Indians, pluralistic by nature, would one day revolt against CAA: Islamic scholar

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Prof. Habib, who has authored 18 books in English, Urdu and Punjabi languages, argues that there should be interfaith studies in varsities. His book ‘The Relevance of the Teachings of Sain Mian Mir, and other Sufi Saints of Punjab to Contemporary Society’ won him accolades.

Prof. Mohammed Habib (Image credit Bhawna Malik)

Prof. Mohammed Habib (Image credit Bhawna Malik)

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Prof.  Mohammed Habib, Head of the Department of Islamic Studies at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University, in an interview with Bhawna Malik argues that Hindutva is political, and any law such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that excludes sections of the people from its ambit will fail in the long run. He also stressed that Jihad is widely misunderstood.

Prof. Habib, who has authored 18 books in English, Urdu and Punjabi languages, argues that there should be interfaith studies in varsities. His book ‘The Relevance of the Teachings of Sain Mian Mir, and other Sufi Saints of Punjab to Contemporary Society’ won him accolades.

Qn. What is the significance of the month of Ramazan?

Prof. Habib:  Surat no 2 of Qur’an says: “During the month of Ramazan the Qu’ran was sent down as a guidance to the people with a clear signs of the true guidance and as the criterion (between right and wrong) So those who live to see that month must fast”

Ramazan has religio-socio-cultural significance. It covers all the dimensions of human personality. Psychological impact cannot be ignored.  Islam is a humanitarian religion propagating the values of Equality and Brotherhood. The five pillars define Islam – Belief in One God (Allah) and Prophet Mohammad as his messenger and five pillars, Salah, Prayer offering Namaz five times a day, Zakat (charity), Roza (fasting), and Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca 

Roza (Fasting) has great humanitarian significance as it makes us understand the thirst and hunger of other humans and living beings. First, we sympathise that’s pity then we empathise- feeling the pain of others and then Zakat (sharing) of food, money or clothes is done.

Qn. If Islam believes in equality and brotherhood, then how come others are termed as Kafirs?

Prof. Habib: Islam has to be understood contextually and situationally.  It is not Ibrahimism or Mohammadism as that creates boundaries. Kafir is the term used at that time for the non-believers. There were idol worshippers who did not believe in the supremacy of one Allah or negated the message of Prophet Mohammad were called Kafirs. It is not for people of other religions as Prophet Mohammad never came to India.

Qn. Does Islam encourage conversions; if yes then what’s the purpose?

Prof. Habib: Not at all. Social conversions are non-Islamic and they result in discordant society. Prophet Mohammad said convey my message not convert them. There was a person named Loot, and that was also the name of one of the idols, so Prophet changed his name to Abdullah and that’s not conversion. Islam is a religion of practise. Amal in daily life and to practise Islamic teachings conversion is not required. Rather the word ‘Reversion’ is there – turn back towards your God.

If someone wants to adopt Islam as a religion then that is done openly in the presence of people as witness not behind closed doors. Money and muscle used for conversion is completely unacceptable in Islam.

Qn. The word Islam means peace. But it often gets associated with violence?

Prof. Habib: Islam has three meanings  — Surrender or submission to Allah and His Will, Peace and thirdly Sovereignty . ‘Kalb’, meaning Human heart tries to find peace and happiness through material goods but it can only be peaceful by finding God that resides in human heart and only then every human can experience peace and solace. The action plan is to live life based on Allah’s teachings.

Qn. If Islam is peace-oriented and follows humanism, then how do you justify Jihad?

Prof. Habib: Muslims are the victims of geo-politics. The ‘Islamophobia’ is purely politically motivated. The USSR occupied Afghanistan, and the USA created Mujhahideens and made Pakistan as a stage or the epicentre. The Taliban have no role in making the USA leave Afghanistan, rather the USA left on its own as it has other interests too. The USA has great role in oil politics if you look at Israel. The USA has exploited the situation at its full.

The violence you are referring is today’s concept and that is not Jihad. Jihad must be understood from the Qura’nic perspective and again I use the term contextual and situational.

Surat no 4 in Qur’an says: “And what is the matter with you that you fight not in the cause of Allah and (for) the oppressed among men, women and children who say, “Our Lord, take us out of this city of oppressive people and appoint for us from Yourself a protector and appoint for us from Yourself a helper”?

Qn. What do you mean by jihad as contextual and situational?

Prof. Habib: Contextual and situational mean that to understand Islam today, we cannot look backwards or towards history. Wars were fought by Prophet Mohammad but that was the need of the hour. Today things are entirely different.

Jihad in Qura’n means to strife, make an effort but it refers to fighting against one’s own weaknesses not with others. ‘Kitaale’ word finds a mention in Qura’n which means war or a Jung, but only when no other way out is visible.  but both Jihad and Kitaale are not for self-interest or fulfilling political motivations.

Qn. Mujhideens and Talibans want to establish Islamic State. Is that mentioned in Qura’n?

Prof. Habib: Islam is not to rule any land or people rather love God and its creation by serving humanity. There is a mention that if you have power then make effort to establish, justice, rights or Haq, Izzat or respect should not be asked but rather given. Considering today’s scenario, we have to fight for our rights and that is not correct.  A welfare state is given but not Islamic state.

Qn. As an academic how do you see the role of universities as peace builders?

Prof. Habib: I strongly feel that we should have departments as religious studies and not as Islamic or Sikh studies as that creates a divide of US and Them. There should be an interfaith dialogue at every level and a book of common teachings of all religions should be a part of the curriculum at school level itself. The focus should on the values of sharing, peace, equality, and brotherhood. Humanity is the biggest religion. That would act as a common ground of all religions. Max Mueller had said: “To know one (religion) is to know none”.            

Qn. As an Indian Muslim, what’s your view on the CAA?

Prof. Habib: Any bill without considerable amount of reflection and discussion should not be passed. It should not be discriminatory towards any particular community. If a government is bent on any particular religion then in the long run it will fail.  Hindutva is purely political and polarised. It is a phenomena for vote bank politics.

During Aurangzeb’s rule Islam was the state religion forced on people, some termed it as a historical moment for Islam and Mughals, and today that is the biggest cause of the downfall of Aurangzeb and Mughals in India.

Mahatma Gandhi spoke of Ram Rajya. Jinnah openly told him that we are secular leaders. We should avoid using religion in politics, he argued. But Gandhi ji was adamant. So, Jinnah also spoke of Muslim nation and that led to partition in 1947.

I must add that people of India by nature are pluralistic and they would revolt one day against CAA and other bills of oppressive nature.



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