By Sultan Shahin, Editor New Age Islam
03 September, 2014
(This article was first published by Hindustan Times on
May 15, 1995
. It is being reproduced in view of the current debates in India on the so-called Love Jihad.)
Five-year-old Rahul is in love with six-year-old Zainab. Though a philanderer, he appears quite serious in this case. Innocent and touching as their childhood affair is, it suffers from adult vices. They are not prepared to accept each other as they are. (Both names have been changed.)
Male chauvinist Rahul wants Zainab to put a bindi on her fore-head. Fanatically Muslim Zainab wants him to convert to Islam. Left to herself, this is what Mani Ratnam's heroine in Bombay, would have demanded. Mindless reciters of the Holy Quran do not sacrifice their religion for the sake of love. They blackmail their lovers into conversion to Islam.
Islam specifically forbids any kind of compulsion in matters of religion. The Quran is very clear on this point: La Ikraha fid Deen. And yet Muslims suffer from a kind of mania for conversion. The conversion mania is virtually a part of the Indian Muslim psyche. It all starts from early childhood. If you chose to be born in a Muslim family, you don't need to use your mind for the rest of your life. Your religion, your philosophical outlook is all pre-determined. You need not know God to believe in Him. You need not read the Quran in a language you can understand to be a firm believer in its being the final word of God.
Indeed the less you know about the teachings of Islam the more devout a Muslim you would be considered. And may God have mercy on you, if you try to follow the Islamic instruction to think, think and think and acquire knowledge. Even if you do think and acquire some knowledge, please be careful not to talk about what you think. For you will not only get excommunicated, you may even be done to death. Even being born in secular India is no real help. Vote-bank politics has ensured that a thinking Muslim, who is bound to be in a microscopic minority, remains unprotected.
All that one needs to be a good Muslim in India is a king-sized ego. A very negative ego. An ego that tells you that you belong to a chosen community, the Ummat-e-Muhammadi. While the rest of humanity will go to Hell, literally, no matter how many good deeds the non-Muslims do, you will go to Heaven eventually, no matter how many evil deeds you do. If you are evil and a Muslim all that you need fear is a brief stint in Hell. The fact that you belong to the community of God's beloved Prophet Muhammad will ensure that you eventually reach Heaven where you will be allowed to indulge in all the pleasures that are forbidden on earth. You can drink as much wine as you want. You can fornicate with as many women as you want. Indeed God is reduced to a supplier of wine and women for the Muslim residents of Heaven.
Such a view has nothing to do with Islam. But it has not been difficult to spread this outlook among the ignoramuses that constitute the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Most of them cannot read at all. Those who can read the Quran read it in its original Arabic version which they do not understand. Those who can read and understand have a vested interest in spreading this un-Islamic view. Even a scholar of Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar's standing is credited with the celebrated remark that even the worst Muslim is better than a Mahatma Gandhi, for the former would eventually go to Heaven and the latter won't.
With such a world-view, it is not surprising that a Muslim would do anything to ensure a room in Heaven. He is told that converting even one Kafir (non-believer) to Islam would ensure his place in Heaven, no matter what else he keeps doing in the world. No wonder that though Islam specifically prohibits forcible conversion, an average Muslim would keep seeking a place in Heaven through this easiest of routes. And the easiest of preys are the ones who have had the misfortune of falling in love with such Muslims. Or those who happen to work for them. Or those who depend on them in any way.
I speak from personal experience. The very day I was born, a Maulvi Saheb was called to recite some verses of Quran in my ears. I was supposed to have been converted to Islam. No one sought my opinion. My mother tells me I protested violently against this intrusion into my privacy. But to no avail. Fortunately this forcible conversion did not leave a lasting impact. As I grew a little older I started resenting being forced to pray to a God I did not know or understand. This was when I started my dialogue with God, although it remained a monologue for a long time. As I stood up for Nemaz, I would close my eyes and express the following sentiments: "Dear God, I do not believe in you. I do not even know if you exist. I don't think at the moment I am even capable of understanding you. But if you do exist and can hear me, please understand that I am not a hypocrite. I am standing for prayer only out of fear of being scolded and beaten up. I do not have the physical strength to stand up to these ignoramuses who are forcing me to do something I do not understand. But please don’t consider me a hypocrite. I am not doing it either as a show-off, as many I know do. And, above all, if you do really exist reveal yourself to me, let me know you, understand you and pray to you." I used to pray along these lines very fervently and my father thought I was a very devout Muslim.
My next experience of forcible conversion came much later. My best friend in London had to convert to Islam in order to marry his lady love. Everybody in Suraiyya’s family was delighted that she had finally landed a berth in Heaven. Raj couldn't care less. Lies came to his lips easily. The Imam from Birmingham mosque asked him several times if he had studied Islam and understood what he was doing. Raj assured the Maulana that he was a willing convert. I knew better. I hung my head in shame. The dignity of Islam is lowered on all such occasions. But to this day Suraiyya doesn't understand why I, a Muslim, should be unhappy about it, why I should continue to call her husband Raj, though she had changed his name.
My next experience was to be even more personally embarrassing and shameful. As some newspaper readers would recall, I was sacked from the editorship of a magazine on my refusal to force my Hindu wife to convert to Islam. The people running this magazine are considered the most enlightened, secular elite of the Indian Muslim community. The Chairman of the Board of directors is the renowned Islamic scholar and divine, Maulana Ali Mian Nadvi. My successor as chief editor of the magazine is a retired IAS officer and former vice-chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, Syed Hamid. My appointment had been confirmed after an interview by the then publisher of the magazine and now minister of state for external affairs, Mr. Salman Khurshid. Another person who had interviewed me was the well-known economist and former AMU vice-chancellor Prof. A. M. Khusro. The managing director of the company that runs the magazine is the owner of Shama/Sushma group of publications and a well-known secularist Mr. Younus Dehlavi. Another director with whom I worked closely is well-known accountant/politician Kamal Farooqi. Other people involved were similarly well-placed professionals, business executives and Non-resident Indian Muslims. None of them could resist the temptation of buying a cheap berth in Heaven.
Coming back to poor Rahul, he is bewildered. He is not conscious of being a Hindu. He doesn't know what conversion to Islam implies. His parents are non-committal. His loving grandfather has, however, given the green signal. Love is the highest of all religions, he says. Any sacrifice is worth making for the sake of love. Fair enough. But make sacrifices for the sake of love, Rahul, not for the sake of marriage. I hope you acquire enough courage to resist emotional blackmail, sagacity to accept others as they are and expect others to accept you as you are.
Courtesy: Hindustan Times