someone who was the kotwal of Delhi.
Notwithstanding the illegitimate British invasion of India, Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan of Aligarh fame advised all Muslims that they should support the British. They should not agitate as Congressmen were going to do. “Do not join that Hindu party,” was his exhortation. If we remain faithful to the British, said Sir Sayyid, if and when they leave India, they could well leave the Government of India to Muslims, if for no other reason, then the fact that they had dispossessed us of most of the country. To come back to Agha Iqbal Mirza, when the writer asked him why he did not opt for Pakistan, he gave a complicated reply.
First, “Pakistan was not created to make people like me homeless. It was meant to be a homeland for those Muslims who insisted on living in a Darul-Islam. That there is such a state on the subcontinent is a matter of great satisfaction for me and others like me. Second, if there be riotous violence against us in India; we would have a protector of ultimate appeal. Third, to actually move to say Karachi or Lahore would be very difficult. For example, I have no capital and that is why I am working for you for Rs. 700 a month. I would have to find money enough to travel to Pakistan and enough to survive there for a few months before I get settled. Would the job or occupation there be to my liking? And so on.” The way you have asked one this question, the teacher said, it seems as if my right to be in Calcutta or Delhi at the stroke of midnight of 14/15 August 1947 expired.
That might be European thinking but not Islamic. Land or dharti is not the anchor of our lives, certainly not collective life. We are not watanparast. “Where one stays is incidental. In whom I believe, who I worship is all important. Allah is the epicenter of Islam. Neither Muslims in India nor those in Pakistan were particularly disturbed by the secession of Bangladesh. By the same token, whether I live here or in Bangladesh or Pakistan, or for that matter, in Arabia, makes no difference to Allah the merciful”. There must be any number of co-religionists who must feel the same way. If so, why so much ado about the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) is noteworthy. Infiltration, immigration or emigration do not count in the Islamic contexts. All land is Allah’s; all the three constitutions so far passed in Pakistan begin by asserting that sovereignty over the entire universe belongs to Almighty Allah alone.
Poet Mohammed Iqbal, whom we applaud frequently, wrote a second tarana after Saare Jahan. In it, he asserted that not only the whole of India but also China and Arabia belong to Allah. Muslims should live in this world like fish live in the ocean, without boundaries, unlike caged animals in the zoo.
(The writer is an author, thinker and a former Member of Parliament)