Peace in a Plural Society. By Maulana Wahiduddin Khan

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After a long struggle, the Indian Subcontinent won independence in August 1947. This independence was on the basis of the ‘two nation theory’. The country had been divided ostensibly to solve communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims. But, the Partition did not achieve this. In fact, it further exacerbated the conflict. Prior to the Partition, the conflict was between two communities, both of which lacked ruling power. With the Partition, it now became a conflict between two sovereign countries.
Mahatma Gandhi had, on the very first day itself, perceived how sensitive this situation was. And so, he stressed that Hindus and Muslims should learn to live together in peace and harmony and said that he would give up his life for this. However, shortly after India became independent, he was shot dead. This was undoubtedly a very big tragedy. As a result, the cause of peace and unity in the region suffered a great setback with the loss of its greatest leader.
Independence was accompanied by horrific communal violence on both sides of the newly-created border. This violence continued for many years thereafter. Finally, in order to address the issue, the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, called a national-level conference in New Delhi in October 1961. At this conference, it was unanimously decided to set up the National Integration Council to deal with matters related to communal harmony and to make necessary suggestions.
The second conference of this Council was held in June 1962. Speakers delivered their speeches on the occasion and suggested various measures to promote communal harmony. Yet, no action was taken on their suggestions. Moreover, no more meetings of the Council were held during the rest of Nehru’s life.
The third meeting of the Council was called by the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, in Srinagar in 1968. It called for promoting hatred on the grounds between communities to be made a cognizable offence. Some other steps were also mooted. A few laws and rules were also passed. But still, no practical benefit emerged from all of this. And so, even today, the situation in the country is about the same as it was in 1947 as far as the issue of communalism is concerned.
What caused this failure? The basic reason is that this issue has been thought of simply as a law and order problem. However, in actual fact, the nature of the issue is different. It is not really a law and order problem. Rather, it has to do essentially with the lack of intellectual development or lack of consciousness. To solve the problem, what is required is to properly educate the people and to promote proper thinking and discernment. People should know how to distinguish between things, such as between actions that are efficacious and those that are not. They must know what they should do and what they should abstain from. They should learn the importance of thinking before acting.
This sort of aware or awakened society is one where communal harmony can flourish. It is by promoting this sort of social awareness, rather than by approaching the issue as a law and order one and reacting accordingly, that the problem of communalism can be solved. The purpose of the law in this regard is only to deal with exceptional cases of violence in society, and not for improving the general health of society. In a surgery, only the affected part of a patient’s body is treated. If the whole of a patient’s body is affected by disease, then surgery is of no use at all.
Religious Differences
Some basic issues that relate to the vital question of properly educating people about the issue of communalism need to be clarified. One of these is the issue of religious differences. A comparative study of the various religions shows that there are clear differences between the different religions. For instance, the beliefs of some religious communities are based on monism, and those of some other communities are based on monotheism. Some religions preach the discovery of truth by oneself, while others believe that the Truth is revealed by God through messengers.
Some people think that these religious differences and distinctions are themselves the root cause for all communal conflicts. They believe that communal harmony can come about only when these differences are somehow destroyed. ‘Bulldoze them all!’ some extremists say, but of course this is so completely impractical that it is not even worth talking about.
Faced with the reality of religious differences, some people seek to somehow or the other ‘prove’ that all religions are, actually, one and the same. A notable such person was the late Dr. Bhagwan Das (1869-1958), a very capable man. After a detailed study of all the major religions, he wrote a book, running into almost 1000 pages, titled Essential Unity Of All Religions. He claimed that the teachings of the all religions are the same.
But seeking to prove that all religions are one and the same by extracting portions from different scriptures is like someone culling portions from the Constitutions of different countries and publishing them together in a single book and then claiming that all the Constitutions of the world are the same and that they have the same rules and clauses and provisions! This sort of imaginary universal Constitution may greatly please the author of such a book, but it will not be acceptable for even a single country. Every country will reject it. The same holds true for books like Dr. Bhagwan Das’ about religion. Books of this sort may give their compilers great pleasure, but they cannot be acceptable to the followers of the different religions.
I have studied this issue in detail and have found that to claim that all religions are one and the same does not correspond to reality. In actual fact, there are so many differences between the different religions that it is simply impossible to practically prove them to be the same. For instance, one religion says that God is one. Another religion talks of two gods. A third religion says there are three gods. Yet another religion claims that there are 33 or 330 million gods. Some religions insist that the number of gods is simply beyond counting. In such circumstances, to claim that the teachings of all the religions are one and the same may appeal to the minds of people who are given to wishful thinking, but it is not logical, and nor is it factual.
Even if, by some means or the other, it could be argued that the scriptures of the different religions are, in actual fact, the same, the problem of difference will still remain unresolved. This is because there are multiple and conflicting interpretations of each of these scriptures, and these multiple interpretations lead to the formation of numerous sects within each religious community.
The fact is that such difference or diversity is not just related to religion. The entire world is based on the principle of difference and variety. These differences are so pervasive that no two things or people are without some difference or the other. As someone has very rightly said, ‘Nature abhors uniformity’.
When differences are themselves a law of Nature, how can religion be an exception to this rule? The fact is that, just as differences are found in everything else in the world, so also are there differences between one religion and another. We have not thought it necessary to do away with differences in other matters, but, instead, have agreed to disagree. We should adopt this same practical formula in matters of religion as well. Here, too, we should stress on unity despite differences. The fact is that there is only one way to solve the issue of religious differences, and that is: ‘Follow one, and respect all’.
Cultural Differences
The issue of cultural differences is also one that needs to be considered. Social groups are characterised by cultural differences. Some people regard these differences as the root of all conflicts. They argue that to end conflict, these differences in the name of culture should be completely wiped out that and a society characterised by cultural unity should be established.
This proposal, too, is impractical. Culture cannot be made or destroyed by individuals at will in this way. A culture always emerges from a long historical process. It cannot be invented by someone sitting in an office and preparing a ‘cultural plan'.
In the wake of the Second World War, numerous ideologues emerged in different parts of the world who began calling for the establishment of a mono-cultural society in order to promote national unity. This mono-cultural approach was promoted, for instance, in Canada, but it proved impractical and was soon abandoned. Canada has now officially adopted multiculturalism as its policy and has dropped mono-culturalism for good.
The same happened in the USA as well. After the Second World War, a movement to promote what was called ‘Americanisation’ emerged, which sought to impose a single culture on all Americans. But it failed, because people realised it was impractical. And so, it was abandoned, and now in America, too, multiculturalism is the recognised policy.
The fact is that cultural differences are not a matter of differences only between two communities. Such differences can also be found among, and between, different sub-groups in every community. That is why it is not necessary to make changes in religious teachings in order to promote unity and harmony between different religions. For this purpose the only thing necessary is to promote among the followers of different religions a commitment to ‘Live and Let Live’.
However, some people still advocate this failed experiment of mono-culturalism and have given it the name of ‘social engineering’. Through this they seek to respond to the fact of cultural diversity among different communities by calling for the restructuring of their culture so that society is free from cultural differences and all citizens of the state share a common culture.
No matter what name it is called by, the result of the effort to manufacture and impose a single culture on people remains the same—useless. It is tantamount to nothing less than what could be called ‘cultural bulldozing’. No matter what it is termed—‘social engineering’ or ‘cultural nationalism’ or whatever—it is thoroughly impractical and unrealistic. And to pursue anything that is impractical from the point of view of natural laws is simply a waste of time.
In this regard, my difference with the ‘cultural nationalists’ or ‘social engineers’ is not on an ideological, but, rather, practical basis. I do not say that their aim is wrong, but, rather, that what they want to bring about is simply impractical. Supposing it becomes possible for everyone in the country to start to speak one language, to follow one culture and to have the same traditions and way of life. If such a thing happens, I would say, ‘Yes, it should certainly be done.’ But the fact remains that, in line with the laws of Nature and History, this sort of uniformity is simply impossible. It has never been possible in the past, and nor will it be possible in the future. Cultures always develop according to their own laws. It is simply possible to sit in an office and invent a cultural map of your choice and then go about imposing it on every community in the country.
So, in this regard, we should do exactly what we generally do with regard to all other divisive issues—we should solve the problem on the basis of the principle of tolerance. One should deal with the matter with methods that accord with factual reality, and not through confrontational methods. Using confrontational methods in this matter will only further exacerbate the problem, rather than solve it.
In this context, there is an important issue that needs to be clarified. Some people claim that Hindus are loyal to India, their holy places being located here. They claim that it is different with the Muslims of the country, whose centres of devotion—for instance, Makkah and Madina—are located outside India. That is why, they allege, Muslims can never be loyal to India.
I see this issue differently, however. Suppose a Hindu is devoted to a temple in Somnath. This does not mean that he cannot be devoted to a temple located in Ayodhya as well. Similarly, if a person loves his mother, it surely does not mean that he has no love for his father.
Similarly, if an Indian Muslim has an emotional bonding with Makkah and Madina, it does not mean that he has no such bonding with India. To think otherwise is to underestimate people’s innate humanity. Any person, be he or she Hindu or Muslim or anything else, is an expression of Nature, and Nature has made every human being with enough inner spaciousness to contain within him or her multiple loves and loyalties at the same time.
This is such a basic fact of life that every person can testify to it personally. Every man and woman knows this from his or her own experience. As a Western thinker very aptly put it, ‘I am large enough to contain all these contradictions’.
Religion and Politics
Very often, religion is invoked in communal conflicts. Repeatedly, political and communal controversies are turned into religious controversies, and then people’s passions are roused, leading to confrontation and violence between communities. Because of this, many people have become opponents of religion itself. They say that human beings have no need for religion at all, and that, hence, religion must be destroyed. Without this, they contend, is social unity impossible.
This, however, is an extremist response to an extremist stance, a secular extremist reaction to religious extremism, which is neither possible nor useful. The fact is that religion is in itself not a problem. It is a vital part of human life. It is the political exploitation of religion by some opportunist people that is the problem. Hence, it is the exploitation of religion, rather than religion itself, that needs to be eliminated.
Religion has two dimensions: personal and collective. The personal dimension of religion includes beliefs, worship, morality and spirituality. The collective dimension of religion includes its political and social commandments. In this matter, the right approach would, in general conditions, be to stress only on the personal dimension of religion. The entire focus should be on enkindling the spirit of religion.
As far as the political and social commandments of religion are concerned, they should not be taken up until such time as the entire society becomes conducive for them. These commandments can be established only through the collective consent of the entire society. That is why no practical steps should be taken as far as these rules are concerned as long as the collective consent of the society is not in favour of this.
This approach can be termed a practical division between religion and politics. That is to say, while considering, at the ideological level, politics to be part of religion, in the face of reality the practical enforcement of the political commandments of religion can be delayed or postponed. This is a wise approach. The advantage of this wise approach is that in this way the demands both of religion and of politics can be fulfilled: those of religion, in the present, and of politics, in the future. On the other hand, if this wise approach is not adopted and both aspects of religion are simultaneously highlighted, the result will be that the demands of both religion and politics will be left unfulfilled.
Difference Between North and South India
In India, the problem of communal conflict is predominantly, though not entirely, a North Indian problem. In South India, communal harmony still prevails in most parts. Most communal riots take place in the north. Very few cases of such violence are reported from the south. It is very important to study this difference between North and South India, because it can provide us with valuable guidance.
Moreover, it is not that all parts of North India are equally affected by communal violence. Most such violence happens in urban areas. Very few communal riots take place in villages. It is instructive to study why this is so. Such a study would not only provide us with explanations for the phenomenon of communal violence, but it would also offer us appropriate solutions to such violence and measures for promoting an environment of inter-community harmony.
With regard to communal harmony, there are some issues that need to be looked at. For instance, Muslims complain about some beliefs of the Hindus. I will not discuss these here. But in this regard I would advise Muslims that, in accordance with Islamic principles, they should adopt the method of tolerance and avoidance of conflict. On the other hand, there are some complaints or misunderstandings that Hindus have with regard to Muslims. I would like to elaborate on this matter and explain certain Islamic terms that are a cause, or can become a cause, of misunderstandings between the two communities.
Here I will just briefly mention an important point. Ordinarily, if a Muslim does something wrong, Hindus speak and write against him. In the same way, if a Hindu does something wrong, Muslims speak and write against him. This method is, from the point of view of reform, completely useless. It only pleases one party, which thinks it to be advocacy in its favour, but it has no positive impact whatsoever on the other party.
Contrary to this, the proper and beneficial approach is that if a Muslim does something wrong, Muslim ulema and intellectuals should speak and write against it. Likewise, if a Hindu does something wrong, Hindu leaders should speak and write against it. It is just as when a child does something wrong, his parents are the first to admonish him. His parents do not wait for their neighbours to come to their house and scold their child. In any case, even if these people do come and scold their child, it will not have any positive impact on him.
It is a psychological reality that one generally takes the admonishment of people one considers one’s own in a positive way, and, accordingly, reforms oneself. In contrast, one generally takes the criticism of people one considers as the ‘other’ as an insult to one’s honour, and so it does not have a positive impact. It is very necessary to keep this bit of practical wisdom in mind with regard to the issue of community unity.
Community, Nation and Nationalism
In the context of what we are discussing here, there are certain Islamic terms whose clarification is necessary. Clarifying their real import can help in promoting better relations between Muslims and others. On the other hand, a wrong understanding of these terms can only further magnify the distance between them.
One of these terms is qaum. From the Quran we learn that every prophet addressed his disbelieving addressees as ya qaumi, which can be translated as ‘O my people!’ From this we learn that the believers and non-believers can share the same nationality, to use a modern term. The fact is that one’s nationality is related with one’s homeland, not with one’s religion. The term to denote adherence to a common religion is millat, while the term to denote sharing a common homeland is qaumiyat. In today’s world, one’s homeland is considered to be the basis of one’s nationality. This is also what Islam says. According to Islam, too, one’s nationality or qaumiyat is based on one’s homeland.
In this regard, the ‘two-nation’ theory—the claim that the Hindus and Muslims of India are two separate nations—is an un-Islamic theory. The ‘two-nation’ theory creates in the minds of Muslims the false belief that they are a separate nation or qaum and that other Indians belong to a different nation. The true Islamic stance is that the Muslims of India should regard themselves as belonging to the same nation or qaum as other, non-Muslim, Indians. They should address other Indians as ‘O my people!’, as all the prophets did.
The Quran (49:13) says:
Mankind! We have created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes, so that you might come to know each other.
The term ‘peoples’ in this verse indicates groups that are derived from sharing a common homeland, while the term ‘tribes’ indicates groups based on racial commonality. According to the Quran, both of these types of grouping of people are simply for the sake of coming to know each other, and not for indicating relationships of belief or religion.
In the period just before the Partition, Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, a well-known Indian Muslim scholar, contended, ‘In the present age, people’s nationality is determined on the basis of their homelands.’ This statement was in itself correct. But I think that adding the clause or condition ‘In the present age’ was improper. The fact is that nations or qaums have always developed on the basis of their homelands. In the contemporary age, the only difference is that, as in many other matters, new methods of determining and identifying one’s nationality began being used. For instance, these days, one’s nationality is specified in one’s passport, while passports were not used earlier. There are also new legal definitions of nationality for determining international rights. And so on. Hence, one can rightly say that today the term qaum, or nation, is used in essentially the same way as it was used in earlier times, the only difference being that earlier it was employed in a limited sense, while today it is used in a more expanded sense.
Some people interpret nationalism in an extremist fashion, so much so that they make it synonymous with religion. But this is a case of ideological extremism. One can cite instances of this sort of ideological extremism with regard to religion, too. For instance, some modern Muslim thinkers have interpreted Islam in such an extremist manner that all systems other than Islam have been branded as taghuti nizams or ‘false systems’. These writers declared it haram or completely forbidden for Muslims to cooperate with such systems. They even declared it haram for Muslims to seek education under such so-called ‘false systems’, to take up government employment, to vote in elections, or to approach the country’s courts to have their disputes solved.
This notion of ‘false systems’ was the product of some extremist minds. It does not have anything at all to do with the Islam of God and the Prophet. This is why practical realities compelled many of those who once upheld this erroneous ideology to distance themselves from it in their own personal lives. And so, all these people have, in actual practice, abandoned this extremist theory, without announcing it as such.
Exactly the same thing happened in relation to the issue of nationalism. Some extremist Western thinkers had expanded the notion of nationalism so much that they presented it in the form of a complete religion by itself. But when this notion had to contend with practical realities, it broke into smithereens. And so, in practical terms, nationalism is now understood in somewhat the same natural manner in which it is portrayed in the Quran.
Most Indian Muslim leaders who emerged in the first half of the 20th century could not properly appreciate these matters. They thought that the unnatural and extremist understandings about nation and territorial nationalism were what nationalism was actually about, and so they declared nationalism to be un-Islamic. For instance, the famous Indian Muslim poet Muhammad Iqbal (d. 1938). He took the extremist understandings of nation and territorial nationalism as synonymous with nationalism as such, and declared:
Is daur mai mai aur hai jam aur hai jam aur
Tehzib ke azar ne tarashwaye sanam aur
In tazah khudaon mai bada sabse watan hai
Jo pairahan uska hai voh mazhab ka kafan hai
In this age, the wine is different and so is the wine-cup.
The Azar of civilization has chiseled a new idol.
Among these new gods the biggest is the homeland.
Its dress is the shroud of Religion.
This understanding of nation and territorial-nationalism is undoubtedly baseless.
The strange thing is that in this period, most ulema and Muslim intellectuals were making out issues of political import to be supposedly so vital to Islam as if they were a question of life and death for it, although, the fact of the matter is that no political upheavals—no political successes or downfalls—can ever become a challenge to the eternalness of Islam. But this fact escaped many Muslim leaders. For instance, when, in the early 20th century, the Ottoman Empire collapsed, the Indian Muslim writer Shibli Numani bemoaned:
Zawal-e daulat-e usman zawal-e shara-o-millat hai
Aziz-o-fikr-e-farzand-o-ayal-o-khanama kab tak
The decline of the Ottoman Empire is the decline of the Islamic shariah and the Muslim millat.
O my friends, till when will you be concerned only about your children and families?
This understanding, that the collapse of a certain government is synonymous with the decline of the Islamic shariah and the Muslim millat, is certainly baseless. Such a thing has never happened in the past, and nor can it ever happen in the future. The period of the four Righteously-Guided Caliphs came to an end, but the peaceful expansion of Islam still carried on. The journey of Islam continued in the same way even after the Umayyad and Abbasid Empires collapsed, and also after Muslim rule in Spain and that of the Fatimids in Egypt and the Mughals in India ended. The decline of these Muslim dynasties could not, and did not, cause any decline of Islam.
In the same way, in the 20th century a number of extremist ideologies emerged—for instance, Communism, Nazism, Nationalism, and so on. But the end result of all of these was that the Law of Nature rebutted their extremist aspects, and, finally, whatever survived of them was what was desirable according to the Law of Nature. This eternal Law is above everything else. It rebuts unbalanced ideologies by itself, removes them from the field of life, and, in place of them, gives balanced ways of thinking the chance to do their work.
The Concepts of Kufr and Kafir
Some people claim that the notions that Muslims have of kufr and kafir are a permanent stumbling block to communal harmony. However, this claim is based on a misunderstanding. It has nothing to do with the Quran.
The literal meaning of the word kufr is to ‘deny’, and kafir means ‘one who denies’. It is important to note that these two terms are used in the Quran in the context of narratives about the prophets. Moreover, kufr is a trait of a particular individual; it is not the ethnic or inherited name for a social group. The investigation of kufr or ‘denial’ with regard to a particular person happens when he has been invited to the faith in the manner that the prophets did and this is carried on till its culmination by presenting proper evidence and requisite proofs—or what is called etimam-e hujjat. Without this prophetic-sort of dawah, it is not proper to declare that a particular person has engaged in kufr or the act of ‘denial’.
In the same way, it is not legitimate for ordinary people to announce, in a clearly determined and specific manner, that a particular person or group of persons has become kafir. The act of kufr is, in reality, related to one’s intentions, and only God knows the reality of people’s intentions. That is why it is only for God, or, on the basis of the knowledge given to them by God, for the prophets, to declare in a clearly determined and specific manner that a particular person has become a kafir. Accordingly, there is just one such reference in the whole Quran (109:1) where some people in the ancient past have been termed in a clearly identified manner as kafirs:
Qul ya ayyuha alkafiroon
Say, ‘You who deny the Truth […]’
This way of clearly specific addressing is not used in the Quran for any other group. That is to say, other than this singular exception, the Quran does mention the act of kufr, but it does not specifically give the status of being engaged in the act of kufr to anyone.
The Term Dar ul-Harb
The term dar ul-harb or ‘Abode of War’ is certainly used in the fiqh or jurisprudential tradition that was developed in the Abbasid period, but it is not mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. This clearly shows that the term was coined by jurists based on their reasoning (ijtihad), and that it is not from the original Islamic sources. And that which is ijtihadi, a product of human reasoning and reflection, can be either right or wrong.
In my opinion, the term dar ul-harb is an ijithadi error. Many different developments took place at the time of the Prophet, but he never declared any territory as dar ul-harb. If one engages in ijtihad based on the Quran and Hadith and comes up with a relevant term, it can be just one: and that is, dar ud-dawah or ‘Abode of Invitation to the Faith’. This is what is in accordance with the spirit of Islam. Islam regards all people as mad‘us, or people who are to be invited to the faith, irrespective of whether their relations with the followers of Islam are peaceful or not. Hence, in accordance with the authentic understanding of Islam, only two terms are proper with regard to the issue being discussed here. One is dar ul-islam (‘Abode of Islam), and the other is dar ud-dawah. Other than theses, all other terms that are used in the fiqh tradition to categorise territories (such as dar ul-harb, dar ul-kufr [‘Abode of Infidelity’], dar ut-taghut [‘Abode of Falsehood’], etc.) represent, in my view, ijithadi errors.
The Concept of Jihad
As a result of wrong interpretation by some Muslims, jihad has come to be understood as war engaged in to ‘reform’ others (or what is called in Urdu as muslihana jang). These people say that Muslims are God’s khalifas or deputies on earth, and that it is the responsibility of Muslims as God’s deputies to establish the rule of God in the world. They think they are charged with the God-given task of making people obey God’s commandments. They name this war as jihad.
This understanding of jihad is undoubtedly without any basis. It has nothing to do with the Quran and the Sunnah, the Prophet’s practice.
A ‘reformist war’ is, from the point of view of its consequences, nothing but war for promoting fasad or strife (or, in Urdu, mufsidana jang). In society, everyone has the right to peacefully express his or her views, but the idea that one can use physical force to ‘reform’ others is simply unacceptable when it comes to relations between communities and countries. In any particular society, and also at the inter-community and international levels, no group of people can arrogate to itself a right that it is not willing to let others also to enjoy. If a particular group wants to have the right to engage in ‘reformist war’, then, obviously, it must be ready to grant the same right to other groups as well. If this happens, the result would be that each group will start warring with the others, all in the name of self-styled ‘reform’. Needless to say, no ‘reform’ can ever come about in this way. Rather, the only result will be never-ending strife.
The fact is that there is only one legitimate form of war, and that is, war that is fought in defence. If a nation crosses its geographical boundaries and openly attacks another nation, in such a situation, the nation that has been attacked has the right to reply by fighting in defence. Other than in this case, there are no grounds for war in Islam at all. This principle is as firmly accepted in Islam as in many other, non-Islamic, systems. With regard to this principle, there is no difference between Islam and non-Islamic systems.
In this regard, there is a particular issue that needs particular attention. It relates to the past, to the period of the age of monarchs. In this period, much of the world was under various dynasties. At that time, the monarch was considered to be above the law. He thought he could do whatever he pleased. Because of this, every king engaged in deeds that were clearly morally or legally improper. This was the case with Muslim kings in ancient India, too. For instance, Mahmud Ghaznavi demolished the Hindu temple at Somnath and looted its gold. Likewise, it is said that Aurangzeb destroyed a Hindu temple in Benaras and built a mosque in its place. And so on.
Such deeds were committed by kings in every country in those days. But all these were later treated as just a part of ancient history and did not become a cause for continuous conflict between communities. It is only in India that incidents like these became a cause for continuing bitterness between communities—Hindus and Muslims—leading to repeated communal riots. They became a major obstacle in the path of promoting communal harmony.
The basic reason for this exceptional case of India in this regard is, I believe, that the Indian Muslim ulema and intellectuals have labelled Muslim dynasties in India as ‘Islamic’ dynasties. They began considering them as a chapter in the history of Islam. In actual fact, however, their rule was simply that of some Muslim families. It is completely wrong to consider their rule as the rule of Islam. These two things are totally different. But because this difference was not kept in mind, the events that were associated with the reign of particular Muslim dynasties came to be associated with the name of Islam.
Another terrible blunder that Muslims made because this basic distinction was not borne in mind was that they perceived the reign of these Muslim rulers as a source of Islamic pride. They began to view it as a symbol of the domination of Islam. On the other hand, Hindus began thinking on the lines of what is called ‘the righting of historical wrongs’. Both these stances resulted in mutual bitterness. When Muslims made the memory of the Muslim kings a source of pride, consciously or otherwise this became a sacred part of their religious history. And, on the other hand, Hindus perceived their actions as historical misdeeds and began trying to redress them.
In this regard, both sides, I believe, have made mistakes. The mistake of the Muslims is that because they have given this history of these Muslim rulers a religious status, they are not willing to re-examine it. And, on the other hand, the mistake of the Hindus is that they are not willing to forget history. They insist on the righting of historical wrongs, even if this results in destroying the potentials and prospects of the present.
I believe that on this matter both parties sides need to be realistic. Muslims should not give the Muslim rulers of the past the status of ‘Islamic rulers’. Instead, they should term their rule as simply the rule of certain families. They should disown the un-Islamic and immoral behaviour of these Muslim rulers. They should openly condemn them for this—be they Mahmud Ghaznavi or Aurangzeb or anyone else.
On the other hand, Hindus should forget the past, in line with the saying, ‘The past is past’. They should desist from emotionalism in this regard and should adopt a pragmatic and realistic approach. They should remember that historical wrongs have always happened, but, yet, no one has ever been able to remedy any of them. This theory about righting historical wrongs is undoubtedly unwise. It is tantamount to ruining one’s present in the name of correcting the past. This view is against the principles of Nature. People who think in this way will, in the name of salvaging their past, only lose their present and their future.
Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened in India. Countries that, forgetting the bitterness of their past, have sought to build their present have achieved brilliant successes. One example of this is Japan. In the aftermath of the Second World War, Japan did not seek to correct the wrongs committed against it by America. The result of this was that Japan is today an economic superpower. In contrast, in India, people tried to rectify historical wrongs, but this only further exacerbated the country’s backwardness.
A necessary condition for national progress is that the question of national progress should be maintained as the main issue, and all other issues should be given a secondary status. The citizens of a country should be concerned that national progress should continue unhampered. They must refuse to let emotionally-driven issues and controversies come in the way of national progress. This is the only way for true national progress. Without this, it is impossible to have peace.
There is a well-known story about a judge. One day, he had to hear a very strange case. It involved two women who were fighting over a newly-born child, each claiming it as hers. However, neither of them had any sort of legal proof of being the child’s mother. This was a big test for the judge. Finally, he ruled that the child should be sliced into two, and that each woman should get a part of the child’s body.
When the judge passed this judgment, it made no impact on the woman who had falsely claimed to be the child’s mother. But the real mother burst out screaming: ‘Don’t kill the child!’ Give it to this other woman, if you want!’
This is the true standard of love. Those who have true love their country must raise their voices, like this woman did, and assert, ‘We cannot bear to see our country being destroyed! We have forgotten whatever happened in the past so that we can fully use the opportunities of the present and build a glorious future for our country!’
Peace and unity are possible only on the basis of tolerance. It is a principle of Nature that differences will inevitably arise between individuals and groups. They are an indispensable part of life. This is why communal harmony cannot come about by eliminating differences. Rather, it is possible only on the basis of tolerance.
The fact is that to attempt to eliminate differences is to act against not a particular community, but, rather, a universal law of Nature. No individual or group is so strong that it can fight with, and win, against Nature. That is why pragmatism demands that as far as the issue of religious and cultural differences is concerned we must abide by the principle of tolerance, rather than confrontation. Tolerate differences so that unity can be established, because seeking to establish unity by eliminating differences is simply impossible.

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