Mimbar, Imam Hadi Mosque, Sa’da, North Yemen

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Students gather around a painting of 60 Indian freedom fighters

BABU/REUTERS

Students gather around a painting of 60 Indian freedom fighters as part of Independence Day celebrations at a school in the city of Chennai, Tuesday, August 14, 2007.

 Fearful Muslims adopt Hindu IDs

In India, many members of religious minority hide the signs of their faith to escape discrimination

Aug 15, 2007 04:30 AM


SPECIAL TO THE STAR
CALCUTTA–On a busy street in Calcutta’s business district, he runs a food stall called “Rajib’s Paratha” and is known as Rajib Mallick.

Using the popular Hindu name, no one suspects he is Rajab Ali Mollah, a Muslim who has adopted a fictitious identity to blend in with the neighbourhood’s mostly Hindu office workers.

Sohrab Hossain, a Muslim student who came to the city to complete his Masters degree in English and lives in a Hindu-dominated housing complex, is known as Sourav Das among the students he tutors. To keep up his Hindu appearance he has a small idol of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning, on his desk.

Every morning as she prepares to go to work as a fishmonger, Hasina Khatoon takes off her silver armband embossed with “Allah” in Arabic, puts vermillion powder on her forehead and red-white conch bangles on her wrist – symbols of a married Hindu woman – to maintain a Hindu appearance in a fish market where almost all of her customers are Hindus.

Rajab Mollah, Sohrab Hossain and Hasina Khatoon say they have adopted new identities in a Hindu-majority society where as Muslims they would face discrimination.

Analysts say many Muslims from all socio-economic backgrounds are quietly hiding their religious affiliation.

“Muslims in almost all spheres of life face a communal discrimination by powerful Hindus and they are denied many of their basic rights and freedom in an unjustified way,” said Anjan Basu, a social analyst and executive editor of Pratidin, a Bengali daily in Calcutta.

Six decades after Partition, “many (Hindus) believe that Pakistan was created for Muslims and now they do not have right to live in India, which is meant for Hindus.”

The Partition of India 60 years ago was a highly controversial arrangement, and remains a cause of much tension on the subcontinent today.

Basu, who is a Hindu, also said discrimination has been “institutionalized,” with many Muslims being denied employment in government and private-sector offices where 90 to 95 per cent jobs are held by Hindus.

Gautam Ray, a senior journalist with Calcutta’s largest Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika, said that since the bulk of the dalits (low-caste Hindus or so-called Untouchables) converted to Islam when the religion spread in India, many upper-caste Hindus look down on Muslims as they had for generations looked down on dalits.

“The root of this communal discrimination is deeply entrenched in the society and most of these communal Hindus are not expected to change their feeling for Muslims any time soon,” said Ray, who is also an upper-caste Hindu. “Muslims are often denied housing in Hindu-dominated modern residential complexes,” he added.

“This communal discrimination against Muslims will not end unless Hindus themselves change their attitude. But we do not see hope of any such positive social change anytime soon.”

Muslims who adopted fake Hindu identities believe they did nothing wrong by hiding their original identities.

“Ten years ago, when my house and land in the village was eaten up by a river and I came to Calcutta in search of a job, almost all street shops and restaurants in the city refused to employ me because I was a Muslim,” Mollah said.

“Some said their Hindu customers could refuse to eat at their restaurants if a Muslim worked there,” he said.

“But I met a Muslim man who worked under a Hindu identity to supply water to restaurants. I followed his advice, picked up a Hindu identity and soon an upper-class Hindu employed me to run a food stall.”

Nearly all of Mollah’s customers are Hindus and he fears his business would suffer disastrously if his customers found out he is a Muslim.

“I don’t think I have done anything wrong because I know how they hate Muslims simply because of their religion,” he added.

A federal commission recently found that Muslims “live in socio-economic conditions worse than many so-called backward tribal people,” according to commission chief Rajendra Sachar, a former judge.

In the state of West Bengal, where the Muslim community makes up 27 per cent of the population, employment of Muslims in the government sector was below 3 per cent, the Sachar Commission reported.

Some Muslim leaders see education as the key to a better future.

“If the younger generation can educate themselves, it will be difficult for even the most communal Hindus to discriminate against a new Muslim force,” said Nazrul Islam, a senior public servant and noted Calcutta writer.

“Maybe discrimination will not be wiped out completely, but an educated and powerful community of Muslims will be able to fight off the injustice, at least to a good extent.”


Shaikh Azizur Rahman is a journalist based in India. Taken from

Despotic rules are attempting to deprive women of their rights

Grand Ayatollah Saanei in an interview with Spanish television: “Despotic rules are attempting to deprive women of their rights”.

 
 

“Despotic rules are attempting to deprive women of their rights”.

 

“Today, some political doctrines are attempting to deprive women of their basic rights and this has emerged from some despotic policies”, declared Grand Ayatollah Saanei in an interview with Spanish television.

 

Spanish television

 

Enumerating the causes of the violation of women’s rights, among which His Honor highlighted the legal inferences and also the approved civil laws corresponding to the past decades as the main causes, he added, “We believe that women in the Islamic society must enjoy their individual as well as social rights so that they can even occupy the highest positions such as presidential or leadership positions”.

 

Spanish television

Pointing out the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and the necessity of a peaceful settlement of the dispute, His Honor declared, “Although the policies related to Iran’s nuclear case are very complicated, I believe that the basic strategy for both sides must be to open direct negotiations”.  

 

 

 “The world today, is the world of wisdom and talk, and mankind hates war”, he continued, declaring that it is improbable for the dispute to end in  war.

 

In response to a question asking whether or not Iran has any atomic bombs already, this Grand religious authority of imitation continued, “From our religious point of view, no one is allowed to have atomic bombs, and suppose we have such bombs one day, our religious beliefs will not allow us to use them”.

 

“We are not looking forward to being respected and establishing authority by means of atomic bombs, rather in an age when mankind is moving towards global peace and the advent of the Deliverer, respect and authority must be based on wisdom and better thoughts”, His Honor stated.

Joining relations

relations.jpgAnd those who join that Allah has bidden to be joined and have awe of their Lord and fear the evil reckoning.’(Sura-e-Rad : 21)

If we look into the history of mankind we will notice that as man progresses he has a sense of pride for his achievements. At the same time there is also an increase in difficulties and problems that are a part and parcel of this progress. We rarely come across any person who says that he is satisfied and that he has acquired all the necessities of life. Today we are living in such a society and environment where man is in the clutches of problems and anxieties. He is living in a society where the rich are becoming richer and the poor get poorer. Even acquiring the basic necessities of life has become a monumental task and it is almost impossible for him to conduct his life with respect and modesty.

Under such conditions it is our duty to join and maintain relations with our relatives (i.e. Silhe Rahem). From the Quranic verse mentioned above we learn that doing Silhe Rahem and fulfilling our duties with respect to our relatives, makes accounting in Qiyamat easy.

We are aware that on the Day of Qiyamat every individual will be so grieved and distressed regarding the accounting of his deeds, that neither will the father care for his son, nor will the son attend to his father. Even that person will avoid him in whose love he neglected the hereafter. Indeed the Day of Qiyamat will be the most severe and chastising day. Allah, the Almighty, has given us a solution and our Imams (a.s.) have clearly explained it with their insightful traditions and decisive actions. We see that Imam Jafar Sadiq (a.s.) at the time of his death made a will stating
…after my death give 70 dinars to my cousin brother (paternal uncle’s son) Hasan.’ When he was asked. ‘Master you are bestowing to the one who had attacked you with the sword!’ Imam (a.s.) answered ‘What! Do you not want me to be included among those about whom Allah has said – and those people who have been ordered by Allah to do Silhe Rahem, they continue to do it.’

Imam Jafar Sadiq’s (a.s.) statement and his action is a lesson for mankind and an event that should be reflected upon. Today when we look at our society, we find that its condition is going from bad to worse. We realise that people are not only avoiding Silhe Rahem but are finding excuses for breaking relations (Qate Rahem). We observe that even silly and baseless arguments are enough for people to severe relations. They ignore and disregard the sacrifices that were made in order to maintain these age-old relations.

When we look at the ignorant Arabs (before advent of Islam), we pride ourselves at living in an advanced scientific era, where man has set foot on the moon and is now trying to reach other planets. But on close scrutiny we see a lot of similarities between the ignorant Arabs and us. We realise that in many ways we have even surpassed the uncivilised Arabs. Just as they were selfish and looked only at their own benefit, we are also doing the same. If this is not true, then why do we see our blood relations becoming distant from us? It is only because we have discarded the etiquette of maintaining relations and have fallen prey to our selfishness. We are Muslims only for namesake and we have a long way to go before we can call ourselves ‘true Muslims’ in the real sense as Allah and His Apostle (s.a.w.s.) want us to be.

Allamah Majlisi (r.a.) has narrated a tradition in Beharul Anwar vol. 2, pg. 106 from Imam Muhammad Baqir (a.s.) who has narrated on the authority of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.s.) – I am doing wasiyyat to all people of my nation – those who are present, absent, the future generations till Qiyamat, who are in the loins of men and wombs of women, that you all maintain relations with your relatives even if they are residing at a distance of one year’s travel. This is because Silhe Reham is one of the commands which Allah has made as a part of religion.’

To choose someone for friendship

https://i0.wp.com/www.ezsoftech.com/stories/images/friends.jpgIslam has placed tremendous importance on the aspect of camaraderie and friendship. Companionship is crucial as it wards off loneliness and distress. This sense of companionship holds a lot of significance in any relationship. Today, we see intense disputes and altercations arising even between parents and children and as well as among siblings . This is chiefly due to the fact that, though their relationship is marked with blood ties, the all-important sentiments of camaraderie and fellowship are sorely missing. Our experience will tell us that friendship often takes precedence over blood relations. Man tends to heed his friends more than his relatives. He trusts his companions more than his own kin. The youth today, confide in their friends, while being discreet with their parents.

Making and becoming friends is inherent in man’s nature. This process of companionship commences right from the early stages of man’s life and continues till his death. Islam as explained before, is in complete harmony with man’s nature. Hence, it has dealt with this topic in some detail. The Holy Imams (a.s.) were at pains to explain the etiquette and decorum of true friendship. Hazrat Ali (a.s.) observes,
‘He indeed is unfortunate who does not have any friends, but worse is the one who has friends, but loses them.’
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 73 p.278)

In another tradition it is narrated, ‘Acquire more and more friends, because on the Day of Judgement each believer shall exercise his right of intercession (shafa’at).’ (Mizaanul Hikmah vol. 3) Thus a person with maximum believer companions, enhances his chances of intercession and consequently, salvation.

As in other elements of human nature, Islam has also elucidated the aspect of friendship at length. It has recommended ethics and values that a Muslim must observe in friendship, so that he can acquire some benefit out of companionship; a benefit whose effects will be manifested in the world as well as the hereafter. That is why while Islam has emphasised the importance of friendship, it has also stressed on the qualities that a friend should necessarily possess. It has clearly demarcated who is worthy of friendship and who isn’t.

However, first let us see what should be the sole objective for taking up friends.

Imam Ali Reza (a.s.) elucidates,
‘One who takes up a friend to please Allah, has reserved for himself a house in Paradise.’
(Amaalie Tusi vol. 1 p. 82)

To choose someone for friendship purely on the basis of his piety and faith, only to satisfy Allah is akin to earmarking a place in Paradise. One must take up friends, if only on the basis of faith and good ethics.

The Messenger of Allah (s.a.w.s.) narrates,
‘After the advent of Islam, the greatest benefit to a Muslim is in the guise of that friend he has selected, only to please Allah.’
(Mizaanul Hikmah). Books of ethics and traditions abound with such traditions.

This was one facet of friendship. Now let us look at the flip side. Hazrat Ali (a.s.) narrates,
‘Any friendship and companionship that is not for Allah’s pleasure, is deviation and to rely on such ties (of friendship) is impossible .’
(Ibid.).

The Holy Quran expounds further,
‘The friends shall on that day (of judgment) be enemies of each other except those who guard against evil.’
(Zukhruf : 67).

One who seeks friendship for worldly benefits, will find himself deprived (Mizanul Hikmah). A lot of people establish their bonds of friendship and enmity based on the gain they are likely to accrue on a personal level. That is, if a person has some utility, he qualifies as a friend, else he is an enemy. However, that should never be the benchmark for us. For the sake of Imame Zamana (a.t.f.s.), may Allah grant us the taufeeq to seek friends only for His pleasure and satisfaction.

friendship.jpgQUALIFICATIONS OF A FRIEND
Friends are by no means only a means for ‘time-pass’ or entertainment. Indeed friendship is more profound than that. Friendship and companionship are inseparable aspects of an individual’s life. A friend’s character and personality will rub off on that individual. It is for this reason that it is said, ‘A man is known by the company he keeps.’ Hence Islam, while emphasising the need for companionship, also clearly outlines the qualities of a true friend.

WHO SHOULD NOT BE BEFRIENDED
Imam Baqir (a.s.) narrates from his father who said,
“O my son don’t befriend five types of people:
(a) Don’t befriend a liar. For a liar is like a mirage. He shows the distant as near and the near as distant. He will always deceive you and trouble you.

(b) Don’t befriend a transgressor. For he will forsake you for a paltry sum and make your sins appear very alluring to you. He will make you a victim of Allah’s chastisement through his petty sins and take you farther away from His obedience and satisfaction. He will make Allah’s worship appear as His disobedience, and His disobedience as His worship. He will drag you along with himself in the fire of hell.

(c) Never befriend a miser. For in your time of need and distress, he will withhold his wealth from you, while he is in a position to assist you. (He values his wealth more than anything else. And to that end he is prepared to forsake even his friends)

(d) Do not befriend a fool. For (in his foolishness) he will harm you while he intends to help you. (That is why it is said, ‘A shrewd enemy is better than a foolish friend’)

(e) Don’t befriend the one who breaks relations (with his relatives). For, such a person has been cursed in the Quran in three places. He is engrossed in his own affairs with scant regard for others. (Friendship with such a person will eventually lead the individual towards sins and disobedience of Allah)”

https://i1.wp.com/www.islamicvoice.com/october.2000/images/10friends.jpgThe Holy Quran says,
“The men and women from among the hypocrites are friends of each other, and they invite the people towards sin and transgression, and dissuade them from goodness and virtue. They withhold their wealth from charity, and refrain from spending in the way of Allah. Indeed, they have forgotten Allah and Allah too has forgotten them. Verily these hypocrites are transgressors and immoral.’

On the other hand, Quran discusses the believers in the following manner,
”The men and women from among the believers are friends of each other. They call the people towards goodness and piety and abstain from evil and transgression. They uphold the prayer, pay the poor-rate (zakaat) and obey Allah and His Prophet (s.a.w.s.). Indeed, these are the ones for whom Allah shall soon manifest His mercy and grace. Verily Allah is all-powerful, and the most wise.”
(Ale Imran : 71)

The two Quranic verses mentioned above only go to show how critical a role friendship can play in our lives. A true friend then, is the one who takes us closer to Allah’s compassion and grace.

Having deliberated at length on who should not be befriended, we shall now see what kind of people should be befriended. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) narrates, ‘Friendship entails certain trusts and duties. Then the one who observes these obligations is a true friend and the one who breaches this trust is unworthy of friendship. These obligations are as follows;

    1. He should be the same outside as he is inside. In other words, he should not have a dual personality. (In this age however, we often come across people who are exceptionally humble and modest on the outside, with little, if any humility, on the inside)

    2. He will consider your virtues as his virtues and your misdeeds as his misdeeds. (In other words your virtues will cheer him and your faults will grieve him. God forbid, he must not feel relieved after observing some vice in you, and take solace from the fact that he himself is above that vice.)

    3. If he acquires a position of power and authority, it must not bring about a drastic change in his attitude. In other words, prosperity must not transform the individual adversely. (There are some people who make the best of friends in adversity. But a positive change in their financial condition, reveals a dark, hitherto unknown side of their personality. On the other hand we see some people who make good friends in prosperity, but misfortune transforms them, disclosing their fickleness.)

    4. He must give his friendship (with you) priority over all his worldly possessions. In other words in times of adversity, he must be willing to give his all to redeem you.

    5. He must never leave you alone in times of misfortune and distress.
    (Behaarul Anwaar vol. 74 p.173)

According to one tradition, true friendship is acknowledged in moments of affliction and anguish. For indeed a true friend is always at hand in adversity. A believer’s best friend is one who does not help him in transgression. However, he assists him in Allah’s worship and obedience and cautions him against His disobedience. Imam Sadiq (a.s.) remarks,
‘My best friend is the one who gifts me my weaknesses and shortcomings.’
(Behaarul Anwaar, vol. 74 p. 282)

In other words one who brings to your notice your defects and flaws is indeed your true friend.

https://i1.wp.com/img87.imageshack.us/img87/4226/10660611ag8.jpgHowever, there is one very imperative point in the above-mentioned tradition of Imam Sadiq (a.s.). When one presents an offering to a close friend, he does so with utmost care, not willing to overlook anything. He offers the gift with total respect and regard. For, even the most valuable gift if not presented with correct etiquette, can look very ordinary. While presenting the offering, the friend tries to make the most expensive gift seem very ordinary so as to not embarrass the recipient. On the other hand, the recipient of this gift tries to make even the most ordinary gift seem very precious, so as to please his friend. Similarly, when we wish to point out certain shortcomings to a friend, we must do so with a degree of respect and sincerity. Our sole intention must be to reform the friend and there should be no hint of any malice and self-righteousness. Likewise, when a friend highlights for us, our defects, we must acknowledge the same with respect and gratitude without any ill will and hostility. Indeed if we establish these as the standards of friendship, the believers shall soon find themselves enveloped with friends who will take them closer to Paradise and farther away from the fire of hell.

The Miracle of the Qur’an poems


The Miracle of the Qur’an

Brothers and sisters, to increase your Iman
Read the Miracle – read the Qur’an
Recite it everyday and to recite it be proud
For the word ‘Qur’an’ means to recite aloud
And this is to know – for those who are keener:
Around 28 Surahs were revealed in Madinah
The Book from Allah – the Lord of the worlds
Over 6000 verses / 77,000 words
Read it with respect – notice the auras
Al-Fatiha to An-Nás – all 114 Surahs
In this Book, 25 Prophets are mentioned by name
Came at different times, but the message the same
The verses revealed over a 23 year span
Sent from Allah, through an angel to man
He gave us a message and this is Islam

So read the Miracle – read the Qur’an

 

The Holy Qur’an

I am a Book in elegant prints
To know my name, here are some hints:
Rich in cover and nicely bound
In hearts of Muslims I am rarely found
High on a shelf I am usually kept
Forgotten and neglected, I am left
With respect I do get lots of kiss
My main point is what they always miss
At times I am used for phoney swear
My true use though is very rare
A Miracle I am that can change the world
All one has to do is heed my word
I am your saviour, I am your guide
So come and take heed, come and abide
I have wisdom, I have treasure
So much so, there is no measure
Right from wrong is my fame
Holy Qur’an is my name

 

Women in Islam

 

How do women fit into Islam? What is their fate?

This has been the subject of many a debate

‘For both believing men and women, is a great reward’

This is from The Holy Qur’an – the Words of our Lord

It can be seen from reading The Holy Qur’an

That a woman to God, is equal to man

A woman is respected as a mother and wife

For nine long months, she carries new life

During childbirth, she is exempted to fast

Islam is against the burial of live girls in the past

They can pray at the Mosque or pray at home

They may marry or divorce – it’s their choice, their own

After marriage, she can retain her old maiden-name

And is rewarded for treating all her offspring the same

Once they are married, they should live pious lives

And the men are ordained to be good to their wives

Women in the UK, had property rights from 1938

This right was given by Islam, 14 centuries to date

In the UK, women could vote from 1918

This was given 1400 years ago in Islam – our Deen

Women can work and lead a happily married life

Without neglecting her role as mother and wife

For her child’s upbringing, she deserves her credit

Islam also gives a woman the right to inherit

Though some misinform with what they preach

The Holy Qur’an this does not teach

A woman’s status in Islam, we should never neglect

In Islam they are favoured and deserve their respect

 For more beautiful poems visit

Interview with Maulana Sayyed Hamid ul-Hasan

Interview with Maulana Sayyed Hamid ul-Hasan

By Yoginder Sikand

Maulana Sayyed Hamid ul-Hasan is the principal of the Jami’a Nazmia, Lucknow, amaulana_hamidul_hasan.jpg madrasa catering to the Ithna ‘Ashari Shi’a community. He is one of the leading Shi’a ulama of India, having been educated at Najaf Ashraf under the well-known Shi’a mujtahid, Ayatollah Agha Khui.
YS: What do you have to say about the current propaganda against the madrasas as ‘dens of terror”?

MSH: The madrasa system, as such, is devoted simply to the preservation and promotion of the Islamic tradition. There has been no radical change in the madrasa syllabus in India for decades, if not centuries. So how and why is it that suddenly people have started branding the madrasas as ‘dens of terror? If at all there was any truth in these allegations then how come no one made such allegations ten years ago or before?

YS: Shi’a-Sunni conflicts are still acute in several places, including Lucknow. How can this be solved?

MSH: As I see it, the ‘ulama, both Shi’a as well as Sunni, ought to be in the forefront of efforts to
improve Shi’a-Sunni relations, by promoting serious and peaceful dialogue so that we can understand each other. I strongly feel the need for unity and understanding between followers of the different groups among the Muslims, but I regret to say that the ulama in general have not made any major moves in this regard so far they seem too scared or reluctant to come out of their narrow confines. Now, here at the Jami’a Nazmia, we have tried to reach out to the Sunni ‘ulama, by inviting some of them to come and meet with us and discuss various issues, and I must say that we have registered some success in this regard, although not as much as we would have wished.

YS: How have madrasas responded to the demands being voiced from several quarters for the ‘modernisation’ of their curriculum? In particular, how have they reacted to government offers of financial assistance in return for including modern subjects in their syllabus?

MSH: I cannot speak for other madrasas, but as for the Jami’a Nazmia, we are now teaching both religious as well as modern subjects. We follow the syllabus prescribed by the government-run Allahabad Madrasa Board, which includes both types of subjects. We teach all the modern subjects taught in the regular school system till the sixth grade level. The Board pays for the salaries of some of our teachers. We do not feel that this leaves us open to government interference we at least have not experienced this. Now, as far modernisation is concerned, we have a policy of encouraging our students to simultaneously enrol in regular universities. Almost all the students of our madrasa at the final level have done or are doing a graduation course from Lucknow University, mostly in the Urdu, Persian, Arabic and Islamic Studies Departments. Some of our graduates are now teaching at the Aligarh Muslim University, and others are even working in Islamic centres abroad, including Sweden, Norway and America. Some ‘ulama may think that teaching modern subjects would negatively impact on the faith of the students or trap them in the snares of the world, but I must say that this fear is completely misplaced. Unlike in several other madrasas, we actively encourage our students to regularly read newspapers and magazines so that they know what is happening in the world around them. If they remain ignorant of the world and of contemporary issues, how can they provide proper leadership to the community?

YS: It is often argued that in their teaching of Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) madrasas generally focus on issues that are of little contemporary relevance. What do you have to say about this?

MSH: At the Jami’a Nazmia we do use traditional books of fiqh so that the students get a good grounding in traditional methods of dealing with various issues, learning how the ‘ulama of the past interpreted and understood the shari’ah. But we also teach books on modern issues, mostly written by modern Iranian ‘ulama and mujtahids. In the Ja’fari school of fiqh which we follow, the doors of ijtihad have never been closed, and so we insist on the continuing necessity of ijtihad, performed by a qualified mujtahid. Our students are also encouraged to read books written by modern ‘ulama scholars such as ‘Ali Shari’ati and Allama Murtaza Muttahari and so on in order to understand how Islam can be understood and expressed in modern terms. We don’t stick just to old books, as many people wrongly imagine.

YS: What role do you think madrasas and their ‘ulama should play in promoting inter-faith dialogue?

MSH: I feel that religious leaders of all communities have a vital role to play in this regard, particularly since relations between Hindus and Muslims are so strained in our country today. We in India have a purpose and use for every sort of rubbish, but we neglect our most precious resource religion and use it, for the most part, for destructive, instead of constructive, purposes. Now, India is not like Pakistan or Iran, where almost all people follow one religion. We have so many religions here, so we must actively seek to understand our own religions in such a way as to promote inter-communal amity. It is the duty of religious leaders to take a lead in promoting inter-faith dialogue. As for myself, I try in my own small way to do this when I address gatherings.

Recently, in the month of Muharrum, I addressed a ten-day majlis specifically on the issue of jihad, in which several non-Muslims, including the Vice-Chancellor of Lucknow University, participated. I stressed the true meaning of jihad, which is striving in the path of God. Jihad does not mean killing innocent people, as is wrongly supposed. I quoted the Qur’an, which says that if a non-Muslim comes to you and seeks shelter, it is your duty to protect him. You should convey God’s message to him and then send him to a safe place. The Qur’an also says that Muslims should struggle for the rights of all persecuted people, not just of Muslims alone. I gave the example of Hatim Tai’s daughter. When, after a battle, she was arrested and brought before the Prophet, she told him that her father, who had died before the Prophet had declared his prophethood, used to help the poor and distressed, although, of course, he was not a Muslim. This so touched the Prophet that he ordered that she be immediately released. Then again, I quoted the story of the Christian priests of Najran, who came to Medina to debate with the Prophet. If the Prophet had ordered all non-Muslims to be killed, I asked, how come the Christian delegation came to Medina? The Christians debated with the Prophet on various religious matters, but in the end did not accept Islam, and they returned home safe and sound. If Islam really insisted on killing all non-Muslims how and why did the Prophet allow them to return?

In the majlis sessions I insisted that the greatest power in the world is love, not brute physical power. I commented that although religions have their doctrinal differences, their basic message is one and the same that is, there must be no bloodshed of innocents in the name of religion. If at all this happens, you can be sure that the person who such an act is not really religious. I made much the same argument in another meeting I recently addressed, at the Christian College in Lucknow, at a conference on religion and terrorism. I feel that religious leaders must go out and address such mixed gatherings so that the message gets across to a wider audience. We can’t afford to stay cocooned in our madrasas and temples any more, hoping that the world will change on its own.

As I see it, the greatest barrier to inter-faith dialogue is ignorance of each other, which then leads to hatred and misunderstandings. I recently suggested at a meeting held to discuss the communal problem that the government and the mass media must play a pro-active role in promoting mutual understanding between different religious communities. When a religious festival of a certain community is being celebrated, I suggested, television and radio companies must invite leaders from all religious groups and get them to say a few words on the occasion, after, of course, passing this through a censorship board to weed out anything objectionable. We have the National Integration Council which should be doing this sort of work, but actually it’s proved to be worse than useless some sahib on the Council gets a fancy car with a red light on it and the only thing he does is say a few seemingly comforting words after people have been massacred in a riot.

YS: Are any efforts being made in the madrasas themselves to encourage their students to play a role in promoting inter-communal harmony?

MSH: There don’t seem to be any organised efforts as such, but some individual madrasa teachers do play a role in such activities in their own personal capacity, and this naturally impacts on their students. I feel that we must train our students so that they learn how to interact with people of other faiths not simply for the sake of telling them about Islam, but also so that they can work together for a better and more peaceful society. I feel that dialogue is important for its own sake to clear up misunderstandings that people have about each other and their religions, and it should not be motivated by any hidden missionary agenda. So, when I interact with people of other faiths I don’t do so with the intention of converting them or denigrating their religion. Rather, I interact with them in order to learn from them, to look at, their good points. After all, everyone has the choice to follow the religion of his own choice. That’s his own business and his affairs are with God.

I feel that we need to study other religions, because this will go a long way in promoting inter-communal harmony. Thus, when I say that I have studied some of the Hindu scriptures, and on the basis of that have come to the conclusion that Hinduism does stress moral values, I can come closer to my Hindu friends. But if I say that such values are found only in ‘ Islam, not only am I wrong, but I would also provoke hatred and conflict. So, I feel that there is a crucial need for us to study comparative religions, but this should be for the sake of promoting better relations with others, and not for refuting people of other faiths or creating conflicts with them. It is only through decent behaviour and good morals (ikhlaq) and not through heated debates (munazara) that we can actually resolve our differences. When you study other faiths you must first cleanse your mind of preconceived notions, or else you will not really learn anything at all.