Monday, December 30, 2013

Revising History

A reviewer of Edward Gibbon's Decline and Fall writes:

Historians love revision. It's why so few histories of the 19th century endure; new evidence and interpretations render them useless.
Factually it looks correct but it is an incomplete assessment. Life has a purpose and even history has to be looked from that perspective. That is the correct perspective to adopt towards life in general and essential for history.

And history written with that perspective will be endurable.

Why This Medley?

Yours truly talks of everything at An Alig's Armchair.
But this random collection is not devoid of focus.
It is all part of the overall picture that Aligarh Movement has to take note of everything and deal with it.

And Aligarh Movement is an Islamic movement.
This sets the tone of the expression for yours truly.

Let Us Rank Annie

Reviewing Qurratulain Hyder's River of Fire a reader, Adnan, says:

Had the book translated when it had been written, the author would have been ranked above Kundera and Marquez today.

Let us do that now. Let us give Annie her due. This is amongst those tasks to which we should wake up. We Muslims do have the charge of ignoring science in a crucial period on ourselves. Let us not accept false charges of not being up to the mark in other fields.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Aligarh Movement and Separatism

A site asserts:
Though started as a reform movement the Aligarh Movement ultimately encouraged separatist politics.
Yours truly would like to plead non-guilty.

But some explanation is in order.

Let us make it short and to the point. If some people took up the idea of separatism and took it to its logical conclusion then it can not be taken as a be all and end all of the parent movement. There might have been many Aligs in the movement for Pakistan but it can not be denied that M.A.Jinnah was not an Alig. In the profundity called the Indian freedom movement Pakistan movement can only be taken as an appendix, however effective it was. Looking, in hindsight, at the activities of Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind one can decisively conclude that all of Muslims of India were not on the side of Pakistan movement. And the same is true about Aligs. Not all of them were for it.

The question is why people do not pay heed to this aspect.

Even more grave question : why we Aligs do not emphasize it?

What is Aligarh Movement?

Somebody asked this question at one of the Aligarh Movement fora : What is Aligarh Movement?

Yours truly has a take on it. Aligarh Movement is a revivalist movement of Islam.

There is undue emphasis on the reforming aspect of the Aligarh Movement.
It can not be denied that Aligarh Movement has an extremely reformist character but is a travesty of the truth that its reformist aspect overwhelms the revivalist aspect.

But there are many people who keep harping on the reformist angle trumping everything else. this is far from the truth. If Sir Syed said that graduates of Aligarh will have a crown of no god but God in their head then the matter was settled in his life itself - Aligarh begins at Islam and end at Islam.

But this still leaves out a nagging doubt. If Islam is the be all and end all of Aligarh Movement then what is meant by its revivalist character? There are two aspects of the answer to this query. Firstly, the negation part,  Aligarh Movement is no subterfuge of Islam. Secondly, the affirmation part, Aligarh Movement strives to bring Islam forward to face the challenge of modern times.

And that is hardly a subterfuge of Islam. This should come as a surprise to those who do see Aligarh Movement as antagonistic to a conservative Islamic movement, for example Deoband. Yours truly does not see it in that way. In spite of the fact that it is historically correct that there has been significant friction between the two in the early phase.

The two movements started in a phase when Islam and Muslims were passing through an extremely low phase. Colonialism had reached its pinnacle and colonialism was a device of the same forces that emanated from those geographical regions where crusades has arisen from. It is true that the two plagues, crusades and colonialism, were separated from each other a gap of centuries and the new and strident west had kicked out the religion of Christianity, at the effective level at least if not completely, but all this has not affected the animosity towards Islam in any significant manner. Russian, British and French control of Muslim lands was complete and overall push of these western force might not have been pro-Christian but it was decidedly against Islam.

Both Aligarh and Deoband felt the need to do some thing to address the situation. Deoband put its primary worries in the preservation of Islam. Sir Syed had welfare of Muslims at his heart. If we combine  the latter with the information that Sir Syed wanted to keep Islam at the top one come to the unmistakable conclusion that at the most fundamental level the two movements are not antagonistic at all. The worst that one can say is that the two movements are complementary to each other.

And that is a complement.

When one is knee deep in crisis then there is a possibility of miscommunication with other people working to the same ends. And that is what happened in the case of infancy of the two  movements.

Rashid Ahmed Siddiqui - 1

The Wikipedia page on late professor Rashid Ahmed Siddiqui says:

Any study of his writings without keeping in mind the scholarly, literary and cultural ambiance of Aligarh Muslim University and the city of Aligarh would make little sense. Most of the themes, events and characters in his works are, in one way or another, related to Aligarh but one also catches glimpses of Mariyahu, his place of birth. However, Aligarh is invariably the main source of his inspiration and creativity.
 This is an accurate assessment but does not make the implications clear. This deters one from approaching his writings. This is a wrong impression. In reality one should read him if one wants to know what is Aligarh.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Remembering Babri Masjid

For some time Aligarh has been witnessing power cuts in the morning - the time when it is needed dearly.
There was no power cut in the morning today.
And then it hit home.
Today is December 6 and there will be no power cut.
This is the date when the Babri Masjid was demolished by the Sangh Pariwar outfits.
A brazen offense by the strident fanatic ideology and the pepetrators remain unrepentant till today.
In fact they do celebrate the occasion as a victory day.
It was a harrowing time for Muslims of India during the period events one after another lead to the out rage of demolition.
And the times at present are no more different.
About ten years later Muslims were taught a very severe lesson on Gujrat and at the moment the supervisor of that pogrom has set his eyes on the prime ministerial post.
But even then the victory celebrations should invoke nothing more then the following, in words of Ghalib:

Bulbul ke karobaar pe hai khanda-haye gul
Kehte hein ishq jisto khalal hai dimagh ka

The flower is amused at nightingale's affairs
This obsession is really a brain gone adrift.

Allah (SWT) assures us that you shall be the winners if you are true believers.
It is this faith in the benign disposition of Allah (SWT) that can assuage the badly tormented psyche of Indian Muslims. On only needs a sincere and firm faith in Allah (SWT). And that is voluntary - it is within our control. by the Grace and permission of Allah (SWT).  That there are more than twenty crores of us in India, even when united, is no assurance. The Indian populace that is not coloured in communal mindset, that too is no assurance. That some one from outside, like the self appointed western powers of Muslim Ummah itself, will come to our rescue and arrest the juggernaut of communal forces in India, that too is no assurance. Promise of Allah (SWT) certainly is the anchor that Muslims of India can depend upon.

Nelson R. Mandela Died

Freedom fighter, statesman, moral compass and South Africa’s symbol of the struggle against racial oppression. (Source : KTLA)

Allah (SWT)'s world is very strange.
When we witness the affairs taking place in it, animate or in-animate affairs, then our sight, our vision returns to us. Dazzled, aweary.

Life of Nelson Mandela was one such affair.

Who could imagine that the UK, the epitome of western civilization till some time ago, will actively main the apartheid regime in South Africa till yesterday.
But that was the reality.

One feels as if one came out of, not medieval but ancient, times just a short while ago.

We remember Margret Thatcher assuring us that with courageous people like F.W. de Clark in place there is nothing for us to worry about.
Oh yes madam.

But she is gone some time back.
Apartheid breathed  its last in South Africa in front of her eyes.
And now even Mandela is gone.

Even without much conscious effort one feels like a part of the unfolding of a saga. That is what great men do. They make others feel great.

Gandhi is in South Africa.
He returns home to ease himself into the leadership of Indian freedom movement and lo and behold within a matter of decades not only a few hundred year old rule of British in India comes to an end but the total and complete annihilation of the British empire is heralded.

And then one comes to know of a person, again in South Africa, using the same methods as Gandhi, trying solve even more fundamental problem - not mere colonization but real apartheid.

Those 27 years in jail must have been some ordeal.
And then he lived on to tell the story.
And more. A lead South Africa for decades.
In that aspect his life surpasses Gandhi's.

In India Gandhi was a relic as soon as the freedom dawned.
And then he was eliminated. As if getting side lined was not enough.

And the same forces, ever since assassination of Gandhi and even before, have been trying to hijack India.

If Mandela could win his rights in spite of stiff resistance by entrenched forces then Muslims of India can get their due in a country where they have got side lined by acts of omission and some times commission.

If Allah (SWT) gave so much to Mandela will He (SWT) ignore us who profess the creed favoured by Him?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Knowledge is Common Sense

We live in the times of excessive specialization.
This has the danger of reducing knowledge to a chimera.
We do think that knowledge is real but we think it is either some magic or some thing unattainable - except in some very limited field.
In reality knowledge ultimately is common sense.
Or developing your common sense - not for going beyond common sense but to reduce every bit of knowledge to common sense.
Every extraordinary achievement in the intellectual enterprise amounts to that - application of common sense.

Here are some examples.
What is the common sense behind Bill Gates?
Well just monopolize early on an upcoming field and sit on it like a snake.
It is common sense.

What is the common sense behind US success?
Well it is use of science and technology to economic and military ends.

Why is US more successful then the Europe who had a lead over the former in matters of science and technology?
They did not suck the intellectual capital from the rest of the world.

What is the common sense explanation of US economic decline?
Economic growth can not be maintained indefinitely.

Finally here is the disclaimer - yours truly has not hit upon the sure shot common sense behind all we see around us. The object is not to denigrate people of knowledge - they deserve their duly earned respect. But you deserve your respect when you have reduced your knowledge to common sense. If you do that you shall not be out of business. Perhaps your business has just begun.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Omar Mukhtar : A Modern Ideal

 The ideal and model for any Muslim is beloved Prophet (PBUH).

Then there are those servants of Allah (SWT) who emulate this ideal in the best possible manner in various times.

For modern times this ideal for yours truly is Omar Mukhtar of Libya.
Just have a look at the proceedings of the trial after his capture.
Omar Mukhtar, Emir of the Mujahideen of Libya, headed jihad against Italian invaders in the 1920-1930s. He was 70 years old, when he received a severe wound, and was taken prisoner by the invaders.
A dialogue in an infidels' court in 1931, between the "judge" and Omar Mukhtar:

- Did you fight against the Italian state?
Omar: Yes
- Did you encourage people to fight against Italy?
Omar: Yes
- Are you aware of penalty for what you did?
Omar: Yes
- For how many years did you fight against Italy?
Omar: For 20 years already
- Do you regret of what you have done?
Omar: No
- Do you realize that you will be executed?
Omar: Yes
The judge remarked:
- It's a dismal end for a man like you.

Hearing these words, Omar Mukhtar replied:

- On the contrary, it is the best way to end my life!

The judge then wanted to acquit him and deport him from the country if he appeals to Mujahideen in a statement to stop the Jihad. Then Omar Mukhtar said his famous words:

- My forefinger that admits in every prayer that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah cannot write a word of falsehood, we do not surrender, we win or die!