By Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi, New Age
14 July 2018
A self-confessed Secular fundamentalist
Mani Shankar Aiyar writes,
“First, Indian secularism cannot be
anti-religious or irreligious, for the bulk of our people are deeply religious.
Unlike in Christendom, where the word originated, secularism in India is not
about pitting the state against the religious authority but about keeping
matters of faith in the personal realm and matters of the state in the public
realm. Second, in a nation of many faiths, where people take their faith
seriously, secularism must be based on the principle of equal respect for all religions
(and for those who choose not to follow any religion). As Nehru once said,
‘[Secularism] means freedom of religion and conscience, including freedom of
those who may have no religion. It means free play of all religions, subject
only to their not interfering with each other or with basic conceptions of our
state.” (Aiyar 2004: Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist).
He further says,
regard to affairs of state, secularism translates not into equal involvement of
the state in matters pertaining to each religion but rather the separation of
the state from all religions. In secular India, the state must have no
religion. For the state, whatever religion an Indian professes or propagates
must remain a private and personal matter of the citizen. The state should
concern itself not with religion but with protection for all, equal opportunity
for all, equitable benefits for all. No religious community should be singled
out for favours; no religious community should be subjected to any disability
or disadvantage.” (Aiyar, Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist, Penguin
Books, New Delhi, 2004)
Secularism is defined differently in
different countries. Secularism is often used to describe the separation of
public life and government matters from religions or simply the separation of
religion and politics. Most of the so-called developed countries do not
recognise religions, thus granting no special value to any particular religion.
The beauty of India’s secularism lies in its taking a completely different
course from them. India’s secularism means equal treatment of all religions by
the state. With the 42nd Amendment of the Constitution of India enacted in
1976, the Preamble to the Constitution asserted that India is a secular nation.
Though neither the constitution of India nor its laws define the relationship
between religion and state, India recognizes each and every religion and seeks
to give them equal respect. The citizens of India are allowed to enjoy their
respective religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism,
Sikhism etc. with full freedom.
Since Indian secularism gives every citizen
right to fulfil his or her respective religious obligations, it will be futile
to view this secularism as anti-religious or anti-Islamic.
In context of Muslims’ faith, Indian
secularism does not prevent Muslims from fulfilling their basic religious
obligations as mentioned in the Qur'anic verse which reads,
“And I did
not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me” (51:56).
Indian secularism gives Muslims full freedom
to worship Allah Almighty. Yes they can fulfil all their religious obligations,
acquiring Taqwa and achieving spiritual development. There is no one to stop
Indian Muslims from performing acts of worship—five-time prayers, fasting,
Hajj, Zakat, spiritual meditations, doing Zikr [remembrance] of Allah and
attaining spiritual perfection.
A number of Islamic scholars and clerics
regard secularism as compatible with Islam. For example, Abdullahi Ahmed
An-Naim, a professor of law at Emory University the author of ‘Islam and the
secular state: negotiating the Future of Sharia’ says, “enforcing [Sharia]
through coercive power of the state negates its religious nature, because
Muslims would be observing the law of the state and not freely performing their
religious obligation as Muslims” [Islam and the Secular State…Cambridge Harvard
University press 2008]
The phrase “Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava” or
“equal respect for all religions” is popularly thought to be a Hindu concept
embraced by Ramakrishna, Vivekananda and Gandhi. However some Hindu scholars do
not accept it as a part of Hindu tradition. They attribute this phrase to
Gandhi who used it first in September 1930 in his talks to his followers to
quell divisions between Hindus and Muslims. However, majority of Hindus believe
this phrase as one of the key tenets of secularism in India, wherein the state
gives equal respect to all religions.
In his speech during the Iranshah Udvada
Utsav, 2017 (a cultural festival of Parsi community), The Vice President of
India M. Venkaiah Naidu said, “In fact, I have been saying that secularism was
in the DNA of every Indian much before it was enshrined in the Constitution.
‘Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava’ epitomizes India’s secular ethos. India is a land of
diverse cultures and religions,” He further said, “The secular foundations of
the country must be strengthened further and any attempt to create differences
in the name of religion by vested interests and religious extremists must be
nipped in the bud,”.
Indeed secularism is indispensible in a
multi-cultural and multi-religious country like India. Secularism is the beauty
of India, mainly because it gives equal respect to all religions and that it is
not anti-religious. It is therefore obligatory for the followers of all
religions to develop this Indian secularism, for which they shall have to
strengthen their peaceful coexistence. Apart from that, we Indians should
impart such values to our students, children and people so that can avoid being
brainwashed by any anti-Indian secular Muslim or non-Muslim groups.
Ghulam Ghaus Siddiqi Dehlvi is a Classical scholar of Islamic Sciences
(Theology, Fiqh, Tafsir and Hadith), English-Arabic-Urdu Writer and Translator.
So far he has written more than a hundred articles, especially on subjects like
de-radicalization, counter-terrorism, Peaceful coexistence, Islamic Mysticism
New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in
Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In
Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women
in West, Islam Women and Feminism