Fundamentalism, the Taliban and History

sharad bailur
sharad bailur / 7 yrs ago /

Fundamentalism, the Taliban, and the Indo-Pak History


Sharad Bailur

I would like to put forward for the reader’s consideration a number of propositions. First, that the Taliban is NOT a fundamentalist organisation. In fact the concept of fundamentalism as interpreted in this day and age is alien to the Quran. Second, that the concept of Jihad is central to Islam. And third, that those who do not follow these Islamic principles in full are committing blasphemy in the sight of Allah (Peace be upon Him).

Let us begin with the word Taliban. The word Taleem means education, preferably an education received in a Madarsa or Muslim seminary in which students are trained to recite the Quran by rote. A Talib is therefore a student who receives his Taleem at a Madarsa. The plural of Talib is Taliban. The Taleem, which demands that students should learn to recite the Quran by rote, is because the Quran is in ancient Arabic. Most students do not know ancient Arabic. The Quran cannot be translated into a modern language because it is regarded as the actual word of God. Any translation is bound to distort it. It’s meaning is therefore expatiated upon by the learned or the Ulema.

A Muslim or true believer is one who accepts the Quran as the word of God in all its aspects, and practises what the Quran demands in its entirety. He therefore follows the precepts of Halal. Conversely any person, who accepts what he likes from the Quran and discards what he does not, is not a Muslim. By this token a Muslim who consumes alcohol or eats pork is no Muslim. The exact word for such acts in Arabic is Haram. The word Haram is interesting. From Haram comes the concept of Harb or disbelief. The land of the unbeliever or kaffir is therefore referred to as Dar-ul-Harb, while the land of the believer is referred to as the Dar-ul-Islam.

The Quran enjoins upon its believers to persuade unbelievers or kaffirs to accept the Quran as the word of God. Persuasion is the best means for this purpose of proselytisation. Unfortunately, people often refuse to be persuaded. This is seen as a fact of life in the Quran. When persuasion becomes impossible the Quran enjoins upon the faithful to wage a holy war or Jihad to persuade them by force. Jihad is therefore a means of getting followers for the religion.

Islam does not merely enjoin its people to wage a holy war. It trains them for the purpose. The holy month of Ramzan demands that the faithful eat and drink nothing during the day. At the end of this month of daylong fasting comes Ramzan Id or the festival of Ramzan. During the days of Muhammad, wars were fought during the day since at night it was difficult to see. When you wage a war you cannot say to an on-rushing enemy, “Just a moment. It is teatime. Would you care for some cake?” Nights were therefore reserved for resting, taking care of the wounded and the dying and for general repairs. Daylight signified the resumption of hostilities. Ramzan is therefore the training given to the faithful for going into battle and succeeding. The training, spread over a month, helps build endurance and the ability to stand up to the heat of battle amidst hunger and thirst. The festival at the end signifies victory over the kaffir. Nowhere does the Quran say that Jihad should not be waged against the innocent. If the innocent are unbelievers according to the precepts of Islam Jihad should be waged against them.

The Taliban of Afghanistan insist, and correctly, that all they are doing is following the Quran. It is not that they are extremists. They are merely doing what the Quran demands of them. After all, where does one draw a line that says that the neglect of an Islamic precept thus far is tolerable and beyond it is un-Islamic? The Quran does not allow the word of God to be polluted by those who choose to interpret it to their convenience. The Quran likewise enjoins upon those who live in the Dar-ul-Islam or the land of the faithful to wage a jihad on those who live in the Dar-ul-harb. This is a holy duty that helps in attaining jannat or heaven on the day of qayamat or day of judgement.

Taking this as given data let us see what Islam has done. It has waged a thousand-year jihad against the subcontinent of India and it largely succeeded in ruling over this land of kaffirs between the years 900 AD and 1857 AD, forcibly converting those who came in its path and imposing a tax known as the Jaziya on those who refused conversion. During this period, Islam and its devout followers succeeded in destroying much of Hindu culture, its religion and the precepts it stood for. It brought to a green and verdant land a faith born in the blast of desert sand and laid waste to it. Muslim rulers repeatedly and over hundreds of years destroyed temples and looted their treasures, took away Hindu women to rape at leisure and destroyed Hindu artefacts—all in the name of Jihad. At that time Jihad as interpreted did just what the Quran ordered, nothing more, nothing less.

If India today reacts with de ja vu at what happens in Kashmir it is because it has seen it happening since long before it learned how to speak English. India has suffered Islamic purgatory and seen firsthand what Jihad and Islam can do over a thousand years. Its reaction to the World Trade Center attack was not one of surprise, but one of, “Oh no. Not again!” This is something that America has not yet understood.

Whatever the domination of a largely Hindu population over ten centuries did to the local population, it did something quite different to the Muslim population of the subcontinent. Used as they were to ruling over the Kaffirs over a millennium, a feeling developed especially among Muslims in powerful positions, hardly articulated perhaps and carefully kept under wraps safe from scrutiny by kaffir eyes, that the Muslim was born superior to the Hindu. How else could Muslim kingdoms have ruled over this alien religion and culture over ten centuries? There was probably something to it, too. The Hindus deserved what they got by the mere fact of their being plain incompetent at defending themselves and having allowed their own culture to ossify and go to seed.

I have myself experienced this extraordinary feeling among my classmates in Hyderabad almost all of whom came from the families of the Jagirdars of the Nizam of Hyderabad. There was a barely-concealed but never articulated superciliousness among my Muslim classmates peeping out at unguarded moments towards their Hindu classmates. This, a full ten years after Independence had given to the Muslims the Pakistan they so craved.

Pakistan was born out of a desire for a nation separate from the domination of the Hindus. Why did they fear the domination of the Hindus? The Muslims who went to Pakistan could never reconcile themselves to being ruled by an inferior people. That is the reason every child in Pakistan is taught from primary school that a Pakistani soldier is worth ten Indian soldiers. And that is the real reason they have never been able to reconcile themselves to the loss of Bangla Desh. President Musharraf’s justification for asking for Kashmir on a platter was that Pakistan had to have recompense for the loss of Bangla Desh.

So here is a superior people convinced of its superiority and the superiority of its religion that has little to say for itself except in terms of religion. It is a nation of converts who refuse to acknowledge the fact that they are converts. It is a state that denies that it had any culture or history before it became this artificially created nation. It follows social customs barely distinguishable from those of the Hindus they left behind. It also follows a brand of Islam known as Sufism that has strong overtones of the Hindu way of life that they once accepted. Sufism is not accepted as Islam in Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam. Islam bans music. But the Sufi tradition involves the singing of traditional hymns called “Qawwali.” Baisakhi, the spring festival, is celebrated in Pakistan. It is a Hindu tradition. The 4,000-year-old Hindu blood that flows in the veins of the Pakistanis cannot help but reverberate in the music of their distant ancestors. It is therefore quite common for Pakistani singers to invoke Hindu Gods and sing, “Hey Raam…” (Raam is a Hindu God and an incarnation of Vishnu) because Islam does not permit music. Mehdi Hassan and Ghulam Ali do it. So did Ustad Barkat Ali Khan and the two singing pairs Salamat Ali and Nazakat Ali, and Amanat and Fateh Ali Khan and even that grand dame of Hindustani Classical music, Roshanara Begum, who migrated a full two years after Independence to Paklstan from India. One thousand years of Islam has merely addled their brains but has had no effect on their “convert blood.”

I can do no better than to quote Robert Kaplan who wrote thus in the Atlantic Monthly in September 2000: “At the end of my visit to Pakistan, I sat with a group of journalists trying to fathom why Nawaz Sharif, when still Prime Minister, had reportedly turned down an offer of several billion dollars in aid from the United States in return for agreeing not to test nuclear weapons. A Pakistani friend supplied the simple answer: 'India had tested them, so we had to. It would not have mattered who was Prime Minister or what America offered. We have never defined ourselves in our own right—only in relation to India. That is our tragedy.'”

It is for this reason that India has to always be on its guard. The fact that it is not Islamic and therefore constitutes an eyesore of a Dar-ul-harb in Pakistani eyes and that it occupies a larger part of the subcontinent than Pakistan does is reason enough.

The problem for the rest of the non-Muslim world is two-fold. This problem has been growing all the time once the Muslim world understood that it could dictate terms because it was sitting on a sea of oil. It should have been noticed after a single instance of a Salman Rushdie writing a blasphemous novel resulted in a fatwa, issued by the Iranians, calling for his death.

There have been any number of such fatwas, or “orders,” being issued for such transgressions of Islam over the years. There have been “condemnations” from all “right thinking” and “moderate” Muslims from all over the world about what happened on September 11th. The fact, however, is that not a single fatwa has been issued by a single Muslim cleric from even the remotest part of the world against the terrorists or the organisations that were responsible for the crime.

Why not? It is quite simple, really. There is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. You are either a Muslim in the eyes of Allah or you are not.

Nineteen Christians were slaughtered in cold blood in Bahawalpur in Pakistan, in a church on October 28th. When prominent Pakistani Muslims were interviewed on TV their reaction was, “Of course we condemn it, but Islam is a very tolerant religion and does not countenance such atrocities.” Why do they jump to the defence of Islam so quickly? How about issuing a fatwa against those who did it? And if not, why not? Why are the condemnations not wholehearted and why are they so obviously mealy-mouthed?

Islam is a particularly dangerous but familiar ideology. It has a prophet like Communism did—Muhammad on the one hand and Karl Marx on the other. It has a book like communism did—The Quran on the one hand and Das Kapital on the other. Both promise a paradise to its converts that cannot be attained. It even has a God like communism did—Allah on the one hand and Dialectical Materialism on the other.

Both have their fanatics: We were then afraid of the Reds; it is time we acquired a similar dread of the Greens. It should be dealt with just like communism was dealt with, an ideology run amok and threatening the lives of everyone around it. The difference, of course is that the communists were an educated lot. These people, unfortunately, are mostly not. In fact, by the very nature of the fact that the Quran is untranslatable Islam sanctions and glorifies ignorance. The problem lies with the fact that Islam offers solace in the hereafter, something Communism said did not exist. What killed off Communism was its realism. What keeps Islam going is the exact opposite—its unrealism.

When George W. Bush says that his war is against terrorism and not against Islam he is missing the wood for the trees. The individual trees are terrorism. The wood as a whole is Islam. When the Taliban says that the war by America is a war on Islam, take them at their own word. While eradicating the Taliban or Osama bin Laden is the correct step it is just a small first step. It is for this reason that I suspect that Samuel Huntington was right all along. It is a clash of civilisations.

Whether America and the rest of the civilised world has the stomach and the gumption to face up to this reality and take this battle to its logical conclusion is a matter of great doubt. America and its much-vaunted coalition could not even remove one Saddam Hussein.

This is a much bigger and more diverse enemy. Even if the entire world got together to destroy Islam and nuked the Kaaba, for example, it cannot solve the problem. The problem, ultimately, cannot be solved with bombs but with ideas. It will continue to fester till such time as the regimes of the Middle East take it upon themselves to instill a modicum of modern scientific education into their populations, especially their female populations, and till that helps to relax the hypnotic grip of this ideology masquerading as religion.

Till then, let us pray to our various Gods. Or better still, learn to understand the value of thinking for ourselves.

Sharad Bailur, Mumbai, India, 11/02/2001


maddss123 / / 7 yrs ago

the issues touched upon by you are factual truth, but evil needs to be answered by evil........i have little doubts.


blue legends / / 7 yrs ago
blue legends

islam has become a set of fundamentals which preach social segregation, hatred of non-muslims and elimination of dissenters through dominance, death and destruction.

bharatborn / / 7 yrs ago

crystal clear article. wonder why it has had so low a readership?
i suspect sulekha readers have now 'islam fatigue'. tired of reading about islam; for or against.

Ponniyin Selvan / / 7 yrs ago
Ponniyin Selvan

nice blog.. it is not surprising to know that "ibn warraq"'s book is banned in india.

sharad bailur / / 7 yrs ago
sharad bailur

i have also read ibn warraq's "why i am not a muslim". this book, of which i own a copy, is, incidentally banned in india. manmoon says i should read authentic islamic literature. quite. i have.
sharad bailur

manmoon / / 7 yrs ago

to all those who think that islam is taliban or taliban is islam are total misunderstanding with islam.
so better instead of simply jumping into some new conclusion my request please read and understand the islam from authentic book and people.

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