A fatwa by the Darul Uloom Deoband has again put the common Indian Muslim in a bind. According to the fatwa, saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is not in consonance with Islam — representing the country as a goddess and raising slogans hailing her are forbidden. The fatwa states that only a human can give birth to a human and, therefore, the country cannot be called “mother”.
The role and duty of the leadership of a community should be to give solutions and bring clarity to issues. Leaders should have vision and make the community more comfortable with the modern world and new challenges. But the Muslim politico-religious leadership seems to be taking the community towards ruin. If there was doubt in a Muslim’s mind on the appropriateness of saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, religious and political leaders should have told the community that there was no problem with chanting this slogan; there was no need to be alarmed or confused. But historically, the political and religious leadership of Muslims in India has not helped them to come to terms with the changing times. The leaders have trapped the community in a time warp. Muslim leaders have prospered and flourished in unnecessary controversies at the cost of the wellbeing of the community. Over the years, they have weakened the position of Muslims as citizens and made them suspect in the eyes of others.
On the “Bharat Mata ki Jai” issue, they have come up with a straitjacketed theory that if a Muslim chants the slogan, he would lose his religion. The leaders have no problem with the word “zindabad”, which is Urdu for
“jai”. There is also no problem with saying “Jai Hind/ Hindustan/ Bharat”. The problem supposedly starts when Muslims call for “jai” to Mother India.
The Darul Uloom Deoband says that the country is a piece of land, not a living being, and, therefore, cannot be called mother. On thousands of other issues that require rational interpretations of the law in order to make the lives of Muslim men and women more comfortable, they take cover in illogical religious doctrine. Where it helps to be logical, they use logic; when it does not, they close their minds. This is the same seminary that, in 2005, issued a fatwa in the case of Imrana, who was raped by her father-in-law, that her marriage with her husband was annulled and she was liable to live with her rapist father-in-law as his wife.
Hinduism permits deification and the country can, therefore, be worshipped as a mother goddess by Hindus. But nobody is calling on Muslims to make an idol of Mother India and worship it. Nobody is asking Muslims to imagine India as a mother goddess and chant “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. The issue is accepting the country as mother, and saying “victory to her”. This shouldn’t be problematic. Muslims should chant this slogan with respect, as they passionately love this country. Their position should be nearer to what lyricist Javed Akhtar said: That saying “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is a right and a matter of pride, and that nobody should have any objection to this.
Muslims in the police and Indian army use the greeting “Jai Hind” frequently. I use this greeting even with Muslim friends, and no one has objected to it. The Muslim religious leadership is hair-splitting on the Bharat Mata issue.
At the annual convocation address at Aligarh Muslim University in 1948, Jawaharlal Nehru said to the students of the university: “I have said that I am proud of our inheritance and our ancestors who gave an intellectual and cultural preeminence to India. How do you feel about this past? Do you feel that you are also sharers in it and, therefore, proud of something that belongs to you as much as to me? Or do you feel alien to it and pass it by without understanding it or feeling that strange thrill which comes from the realisation that we are the trustees and inheritors of this vast treasure? …You are Muslims and I am a Hindu. We may adhere to different religious faiths or even to none; but that does not take away from that cultural inheritance that is yours as well as mine.”
Muslims should proudly say that, yes, they share that great tradition and, yes, they also feel that “strange thrill” in the realisation that all Indians, irrespective of faith, are trustees and inheritors of a great tradition. Yes, we may adhere to different faiths but we are one. Chanting “Bharat Mata ki Jai” is a non-issue.