By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam
31 May 2022
On my 14th birthday, my neuro-surgeon father and a devout Hindu, who wouldn't operate before praying to god, gifted me Dr B R Ambedkar's brilliant but proscribed book ' Riddles in Hinduism with the introduction by Kancha Ilaiah. ‘Imagine a Hindu religious father giving his son a book that's potentially disconcerting and explosive to the majority of Hindus. I dare say, the book is factually so unerring and logically so incontrovertible that by the time a sane and sensible Hindu reader reaches its last page, he or she will have left Hinduism. But will a Muslim father, however educated and erudite he may be, gift his son The Satanic Verses, written by Salman Rushdie? Please don't get me wrong. I've adduced my personal example to assert the religious maturity of erstwhile Hindus vis a vis Muslims. That today's Hindus have also become as moronic as most of the Muslims have been for 1400 years is inconsequential.
Now ignorant Muslims are baying for the BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma's blood for insulting and questioning Muhammad's alleged ascension to heaven (Shab e-Meraj) on a winged horse Buraq. Right from the beginning of Islamic history, this episode has been interpreted as an allegory and a metaphorical phenomenon by many Muslims as well as western scholars of Islam. So, why Muslims are so worked up when a woman questions the authenticity of this 'story'? We all have become religiously too touchy in recent terms. I remember reading and discussing a very polemic essay, Ganesher Proteek Bibechana (The symbolism of Ganesh) in Bangla by late Sunil Gangopadhyay, a complete atheist, at a coffeehouse on College Street in Calcutta. No Hindu took umbrage, though all were staunch believers barring yours truly. But around that time when The Satanic Verses hit the stands in London and Iran, all hell broke loose. Fatwas were issued to kill Rushdie.
Even Somalia-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who's a complete atheist today and lives in Holland, screamed from her rooftop to kill the apostate Rushdie for insulting Muhammad! This is a collective religious frenzy now all are afflicted with. Islamic scholar Dr Rafiq Zakaria wrote a very sensible essay urging Muslims to keep restraint as Islam doesn't approve of killing even those who insult Muhammad. 'Let Allah decide and determine the punishment for the transgression/s. Believers have no right to assault and kill one who has insulted Allah and his Rasool,' he (Dr Zakaria) sagaciously wrote and appealed.
We all seem to have been consumed by religions and their 'revered' characters, who we see and treat as infallible idols. So much so that all sensible people have begun to question the validity as well as utility of religion and god. Recently, a very educated Tamil Nadu couple got a 'No religion, no caste' certificate for their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Vilma. Hats off to them for such a bold decision! Let others also emulate this couple. This reminds me of the eternal Ilhadi (atheist) Sahir Ludhianvi's immortal words from the song ' Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega...' (Film, Dhool Ka Phool, 1959): 'Aachha Hai Abhi Tak Tera Kuchh Naam Nahin Hai/Tujh Ko Kisi Mazhab Se Koi Kaam Nahin Hai/Jis Ilm Ne Insaan Ko Taqseem Kiya Hai/Uss Ilm Ka Tujh Par Koi Ilzaam Nahin Hai ' (Good that you don't have a 'religious' name/You've no truck with any damn faith/The 'knowledge' that divided people/ Still has no bearing on you).
Alack, the ill-evolved humans are fighting and fussing over something and someone they never saw. They're blinded by their irrational faiths and otiose Books. We don't realize that religion, caste, country, nationality, province etc. are mere accidents of birth.
This immature woman Nupur Sharma, who's defending her religious beliefs and casting aspersions on Islam, could have been a Muslim by the name of Nadira or Salma had she been born into a Muslim family. Then Muhammad would have been her alpha and omega in life and Islam her heartbeat.
I remember an elderly Muslim gentleman's (now an atheist and lives in Lisbon) words of wisdom, "Insaan Ye Kya Mera Deen, Mera Khuda, Mera Mulk Aur Mera Ilaqa Karta Phirta Hai? Uska Apna Kya Hai? Uss Mein Toh Intikhaab-E-Ism Ki Bhi Himmat Nahin Hai...." (What is this rubbish about my faith, my god, my country and my province? What does a man have as his own? He can't even choose a name for himself......that's also given to him by his parents!).
Indeed......what does a man have as his own? All that we've is inherited from our parents and troglodyte ancestors living in stone-age. Yet for our Aasmani Book, Aasmani Khuda or Bhagwan, we've been shedding blood of innocent people for thousands of years! No pontification, but this reminds me of Abdul Hamid Adam's famous couplet, " Jisne Iss Daur Ke Insaan Kiye Hon Paida/Wahi Mera Bhi Khuda Ho Mujhe Manzoor Nahin " (One who has created such bovine humans, can never be my god) and the same god or Allah, if at all IT does exist, smirks to have created a weird world like this: Takhleeq-E-Kaaynaat Ke Dilchasp Jurm Par/Hansta Toh Hoga Aap Bhi Yazdaan Kabhi-Kabhi. Be a human and care for your fellow humans. Your Ram, Muhammad and god have the wherewithal to protect themselves from all dangers and abuses. Don't lose your sleep over perceived insults to your god and religion. Grow up and do something that can ameliorate the collective fate of mankind.
An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian.
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