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2016-05-15 05:59:05

Chanting the Bharat Mata Slogan – Right or Wrong?

The long-standing ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan dating back to the pre-independence era of India is in the eye of the storm after it caught political wind coercing the religious connotation of the slogan in the limelight, alongside three-time Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi once again for his ‘controversial’ remarks.  
In the latest controversial standoff, Owaisi responded to right wing RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s remarks, during a public meeting where the former had openly refused from raising the slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Long Live Mother India) and going as far saying “I won’t…even if a knife is put to my throat”.  And he is right, well mostly.

While the agenda of patriotic sloganeering has been duly politicized before (remember the Vande Mataram debate?) and made vulnerable to communal friction at national level with oblique sensitization by the media, it is right time that we debate the issue. And it is now.

For a long time, Muslims in India went through a psychological grinder when issues like Babri Masjid, Uniform Civil Code and more recently Beef Ban and Surya Namaskar were pressed to the discomfort of Muslim sentiment. In the 90s era, when the Uttar Pradesh government ordered to make recitation of ‘Vande Mataram’ by students in all schools of the state, Islamic Scholar of the 20th Century Late Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadvi advised the Muslims to stop sending their children to these schools and his instruction forced the government to withdraw its orders.

The Islamic law encourages Muslims to respect and abide by the law of the land, therefore to begin with, there’s no way Islam or Muslims are even remotely on the anti-national front if they speak about this issue. Or say, practising ‘sedition’. Why should we even discuss ‘sedition’ here? How can we term it anti-national if the phrase has ambiguous interpretations that extend beyond patriotic lines into religious territory? And more so, in a ‘secular’ country.

Where does the constitution say that if you deny chanting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’, you will be liable to legal processing for ánti-national’ conduct? It is a choice – a choice of freedom of expression, and freedom to practice any religion – both guaranteed strongly by the Constitution of India.

On the same lines, it must be acknowledged that it is not constitutionally or legally imperative upon any citizen, let alone a Muslim, to chant the Bharat Mata Ki Jai mantra. Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi has put it rightly. And his staunch remarks kicked off a debate that was waiting to happen, sooner or later.
 
It doesn’t take anything more than common sense to understand that patriotism cannot be forced into someone. It is either innate or imbibed. And many Muslim patriots too have shed their blood to make India what it is today, a religiously liberal global icon.

For a Muslim, the fundamental testament of religious faith is pledging allegiance to the Oneness of God (‘Tawheed’, in Arabic) and testifying Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) is His messenger. Any effort or action of a Muslim that conflicts with either of these two fundamental parts of Islamic faith or both denounces a Muslim from his religion, expelling him from Islam.

According to Sayyiduna Abd Allah ibn Umar (Allah be pleased with him) the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him & give him peace) said: “It is necessary upon a Muslim to listen to and obey the ruler, as long as one is not ordered to carry out a sin. If he is commanded to commit a sin, then there is no adherence and obedience.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 2796 & Sunan Tirmidhi)

For a Muslim, chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai is a religious sin, if not political or national, particularly when cognizant that the same slogan is used by people of other faith, and that it has a different religiously meaning to other faith.

In the slogan, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, while the words Bharat meaning India and Mata meaning Mother may at once seem isolated or have nothing to do with the religion, when used together the two words ‘Bharat Mata’ (Mother India) yield a mantra that is not viable for Muslims, essentially so because these two words together symbolize not just, as RSS or BJP ‘nationalists’ would say, ‘patriotism’ but are also the personification of the goddess duly worshipped by people of the Hindu faith. 

If Indian patriotism were to be framed into a slogan and chanted by all, it could have been ‘Hindustan Zindabad’ or ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindustan Hamara’ – both of which are inviolable catchwords of patriotic fervour and have no religious roleplay but pure nationalism. Furthermore, unlike the ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan they do not intercept the religious sentiments of India’s second largest Majority, the Muslims. 

The motto ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ is also used by the Indian Army. But the Bharat Mata statue at the Indian Army base gate near Leh, Ladakh is not just the Bharat Mata of patriotism. It symbolizes the Hindu goddess draped in a red saree and seated on a Lion – a divinely figurative long used to depict the Hindu deity – idols of which can be found in thousands of temples across India. So, is it just a patriotic slogan? Now, you’re thinking.

India’s majority population, the Hindus, chant eulogies of Bharat Mata and these are not political but rather vocal or verbal expressions of their religious faith. When the words itself have ambiguous implications and more so conflicting with the Muslim religious ideology in an inter-faith society, how can one expect the Muslims to chant that mantra.

In ancient times, when the Prophet’s companions, inspired by the non-Muslim Arab locals, began addressing the Prophet as ‘Raína’ which in Arabic respectfully meant “guide us”, a divine revelation instructed against the use of the word ‘’Raina’ by Muslims for the Prophet (PBUH). While the Prophet’s companions had reverently used the word ‘Rai’na’, it had an offensive interpretation in Hebrew which the Jews of Madina mischievously used to address the Prophet with an intention to make fun of him.” 

Allah ordered the Prophet’s companion’s from using the word in this Quranic Verse (Al Baqarah, Verse No: 104): “O you who believe! Do not say Raina and say Unzurna and listen, and for the unbelievers there is a painful chastisement.”

This verse is pertinent to be mentioned here since the word ‘’Rai’na’ had ambiguous interpretation and so it was declared forbidden for use to address the Prophet (PBUH).

Since the constitution generously grants every citizen the liberty to practise any faith (Article 15 and Article 21, Constitution of India), it is not binding on any citizen, let alone a Muslim, to utter the phrase ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. So, if Asaduddin Owaisi or his party’s MLAs deny allegiance to the RSS’s sloganeering agenda, it must be interpreted in the context of political and religious priorities and not draped into a colour of anti-nationalism.
 
In short, there is a difference between Muslims loving India and Muslims worshipping India, the latter is forbidden in Islam, and the Constitution in accordance with the Islamic Law (Shariah) allows sufficient freedom to practice the religion of choice, including the choice adherent.

Today, the debate may seem about whether or not we should say Bharat Mata Ki Jai, tomorrow it will something more, and beyond. And when that happens, peace keepers will have to face an unprecedented challenge, a challenge so rioting that it would tear the country’s colourful secular fabric into monochromatic streaks of different faiths.

Right now, Muslims are divided into two groups – people with sufficient cognizance of the Islamic teachings support Asaduddin Owaisi’s remark and the other section of so called ‘moderate’ Muslims, with merely surface knowledge of Islam, do not bother about the intricacies and fail to get the facts straight. 

[Syed Khaled Shahbaaz is a techie-turned-journalist. He may be reached at syedkhaledshahbaaz@gmail.com or +91-9652828710]

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