The teeming tomes on orthodox Islamic theology devote plenty of space to non-warlike subjects, such as faith, purification, prayers, alms, fasting, pilgrimage, marriage, divorce, business transactions, inheritance, gifts, bequests, vows, oaths, crime, punishment, government, hunting, food, drink, dress, decoration, greetings, magic, poetry, visions, dreams, virtue, last day, repentance, etc.  But the rules laid down for every Muslim, everywhere and at all times, are the same.  In the final analysis this uniform pattern of belief and behaviour erases the individual in man and turns him into a member of a close-knit collective, the Ummah.

The Ummah, however, acquires an altogether new colour when juxtaposed with jihAd, on which subject also the tomes wax no less eloquent.  It looks too much like a military machine to pass as a peaceful society.  The rules laid down by the Shariat read like a manual compiled for use in military barracks - waking up every morning to the call of a bugle, rolling up the bed, sweeping the floor, pressing the uniform, polishing the shoes, rushing for a bath, moving the body in different ways in mass drills, sharing meals in the mess-hall, drinking from a common canteen and, finally, facing the court martial for mistakes made in any part.  One is amazed as well as amused when this mechanical conformity to a set pattern of external exercises is presented by the spokesmen of Islam as the very essence of universal spirituality and morality.

Prayers of Military Parade?

D.S. Margoliouth cites several early Muslim sources regarding what the Muslim ranks looked like, on the eve of the Battle of Badr: “Of the battle that followed we have no clear or detailed account: but we know at least some of the factors which brought about the result.  The discipline of the salat or ‘prayer’, in which the Moslems were arranged in rows, and had to perform after a leader certain bodily exercises, and falling out of line was threatened with divine punishment, had served as a rough sort of drill, and Mohammed before the battle discharged the duty of making the troops fall into line.  The Meccan general ‘Utbah, son of Rabiah, was struck with their appearance; they were keeling on their knees, silent as though they were dumb, and stretching out their tongues like snakes.  They were all subject to the single will of their Prophet, who was aware that the general should not risk his life; for him therefore in the rear of the army a hut was built, where attended by his most trusted counsellors, he could issue orders; and to which camels were tied ready to be used by the leaders for flight in case of disaster.”1

Observations of Count Keyserling

This militarization of everyday Muslim life was noticed with keen interest by Count Keyserling (1880-1946 CE) during his travels in Islamic countries.  He summed up his over-all impression in his The Travel Diary of a Philosopher.  “Islam is a religion,” he wrote, “of absolute surrender and submissiveness to God - but to a God of a certain character - a War-Lord who is entitled to do with us as he will and who bids us stand ever in line of battle against the foe… The ritual of this belief embodies the idea of discipline.  When the true believers every day at fixed hours perform their prayers in serried ranks in the mosque, all going through the same gestures at the same moment, this is not, as in Hinduism, done as a method of self-realization, but in the spirit in which the Prussian soldier defiled before his Kaiser.  This military basis of Islam explains all the essential virtues of the Musalman.  It also explains his fundamental defects - his unprogressiveness, his incapacity to adapt himself, his lack of invention.  The soldier has simply to obey orders.  All the rest is the affair of Allah.”2

Congregational or Friday Prayers

“In the early days of Islam”, writes Professor K.S. Lal, “the main features of the Friday service were prayers in congregation with worshippers standing in straight linear rows.  Attendance was compulsory and military discipline was maintained. The sermon was like the order of the day; it comprised advice, reprimand and directions on religious and political obligations of the faithful.  A sense of awe pervaded - raising the number of worshippers…”3 Small wonder that great importance is attached to congregational or Friday prayers in Islam.  “The ahadis declare that namaz said in congregation is twenty-five times superior to namaz said alone at home. Muhammad was very strict about attendance in congregational prayer.”4 The Prophet is reported to have said that he felt like burning down the houses of those who did not attend the Friday prayers. In the history of Islam in India, Friday “sermons result in working up the feelings of the namazis, and sabre-rattling and street riots generally take place on Friday after the afternoon prayers”.5

Islam divides the Human Family

The picture becomes perfectly clear when we contemplate the thought-categories which form the very foundations of Islamic theology.  The thought-categories are derived from the Quran which the theologians quote at every turn and on every subject.

Islamic theology divides the human family into two incompatible factions.  There are the mu’mins (believers) on the one hand.  They are Allah’s favourites to whom he has promised victory in this world and paradise hereafter.  On the other hand, there are the kAfirs (unbelievers) whose lives, liberties, properties and honour Allah has forfeited in favour of the faithful. Mu’mins can have a clean conscience when they slaughter and plunder and enslave the kAfirs by every means and in every way.  They are only fulfilling Allah’s inexorable Will.

Islam polarises the Inhabited World

The same theology divides the inhabited world into two irreconcilable camps.  On the one hand, there is the dAr-ul-IslAm, the lands held by Muslims where the Shariat rules.  This is the base from which the mu’mins operate.  On the other hand, there is the dAr-ul-harb, the lands in which kAfirs live and which the mu’mins should subject to non-stop war.  The mu’mins should spare neither their persons nor their properties in the effort to convert every dAr-ul-harb into a dAr-ul-IslAm.

Islam bifurcates Human History

Again, Islamic theology bifurcates human history into two sharply defined periods.  The period before the proclamation of Muhammad’s prophethood is the Age of Ignorance (jAhiliya), and the period that follows is the Age of Illumination (ilm).  Everything that prevailed in the Age of Ignorance is to be destroyed outright or to be converted in such a manner that it looks as if it came into existence after the dawn of the Age of Illumination.  The norms of ignorance and illumination are determined not by any objective or comparative criteria, but by dictums of the Quran and Hadis.

Believers are Better Human Beings

It is nowhere stated in Islamic theology that the mu’mins have to be better human beings in terms of mind or morals.  They have only to swear by a certain phantom named Allah and a certain historical person called RasUl (prophet), and they become qualified to kill all those who refuse to swear in the same manner.  They are exempted from prayers, fasting, pilgrimage and the rest and all their sins and crimes stand pardoned, if they engage themselves in killing the kAfirs.

Islam incompatible with Peace

Mahatma Gandhi was no specialist of Islamic theology.  He accepted the modem Muslim apologist’s interpretation that Islam means peace.  But he saw no sign of Muslim adherence to this interpretation.  “Islam was born,” he observed, “in an environment where the sword was and still remains the supreme law…  The sword is yet too much in evidence among Mussalmans.  It must be sheathed if Islam is to be what it means – peace.”

Professor Jadunath Sarkar, on the other hand, had devoted a life-time to the study of Islam in theory and practice.  He could not avoid reaching a very grim conclusion.  “The murder of infidels (kafir-kushi),” he wrote, “is counted a merit in a Muslim.  It is not necessary that he should tame his own passions or mortify his flesh; it is not necessary for him to grow a rich growth of spirituality.  He has only to slay a certain class of his fellow beings or plunder their lands and wealth, and this act in itself would raise his soul to heaven. A religion whose followers are taught to regard robbery and murder as a religious duty, is incompatible with the progress of mankind or with the peace of the world.”6

If the aforesaid authorities on Islam, including the great savant and historian from Bengal, had been brought to the notice of Justice Basak before he pronounced that the Quran “is not prejudicial to the maintenance of harmony between different religions” and that “Because of the Quran no public tranquility has been disturbed upto now and there is no reason to apprehend any likelihood of such disturbance in future”, his verdict might well have been different.  The whole history of Islam, particularly in India, runs counter to this pronouncement.  The people of Bengal know it in their bones what the Quran stands for.  The stream of refugees from Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) has not yet ceased to flow.


    1Mohammed and the Rise of Islam, op. cit., pp. 258-59.  He also says that the Pagan Arabs, on the other hand, “were unacquainted with the rudiments of military science”, that they “fought in no order, with no leadership”, and that “of the hundred or more technical terms which the warfare of Islam evolved, the Arabs of the Ignorance had no knowledge” (Ibid., pp. 259-60).

    2Cited by Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzib, Volume III, Calcutta, 1928. p. 171.

    3Theory and Practice of Muslim State in India, op. cit., pp. 83-84.

    4Ibid., p. 82.

    5Ibid., p. 93.

    6Jadunath Sarkar, History of AurangzIb, Calcutta, 1928, Volume III, pp. 168-69.

Back to Contents Page   Back to VOI Books   Back to Home