New Age Islam
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Islamic Ideology ( 2 Sept 2008, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Geelani and his ilk misleading Kashmiris: The only kafirs in Islam today are those who call others kafir

By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

Asian Affairs, London, September 2008


In the midst of protests and counter-protests in Jammu and Kashmir over a land dispute, an octogenarian Kashmir separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani has introduced a new and very volatile slogan of azadi baraa-e-Islam (freedom for Islam). He has also questioned compatibility of Islam with other faiths, reminding one of what he had written on the issue in his prison memoir Rudad-e-Qaf: 'It's as difficult for a Muslim to live in a non-Muslim society as it is for a fish to live in a desert.'


This is completely unacceptable and doesn't correspond either with facts of history or with Islamic edicts. Throughout their history from the time of the Prophet till now, Muslims have lived well with people of other faiths. Like any other living faith, controversies abound in Islam and one of the most controversial issues is the relationship of a Muslim with people belonging to other religions. Since in India Muslims have always lived next to a very large non-Muslim community, this issue has created even deeper controversies.


While there are Muslims, for instance, who would insist on treating Hindus as kafir (infidel), there are others who would insist that they should actually be treated as Ahl-e-Kitab, people bearing revealed books, a people who have a special place in Islamic theology and practice. It is one of the most serious and often-expressed grievances of Hindus that Muslims consider them kafir and it therefore becomes the religious duty of Muslims to either convert Hindus or kill them.


Disregarding the advice of some ulema (scholars) of his time, the first Arab to conquer parts of India, Sind and Multan made a good beginning, giving Hindus the same status as Ahl-e-Kitab, people with whom Muslims are supposed to have good social relations, including marital ones. But the question of the place of Hindus in Islamic theology has persisted since then. There are Muslims who have no reservations whatsoever in considering Hindus as Ahl-e-Kitab. In fact, anyone with any sense would see at a mere glance that Hindu scriptures are divine in origin. The question whether Sri Krishna, for instance, is an avatar (incarnation) of God or a messenger of God is merely an issue of semantics, though, of course, there are complex ideological debates over the issue. The important thing is that the message is certainly divine.


For us Muslims, Hindu scriptures are indeed our Adigranth (original scriptures). The Hindus, therefore, must be treated by the Muslims as Ahl-e-Kitab. This thought has been best expressed by Maulana Mohammed Ali in his monumental work, The Religion of Islam. While discussing the issue of marital relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, he says: 'As the Holy Quran states that revelation was granted to all nations of the world [35: 24], and that it was only with the Arab idolaters that marriage relations were prohibited; it is lawful for a Muslim to marry a woman belonging to any other nation of the world that follows a revealed religion.


'The Christians, the Jews, the Parsis, the Buddhists and the Hindus all fall within this category; and it would be seen that, though the Christian doctrine of calling Jesus Christ a god or son of God is denounced as shirk [partnership with God], still the Christians are treated as followers of a revealed religion and not as mushrekeen (religious deviants), and matrimonial relations with them are allowed.'


Important guidance on this issue comes from verses in the Holy Quran:

'Mankind was one single nation, and God sent messengers with glad tidings and warnings; and with them He sent the Book in Truth to judge between people in matters wherein they differed; but the People of the Book, after the clear signs came to them, did not differ among themselves, except through selfish conduct and hatred of one another.' (Sura al-Baqara - 2.21)


The doctrine of kafir and rejection of coexistence with the so-called kafir being spread by some obscurantist elements is thus patently un-Islamic.


In Urdu poetry the word kafir is used to describe the beloved, usually a beloved who spurns the poet's advances. The beloved can be haqiqi or mjazi, meaning spiritual or earthly, the object of love being either God or an earthling. Urdu's greatest mystic poet Mirza Ghalib says:


Mohabbat mein nahin hai farq jeene aur marne ka;

Usi ko dekh kar Jeete hain jis kafir pe dam nikle.

Khuda ke waste parda na Kaabe se utha zaalim;

Kahin aisa na ho yan bhi wohi kafir sanam nikle.


(In love, there is no difference between life and death,

We live gazing at the same kafir [beloved] on whom we die.

For God's sake, do not lift the veil from the face of Kaaba,

Who knows, maybe the idol of the same kafir is installed there.)


The Prophet, too, used the word kafir in a variety of ways. Ingratitude, for instance, was equated with Kufr. Similarly, excessive eating was considered by the Prophet as one of the attributes of a kafir. This would place nearly all fundamentalist ulema on the list of the kafiroon. According to the Prophet, a Muslim killing another Muslim is a kafir. All the so-called mujahideen in Afghanistan or Kashmir are thus also placed on the list of kafiroon.


Similarly, those Muslims who call Hindus, Christians, Jews, Buddhists or Parsis, etc. kafir may themselves be committing Kufr. In Islam, to believe in some prophets and reject others is condemned as Kufr:


'Those who say, we believe in some [prophets] and disbelieve in others ... these are truly non-believers [kafiroon] ... Those who believe in Allah and his messengers and make no distinction between any of the messengers will be duly rewarded ...' (4; 150-152).


Maulana Mohammed Ali thus rightly concludes: 'A belief in all the prophets of the world is thus an essential principle of the religion of Islam, and though the faith of Islam is summed in two brief sentences, “there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His apostle”, yet the man who confesses belief in the prophethood of Mohammed, in so doing accepts all the prophets of the world, whether their names are mentioned in the Holy Quran or not. Islam claims universality and lays the foundation of a brotherhood as vast as humanity itself.'


Following the teachings of the Prophet, the only people who can be called kafir today with a clear Islamic conscience are the ones who have the temerity to call others kafir. In fact, this places nearly all ulema belonging to different Islamic sects, who routinely keep calling each other kafir, on the list of kafirs themselves.


By propagating an Islam-supremacist view, and misguiding simple Kashmiris who have for generations celebrated their Kashmiriyat, of which pluralism is an essential part, Geelani and others of his ilk are spreading a falsehood about Islam and thus committing what can be called Kufr. The Prophet himself allowed a delegation of Christians of Najran to pray in their own way in his mosque, and in his very presence. Geelani's phoney slogan will take Kashmiri Muslims to a precipice from where they may not be able to return.

Source: Asian affairs, London