Hindu-Muslim unity: a historical speech by a leading Deobandi maulvi

Hindu-Muslim unity: a historical speech by a leading Deobandi maulvi

Yoginder Sikand

Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri (1875-1933), a native of Kashmir, was a leading Islamic scholar and taught in the Darul-‘Ulum at Deoband, India’s premier Islamic madrasa. Among the many Muslims who crusaded for the country’s independence from the British and called for an India where people of all communities could live together in peace and harmony and justice were numerous Deobandi ulama. Their leading role in the freedom struggle and in the effort to form a united front of all religious communities for a new India have, sadly, been largely forgotten. It is crucial that such voices be retrieved and an important part of Indian history—the heroic role of many Muslim leaders in the movement for free India—be brought before the general public.

This translation of certain sections of a lecture of historical importance by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri is a small effort in this regard.

This lecture was delivered by Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri as a presidential address to the 1927 Peshawar meeting of the Jamiat ul-Ulama-i Hind (‘The Union of the ‘Ulama of India’), an organisation of largely Deobandi ulama from all parts of India. The lecture, recently published in Urdu by the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Research Centre (Kokerbagh Dak Khana, Nowshehra, Srinagar, Kashmir) runs into over a hundred pages in the original Urdu. Here I have translated only those portions of the lecture which deal with the question of Hindu-Muslim unity.

This is not a word-to-word translation, for a literal translation cannot do justice to the original. However, every effort has been made to present as near a rendering as possible.


The Presidential Address of Hazrat Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri to the Annual Session of the Jamiat ul-Ulama-i Hind, Peshawar, 1927

An agreement between the Muslims and the non-Muslims


“Respected elders! The Jamiat-ul Ulama was formed at a time when there was much talk about a joint pact between the Muslims and the non-Muslims of India. Both communities [Hindus and Muslims] were united in the struggle to free their country from alien rule, and for this were working together from a common platform. I have no hesitation in saying that the Muslims did not go back on their pledge. They committed no treachery against the country or the nation, nor did they resort to any oppression against their non-Muslim compatriots. Despite this, the atmosphere [of unity] which the two communities had succeeded in establishing through dialogue and broad-mindedness did not last long, and today the situation is even worse than it was before 1920. I do not wish to talk about the causes of this development, but I will certainly say that the Muslims bear no responsibility for this, and that they, in accordance with the teachings of their holy faith, are ever obliged to behave with broad-mindedness and the highest standards of morality. I can say with full confidence that if our fellow countrymen turn to tolerance and consensus, they will find no greater advocates of peace, agreement, loyalty and decent behavior than the Muslims. If the responsible elders of both the communities can jointly work out a just and fair settlement that will satisfy both parties so that both communities can thereby live with respect and freedom and carry out their religious duties without hindrance, what better way is there to ensure India’s prosperity?

The basis of any such settlement is that each community must fully respect the other and must desist from attacking the life, property and respect of the other. Everyone should be allowed complete freedom to follow his faith and there should be no interference in or attack on anyone’s religion. The Muslims, within the limits set by the commandments of Islam and the Islamic law will be the first to welcome any such agreement, and, in accordance with the teachings of their faith, will turn into the protectors of the life and property of those with whom they enter into such a treaty.

History is replete with thousands of instances that tell us that even at the height of their power and glory, the Muslims protected the life and property of the non-Muslims with whom they had entered into agreements, and for that they even sacrificed their very lives.

I want to make it amply clear that if anyone desires that the Muslims should budge even an inch from their religion in order to enter into an agreement with others, this is not at all possible, and if any organization of Muslims, owing to ignorance of Islamic teachings, enters into such an agreement it will be wholly unacceptable and cannot last long. Muslims cannot transgress the boundaries set by Allah. Any agreement that seeks to placate others while at the same time angering Allah cannot be acceptable to us. There is a tradition of the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him], which says that if anyone seeks to please others by adopting a way that angers Allah, then Allah shall appoint people to destroy him.

I must stress here that just as India is the land of the Hindus, so, too, is it the land of the Muslims. The first Muslims came here many centuries ago. They ruled this country for many hundreds of years. Even today all over India there are reminders of the glory of the Muslims of the past which give ample testimony of their knowledge, skill, and love of the country.

The Muslims have as much love for India as any true lover of his country should, and why not, because they have before them the glorious example of their blessed master, the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him]. When the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him], faced with the opposition of the unbelievers, left his beloved town of Mecca in accordance with Allah’s orders and migrated [to Medina], he addressed Mecca thus: ‘By God, I love you the most among all places on God’s earth, and if my people had not forced me, I would never have left you’. After this, when, in compliance with the Divine commandment, he shifted to Medina…and Medina became his [new] home, he prayed thus: ‘Oh God! Make Medina as precious to my heart as Mecca was or even more than that [...]”.

[...] Because of the great love that the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him] had for his land it is impossible that a Muslim can be a true Muslim if he does not have love for his country. That is why, you should rest assured, Muslims have love for their country [India]. Besides the Muslims there are other communities living in India and India is their country as well. Therefore, it is natural that all Indians should have an equal desire in their hearts that India should be independent. However, because the Hindus are in a majority in India and the Muslims in a minority, it is also natural that the Muslims should be concerned about the protection of their religious and other rights. Hence, the best solution is that both communities should come to a just and fair agreement so that no one should feel apprehensive that after the country gains independence the minorities would be mistreated by the majority. If the fears of the Muslims are put at rest by such a pact, they should have no cause for fear. They love their country as well as their religion, and their religion teaches them broad-mindedness and enjoins upon them the honouring of agreements which they enter into. If the concerns that they entertain vis-à-vis the majority are dealt with justly, they can, in fact, prove to be a powerful force for the defence of India.

As for the fear of how the Muslims of India will react if after India wins independence an outside Muslim power attacks the country, I must say that if the Muslims of the country are satisfied with any agreement that they enter into with their non-Muslim compatriots and are not made the victim of the majority, their reaction will be the same as that of a person whose house is attacked, even if the attacker belongs to his own religion and community. An even more important point is that if the Muslims are bound by any agreement with the non-Muslims of the country and the agreement is just and is properly enforced, no outside Muslim power has the religious legitimacy to attempt to breach this pact. Rather, it is binding on such a power to fully respect such an agreement. As the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him] says: ‘The promise and duty of the Muslims are one. If even the least among them makes an agreement, others are bound to respect it’.

This is a short summary of the historical pact of the Holy Prophet [may peace arid Allah’s blessings be upon him]... My intention in raising these issues is to…help Muslims know how they can, by exhibiting a certain degree of broad-mindedness and tolerance, enter into a just agreement with their compatriots. As I said earlier, these two communities [Hindus and Muslims] have to live in India and India is the country of both.
[Here, in a footnote, Maulana Kashmiri adds: “A well-known incident in early Islamic history well exemplifies this principle. In the war of Persia, a Persian general [presumably a Zoroastrian- y.s.] disguised himself and sought refuge with a Muslim soldier. When his identity was discovered and the matter of his punishment arose, the general of the Muslim army, Hazrat Abu Ubaida ibn Al-Jarrah, heard that a Muslim soldier had given him shelter. He saved the life of the Persian because to respect the promise of a Muslim is a duty for all other Muslims].

I assure my [non-Muslim] countrymen that if they enter into a just and fair pact with the Muslims, and implement it sincerely and do not resort to political intrigues, they will find the Muslims fully loyal and good-intentioned neighbours, because the Muslims, in accordance with the commandments of the Holy Qur’an, are duty-bound to fulfill their agreements. The Holy Qur’an says that Muslims must honour all pacts that they have entered into with the non-Muslims till the term of those treaties is over, provided the latter, too, abide by the terms of the treaties and do not assist anyone against the Muslims. And Allah says [in the Holy Qur’an] that if the non-Muslims deal fairly with the Muslims, the latter, too, must deal fairly with them. Undoubtedly [the Holy Qur’an says], God is the friend of those who practice forbearance.

Respected ulama! On this occasion there is another issue which one must consider, one that is often the cause of much misunderstanding. This relates to the rules of the Shariat. These rules are of three types: those that concern ‘the abode of Islam’ (dar ul-Islam); those related to ‘the abode of peace’ (dar ul-aman); and those related to ‘the abode of war’ (dar ul-harb). We need to consider in which one of these three categories India today finds herself. As far as the principles of the Shariat are concerned, at best India can be considered to be ‘the abode of peace’ because [at present] there appears to be no possibility of enforcing the rules of ‘the abode of Islam’ here. Our revered Shaikh-ul-Mashaikh Hazrat Maulana Shah ‘Abdul Aziz Muhaddith Dehlawi [a leading eighteenth century alim of Delhi] has said that under the present circumstances India cannot be considered to be an ‘abode of Islam’.

[...] In the event of India not being an ‘abode of Islam’ today, our duty is to search the books of [our] religion to see which rules apply for ‘the abode of peace’, and in the light of those commandments fulfill our duty of guiding the Muslims of India. Although in this short speech I cannot elaborate on all the commandments that apply to ‘the abode of peace’, it is necessary that I should make some suggestions. In this regard, it is best that I draw your attention to some sections of the pact that the last prophet of Allah, Hazrat Muhammad [may peace and Allah’s blessing be upon him] entered into with the Jews of Medina after he migrated there. By studying those sections of the treaty you will be able to understand what sort of agreement Muslims can enter into with non-Muslims in ‘the abode of peace’ or ‘the abode of war’.

The Pact Between the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him] and the Jews of Medina

As the treaty is very lengthy, I shall simply present those sections of it that are related to the point I wish to make.

‘In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. This is a treaty of Muhammad, the Prophet of Allah [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him] and the Muslims and those people who have entered into an agreement with them as allies. All parties to this agreement [Muslims from Mecca and Medina and those Jews who have signed the treaty] will be considered as one party (jama’at) and one community (qaum) as against other non-Muslims and those who have not entered into this agreement… It is binding on the Muslims that they should oppose those who try to create strife and oppress and persecute the creatures of God. All Muslims must unite and act against such people, even though the latter may be their own sons.

‘It is binding on the Muslims that they should help those Jews who have entered into this agreement with us and behave kindly with them and save them from oppression and not help any oppressor against them […] It is their Islamic duty for Muslims to remain true to their pledge and exhibit the highest standards of morality possible… The Jews of the tribe of Banu Awf are allies of the Muslims and have entered into a treaty with them. The Jews will be free to practise their own religion, and the Muslims will be free to practise theirs. In matters other than religion, the Jews of the tribe of Banu Awf and the Muslims will be considered one party, and those who resort to oppression, violate this treaty or commit any crime will be liable for punishment. (After this, the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him] mentioned the names of various other Jewish tribes who had also entered into the treaty, such as the tribes of Banu al-Najjar, Banu al-Harith, Banu Saidah, Banu Jusham and Banu Al-Aws, and stated that they would have rights similar to those of the Banu Awf). If any third party should declare war on the Jews and the Muslims, all the treaty partners should fight unitedly. The Muslim and the Jewish armies will be responsible for their own expenses… It is binding on the treaty partners that they should behave with piety and good intentions with each other. They must refrain from oppression and injustice and should help the persecuted. Consider your neighbour as valuable as your own life, provided he abides by his word and the rules of morality and commits no crime”.

This is a short summary of the historical pact of the Holy Prophet [may peace and Allah’s blessings be upon him]... My intention in raising these issues is to…help Muslims know how they can, by exhibiting a certain degree of broad-mindedness and tolerance, enter into a just agreement with their compatriots. As I said earlier, these two communities [Hindus and Muslims] have to live in India and India is the country of both. Therefore, it is the duty of every Indian to try to create such a climate in the country that the daily strife and killings are stopped so that everyone can lead a life of peace and contentment”.


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