MUSLIM diversity in INDIA

Contrary to pointed accusations directed against Muslims about Islam acting in unison to terrorize the world, Zeenat Shaukat All paints a contrasting picture of the diversity in its belief and practice, not just in India but throughout the world. 

"HUMAN BEINGS ARE LIKE parts of a body as they are created from the same substance. When the wound causes pain to a single part, the other parts cannot be at ease. You who are indifferent to the sufferings of others, do not deserve to be called a human being". (Shaikh Sadi, a well-known Persian poet). 

The dramatic unfolding of events in India that have led religion and violence to gravitate to the centre of affairs, are several and varied. The fall of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 followed by bomb blasts in Mumbai in March 1993; the ongoing militant attacks in Kashmir, the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, the communal rage in Godhra and Gujarat, the attack on Akshardham, and a series of unrelenting bomb blasts in Mumbai. Though heinous acts have been condemned by every right minded citizen, they nonetheless summon a serious reappraisement of the current crisis overtaking the country.  

Religion, specially Islam, has invariably been implicated and drawn into the debate. Pointed accusations are directed against Muslims that the Muslim Ummah acting in unison, are out transnationally to terrorize the world.  

Such a description extends itself to some 55 countries inhabited by Muslims, located in different parts of the globe, who speak different languages, have different customs and laws and are ruled by different governments.The core issue of the heterogeneity of its people, its customs and practices ranging from Turkey to Indonesia, Balkans to the Maghrilb, Arabia to Malaysia and India seems to have eluded even the more enlightened.  

At the outset it is important to recognize that the followers of Islam are not a religious homogenity - identical, structured and uniform but are divergent, discrete and differentiated. Further, it must be recognized that Islam is not static but dynamic. It has grown and expanded over a period of time into "traditionalist and powerful pluralist streams". Hence, Turkey, Syria, Morocco, Indonesia, Egypt and Russia enjoy a diverse variety of Islamic culture and thought.  

Various schools of Islamic theology, the traditions of Prophet Muhammad, religious laws of extrapolation (ijtehad) along with other articles of faith and traditional practices are in existence. Further, Sunni and Shiah branches of Islam (each of which has broad and diverse sub-divisions) a wealth of sufi literature, regional customs, differing historical experiences among Muslim countries cutting across continents constitute the world of Islam.  

In India, where Muslims roughly constitute 12 per cent of the population, there are among Sunnis, the Deobandis and Barelwis, and among the Shiahs, Shiah-Ithnaasharis, Shiah-lsmailis and Bohras. Further, there are Ahl-i-Hadiths and Wahhabis to name a few. Culturally, educationally and legally, they have developed varied streams. Certain practices in north India do not necessarily identify with those of the south.


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