A response to my latest piece from a commentator was that the educated Muslims are frightened and will never take the initiative for reforms and hence an Islamic Renaissance is ever elusive. The statement does a disservice to the reformers who have given their lives for a liberal Islam from Asharite (orthodoxy and text-dependent schools of theology) to Mutazalite (reasoning and rationality schools of theology) since the 1100s when skepticism and heresy (zindiq/zanadiqa) were patronized by the Sultans themselves and the House of Wisdom catered to the treatises and books of Islamic rationals and philosophers. There is a never-ending chain from those times to the modern and every now and then one of them is sacrificed on the altar of Islamic bigotry and Muslim obscurantism.
That a change is in the air, since a few decades, is evident from the Arab Spring, the loosening of orthodoxy in Saudi and Iran due to activists like Masih Alinejad and Loujain al-Hathloul, the punishment of lashes for Raif Badawi not implemented (a Saudi blogger writing on reforms and democracy), and the opening of debates around the Quran, the Hadith, and the Sira as well as atheism on the Middle East and North African (MENA) TV channels despite the threats. But the most poignant moment in Islamic history is the funeral of Farkhunda Malikzada where women most powerfully expressed their stand by carrying her coffin and helped in her burial.
Women carrying Malikzada’s taboot to the graveyard in her funeral procession Mar 23, 2015. (pic courtesy: The Internet)
Remember, women are not allowed in the graveyard in most Islamic countries, and their funeral prayers are always lead by male imams. I haven’t been to my late husband Arshid‘s grave as custom forbids it and had to resort to my son taking pictures of it so I could at least see his last resting place. So Farkunda’s funeral is the most powerful initiative that Muslim women have ever taken – owning the woman who was lynched by a male Afghan mob over a false accusation of burning the Quran.
Farkhunda Malikzada was publicly lynched by an angry mob in Kabul, Afghanistan, on March 19, 2015. This is her funeral. (pic courtesy: The Internet)
A Muslim Renaissance or Islamic Enlightenment isn’t a new thing. But the Muslim world committed “intellectual suicide” when it gave precedence to Imam al Ghazali’s teachings over Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes) insistence on relying on reasoning rather than holy texts in the 12th century, portrayed brilliantly in Robert R. Reilly’s book ‘The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis’. Yet from the Middle Ages, skeptics and critics like al-Marri, Ibn al-Rawandi, al-Razi to Mohammad Taha (executed in 1985) and H. Farook, an atheist from Coimbatore who was hacked to death just like Avijit Roy by a Muslim radical group.
Afghan women helping with the burial of Farkhunda Malikzada, in Kabul, 2015. (Pic courtesy: The Internet)
Islam became dogmatic, transitioned from pluralism to intolerance and developed a misogynistic attitude towards women when the mullahs (ulema) got the power to interpret the Quran in their own way, juggle the Hadith, and make up their own Sira culminating into medieval obscurantist laws of the Sharia. Eventually the “clash of civilizations” brought us modern nation-states, Western imperialism, and colonalization, two World Wars, the most heinous genocides of the 20th century, the rise of radical/political Islam and its armed groups eventually resulting in 9/11.
Afghan women coming out openly in Kabul, 2015 to bury the lynched Farkhunda Malikzada. (Pic courtesy: The Internet)
India suffered the most, firstly because of constant Turkic, Mongol invasions and conquests from its north-west borders and its natural geographical dilemma (Robert Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography) and secondly, from Britain’s brutal colonization, which included the divide and conquer rule, and the Great Game with Russia for the northwest frontier and ultimately aligning with the Muslim league and carving out Pakistan and Bangladesh in 1947 in their rush to leave the subcontinent. India is still suffering from those historical wounds and will continue to do so because though the Muslims who voted for a Pakistan in the 40s, some did not leave and continue to play Islamic political games even today. The newest being the Olympics of Oppression and victimhood.
Farkhunda Malikzada being lynched by a Kabul mob in 2015. Picture courtesy: (The Internet)
The rise of Hindu nationalism has been a reaction to the centuries of Muslim rule, Muslim power games, and Muslim appeasement by various political parties after India’s Independence in 1947 in the garb of secularism. Remember, since its inception, Muslims have turned on each other right after the Prophet’s death. The Ridda Wars (first apostasy wars), the Fitna Wars, Shia-Sunni shism, the hardliners in every Muslim majority country who want to rule by sharia always suppress the dissenters first by declaring them wajib ul qatl (worthy of being murdered). The verses in the Quran referring derogatorily to the Infidel and the Jews cannot be explained away by obscurantist interpretations.
Every Muslim political leader since the 40s has dreamt of a utopic Islamic State and never actually worked for the betterment of the Muslim community, as the 2006 Sachar Committee Report showed. The backwardness of the Muslim community can be attributed to mainly one reason and that is its attitude towards its women, especially concerning their education and employment. While in Kashmir Valley the political leaders have been communal and pseudo-secular and even collaborated with Pakistan’s ISI to lull people into soft separatism while they filled their coffers with wealth, grabbed land, and got their progeny settled abroad; the Indian mainland Muslim leaders while speaking the rhetoric of Bharat Mata ki Jai, actually undermine various uplifting laws and reforms in the community because they know 200 million enlightened Muslims means they won’t have power and will have to co-exist with the Hindu majority.
If India hasn’t succumbed to the communalism, terrorism, secessionism and other plans to break it up, it is because of ordinary people, whether educated or not who keep together the social fabric and even try to speak against the regressive traditions of their religion and once in a while get lynched for it. The commentator may be right in saying they are frightened but a Muslim Renaissance is inevitable, we just haven’t reached the tipping point yet and reconnected with our past Renaissance. It’s not elusive, just a matter of time, maybe not in our lifetimes, but our responsibility is to relay the foundations for normalizing dissent.
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