:: BUSINESS & ECONOMY :: Interest-free Microfinance: Best tool for poverty eradication

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 May 2010 | Posted in

Interest-free Microfinance: Best tool for poverty eradication

By Abdul Aziz V. K

The interest-free microfinance can be defined as provision of financial services to those people who are denied access to the financial market; opens new perspectives, and empowers people who can pursue projects with their own resources, and who lack assistance, subsidies and dependence. Besides, it provides financial services to those, who are traditionally non bankable, mainly because they lack guarantees against a loss risk.

In the spirit of Islam that goes beyond mere profitability, this new financial system aims to maximize social benefits as opposed to profit maximization. This can be done through creation of healthier financial institutions that can provide effective financial services also at grassroots levels. Some authors (Al Harran, 1996) argue that Islamic finance, if inserted in a new paradigm, could be a viable alternative to the socio-economic crisis derived out of interest-based economic system.

Both Islamic finance and microfinance seem to be concepts surrounded by a “fashionable aura” in Muslim as well as other developing countries. Banks, financial institutions, MFIs, NGOs are taking keen interest and most of all in the relation between the two, especially when it comes to fighting poverty. Strange enough, even if the interest is high, there are very few examples of actual MFIs operating in the field of Islamic finance and Islamic banks involved in microfinance.

Microfinance is a very flexible tool, whose models can be replicated but require to be tailored on the local socio-economic and cultural characteristics; and secondly, the potential demand for tailored microfinance services is still largely unmet. Some surveys proved that there is a high demand for Islamic Micro-financing especially in low and middle income predominantly Muslim societies.

At a very basic level, the disbursement of collateral free loans in some cases constitutes an example of how Islamic banking and microfinance share common aims. Thus, the Islamic banking and microcredit programs may complement each other in both ideological and practical terms. Even if they both constitute fairly new trends in the financial environment, the inclusion of Islamic finance and microfinance in the activities of the traditional banking system evolved in a quite similar way.

Three main instruments of Islamic finance; mudaraba, musharaka and murabaha, are tools generally used to design successful microfinance program.

Islamic Microfinance is growing rapidly

The Banker (2007) estimated the total assets of Islamic financial products at US$500.5 billion and the Islamic finance industry’s 100 largest banks have posted an annual asset growth rate of 26.7 percent, outpacing the 19.3 percent growth rate of their conventional counterparts.

The global Islamic finance industry is rapidly growing. In the past 30 years, the industry has witnessed the development of over 500 Sharia-compliant institutions, whose reach now spans 75 countries (KPMG 2006). These institutions include 292 banks (fully Islamic institutions and those institutions with Islamic subsidiaries), 115 Islamic investment banks and finance companies, and 118 insurance companies.

Despite its origins in the Middle-East, the Sharia-compliant banking has proved popular with Muslims in other countries as well, leading to the development of new Islamic banks across North Africa and Asia. Of the total global Islamic finance market, 36 percent is located in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE), 35 percent in non-GCC Southwest Asia and North Africa, and 23 percent in Asia (primarily Malaysia, Brunei, and Pakistan) (The Banker 2007).

Over time, Islamic financial services also have expanded well beyond the Muslim world and are offered not only by Islamic banks, but also by Islamic subsidiaries of international financial institutions. Islamic financial services are currently provided in countries such as India, China, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The United Kingdom, which currently ranks tenth in The Banker’s listing of “Top 15 Countries by Sharia-compliant Assets” (2007), has recently announced its aim to make London a global center for financial markets in the Muslim world.

Government Promotion of Islamic Microfinance

In the case of larger Islamic banking industry, government regulations can play a significant role in the expansion of the Sharia-compliant microfinance.

Indonesia today provides a supportive regulatory framework and has licensed 35 new Islamic rural banks in the past five years. The State Bank of Pakistan, which already has a legal and regulatory framework in place for conventional MFIs, also developed guidelines in 2007 for the rapid expansion of Islamic microfinance.

Although there is ample evidence of demand for Islamic microfinance products, it however requires that low-income clients are comfortable that the products offered are authentically Islamic. Critics of Islamic finance products suggest that the pricing of some products offered as Sharia-compliant too closely parallels the pricing of conventional products. For example, some institutions offer murabaha where interest appears to be disguised as a cost markup or administration fee. Islamic finance sometimes suffers from the perception that it is simply a “rebranding” of conventional finance and not truly reflective of Islamic principles.

Consequently, low-income populations, who often rely on local religious leaders to address questions of religion, must be convinced of the authenticity of Islamic financial products if Islamic microfinance is to reach its full potential. Greater efforts should be explored to (i) increase collaboration between financial experts and Sharia experts on product authenticity, (ii) encourage exchange of experiences among religious leaders (particularly those serving poor populations at the local level) relating to Sharia compliance of microfinance products, and (iii) educate low-income populations, in collaboration with local religious leaders, on how financial products comply with Islamic law.

Throughout the Muslim world, microfinance (Islamic or otherwise) is still seen as a philanthropic activity rather than a business enterprise. Consequently, in the context of Islamic microfinance, there is a growing tendency to view zakat (funds donated pursuant to the Muslim obligation to pay alms) as a source of funding. Indeed, given the underlying principle of Islamic finance to promote the welfare of the community, zakat funds appear ideally suited to support Islamic microfinance. However, a heavy reliance on charity is not necessarily the best model for the development of a large and sustainable sector, and more reliable, commercially motivated streams of funding should be explored.

[Abdul Aziz Valiyaveetil is an Indian national currently working as the Director of Al Hayat Int’l School, Jeddah. He has got vast experience in Conventional Banking (Federal Bank, India), for around 15 years and Islamic Banking (Al Rajhi Bank, Islamic Banking and Int’l Banking division, Head Office, Riyadh) for more than 10 years. He is mainly focusing his activities in ‘Islamic Banking’ and ‘Positive Dialogue’ to establish a healthy and harmonious co-existence between the diverse religions globally and restore the ethical and moral values in humankind. He has recently initiated the establishment of a “Forum for Intellectual Dialogue”, in order to retrieve the harmony and co-operation between various Muslim religious groups (intra-faith dialogue) in the state of Kerala, India, and “International Interfaith Dialogue India”(for inter-faith dialogue), to positively interact between various religious groups. He can be contacted at azizvk@yahoo.com]

:: ISSUES :: Deviations in the Concept and Practice of Jihad

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Deviations in the Concept and Practice of Jihad

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

The term jihad has numerous meanings and connotations. It cannot be restricted just to one meaning, although this is how some people erroneously understand it. In its general sense, the term encompasses all efforts, at both the individual and the collective level, for the reformation of the self and society, for general human welfare and for acquiring the pleasure of God. In its particular sense, the term also includes efforts that involve the use of power, if need be, to combat opponents and enemies. Jihad, in this particular sense, is referred to in the Quran by the term qital. Islam allows for jihad in the sense of qital only in defence. In all other senses, jihad is a peaceful struggle that aims at following God’s path and conveying the message of God to others. It is in this sense that the noted classical Islamic scholar, Syed Sharif Jurjani interprets jihad as ‘inviting [others] to the True Religion’ (huwa ad-dua‘o ila din al-haq).

Jihad does not only mean fighting against the enemy. In his Zad ul-Ma‘ad the noted classical scholar Allama Ibn Qayyim mentions 13 different types or forms of jihad, of which six relate to struggling against one’s baser self (nafs) and the devil; three relate to struggling against those who promote wrongful innovations and evil; and four relate to struggling against evil-doers and hypocrites. Thus, a total of nine forms of jihad, he explains, relate to struggles conducted within, or that are internal to, the Muslims. The other four forms of jihad relate to struggle on the external front, including jihad by one’s heart, by one’s tongue, by one’s wealth and by sacrificing one’s life.

Although it is a principal form of jihad, lamentably few Muslims pay attention to the jihad against one’s baser self. In particular, radical self-styled Islamists, who never tire of raising slogans calling for Islamic global domination, wholly ignore this imperative. For them, or so it appears from their actions, jihad is limited simply to qital.

In the Quran, God says: “And those who strive in Our [Cause]—We will certainly guide them to our Paths: for verily Allah is with those who do right” (29: 69).

Elsewhere in the Quran, God says: “Therefore listen not to the unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness with the []Quran]” (25: 52)

According to Abdullah Ibn Zubayr, a noted companion of the Prophet, the first-mentioned Quranic verse, which deals with God’s reward for those who engage in jihad, refers to acting in the best way on the basis of knowledge. The second-mentioned Quranic verse clearly instructs the Prophet to engage in jihad with the deniers of the truth using the Quran as a weapon. This, obviously, is a peaceful form of jihad, a non-violent effort to convey the message of Islam to others.

The Prophet Muhammad is quoted as having said: “The mujahid [one who engages in jihad] is he who, in obedience to God, wages jihad against his baser self, and the true emigrant (muhajir) is he who abandons mistakes and sins’ (al-mujahidu man jahada nafsahu fi ta‘at Allah wa al-muhajiru manhajara al-khataya wa al-zunub). Similarly, according to another hadith report, the Prophet is said to have referred to the jihad against one’s own baser self as the ‘greater jihad’ (jihad al-akbar).”

Elaborating on this, Allama Ibn Qayyim writes: “Engaging in jihad externally with the enemies of God is a minor branch (furu’) of jihad against the baser self (jihad bin nafs) […], This is why jihad against the baser self is superior to jihad conducted against the external enemy.”

Islam does not consider armed jihad, in the sense of qital, to be a permanent or continuous phenomenon. It can be engaged in only in certain contexts and must be conducted according to certain rules and under certain conditions. On the other hand, other, that is non-violent, forms of jihad, are forms of struggle that one must constantly engage in. The former type of jihad is considered a collective duty (farz ul-kifaya). If engaged in when needed by some people, the entire community is absolved of responsibility for engaging in it. On the other hand, most of the latter forms of jihad are a duty binding on all believers (farz al-‘ayn).

A crucial issue, and one that radical self-styled Islamist groups generally ignore, are the stringent conditions under which jihad, in the sense of qital, can be engaged in if the need so arises, and the rules of conducting such jihad. If the requisite conditions are not met and the appropriate rules are not followed, even if the aims of an armed struggle are met it cannot be considered to be a jihad or an Islamic action. Such an action cannot receive the blessings and assistance of God, even if it might seem to be a successful venture in the eyes of those who engage in it.

I do not here intend to discuss the various terms and conditions governing jihad, which are dealt with in considerable detail in the books of fiqh. My focus here is on those conditions ignoring which most recent and contemporary Islamic movements that claim to be engaged in jihad have met with utter failure.

One of these basic conditions is proper preparation, which the Quran refers to using the term idad. Obviously, no jihad can be successful without proper preparation, in terms of planning, manpower, weapons and so on. The Prophet and his companions did not believe that they could, or should, fight without proper planning, manpower, and weapons. In Mecca, when Muslims were cruelly persecuted but lacked the appropriate means to take on the oppressive Quraish pagans, God instructed them to ‘hold back their hands [from fighting]’ and to ‘establish regular prayers’ (4:77). When the companions of the Prophet, tired of the persecution that they had to endure, approached the Prophet and sought permission to engage in armed jihad, he declined, and answered, ‘We are less in numbers’. On several occasions the companions of the Prophet chose to withdraw when they were heavily outnumbered by the enemy. Instead of condemning them for this, the Prophet supported their decision, saying that they were not those who flee (furrar), but, rather those who return to attack (kurrar). The Prophet thus did not advocate any short-cut method when the need for jihad arose, realizing the importance of numbers, weapons and proper training and planning, without which, he knew, a jihad could not be successful.

The Quran discusses in some detail the necessary prerequisites that a would-be mujahid group must fulfill, in terms of manpower, if it can be permitted to engage in armed jihad, failing which such jihad is not permissible as it would inevitably result in defeat. To begin with, the Quran mentioned that one believer could take on ten enemy soldiers (8:65), but, in the following verse this was abrogated, and one believer was said to be able to take on two enemy soldiers (8:66). In other words, for armed jihad to be considered permissible it is essential that the balance of power, in terms of manpower, between the Muslim army and the enemy army be at least 1:2. If this is not the case, then armed jihad is not permissible, as it is likely that the battle will end in the defeat of the Muslims. In such a situation, Muslims are to desist from fighting, and, instead, are expected to exercise restraint and steadfastness and refrain from hurtling themselves into destruction by fighting.

The above-mentioned two Quranic verses speak of the minimum balance of power, in terms of numbers of combatants, between the Muslim and enemy forces that might make armed jihad permissible. However, the noted Islamic scholar Imam Malik, quoted in Ibn Rushd’s Bidayat al-Mujtahid, views the question of balance of power in terms of the quality of the fighters rather than their numbers. He argues that although the Quran lays down that a single Muslim soldier can take on two enemy soldiers, if the former lacks weapons while the enemy’s forces are all well-armed, it is permissible for the former to withdraw from the battlefield even if he is faced with just one enemy soldier.

In today’s context, where numbers of soldiers count for little, and where wars are decided essentially by sophisticated weaponry and communications systems, the appropriate balance of power between Muslims and their opponents, without which armed jihad is impermissible, must be viewed in this qualitative sense that Imam Malik discusses. The Quran very clearly lays down that without a basic minimum balance of power and appropriate strength on the part of the Muslims, armed jihad is bound to result in defeat, which it warns Muslims against when it says: ‘[A]nd make not your own hands contribute to [your] destruction’ (2:195).

Certain other aspects of jihad are still not properly understood even by those who claim to be engaged in jihad, giving rise to enormous confusion. One such issue is internal jihad, that is jihad that is directed within the Muslim community itself, rather than against others—in other words, efforts to promote internal reform. Referring to this work of internal reform the Prophet Muhammad is quoted as having said: ‘He among you who sees any evil should try to change it with his hand, but if he is incapable of that then with his tongue, and if he is incapable of even that then with his heart.’

In his famous book Alam al-Muwaqain, Allama Ibn Qayyim discusses this work of internal reform and attacking social evils. He argues that if by attacking a certain social evil an even bigger evil is produced, it is impermissible to do so. This point seems to be totally lost on contemporary so-called jihadist movements active in different Muslim countries today, who, raising slogans of jihad, ‘Islamic Revolution’, and seeking to extirpate social evils through violence have generated untold strife and misery.
Another deviation in contemporary understandings of jihad is reflected in the fact that armed struggles for national liberation or for the defence of Muslim nations have been termed by their proponents as jihads. This is a completely wrong use of the term ‘Islamic jihad’, which applies only to those struggles that are fought in the path of God (jihad fi sabilillah), not for worldly or communal gains but to gain the pleasure of God. According to a hadith report, contained in the Sahih al-Bukhari, the aim of Islamic jihad is to proclaim the word of God (ailao kalimatillah). This clearly indicates that wars fought for fame, power, land and wealth or out of feelings of revenge have nothing whatsoever to do with jihad in the true sense of the term.

A basic condition of jihad, in the sense of qital, when the need to engage in it arises, is that it should be declared and led by an established leader. There is a near unanimity among the ulema that jihad cannot be declared by an individual other than by the leader. To argue, as some radical self-styled Islamists do, that because present-day Muslim governments are corrupt ‘rebels against God’ and because their countries are not ruled in accordance with the shariah, there is no need to secure permission from them for jihad is a result and a reflection of ideological deviation and corruption. Numerous hadith reports refer to the Prophet clearly forbidding revolt (khuruj) against established rulers. After the Prophet’s demise, the majority of his companions and their successors strictly abided by this rule even in the face of oppressive rulers because they knew that armed rebellion against them would create unwanted destruction, bloodshed and strife. Obviously, given the enormous powers of modern states today, such rebellion will lead to destruction on a much more deadly scale than before, and hence its being forbidden needs no explanation. For Muslim groups to attempt to do so can only lead to massive, irreparable damage to themselves and to Muslims in general.

Yet another issue about which confusion abounds is that of ‘offensive jihad’. Some radical self-styled Islamists claim that offensive armed jihad is permissible against non-Muslim governments even if these regimes permit their Muslim citizens to freely practice and propagate their faith, in order, as they put it, ‘to extirpate infidelity or to destroy its glory’. This is completely erroneous, indeed totally preposterous. The fact of the matter is that Islam permits only one form of jihad, in the sense of qital, and that is defensive jihad. The deviant and un-Islamic concept of ‘offensive jihad’ has become a source of great concern the world over, because of which non-Muslims increasingly look upon Muslims as a dangerous threat. The sooner this concept of ‘offensive jihad’ is debunked the better.

[Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com. Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@gmail.com]

:: COMMUNALISM :: Narendra Modi: Travails of Travel Abroad

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Narendra Modi: Travails of Travel Abroad

By Ram Puniyani

While law of the land is trying to catch up with the acts of commission and omission in the Gujarat carnage, another set of laws, the global ones have been very clear about permitting the entry of a person like Narendra Modi into their country.

Recently (April 8, 2010), a group of German MPs justified the denial of visa to Modi. They advocated a ban on his visiting Europe. This parliamentary delegation was on a two day visit to the city of Ahmedabad to study the state of minorities in Gujarat. It concluded that the European Union (EU) decision not to grant visa to him was justified. They went to the extent of banning his trip to Europe in near future. They pointed out that “the Chief Minister of Gujarat has a radical tone to his politics and is described as dictatorial. He has a wrong perception of religious freedom.” This four member team has been closely following developments in the Gujarat riot cases.

One member of delegation pointed out that he was shocked by parallels between GermanyGujarat under Modi. Incidentally in Gujarat school books Hitler has been glorified as a great nationalist. Modi, in response to this has written to Prime Minister to seek apology from the German delegation for tarnishing the image of democratically elected head of state. The Congress Government endorsed Modi’s view and clarified that the EU had put a ban on Modi’s visit in the aftermath of Gujarat carnage but that has been withdrawn. Also that it was not an official delegation. Whatever that be, the opinion of the members of the delegation does reflect a deeper truth of our political phenomenon. under Hitler and

That apart, this is not the first time that such a thing has happened. Modi was earlier denied visa to US. On March 18, 2005 in a severe rebuke to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the United States denied him entry to America. US Consular division had taken a strong stand against Modi, the Hindutva icon. They denied him diplomatic visa apparently holding him responsible for communal carnage of 2002. In addition, his tourist/business visa which was already granted was revoked under a section of US Immigration and Nationality Act since he was not coming for a purpose that qualifies for a diplomatic visa.

In response to the query that he was already holding a tourist-cum-business visa, the Consulate pointed out that the "existing tourist/business visa has been revoked under Section 212 (a) (2) (g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act." According this section
any foreign government official who was responsible or "directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religions freedom" is denied the visa. The decision of US authorities was based on the observations of India's National Human Rights Commission findings and other independent Indian sources.

The observation of German delegation raises one additional major point about the state of Gujarat being similar to that of Germany under Hitler. Who will know it better than Germans who have suffered the political tragedy of fascism for bad many years? Modi’s point that he is an elected person again matches so well with Hitler. One recalls, Hitler came to power through democratic means and then he gradually eroded liberal-democratic norms from inside to bring in worst type of fascist state. The parallels are unmistakable. There are some differences from German fascism here but all the same the basic phenomenon is the same. Fascism is a politics where the liberal democratic space is abolished in the name of targeting some section of society for the supposed cause of National interest. In case of Germany the process was accompanied by a cultural paradigm shift and political aggression against communists, then trade unionists and then the Jews. Millions of Jews were subjected to the gas chambers, one of the greatest tragedies of the human history of twentieth century.

The politics of Hitler, and his clone Mussolini was praised by M.S. Golwalkar the ideologue of RSS, the organization where Modi has been indoctrinated and trained. Golwalkar’s formulations of aggressive nationalism and relegating minorities to second-class citizenship are being actualized by Modi and company in different ways.

While the similarities with German case are so glaring, there are some differences as well. The German fascism began to take social roots after the economic crisis generated in the aftermath of First World War. The cultural offensive in the field of arts, music, literature and the ‘glorification of ancient past’ picked up rapidly. In one of the major assaults on democracy, the fire at Reichstag was attributed to having been done by Communists, and physical violence was unleashed against them. Analogies with Godhra train burning are unmistakable.

Here the ascendance of Modi comes on the background of the economic crisis of the decade of 1980s, the adverse effects of globalization picking up, the loss of jobs of the downtrodden due to closure of textile mills, the attacks on the dalits OBCs in the name of anti reservation riots. The cultural manipulation began with Ram Temple movement, and spreading of hate against minorities, Muslims first and then the Christians, who by now have been relegated to second class citizenship in Gujarat and some other states and the trend in other states is going in that direction.

While in Germany whole of the Nation came under the grip of fascism, the saving grace in IndiaGermany the defeat of Germany in Second World War led to the collapse of the nation along with the edifice of fascism with the fascist-in-chief committing suicide. In India here it has gripped Gujarat in full, while in other states like Karnataka, Orissa, MP its presence is getting strengthened by and by. At national level though BJP might have faced two electoral debacles, the infiltration of fascist ideology through the pores of Indian democracy is going on in various ways. The phenomenon is creeping slowly though section of media, communalization of education, and infiltration of the followers of this ideology in different section of state. The gradual attempt to erode the liberal and plural values is a dangerous portent for democracy. Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit’s alleged involvement in Malegon blast may just be the tip of the iceberg. The judicial pronouncements that ‘Gita should be our national book’ are also reflective of the same phenomenon.

Indian fascism is a slow growing one, capturing different aspects of society one by one. It is not for nothing that Modi is the darling of big capitalists, who stand to gain maximum from the fascist type set ups. One can label Indian phenomenon as a chronic fascism, going in a step ladder pattern. Those of us relived because of electoral debacles of BJP at center need to wake up and realize that fascism is marching, irrespective of BJP’s electoral debacle in last two general elections.

The incidental observation from German delegates report is that since Germany went through such a painful period of history, many Germans realize and can sense the symptoms of fascism so easily. Same applies to many Japanese joining anti-Nuke protests and campaigns against Nuclear weapons. Who knows better than them as to what a nuclear weapon can do to the society?

So while here in India the justice to Modi ilk is elusive, globally there are norms which do recognize the nature of incidents happening here, the politics which abuses religious identity to come to power is in essence a variant of fascism whatever be its other characteristics.

[Ram Puniyani could be contacted at ram.puniyani@gmail.com or www.pluralindia.com]

:: ISSUES :: ‘Sania-Shoaib hurt Muslim sentiments’

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

‘Sania-Shoaib hurt Muslim sentiments’

Even as the newly-wed couple Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza are planning to leave for Pakistan, a city court has directed the Banjara Hills Police to register a case against the duo and 12 others for allegedly hurting the sentiments of Muslims.

Based on a private complaint lodged by a city-based Muslim organisation, the III Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate referred the matter to SHO, Banjara Hills Police, for investigation and report on the same before it by May 26.

The complainant, Moullim Mohsin Bin Hussain Al-Kasary, who is founder president of Mazlumeen-e-Ummatay Mohammediya organisation, yesterday approached the court and named the Pakistani cricketer his wife Indian Tennis star Sania Mirza, including Shoaib's divorced wife Ayesha Siddiqui, Sania's father Imran Mirza, former Indian cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin, two Qazis among others for allegedly dishonestly playing with Muslim sentiments.

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"Initially Shoaib said he never married Ayesha, but later divorced her. There is no official divorce, but the 14 accused declared that divorce proceedings are over and got the public, particularly Muslims, confused and insulted their religious feelings," Al-Kasary alleged.

Two Qazis, appointed by the government misused official position and got registered divorce (between Shoaib and Ayesha) and also played with the belief of Muslims even as the documents carried two different names of Shoaib's father, he claimed.

The complainant alleged Shoaib Malik and 13 others by way of their false representation played with religious beliefs and maliciously outraged the religious feelings of Muslims as such their acts are illegal and constitute an offence under section 295 (A) (Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs) of IPC.

(Courtesy: Indian Express)

:: ISSUES :: Social Transformation in Islam: Reform or Revolution?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

Social Transformation in Islam: Reform or Revolution?

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand/Noor Mohammad Sikand)

A crucial issue that needs careful deliberation and clarification is: What is the appropriate method for social transformation according to the principles and teachings of Islam and the model of the Prophet Muhammad? Contemporary Islamic movements display considerable confusion in this regard. They believe that Islam aims at the extermination of falsehood and that it can, in no way, tolerate it. They believe that tolerating falsehood or remaining silent on it is tantamount to betraying the Islamic mission. This is why many of these movements regard revolution as the most important and potent method of social transformation. Accordingly, revolution is at the top of their agenda, or so they claim.

However, it is a bitter truth, and one that activists involved in Islamic groups are themselves increasingly beginning to realize, that the policies and activities of ‘revolutionary’ or radical Islamist groups are, far from advancing the cause of Islam, actually undermining it by creating increasingly insurmountable hurdles in its path. Despite the efforts of radical or self-styled ‘revolutionary’ Islamist groups over the last 70 to 80 years, no such revolution has taken place in the Sunni world. On the contrary, in most cases the radical activities of such ‘revolutionary’ groups and movements have had precisely the opposite results, proving to be entirely counter-productive. A good example is that of the Ikhwan ul-Muslimun or ‘Muslim Brethren’ in Egypt, which participated in the downfall of the regime of King Faruq, only to be later brutally crushed by the regime of Jamaluddin Abdul Nasser, whom it helped to come to power. One can cite numerous more such instances from other parts of the world.

The Islamic ‘revolution’ in Iran was marked by the deep impact of Shia theology. With the help of the doctrine of the wilayat al-faqih or the ‘guardianship of the jurist’, which was developed by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Iranian Shia ulema managed to acquire some sort of theocratic power. Due to major differences in outlook and theology between the Sunni and Shia understandings of Islam, this is not possible in the Sunni world. Nor, to my mind, is this in accordance with the basic principles of Islam. It is undoubtedly true that many Muslims in the Sunni world, particularly among the youth, were indeed inspired by the Iranian ‘revolution’. For its part, the new Iranian regime sought to export its ‘revolution’ to the Sunni world. However, nothing much actually came of this in practical terms, although this certainly emboldened Islamist groups while leading to heightened fears in the West over what was described as ‘the opening of the bottle containing the Islamic genie’, which was regarded as a threat to the West.

Coming to the question of whether or not revolution is the way prescribed in Islam for social transformation, it is crucial to understand what the term ‘revolution’ actually means. What, in reality, are the features of revolution? What are, or should be, its aims and objectives? Without clarifying these complex issues, one cannot discuss the appropriate method of social transformation in Islam.

The fact of the matter is that nowhere do the Quran and the Hadith use any word that connotes revolution. Nor do they advocate any concept of revolutionary transformation of society in the sense that contemporary Islamist movements understand it. The term ‘revolution’ as understood today connotes a struggle that aims fundamentally at the total transformation of the bases of governance and society. It suggests a complete and drastic change. The model for such change in modern times are the communist revolutions in countries such as Russia and China. Communism regards revolution as the means for social change. In contrast, and contrary to what radical or ‘revolutionary’ Islamist ideologues argue, the basis and means for social change in Islam is reform (islah), not revolution.

There are fundamental differences, indeed contradictions, between the reformist and revolutionary paths to social change. The principal objective of revolutionaries is to bring about change at the external level, particularly in the bases of political power, while reformists aim primarily at change at the internal level—in the inner consciousness and behaviour of individuals. While revolution stands for total and sudden change, reform stands for partial and gradual change or, at least, it does not oppose it. Reform is guided by concern and goodwill for others, while, typically, revolutions are fired by feelings of hatred or revenge.

The social change wrought by all the prophets, including the Prophet Muhammad, were instances of reform, rather than radicalism or revolution. Their reformist efforts aimed primarily at the transformation of the inner consciousness, beliefs and behaviour of individuals through education, moral instruction and purification. This is what the Quran regards as the aim behind God sending to humankind a long chain of prophets. As the Quran puts it, referring to the Prophet Muhammad: “Allah did confer a big favour on the believers when He sent among them a Messenger from among themselves, rehearsing unto them the signs of Allah, purifying them, and instructing them in scripture and wisdom, while, before that, they had been in manifest error” (3:164).

The many prophets sent by God to guide humankind, the last of who was the Prophet Muhammad, did not make regime change or the capture of political power their aim. Rather, their primary focus was the reform of individuals, who, when suitably reformed, could form a society inspired to follow God’s teachings. Only then could a government that would rule according to the teachings of Islam. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have declared, ‘Those who rule over you will be just as you are’ (kama ta kununa kazalika yoammaru aleikum). In other words, people get the government or rulers they deserve, because the representatives of people emerge from and are chosen from among them. This clearly indicates that it is only through gradual and sustained reform at the level of individuals that society, and, then, the system of governance can be reformed. This is the natural system of bringing about social transformation.

Over the last 80-odd years, Islamist movements have never ceased from raising emotionally-driven slogans of what they call ‘Islamic Revolution’. Because they ignored the natural method of social transformation, the slogans raised by these movements remained precisely that—mere slogans that could not be actualized. Consequently, today many Muslims are growing weary of such clichéd slogans, and are losing faith in the claims of those who never tire of mouthing them.

In today’s world, political and radical or revolutionary interpretations of Islam are proving to be a major source of chaos, conflict and strife, or what the Quran terms fitna. The major ideologue of this politically-oriented version of Islam was an Indian (who later migrated to Pakistan), Maulana Syed Abul ‘Ala Maududi, founder of the Islamist Jama‘at-e Islami. In his hugely influential, and, at the same time, enormously controversial book Islami Nizam-e Zindagi Aur Uske Buniyadi Tasavvurat (‘The Islamic Way of Life and its Basic Conceptions’), Maududi projected Islam as a revolutionary ideology and the Muslim ummah as a revolutionary party. On this basis, he called for Muslims to struggle for what he termed as ‘Islamic Revolution’ throughout the world. He considered all the prophets of God to have been revolutionary political leaders. If one were to take this obviously erroneous claim to be true, one would have to admit that, with a very few exceptions, none of the prophets were successful in their mission because they were not accepted as political leaders by their people, and nor were they able to establish Islamic political rule. Obviously, no sensible Muslim can believe that the prophets were failures and that they were unable to do what God had sent them to the world to accomplish.

To claim, as Maududi does, that Muslims are ‘not a band of preachers and missionaries, but, rather, a party of soldiers of God’ is to betray ignorance, and, indeed, transgression of, the basic truths of Islam. The major difference between the truly Islamic method of social transformation, as followed by the prophets, and the radical method of present-day politically-oriented Islamist movements is that the former is gradual and aims at reforms from below, from the individual to the social and then to the political plane, while the latter is radical and seeks to impose change in individuals and in the society from above, using political power for this purpose. The latter method is unnatural, unrealistic and impracticable, and inevitably results in strife and much bloodshed and destruction. That, indeed, is the fate of any movement that uses unnatural methods, no matter how noble its aims may be. It is also apparent that any revolution wrought by such means can never be long-lasting. Revolutions are generally sooner or later subverted, ironically often by those who played key roles in bringing them about in the first place.

All this clearly suggests that Islamic movements and groups that are engaged in, or so they claim, in ‘revolutionary’ action to capture power must seriously revisit their methods and their ideology. Such radicalism is proving, as the case of Pakistan today, for instance, so tragically shows, to be entirely counter-productive for Islam and its adherents. If at all any ‘revolution’ occurs as a result of the activities of these ‘revolutionary’ self-styled Islamist groups, the true lovers of Islam will, one can be sure, desperately seek safety from it and from ‘political Islam’, an obvious parody of authentic Islam, on which it would be based.

[Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com. Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@gmail.com]

:: ANNOUNCEMENT :: Popular Front of India to hold Community Leaders Meet on Muslim Reservation

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 01 May 2010 | Posted in

Popular Front of India to hold Community Leaders Meet on Muslim Reservation

In continuation of the National Campaign for Muslim Reservation, Popular Front of India (PFI) has convened a Community Leaders Meet on Muslim Reservation at Constitution Club, Rafi Marg, New Delhi on May 2, 2010 from 3.00 pm to 6.00 pm. The meet which will be attended by representatives of various organizations as well as leaders who pioneer the Muslim reservation movement in different states,” said the press release issued by K.M. Shareef, General Secretary of PFI.

Mr. E.M Abdul Rahiman, Chairman of Popular Front of India, will preside over the meet. Mr. K.M Shareef, General Secretary of Popular Front of India, will present the situation report. The guest speakers include Mr. Kamal Akhtar MP, Raja Sabha; Mr. Sabir Ali MP, Raja Sabha; Dr. Ehjas Ali, MP, Raja Sabha; Mr. Sayed Shahabudin, Ex MP, Lok Sabha; Mr. G.N Sai Baba, Professor, Delhi University; Mr. Vivker Kumar, Professor, Jawharlal Nehru University; Mrs. Zoya Hassan, Professor, Jawharlal Nehru University; and Mr. Kamal Mitra Chinoi, Professor, Jawharlal Nehru University. The meet will review the nationwide efforts for Muslim reservation and examine the various aspects involved in the implementation of reservation to Muslims in the light of Justice Ranganathan Misra Commission.

The report submitted by Justice Ranganath Misra Commission is now on the table of the parliament. Though the report was tabled in the previous session of the parliament, the central government has not so far pronounced any action on the recommendations contained in it. The Misra report has once again brought the issue of Muslim reservation to the forefront. During these months, the country has witnessed various agitations by community organizations in different parts of the country demanding reservation to Muslims in government employment and government run educational institutions. Popular Front of India has also undertaken a National Campaign for Muslim Reservation which covered most of the states in the country from Tamil Nadu to Delhi and Rajasthan to Manipur,” the press release said.

The Congress manifesto released prior to the Lok Sabha elections 2009 clearly promised reservation to Muslims on the national level on the basis of their backwardness. Hence the UPA government has to declare 10% reservation to all Muslims in employment and educations all over India because the Sachar and Misra reports have established that the whole community is backward than all other communities in the country. Also the recommendation of the Misra Commission to include the most deprived among the Muslims in the Scheduled Caste category also has to be implemented. Any decision which ignores these two demands will not ensure the uplift of the Muslim community. In this context, it is hoped that the forthcoming Community Leaders Meet on Muslim Reservation will provide sufficient insight into the various aspects of the issue and help the community, nation and the government in resolving this long pending and just demand,” K.M. Shareef, General Secretary of Popular Front of India said in the press release.

:: ISSUES :: 16-year-old Muslim girl from West Bengal sold as ‘slave wife’ to a Dalit rescued

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in ,

16-year-old Muslim girl from West Bengal sold as ‘slave wife’ to a Dalit rescued

By Shafiq Ur Rahman Khan Yusufzai

A 16-year-old Muslim girl from West Bengal, who was allegedly sold to live as a “slave wife” with a Dalit man, has been rescued from Ponchhada village in Karauli district of Rajasthan. Women’s groups here say the girl was a victim of a big trafficking network in eastern part of the State where there is a high gender imbalance.

Memi Khatoon, belonging to Nijgaon village in Malda district of West Bengal, was brought to Ponchhada from Delhi about a year ago after allegedly being purchased for Rs.26,000. She was forced to live as a wife with 40-year-old Paramsukh Lal Bairwa and was tortured and confined to his house for doing household chores.

Women’s groups produced the visibly upset and malnourished girl at a press conference here on Saturday (April 24, 2010), claiming that she escaped while being taken for medical treatment to another village and was rescued by some Muslim families whom she approached. She will be lodged for the time being at the short-stay home, Shakti Stambh, run by the Rajasthan University Women’s Association.

Memi said she had left her village with some of her relatives to visit Delhi, where she met a woman who gave her biscuits laced with a tranquillising drug. She fell unconscious and later found herself at a house in Ponchhada village. When she tried to escape, the family members said they had “purchased” her and forced her to live with Paramsukh.

The Dalit family allegedly forced her to speak to her mother on telephone and tell her that she had married a Muslim boy on her own and was living happily with him. She was not allowed to venture out of home and was compelled to have sexual relations with the 40-year-old man.

Memi also said she knew of four to five girls living in similar circumstances in the village. “I noticed that the woman I had met in Delhi was in regular touch with the family which purchased me. She seemed to be running a racket for supplying young girls to the region,” she said.

Activists belonging to the National Federation of Indian Women and National Muslim Women’s Welfare Society demanded stringent punishment to those who had purchased the girl and identification of people involved in the girl trafficking racket. They have lodged a complaint at the women’s police station in Gandhi Nagar here.

Kavita Srivastava of People’s Union for Civil Liberties said the girl trafficking route in eastern Rajasthan had revived during the last couple of years following the decline in the sex ratio due to which the men were not able to find girls for marriage. As many as four such cases had been detected during the last two months in the region, she added.

Association for Protection of Civil Rights convenor Paikar Farooque said the case of Memi Khatoon clearly depicted the increasing crimes against women in the State. Women activists Nisha Siddhu and Nishat Hussain demanded immediate reconstitution of the State Women’s Commission, lying defunct for over a year, for dealing with such cases.

Activists also expressed concern over the Dalit families in Hindon tehsil, where Ponchhada is situated, reportedly threatening the local Muslims for having extended support to Memi. A caste panchayat of Bairwa community is reportedly being convened shortly in the village to discuss the matter.

[Shafiqur Rahman Khan Yusufzai is Delhi-based social activist working on issues of human rights focusing on prevention of human (bride) trafficking and honor killing in India. He other areas of interests includes socio-criminology research and civic movements. His works can be seen on http://srahmankhan.webs.com/aboutshafique.htm. He can be contacted at srkhan83@gmail.com]

:: ISSUES :: The Importance of Peace in Islam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | | Posted in

The Importance of Peace in Islam

By Maulana Waris Mazhari

(Translated from Urdu by Yoginder Sikand)

Islam is a peaceful religion. It stands for peace and desires peace. The basis of Islam is peace. The word ‘Islam’ is derived from the root silm, which means ‘peace’. In this sense, a true Muslim, one who truly follows Islam, is someone who is at perfect peace, with himself and with others, a person who is a means for the welfare of others. He is someone from whom others can expect goodness, not problems or evil. The Prophet Muhammad is said to have declared, as mentioned in the Hadith collections of Tirmidhi and Nasai: ‘A true believer (mu‘min) is he from whom people’s lives and wealth are safe.’ A true Muslim is one who lives in society, rather than cut off from it, and is impelled with the overwhelming desire to bring peace to humankind. He seeks to bring others close to him, not to drive them away from him. This is why the Prophet declared, in a hadith report contained in the Sahih al-Bukhari: ‘In him there is no merit who is not familiar with others and with whom others are not familiar’.

According to a saying of the Prophet, Islam is welfare (ad-din an-nasiha). The Prophet is also quoted as having said: ‘All creatures are [members of] the family of God’ (al-khalqo ayalullah). Accordingly, a Muslim must behave with all others, fellow creatures of God, in the same way as he behaves with members of his own family. Furthermore, as a hadith report in the Sahih al-Bukhari explains, the Prophet stressed that a Muslim is one who desires for others what he desires for himself.

The fact of the matter is that the biggest blessing of God is peace. Without peace a person cannot properly fulfil his religious, social and economic roles and responsibilities. Nor can he properly benefit from the blessings of God. This is why peace is described as a major divine blessing in numerous verses of the Quran. Thus, for instance, the Quran says: ‘Let them worship the Lord of this House, who provides them with food against hunger and with security against fear [of danger]’ (106: 3-4).

Elsewhere, the Quran says: ‘Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety’ (2:125). The verse that immediately follows after this one cites the prophet Abraham beseeching God with regard to Mecca thus: ‘My Lord, make this a city of peace’ (2:126). Similarly, God says of Mecca: ‘In it are signs manifest: the station of Abraham; whoever enters it attains security’ (3:97). According to the Quran, on the Day of Judgment, God will say to the pious and the pure ones: ‘Enter ye in peace and security’ (15:46). In this way, the Quran describes both Mecca, the religious centre of the Muslims, and heaven as places of peace. This indicates that God desires that Muslims live a peaceful life in this world and be upholders of peace. The Prophet is said to have declared: ‘Among you if anyone passes the night and wakens to be in peace in his home, healthy in body and in possession of a day’s supply of water and food, it is as if he has acquired all the wealth of the world.’ The basis for acquiring this wealth is peace. On the contrary, if a person lacks peace all the wealth and luxuries of the world are meaningless for him. This is why it is incumbent on people to strive to protect and promote peace in their own lives and in society at large, for this is the basis of social life and of civilisational progress.

The opposite of peace is fear and restlessness at the individual level, and chaos and conflict at the social level. A community characterized by strife must struggle to come out of this situation and establish peace, even if this would lead to some temporary damage or loss to it.

Securing peace was a major quest of the Prophet Muhammad, which was indispensible for conveying God’s message to others and for nurturing a society of individuals who followed God’s teachings in their personal and collective affairs. Muslims regard the Prophet as the model whom they must emulate. For the first thirteen years of his prophethood, the Prophet remained in his city of Mecca, using peaceful means of persuasion despite the fierce opposition that he had to encounter. Despite horrific persecution, he and his followers remained steadfast and determined, preaching to the people and seeking to guide them to the right path. Later, when the situation became intolerable, he left for Medina, where his first effort was to establish peace and to build bridges of love, brotherhood and harmony between the Muslim migrants or Muhajirun of Mecca and the helpers or Ansars of Medina.

Later, in order to further expand this work of promoting peace and solidarity, the Prophet entered into a treaty with the Jewish and pagan tribes of Medina, according to which these groups were to be treated as belonging to the same qaum or community as the Muslims. All those who were party to the treaty were to be given protection or peace, except, of course, those who violated this agreement. According to the treaty, the valley of Yathrib or Medina was to be a sacred place for all those who were party to it. In this way, by giving foremost importance to peace, the treaty guaranteed the parties to it safety from external attack and internal strife. The same spirit was evident in the terms of the Treaty of Hudaibiyah between the Muslims, led by the Prophet, and the Meccan pagans. The Prophet signed the treaty although some of the terms appeared to be heavily weighed against him. This he did so that a climate of peace could be created, because of which Islam would be able to spread peacefully.

Even when the Prophet had acquired political power and strength he gave the establishment of peace the topmost priority. Thus, when he conquered Mecca he did not behave like most conquerors would have. He did not engage in bloodshed and strife. Instead, he issued a general amnesty. When a companion of his, Sa‘ad Ibn Ubada, said that this would be the ‘day of fierce fighting’ (yaum al-malhama), the Prophet rebutted him and said it would be a ‘day of mercy’ (yaum al-marhama). The Prophet announced that all those who entered the house of his arch-enemy Abu Sufiyan, or who locked themselves up in their own homes or who had sought refuge in the mosque of the Ka‘aba would be given protection. Finally, he forgave even the most inveterate foes of Islam, the Muslims and himself. Consequently, vast numbers of those who had fiercely opposed the Prophet voluntarily entered the fold of Islam.

Peace is the call of nature. It is the most fundamental basis of social life. The absence of peace in any society is the major cause for its decline. Those communities that have not understood these truths are destined to be consigned to the margins of history. The most aggressive and violent group to emerge in the course of Muslim history were the Kharijites, but they rapidly disappeared altogether. Likewise, all such violent groups, Muslim or otherwise, are destined to die out, no matter how noble their objectives may be.

The Prophet Muhammad is said to have remarked: ‘Do not want or desire to fight the enemy. And seek peace from God.’ However, contrary to this, several Muslim groups and movements in different parts of the world are today engaged in bloody confrontation, and have made conflict their primary identity. This is despite the fact that the Quran warns Muslims not to spread strife. Further, these self-styled ‘revolutionary’ Islamic groups have emerged as a major cause for worsening and making more complicated and intractable many of the problems that Muslims are faced with. Their bloody actions are proving to be entirely counter-productive for Islam and Muslims. In my opinion, the conduct of most of these movements and the fate that they have today met with reflects what God says in the following verse of the Quran: Allah sets forth a parable: a city enjoying security and quiet, abundantly supplied with sustenance from every place: yet was it ungrateful for the favours of Allah: so Allah made it taste of hunger and terror [in extremes] [closing in on it] like a garment [from every side], because of the [evil] which [its people] wrought’ (16:112).

[Maulana Waris Mazhari is the editor of the New Delhi-based monthly Tarjuman Dar ul-Uloom, the official organ of the Graduates’ Association of the Deoband madrasa. He can be contacted on w.mazhari@gmail.com. Yoginder Sikand works with the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion at the National Law School, Bangalore. He can be contacted at ysikand@gmail.com]

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