Chapter 8: Muslim Culture in Pakistan and India by Mazheruddin Siddiqi
(Mazheruddin Siddiqi is Reader and Head of the Department of Muslim History, University of Sind, Hyderabad, Pakistan)
The Arabs had commercial relations with southern India long before Islam, and their commerce by sea continued -- along with missionary activity -- after the appearance of the Holy Prophet. The Muslim Arabs first settled on the Malabar coast about fifty years after the Hijrah, toward the end of the seventh century A.D., at a time when South India was agitated by religious conflicts and political instability. Islam, with its simplicity of faith and clarity of doctrine, made a tremendous impression on the Hindu mind, and within the first twenty-five years many of the people, including the King of Malabar, had accepted the new religion.
Although the commerce by sea continued, the main route by which Islam came to India was overland through Iran and Central Asia. During the Caliphate of Umar the land approaches to India were explored, but Umar’s policy did not countenance expansion into India. It was under the Umayyads that the first efforts were made to invade India.
For convenience in discussing the rise of Muslim culture in Pakistan and India we may divide the history into four periods: the period before the Mughals; the Mughal rule of almost two centuries; the period of disintegration; and the past century, which includes the British rule and the creation of Pakistan. Before
To 933 (A.D 1526)
The first Muslim invasion of India took place during the reign of the Umayyad Caliph Walid (87-97; A.D. 705-15) who sent Muhammad Ibn Qasim on an expedition into Sind, the area which then included most of what is now the Punjab. Although Sind was at that time governed by a Brahman f amity, the religion of the common people was Buddhist. The Buddhists were suffering serious religious, social, and economic disabilities under the Brahman rule, as is shown by their petition to Qasim for the right to worship in their Buddhist temples as they used to do. Muhammad Ibn Qasim treated the Hindus very generously, keeping Hindu ministers and police inspectors in his service, but he was soon recalled and after his departure many of the Hindu feudal princes revolted against the Caliph’s authority.
The first Abbasid Caliph sent an army into Sind to oust the Umayyad governor, and the second Caliph, Mansur, sent another expedition which founded the garrison town of Mansura. During the time of the Abbasid Caliph Mamun (198-218; A.D. 813-33) many Arab families migrated to Sind, founding a large Arab colony. Later, as the power of the Abbasid Caliphs declined, Sind became a neglected province governed by petty princes who acknowledged the Caliph only as their spiritual head. The two principal Muslim kingdoms of Sind were at that time Multan and Mansura.
The real history of Muslim India begins with Mahmud of Ghazna, ruler of a small Turkish kingdom in Afghanistan which had become independent when the Samanid Empire collapsed. Mahmud led seventeen expeditions into India from 391 to 417 (A.D. 1000-1026). The rule of the Arabs in Sind came to an end in 396 (A.D. 1005) when Mahmud of Ghazna sent an army of Turks and Hindu mercenaries under Abdu’r Razzaq to uproot the power of the Qarmati Ima’ilis, who seem to have gained considerable influence there. The Punjab was annexed to the Ghaznavid Empire and ruled from Ghazna, but Mahmud’s successors, faced with the rising power of the Seljuq Turks, could not hold it.
The dynasty which laid the permanent foundations of Muslim rule in North India was that of the Ghorids, rulers of a small mountainous state in Afghanistan. Ghori conquered Mukan in 572 (A.D. 1176), defeated the last Ghaznavid king of the Punjab, and in 588 (A.D. 1192) gave a crushing blow to the remnants of the Rajput Hindu princes. His Turkish slaves who served as leaders of his armies carried on his work and consolidated the Muslim power with the conquest of Banaras and Bengal, carrying Muslim rule to the east coast of India. After the death of Ghori, one of the Turkish slaves, Qutbuddin Aibak, assumed supreme power and became the first real Indian Muslim Emperor and the founder of what was called the Slave Dynasty.
The Slave Dynasty was an oligarchy of Turks which jealously kept the doors shut against the non-Turks. They were replaced by the Khilji Turks who came to power in Delhi in 689 (A.D. 1290). Under the Khiljis the distinction between Turks and non-Turks vanished, and all avenues to power and office were open to Indianized Muslims, converts and nonconverts. They extended Muslim power much farther into southern India than ever before. The farthest southern extension of Muslim rule came under the Tughluqs, who held power from 720 to 815 (A.D. 1320-412) and pressed their invasion almost to the southern tip of the continent. It was during their dynasty that Timur invaded northern India in 801 (A.D. 1398) and created chaotic conditions which weakened the control from Delhi. The Sayyids ruled for a time after the Tughluqs, only to be supplanted by the Lodhis, an Afghan tribe which exercised authority until they were ousted by the Mughal invader, Babar, who defeated the last of the Lodhis at the famous battle of Panipat in 933 (A.D. 1526).
The Muslim culture in Sind did not receive much influence from its Arab rulers since the center of the Arab Empire was in Damascus and then in Baghdad, so far from the Sind that the Arabs paid little attention to their distant eastern provinces. The chief Arab influence centered in the garrison towns established after the departure of Qasim in an effort to retain some measure of control over the local rulers. The Arab tribes which settled there left some influence on the language of Sind, but little is known about them. After the establishment of the Fatimid rule in Egypt, toward the end of the third century (A.D. 909), Isma‘ili preachers began to enter Sind and established a particularly active following. A family of these Isma‘ilis, perhaps of the same blood as the Druzes of Syria, founded a separate Kingdom near modern Thatta. Later the Isma‘ilis gained a foothold in Multan, which had long been under Sunni rule. The name of the Fatimid rulers was recited in the Friday addresses at Multan and in other centers of Isma‘ili influence.
There were several Sindhi Muslim scholars of note in this period, men whose influence extended to Iraq where the people thought highly of their learning. Their judges were also noted for their mastery of Hadith. The school of Hanafi came to dominate the whole province of Sind to the exclusion of all other systems of jurisprudence. Two Sindhi poets, Abul Ata and Abu Zila, attained great fame. The Arab poets were generally bilingual, writing in both Sindhi and Arabic. Some of the poetic compositions of the Sind were transmitted throughout the Arab Empire, and it is related that famous Arab poets visited Sind or sent their poems to the governors there. The development of literature and poetry in India was quickened by the coming of many scholars who were driven from their homes in Iran and Transoxiana by the Mongol invasions. Outstanding among the immigrant scholars was the famous historian al-Biruni, author of the epoch-making Kitabul Hind.
Under the Arabic rule the official language used for governmental and commercial dealings in Sind was Arabic. The educated classes used both Arabic and Sindhi, but the common people spoke only their own mother tongue. With the rise of Persian power, the Persian language gained a firm footing in Sind along with Arabic, with the result that modern Sindhi, written in Arabic script, contains more than fifty per cent Arabic and Persian words.
Since no schools are mentioned in the accounts of travelers of that time, it is assumed that there was no regular system of education in Sind other than the mosques which served as centers of learning, as they did in other parts of the Muslim world. Uchh, however, seems to have been a busy center of educational activity, for when it was conquered in 614 (A.D. 1217) it is recorded that the conqueror carried away to Delhi a large number of Sindhi scholars.
The kings of Delhi before the advent of the Mughals were absolute autocrats. Some of them even defied the shari‘a which placed limitations on the absolutism of rulers. Most of them, however, respected the religious law and some, like Firuz Tughlaq, went to unreasonable lengths in their orthodoxy. Their relations with the Abbasid Caliphs varied according to the inclinations of individual rulers. Even when the power of the Abbasid Caliph was reduced to a shadow the Indian rulers maintained their allegiance, as is shown by the fact that the Caliph’s name was struck on the coins and prayers were offered for him in the Friday services in the mosques.
There were usually two religious departments under the pre-Mughal rulers, each of them headed by an officer of the highest rank whose authority came directly from the monarch. One department dealt with the administration of mosques, the supervision of waqf funds, and financial aid to schools and Sufi lodges. The other was the department of the judiciary, in which the judges followed the provisions of Islamic law with complete freedom from the encroachment of executive authority.
The Sufis generally were favored over the ulama because they kept aloof from politics, while the religious scholars sometimes could set limits to the authority of the rulers. Most of the kings of Delhi were ardent devotees of the Sufis. Two great Sufis, Salar Masud Ghazi and Shaikh Isma‘il, came to India in the fifth century (eleventh century A.D.) and won thousands to Islam in spite of the fact that there was as yet no Muslim ruler in India. Another great mystic was Moinuddin Chishti who was born in Samarkand and came to India sometime before the establishment of the Ghorid dynasty. There he laid the foundation of the Chishti order of Sufis, which is even today the most popular Sufi order in Pakistan and India. His tomb in Ajmer is visited annually by hundreds of thousands of Muslims and many Hindus.
The Suhrawardi order of Sufis which was founded in this period differed from the Chishtis in laying greater stress on the observance of religious law. It disapproved of the particular type of music and dancing usually sanctioned by the other Sufis. Two other orders, the Qadiri and Naqshbandi, also gained widespread influence in India in pre-Mughal times.
The impact of Islam on Hinduism made itself felt in the reform movements it inspired among the Hindus in the third to the sixth century (ninth to twelfth century A.D.). These movements, associated with the names of Sankara and Ramanuja and their followers, appeared first in South India as a result of early contacts with Muslims who came to India as travelers and merchants, before there were any Muslim conquests in southern India. It was only later that the reform movements spread to the north where the rulers were Muslim. The early influence of Islam on Hinduism seems to have come chiefly from observing the Sufi practices and the rites and customs of Muslims in their daily life.
The Mughal Period
933 to 1119 (AD. 1526-1707)
The Mughal period begins with the battle of Panipat in 933 (A.D. 1526), in which Babar’s decisive victory over the Lodhis made it possible for him to establish his rule at Delhi. Babar, who was descended from Timur, was a Turk and proud of his lineage. He spoke both Persian and Turkish, but since the Mughals were already saturated with Persian culture before they came to India, it was Persian rather than Turkish which was the vehicle of literary expression. Many scholars and poets from Khurasan and neighboring lands settled in India after the invasion of Babar, and soon the Mughal court became the center of intense literary and cultural activity.
When Babar died in 937 (A.D. 1530) he was succeeded by his son Humayun, a man of taste, of learning in astronomy and mathematics, and the founder of the first schools and colleges in Mughal India. But Humayun’s rule was brief, for he was driven out by Pathan forces and compelled to take refuge in Iran. He later returned and reconquered northern India with the help of the Iranian monarch.
The real history of Mughal India begins in 963 (A.D. 1555) when Akbar, son of Humayun, came to the throne. His Persian teacher and guardian, Bairam Khan, consolidated Mughal rule in India while Akbar was still in his teens. Akbar had the genius to attach to himself many native Hindus of administrative experience, one of whom created the Mughal revenue system which continued with some modifications under the British rule. At the beginning of the eleventh century (seventeenth century A.D.) the territory governed by Akbar was one of the best administered in the world and cultural pursuits flourished as never before.
After fifty years of rule Akbar was followed by Jahangir, who reigned from 1014 to 1038 (A.D. 1605-28). Shah Jahan, famous as the builder of the Taj Mahal, was emperor from 1038 until 1070 (A.D. 1628-59), when the control of the government was taken over by his son Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughal emperors, who died in 1119 (A.D. 1707). Although the Mughal rule continued after Aurangzeb, it was a prolonged period of disintegration, which lasted until the Mutiny of 1274 (A.D. 1857).
It was under the Mughals that Muslim rule in India was finally consolidated. Although some fresh conquests were made in southern India, the main center of Mughal power remained in the north. Since they came from Central Asia, where they were within the range of Turko-Iranian culture, the Mughals had imbibed many Iranian influences. Babar called himself Padishah, an Iranian title for king which implied that he was not the democratic chief of a few Turkish tribes but was an autocratic Iranian sovereign. The Mughal power structure rested on a heterogeneous Muslim aristocracy composed of newcomers from Transoxiana (where Bukhara and Samarkand had long been centers of Arabic Islamic culture), of Iranian noblemen seeking careers in the newly conquered country, and of the Turkish and Afghan aristocracy who were already entrenched in India but now removed from supreme power. The Mughals themselves were a microscopic minority, but were able to maintain their control. For a long time immigration from Central Asia and Iran continued -- until the foreign Muslim aristocracy in India became Indianized, and then foreigners were no longer welcome.
The Muslim aristocracy was feudal in character, depending on levies enlisted from the middle and lower classes of Muslims, usually of the same nationality as the feudal leader. Thus Afghans would never enlist themselves in the feudal levies commanded by the Iranian Shi‘a nobles. In this way separatist and sectarian trends were fostered among the other members of the Muslim minority of India, the people on whom the Mughal power ultimately depended. The Mughal emperor who ruled over this mixed population was an autocrat bound by no law and admitting only the slight restraint imposed by the Islamic shari‘a which was never allowed full sway. The emperor could take the life and property of his nobles whenever he was displeased with them, a thing which would never have been possible under the rule of the shari‘a. Thus the Mughal state was in no sense an Islamic state. It was primarily an Iranian autocracy with a few Mongol and Turkish features added.
The Mughal system of administration was patterned on the Abbasid government as adapted to Indian needs. The emperor was the spiritual as well as the temporal head of the state. He had a Vizier, or Chief Minister, aided by secretaries, but no cabinet of ministers. The chief of the religious department occupied an important position as the guardian of Islamic law. He awarded lands and stipends to religious scholars, schools, and colleges and was charged with the duty of helping the needy. The chief judge was the highest judicial officer, overseeing the Qadis and Muftis who tried and decided the civil and criminal cases of the Hindus and Muslims. They were chiefly concerned with the administration of sacred law based on the interpretations of the four Muslim schools of law.
Literature and poetry were assiduously cultivated under the patronage of the Mughal court. Mughal rulers such as Babar and Jahangir were themselves literary men of high distinction, and their courtiers included men of great learning and collectors of large libraries. Persian poetry under the Mughals reached a high degree of perfection with famous Indian poets who could stand comparison with the best poets of Iran. The use of the Persian language has left a permanent influence on Indian languages and gave birth to Urdu, one of the great languages of India and Pakistan today. Historians of this period wrote works which are immensely valuable sources of information to scholars of modern times. Many translations from Indian languages into Persian were made under the patronage of the Mughal emperors, notably the translation of the Mahabharata and Ramayana under Akbar. Akbar’s interest in religion was so extensive that he had the Bible translated into Persian for the first time.
The Mughal period was marked by the rise of new religious movements in Islam. At the time when the Hindus were taking to new ways of religious thought, the Muslims were shaken out of their lethargy by the Mahdavi and Roshni movements. Sayyid Muhammad of Jaunpur, who was born about 982 (A.D. 1574), claimed to be the Mahdi, the Expected One. The followers of this movement organized a brotherhood in which all members enjoyed equal rights. At the same time the Roshni movement arose in Afghanistan. Although both of these movements created militant groups in which the leader claimed temporal and spiritual power, they did not leave any appreciable marks on Muslim religious thought. The Mahdavi sect still exists in India and Pakistan as an insignificant minority group.
Much more important were the consequences of the religious controversy created by the emperor himself and some of his courtiers. Akbar believed that he needed closer social contacts with the Hindus, for he was of the opinion that Mughal rule in India could not rest for long on the strength of the Muslim minority unless it had the active support of the Hindus. This led him to adopt many Hindu customs and abolish the customary poll-tax on non-Muslims. Muslim orthodoxy, however, was firmly entrenched and Akbar’s new policy started a religious struggle whose effects outlasted him.
After about 983 (A.D. 1575) Akbar began to show unusual interest in religious discussions, largely as a result of association with some of his courtiers who were free-thinkers. Akbar erected a special hall where religious discussions were held with scholars of all views and schools. The controversies could not, of course, be restricted to the differing views of the Sunnis and Shi‘as, or the conflicts of the various schools of law. Soon the fundamentals of religion came under discussion and Akbar felt dissatisfied with the existing state of religion. He then began to invite people of all religions to take part in the discussions. Even the Christian fathers from Goa, represented by Aquaviva and Monserrate, came to join this debate, but they failed to influence Akbar. Gradually he was led to assume the mantle of a religious leader. He issued a decree of infallibility which made him the supreme arbiter in matters of religion and then went a step further by promulgating a new religion compounded of Muslim, Hindu and Christian elements. In the new religion Akbar required the followers to prostrate themselves before the emperor and forbade circumcision, prohibited the use of beef, and discouraged the growing of beards. Eighteen of his courtiers joined the new religion but all the rest kept aloof. In the end, Akbar achieved only the exasperation of the ulama.
Akbar’s religion died with him, but some of its ideas lived and found an echo during the next two generations. Dara Shikoh, the son of Shah Jahan, was in his early life influenced by the liberalism of the Sufis, as distinct from the orthodoxy of the ulama, and later began to take increasing interest in the Hindu religion. Under his inspiration, several of the Hindu scriptures were translated into Persian, and he was himself the author of many books on religion, including a biography of Sufis and saints, and a treatise on the technical terms of Hindu pantheism and their equivalents in Sufi theology. He also tried, under the influence of the Sufis, to arrive at a synthesis which would reconcile the opposition between Islam and Hinduism. The Sufis, though many of them were orthodox in their practices, verged more and more toward pantheistic ideas congenial to the Indian mind. Their theology provided a common ground between Islam and Hinduism.
Such tendencies spurred the orthodox party to muster enough strength to play a leading role in the defeat and assassination of Dara Shikoh at the hands of his brother Aurangzeb, who was his rival for the throne. Aurangzeb was largely influenced by the religious ideas of Shaikh Ahmad of Sirhind, who played a prominent part in reestablishing Muslim orthodoxy and combating Sufi deviations from Islam. Shaikh Ahmad’s son was a close associate of Aurangzeb. The reaction which set in following the appearance of Shaikh Ahmad inspired Aurangzeb to order a codification of Muslim law by bringing together the scattered elements of Hanafi law found in the legal decisions of the Muftis. This stress on the juristic aspect of Islam is plainly a reaction against the deviating Sufis and Muslim free-thinkers whose attitude toward Muslim law had loosened the bonds of social and religious discipline.
The ideas and teachings of Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi are important in the history of Islam, for he has left a permanent impression on Indian Muslim thought. Shaikh Ahmad, now called the Twelfth Renovator, was born in the Punjab in 1002 (A.D. 1593). After completing his religious education he joined the Suhrawardi and Chishti orders of the Sufis, but later he became a member of the Naqshbandi order. Shaikh Ahmad was quick to perceive the spiritual degeneration which had overtaken his contemporaries, the Sufis as well as the ulama. While the Sufis, under the influence of Ibn Arabi’s philosophy, had come to believe in the doctrine of the unity of existence and were prone to abolish all distinction between God and man, the ulama were under the spell of a narrow legalism which led to interminable disputes on minor points of law. Both, according to Shaikh Ahmad, had lost the moral fervor of Islam.
Shaikh Ahmad regarded the Sufis as more dangerous than the ulama for he clearly perceived that all the commandments of religion are based on a distinction between God and His creation. If creation were unreal and God alone had existence, as Ibn Arabi maintained, then the need for religion and law vanish, and, what is more important, life and existence would become matters of little moment. No wonder that the Sufis sought refuge in the doctrine of annihilation in God, leaving mundane matters to be attended to by worldly-minded men. Therefore, Shaikh Ahmad set himself to disprove the philosophy of Ibn Arabi and put forward the contention that the mystic experience of the unity of God and the world is an illusion. He affirmed the existence of the world as a separate entity which is the shadow of a Real Being. This philosophy was directed against the pantheistic ideas of the Sufis, which were influenced by Ibn Arabi and drew largely upon Hindu sources.
Shaikh Ahmad’s writings gained for him a considerable following, both at the Mughal court and in the army. Jahangir for a time took strong steps to check his pervasive influence but, faced with an uprising by one of his army chiefs who was an adherent of Shaikh Ahmad, came to terms with him. It was agreed that all of the non-Islamic practices adopted by Akbar, such as prostration before the emperor and the prohibition of beef, should be stopped at once. Jahangir afterward became a devoted follower of Shaikh Ahmad, and thus Muslim orthodoxy was able to reassert itself after a brief eclipse.
Under the Mughals education depended on private initiative. The emperors and their nobles encouraged education by grants of land and money to mosques, to lodges which served as residences for religious training, and to individual saints and scholars. The mosques invariably had primary schools attached to them. Jahangir promulgated a regulation that whenever a rich man or traveler died without heir his property would go to the crown to be used for repairing madrasas and lodges. Shah Jahan founded an imperial college at Delhi and Aurangzeb founded numberless colleges and schools. He gave extensive grants of land and money to develop a flourishing center of learning at Lucknow. Female education under the Mughals seems to have been confined to rich and learned families, especially the ladies of the royal house, some of whom were famous for the high literary quality of their writings. Babar brought with him the Byzantine architectural style, for the Turks and Turkish offshoots of the disintegrated Timurid Empire had long been in touch with the Greek states and the Balkan Peninsula. The pupils of Sinan, the Albanian architect famous in the Ottoman Empire, found their way into the kingdoms of the Timurid rulers. But Babar employed Indian stonemasons chiefly. Akbar adhered to the Persian ideas of art which he inherited from his mother and his father, who had lived in Persia, but his Rajput marriages attracted him to Hindu art traditions. Thus the Jahangir Mahal in Agra Fort and many of the buildings of Fatehpur Sikri, his projected capital, show unmistakable blending of Persian and Indian art types. Since craftsmen even from the Far East are said to have been drawn to the Mughal court and some acquaintance with Indonesian architectural styles through overseas pilgrim traffic and trade survived in the time of the Mughals, it is not improbable that Indian and Indonesian Buddhist survivals left their stamp on Mughal architecture.
The palaces and forts constructed by the Mughals are a mixture of Indian and Muslim styles, but the mosques and mausoleums are chiefly Islamic in conception and execution, with the dome and the pointed arch as their most characteristic features. Of all the Mughals, Shah Jahan holds the preeminent position in the history of Muslim architecture. His Special Hall (Diwan-i-Khas) and the Taj Mahal, which is the mausoleum of his wife, are the finest achievements of Mughal architecture. Among the characteristics of this architecture are the lavish use of marble and the decoration of walls and roofs with multi-colored carved and inlaid lacework.
The art of calligraphy received great encouragement from the Mughals, who had many famous calligraphers attached to the court. Even greater favor was shown to painters. When Babar conquered India, the popularity of the great Persian painter Bihzad was at its zenith. His style of miniature painting was the standard which Mughal painters chose to follow. After the return of Humayun from his enforced exile in Persia, the Mughal nobles took the Persian style of painting for their model, thus making Bihzad and his school the example as Persian art was engrafted on Indian painting.
Miniature painting is characterized by its intense individualism which shows no interest in masses and crowds or the interrelation of forms in their infinite multiplicity. It looks at every detail of the individual figure. Since this art form was born in the courts of Genghis Khan and Timur it naturally depicts scenes of battles and the hunt -- but chivalry and romance, youths and maidens dallying in gardens, and gorgeous receptions in princely courts are also represented, and of piety and mysticism there is no lack. The king and the beggar were the two poles around which the individual moved. The Sultan of today may be the darwish of tomorrow -- hence the frequency of the scenes showing the darwish living in the wild forest or the lonely cave, the darwish as the miraculous master leading fierce animals as if they were lambs, and the darwish dancing in the ecstacy of mystic joy. The supernatural was represented in the figures of Jinn, goblins, monsters, and fairies.
Period of Disintegration
1119 to 1274 (A.D. 1707-1857)
After the death of Aurangzeb in 1119 (A.D. 1707) the Mughal Empire went into a sharp decline. The various provincial governors became semi-independent, and the extent of Mughal rule shrank to Delhi and the adjoining areas. The anarchic conditions created by warfare among the provincial governors were further complicated by the rise of the Maratha power m the Deccan. The Marathas were militant Hindus in the Bombay province, led at first by the able Hindu leader Sivaji, who formed a small kingdom along the coast. During the period of anarchy following Aurangzeb’s death their kingdom was extended by a succession of able Maratha rulers until it became a formidable empire in the Deccan and threatened to engulf the warring Muslim leaders and their nominal sovereign, the Mughal emperor himself. Their power was crushed by the Afghan invader Ahmad Shah Abdali, in 1175 (A.D. 1761).
Meanwhile the English, along with the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French, had entered India as traders and obtained many commercial concessions from the Mughal emperors. As the Mughal authority declined, the Europeans’ factories became fortified settlements to protect their trading operations from the prevalent anarchy and disorder. The acquisition of Bengal by Clive after the battle of Plassey in 1117 (A.D. 1757), in which the independent Mughal Governor of Bengal was defeated, transformed the position of the British in India. They became then one of the many local powers contending for ultimate sovereignty. After the Mutiny of 1274 (A.D. 1857), in which the remnants of Muslim nobility rallied under the last Mughal Emperor of Delhi and suffered total defeat, the British rule was firmly established. The East India Company then gave way to the direct exercise of control by the British Parliament, and India became the brightest jewel in the British crown.
The disintegration of the Mughal Empire after the death of Aurangzeb went on rapidly, but the Muslim literature of this period shows no consciousness of the fate that was overtaking the Muslims. Age-old methods of education and the cultivation of established sciences went on as before because of the large endowments which learned scholars had received at the hands of the Mughal emperors. A significant feature of this period was the rise of the Urdu language and the creation of Urdu literature which took its place side by side with Persian literature. The new language was a combination of Hindi, Arabic, and Persian, its grammar and syntax being based on Sanskrit while its vocabulary was largely Arabic and Persian. Persian still retained its predominance as late as the period of the last Mughal emperor, when Ghalib, one of the most brilliant Urdu poets, still prided himself on his Persian odes and looked upon his Urdu poetry with shame.
Although it was a time of disintegration, the age of decline produced one thinker and scholar of great profundity, Shah Walliyulla (died 1180; A.D. 1766), rated by some as superior to Ghazali and Lbn Rushd (Averroes). Shah Walliyulla left an abiding impression on the development of Muslim thought. Both politically and intellectually the idea of Pakistan owes much to him because from his theories and practical activities arose the tides which were to lead to the Muslim struggle for independence. Alone among his contemporaries Shah Walliyulla was conscious of the period of disintegration through which Muslim culture was passing and recognized the need for a mental transformation to cope with the changing situation. He was quick to realize that the age of kings and monarchs had passed and the age of masses and democracy was within sight. He was conscious of the economic breakdown in Muslim society caused by the luxurious living of the rulers and upper classes among the Muslims. His writings contain unmistakable hints of his antimonarchical and socialistic tendencies.
His first work was the Persian translation of the Qur’an with commentary. Up to that time the Qur’an had not been accessible to the average educated man in his own language. This was a daring innovation in the light of the ultraconservative temper of the times and Walliyulla had to face the full brunt of the public fury excited by the ulama. He followed his translation of the Qur’an with a work on the principles of Quranic exegesis, the first attempt made at the scientific study of the Qur’an. In an attempt to popularize the scientific study of the Hadith, Walliyulla wrote two commentaries on the works of Imam Malik, choosing him because in his opinion Malik’s work was the foundation on which the superstructure of Hadith had been reared. His object was to simplify the unwieldy and complex material of the Hadith and thus reduce the conflicts among the recognized schools of Muslim law. Since Malik’s writing takes account only of the traditions which bear on legal matters, Walliyulla seems to confine genuine Hadith to purely legal traditions and to treat the rest of the corpus with all its complexities as of subsidiary importance.
In the realm of jurisprudence, Walliyulla’s main work was concerned with reconciling the conflicts and differences among the four recognized schools of jurisprudence. In a tract on The Differences Among the Jurists Walliyulla shows that the supposed differences are more apparent than real if they are referred to the main source of Muslim jurisprudence, the science of Hadith. In drawing attention to Hadith as the accepted modes of juristic deductions, but also gave a new impetus to the science of Hadith and paved the way toward the formation of a new school of thought, known as the People of the Hadith, a school which rejected the authority of the jurists and sought direct guidance from the Hadith in matters concerning Islamic law.
At the same time Walliyulla attempted to reconcile the two rival schools of mysticism, the one pantheistic under the influence of Ibn Arabi and the other which followed Shaikh Ahniad Sirhindi in maintaining the transcendentalism of Islam. The pantheistic school believed in the identity of the Creator and the created, while the rival school held to the generally accepted view that the relation between the two was one of opposites. Walliyulla showed that these differences were trivial and at a deeper level there was much in common between the two schools. It is obvious that he was distressed by the growing disunity of the schools, both juristic and mystical, and by the sectarian conflicts to which Muslim society had fallen prey. He was in search of a unity that could make the Muslims what they were intended to be -- a compact body of believers inspired by the unity of spiritual ideals.
The same urge for unity led Walliyulla to write a work in which he deals with the political theory of Islam and refutes the doctrines of the Shi’a sect. The significance of the book lies in its insistence that Islam is not a matter of personal loyalties but a movement in which loyalty to ideals is the decisive factor. This point was emphasized because Walliyulla seems to have felt that the Shi’as had from the outset given a highly personal turn to religion by taking their stand on loyalty to the house of Au, which logically involved a condemnation of all those members of the Islamic community who did not believe that the succession to the holy Prophet was an exclusive privilege of his family.
Shah Walliyulla’s most important work contained, for the first time, the germs of a theory of natural religion which was to be developed later by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, and the beginnings of a revolutionary socialism which was to be used by Ubaidulla Sindhi, who was a tireless commentator on Walliyulla and a great revolutionary leader at the time of the Pakistan movement. Here for the first time is presented an evolutionary concept of Islam. Walliyulla begins with the primitive social organization as the primal unit of social life and goes on to develop four stages of civilization, each rising upon the other and growing out of it. In the first stage man rises above animal life by adopting the use of tools to provide for his basic needs. When he has learned to provide for his primary economic needs he rises to the second stage of social organization, with markets and villages. The third stage is that of city life, which requires a higher form of social organization and brings into existence law and order and government which applies moral and legal sanctions to protect the social organization. Thus morality replaces custom. But the growth of independent cities and small kingdoms leads to frontier disputes, intercity rivalries, and warfare. This leads to the fourth stage, when man is forced to develop international law and international agencies to solve his difficulties.
It is in the fourth stage that religion comes into prominence because city life exposes men to all kinds of temptations arising from the ample leisure and wealth of the richer classes. As the social evils multiply and the exploitation of the lower classes increases, the need for religious morality is recognized and the penal laws of religion come into force. According to Walliyulla, Islam made its appearance in the fourth stage of human evolution at the opportune moment, when the Roman and Persian civilizations had crushed the natural equality of mankind and the exploitation of the poorer classes by the rich had become almost unbearable for large masses of mankind. The entire life mission of the Prophet of Islam was the destruction of the Roman and Persian ways of life and the substitution of a juster social and economic order.
Thus Walliyulla builds his concept of Islam on ideals rather than on personalities. In his writings Islam becomes a social and religious movement arising out of the natural needs of man. At the same time he shows signs of a universalism remarkable for a man of his times and surroundings. He says that the permissible and the forbidden in Islam are equally matched by similar commands and prohibitions in all other societies, for the innate moral sense of man is the same in all religions and societies. He also explains the penal laws of Islam as arising from the needs of Arabian tribal society, and as based on the national sentiments of the Arabs. He repudiates the common misunderstanding that the laws of religion have nothing to do with man’s natural reason or needs. Walliyulla likens a moral and religious preceptor to a physician who enforces restrictions in diet on his patients to cure them of their maladies.
Walliyulla’s political and intellectual outlook bore fruit in what is incorrectly known as the Wahhabi movement. The leader of this movement was Sayyid Ahmad of Bareli (died 1246; A.D. 1831) who started as a disciple of the Walliyulla family and soon assumed the role of spiritual and temporal leadership. With members of the Walliyulla family as his supporters he toured northern India and attracted large masses of Muslims. Although he traveled to Mecca he does not seem to have made contact with the Wahhabis there, for they were under a ban at that time. He fought against the prevailing practices among the Muslims, such as the worship of saints and other social customs which had no religious sanction. The Punjab was then under the rule of the Sikhs who made life impossible for the Muslims there. Sayyid Ahmad and his follower, Shah Isma‘il, who was a prominent member of the WalliyulIa family, fired the Muslims of northern India with a burning zeal to overthrow the Sikh power which was suppressing the Muslims and interfering with their religion. After some phenomenal successes with the help of the frontier tribesmen of Peshawar and adjoining districts, the movement suffered a serious defeat due to the betrayal of Sayyid Ahmad by his tribal followers and the disunity of the party caused by minor religious and juristic differences. He and his disciples were killed in 1246 (A.D. 1831), but the movement spread to other parts of India, particularly to Bengal where it led to a clash with the British. Though suppressed by force of arms and economic pressure, the memory of this great upsurge lived for a long time.
After the Mutiny, when the Muslim freedom movement was finally crushed by the British, the remnants of the defeated party sought to revive the Walliyulla tradition and build up a fresh movement for the freedom of Islam. They established the famous religious and educational institution at Deoband which produced many distinguished religious leaders and scholars and still carries on a precarious existence in India. Deoband was really the recruiting ground for a new movement for freedom, with educational activity secondary to their main purpose. In later years it served as a center of Muslim orthodoxy, but it also created religious leaders who did not hesitate to make common cause with the Hindus in an effort to wrest power from the British. Muslim orthodoxy, in general, remained so firmly anti-British in outlook that it could not reconcile itself to the Muslim League politics which it suspected of being pro-British. However, under the growing menace of Hindu communalism a not inconsiderable section of the religious leadership came forward to support the Pakistan movement.
While the Walliyulla school gravitated more and more toward religious conservatism in sharp contrast to its original stand -- largely because of its anti-Western bias -- and soon became merged in the general Muslim conservatism, a pro-Western group of Muslims was taking shape under the leadership of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan.
The British Period and Partition
Since 1274 (A.D. 1857)
Throughout the early British period, the Muslims of India suffered a terrible economic, educational, and political loss, as they were suspect in the eyes of their new rulers and much too conscious of their erstwhile political, intellectual, and cultural superiority to be able to accept their new position. While the Muslims lost in the economic, political, and educational spheres, the Hindus made corresponding gains all around due to their realistic acceptance of the new order and their freedom from a false sense of pride. The British also favored the Hindus at the expense of the Muslims.
A new era of Muslim cooperation with the British was inaugurated by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University. Muslims began to turn increasingly toward Western education and the acceptance of Western ideas, even though they had to face the full opposition of conservative Muslims, to whom modernism was anathema. The Hindus, who had become by this time economically very powerful and educationally much more advanced than the Muslims, were not slow to enlist the support and sympathies of the Muslim conservative classes in the political struggle which they were beginning to launch against the British with the aim of gaining political power for themselves. But a large majority of the Muslims, under the leadership of Sir Sayyid, were suspicious of Hindu motives, particularly because of their communal and revivalistic outlook. Sir Sayyid, for that reason, discouraged Muslim participation in the Indian National Congress which was agitating for home rule under the British.
The Balkan wars, the invasion of Tripoli, and the dismemberment of Turkey after the first World War, however, dealt a severe blow to the concept of British -- Muslim cooperation envisaged by Sir Sayyid. Muslim feeling was so embittered by the British attitude toward the Turks and Arabs that they increasingly turned away from their own political organization, the Muslim League, and joined the Hindu National Congress in large numbers. With the support and sacrifices of the Muslims, the Indian National Congress emerged as the most powerful political organization and was able finally to obtain self-government in the provinces. In 1937 the Congress formed its own ministries in seven of the eleven Indian provinces, but the Muslim supporters of the Congress were so disillusioned by the short period of Congress rule and its attempts to destroy Muslim culture and the separate sense of nationhood that they began to support the Muslim League.
When the Muslims found that the constitutional safeguards against the encroachment of the majority on the minority rights were of no avail against the formidable power of Hindu communalism, they became vigorous supporters of the Pakistan idea, which envisaged separate homelands for the Muslims in the northeast and northwest of India where Muslims had a clear majority. From the idea of Pakistan to its realization the way seemed difficult, but the justice of the claim was based on such strong grounds that when the British left India they were forced, despite the opposition from all Hindu parties and their own unwillingness, to accede to the demand for Pakistan, which became a reality on the fourteenth of August, 1367 (A.D. 1947).
The appearance of the West on the Indian scene some two centuries ago brought a new force with which both the Hindus and the Muslims had to reckon. Hinduism had already been influenced by Islamic monotheism, giving rise to such eclectic schools as the Sikh religion which sought to unite the Hindus and Muslims. To the impact of Islam was now added that of Christianity and the West. Among the Hindus this led to the rise of the Brahmo Samaj school led by Ram Mohan Roy. Like the Hindus, the Muslims also felt the impact of the new forces. Ram Mohan Roy had his Muslim counterpart in Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan. Just as Ram Mohan Roy had established a Hindu college in Calcutta, Sir Sayyid established a Muslim college at Aligarh in 1292 (A.D. 1875) which played a prominent role in the struggle for Pakistan. Free-thinking had its start at both institutions. Again, like Mohan Roy, Sayyid Ahmad entered into controversy with Christian missionaries and writers and developed in the process a naturalistic view of religion which earned for him the accusation by conservative Muslim leaders that he worshiped nature rather than God. Sir Sayyid gathered around him at Aligarh some leading Muslim intellectuals who sought to defend Islam not only against Christian missionaries but also against the conservative Muslim outlook which provided the occasion for Christian attacks on Islam.
Sir Sayyid’s chief work was his series of addresses written in reply to Sir William Muir’s Life of Mohammad. In his first address he says that some scholars have likened religion to the prescriptions of a doctor who does not create any properties in the medicines but only points to such as nature has putin them. Shah Walliyulla, he regrets, has rejected this view, but he himself believes in the truth of this simile. He also expressed the opinion that the term Islam should not be applied to those juristic decisions which have been accepted by the Muslim community. Real Islam consists of those clear and specific injunctions of the Holy Prophet which do not admit of differing interpretations. These injunctions are of two kinds -- those which constitute the inner core of religion and are in full accord with the laws of nature, and others which form a protective cover to the original commands.
In the sixth address Sir Sayyid clarifies his stand concerning Hadith. He says that authentic Hadith is of three kinds: that which accords well with the Qur’an, that which explains Quranic verses, and that which consists of commands which are not mentioned in the Qur’an. Concerning the last category he says that the Prophet himself made it clear that except for the Qur’an no part of his speech should be treated as a divine inspiration. The divine inspiration, he says, is limited to those matters which relate to the Prophet’s religious mission, such as ethical rules and descriptions of Heaven and Hell. Lest this should be taken as a wholesale rejection of Hadith, Sir Sayyid advocates closer scrutiny of the Hadith relating to the personal habits and social circumstances of the Holy Prophet, as well as the Hadith bearing on political and administrative matters. He says that unless there is sufficient reason for the acceptance of such Hadith, we are not bound by any of them.
Sir Sayyid urged the Muslims to develop a new science of dialectics to counter the atheistic trends produced by Western civilization, and in 1292 (A.D. 1875) he wrote a commentary on the Qur’an in which he rejected the conception of Islam as a code of rules and regulations which, he said, cannot stand the test of scientific scrutiny. He claimed that the Qur’an cannot be disproved by any fresh development in the field of knowledge. His commentary produced a sharp reaction from the conservative sections of the Muslim community and spurred them to produce their own rival commentaries. Ahmad Khan was also involved in a controversy with the Christian missionaries which led him to write a commentary on the Bible, in which he showed that many Muslim religious scholars, such as Bukhari, did not believe that the words of the Old Testament and the New Testament had suffered from interpolation at the hands of the Jews and the Christians. This again produced a storm of indignation among the conservatives, who held to the dogma that the words of the Bible had been changed. They were particularly antagonized because Sayyid was attempting to prove that true Christianity did not differ materially from true Islam. But the Christian missionaries also did not like the book because it repudiated the doctrine of the Trinity and condemned the Christians for their rejection of the Prophet of Islam.
Thus Sir Sayyid created a trend in Muslim thought toward the rejection of Hadith and toward a theology based exclusively on the Qur’an, a trend which ultimately resulted in the formation of the school of thought which rejects all other sources of authority than the Qur’an. Walliyulla had already turned Muslim attention to the Hadith as the real source of Islamic jurisprudence as opposed to the decisions of the jurists. Sayyid went further and brought Muslims direct to the Qur’an. He also made a great contribution toward understanding between Muslims and Christians by writing articles which dealt with the lawfulness of Muslims taking Christian food and associating with them in social affairs. It was rather bold on his part to indulge in such writing at a time when the Muslim sense of pride had been so deeply wounded by Western supremacy.
Although Sayyid could not prevail against Muslim orthodoxy, he set in motion a trend of thought which produced free-thinkers like Ameer Ali, whose The Spirit of Islam expresses similar sentiments. It is significant that Ameer Ali calls himself a neo-Mu‘tazilite, one who believes that there is no inherent conflict between reason and revelation.
Among the colleagues and disciples of Sir Sayyid one of the most outstanding was the historian Shibli, who wrote scholarly biographies of the Holy Prophet and of several other religious leaders such as the Caliph Umar, Abu Hanifah, and Ghazali, thus awakening the Muslims of India to a sense of their glorious past. He laid the foundation of the Nadva, a rival educational institution at Lucknow, because he felt that Sir Sayyid was taking the Muslims much too far from their proper religious outlook, and because he felt that religious education should be combined with secular education. Although it was a religious institution, English and some modern subjects were also taught at Nadva, but it could not rival Deoband which was founded earlier by Walliyulla’s followers. It was much less conservative than Deoband, because of the slight secular bias of its curriculum.
Among the disciples of Shibli was Abul Kalam Azad, who soon rose to prominence as a writer of great power. He was a profound scholar of Arabic and Persian who developed a highly ornate style of Urdu prose and edited two weekly papers from Calcutta. This was the period of the Balkan Wars and the invasion of Tripoli by Italy, before the first World War. The atmosphere was charged with anti-Westernism due to the attitude of the European powers toward Turkey and the crusading zeal of the Christian powers. It was natural, therefore, for the Muslims of India to turn away from the pro-Western attitude fostered by the writings of Sir Sayyid and his colleagues. Even Aligarh, the center of Muslim freethinking, succumbed to the religious frenzy of the day. In Azad, the Education Minister of the Government of India until his death in 1377 (A.D. 1958), the Muslims found an exponent of the pan-Islamic doctrine. Azad’s early writings exercised great influence on the minds of Indian Muslims. He created a lively interest in the study of the Qur’an and became the earliest exponent of political concepts based on it. He was also responsible for the later anti-intellectual trends in Muslim thought and the religious emotionalism of the Muslims of India which was not always healthy in its effects. Although he later abandoned his pan-Islamism and became a vigorous champion of Indian nationalism and secular politics, his earlier writings had so deeply influenced the Muslim mind that he could not turn the Muslims away from the paths into which he had led them.
Azad’s last work was an incomplete commentary on the Holy Qur’an in which his literary style bloomed in full vigor. But unlike his previous writings, the commentary added further to his unpopularity because he attempted to find a common ground between Islam and other religions. This was offensive to Muslim sentiment because it brought Islam to a level with other religions.
Among those who came under the influence of Abul Kalam Azad was Sir Muhammad Iqbal (died 1357; A.D. 1938), the only philosopher of modern times produced by the Muslim world. It is strange that while Azad, the product of religious •education, became an ardent nationalist and moved toward a secular outlook, Iqbal, the product of Western education, grew to be a fiery pan-Islamist and advocated a return to the religious and political ethics of early Islam. Iqbal’s poetry is full of the religious emotionalism which characterized the Muslim thought of this period. He wrote his poems both in Urdu and Persian, particularly in Persian because he sought to address his appeal to the entire Muslim world. Among his Persian poems, The Secrets of the Self and The Mysteries of Selflessness are the most thought-provoking. In these two poems he presents a theory of the self which is plainly a reaction against the doctrine of self-annihilation developed by Muslim mystics under the influence of non-Muslim religious thought.
Iqbal seemed to attribute the decline of Muslim culture to the enervating philosophy of self-annihilation which had led the Muslims to despise the conquest of material forces. He argued from the Qur’an and early Muslim history that Islam is a doctrine of self-assertion which teaches man to work for the attainment of worldly power and to attempt the conquest of the self and the non-self. This power philosophy led him to formulate the ideal of the superman. His idea of the superman is obviously derived from the philosophy of Nietzsche, but it is given a new form by Iqbal who called his superman the Man of Belief. This Man of Belief was armed both with spiritual and material power. Iqbal stood for the fusion of the material and the spiritual and criticized Nietzsche because his superman accepted no moral or spiritual limits to his power. The same union of the spiritual and temporal characterizes Iqbal’s concept of the state and, on the same ground, he opposed the concept of Indian nationalism and the secular philosophy of the state associated with it.
Iqbal’s thesis was that the spirit is dynamic, not earth-rooted. The spiritual view of life, therefore, repudiates nationalism for nationalism is earth-rooted and is opposed to the principle of movement which is one of the fundamentals of Islamic teachings. The migration of the Holy Prophet to Medina typifies to Iqbal the dynamic nature of Islam, with its freedom from geographical and racial limitations.
Iqbal’s only prose work is a series of lectures entitled Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam. This book shows how much Iqbal had been influenced by Western philosophy. From Bergson and Nietzsche he derives much of his anti-intellectualism, giving primacy to will and conation over reason, while his philosophy of the self is largely based on McDougall’s psychology. In giving primacy to love over reason, Iqbal follows in the footsteps of the Muslim Sufis whom he nevertheless opposes for their self-denying and self-annihilating trends. In claiming for intuition a higher place than reason, Iqbal defends revelation, on which all religion is based. However, Iqbal does not repudiate reason in its entirety and even criticizes Bergson for his anti-intellectualism. He stands for the fusion of the heart and mind.
Iqbal was not unaware of the fact that the Muslims of his age were going through the same process of mental transformation that had taken place in Europe during the Age of Reformation. He therefore welcomed the advent of liberal ideas but warned that "Liberalism has a tendency to act as a force of disintegration." In the same lectures he cautioned the Muslims against the rising tide of Muslim protestantism. "A careful reading of history shows that the Reformation was essentially a political movement, and the net result of it in Europe was a gradual displacement of the universal ethics of Christianity by systems of national ethics." He also moderated his anti-nationalistic views in those lectures when he said, "It seems to me that God is slowly bringing home to us the truth that Islam is neither nationalism nor imperialism but a league of nations."
Iqbal not only prepared the necessary intellectual atmosphere for the Pakistan movement but also played a leading role in the agitation for Pakistan. He was the first leader to realize that no amount of constitutional safeguards would avail against the menace of Hindu communalism and that the only solution of the Hindu-Muslim problem was the partition of India into predominantly Muslim and Hindu areas. Mr. Muhammed Ali Jinnah, hitherto a nationalist, was so much impressed by his discussions with Iqbal that he took up the cause for Pakistan and made it a live issue from then on.
While thinkers like Sir Sayyid and Iqbal were dealing with the problem posed by the impact of the West, a religious conflict was in progress because of the activities of the Christian missionaries and militant Hindu movements like the Arya Samaj, both of them trying to win Muslims to their own faith. Out of the religious and theological discussions between Muslims and the Christian and Hindu missionaries was born the Qadiani movement, founded by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was born in 1251 (A.D. 1835) at Qadian in the Punjab. He proved his mettle in discussions with the Christian and Hindu Arya Samaj missionaries and as a result gained many followers and admirers. Emboldened by his success he claimed at first to be the double of the Christian Messiah, and later -- about 1311 (A.D. 1893) -- he said that he was the Christ whose second coming had been promised. At the same time he maintained that he was still a follower of the Prophet of Islam and a non-lawgiving prophet, and since he brought no new law and adhered to the law of Islam as interpreted and codified by the jurists, he claimed to be a good Muslim. He also denied that Muhammad was the last prophet, a basic article of faith with the Muslims. As he gained a strong and well-organized following he went further and claimed that a true Muslim must believe that he, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, was a prophet.
Among the doctrines which caused conflict between the Qadianis and the general body of Muslims was Ghulam Ahmad’s rejection of jihad, holy war, as one of the principles of Islam. He stood for cooperation with the British power and would not countenance any attempt to undermine in the name of Islam the British hold on India. The doctrine that the holy war was not necessary was, of course, pleasing to the British since those were the days when the Indian Muslims were carrying on agitation to restore the Caliph of Turkey to his temporal power. Because Britain was considered to be responsible for the dismemberment of Turkey and the overthrow of the Caliphate, the Muslims of India were calling for jihad. But the pro-British attitude made the Qadiani movement unpopular and its adherents remained largely a local group confined to the Punjab.
The opposition to the Qadianis was often most virulent. Even Dr. Muhammad Iqbal joined the fray in his last days when Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the leader of the Indian national movement, entered the lists and sought to defend the Qadianis. Iqbal wrote a long letter to the Pandit in which he made out a case against the Qadianis, the main charge being that the Qadianis did not look to Mecca as their spiritual home but to Qadian. They were, therefore, opposed to the spirit of international Islam and belonged to a purely Indian religion. The growing unpopularity of the Qadianis resulted in their social segregation, which led them to adopt an increasingly exclusive attitude toward Muslims in general, sometimes even declaring them pagans. The moderate Qadianis, however, treat Muslims as people of the book, just as Muslims look upon the Christians and Jews. They are now a minority of less than half a million people.
The unpopularity of the movement led to a split among the Qadianis when a group called the Lahoris seceded under the leadership of Maulana Muhammad Ali and Khwaja Kamaluddin. Those two men founded the Ahmadiyyah Association to preach Islam, an organization which is still active. The Lahoris do not believe in the prophethood of Ghulam Ahmad, maintaining that he was a Renovator -- but the general body of Muslims do not notice much difference between the Qadianis and the Lahoris, both of whom refuse to intermarry with Muslims. The main service of the Qadianis to Islam consists of their defense of Islam against Christians and the Arya Samaj Hindus and their vigorous missionary activity in Western countries. The Lahoris had a mission in Berlin before the second World War. The mosque in London also achieved some notable results. In the United States the Qadianis have succeeded in getting a few Negro converts. The Qadiani organization is at present controlled from Ribwa, a small town in the Punjab which is peopled exclusively by the followers of Ghulam Ahmad, whose successor, known as the Second Messiah, is the head of the organization.
In the triangular conflict between Muslim modernism, Indian secular nationalism, and communism, another religious and political movement was born, led by Maulana Ab’ul A’la Maudoodi (born 1322; A.D. 1904). Islam was being subjected to the two-pronged attack of the communists and the Indian secularists. The communists prophesied the downfall of all religions; the secularists reduced religion to a few private beliefs and rituals and denied that any social order could be built on the basis of religion. In his autobiography Pandit Nehru declared that there is no such thing as a Muslim culture distinct from modern international culture. What distinguishes the Muslim from the Hindus, he said, is a particular kind of dress and a few remnants of Mughal refinements which will soon be swept away by the scientific and international culture of the modern age. At the same time a few Muslim freethinkers, led by one Niaz Fatehpuri, were attacking traditional Islam and concentrating their criticism on the Hadith and medieval jurisprudence.
Maudoodi took up the cudgels on behalf of Islam. He had been an editor of a Muslim Congress magazine and was recognized as a polished writer, even though he had neither the formal scholastic training of a religious seminary nor the Western training of an English school. He began by publishing a monthly Urdu magazine from Hyderabad in the Deccan. Hyderabad, under the Muslim dynasty of the Nizams, had become a center of Muslim culture and Urdu literature and poetry after the establishment of Usmania University, the first institution to use Urdu as the medium of instruction in higher education. In his magazine articles Maudoodi developed a dialectic which, though it could not silence the triple attack of communism, secularism, and modernism, was yet able to meet them face to face. None of those three schools had produced as able an exponent of their doctrines as Maudoodi. His articles over a period of years exercised great influence on youthful minds and made many converts from the modernists and Muslim communists -- but very few from the Muslim nationalists, since they belonged to religious orthodoxy and were not inclined to listen to the young Maudoodi.
Iqbal himself was impressed with the dialectical ability of Maudoodi; it is said that he called him to the Punjab, where Maudoodi settled in 1357 (A.D. 1938). Soon after he arrived Iqbal died and Maudoodi moved to Lahore where he continued to edit his magazine and write books and pamphlets in his popular, lucid style. While still in Hyderabad he had written a book on Holy War in Islam, a comparative study of Islamic laws on war and modem international law. He also had written a series of articles on Islam and nationalism in which he denounced nationalism as contrary to Islam, maintaining that the Muslims are not a nation but an international party with a universal creed and a definite social and economic program.
Maudoodi entered the lists against the Muslim wing of the Indian National Congress by writing a book on Muslims and the Present Political Struggle, in which he argued so forcefully against the stand taken by the Muslim Congress that the Muslim Leaguers hoped he would come over to support the Pakistan movement. But Maudoodi maintained his opposition to all kinds of nationalism, whether Indian or Muslim. He wanted a true Islamic state, not a mere displacement of Hindus by Muslims. He maintained that unless the Muslims developed a truly Islamic outlook and underwent a great mental transformation, Pakistan would not be Islamic in the real sense of the word. He charged that the program of the Muslim League did not differ from that of the Indian nationalists except that the Muslim League stood for the material uplift of the Muslims while the Indian nationalists worked for the uplift of the Hindus. Muslim nationalism, he said, was no better than Hindu nationalism because its values, outlook, and program were drawn from the Western concept of nationalism and had nothing to do with the international creed of Islam.
In a tract on The Process of Islamic Revolution Maudoodi said that a true revolution must be preceded by a great mental transformation and be led by men who believed and practiced Islamic ethics and stood for equal rights for all human beings, who did not exploit the basic emotional side of man’s nature for their immediate ends, who did not preach national hatred and economic rivalry, who exemplified in their daily lives the Islamic virtues of piety and God-consciousness. He charged that the Muslim League leaders were utterly lacking in those virtues and that their outlook was purely nationalistic and Western. The Muslim League made the fight with the Hindus a struggle for power, office, and economic and commercial interests. But Islam requires preaching, suffering, and struggle. Unless the issues at stake were ideological and spiritual, rather than territorial and political, the Hindus would feel no attraction for Islam.
A considerable number of Muslim intelligentsia, particularly those who had no deep acquaintance with Western civilization, were so much influenced by Maudoodi’s writings that he was able to form a party of his own in 1360 (A.D. 1941). Only those were admitted who fulfilled the minimum requirements of Islamic doctrine and practice, and they had to go through a probation period. Not many joined, but a considerable number came forward as sympathizers.
During the last years of the British rule in India another religious thinker, Maulana Ubaidulla Sindhi, came into prominence. He was born in 1289 (A.D. 1872) in a Sikh family, but early in life he left his birthplace in the Punjab and accepted Islam. He received his education at Deoband and then was sent to Kabul, where he founded the Kabul branch of the Indian National Congress and maintained contacts with Indian fighters for independence who had gone into exile in Moscow and Berlin. He spent some time in Russia and then moved to Turkey, where he greatly admired the work of the Turkish revolutionaries. For a considerable time he lived in Mecca, devoting himself to the study of Walliyulla. Through the intercession of the Indian National Congress he was permitted to return to India while the British were still in power, but he was not popular with the Congress because he objected to the Hindu revivalism which characterized the work of Mr. Gandhi. He believed that India should be a multinational country in which the people should be given the largest possible amount of cultural, linguistic, and political freedom. This was contrary to the one nation creed of the Indian National Congress and its policy of centralization.
Ubaidulla’s main contribution lies in popularizing the philosophy of Shah Walliyulla, whom he believed to be the greatest thinker of Islam. Ubaidulla did not gain much following because he was torn between opposing forces and tried to reconcile too many conflicting doctrines. By nature a revolutionary, by training an orthodox Muslim, he yet admired international communism and Turkish secularism and tried to combine them with Walliyulla’s program of a religious revolution based on the true teachings of the Qur’an, a revolution which would follow the model of the international revolutionary party built by the Prophet of Islam.
A significant movement which came into prominence some time before the partition was the Khaksar movement led by Inayatulla Khan Mashriqi of Lahore. This was a militant organization which seems to have been influenced by Iqbal’s philosophy of power. Its object was to create military discipline among the Muslims, looking back to the early Islamic tradition when every Muslim was a soldier of God. The movement was very popular because of its religious color, military discipline, the habits of simple living it inculcated, the unconditioned obedience to leaders which it enjoined upon its followers, and its utter disregard of rank and riches in the enforcement of its discipline. But the leader, Mashriqi, seemed to have no clear objectives.
The Khaksars first interfered in the conflict between the Sunnis and Shi’as at Lucknow. Lucknow had long been the seat of a Shi’a ruling dynasty before the coming of the British and was noted for Shi’a fanaticism which was much more pronounced than that found among the other Indian Shi’as. Some of their practices, such as their public condemnation of the first two successors of the Holy Prophet, injured the feelings of the Sunnis. The Sunnis retaliated by publicly praising the deeds of the first four Caliphs. This agitation, known as the praise of the Companions, created much Shi’a-Sunni bitterness. The Khaksar leader threatened both parties, urging them to stop the senseless agitation, and pitched his semimilitary camp at Lucknow, whereupon the Congress government of the province put Mashriqi in jail for a time. After he was released it was discovered that a member of the Khaksar party had been involved in an attempted assassination of Mr. Jinnah, which caused a great wave of resentment among the Muslims. The British government suppressed the movement because of their suspicion of its Nazi affiliations, and thereafter the movement died a natural death. Mashriqi passed into obscurity for a time but recently has staged a comeback in Pakistan as leader of a small party which is shorn of all militant aspects.
One of the most influential religious leaders in Sind today is the present Pir Pagaro, head of a branch of the Qadiri order of Sufis. In the past century, when Sayyid Ahmad led his followers against the Sikhs in the Punjab, the Pir Pagaro of that time offered him men and money. This party of warriors came to be known as the Hurs and developed martial traditions. Originally they were staunch followers of the shari‘a but later they developed heretical tendencies -- they believed that their leader was divinely inspired, that his word had the same authority as the Word of God. The rest of Pir Pagaro’s followers remained true to the shari‘a . There are about a quarter of a million followers of Pir Pagaro in Pakistan today.
Pakistan and the Islamic State.
Pakistan was created by the Muslims of India who believed that they should form a separate nation because of their history, religion, and culture. To the Hindu objection that religion could not be the basis of separate nationhood the Muslim League replied that Islam is not a religion in the usual sense of the word but it is at the same time a religion and a social order with a distinct culture of its own. Those of the religious leaders among the Indian Muslims who Supported Pakistan did so on the understanding that it would be an Islamic state where the social and economic principles of Islam would be implemented.
The party of Maudoodi at first opposed Pakistan on the ground that the Muslim League leadership, since it was composed of people who accepted Western concepts of social and political life, could not create a true Islamic state. After the establishment of Pakistan, however, they joined with some of the leading conservatives of the ulama and took up agitation for the promotion of a state which they could recognize as truly Islamic. The Maudoodi school by and large agreed with the time-honored concept of Islam as a complete social system with detailed rules and regulations which do not allow legislative freedom to the Muslims except in such matters as were not expressly touched upon by the Qur’an and the Hadith. The Muslim League and Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, were not altogether clear in their statements as to what an Islamic state should be in the modern world. Sometimes they spoke in purely secular terms and sometimes they expressed the view that Pakistan was created in order to enable the Muslims to live according to the Islamic principles of life.
The Objectives Resolution of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly, passed in 1368 (March, A.D. 1949), stated that all sovereignty belongs to God and that the Constitution of Pakistan would be framed in accordance with the principles of democracy as enunciated by Islam. The Resolution promised that the Muslims would be able to live their lives in accordance with the principles of the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah, and the religious minorities would enjoy full and equal rights of citizenship.
The Islamic concept of the state has been defined and interpreted in various ways, not all of which are easily reconciled. The religious classes, and particularly the followers of Maudoodi, seem to have a clear idea of the kind of social structure the Islamic state would create, but the secular elements raise several objections to their interpretation. They say that the Islamic state would be a theocratic state dominated by the Mullahs -- the conservative religious leaders -- and that the shari‘a cannot be enforced under modern conditions because the very attempt to enforce it would undermine the economic structure of the state based on modern finance and banking. They object that such an Islamic state would reduce the non- Muslims to a secondary position in the society and would introduce sectarianism in the body politic. It would also, they object, lead to a highly complicated and unwieldy legal system, since not only each religious community but also each sect within the community would have to be allowed full freedom to follow its own laws.
The initial popularity of Maudoodi’s party was greatly lessened when he said that the war in Kashmir could not be a jihad, a holy war, because no specific declaration of war against India had been made and all treaties with that country were still unabrogated. A considerable section of the Muslims was alienated from the Maudoodi group when he came forward in support of feudalism. He quoted the Qur’an and the Hadith in support of his contention that Islam never tampers with the rights of individual property in land or industry and therefore the state was not allowed, on religious grounds, to appropriate the lands of the big landholders. His opponents charged him with feudalism. Maudoodi, however, stuck to his concept of a highly individualistic capitalist economy and opposed all tendencies toward the nationalization of property as being against Islamic principles.
Meanwhile the communists had given up open attacks on Islam and encouraged many writers to vindicate socialistic and communistic principles on the basis of quotations from the Qur’an and the Hadith and the actions of the Companions of yhe Holy Prophet.
Although progressive Muslims in Pakistan differ from Maudoodi, only one group has emerged with a clear-cut school of thought. This group is led by Ghulam Ahmad Parvez, a retired Under-Secretary of the Government of Pakistan, who before the partition published in Delhi a monthly magazine dedicated to popularizing the philosophy of Iqbal. Parvez rejects the Hadith, claiming that it is binding only on those who lived in the time of the Prophet but not on other Muslims. The Qur’an is the final and only authority after the time of the first four Caliphs. The interpretation of the Qur’an must be made by the ruler of the state. "The revival of Islam," says Parvez, "would mean the re-establishment of a central authority, a ruler, who would deduce detailed regulations from the Qur’an in accordance with modern needs and conditions and would enforce the collective obedience of the people."
Parvez combines with this concept of the Islamic state the principles of a socialistic state. He denies that the Qur’an sanctioned individual rights in property. According to him, the Qur’an expressly declares that all land and property belongs to God, and God, in Islamic terminology, is the state.
The denial of Hadith exposes this school to the charge that it breaks up the historical continuity of Islam. By giving the ruler the sole authority to interpret the Qur’an it would bring Islam under an infallible leader who would be, in effect, a Pope. This runs counter to the popular conception of Islam as a democracy in which ijma, or the consensus of opinion of the leading religious scholars, is the final authority on all questions. The Maudoodi school, on the other hand, accepts only the Qur’an and the Hadith as the infallible sources of law and does not regard the decisions of the medieval jurists as binding in all cases. Such legal decisions were, after all, made by fallible men and the community can revise them in the light of the Qur’an and the Hadith. The other ulama and conservative scholars, while accepting the Qur’an and the Hadith, retain their allegiance to the legal schools to which they belong and are guided by the legal decisions handed down by recognized jurists. They do not believe in the right of ijtihad, that is, of individual judgment.
In addition to these influential schools in Pakistan there are prominent individuals who have their own interpretations of Islam which are accepted by their admirers scattered over the whole country. Among them is Dr. Khalifa Abdul Hakim, Director of the Institute of Islamic Culture at Lahore. The Institute has published many books on Islamic ideology and the Islamic solution of the economic and social problems of the country. Dr. Khalifa holds that only the fundamental principles of Islam are eternal, while its specific commands are subject to readjustment. Islam has only set certain goals and pointed the direction for mankind to follow. In the modern world Islamic principles will have to be applied in new ways. The social and economic structure of the Muslim world was largely conditioned by the stage of social development in which it appeared. He also believes in the coexistence of religions.
Another such individual is Vice-Chancellor Allama I. I. Kazi of Sind University, a man of profound learning who spent a large part of his life in England. He has written a very good book on comparative religion called Adventures of the Brown Girl in Her Search for God. He believes in the evolutionary concept of religion. Islam, as the latest product of religious evolution, he says, has displaced all other religions, which exist today only as fossils. He also holds very firmly that Western civilization is essentially Islamic since the West has adopted most of the leading principles of Islam and made them an integral part of the structure of modern civilization. He is opposed to nationalism because Islam is, in his opinion, outgoing and expansionist, unconfined by geographical, natural, or racial frontiers.
The clash of Islam with modern secularism is replete with big consequences out of which may come a new synthesis. In Pakistan secularism lacks the attraction which it possessed for the Western mind for it has not grown from within; it has not produced any thinker or intellectual school with a clear-cut secular philosophy. The past hundred years have been the years of secular rule and the religious classes have been out of power. There is no organized church or religious order in the Muslim world which could inspire men with the fear of a religious priesthood. There is much dislike of conservatism and dogmatism in the Muslim educated class, but none of that hatred which led to the Protestant revolt in Europe. Secularism is, therefore, unable to harness the emotional loyalties of the people.
At best, secularism is a negative doctrine in Pakistan which can offer freedom from the possibility of the Mullah Raj, the rule of the Mullahs, and liberation from sectarian feuds. Beyond that it has no positive content comparable to that offered by either Islam or communism. In a country where the last hundred years of foreign rule have destroyed the concept of social equality and intensified class stratification, where a foreign system of education has created a wide gulf between the educated class and the masses, the prevailing mood of the people is to recover their lost dignity and equality. Islam or communism, with their positive programs, can attract them, but secularism cannot.
Even so, the future of Islam is beset with difficulties. Unless the religious leadership gives up its medieval ways of thinking, its rigidity and conservatism, it is difficult to see how the modern educated class will accept its conception of Islam. The conflict must continue until the secular and religious groups arrive at a compromise which accepts the best in both points of view, but this will require a sustained effort to liberalize the popular concept of Islam.
Islam in Pakistan and India Today
In East Pakistan, where the average Muslim is more religiously inclined than in West Pakistan, the influence of Islam has been very strong. The political-religious movement led by Sayyid Ahmad of Bareli lasted much longer in Bengal than elsewhere, but with the consolidation of the British power things began to change. The Muslims of Bengal suffered economically and educationally even more than other Muslims, and the influence of the Hindus increased until they practically monopolized all education, culture, government services, and respectable means of livelihood. The Bengali language also was infiltrated more and more by Hindu mythology and all art and literature was deeply permeated with Hindu ideas. When the Muslims began to develop political consciousness some forty years ago, they attempted to Islamize their language and literature, aided by such leaders as the poet Qazi Nazrul Islam, who popularized Islamic ideas. However, these attempts could not change the literary and artistic trends overnight. It needed the creation of an independent Pakistan to rouse the consciousness of Bengali Muslims. The progress of liberal Islamic ideas is impeded in East Pakistan today by the presence of a powerful minority of the Hindus, the existence of communist fifth columnists, and, above all, by the hold of the conservative ulama, who are wedded to medieval scholastic notions about Islam.
The Muslims of India, after the initial frustration and demoralization which followed partition, have recovered their poise and are gradually gaining in self-confidence. Some competent observers even hold the opinion that Islamic religious life has better prospects in India than in Pakistan. Certainly the religious life of the people has become more intensified. There is a feeling among the Indian Muslims that they have not lived up to Islamic ideals and this has been the cause of their suffering and persecution. Their persecution has created new energy, but it is regrettable that they are still in the grip of narrow orthodoxy.
The agitation for the recognition of Urdu as a regional language in India has so far met with little success. It was once hoped that Urdu might become the national language of India, but since it was a product of Muslim culture the Hindus, under the leadership of Mr. Gandhi, took their stand for Sanskritized Hindi as the future national language. This alienated a large number of Indian Muslims and added force to the Pakistan movement. With the partition of the country, the cause of Urdu naturally suffered a great setback, but the Muslims of North India are very active in popularizing their language and have been able to secure for it at least a regional status. Urdu still serves as a social link between Indian and Pakistani Muslims; poetic competitions are held both in India and Pakistan and Urdu poets from both countries take part in them.
Of the various religious movements in India mention should be made of the Indian counterpart of the Maudoodi school in Pakistan. This party has been very active in post-partition India. Recently its activities aroused the suspicion of the Indian government, leading to a few arrests.
The Tabligh movement was started before partition by Maulana Iliyas and continues to be very active in India. By his exemplary life and preaching the Maulana converted many Hindus to Islam, and today his followers concentrate on preaching Islamic virtues and urging their followers to observe prayers, fasts, and the other injunctions of Islam. They organize preaching groups which visit the villages and go from door to door asking the people to become God-conscious and to offer their prayers with a spirit of inner devotion. One of the most prominent leaders of this group is Abul Hasan of Lucknow who is an able writer and head of the Nadva, the educational institution founded by Shibli.
There is a small group of religious leaders who regard Ashraf Ali, a man with mystic leanings, who was a prominent religious figure before partition, as their spiritual progenitor and the foremost renovator of Islam. This group defends mysticism and is opposed to the Maudoodi school for its anti-mystical attitude.
The Ferangi Mahal school at Lucknow, which was originally founded by Qutbuddin in the time of Aurangzeb and which produced many distinguished ulama, is losing its influence, but the Deoband continues its precarious existence. Many of the ulama of Deoband were vigorous supporters of the Indian National Congress and arch-opponents of Pakistan. Their leader, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, is still alive but is no longer as active and influential as before. Some of the post-partition policies of the Indian government have antagonized a large section of those Muslims who supported the Indian national movement against Pakistan.
The Association of Ulama of India, originally a political organization of the religious leaders and firmly wedded to Indian nationalism, is the most active religous party in Muslim India. It has lately come forward with a definite program for the economic uplift of the Muslims, realizing that a healthy religion can exist only on sound economic foundations. Through its leadership it wields great influence in the Indian government.
It is estimated that about ten percent of the Muslims of India and Pakistan are Shi’as and the rest Sunnis. Shi’a-Sunni relations in India and Pakistan have not been uncordial on the whole. Intermarriages between Sunnis and Shi’as were usual in the past. The Sunnis are as much devoted to Ali and Husain as the Shi’as. There is even a group of Sunnis which believes that Ali was superior to all other Companions, although it holds them all in deep reverence. On most matters the Shi’as and Sunnis agree. However, the Shi’as differ on certain matters relating to ceremonial worship. For example, they consider it lawful to combine the noonday prayers with the evening and night prayers -- but this is a practice which is sanctioned by some jurists among the Sunnis as well. The Shi’as have their own criteria of judgment concerning Hadith since they attach greater authenticity to the Hadith transmitted by Ali and his descendants and followers.
A distinctive practice of the Shi’as is called taqiya, that is, the art of concealing one’s religious views, for the Shi’as hold that they can lawfully pretend to be other than what they are if they find themselves in hostile circumstances. The Shi’as’ condemnation of the first three Caliphs has been a source of friction with the Sunnis, for the Sunnis believe that excellence belonged to the first four Caliphs in the order of their succession. But the majority of the Sunnis agree with the Shi’as in the condemnation of Yazid, the son of Mu‘awiya and murderer of Imam Husain. It is a general Sunni accusation that on special occasions the Shi’as indulge in condemnation of the first three Caliphs, whom they regard as usurpers. The act of condemnation is a necessary religious duty of the Shi’as, but whether it is real abuse or only unfavorable comment, it is difficult to say. The more fanatical Shi’as may go to extremes, but the cultured Shi’as hold that the condemnation is no more than what it literally means, the declaration of one’s total dissociation from the acts of injustice done to the house of Mi. Modern education seems to have had little effect in breaking down sectarian barriers between Shi’as and Sunnis since, as with all minority religions, the Shi’as take special interest in the religious training of their children.
Even more than Ali, Imam Husain holds the highest place in the affection of the Shi’as of Pakistan and India, while their attitude toward his elder brother Hasan is lukewarm, as he is said to have compromised with Mu‘awiya. The tragedy of Karbala, where Husain and his family suffered martyrdom at the hands of the Umayyad general, is annually commemorated by the Shi’as with great religious devotion and has become the central feature of Shi’a religious practice. The celebrations take place during the first ten days of Muharram, the first month of the Muslim lunar year. While the more orthodox Sunnis refrain from participation in these celebrations, the illiterate Sunni masses join in large numbers. Wealthy Shi’a families set apart a special building for the annual performance of the Muharram celebrations, usually decorated with fanciful representations of the tombs of the martyrs, often handsome and costly structures of wood and paper on which great artistic skill is lavished.
The celebrations begin with large gatherings held in the homes of the well-to-do and middle-class Shi’a families. A preacher narrates in dramatic detail the story of Karbala, working up the passions of the audience by dwelling on the most gruesome features of the tragedy and bringing into prominence the cruelties of Yazid and his generals. The audience goes wild with lamentations and shrieks, the more sober confining themselves to shedding silent tears -- for weeping is considered to be a meritorious act. This is followed by regular beating of the breasts which is sometimes done so violently that it causes bleeding. Cultured people, however, just pat the breasts with their hands. Women also take a prominent part in these lamentations.
The ten days of the Muharram celebrations are all days of lamentation, but on the seventh day there is a procession to commemorate the marriage of Qasim, son of Husain. The next day lances are paraded on the streets to represent the standards of Husain, and on the ninth day the representations of the tombs of the martyrs are carried through the streets with much drumming and shouting. On the last day the interment in the local Karbala is enacted.
The two religious festivals sanctioned by Islam and observed by the Sunnis are the Id al-Fitr, the Little Festival, which comes at the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, and the Id al-Adha, the Great Festival, which comes after the pilgrimage. Although many Muslims do not practice fasting, public opinion is generally sensitive to the sanctity of the month. Eating, drinking, or smoking in public during the month of Ramadan is sure to bring heavy censure and in some regions, such as the Northwest Frontier and the tribal areas of Pakistan, it may even lead to physical violence. The festival which comes at the end of the month of fasting is celebrated with great pomp after the public prayers have been offered in the morning.
The festival which comes after the conclusion of the annual pilgrimage is accompanied by animal sacrifice. Recently there has been great agitation in Pakistan about the enormous wastage involved in animal sacrifice and suggestions have been made that the money spent on slaughtering animals should be spent on social and philanthropic activities, but the conservative groups remain unconvinced. On the occasion of both festivals the rich as well as the poor put on their best clothes and exchange greetings with their friends and relatives.
Another important occasion celebrated by Muslims is the Prophet’s birthday, although this seems to be a late innovation. It is not sanctioned by religion and was not observed in the early centuries of Islam. However, most people observe the occasion by holding meetings in public and in private homes where poems are recited in praise of the Holy Prophet and speeches are made in praise of his life, manners, character, and work. When the speaker describes the birth of the Holy Prophet and the stories of miraculous events associated with it, the audience stands up as a mark of reverence. There has been some difference of opinion concerning the lawfulness of this practice because the Prophet prohibited his Companions from standing up when he appeared in public. Some hold that the Prophet’s commands should be obeyed, but others believe that reverence is more essential.
Another recent Sunni innovation, probably as a reaction to Shi’a practices, is the commemoration of the birthdays of the Companions of the Prophet. However the Companions do not call forth the same amount of devotion as do some of the saints, notably the highest saint, Abdu’l Qadir Jilani of Baghdad, who lived in the fifth century (eleventh century A.D.). He is considered to be a patron saint by a large number of the Sunnis, who invoke his help in case of difficulty. His birthday falls on the eleventh of the month Rabi Awwal. At that time prayers are offered over specially prepared food, which is then distributed among relatives and the poor. This is not as universal a practice as the observance of the birthday celebrations of the Holy Prophet.
A large number of illiterate and semi-educated -- and some of the educated -- Muslims are also great believers in prayers for the souls of dead ancestors. On the anniversary of death special food is prepared, and after the recitation of prayers it is distributed within the family, to relatives, and to the poor. Preoccupation with the dead is a marked social phenomenon among the general body of Muslims. Those who can afford it build costly sepulchres for their dead relatives and observe the fortieth day of death with great ceremony, preparing rich food and inviting friends and relatives to partake of it. Some of these practices are falling into disuse with the spread of modern education.
While the emphasis on the external observances and rites of Islam is palpably decreasing, Western culture seems to have had little effect on the cult of saints. Even highly educated people, persons who are otherwise skeptical of religion in general, are devoted admirers of saints and believe literally in the miracles ascribed to them. The saints are believed to retain effective power after their death and are credited with the power to heal diseases, to avert calamities, and to bring material prosperity and promotions to their devotees. Most, but not all, of the worship of saints is associated with Sufism. Among the tombs of great saints which attract large crowds are those of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai in Bhit Shah in the Sind, Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore, Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer, Hajji Waris Ali Shah in Dewan in Uttar Pradesh, Yousuf Sharif Shah in Hyderabad, Deccan, and Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi -- as well as those of many other famous saints and thousands of lesser local saints. It is interesting to see skeptics who ordinarily laugh at the externals of religion offer their homage to saints in the hope and expectation of rapid success in their worldly ventures.
There is usually an annual function held at each of the tombs of the saints, sometimes accompanied by fairs. At these functions a number of ceremonies are carried out, such as laying wreaths on the sepulchres, covering them with costly drapes, and burning candles before them. A particularly interesting feature of these functions is the musical party in which professional singers perform to the accompaniment of drums and other musical instruments. Female singers are not excluded, but only one type of music is allowed -- music which is considered lawful in Sufi circles.
The people visit the tombs of the saints and invoke their help in their daily needs. Sometimes written requests are hung by the side of the sepulchre, and some extreme devotees offer prostration at the grave -- and religious authority is not wanting to support such practices. The more orthodox Muslims, however, condemn such practices as non-Islamic and limit themselves to offering prayers for the dead; and the extremely orthodox Muslims would never visit a tomb, for they believe that once a man is dead his connection with the living is ended forever. Those Muslims who lack devotion to the saints are dubbed Wahhabis by the large mass of the people.
The mosques have ceased to attract worshipers. Only the poor and the illiterate among the people frequent the mosques at the daily services. The educated people, if they pray at all, offer their prayers at home. This is because the religious leadership of the Muslims has passed into the hands of people whose knowledge even of the purely religious sciences is highly inadequate. The educated classes find their age-old arguments and preaching dull, insipid, and unconvincing. The prayers and addresses are conducted in Arabic in a stereotyped form and can no longer provide inspiration to a generation which has no knowledge of Arabic and the traditional sciences. The Imams and religious preachers do not discuss the problems which are agitating the minds of the educated people; they are even ignorant of the very existence of such problems. For them the world is still the old medieval world with its scholasticism.
Muslim youth also is sceptical and finds no guidance from the Imams and the mosque preachers. It is only on the occasion of the two great annual festivals that the people visit the mosques in large numbers and offer their prayers there. It has been suggested from time to time that the mosques should be converted into centers of social and educational activity guided by properly trained and educated Imams, but so far these ideas have not been put into practice because there is no proper organization to look after the mosques and their keepers. At present the mosques exist on purely private contributions and the Imams are paid by the local community -- and very poorly paid, with an income less than that of the lowest paid clerk.
Still, the mosques hold great possibilities. No social reform of the future can dispense with the need for this institution where prayers can be combined with instruction. Left to themselves the mosques will remain centers of fanaticism and obscurantism. The government has been afraid to touch this problem lest it be exposed to the criticism of the people who distrust official activity in this area, but some means must be found to organize the support of the mosques and to give proper education to the Imams who are responsible for their care. The strength and vitality of Islam springs from its social and institutional ideals. Islam started as a social order with a definite social and economic structure, but it has become a highly individualistic religion. At this time, when the people are moved by a strong urge for social equality and economic and political justice, there is a great need for a country-wide agency to look after their religious needs and to guide them to an understanding of the principles of Islam.