Sir Syed on who is a Hindu?

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It has become a political fashion for the Hindus like Mohan Bhagwat and certain Muslim opinion-makers to either provoke Muslims or laud Hinduism in order to get entry into the good-books of the RSS and BJP maharajas.

Shri Mohan Bhagwatji keeps reminding Muslims that they are actually Hindus having Hindu ancestry. There are also some Muslim commentators who indicate their appreciation of the ancient Vedic philosophical heritage. They say that it represents universal human values which is no doubt true.

However, the intentions become suspicious in the background of declaration of RSS-BJP leaders about India becoming a Hindu Rashtra. There is nothing substantial about such arguments; it is purely communal and keeps the nation diverted from the social and economic disaster looming large. This is common knowledge or, as they say, new normal.

I am enlightening the RSS and the Muslims engaged in appeasement of RSS that more than 150 years ago a Muslim intellectual and one who is also accused of being the initiators of two-nation theory, had not only claimed that he was a Hindu but also complained that the Hindus did not agree to call him a Hindu. He is Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817-1898) founder of the great Muslim University of Aligarh. His views on this issue and on the Indian culture (not Muslim or Hindu culture) are as follows.

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Sir Syed (1838-1898) was fully aware of various shades of the word Qaum especially the distinction between its religious and political connotations. He insisted the Muslims to be mindful of this distinction. In an article in 1884, he explained it. He held that the word nation always stood for communities either aligned to the descendants of some person or to some country. However, Islam abolished all “community distinctions” (tariqah-yi-qaumi) based on worldly considerations and replaced them with one spiritual community-relationship—the relationship of the creed of Islam, ‘There is no God except Allah, Muhammad is His Messenger.’ All distinctions of country or color were abolished under another declaration of the Qur’an, ‘all believers are brothers.

At the same time, he points out that the Muslims should not forget that besides the spiritual brothers (Muslims) there are also in the country other brothers of motherland (vatani bhai) with whom we share various cultural features. Respect for the neighbor is part of our faith and this neighborliness has extended to co-citizenship. There are two parts of this relationship regarding our co-citizen-brothers (ham-vatan bhai)—one part is of God and the other is of human relationship. Leave God’s share to God and engage with the part of human relations. Help each other in human relations related to culture and social affairs. Observe mutual love, true friendship and friendly etiquette.”

Anwar Moazzam is a leading Islamic and Political thinker, who lives in Hyderabad

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