By Javed Anand
Adarniya Sarsanghchalak Bhagwatji, Saadar Pranaam!
Oct.14: I am deeply moved by your humko bhi parkho Dussehra Day invite sent out to Muslims and Christians to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). So, the Sangh Parivar, here I come. Please treat this letter as my application for entry into the fold for your kind consideration. I understand from the media that all you want is for the likes of me to accept that "all Muslims in India were Hindus in the past... who have only changed their method of worship".
I hope I make it since I more than fulfil your benevolent requirement. For starters, I am not too strong on the worship front. Even otherwise, I have no difficulty in accepting the obvious — Hindu past — for I doubt if my forefathers could be Sikhs, Jains, or Buddhists. The former are easily discounted for they arrived too late on the scene. Jains? No way, they are not interested in Mughlai cuisine. As for Buddhists, I am unable to see what possible incentive there was for them to abandon their faith.
But converting from Hinduism is conceivable. I have been told since childhood that we are Siddiquis. That’s big if you are talking hierarchy — being part of the extended parivar of none less than the closest companion of Prophet Mohammed and the first Caliph of Islam, Abu Bakr. But this "Arabisation" drive, Bhagwatji, I suspect is quite like Sanskritisation — in search of respectability, status and imagination at work. It’s quite likely that my forefathers were Hindu and "untouchable".
Imagine Islam’s appeal to one who is constantly told he is too "impure" to be allowed entry inside a temple. Imagine the doors of a mosque being flung open to him with an invite — Come, stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of us. No hierarchy here, no caste, no class, no race: Sab ka maalik ek! Who says you are too impure to enter a holy space or hold a holy text? Here’s the Quran, it’s yours as much as anyone else’s: Touch it, hold it, read it, kiss it, hug it, store it in your heart and mind.
Imagine, Bhagwatji, does this not sound like celestial music to outcastes such as my forefathers quite possibly were? But all this is in the past, no hurdle in the way of my intended gharvaapsi. You may not know it, but afflicted by fickleness of faith, the subcontinent’s Muslim is forever being pulled in four different directions: dar-e-Habeeb, maikhana, butkhana, Kaaba. The sound of the sankh or the temple bell continues to mesmerise many a Muslim as much as the call of the muezzin. Nowhere is it more evident than in Urdu poetry, a treasure house which the parivar sadly disowns.
Here, for example, is poet Mir Taqi "Mir","Mir ke deen-o-mazhab ka, poonchte kya ho unne to kashka khaincha dair mein baitha kab ka tarq Islam kiya" ("What can I tell you about Mir’s faith or belief a tilak on his forehead in a temple he resides, having abandoned Islam long ago").
Even more interesting is Mohammed Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who unfortunately started with "saare jahaan se achcha..." but ended up with the idea of Pakistan. Here he is, however, in conversation with shama:
"Yek been teri nazar sifat-e ashqaan-e raaz, meri nigaah maya-e ashob-e imtiyaaz kaabe mein butkade mein yaksaan teri ziya main imtiyaz dair-o-haram mein phansa hua".
(For you all truth seekers are alike I am accursed with a malady, seeking differences You shine in the Kaaba as you glow in idols’ abodes I am trapped in my mosque-temple distinction).
(Noor, shama, diya: in all faiths remember, Light is among the attributes of the Divine).
No major problems, Bhagwatji, I’ll come running to Hindutva’s headquarters. My only problem is a little insecurity, that little voice which keeps telling me I am being naive, gullible and silly. It keeps jolting my memory, asking awkward questions. Perhaps you can help me with some answers.
I eagerly await your assurances.
Javed Anand is co-editor of Communalism Combat and general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy