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Interfaith Dialogue ( 29 Nov 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Indian Muslim View Of Hinduism And Hindus As Ahl-e-Kitab: Jamiat Ulema’s Dialogue with Former RSS Chief K S Sudarshan






Former RSS Chief K S Sudarshan


By Maulana Abdul Hameed Nomani

(Translated from Urdu by Sohail Arshad, New Age Islam)

After the death of the former Sarsanghchalak of the Sangh, K S Sudarshan, a debate has been sparked off over some issues. The mouth-piece of Jamat-e- Islami, the Dawat raised some points that were made a topic of discussion by the Indian Express and the Times of India. People who know something about the activities of the Sangh are aware of the fact that during the last days of Sudarshan’s leadership, some questions had been raised over some of his statements. The fact is that when someone carries out a comparative study, he develops within him certain thoughts that inspire him to take a decision in a balanced and pragmatic way.  Secondly, he is influenced by the rival theory. K S Sudarshan had been studying the Quran, the life of the holy prophet, Hadith and Islamic history in a particular way.  On three occasions that I met him, I could perceive a positive change in him. During the last phase of his leadership of the Sangh, he felt that he could not devote the required time to the study along with the responsibilities of the Sangh and he had even expressed this to Mohan Bhagwat while handing over the charge to him. In 2004, he had felt the need for a dialogue with the Muslims as the mutual misunderstandings could not be removed without it. For that purpose, he chose the Jamiat-e- Ulema-e- Hind.

At the time, Maulana Asad Madani was alive. Initially, some of the leaders of Jamiat-e- Ulema-e-Hind had some reservation as to whether a dialogue should be held or not. At last Maulana Mahmood Madani, Maulana Niaz Ahmad Farouquee and I agreed to the dialogue so as to gauge the point of view of the Sangh and its leaders towards the Muslims and to know the extent and cause of misconceptions. Declining the overture would convey the wrong message that the Sangh was willing to remove the mutual misunderstanding and misconception but it was the Muslims who did not want that. The Sangh Parivar could also use this in other ways.

After weighing the pros and cons, it was decided that the dialogue should be held. On an agreed date, a meeting was held in the Intercontinental Hotel in which different issues were discussed. The RSS spokesman Ram Madho and Vishnu Hari Dalmiya were also present in the meeting. Maulana Mahmood Madani, Maulana Niaz Ahmad Farouquee and I represented Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. Most of the talking was done by K S Sudarshan and me.

 It became evident from what Sudarshanji said and from the questions he raised that he had considerable knowledge of Islam. At the outset he raised the point that there were many hurdles in the Hindu-Muslim unity. And first of them was the question in what category the Muslims kept the Hindus. Giving reference to Syed Sulaiman Nadvi’s book, “Indo-Arab relations and the seerath of the prophet”, and other books, he said that according to the Islamic Shariah, mankind was divided in four categories---- Mumin, kafir, ahl-e-kitab and shib’h ahl-e-kitab (believers, non believers, people with the divine book and people who were like ahl-e-kitab). “Now the question is “, he said, “in which category do you people keep the Hindus?”  From his questions one could get the line of Sudarshan’s study. If you do not have  thorough knowledge about the holy book and Sunnah, Islamic jurisprudence , Islamic history and the history of Indian Muslims, it would not be easy to reply to his queries and give satisfactory explanations to people like Sudarshan only on the basis of knowledge gained from newspapers and hearsay whereas the  situation in our country is such that, for instance,  the general secretary of a national organization while speaking on a TV channel had called Ram and Laxman the characters of Mahabharata and Arjun that of the Ramayana. This had given an opportunity to Surendra Jain of Vishwa Hindu Parishad to observe that even the leaders of the Muslims are so ignorant of Indian tradition and that they love to live in the Arab World. How Hindu-Muslim unity could then be strengthened, he had asked. These so-called representatives of Muslims who rush to the channels for discussion without proper preparations and necessary information only deepen doubts and misunderstandings and leave the impression that they are not serious about Muslim representation as they laugh and grin on even tragic and serious issues. What is the point of grinning and laughing during discussions over riots and war? Is it because they try to hide their ignorance and loss of words behind the veil of laughter?

K S Sudarshan was well aware of the etiquettes of debate and dialogue and it appeared that he was taking the issues seriously. Apart from the above cited issues, he also raised other issues and questions. I answered all his questions and it appeared that he was satisfied with the answers. Quoting different references I made it clear to him that our jurisprudential scholars had replied to his question much earlier saying that the Hindus of India came under the category of Shib’h-e-Ahl-e-kitab.  When this question was raised during the reign of Muhammad Bin Quasim, Khwaja Hasan Basri and other scholars had replied this to the query of Hajjaj Bin Yousuf. While Syed Sulaiman Nadvi has raised the issue in his book ‘Seerathun Nabi and Indo-Arab relations’ the answer is also given.

 I also presented references to Tafsir-e- Mazhari of Qazi Sanaullah Panipati and Jamius Shawahid, and in return threw the salvo asking him in which category he put Indian Muslims under his religious point of view and what his ideal was on which we should take the dialogue further. Did Hedgewar and Guru Gowalkar recognize Ram and Krishna as their ideals? They considered it foolish on the part of the Hindu society to regard them as their deities as is mentioned in Hedgewar’s book ‘Divya drishti’. Why does the Sangh hide this theory from the Hindu society?

Sudarshan seemed perturbed by my questions and tried to divert the topic saying that misunderstandings could be removed through exchanges of ideas and that the effort will continue. N K Sharma took the talks further by saying that Nomaniji (myself) was a prachand viddwan (great scholar) and had the knowledge of both the sides and so it could be hoped that it will yield positive results. I had given a detailed account to the meeting in my column in the weekly Al Jamiat in 2004.

Apart from this meeting, I had discussions with Mr. Sudarshan on two other occasions. Once, in India Habitat Centre on the occasion of the inauguration of the English translation of United nationalism and Islam’ and, the other after a long time, in the award programme at the Shobhit University. When after the dinner, we got up to have tea or coffee, Mr. Sudarshan was still having dinner. He recognized me from a distance and sent for me. He made me sit close to him. While having his dinner, he said, ‘Muslims should understand that Islam is a spiritual and ethical way of life and therefore, it does not have anything to do with the seat of power directly. It was so during the life of Hadhrat. (He would refer to Hadhrat Muhammad (PBUH) as Hadhrat). The controversy and dispute over power and inheritance blurred the image of Islam and later Muslims stuck to power making it the mission of their life. It dominated their Islamic spiritual and ethical aspects which continued till the Mughal period. They should also admit that most of the Muslims have their origin in India and have not come from outside. They should regard Ram and Krishna as their ancestors. If it happens there would be no obstacle in the coming closer of the Hindus and Muslims.

 I told him that we had not much time for a detailed discussion there. But in short, Muslims never considered the decisions and actions of the kings and the power-that-be their faith or ideal. They have considered only the caliphate of the four caliphs and Umar bin Abul Aziz a role model. I then gave him a somewhat detailed account of it. The most important belief of the Muslims is the belief in the unity of God (tauhid) and the prophethood.

They, particularly the Muslims of Indian origin have never rejected Ram and Krishna. Why then is the issue of recognizing them as their ancestors raked up? I asked.  In fact, it is the Hindu society that has created an obstacle in this in two ways. First, they took them (Ram and Krishna) out of the category of human beings. In this way, they could not become our ideals and ancestors. Is the life of any other personality (prophet) other than that of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) completely and totally preserved so that the society can emulate him as their guide and ideal? And secondly, unity will occur on tauheed (belief in one God) and not on shirk (belief in gods). Both of us have faith in one God whereas we (the Muslims) reject the belief in multiple gods.

In that case, the basis for unity between us will be the belief in one God---- the point where the two communities have already reached. So why should we leave it and adopt the vague. Life is based on faith and trust. Sudarshanji listened to me with attention and only said, ‘Your arguments are backed with logic.”

I feel that he wanted to delve deep into the root of the issues. After a long period in August 2012, news came from Bhopal that he set out to offer Eid prayer in the Tajul Masajid there.  He wanted to offer Eid greetings to Muslims but his security staff and the people of the Sangh prevented him from going there on the grounds of traffic problem and by telling him that the prayers were already over. 

Later, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Babu Lal Gaur and he went to a Muslim acquaintance where Mr. Sudarshan had sewaiyan and greeted the Muslims brethren. This has given rise to speculations and questions. Recently, in his condolence meeting, Ashoke Singhal, Nitin Gadkari and other office-bearers of the RSS were present. The speakers called Sudarshanji a great saint and social reformer. Will this give answers to questions that had been troubling him?

 The controversy over his wish to offer Eid prayer cannot be swept under the carpet by declaring his act the result of his forgetfulness. On the contrary it makes the matter more complex.  He had almost stopped making statements against the Muslims and Islam after his meeting with the Jamiat-e-Ulema. There must be some reason. If we think over Sudarshan’s act in this context, we could reach some useful conclusion.

Source: Azad Hind Urdu Daily, Kolkata, Nov 1, 2012