The Boy Said: “Kill Them, All Those Muslims Who Are Not Ahl-e-Hadees”

Sultan Shahin on Muslims and Islam

New Delhi-based veteran journalist Sultan Shahin is a noted commentator on Islam ic and Muslim affairs. He runs the popular web-magazine In this interview with Yoginder Sikand, he talks about issues related to Muslims in contemporary India and his own work. Q: Could you tell us briefly about yourself? A: I was born in a village in Aurangabad district in Bihar in 1949. My father, w ho was a maulvi, worked as an Urdu teacher in a government middle school. We com e from a family of maulvis, and my father, carrying on in this family tradition, also served as the imam of a local mosque and a teacher in a madrasa. I studied at home for the first few years and then in a local Hindi-medium schoo l till the eleventh standard. My father could not afford to send me to college, so after this I began helping out at home, grazing cattle and cutting wood. One day, my friends and I began to talk about what we felt was the most difficult th ing in the world. After much debate, we arrived at a consensus. The most difficu lt thing in the world, we decided, was to learn English. That very day I decided that I must learn the language. My father bought me a dictionary, and I began learning English myself. Some years later, my family shifted to Aurangabad town, where I began giving tui tions, earning just ten rupees a month from each student I taught. I enrolled fo r a Bachelor’s degree in Patna University, and in 1972 came to Delhi. In Patna I w rote for a paper called Searchlight, focusing on students’ issues. When I came to Delhi, I took up a job with Radiance, the official English-language organ of the Jamaat-e-Islami. This was the beginning of my journalistic career and my intere st in writing on Muslim issues. Q: Where did you go on from there? A: I stayed with Radiance for just a few months. It was the first time I had wor ked with an ideological group, and I soon began feeling uncomfortable and out of place, although many of the people in the Radiance office were wonderful human beings. Yet, I found some of their attitudes, such as to do with women, very sti fling and narrow, even absurd, even from the Islamic point of view as I understood it. Gradually, it dawned on me that the agenda that Radiance was pursuing, one which it shared with the Jamaat-e-Islami, was something that I could not subscribe to . Hence, I left the magazine, and then worked for several years with various pap ers and news agencies and also freelanced for a while, including in London. I ca me back to Delhi in the early 1990s, where I worked for a year with the Nation a nd the World, a magazine set up by a group of supposedly progressive Muslims, bu t I had to leave within a year because the management could not accept the fact that my wife, mother of my children, was a Hindu and had not con verted to Islam! They even went to the extent of trying to coax me to get her to become a Muslim, but I refused as I believe that religion is something very per sonal. Because of my refusal, I was summarily sacked! Q: For many years now, you have been writing against Islamist extremism and into

lerance. How did all this begin? A: I have been writing on Muslim issues since the very beginning of my journalis tic career in1972. But a note of urgency about the dangers from Islamic radicali sm came into my thinking a little later. It began back in the mid-80s, when I wa s staying at a Pakistani friend’s home in Nottingham in Britain. One day, I overhe ard the kids of this family conversing with a friend of theirs about Islam. This friend belonged to the Ahl-e Hadith sect, who are known for their stern literal ism, being almost identical to the Saudi Wahhabis. This is a sect massively prom oted by petrodollars and may even be termed Petrodollar Islam. I heard him telli ng the kids that the Ahl-e Hadith alone were true Muslims and that the other Mus lims were not just really non-Muslims but that, in fact, they were the biggest a nd the first enemies of Islam. I asked him what he proposed to do with the “first and the foremost enemies of Islam,” that is something like 99 percent of Muslims w ho are not Ahl-e-Hadees. He said: “Kill them!!!” You can imagine my horror at hearing this! Here was a bunch of Pakistani youth, who could easily have a bright future in Nottingham University, but who, instead , were discussing hatred, murder and things like that. These children were not alone. By this time, many British mosq ue communities and Muslim organizations in British universities had been radical ized by Wahhabi and other extremist groups funded by tens of billions of petrodo llars. The maverick hate-spewing Islamist Omar Bakri Mohammad was drawing huge c rowds of British Muslims wherever he spoke. Muslim bookstores were stocked with Wahhabi-i nspired and Saudi-funded books, openly preaching hatred and contempt for non-Mus lims. All this made me suddenly wake up to the very real possibility that this hatred in the name of Islam could easily spread elsewhere. It could easily come to our very doorsteps, into our very homes, even in India, if it was not countered imme diately and effectively. It would create even more destruction and terror for Mu slims themselves than for others. That is why I decided to start writing about these issues, to counte r extremist and radical misinterpretations of Islam and to present what I felt w ere the true teachings of the faith. I was fearful that if these radical teachin gs were allowed to spread, they would destroy the Muslims themselves, consuming them in the fires of hatred and violence. It was not simply to salvage the image of Islam that I was doing this. Rather, it was also to protect Muslim parents from allowing their children to be influenced and then destroyed by hate-driven ideologues parading in the garb of Islamic authenticity . There were enough and more provocations directed against Muslims happening all over the world to prov oke them to be attracted by these wrong, militant interpretations of Islam as a means for responding to the sense of siege that they felt. In 1991, on being thrown out of the Nation and the World, I went into a deep dep ression that lasted several months. What shocked me was that the men behind this magazine were supposedly the ‘cream’ of Indian Muslim ‘progressive’ circles. If such pe ople were to betray such narrow communalism and lack of understanding of Islamic tenets, I asked myself, what would happen to our community in the days to come? I remained bed-ridden for almost half a year. This was a period of great introsp ection for me. When I got up finally, it was with a resolve to do whatever littl e I could to combat extremism and hatred in the name of Islam, to articulate a m ore relevant understanding of Islam in today’s context, and also to highlight vari ous Muslim concerns and issues. Since then I have been regularly writing on thes e issues—for various papers such as The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The I ndian Express, The Asian Age and for various websites and web-based papers. My resolve to carry on this mission is strengthened every day when I look around



, on the Internet and in the print and electronic media, and see how ideologues spewing hatred in the name of Islam, thereby sullying its name, are so deeply-en trenched, and when I see that even in the locality around the shrine of one of I ndia’s greatest Sufi saints Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi, shops are selling b ooks by Wahhabis and Muslim supremacists like Zakir Naik and by Ahl-e Hadith mul lahs who claim that Sufis are kafirs and Sufism is sheer infidelity. Hardly anyo ne is rebutting this poisonous propaganda. Q: What made you set up your web-magazine A: In 2005, my wife was posted as the Indian cultural attaché to Suriname, and I a ccompanied her there. We lived there for three years. I was a house-husband with lots of time to spare, and so I began reading up books on Islam and Muslims fro m a wide range of perspectives that I had bought much earlier but had not been a ble to read properly. It was then that I came upon the idea of starting a web-jo urnal to propagate progressive views on Islam and Muslims and to counter extremi sm and hatred in the name of Islam, because starting a regular magazine or newsp aper was simply too expensive. And that is how was set up, a lit tle over two years ago, while I was still in Suriname. Q: What is the basic purpose of your web-magazine? A: seeks to promote rethinking on various aspects of traditional Muslim thought so as to enable Muslims to integrate in today’s world. We are disc ussing such fundamental issues as what Islam actually is, who or what a ‘Muslim’ is, what the notion of a ‘practising Muslim’ is or should be, what Islam actually says about such issues as women’s rights, freedom, democracy, nationalism, peace, justi ce, war, politics and relations with the state. It discusses how Muslims living as minorities should relate to the state and dominant non-Muslim majorities and so on. It also seeks to highlight human rights abuses of minorities in both Musl im-majority and Muslim-minority countries. Ours is an open forum, where divergent views on a wide range of issues are freel y debated and contested. It seeks to urge Muslims to introspect, to cease blamin g others for all their ills, to recognize where they have gone wrong, in terms o f both thought and action. In the particular Indian context, seeks to make Muslims realize and recognize the fact that we do enjoy the very same rights in this country as other citizens, and that our story is not just about unrelenting discrimination, in contrast to the impression created by the Muslim media. We point out the fac t that Muslims have much more freedom in India than non-Muslims in most Muslim c ountries and even Muslims in such countries. We need to talk about all this, and about supremacist, aggressive, intolerant and patriarchal interpretations of Is lam because by and large the Muslim media simply refuses to deal with these issu es. We Indian Muslims need to rethink our position in India and in the Indian polity . We need to be appreciative of what we have received in this country—which is a l ot more than non-Muslim minorities in most Muslim countries, particularly in our own neighbourhood. We need to combat the propaganda that India is an enemy of I slam and is vociferously opposed to Muslims—which is the image that influential se ctions of the Urdu press so sedulously create. We have to stress that we are an integral part of this country, and although we also recognize that the Indian st ate and system do not fully live up to their promises of true democracy and secu larism, we must appreciate their positive aspects and express our gratitude. Isl am teaches us to live with an attitude of gratitude even when we are in distress . One can understand sections of Pakistani establishment having a vested interes t in propagating this communal, confrontationist view. A Muslim community well-i

ntegrated in the Indian society and polity hurts their self-image and the very r aison d’être of the creation of Pakistan. Those generals in Rawalpindi - I have met some of them over the years, mostly in England – who dream of conquering India, un furling the green flag over red fort and nurse other crazy ideas like that, cann ot but promote strife in the Indian society, particularly involving Indian Musli ms. But sections of Indian Muslim media and intellectuals themselves presenting the Indian state as inimical to our interests and promoting a confrontationist a ttitude among Muslims is the height of stupidity as much as it is contrary to fa cts on the ground. Most importantly, we need to develop progressive understandings of Islam that ar e rooted in inter-community dialogue, friendship and solidarity. We need to lear n how to live in harmony with our Hindu brethren, accepting them as our own, not as ‘impure infidels’ and ‘enemies’, as some Muslims do. After all, we have to live and die in this country, and we as a minority have no option but to try and earn the goodwill of the Hindus. It is our Hindu neighbours who can protect us in the ev ent of an attack, not our communal leaders nor for that matter even the Home Min ister. Islam places great stress on the rights of neighbours, so one thing we ur gently need to do is to build bridges of friendship and solidarity with our neig hbours, the Hindus. This, in turn, requires us to creatively reinterpret traditional Muslim understa ndings of the term Ahl-e Kitab or ‘People of the Book’. After all, there are entire passages in several Hindu scriptures that are identical to passages from the Qur an. The Quran itself says that God has sent prophets to every people, and hence it is obvious that India, too, has been blessed by prophets. There are many Hind us who also believe in one, formless God.

Alongside this, we also need to challenge the notion of Muslim supremacism and r edefine what we mean by ‘Muslim’, a ‘practising Muslim’ and the ‘Other’. The well-known Mun r Commission set up several decades ago by the Government of Pakistan interviewe d several Pakistani Muslim clerics from different sects and arrived at the concl usion that no two clerics could even agree on the definition of the term ‘Muslim’, e ach sect branding the others as deviant or even as wholly outside the pale of Is lam. The clerics have given rituals andmarkers of identity such enormous stress that they seem to have forgotten that belief in the one God and doing good deeds , serving the rights of the creatures of God (huquq ul-ibad), are central bases ofIslam and of what a true Muslim is. Q: How has your web-magazine been doing? Has it made any sort of impact? A: In the short while since we started, NewAgeIslam.ccom has been able to make q uite a splash. We now have some 117,000 subscribers across the world, Muslims as well as others, to whom we send out daily updates. We host some 2900 articles i n our archives. Only some of these articles are by me as I don’t want the journal to be seen as a personal propaganda site. Rather, it is an open forum for debate and serious discussion. It welcomes dissenting views even on its main pages, no t to speak of the widely popular comments section which is absolutely open to al l views. I allow all sorts of criticism and comments, except, of course, downrig ht abuse. Q: How do you feel extremism and hatred in the name of religion (not just Islam, but religion in general) can be best countered? A: Radical Islamism or radical Hindutva, for that matter, are ideologies, and an ideology cannot be countered by a ban. The RSS has been banned three times and yet, as both an organization and as an ideology, it remains so powerful today. B anning it served no purpose other than giving it even more publicity. Likewise, hardly anyone knew of the Students Islamic Movement of India until it was banned by the Government of India. An ideology is best countered by a counter-ideology

, and this holds true in the case of religiously-based extremism as well. Q: What you seem to suggest is that it is not just media sensationalism or antiMuslim prejudice alone, as many Muslims argue, that is responsible for deeply-ro oted prejudices against Muslims and Islam among non-Muslims. Rather, hate-driven and Muslim supremacistinterpretations of Islam, as well as the actions of certa in self-styled Islamist groups are also to blame. Is that what you are saying? A: Exactly. And I would go so far as to say that we Muslims are more to blame fo r our poor image than any non-Muslim media or whatever, although I must add that , lamentably, the media loves to sensationalise and generalize about any small M uslim aberration. Much of the poor image of Muslims has to do with their deep-ro oted sense of Islam supremacism, which has no Islamic sanction really. Let me cite a small but telling instance in this regard. Recently, I was in Patn a, in the home of a Muslim friend. My friend’s son had a fight with a Hindu boy an d complained about it to his maulvi. The maulvi’s response was, ‘Oh, he is a kafir! You should have beaten him up!’ I would like to cite another personal instance to further clarify my point. Some years ago I hired a local maulvi, a graduate of the Dar ul-Uloom Deoband, to te ach my daughter Urdu and the Holy Quran. I gave him an Urdu primer prepared by t he National Council for Educational Research and Training and requested him to u se it for teaching my daughter. It is an excellent book and is probably the best way I know to teach Urdu. The maulvi took the book in his hands and opened it, only to see on the very first page the name of the editor, the renowned Urdu sch olar and linguist of international repute, Gopi Chand Narang. I noted the revuls ion that suddenly gripped the maulvi’s face, just because Narang was not a Muslim. He slapped the book shut and refused to teach from it. If this is not a reflect ion of a very narrow, communalized, indeed Talibanesque mindset, what is? So, as I was saying, it is pointless saying that the media is biased, because an ti-Islamic and anti-Muslim biases are not a new thing. They have been in existen ce for a long time. Simply blaming the media and branding them as being engaged in a conspiracy is not going to change things at all. What we Muslims should be doing—which is what is trying to do in a humble, very limited way—is to introspect, to see why this is happening, to identify where we have gone wro ng, in terms of both thought and action, to examine our own role in creating neg ative images of Islam and Muslims. Our focus should be constantly on trying to f ind ways of promoting peace and harmony and asking ourselves: “Is there something we can do to move beyond this conflict situation?” This cannot be done by calling this land of ours “Kufristan”, as some of our Mullahs do, while knowing full well th at the overwhelming majority of our countrymen are believers in God.

Q: But obviously you cannot deny the existence of forces inimical to Islam and M uslims. One cannot expect Muslims not to be moved or to remain inert when thousa nds of their co-religionists are slaughtered by Hindutva mobs, in league with th e state, in Gujarat, by American imperialists in Iraq and Afghanistan or Zionist occupiers in Palestine. All this and more are certainly contributing to the sen se of Muslims being under attack and are definitely giving strength to advocates of militancy. A: You are quite right, of course. I recognize that Muslims are not entirely to blame for their plight, and I admit that there are a hundred and more issues and problems that Muslims face that are not of their own making. We do need to ackn owledge that in the face of tremendous provocations by Hindutva forces and even by some self-styled Muslim ‘leaders’, the Indian Muslim masses have, generally speak

ing, exercised considerable restraint. We do need to criticize and oppose Hindutva, manifestations of American imperial ism or Israeli terror wile all the time trying to engage in a dialogue with them and seeking to at least understand their attitudes. However, my point is that o nly by blaming others, we Muslims are not helping our cause. Also, our leaders a nd intellectuals tend to exaggerate things quite a bit, seeking to find an Ameri can, Zionist or Hindu conspiracy everywhere. Moreover, we cannot deny our own ro le in exacerbating conflicts in some places, in propagating supremacist and aggr essive understandings of Islam, in denying rights to women, to fellow Muslims an d to people of other faiths living in scores of Muslim countries, and so on.

Q: In recent years, a number of Indian Muslim organizations as well as leading m adrasas have openly condemned all forms of terrorism, including by Muslim groups , as un-Islamic. How do you look at this response of theirs? A: I think this is a valuable step in the right direction, but it is not enough, as is apparent from the fact it has failed to create much of an impact. What th ey must also do is to explicitly name and condemn the individuals and self-style d Islamic groups who are engaged in promoting terror in the name of Islam. They must also critique, in a scholarly manner, radical and extremist interpretations of specific Quranic verses and Hadith reports which these radical groups misuse to promote and justify terrorism. This would also entail a proper contextual in terpretation of these verses, pointing out that these verses applied to only a p articular historical context. For all this, of course, we need far more socially-engaged and progressive Islam ic scholars than we have at present. Helping to develop such scholars is one of the major aims of our web-journal URL: Forward to a friend Print

COMMENTS 5/15/2011 10:24:38 AM Ghulam Mohiyuddin Under "New Comments", Mr. Day s comment below dated 5/14/2011 is wrongly attribu ted to me. It does not represent my views in any way, shape or form.

5/14/2011 5:25:53 PM Day I would just like to ask Sultan Shahin if he has ever read the Quran for guidanc e, or just for the sake of debates and arguments. “And do not marry Al-Mushrikaat (idolatresses) till they believe (worship Allaah A lone). And indeed a slave woman who believes is better than a (free) Mushrikah ( idolatress), even though she pleases you” [Al-Baqarah 2:221] Sahih Bukhari: Book 7: Volume 62: Hadith 27 Narrated Abu Huraira (R): The Prophet (S) said, "A woman is married for four things, i.e., her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious w oman (otherwise) you will be a losers.” And whoever seeks a religion other than Islam, it will never be accepted of him,


and in the Hereafter he will be one of the losers. (Aali-Imran 3:85) Do you have faith enough in the Quran to accept these verses? Or were they also pertaining to a certain time ? Again I ask you, how many times have you looked towards the Quran to receive guidance from the Creator? Did you consider any of these verses, before marrying the woman who is now your wife? If you did, you still never considered making her Muslim??? (I assume that you didn t, since it s not mentioned here and you never said once that you reve rted your wife to Islam) And if you did not make your wife a Muslim, who could be a bigger hindrance in h er search for the Truth than her free-thinking husband himself? She could have received Da wah some other way and become Muslim, but all these years you have taught that it is ok if you don t want to accept Islam. You just have to be goo d at heart that s all. (again, if your wife already did not accept Islam). Dear friend, open up the Quran, and this time, with the intention of seeking the Truth. You will in sha Allah find it there if you struggle for it. It won t com e walking to you if you do not make an effort. There is no good in bashing Musli ms, when you are accusing them of the same deed. Am not refuting your claims, no r am I supporting them. Just think how many Muslims would you have offended by y our ideas in this interview. This, too, is hate spreading. Mentioning certain ev ents and labeling its entire following to be deviant and fanatical will never pa y off. There will be no issues if you just read and understand the Quran, and pledge to take help from it in all aspects of your life. Jazakallah Khair!

4/19/2011 7:43:09 AM Aseem Learn Islam from the authentic Ul ama (scholars) not from a Boy.

4/7/2011 4:21:40 AM babu May you tribe increase !! Progressive Islam can occur only in a secular enviros. Subcontinentinal Islam is unique and cannot be compared to Arab based Islam Please hurry to make the Muslims in India the best model of Islamic society in t he world ,disprove the two nation theory and realise Hindus can never be enemies of Islam even if fanatics qoute thousands of anti muslim instances ,we can se e lakhs of Hindu-Muslim unity.














Aamir Mughal The Boy Said, “Kill all the Muslims who are not Ahl-e- Hadis” ======= A GIFT FROM A WAHABI TO ALL HOMO WAHABICUS OF UAE, SAUDI ARABIA, QATAR, AND KUWA IT. SPECIALLY FOR DR ZAKIR NAIK. King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Bin Abdulrahman Bin Faisal Bin Turki Bin Abdullah Bi n Muhammad Bin Saud should be sodomized to have some feeling. Every Wahabi and A hle-e-Hadith in Pakistan and India should start following this practice of Wahab is of Saudi Arabia. Every Ahl-e-Hadith of Pakistan, Bangladesh and India should start giving their mothers [if widowed], 8 year daughters, and sisters to UAE, S audi, Kuwaiti and Qatari Sheikhs. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) The purpose of FGM is to curb the sexual desire of girls and women and preserve their “sexual ho nor” before marriage. The massive mutilation is irreversible and extremely painful , and is usually done to young girls. lia/fgmpictures.htm Practiced in Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Oman, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Maurit ania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, amongst others, FGM is carried out with knives, scissors, scalpels, pieces of glass or razor blades. The mutilation is usually d one without anesthetics. Instruments are usually not sterile. Mortality is high. The practice has dreadful costs: many girls die afterwards, the survivors suffer their whole life from the psychological and medical consequences of the operati on. All are traumatized and suffer from adverse health effects during marriage a nd pregnancy.

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