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Books and Documents ( 26 Oct 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Reviewing Urdu Book by Rashid Shaz, La Yamoot: An Autobiography That Is the Introspective Story of an Entire Generation of Muslims, Focusing On the Subversive Role of Muslim Leadership

By Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef, New Age Islam

26 October 2021

Muslims Are Facing A War Of Survival In This Country, But The Poor And Helpless Lot Is Not Aware Of How To Cope With This Challenge

Main Points:

1.    There is no single identity called Hindu based on ideological, religious, ethnic, and social homogeneity.

2.    Partition divided Muslims numerically, as they stood divided into three parts namely Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh.

3.    For Shaz, minority status is a problematic one psychologically.


La Yamoot: (لايموت) An Autobiography

(Story of Enslaved Muslims in Free India?)

 Writer: Rashid Shaz

Pages: 428 Rs 450.00

Publisher: Milli Publications Milli Times Building

Abul Fazal Enclave Jamia Nagar New Delhi-25


Recently, I have read an otherwise voluminous work by the well-known historian Ram Chandra Guha: India after Gandhi. By the way, the book is very informative, but it was also shocking to see that the author spent only 10 pages out of nearly 1200 pages of the book on Muslims of India. And it is also in a reference to the minority issue. I wonder that Muslims are being treated just a non-entity in this country, is not a matter of surprise!

Just a few days ago, Dr. Rashid Shaz gave me his autobiography La Yamoot in Urdu.

La Yamoot is an Arabic phrase meaning who he is not dying. Shaz's prose is so eloquent, effective, lucid, and flowing that one cannot help except to read the book in one go, so the 428 pages I did read in three days, and this is with my other engagements. La Yamoot is autobiographical narration, but it is the story of an entire generation. Reading this story from the events of independence to 1990, step by step, I realized that Muslims are facing a war of survival in this country, but the poor and helpless lot is not aware of how to cope with this challenge.

Though there are also some indications of the situations through which Muslims of the world were going during this period, the focus was on Indian Muslims. The beautiful prose narrative takes the reader from the so-called “independence’’ to the talismanic house just before the demolition of the Babri Masjid. From this book came the answer to my questions struck in my mind from reading Ram Guha’s history of modern India. Are the extremists Hindus or liberals, all have been trying to marginalize Muslims and so they are supposedly for them like non-existent? This is a new narrative built upon both extremist and liberal Hindu’s belief that Muslims have taken their share in this country. There has been a campaign to destroy all traces of the Islamic era. The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the expulsion of Urdu are mere some token chapters of that narrative.

So in this autobiography ‘’ La Yamoot’’ Rashid enacted all his best writing capabilities and a rare kind of imagination, making the walls, the trees, the village, the city, the school, and finally his Alma matter AMU participate in telling the story, and to speak loud and clear.

The story is told by unique characters reincarnated for this purpose, the most visionary and inspiring one among them was the father (Abbaji) a village elder, an Alim, and an Islamic preacher who guides the storyteller on every step.

When I was reading his story the first thought occurred to me, it was my story the story of my generation the story of every Muslim youth born in the country after ‘Independence’. Beginning from his childhood in his native village, wherein he used to live very near to nature, to his migration to Darbhanga city, where he stayed many years with his extended family (six brothers and parents) learned in school then attended college and finally set his foot in Aligarh his destination where he settled in and lives now with his wife and two sons.

Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh became Rashid’s alma mater. He did his master's and Ph.D. there and after a short stay in Delhi, where he established Milli Times International and edited it for one decade, and other institutions, he came back to Aligarh and became a professor at Bridge Academy AMU Aligarh.

The author as an alumnus of Aligarh and in this rather moving story has revived Aligarh of his time and gave vent to his teachers, students' gatherings, and to their conversations and their feelings. It is not just a story of the author's days, but a lament of the past, an invitation to accountability for the present, and perhaps a way out for the future. Shaz is a unique author and thinker. Through his academic works he seems to follow in the footsteps of Abul Kalam Azad a stalwart of the freedom movement and a great Muslim genius yet in his last two travelogues namely ‘Lastumpokh’ and ‘Kodra” he, in my opinion, has invented a new style of writing. This genre is very telling, sweeping, sublime and of course, catching one.

 Now in the first volume of his autobiography the author spanned the story from 1947 to 1990 of his life full of ventures, academic activities, and his multipurpose travels abroad. In between, he also tried to explain what went wrong with the Muslims of India especially after partition. In the political arena advised by their remaining leaders like Abul Kalam Azad and Hussein Ahmad Madni, Muslims have decided to follow blindly and unquestioningly the Congress party. That they will not have their political leadership and they reiterated this lesson to voting in Congress in the country continuously till 1992 when Babri Masjid was demolished by Hindutva goons, emboldened by the Congress governments. Babri is a sanguine chapter in the history of free India. And then more than thousands crushing, orchestrated communal riots, nay pogroms. in which state machinery, police, and communal goons have been killing innocent Muslims with free hands beginning from Nile in Assam, to Raurkela, to Bhagalpur in Bihar, to Moradabad Idgah, to Hashimpura and Malyana brutal killing of 50 Muslim youths by PAC and throwing their corpses in Hundan river in Meerut UP. The heinous act was criminally supervised by the then UP chief minister veer Bahadur in connivance with Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. And prior to that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s role was also very dubious towards Muslims, who was eulogized as Durga by no other than Atal Behari Bajpai when she had successfully divided Pakistan into two in 1971.

This book seeks to raise questions in front of the new generation of Muslims regarding the bloody anti-Muslim riots in Assam's Neely, Bihar's Bhagalpur, UP's Moradabad, and Meerut. Constitution of India, secularism, so-called secular parties, so-called and alleged community leadership (bearded and beardless), and also some ‘honourable’ personalities are put in the cage.

What has happened to the Muslims in this country? What has Congress and other secular parties done to them? It puts all these agonizing questions in front of the reader with great clarity. On some sarcastic phrases loud laughter came out of the mouth while reading, and again there was intense sadness, anxiety, and worry too on occasions.

This autobiography questions the subversive role of Muslim leadership from two angles. One is that plaid by Babri Masjid action committee’s illogical and provocative statements and announcements. Once S Shahabuddin a former diplomat and ex-MP and one of the Muslim intellectuals and committed leaders gave a call to boycott the republic day celebration. This appeal hasn’t gone down well in the majority community and it impacted badly on Muslim’s image in their eyes, the author observes.(see page:320)

The great rally at Boat Club which was called by Muslim leaders, and traveling from Aligarh by a passenger train, Rashid very hardly reached the destination of this rally, as he recalls, in which how Shahi imam Abdullah Bukhari and some other leaders were backbiting and throwing aspersions at each other. Later on Abdullah Bukhari’s son, Ahmad Bukhari issued a statement to form Adam Sena to protect the lives and properties of Muslims, yet his ambitious and politically motivated plan remained only on paper, while in reaction to that move, the firebrand Maratha cartoonist Bal Thackeray formed Shiv Sena a semi-militant outfit in Mumbai and Maharashtra which is now a formidable political Hindutva organization that proudly participate in Babri Masjid demolition and which was the main culprit of heinous Mumbai anti-Muslim riots, took place there in the aftermath of Babri demolition in 1992, and is a major political player in the politics of Maharashtra now.

Secondly, the author wonders and rightly questions the wisdom of Maulana Ali Mian Nadwi, chief of AIMPLB, the great Arabic writer India ever produced, to whom Shaz once was very near and dear, yet he opined that Ali Mian very timidly gave in to the illogical insisting of Babri Masjid Action Committees to continue the conflict and pampering to be an All-India issue, which the Maulana was in his private talks to his privy not agree with.(page:252) And moreover how he was along with other Muslim leaders disillusioned and deceived by the Congress leaders and more so by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was very shrewdly playing a double game. For, on one hand, he appeased Muslims on Shah Bano case, in which the Muslim side brazenly stood against the quranic verdict as this reviewer sees, allowing Shila Niyas (laying the foundation stone) at the site of Babri Masjid and opening its door for Darshan (view of the Deity) on the other. It might be a balancing act but what about the brutal killing of 48 Muslim youths in Hashimpura Malyana Meerut by PAC personnel via Veer Bahadur the then notorious UP chief minister and some other incidents? Which are sufficient examples to make Rajiv Gandhi the main perpetrator of these crimes. (See Pages: 326-291)

On the partition of the country, though the author did not deal it in a detailed way, yet what one can infer from his comments is that the plan of partition was a flawed one. Since Aligarh was a hub of Muslim League’s mobilizing activities, he refers to one of his professors saying:

“By achieving Pakistan we have solved the half of the problem, now it is on the coming generation to endeavour to solve the half remaining.”

The author’s observation is that Muslim League was the party of Muslim landlords, government officers, and feudal-minded elite, so they have to have a fiefdom safeguarding their interests in the name of saving Islam and for that matter they got Pakistan. The partition, to him, did not solve any problem, nay it entangled the problem more than ever.

Because now Indian Muslims have been bearing the burden of partition, as they are blamed constantly by Hindus, secular and right-wingers alike, for the crime they did not commit.

Moreover, the partition had divided Muslims numerically, as they stood divided into three parts namely Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh. (See page: 271)

Eventually, this partition weakened them more because in Democracy numbers are counted and they have greater value.

One more point the author focused on is the ‘Muslim minority status’ dilemma. For Shaz, minority status is a problematic one psychologically. Since in the country the ruling class Brahminical class is only 15%.And so-called Hindus are not a monolith nation. They are bitterly divided in casts and sub casts and creeds and sub creeds. There is no single identity called Hindu based on ideological, religious, ethnic, and social homogeneity. Therefore they could easily be described as an amalgamation of nations of different identities, not a single nation. But the ruling class, to safeguard its interests forever, very adroitly and successfully convinced these separate ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups and subgroups that they better be identified themselves as a broad cultural and national identity; the Hindu! (P: 211-277) I think this point should be taken by researchers seriously and should be widely debated.

The second volume is eagerly awaited. This is not a formal review of the book, it is an immediate impression after the first reading. I hope to write a more detailed review later when the second volume is available.


Dr. Mohammad Ghitreef is a Research Associate with Centre for Promotion of Educational and Cultural Advancement of Muslims of India AMU Aligarh


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