An extraordinary work on Islam
Author : Lakshmeshwar Dayal
Publisher : Anamika Publishers, New Delhi
Price :Rs 700 Order
After finishing Rajendra Singh Bedi’s ek chadar maili si, Krishn Chander exclaimed in applause, “Alas, only if I had written it!” This book makes me repeat, “Alas, only if I had written it.” Having read more than a hundred books on Islam, I feel here is a book that summarises them all.
Let us begin with what the blurb promises us:
Islam teaches its believer to wage war against non-believers. Not true. Subjugation of women is clearly prescribed in the Qur’an. Not true. Islam is all about war of occupation, not about advancing human knowledge and civilization. Absolutely not true. If these are myths then what are truths?
This book brings us truths not palatable to Sangh Parivar; because it strikes, and strikes them hard, all the false propaganda and myths they have been parading against Islam. Just in 280 pages the author very convincingly discusses all the controversial issues. The author, a non-Muslim, points out the civilizing and humanizing influence of Islam. In this five -year journey through hundreds of scholarly books and articles, he finds this religion a great source of ethics and socio-political justice. Such a book had to be written not to justify a religion but to serve mankind’s eternal search for knowledge and truth.
For those who know little about Islam this is a befitting answer to their accusations; for those who know too much about Islam here is a capsule for saving them from indigestion.
Dr YD Prasad (a non-Muslim again) succinctly tells us: “He has convincingly drawn attention to the positive attitude of Indian Muslims towards nationhood, and based on good evidence, detailed-out who-and-what had the decisive responsibility for the partition of India.”
At a time when attacking Islam for every evil on the earth is a favourite pastime for many in India as well as in the West, the author, a retired IAS officer, has devoted his time and energy to find out the truth, to what extent the charges are valid. He finds that all of them are bogus and politically motivated by some vested group in India and abroad. He does not absolve Muslims for several social evils but points out that those “evils” entered in the Muslim society because of the corrupting influence of some culture, some political or monarchical hierarchy and of course,because of some ulama too. However, the blame rests not on Islam but on the people who twisted the pristine message to suit their vested designs.
Divided into eleven chapters of varying lengths, plus a preface and epilogue, it covers various perspectives: religious philosophy, mysticism (Sufism), doctrine of war and peace (jihad), Shariah, modernism in Islam, women in Islam, Islam and the advancement of knowledge, truth about India’s partition, and Islam and the West.
It takes cognisance of historical, political, social and philosophical issues, and the references range from the Qur’an and ahadith to latest books. Western scholars such as Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Hutington share space with Guy Sorman and Noam Chomsky. Political thinkers like Rashid Rida, Syed Qutb, Abduh Hasan al Banna and Maulana Maududi share berth with poets like Iqbal and Rumi.
It was not the ‘separatist’ mentality of the Muslims the prime cause of India’s partition. This fact has been substantiated by a 2006 book by Narandra Singh Sairila (one-time ADC to Mountbatten), The Shadow of the Grand Game: The Untold Story of India’s Partition. It tells us the compulsion – British compulsion for survival. A pro-British country was desperately needed to safeguard British interests around Afghanistan as a defense strategy against Soviet Russia. Since Congress had its honeymoon with the British over: Mountbatten was assigned the task of securing British interests by hurriedly implementing the suggested partition by Radcliff. He wanted to return to navy as early as possible, hence a five-year-issue was settled in five months. At that time Mountbatten did not know the details nor had bothered about the implications. Mountbatten in 1965 admitted: he “got things wrong” and was so remorseful that he would not be “consoled” (p. 236). Dayal exonerates Jinnah who was neither a fanatic nor ambitious. He had even agreed for a united Bengal when Sarat Chandra Bose proposed him a united Hindu-Muslim territory in the east. Even in the west, after clinching his pound of flesh,
He declared that the new state would be based on the togetherness of all its citizens, irrespective of religion. He said, ‘the arguments of majority and minority communities will vanish’... ‘everyone of you no matter to what community he belongs is first second and last a citizen of this state with equal rights’ (p. 238).
To sum up, the author tells us in epilogue: The truth about Islam needs to be told today, more clearly than ever, and it is made to stand unenviably at the crossroads of present day world. (p. 27).
The book suffers from some minor slips of proof-reading and a few confused facts, e.g. it was not the Prophet but Caliph Abu Bakr who had said, “what? will you do something which the Prophet of God himself did not do?” (about arranging and compiling the Qur’an) (p. 29). Similarly, spellings of Abu Bakr on p. 70 and 72 have been Abu Bahr. On page 77, hill of Moriah as a recent book informs us is not near Jerusalem but close to Makkah. Similarly, Akbar did not go to Khwaja Muinudin Chisti’s shrine in Ajmer but to Salim Chisti’s shrine at Sikri (p. 90). The spelling of feud (fued) on p. 185 has escaped notice. As a whole, here is a book that every seeker of knowledge about Islam must read.