There is a storm of Islamic outrage on comments by two BJP leaders, now suspended and expelled from the party. In India there are death threats, announcement of bounties to kill them, protests and riot situations created in opposition to their statements. Internationally many Islamic nations and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have expressed their condemnation of the remarks and pressurized India to take action against the two. All this perfectly fits into the age-old tradition to use threats, pressure, violence and even murders to protect Muhammad from any criticism. We need to understand this tradition and the harm it causes to society. But before that let us see what exactly Ms. Nupur Sharma and Mr. Navin Jindal said which resulted in such a storm.
The full video of the Times Now debate (it is more of wrangling, not really a debate) is unavailable. Though to my mind it is absolutely necessary to understand Nupur Sharma’s comments in the context, but due to unavailability I am depending on a 23 second clip which went viral and is available presently. The exact words of Nupur Sharma as far as I could pickup in the noise are as follows:
“अरे आप छोड़ो तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े तुम्हारे उड़ते हुए घोड़े ……(असपष्ट मैं समझ नहीं पाया) जो कुरान में आगे लिखा है बताएगा, उसका मज़ाक उड़ाना शुरू करदूं? छह साल की बच्ची से ब्याह करके नौ साल में you are having sex with her, किसने? प्रोफेट मुहम्मद ने। बोलना शुरू करदूं मैं? Earth is flat according to Quran 88.20, बकवास ना कीजिये उड़ते हुए घोड़े पर बैठ कर फुर्र होजाइए फुर्र।”
A few things are quite clear from this:
- The background makes it clear that the wrangling was about the object found in Gyanvapi masjid vajukhanaa, whether its is a piece of a fountain or Shivling.
- The opponent (Rahmani?) seems to have either claimed that its is a piece of fountain or may have referred to some joke about Shivling.
- The style in which Nupur Sharma is speaking is aggressive and uncivilized.
- She is clearly referring to some joke or derogatory comment made on Shivaling, that is why a challenge “majak udaanaa shuru karadun”.
- To understand it properly we do need the comment to which she is responding. But that is not available.
- She mentions three items from Quran and Hadith:
- The flying horse (Buraq) on which Muhammad claimed to have flown to Jerusalem and to the heaven and back in a single night. It is important to note that Muhammad himself claimed this.
- Muhammad marrying Ayesha at the age of 6 and consummating the marriage at 9, to which Nupur refers as having sex.
- A reference in Quran (88.20) which some people interpret as saying that the earth is flat.
Ms. Sharma’s references are correct. Regarding the night journey to the heaven on “a white animal which was smaller than a mule and bigger than a donkey” with “step (was so wide that it) reached the farthest point within the reach of the animal’s sight”, one can see Hadith number 3887 in Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 5, page number 132. Translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, published by Darussalam Publishers and Distributors, Riyadh – Saudi Arabia, 1997. Or alternatively here http://cmje.usc.edu/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/058-sbt.php This is an interesting and completely unbelievable by modern mind story, I recommend reading it.
For Ayesha’s age at the time of her marriage to Muhammad one can see the following, narrated by Aishah herself:
“5134. Narrated Aishah; that the Prophet; wrote the marriage contract with her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: “I have been informed that Aishah remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death).” However, there is a dispute in this, as some Islamic scholars argue that she was 19 when the marriage was consummated. But there are at the least two authentic Hadis which say that she was 9 years of age. “Consummation of marriage” means “The completion of marriage by sexual intercourse”. Therefore, in spite of her wrangling style, what Ms. Sharma said was correct.
Regarding flat earth she gives verse 88.20. One can confirm this in any translation of Quran. The chapter 88 of the Quran starts with what torture non-believers will face after death, and what pleasures await the believers. Then relevant verses came as the great works of Allah, so that people can believe in what Muhammad says in the name of Allah. “88.17. Do they not look at the camels, how they are created? 18.And at the heaven, how it is raised? 19.And at the mountains, how they are rooted (and fixed firm)? 20. And at the earth, how it is outspread? 21.So remind them (O Muhammad) – you are only one who reminds.” Again, Ms. Sharma was not wrong, even if there could be a debate on the interpretation.
As I said earlier, it is clear from what she says that it was a counter to her opponent who might have said something about the Shivaling, and she was challenging that “should she” also start ridiculing these things in his scriptures? To me this context is important.
The tweet by Mr. Navin Kumar Jindal that cost him his primary membership of his party BJP and enraged Muslims world over and Indian liberals is given verbatim below, unedited with his own spelling mistakes:
“नबी के दुलारो से पूछना चाहता हूँ कि तुम्हारा नबी 53 वर्ष की आयु में 6 वर्ष की छोटी बच्ची आयशा के साथ शादी करता है फिर 56 वर्ष की आयु में 9 वर्ष की आयशा के साथ संबंध बनाता है … क्या यह संबंध बलात्कार की श्रेणी में नहीं आता..?”
We need to think about it carefully. One may feel that it is irrelevant question today asked in an insulting manner. Personally, I do not think the question is irrelevant. A few days back I listened to an audio recording of a conversation between Ex-Muslim Sahil and a young Maulana, who claimed to be educated at Deoband. Sahil asked the Maulana age of his father, to which the Maulana replied, after a bit of hesitation, that he is 51 years old. Then over a long drawn dialogue Sahil asked the Maulana that if his father today wants to marry a girl of 6 years with plans to consummate marriage at 9, and if the girl’s parents have no objection, then would the Maulana allow his father to marry the girl without any objection? The Maulana replied yes. What doe this conversation show? To me, it shows that since Muhammad’s life is supposed to be ideal life for a Muslim, what Muhammad did in sixth and early seventh century Arabis is acceptable in twenty-first century world, and especially in India, at the least to many Maulanas and their followers. This makes this question relevant for today.
Now, I have come across unsubstantiated statements that Sita was also 6 years of age at the time of her marriage with Ram, and that Rukmini was 9 years when Krishna abducted her. Well, it may or may not be so, but has no impact on the question we are considering. This is possible that in ancient times in India as well as in Arabia and many other cultures girls were married to older men at the age of 6 and marriages were consummated at 9 or so. Also, admitted that in those cultures there may not have been the idea of ‘consensual sex’ with one’s wife. Therefore, the idea of rape may not have been applicable then in such cases.
But today the age of consensus is 18 in India, and even if there is ‘consensus’ at 9, the act will be considered a rape. There was no concept of human rights in many ancient cultures. And there was slavery. Can we today ask the questions about violation of human rights of slaves in ancient Rome, Arabia and India? Of course, you can say that those societies did not think in this manner, but can we discuss the issue in modern terminology today? Even if those societies did not think in those terms, can we defend these acts of those societies today? If no, why can not we ask similar questions about Islamic practices and Muhammad?
But no, you can not ask questions of Muhammad’s doings and sayings. If you do, you are threatened by ‘सर तन से जुदा”. This has been the method of maintaining respect (?) for Muhammad for centuries. We have records in India of at the least a hundred years.
Recently, we have seen two murders in connection with supposed to be insult to Muhammad. Kamalesh Tiwari of Lakhnow, and Kishan Boliya in Dhandhuka taluka Gujarat. There was a riot in Bangalore in which three people died. There was riot in Kanpur a few days back. Our side India there is a riot situation in London on a film, though this is not regarding Muhammad. There were wide spread riots in Sweden. Before that we all know the stories of Satanic Verses, Danish cartoons, Charlie Hebdo, Samual Paty, and so on.
Islam wants to maintain its ‘reputation’ of a ‘religion of peace’ on the threat of violence and murders. There are many Muslims today who are opposing this attitude of the Maulanas and masses instigated by the Maulanas. But they are too few and can not effectively counter this belligerence and violent threat, constantly looming over the freedom of thought and expression.
There are people in India, so called liberals, who propound theories that criticism of Islam should come only from inside Islam, non-Muslims should say nothing on this. This is unacceptable. First, if Muslims preach the merits of their religion openly and publicly, this itself gives a right to everyone to question and critique it. Two, if Islamic practices effect other citizens’ lives in whatever manner, they have a right to critique and criticise and ask questions.
There is an established trend that Indian government and Indian citizens (irrespective of their religion) quickly give in when faced with violence in the name of Muhammad and Islam. Each time this happens the fear in the society increases, less and less people speak up against bad practices and ideas, the bullies become more and more confident and aggressive, and their dominance of public discourse takes more ominous forms. Our wise political commentators do not realise that thousand such micro aggressions every day keep the communal cauldron boiling. They also do not realise that Hindus are learning the trick fast.
We all know that there was a storm of jokes and insulting comments on Shiva and Shivaling recently. When Ratan Lal was arrested (he should not have been arrested) all liberals rose in protest. And he was released. Now, all liberals want Nupur Sharma arrested, because this time it is Muhammad and not Shivaling. I will not be surprised if Hindus soon discover blasphemy. That would be a bad day for India and Indian democracy, but we can not deny that the Islamic idea of blasphemy given an advantage to the bullying element in the Muslim population. The fundamentalist element in Hindu population will soon fashion such a weapon. Presently, so called liberal journalists can happily share insulting cartoons on Shivaling and at the same time pretend hurt when someone speaks truth about Muhammad. This kinds of double standards fuel animosity.
I will paraphrase what Hamid Dalwai said fifty years back: If you can not stand against Muslim intolerance and communalism, you will see Hindu intolerance and communalism increasing by leaps and bounds. The current fiasco on pretended insult to Muhammad in the country and internationally, has increased votes for BJP in millions, as a perceptive young Muslim commentator said.