The Indoctrination

If the children’s literature produced by Goodword or Darussalam publishing houses, does not meet with the needs of prize-distributors, but rather a book so blatantly filled with information that can pervert young minds and teach them to hate the scholars of the past, then, should one conclude that the effort at indoctrination of ideas rejected by the Ummah continues?

While Napoleon – a warrior (or war-monger, whatever you call him) and a shrewd statesman – said that “History is a set of lies agreed upon,” we have a book before us whose author wrote, in all naivety,

“History indeed is the memorable record of mankind. It preserves the whole mankind. This is for man to take stock of the present in the light of the past events and improve the future by not repeating the past mistakes.”

The words are from the Preface of a book called “Glimpses of History” (Markazi Maktaba Islami Publishers, New Delhi).

While Western statesmen, politicians and historians treat Bonaparte’s assessment of past history as an active principle for future historical productions (with its strong links with the past), alas, the writer in question believed that,

“Unless we know the past of the nations, institutions and ourselves, our collective life would turn into a heap of deceptions and misconceptions.” (Preface).

If it is true that our collective life has turned “into a heap of deceptions and misconceptions,” then, it is not because we turned our backs to history as written by the great historians of the past, but because we ignored Napoleon’s assessment.

The book in question – a historical work – was written more than half a century ago. Originally in Urdu, under the title Aa’ina-e-Tarikh written by Afzal Hussain, who died in 1962. It has seven short chapters, and was apparently written for children (or grown up children). Ordinarily, we would not have paid attention to it, but for the fact that its English translation was offered by a certain religious group to a Muslim child of our family, as a reward for Islamic distinction, and because, the last chapter entitled, “Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri and the Mehdavi Movement” contains misleading material.

Actually, misleading material dominates the book. At the start of the book it has all praise for the Bhakti Movement in the chapter entitled “Ancient History.” It says:

“Though the Bhakti Movement had certain fundamental differences, but they were of single opinion about these:

1.    Belief in one God.

2.    Salvation can be attained by worshipping one God and not by idol-worship.

3.    All human beings are brothers and equal to each other.

4.    The guru is one who eliminates doubts and shows the Right Path. (shortened).” – p.18

Now, one may look into any account of the Bhakti Movement, and he will discover that none of the leaders of the movement stood for one God, without bringing back to their followers one of the idols for devotion and worship.

For example, Basava rejected the caste system, supremacy of Brahmins, and insisted on the worship of one God. That one God was Shiva.

The Bhakti Movement in Karnataka resulted in the consolidation of one Lord. That one Lord was Vishnu.

Ramananda’s was another powerful Bhakti Movement in Allahabad. He focused on one God, as symbolized by Rama.

Whether it was Vallabhacharya, Surdas, Meera Bai, Kabir, Tulsidas or several other Hindu revivalists, they all stood for one God, but that one God was one of the pantheon of deities that were historically worshipped in Hinduism.

So, what was going on? Well, it was because the Muslims had arrived into India with their one God, Lord of the Worlds. This concept was having an impact on the Hindu minds. The Message was new. The messengers were new.

Hindu masses were impressed by this reasonable concept of One Deity, the Lord of all – in whose sight all humans were one. Islam had begun to penetrate into the minds and hearts, and a few had begun to embrace its message.

Fearing mass conversion, Hindu revivalists and reformers from all over India: e.g., Madhavacharya in Udupi, Kanaka Dasa and Raghavendra Swami in Karnataka, Sankaradeva in Assam, Ramprasad Sen in West Bengal, Ramananda in UP, Tulsida around Delhi, and several others in several places, sought to combat the influences of Islam, and, to a lesser degree, that of Buddhism. They were ingenious enough to divide their deities among themselves, for each one to speak on the concept of one God, but, in actual fact, a single deity which the reformer chose to re-establish (Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, Gopal, Lakshmi, and the like). So that, in congregate, all the Hindu deities were re-established, and in every geographical area, there emerged a Guru, through whom alone guidance was to be sought, and through whose deity alone salvation could be achieved. It was a brilliant move and it worked beautifully. Islam’s progress was considerably checked.

But here we have, the author of Glimpses of History (may Allah forgive him), instructing Muslim children that the Bhakti Movement restored belief in one God, and that idol-worship was discouraged.

But, perhaps influenced by a certain movement’s policy of downgrading every contribution of the Ummah from the time of `Uthman b. `Affan, until the middle of the 20th century, he has unkind words for the scholars of Islam of the same period (12th to 17th century). He writes about them:

“… if only the scholars and religious leaders had realized their duties and obligations and given thought to reform the society. They were in large number and they had hold on the society. Unfortunately, they were worse than the political workers. The scholars were engaged in unnecessary and unwanted discussions and discourses involving logic, philosophy and religion. They were more interested in establishing relationship between the attributes and personality of God, and to find whether these attributes are intervowen or external.” – p.50

If you believe that (while the Bhakti Movement succeeded) the scholars of the Ummah failed in every epoch except the modern, then, you are bound to remain ignorant of your past history, not as written by the historians of Napoleon’s mention, but as available in thousands of books not entitled as history books, but rather as invaluable Islamic texts that can still be used for study, if you have the brain-power.

It is amazing of some people that they are ungrateful to those who gave them Islam. Aren’t the tall figures in the history of Indian Islam, like: Mujaddid alf-Thani, Sayyid Adam Binnuri, Bakthtiyar Kaki, Khawja Moinuddin Chishti, Mirza Nizamuddin, Fareeduddin Ghanj-e-Shakar, Abdullah Ghazipuri (the Muhaddith), Saleem Chishti, Sharfuddin Ahmed Minyari, Sheikh Abdul Haq (the Muhaddith), Nizamuddin Sahalwi (the composer of the Dars-e-Nizami syllabus) – responsible for the spread of Islam far into the East? To say that they were “worse than political workers,” while their books are still taught, literary productions still referred to, and ascetic literature still benefited from, tells us something about the mind which states the following about Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (d. 1505) the claimant to the awaited, Allah-appointed, Mahdi:

“(In contrast to the state of the scholars of Islam), at such a moment of mass degradation a movement of revival and moral values took its birth. It was Mehdavi Movement. Its torch bearers took the rulers to task, reminded the scholars and religious leaders of their obligations and duties and called the common people to shape their lives in the light of instructions from the Book of Allah and Sunnah. There were very sincere in their attempts. So they succeeded initially, but at a later stage their influence was checked by vested interests (meaning the scholars and religious leaders: ed.). The claim of Mehdi by the founder of this movement also came in the way of its progress and influence.” – p.51

So, the ‘Mehdavi Movement’ (meaning the movement headed by a person who later claimed to be the Mahdi), reminded the true scholars of their religious duties!

He further states about Jaunpuri,

Syed Muhammad… soon occupied an enviable position among the scholars… None could compete with in piety and devotion to prayer with him… Even among the sufi saints he was known as “Sayyidul Aulia”… He had an enchanting personality… His sermons were very instructive and illuminative…” – p. 51

Further down the lines:

“.. Syed Muhammad experienced ecstatic state which lasted for 12 years. For seven of these twelve years, he fasted everyday and was devoted to meditations, when he claimed as being Mehdi… This hampered the reformative movement…” – p. 52


“When he came out of this state of ecstasy, and… during the tour he met many scholars and saints and invited them to take up reformative work of the community, giving up conflicts, disputes and waywardness… He invited the common people to give up superstitions, false beliefs and innovative practices and to adhere to the true principles as laid down in Qur’an and advocated by Hadith. Few persons paid attention to his words. However, the scholars and saints who had ulterior motives opposed him and tried to harm him and his cause.” P. 52-53

So, the Mahdawi call was good and blessed, (except that Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri claimed to be the Mahdi), and, the ‘scholars and saints’ who rejected his call, had ‘ulterior motives!’ Another of their crime was that they ‘tried to harm him and his cause,’ (meaning, the Muslim scholars are in the habit of rejecting Mujaddids).

Let’s move on:

“The following are the allegations against Syed Muhammad:

1.    Syed Muhammad considered the Muslims as ‘Kafir’ and asked them to become ‘Momin.’

2.    He did not follow the ‘Imam-e-Azam’ but directly referred to the Qur’an and Sunnah on any occasion.

3.    He stopped people from studying philosophy.

4.    His followers did not respect the Mashaikh and condemned them.” – p. 53

So, the above stated points were ‘allegations.’ And the scholars of the time were not opposed to Syed Muhammad’s because of his claim to being a Mahdi, but because he condemned Masha’ikh (do you see another insinuation?)

A few lines later, the author of Glimpses of History writes,

“He now proceeded to Qandahar in Afghanistan along with 360 of his disciples. He gained popularity there among the common men. This made the scholars and religious leaders of the area jealous and they started opposing him tooth and nail.” – p. 54

We might remind that the migration to Qandahar was forced upon Jaunpuri by the scholars because he claimed to be a Mahdi. But to the ‘historian’ (of Napoleon’s description), the cause did not matter. What mattered was that he was popular among the masses, even if not among the scholars (you may note another insinuation).

The chapter ends on a positive note on the Mahdi:

“(During the conversation with a Governmental inquiry minister): The minister commended: ‘If you are a Mehdi in the sense of a guide and revival of Islamic truth… then everyone in the community should help you to carry out your mission. However if you claim to be ‘Mehdi-e-Aakhiruzzaman’ then there should be vivid signs from Allah confirming your claim.'”

The saint replied, ‘It is for Allah to show the signs. Our job is only to propagate the True Religion.'” – p. 55

After having taught the children that while those who gave them (and him) Islam were a corrupt lot, the Mahdi of Jawnpur is brought in as a ‘saint.’

The author informs us that,

“It is said that before death he had gone back on his claim of being Mehdi.” – p. 55

But also reminds us that,

“Although the claim of being ‘Mehdi’ was the main handicap of this movement, his mission was quite successful in that it generated a wave for reviving the religion, its moral values and it brought a general awakening.” – p. 55

What a, quixotic conclusion! Scholars, religious leaders and Sufis of five centuries failed miserably; but he who claimed to be a Mahdi, who established a new sect, whose followers do not believe that their Mahdi had gone back on his claim, who has been consistently rejected by the scholars as the false Mahdi, was quite successful!

To use a worn out cliché, even Napoleon must be frowning in his grave.

If the children’s literature produced by Goodword or Darussalam publishing houses, does not meet with the needs of prize-distributors, but rather a book so blatantly filled with information that can pervert young minds and teach them to hate the scholars of the past, then, should one conclude that the effort at indoctrination of ideas rejected by the Ummah continues?

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