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Muslims must open their minds to stay politically relevant

The era of political expediency and the consequent appeasement of the minority community is now gone

opinion Updated: Oct 05, 2017 18:50 IST
Indian Muslims,Triple Talaq,Polygamy
A women's convention on triple talaq and shariah law in Bhopal. The architecture of Muslim theology needs a serious revisit(PTI)

The Muslim political power in the Subcontinent came to a close with the fall of the Mughal empire. But the downfall didn’t descend in a flash from the heavens. Muslims manufactured it for themselves. By the time the British dismantled their political power, Muslim society was a moribund creature. A decayed society and a depraved politics in the East was no match to a thriving West. The empire fell, and with that panic seized Muslims. It’s still panic-stricken. The response to the happenings, like the recent judgment on triple talaq, is an expression of the same panic. What perpetuates this panic is the inability of Muslim mind to undertake reform. It’s a complete withering away, leaving Muslims incapacitated to participate in and with the changed world.

The blossoming of a people is contingent on an interminable flowering of mind. This is the substance of a people when they are alive. After the decline, Muslims are fighting for dead symbols, without caring for substance. The decision on the validity of permanent separation between the spouses, as a result of uttering the word ‘talaq’ thrice in a go, has once again brought to light the mortal affliction of Muslims – ignoring the ever vital substance and chasing the long dead symbols.

The aftermath of the decision on triple-talaq in the Supreme Court has once again raised some cardinal questions. Who are the Indian Muslims and what is their future in India? The bun fight in TV studios and triumphalist expressions of the BJP send a message: Deep recesses of Muslim society are no more a no-go area for the State structures. The era of political expediency, and the consequent appeasement of Muslims, that the Congress was accused of, is gone. The new politics has turned things upside down.

With the political value coming to naught, is it time to zero in on Muslim society. When Kemal Ataturk announced the abolition of the Ottoman caliphate, Indian Muslims were crestfallen. A huge public mobilisation under the leadership of religious and political elite, later supported by Indian National Congress also, in the end was a total failure. This great failure sapped Muslim energies. As a collective, their worth in the anti-colonial struggle within India was at its lowest. The Indian freedom movement, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, didn’t cease its anti-colonial fight. It signalled that politics in India will chalk out its own course regardless of what Muslims think, and do.

From here onwards Muslims developed some deep political responses. One, to be an active part of the Indian National Movement. Two, think of a separate and self-contained politics, and fight against any designs of subsuming the Muslim society into a larger mass of Indian society, that being Hindu by way of numbers. Third, an understanding that Muslims comprise a global community and any divisions in the name of nationalism were antithetical to its society and politics.

There were three broad responses that shaped up the future politics of Muslims in the Subcontinent. One, it ended up nourishing itself from the waters of Indian secular politics, for decades led (misled) by Congress. Second, it resulted in the division of territory, and partition of people. Decades later, the third response came to be known as political Islam.

Muslims rushed to the frontiers to ward off dangers when the peril was at the core. Muslims predominantly looked at it as a case of Hindu India, or a Christian West, or a godless USSR, scheming against their faith. They hardly looked into the fallacies of their knowledge systems, and the decay of mind.

They never thought that maybe they are the problem. Living in the excitement of past glory, Muslims engaged with the world in a state of rage, frustration, and denial. All this was wholeheartedly supported by a theological discourse, of which triple-talaq is a remnant. Muslim politics is captive to that theology. This architecture of Muslim theology needs a serious revisit. That will announce the opening up of the Muslim mind. Muhammad Iqbal was the person who emphasised this almost a century back, just some years after the failure of Khilafat movement. A century later Muslims are where the man left them. The mind is shut, the limbs shattered.

Mehmood ur Rashid is opinion editor, Greater Kashmir

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Oct 05, 2017 18:50 IST