, by MOHD. ASIM KHAN
In this Section
‘Have we melted into a mirror / leaving our souls behind,’ wonders Nobel Laureate and acclaimed poet Derek Walcott in one of his poems where he concerns himself with the conflicts of identity and historicity. Today, the same question can be put before the Indian Muslims, for they are fast melting into a mirror and their identity is getting blurred. When Muslims came to
The reasons vary from social to political. It is not unusual for people from different cultural backgrounds to imitate each others’ traditions and ways of living in order to promote a feeling of trust and brotherhood. Sometimes, the adoption of others’ traditions and customs is voluntary. At other times, it is imposed upon peoples. That’s what Western imperialists did in their colonies (imperialism means extension of political, economic and cultural influence by a nation outside its boundaries). But in the case of Indian Muslims the adoption of Indian customs and traditions could not be forced as before the arrival of the Western colonialists Muslims ruled over a large part of
However, during this period a large number of Indian people came into the fold of Islam. These neo-Muslims could not be expected to abandon all their previous customs and traditions at once. So, a number of Indian traditions and customs crept into the social lives of Muslims through their neo-converted brothers. Agrees Maulana Dr. Haris Nadeem, “A large number of natives reverted to Islam but since their roots were deep down in this soil, they did not leave behind a number of their social practices. These practices gradually became part of the Indian Muslim society.” Thus, certain social practices, which do not find a mention in Islam, have become part of Muslim social life in such a way that it’s difficult for a layman to tell Islamic from un-Islamic. Some of the examples of these practices are: chauthi, chala, teeja, chaliswan, etc. “These terms are not Arabic and tell themselves that they have nothing to do with Islam,” says Maulana Munfa’at Ali Qasmi, principal Madrasa Himayat ul Islam,
The alien social practices are more visible on special occasions like marriage, aqeeqa, childbirth and of course, on festivals like Eid and Shab-e-barat (the latter again not a festival in the eyes of Shari’ah). On the occasion of Eid and Shab-e-barat Muslims in large part of Uttar Pradesh ritually send tehwari to their married daughters and sisters. The tehwari consists of a certain amount of dry fruit, sugar, vermicelli and some cash. This is just an example of how mindlessly Indian Muslims follow traditions and customs they are not bound to follow according to their religion. There are hundreds of other traditions and customs (of course, un-Islamic) which millions of Indian Muslims follow with utmost devotion.
The adoption of these customs and traditions by the Muslims, some Muslims think, has strengthened our social fabric and helped mingle people with each other. But it has its drawbacks too besides diluting the identity of Muslims. “Islam is lenient in many cases and allows you to follow some customs and traditions according to the need of the society but there is a limit beyond which it is not permitted,” says Maulana Haris Nadeem.
Mufti Mohammed Mukarram Ahmed, Shahi Imam Masjid Fatehpuri, is however, more rigid: “Islamic Shari’ah has made things simple for us. Adoption of unnecessary social practices has made nikah difficult and as a result so many Muslim girls stand unmarried today. These girls could have been happy wives and mothers had there not been these silly customs,” says Shahi Imam.
The onslaught of alien cultures has diluted the identity of Muslims to a large extent though Islam gives considerable stress on maintaining a distinct identity. The holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Man tashabbah bi quamin fahuwa minhum (one who imitates a particular people will be counted among them). The above-mentioned hadith clearly enjoins the Muslims not to imitate others and maintain a distinct identity of their own.
A large number of Muslim women in