The Hindu Phenomenon
RETREAT AND RAGE
Shah Waliullah of Delhi (1703-63) linked the decline of Muslim power to deviations from the teachings of the Koran. He believed that by purging Islam of non- Muslim customs and by focussing on the Koran and Hadith, the Muslims could regain their past status.
Respect for well-known Sufi masters and their descendants, visits of dargahs (tombs of saints) and related activities could be explained wholly in terms of medieval Islam. But, in India, a movement was launched against such Islamic practices by the orthodox ulema on the ground that they resembled Hindu practices. I wish to emphasize this point because it is generally ignored in our discussions. In this connection I would like to quote from an article by Marc Gaboriey [
A Nineteenth Century Indian "Wahhabi" Tract against the Cult of Muslim Saints: Al-Balagh al-Mubin
, in Christian W. Toll (ed.), slim Shrines in India, Oxford University Press London, 1989]. The article discusses a short Persian tract, Al-Balagh al-Mubin, attributed wrongly to Shah Waliullah but written (according to Gaborieu) by an Indian Wahhabi much ;later. But whoever its author may have been, it was used effectively to wage war on the Sufi saint cult. Gaborieu writes that "out author puts forward one argument which is less common; it is in my view the most interesting and forms the core of the book. The worship of saints is all the more to be prohibited because it makes Muslims resemble the Hindu polytheists among whom they live" (p.224). The author of Al-Balagh al-Mubin listed 18 practices among the followers of the saint cult to press the charge that they were no different from Hindu idol worshippers. The intention clearly was to discredit popular Islam and destroy the bridge between Hindus and Muslims. I would also like to refer to two excellent studies on Islam in Bengal, namely, Asim Roy's, The Islamic Syncretist Tradition in Bengal, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1983, and Rafiuddin Ahmed's, The Bengal Muslims 1871-1906: A Quest for Identify, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1981. Both have described the rise and prevalence of what may be called
genuinely Indian Islam
up to the nineteenth century. It was this form of Islam, with the saint cult as its core, that was sought to be rejected in the nineteenth century by a number of movements such as the Ahi-i-Hadith, the Tariqah-i-Muhammadiyah, the Faraizi and the Al-Taaiyuni. To call them reform movements, which is how they are generally described, is to miss their avowedly anti-Hindu orientation.
About Retreat And Rage
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