The Daily Excelsior, the popular English daily of Jammu in Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, did not publish my article titled Ghazavatu’l-Hind: A Matter of Faith. However, some websites carried it.
I had cited various ahadith (Arabic plural of hadith meaning traditions come down by word of mouth) handed down by Arab historians that speak about Muslims enjoined by faith to wage holy war for the conquest of Hind – India.
Ayman al Zawahari, the lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, has broadcast the scripturally ordained Indian mission of his organization al-Qaeda. He professed to move beyond India — into Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Kashmir in South Asian region. In the days of Muhammad, all these countries were part of the region known to Arabs as al-Hind, and those living in these regions were called Hindi in Arabic lexicon.
Zawahari, hiding somewhere in Pakistan, issued a statement that al-Qaeda would hoist the Islamic flag over Hind. This gives the lie to the Pakistani claim that she would not allow terrorists to use her soil against India. Incidentally, at one time, they had also denied the presence of Osama in Pakistan.
Various campaigns of Muslim warlords from the region of Kherson and Turkistan in medieval times do not pass for ghazavatu’l-Hind, because they were for loot, killing and rapine, at best building a monarchical empire, and not for Islamizing the conquered territories, which is the precise objective of ghazatu’l-Hind. They carried home riches like the famous diamond Koh-i-Noor and diamond-studded throne Takht-i-Tawoos of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Al Zawahari’s call has a different meaning.
The conflict between the radicals and liberals within the Islamic fold is at least a millennium old, starting with the rise of Ismaili movement towards the beginning of the 10th century A.D. But with the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, the radical Islamists have split vertically into ultra radicals (Wahhabis and Salafis) and ultra-X radicals (Osamites and Baghdadis).
Nevertheless, they have many things in common: (a) destination: Islamic Caliphate, (b) methodology: al jihad, (c) orientation: martyrdom (shahadat). But there are areas of difference also, such as: (a) fighting tactics: Osamites for hit-and-run but Baghdadiites for open frontal attack, (b) recruitment: Osamites by an ethno-linguistic paradigm and Baghdadiites by absolute religious fervour (c) targets: pro-American elements for Osamites, but for Baghdadiites first Shia and then other religious denominations.
While in essence the two groups converge on the same ultimate destination, yet they are locked in a grim battle for individual achievement and the assertion of Islamic supremacy. Ayman al Zawahari has openly castigated the Islamic State for its localized agenda.
Now that Zawahari is preparing his Indian ghazava (campaign), first reaction is expected from Indian Muslim leadership, because India is the second largest home to the Muslim community in the world. It has to clarify its position vis-a-vis Zawahari’s plan of an Islamic caliphate. He pontificates that after the withdrawal of the British, India should be restored to the Muslims, from whom the Indian Empire was wrested.
If this is the logic, what about the Muslims who wrested power from indigenous Hindu rulers in India, including Kashmir? What about Iran, where Arab conquerors wrested power from the Sassanian monarchs of Zoroastrian faith in the mid 7th century A.D?
The question which Indian Muslims will be asked to answer is this: Are you with Zawahari’s ghazavatu’l-Hind mission or not? It means that Indian Muslims will have to evaluate the Indian political arrangement of secular democracy with a Muslim homeland created under the ideology of two-nation theory.
As far as the rest of the Indians are concerned, they will fight the ghazavites tooth and nail as resistant Armageddon.
The question is: why would al-Qaeda target India? What Zawahari has said in his televised interview is drawn from the brief he has from the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI. In a changed scenario, the US has reservations about providing crutches to the crumbling state of Pakistan, as she has been doing in the past.
In Pakistan, contradictions are deepening. The upswing in Islamic radicalism has the potential to of turning into Frankenstein; terrorist outfits are sustained by petro-dollar booty from Gulf States; there are catastrophic sectarian clashes; the army lusts for authoritarian power; and democratic urges are receiving rough treatment — this is the scenario in Pakistan of today.
Zawahari’s tantrum is bringing more pressures on the government in Islamabad. The ISI smells the US reviving her India-Pacific policy. The accession to power of the Modi government in New Delhi is an indication of phenomenal change in the thinking of the Indian nation about that country’s security and defence concerns. Attempts to destabilize India’s democratic and secular structure are actually meant to deal a hard blow to the visionaries of democracy in Pakistan.
If massive public protest fails to oust the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, then accelerating the anti-India tirade by inciting religious frenzy among Indian Muslims will contain Nawaz Sharif in his Indo-Pak bonhomie.
Zawahari’s threat that he will create an al-Qaeda network among Indian Muslims is nothing new. The ISI has been at this work for years on end. The Bhatkal brothers are basking under the patronage of an Al-Qaeda-ISI combination at some unrevealed hideout in Pakistan.
We believe that, by and large, Indian Muslims are cognizant of the advantages that have accrued to them from the liberal democratic and secular policy of the Indian government. We also know that occasional statements with a communal tinge coming from sections of the Muslim leadership in India are essentially meant to fortify their pre-eminence in the community, relating to their social status against the rising ultra-nationalist tendency among youth leadership in the community, rather than provoking any serious anti-national propensity. To that extent, this irritant has to be accommodated.
Indian Muslims need to come out of the fear psychosis spread by externally sponsored radicalism. They have to understand that the time has come when they must stand up to what has made them prisoners of retardation and backwardness. This has to be their independent thinking, and they do not need the crutches of any political party.
A word of caution has to be said, though reluctantly. Indian Muslims have done a great disservice to their community by succumbing to the fear psychosis created in them deliberately by the political structure of post-independence India.
There is no dearth of their pseudo-sympathizers within the country. There are still people in this country who would drink with secessionists and dine with separatists, only to demonstrate that they are more loyal than the king.
Those who approached their top ecclesiastical epicentre to appeal to the people of the community to vote for a particular political party, but lost the contest at the end of the day, will not hold back their unsolicited largesse, even if they are made to rub their noses in the dust.
The threat from al-Qaeda’s leadership is a challenge to Indian Muslims to decide their role. Their rejoinder to Zawahari is expected to be clear and unambiguous. It has already come, albeit feebly; it needs to be articulated robustly.
Kashi N. Pandita is the former Director of the Institute of Central Asian Studies at Kashmir University in India. He is now a freelance journalist based in India.