Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Badnami Revisited

The interest and response of the initial Badnami essay has been surprising and overwhelming. It is sometimes a source of unease for a writer to defend a position for which he believes is both true and necessary to be expounded. The Muslims of India Proper, that is to say their cultural norms in relation to the notions of who is and who is not suitable marriage partners for their sons and daughters remain infected with the jahiliyyah-derived practices of Hinduism. Furthermore, these cultural norms in relation to The Blessing of marriage in Islam reveal something about the Muslims of India Proper that is far more disturbing, ugly. Suitable marriage partners as well as a great many other positions within this particular society and culture is based on the socially constructed concepts of tribe and caste. This is antithetical to Islam, and while there are a great many problems within the Ummah from various locales and nations, we chose to highlight that of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and their respective Diaspora. Of all the comments made, the reluctance by which Muslims from of India seemingly sought to deflect the truth about themselves was astounding. Comments were made that pointed to the issues of others rather than the rightful acceptance of responsibility of the reality of a caste system, held over from Hinduism, which permeates the social psyche of Muslims within India Proper. The response was consistent: we were discussing them and not others.

There was just one comment of intelligence that requires a careful formulation. A sister from Canada stated: many of us face these types of circumstances, [but the author] didn't write anything about what we should or could do to overcome this. There are also sisters who wish to get married to religiously committed men, and don't necessarily care about the money and all that, but struggle due to family circumstances. It is with this that we intend to address, for it is the moral coward that merely answers the question as to why, without asking the all-important question of what shall be done. And for the Muslims of India Proper the arduous question is this: what shall be done to overcome the ancient notions of superiority and inferiority that a newborn child obtains into a caste system so rigidly defended that to challenge it can and often concludes in murder, or alternatively in immense familial pressure and ostracism that leads to a sense of isolation and possible disownment or renunciation? The first course of action is the most simply stated, and should be the naturally performed, by a group of people who claim to be submitters to The Will of God, Who Has Commanded that all human beings to accept the Universality of Brotherhood, in particular the Muslims. One could imagine a month in which all imams, khatibs, scholars, and true Muslim activists could speak about this issue during Juma’a; write articles, essays, blogs identifying the history of the problem and its un-Islamic nature; hold events condemning so-called honor killings that take place within India Proper; and finally, lobby the governments in the nations we reside making them aware of the problem and thereby easing asylum requests for individual couples seeking safety. However, we must never forget that this is a Muslim problem and Islam is its solution. We cannot look to the non-Muslim authorities to save and protect us, for it is enabling and emasculating to those of us who should lead in this effort, and a direct violation of Qur’anic Edict. This should be an issue larger than the Dutch cartoons. I have always found it quite hypocritical of the Ummah to be so enraged by the actions of a people of Dar al Harb, while the actions of those who should reside in Dar al Salaam, read Qur’an, memorize hadith, are direct violations of God and His messenger(SAAW) and certainly more heinous. The caste system by which Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Sri Lankan Muslims live their existence and determine who is, and who is not, fit to marry within their families is an act of disgusting proportions, as well as a sin against The Creator Himself. It is not Almighty God Who Has Made these castes, but a people of jahiliyyah who worship thousands of idols. Indeed, this is the worst condition for a human being to find himself-a polytheists, a true and unadulterated kafir-and this is who millions of Muslims of India Proper follow. In a 2005 interview, Ali Anwar said:

My perception of the reality of caste oppression, both among Hindus and Muslims, was further strengthened as I traveled around Bihar as a journalist, and this was reflected in the sort of articles that I began writing after Janshakti closed down and I joined Navbharat Times and later Jansatta and then Svatantra Bharat… In 1996 I received the K.K.Birla Fellowship for journalists to do a study on the Dalit/Backward Caste Muslims, a subject about very little has been written, although these Muslims constitute the vast majority of the Indian Muslim population. Owing, among other factors, to caste prejudice, 'upper' caste Muslim writers, Syeds, Shaikhs, Mughals and Pathans, as well as non-Muslim scholars, have displayed little or no interest in writing about the non-ashraf Muslims. This is one reason why I thought it was crucial to write about them and to highlight their pathetic conditions and their struggles for equality and justice. And so I began traveling around Bihar to document the lives of the Dalit and Backward Caste Muslims in the state, the report of which was later published as a book in Hindi titled 'Masavat Ki Jang' ('The Struggle for Equality'). It has recently been translated and published in English and Urdu as well…An accusation that I have been hearing day in and day out. When we started our work we were branded as 'anti-Islamic'. Numerous maulvis, mostly of so-called ashraf background, branded as 'divisive' and 'dangerous' and appealed to Muslims to stay away from us. Urdu newspapers, almost all controlled by the so-called ashraf, also boycotted us, and refused to publish anything about us. However, today, perhaps because our movement has expanded and grown into a powerful force, their open opposition has somewhat declined. Let me set the record straight here. We Dalit/Backward Caste Muslims are believing Muslims. We take our faith in Islam seriously. Islam, as the Qur'an says and as the Prophet Muhammad showed in his own life, stands for social equality and justice. It is completely opposed to social hierarchy. So, when we are protesting against inequality and injustice, how can we be said to be going against Islam? On the contrary, what we are doing is, in my view, actually mandated by our religion. On the other hand, those who keep silent on the plight of the Dalit/Backward Caste Muslims are actually working against Islam, for they are indifferent to its mandate of social justice and equality. Among these are several maulvis who have elaborated fanciful theories to argue the case for caste hierarchy in the name of what they call in Arabic kafa'a! And few of these maulvis take any interest in our plight, being more concerned with the details of minor fiqh or jurisprudential issues or with promoting their own sectarian brand of Islam while denouncing other Muslim sects as deviant. Some so-called ashraf accuse us of dividing Muslims. They say that caste has no sanction in Islam and they accuse us of injecting the poison of caste into Muslim society. Such people are completely blind to social reality. Islam, it is true, has no conception of caste, but Indian Muslim society is, by and large, characterized by the existence of multiple castes. And the so-called ashraf, for centuries, have taken pride in being of foreign extraction, Arab or Iranian or whatever, and considering the other Muslims, who are all of indigenous Indian extraction, as being of 'low' caste. So, all this while the so-called ashraf have been championing caste and division among Muslims based on caste, but this does not strike our opponents as 'casteism' or as 'un-Islamic', but the moment we non-ashraf begin to speak oppose this system of ashraf hegemony we are dubbed as divisive and 'anti-Islam' and so on. This reaction is no different from that of many 'upper' caste Hindus, who brand the Dalit movement as 'divisive', accusing it of reinforcing caste, simply because the Dalit movement seeks to do away with 'upper' caste hegemony…When we are accused of dividing Muslims, our response is, 'You so-called ashraf have kept us divided for centuries by fanning sectarian (maslaki) differences. Why don't you put an end to this instead of telling us what to do? You have created and magnified these sectarian divisions for your own interest, to run your own little religious and political shops, for which you have not stopped even at promoting bloodshed and hatred. First you put an end to this sectarian hatred and division that you have created and then talk to us'.

Anwar statement leads one to believe that India Proper is in dire need of Islamic reform at the hands of a true Muslim dialectical theologian to rectify that which the misguided have already done and to purify the Ideals and Principles of Islam in the minds of the people. Inshallah, I pray such an individual will rise soon and be protected from murder of the very people he seeks to redeem, Ya Rab! India Proper needs more men like Ali Anwar and Tahir ul Qadri, Inshallah; as does the Ummah as a whole. The Ummah as a whole must force revolutionary, drastic change in India Proper with the same audacity of Gandhi challenging the British Empire. It is unacceptable that women are the victims of acid attacks and the Ummah remains silent. It is unacceptable that Bangladeshi girls are trafficked across the border to Pakistani and Indian brothels and the Ummah remains silent. It is unacceptable that  innocent people are killed by misguided and foolish Muslims who erroneously believe Paradise is their reward after blowing themselves up, and for the Ummah to remain silent. A Danish cartoonist makes pictures of the prophet Muhammad(SAAW) and there are riots in Pakistan, as if this Danish cartoonist can ever diminish the brilliance, the Gift, the man who is the best of creation(SAAW). And yet, when it comes to the sins by Muslims perpetrated against other Muslims, whether in India Proper or around the world, the Ummah remains silent. Subhnallah, we are truly living in the Dark Ages of being Muslim. Therefore, on the macro-level, there must be a concerted and coordinated effort to engage in events, writings, sermons, and du’a that seek to drastically alter the conditions within India Proper by those of us within the West and beyond.

On the personal level, the Muslims of India Proper must learn the power of the word: No! 

The Imam at the Muslim Center of Middlesex County married a Bangladeshi sister and an African-American brother because her family would not allow it for an un-Islamic reason. They did not attend the wedding. They rejected her. They would not meet their new son-in-law. I would imagine that the newlyweds prayed that Allah Changed the hearts of her parents, and a year later He (SWT) Did just that. They are a happy family now, and I was told this by Imam Ra’uf who is from the Diaspora of India Proper and one my favorite Muslims. The old adage of ‘everyone wants to go to heaven but no one wants to die’ must ring and echo in the hearts of the beautiful sisters of India Proper. It is true that a great many of marriages amongst Pakistanis or Indians are most likely good marriages, and Alhamduilillah, other Pakistanis, and Indians are the byproducts of such unions. Please do not misunderstand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this at all; so long as it is for the correct reasons. For me personally, the correct reason is always loving another person for who they are at their essence.

Who is Isma’il ibn Bilal at his essence? I do not mean my skin complexion nor my heritage, which does provide me with a sense of pride. No, I mean the part of me that will never die, which is the passion or energy, which fuels my spirit. My favorite name of Allah’s Ninety-nine Names, besides Allah (which I translate into English as The One True and Living God) is Al-Wadud-The Loving Kindness. Wallahi, someone sent me something written by an unknown Muslim scholar in relation to the meaning of Allah, Al-Wadud. Al-Wadud means The One Who Loves; The One Who is The Source of All Love and Loving-Kindness; The Beloved; The One Who is The Most Affectionate. Wadud in classical Arabic is derived from the word wadd, which means to love; to be affectionate; to long for, to desire, to wish for. ibn Arabi wrote of four conditions, which correspond to the word love. The first, which is the descent of love, is called hawa; sudden desire or amorous inclination; then comes the condition called wadd, the constant or persistent faithfulness in love; next comes original love, hubb, which is pure love, in which the lover has no irada, or will, of his own and conforms without reservation to the will of the beloved; then finally, comes ‘ishq, blinding and captivating love, binding passion, that consists of love wrapped around the heart of the lover. This term, ‘ishq, is derived from the classical Arabic word, ‘ashaqa, which means climbing, like the grape plant that twists around the vine. In this way, binding love wraps around the heart of the lover, so his interests and desires are also that of his beloved. The lover is blind of any separation of himself and he who he loves. Of course, all human beings have this capacity, and for the believing Muslim his or her ultimate love should be for Allah (SWT) and His messenger (SAAW). However, I can speak of the love-the hawa I had for my daughters, which developed instantly when I laid eyes upon them for the first time, and how I went through each of the four conditions, so now like the grape plant and vine, my interests and their interests are inextricably tied. Every father, if he be a real, true father, has had this experience and never neglected his duty, his responsibility, and his trust with Allah.  I can speak, as I am sure, you can, of the love one has in relation to romance; or ideas, concepts, theories, food, music, etc.

I am a lover of wisdom-a philosopher-and I love Allah, His messenger (SAAW), and the Deen wa Dalwat of Islam. This has put me in a precarious position, in that I, and those who believe as I do, have a very different perception of the world than most. It goes without saying, that I am not perfect by any means or stretch of the imagination, but because I love Allah, I love the diversity He Created in the human race, while loving the equality of us all. Sayyid Qutb wrote in Social Justice in Islam:

Islam is not content with simply implying the concepts of freedom of conscience; rather, it emphasizes the principle of equality in word and text, so that everything may be clear and firm and explicit. There was an age when some men asserted their claim to be progeny of the gods, while others asserted that the blood which flowed in their veins was not of the nature of common blood, but was blue blood, royal or noble blood, and they were believed. It was an age when there were faiths and religions which divided the nations into classes; some were created from the head of god, and hence were holy, while others, having been created from the feet of god, were despised. A dispute centered around woman; had woman a soul, or had she not? It was an age in which a master was permitted to kill his slave or to punish him in any way, because slaves belonged to a different class of humanity from that of their masters. In this age Islam was born; it taught the unity of the human race in origin and in history, in life and in death, in privileges and in responsibilities, before The Law and before Allah, in this world and in the world to come; it proclaimed that there was no virtue except in good deeds and no nobility except in piety. That formed an unparalled revolution in human thinking, and it has continued to this day; it was the peak to which humanity has still not risen.

I often thank Allah (SWT) and submit to His Omnipotent Mercy that He (SWT) Allowed the death of Malcolm X, for if Malcolm would have lived to learn about the diseases within the heart of the Ummah, I truly believe he would have been severely heartbroken. For Malcolm to have challenged a society where he, and all men and women who shared his blood, were deemed unsuitable for marriage, certain jobs, loans for homes and businesses, or even to sit within two feet of the same lunch counter; for Malcolm to have combated that society, and placed so much of his hope and belief in Islam, and in Muslims, I am sure he’d been heartbroken to learn that even amongst Muslims he and those that shared his blood, would need to combat the same type of forces. To discover that culture and convention are idols worshipped by Muslims as gods other than Allah is heartbreaking.

Inshallah, dear Pakistani sister from Canada, you must summon the spirit that moved Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, and the first member of your family that answered The Call of Islam centuries ago in India. The first man or woman who said there is nothing worthy of worship except for Allah and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah (SAAW) in India, from which your life-force comes at Allah’s Leave. Think about the courage it took for them to do so-to take shahada. What if they were the first in the village? Imagine the isolation, the fear, the possible beatings, and hungry, cold nights. It took courage for Islam to spread into India, and it did not happen by mass conversion, but one individual soul at a time. Courage of the moral and political kind is the path that will lead to right action. I can think of nothing else to say, Inshallah.

Isma'il ibn Bilal

1 comment:

  1. From personal experience, I believe that those who find a potential partner whom they would like to marry, but is of a different cast/race/status, or whatever the case it is, need to work "together" to face the issue. And to bring their families back to the true teachings of Islam. Although, some parents can't comprehend that their children may be able to teach them something or even try to, it is important not to give up. But marriage is between two people,and therefore the issue needs to be addressed by the two people (that is, on a personal level). Our generation can be the ones who bring revolution, who return to the Quran and Sunnah, if we choose to, and I believe it has begun.

    May Allah Swt give our Ummah the strength and courage to speak up and stay on the guided path always.