Justice Markandey Katju-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
Islam came into the world as a great liberating force, but today it has become an enslaving force. Let me explain.
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Islam spread from Spain to Indonesia for three reasons :
- Its great message of equality between men.
The great Prophet taught that all men are equal, and this gave social emancipation to the suppressed sections of society.
It is wrong to think that Islam spread at the point of the sword. Only about 5% of people may have been forcibly converted. The remaining 95% voluntarily converted, as they got social emancipation.
For instance, in our subcontinent, the Dalits were very badly treated. In some places they were almost treated like dogs. If a man is treated like a dog he will naturally go over to a religion where he is treated like a human being.
In Bangladesh, almost 90% people converted to Islam because the caste system was more rigid and inhuman there than in places like UP and Bihar where only about 17-18% people converted. Now Bangladesh is further away from Arabia than UP and Bihar. If Islam was spread at the point of the sword then 90% of people in UP and Bihar would have become Muslims and only 17-18% in Bangladesh.
No Arab armies ever reached Indonesia and Malaysia, yet 90% of people there became Muslims.
Of course, a few people may have converted as their King was Muslim, and they wanted favors from him. But that is only a small percentage of those who converted
- The spirit of brotherhood among Muslims.
The Prophet inculcated brotherhood among those who became Muslims. The community members helped each other in calamities like sickness or financial difficulty, whereas non-Muslims were left to fend for themselves. So becoming Muslim was beneficial to people.
This was similar to the early Christians, who helped each other whenever anyone in their community was in distress ( see Gibbon’s ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’ ).
In his short novel called ‘Palli Samaj’ ( also called ‘Gramin Samaj’ ) the great Bengali writer Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya gives an example of this. He writes that in rural Bengal whenever a Muslim has some great difficulty, like sickness or financial problems, other Muslims immediately come to his aid. But that is not so among non-Muslims. So naturally, it was better to become a Muslim than remain a non-Muslim.
- The statement of the great Prophet that “:For knowledge go even to China “, which means search knowledge everywhere. This introduced a degree of rationalism in Islam. Indeed, many Muslim scholars were great rationalists, e.g. Averroes ( ibn Rushd ) who followed the great Greek philosopher Aristotle, and said that scriptural texts must be understood not literally but allegorically where they conflicted with scientific understanding obtained by observation and logic.
Later on, most Muslims gave up all these 3 principles, which was the cause of their decline, while Western nations marched ahead.
As regards the first principle, of equality, most Muslims in the Indian subcontinent adopted the caste system, which is in the teeth of the Prophet’s teaching.
As regards the second, most Muslims have stopped following brotherhood, and only care for themselves and their families.
And as regards the third principle, most Muslims do not seek scientific knowledge but have fixed backward feudal unscientific mindsets, and are under the grip of reactionary maulanas who are fundamentalists and anti-rational. They accept the Quran and other Muslim scriptures literally when science has proved many of them false, e.g. the theory of creationism which has been disproved by the theory of evolution.
Many Muslims are enamored with sharia. But how can a law made in 7th century Arabia apply in the 21st century? The law has to change with changes in society. Can we have Manusmriti today?
Islam came as a liberating force in the world, but now sharia, burqa and maulanas have made it an enslaving world.
It is time Muslims thought of all this and modernise, as was done in Turkey by the great Turkish leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.