Friday, February 3rd, 2023 19:27:20

Time for Muslims to go Secular

By Nilabh krishna
Updated: June 24, 2022 10:10 am

The discovery of a Shivling inside a wuzukana (ablution pond) of the disputed structure of Gyan Vapi Mosque has substantiated Hindus’ long-held belief that a Hindu temple existed at the site, which was later demolished by Islamic tyrant Aurangzeb in order to build the Gyan Vapi Mosque on top of the revered Hindu temple.

As news spread that a Shivling had been discovered inside the controversial structure, Hindus felt vindicated in their long-held belief about the presence of the Shivling inside the structure, while left-liberals and Islamists experienced a massive meltdown on the microblogging site Twitter. In an attempt to delegitimize the recent finding of the Shivling inside the disputed construction of Gyanvapi masjid in Varanasi, Islamists and ‘liberal-secular’ academics made casual ‘Hinduphobic’ statements and mocked Hindu deities. Many of the usual suspects, who have a history of chastising Hindus for being unapologetic about their culture and heritage, flocked to twitter to ridicule Hindus for praising the existence of Shivling within the disputed edifice.

The Vishwanath Temple in Kashi is thought to have been demolished and rebuilt multiple times over the years. According to historians, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb demolished a part of the temple in 1669 to build the mosque on the site. Various accounts exist as to why the Vishwanath Temple in Kashi was demolished during Aurangzeb’s reign, but a century later, the queen of Indore Ahilyabai Holkar built a new Kashi Vishwanath temple near the Gyanvapi Mosque. The modern-day Kashi Vishwanath temple and the Gyanvapi Mosque are next to one other but have different entry/exit points. Professor Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi, a well-known historian of medieval history at Aligarh Muslim University spoke to News9 that “there is no doubt that Aurangzeb had ordered the demolition of the Kashi temple and the construction of the mosque at the same spot.”

The ‘Gyanvapi’ well in Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple is also known as ‘jnana bapee’ in colonial records. Vaapi means “a reservoir of water, tank, pool, or lake” in Sanskrit. We’re dealing with a literal ‘knowledge pool’ here. It’s not just another wisdom well or knowledge pool. Lord Shiva himself is said to have dug this one at the beginning of time. Hindu pilgrims have taken a taste of its waters, made a’sankalp’ (vow of commitment, intention), and then continued on their pilgrimage in recent decades. “The water is supposed to be a liquid form of jnna, enlightened wisdom,” Diana L Eck writes in her book Banaras:  The City of Light. Gyanvapi is the name given to the nearby mosque. It is well documented that Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb had it built after destroying a Shiva temple.

One cannot be held accountable for what their forefathers did in the past, but what if subsequent generations continue to hold on to the same ideals that drove their forefathers to commit the wrongs sought today? The question becomes more poignant if the ancestors in question were not biological forefathers but merely ideological forefathers. Renouncing one’s actual and genetic ancestors in favour of a fictitious and ideological lineage may have the romanticism of idealism, but it, too, has a cost. The bargain that Indian Muslims have considered profitable has been a tangible loss for an ideological gain. Narrative and worldview are both potent forces. If history is ploughed into political narrative and identity formation, one must be willing to own, disown, embrace, and reject the past accordingly. It’s understandable to be proud of one’s natural or adopted ancestors’ achievements, but there’s a catch. It also places the responsibility for the crimes of one’s adopted ancestors on one’s shoulders. Insofar as the current generation is willing to extol a group identity and accept its accomplishments as an extension of the self, it exposes itself to the crimes associated with that group identity.

When the controversy over the Babri Masjid erupted, the Hindu claim that the mosque was built on the ruins of a temple was challenged by Muslims, who claimed that there was no clear evidence that a temple existed there. The underlying assumption in this argument was that if a temple existed on the site, the mosque would become void and the Muslims would cease contesting the Hindu claim. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Hindus, citing archaeological evidence that beneath the mosque was a structure with distinct indigenous and non-Islamic architecture. The Muslim claim that the Babri Masjid was not built over a Hindu temple had ramifications for mosques that were unquestionably built over demolished temples. Architectural proofs hidden in plain sight back up literary evidence from contemporary chronicles. One such smoking gun is the rear wall of Gyanvapi Mosque, a mosque with a Sanskrit name.

Ibn Khaldun Bharati is a student of Islam and looks at Islamic history from an Indian perspective writes on “no matter what happened in history, the sober and principled position has always been that desecration and destruction of a place of worship, belonging to other religions, is an abomination for which there could be no theological reasoning or normative justification in Islam. The Quran, very unequivocally, affirms, “Had God not been repelling some people by means of some others, the monasteries, the churches, the synagogues and the mosques, where God’s name is abundantly remembered, would have been demolished” (22:40).

As the tide of Islamic conquests surged, the standing orders for the armies used to be, “Do not spread corruption in the earth. Do not kill any animal. Do not cut down a fruit-bearing tree. Do not demolish a place of worship. Do not kill any children, old people or women” (Muwatta, Imam Malik). That these guidelines were more honoured in the breach than the observance is an irony which soon gave rise to the cult of But-Shikan, the iconoclastic warrior, who smashed idols and demolished temples. If this trend has been a paradox, the contradiction should be acknowledged and resolved. But, if the same has been the linear and logical unfolding of the precepts of Islam, reconstruction and reformulation of Islamic thought could no longer be delayed.

Could a mosque be built with ill acquired money or on an illegally occupied site, much less the one where a house of worship belonging to another religion stood? There is a consensus that it would be sinful and that such a structure couldn’t be consecrated as a mosque. This is a well laid principle which is exemplified in the prophetic precedent and how the Rashidun, Rightly Guided, caliphs conducted themselves. When Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina, though he could have built a mosque at whichever place he liked, he not only declined the offer of the site gratis, but paid over and above the going rate for the land. There is no historical report that he converted a synagogue in Medina into a mosque even after the Jewish tribes were expelled or exterminated after successive battles. The second caliph, Hazrat Umar, in his covenant with the Christian patriarch of Jerusalem, declared, “Their churches will not be occupied, demolished, or reduced in number. Their churches and crucifixes will not be desecrated and neither anything else of their property. They will not be coerced to abandon their religion and none of them will be harmed” (Tareekh Al-Tabari).”

So, its time that Muslims should broaden their thinking and show their secular credentials. Now, the question arises here that if a structure is proven to have been built on a destroyed temple, might it be classified as a mosque under Sharia or Islamic law? ‘No!’ is the unequivocal and vehement response. So, why should a Muslim cling to a non-mosque and sour an already sour situation? True, history’s mistakes cannot be undone. However, the past does not die. Some people are still living in the present. If unpleasant memories are truly wanted to be buried, a living monument of past wrongs would have to be handled.

Even the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat called for a “path through mutual agreement” on the controversy over the filming of Gyanvapi mosque in Uttar Pradesh’s Varanasi.

Hindu and Muslim petitioners are fighting a legal battle over a court-ordered filming of the mosque complex to check whether there are idols of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, and whether a “Shivling” has been found, as claimed by the Hindu petitioners.

“We had special devotion towards some places and we spoke about them but we shouldn’t bring out a new matter daily. Why should we escalate the dispute? We have devotion towards Gyanvapi and doing something as per that, it’s alright. But why look for a Shivling in every masjid?” said the chief of the RSS, short for Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP’s ideological mentor.

The RSS chief’s statement defuses weeks of comments by rightwing groups and leaders that indicated the matter could turn into street mobilisation, making some to draw parallels with the demolition of the Babri Masjid in UP’s Ayodhya in 1992.

What is the way forward?

The court ordered survey of the Gyanvapi Mosque ended with an unexpected discovery: the claim of a 12-foot-long Shivling discovered on the site, possibly the one that the Nandi on the other side had been waiting for. The authenticity of the Shivling from the temple must be confirmed; although there is little doubt that the mosque is built directly on the Hindu temple walls. What is the path forward after this entire hullabaloo, and how will reconciliation take place? This is a moot point. Considering this point it can be said that there can be no reconciliation unless the truth is revealed. When one attempts to achieve harmony by creating “secular” fictions to cover up reality, this inevitably fails because the truth has a way of coming out. For decades, the secular Left has attempted to conceal or distort the fact of Islamic iconoclasm in India, first by denying it occurred, then by denying religious causes, and last by claiming “everyone did it,” even Hindus. Despite overwhelming evidence — which was subsequently validated in Court after protracted delays — many arguments were made to obfuscate and spin away the presence of an earlier temple in Ayodhya.

Many temples in India were destroyed by Islamic invaders and rulers. In locations like Goa, Christians did as well. This does not imply that modern Muslims or Christians should be “punished” for their violent crimes. Truth and acknowledgement are, nevertheless, the very least that can be expected. And this is where the problem is. The Ram Janmabhoomi controversy should not have lasted this long. Neither should the issue of the Kashi Vishwanath Mandir, which served as the foundation for the Gyanvapi Mosque. The destruction of the Kashi Vishwanath temple is documented in Aurangzeb’s own court records, which are reproduced in Francois Gautier’s recent book Aurangzeb’s Iconoclasm. Hindus have long demanded that the three most important sites — Ayodhya, Kashi, and Mathura — be returned to them. This is not a huge demand; these sites are extremely important to Hindus, but almost none to Muslims who would be giving them up for alternative mosque sites. If done graciously, it would contribute significantly to communal harmony in India.

Countries all over the world are recognising indigenous rights and renaming places. Mount McKinley in Alaska was recently given the indigenous name Denali. In India, there is a great opportunity for truly Indian Muslim leaders to be platformed who show the way to reconciliation through acknowledgment and restoration vs the Owaisis’ demagoguery. But the secular-left must first stop denial and posturing. Truth will bring about reconciliation. Only through reconciliation can communal harmony be achieved. The ball is now in Muslims’ court.

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