April 2024

Inclusion, not division

Following the publication of a new book debunking the concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind, Tripti Nath reports on the launch in New Delhi, at which Islamic scholars challenged misinterpretations and misperceptions of Islam

‘We are privileged to be Muslims of India. It is a great privilege. Let us not underestimate it. Who did what and when. Let’s leave that to books. We know that we are privileged. We know that we are grateful to God for keeping us in our motherland.’

So said MJ Akbar, author, journalist and former Minister of State for External Affairs, at a March 3 function in New Delhi, organised by the Khusro Foundation to mark the release of What is the Reality of Ghazwa-e-Hind?,edited by Dr Hafeezur Rahman. The book, published in English, Hindi and Urdu, is a compilation of eight essays by noted Islamic scholars and religious leaders, which unpick the flawed thinking behind the notion of Ghawa-e-Hind.

It is worth noting that Ghazwa-e-Hind is an apocalyptic prophecy attributed to the Prophet Mohammad, in which he is said to have predicted that Islamic forces will conquer India before the apocalypse. For a long period of time, this fabricated hadith has been quoted to justify a clash of civilisations. Terrorist groups in neighbouring countries – including Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, al-Qaida-affiliated Ansar Ghazwatul Hind and the Islamic State – use the same hadith to recruit terrorists and unleash attacks in India. 

Yet Islam should not be blamed for the sins of Muslims, Akbar insisted. There is a great deal of misunderstanding about Islam, and it is important to understand the faith that we are talking about. Drawing attention to several verses of the Quran, he said, ‘The tragedy of Islam is really very often, I believe, not those who believe in it but those who claim to believe in it.  What is the term used by the Holy Quran for Allah? Anyone who reads the Namaz wherever knows that Allah is Rab-ul-Alameen. Nowhere is Allah called Rab-ul-Muslim. He is the creator of all human beings.’

‘We are privileged to be Muslims of India’

So if Allah created all of us, asked Akbar, who are we to judge each other? ‘The only mandate we have been given is to live in peace. We have not been given the mandate to kill. The Prophet warned Muslims only about one community. He came to a pact with every other community. There is only one community which the Prophet said you cannot come to terms with. That is the hypocrites. Regrettably, the voice of hypocrisy is drowning out the voice of Islam.’ Islam clearly states, therefore. That there is no compulsion in religion.

The entire concept of Ghazwa is flawed

On the subject of the modern nation state, Akbar was clear. ‘A hundred years ago the era of nationalism began and India was at the forefront of creating a nation state in the modern era. So, we are the first modern state. What are the four principles of modernity? Democracy – we have it. Freedom of faith – without that, you can’t be a modern nation. China may be a successful nation but China is not a modern nation because it has no democracy; it has no freedom of faith. Gender equality – without that, there can be no modernity. And of course, poverty elimination – that, too, we are witnessing now. This is what Indian Muslims have got in free, independent and democratic India. And we know through our experience. We know through what we have lived through. And we know because we have eyes to see, ears to hear and the intellect to understand what is happening in the world beyond.’’ 

Although the Prophet Muhammad spent most of his life under persecution, Akbar told the audience, there was no call to war during the Prophet’s time – not even when his life was under threat. Therefore, Ghazwa-e-Hind is not just fraudulent but also mischievous. ‘There are ten rules of Jihad to be followed. It is not as simple as it is made out to be.  You cannot even burn trees, not to talk of killing human beings.’ 

MJ Akbar (centre) and eminent Islamic scholars at the launch of What is the Reality of Ghazwa-e-Hind
MJ Akbar (centre) and eminent Islamic scholars at the launch of What is the Reality of Ghazwa-e-Hind?

Akbar asked the audience to look back over the years, to around 1919-1920. and see which model has succeeded – the model of violence or the model of non-violence? The Communist states created by violence have crumbled and collapsed, whereas the Gandhian concept of non-violence has proven to be more sustainable. 

Dr Waris Mateen Mazhari from the Department of Islamic Studies, Jamia Hamdard, Delhi, warned against false narratives with vested interests and said they needed to be challenged. He suggested that the book be translated into other Indian languages as well.

Renowned Shia scholar and social reformer Maulana Kalbe Rushaid Rizvi said that the Prophet’s message was always for humanity as a whole, not simply for Muslims, and he too critiqued narratives that misquote Islam. 

Agreeing that that there has been much misleading information about Islam, Dr Zeenat Shaukat, who teaches at St Xavier’s College, said, ‘This book offers authentic information on the subject. Articles in the book denounce the Ghazwa theory, and the Ghazwa-e Hind doctrine can cause ill feelings between communities. Islam rejects violence and the Holy Quran believes in confidence building.’ 

Dr Shaukat also drew attention to an interview with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, where he said that Muslin scholars have been talking about the concept of moderation for a thousand years.  

The editor of What is the Reality of Ghazwa-e-Hind?,Dr Hafeezur Rahman, said he felt compelled to tell the world that the entire concept of Ghazwa is flawed. Ghazwa is an Arabic word which implies a war that was led by the Prophet Mohammad. ‘This is a completely false narrative and therefore [there is] the urgent need to debunk it completely,’ said Dr Rahman, who added that the book aims to promote inter-faith understanding and challenge the narrative that can imperil shared heritage and composite culture in India.

Tripti Nath is a journalist based in New Delhi