Continuing the Story of Miracles in Islam II

Mar 20, 2007

It is Muslims – especially a lot of the so-called “good” Muslims – who somehow seem to have banished the concept of love from their heart, language and culture, when it comes to defining the relationship of Muslims with Allah – and focus instead almost exclusively on obeying Allah and fearing him – even though those things are all part of the deal.

Same total deal.

Apney Pairon Par Kulaadhi:
Muslims and Their Self-Inflicted Injuries

Muslims sometimes damage their best interests with their own hands, by their own doings. That is what that Urdu expression means in its more complete form: To strike at your feet with your own axe.

Quite an impressive way of saying that sort of thing, if you ask me. In fact, that is what Urdu language is: highly expressive; full of nuances; gentle; rich; sweet; and perfectly evocative – all at the same time.

And to a significant degree the Urdu language is a Muslim invention – with assistance from some extremely talented and broadminded Hindus and others. And it is a tribute to Muslim genius for populism and social equality and advancement.

Urdu mostly developed as the language of the masses while Farsi remained the language of the royal courts and of the elite in India – both Hindu and Muslim.

Urdu is a language that is spoken by hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world today and yet it is the language whose funeral prayers are already being chanted by both Muslims and others these days. There are a lot of people who would like to see Urdu buried under ten feet of soil, while it is still living and breathing.

Of course, all this while the Muslims watch and do precious little to save this most glorious language Urdu that is mother tongue to tens of millions of people around the world even as we speak – or write.

Was All this about Conquest and Victory?

Sometime, whenever Allah enables me to do so, I would like to talk about how Muslims have historically treated the notions of “victory” and “conquest.” However, if you want a quick peek at what I might end up saying, here it is: There is no such thing as “conquest” in Islam – or “victory” for that matter.

Again, it is one of those western concepts that Muslim translators swallowed hook, line and sinker. And thus became not only the obsequious users of a language, but also the blind inheritors of an entire history, culture and tradition that were in some vital ways alien to their own.

Maybe that is why – not trusting the Muslims perhaps – Allah cleansed the entire Arabic language of the very notion and terminology of “victory” and “conquest.” We did not “conquer” Makkah, Allah threw open its doors for us.

We did not “conquer” Jerusalem. Its guardian people threw open its doors for us.

We did not “conquer” Spain. Its people invited us in to bring peace and enlightenment to their communities.

We are, as the Qur’an says, the people of Nasr and Fat’h: Idhaa jaa-a nasrullahi wal-fat’h. Not the people, as everyone says, of victory and conquest. Nasr and Fat’h are expressions from the Qur’an, which respectively mean help and opening. Not conquest and victory.

That means we are not people who conquer the world and enslave its inhabitants and force our values, habits and way of life upon them. Instead, we are the people whom Allah helps (Nasr) and for whom Allah throws open all doors (Fat’h), including the doors of human hearts as well as of cities and continents so that we can bring justice, dignity, peace, freedom and equality to all people all over the world.

As a rule, we did not create a culture of conquering lands and societies, colonizing them, plundering their wealth and taking it all home to our own lands and societies, thereby enriching ourselves beyond the dream of avarice and plunging the conquered peoples and colonies into an abyss of poverty and destitution they cannot climb out of even after the passage of centuries.

And the one place, Allah clearly declares “Fat’h” for us in the Qur’an (what everyone would rush to call “victory”) is when the Prophet, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, signed off on practically everything that his enemies demanded of him, much to the confusion, anguish, chagrin and dismay of his devoted companions.

Watch Allama Yusuf Ali, may Allah bless him and give him Jannat, a man I deeply love and respect, in action. He translates the name of Surah Al-Fat’h (48th chapter of the Qur’an) as “Victory.” He then translates the first Aayat that says we surely granted you a clear Fat’h as follows: “Verily, We have granted thee a manifest Victory” (48:1).

What can I say?

A Powerpack of Muslim Languages

Earlier I was talking about Muslim languages. Indeed, what a powerpack of language tools the Muslims have been given by God Almighty: Arabic, Farsi and then Urdu. And then so many other languages everywhere: Turkish, Swahili, Malay and everything else.

Each one of these language is richer and better than the other, except that Allah has chosen Arabic as the language of his book, the Qur’an, and as the language of Eternity – Paradise.

So, there is no competing there.

And how will you get over the fact that Arabic is the language which Allah’s beloved Rasul, Sallallahu Alaihi wa Sallam, spoke. And it is that glorious language that holds the vast storehouse of Hadith.

So, Muslims need to re-embrace their languages and rearticulate their cultures, in their depth as well as in their breadth, even though theirs – Islam’s – is not a culture of linguistic jingoism or chauvinism.

Having said that, what I have been trying to make clear to the native English-speaking generations of Muslims in the West is, when and how do they plan to make the English language their own, and to take it to greater heights of glory and achievement under their Islamic watch, beyond where Shakespeare, Shaw, Johnson, Whitman, Hemmingway, Byron and Keats left it.

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