Islamic Scholars expose Ghazwa-e-Hind in a new book

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Interview: Dr Hafeezur Rahman, Convenor, Khusro Foundation

The Ghazwa-e-Hind, a long running doctrine often cited to incite Muslims against India, is nothing but a pack of lies concocted mostly by Pakistan-backed Jehadi outfits, says a  new book.

What Is The Reality Of Ghazwa-E-Hind is a 80-page book with eight papers written by well-known scholars and researchers from different schools of Muslim thought — Shia-Sunni, Deobandi, Barelvi, Salafi, Sufi and even a non-Muslim female scholar — who examine the doctrine deeply from various religious and social perspectives, and conclusively prove  that it is a fake narrative.

Hindi, Urdu and English versions of the book –Compiled and edited by Dr. Hafeezur Rahman, convenor of the Khusro Foundation — have been sent to leading madarsas, Islamic scholars, universities and libraries.

In a wide ranging interview on the book and beyond, Dr Rahman explains the genesis of the book and the efforts required to ensure that there was no misunderstanding on such a sensitive subject. “We haven’t seen much scholarly work on the subject before. Because it is a huge challenge and work of responsibility to comment on Hadith,” he told Ramananda Sengupta.

Excerpts:

In your introduction, you say that “For the past half-a century various terrorist and extremist organizations have left no stone unturned to proliferate the Ghazwa-e-Hind doctrine among the Indian Muslim youth in the name of Holy War (Jehad)”. What was so convincing about the doctrine, and who was the main person(s)  or institution that gave it the initial credibility?

The Hadith that are quoted to justify Ghazwa-e-Hind are at least as old as the texts that mention these Hadith. But it is only recently that these traditions were misinterpreted and misused for political ends, more so in last five decades. Since 1947, Pakistan has used religion to wage war against India, be that during the post-Partition violence or the tribal raid on Kashmir or various other military operations and terror attacks against India. Since the advent of Zia ul Haq regime in Pakistan, Ghazwa e Hind fallacy began to get traction.
Pakistani terrorist organizations like Lashkar-e-Taiba along with other extremists used the doctrine of Ghazwa-e-Hind to motivate youth to fight in Kashmir in the name of Jihad as holy war. They misquoted few Hadith without checking the authenticity of those Hadith narrators.
The literal meaning of Ghazwa is a war in which Prophet Mohammad himself led the Islamic forces to victory whereas Sirayah means those wars which, although fought during the lifetime of Prophet Mohammad, however, he refrained himself from participating and instead his companions led the Islamic forces. So when the prophet is not physically present in this world no war can be called Ghazwa and those Hadiths quoted by the extremists for their political purpose are found to be weak and unauthentic by the experts. Islamic State (Daesh) has also used Ghazwa e Hind narrative to recruit terrorists.

Was there any particular incident or thought process that sparked the idea of this book in your mind?

In last few years we have seen a constant debate on this topic both in social media and mainstream media. Very recently there was a huge debate across the country on an alleged Fatwa from Darul Uloom Deoband where in response to an RTI query, Darul Uloom was said to have endorsed the authenticity of this Hadith. As per some reports the Darul Uloom had later on denied this. So we felt that in view of the lack of adequate information, and potential misuse of Ghazwa doctrine by terror groups, we should come out with well researched and authentic information on this controversial issue. And this book was born.

Was there no opposition to this at all from the Ulema before your book came along, or was it too scattered to be effective ?

We haven’t seen much scholarly work on the subject before. Because it is a huge challenge and work of responsibility to comment on Hadith. That is why we requested highly learned scholars of Islam to examine this subject and frame an opinion on it. Prominent scholar Dr Waris Mazhari from the Department of Islamic Studies, Hamdard University Delhi who is also a Deoband alumnus has written on this subject more than 15 years ago. His research paper published on the subject is a part of this book.

When you decided to challenge these Hadiths, were you concerned about a possible backlash from those that promote it? 

It is indeed a very sensitive subject. Anything that has to do with religion has to be carefully handled. But in Islam, the opinion of Islamic scholars holds a lot of weight. Once we can establish through facts and reasoning what is right and what is wrong then no one can stop us from speaking the truth. Quranic injuction is also clear, “wala talbisul haqq bil batil” (Don’t mix falsehoods with truth Al Quran, 2:42).
Also the Constitution of India is there to back our freedom of speech. Therefore, when a group of like-minded researchers from different schools of thought, Shia-Sunni, Deobandi, Barelvi, salafi and Sufi including a non-Muslim female scholar came together, the book became possible. We had a webinar also before sitting down to write so that we could debate it among ourselves first.

So far, what kind of reactions have you received for the book?

I’m surprised to see as many positive reactions even from the Ulema, many of them are taking the book and reading and appreciating the effort. Everyone is telling us that what was supposed to be done by Ulema and Islamic seminaries has been done effectively and positively by the Khusro Foundation.

Are there are any other Hadiths which are misused or misrepresented either by intention or by ignorance, by the clergy on other topics which need to be addressed?

There are many…because there are three types of Hadiths in the Hadiths books mentioned in their category, 1, Sahih which means correct and authentic, 2. Hasan which is good but authenticity is not as strong, 3. ‘dayif’ or weak – those Hadith are unauthentic.
We have to understand that there were around 7 Lakh  traditions but only around 7,000 are mentioned in Sahi Bukhari, the most authentic text of Hadith. The remaining Hadith could not find a place in the book.
There are several wrong perceptions due to inauthentic Hadiths which need to be corrected.  Jihad is another widely misinterpreted term in Islam which has been misused by radical scholars like Maulana Abul Ala Maududi founder of Jamaat-e-Islami and Syed Qutub leader of Muslim Brotherhood Egypt. Both of them misinterpreted Jihad as violence for offence rather than defense in their books.  Khusro Foundation is soon bringing out a well researched book by a young scholar Dr Zishan Misbahi to present the right understanding of Jihad. We intend to counter the extremist interpretations of Islam.

Are there any Hadiths that are being misused by non-Muslims to vilify Islam?

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Non-Muslims cannot be expected to go into details of Islamic research to understand Islam. They will make an opinion about Islam based on what Muslims are saying and doing. When non-Muslims look at terrorist organizations misusing and misquoting Quran and Hadith to justify violence, terror attacks and suicide bombings, they automatically make a negative opinion about the faith. When a non-Muslim reads Ghazwa Hadith, he is right in getting a perception that Islam legitimizes war against India. That causes misunderstandings between communities and faiths. Khusro Foundation aims to produce authentic literature in multiple languages to denounce the radical narratives and present a more humane view of Islam.

How easy or difficult was it for you to get these authors together to agree to challenge these Hadiths so comprehensively? 

These authors are independent and established scholars. They are experts in their field and widely accepted in their sects and institutions for their work of scholarship. Being intellectually honest, they have the courage to say what is right and what is wrong without caring for any criticism. Dr Wariz Mazhari, Maulana Zakwan Nadvi, A.Faizur Rahman, Mufti Athar Shamsi and Maulana Kalbe Rushaid Rizvi were among those who encouraged the idea from the day one.

Who is this book meant for? Scholars and clergy that promote or accept Ghazwa-e-Hind as a valid doctrine, or the general Muslim population that could be swayed by the mis-represented  Hadiths, or both?

It is equally important for both. This book is an answer to those who promoted this doctrine for their political goals. It is also a useful for ordinary Muslims and Hindus to get the right understanding of Islam. This book is important for media to inform the debate on social media and mainstream media on this subject so that Muslim youth cannot be misguided in the name of Ghazwa or to create hate and fear amongst our fellow citizens.

In your assessment, is  Al  Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent or AQIS  losing its momentum, or is re-growing and recouping itself?

I think organizations like AQIS have lost their mass appeal. Today’s youth have seen the dark side of terrorism and the destruction these terror groups brought to Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan is a warning for today’s youth. Today’s youth want to live in open, multicultural societies and pursue happiness and success. Even if the terror groups regroup, there is going to be very little appetite in the common masses for this.

What are your views on the strict interpretation of Islam as practiced by the Taliban in Afghanistan?

Any strict interpretation of Islam is against the basic spirit of Quran as Quran clearly says: La Ikraha Fiddin, which means there is no force in the matter of religion. Islam believes in ‘ummattan wasatan’, which is a moderate community that cares for equality, toleration and justice. Taliban are not good ambassadors of Islam and when the world sees their videos in which women are being flogged, people are being forced and schools are being shut, it brings a bad name to Islam.

Do you believe Islamophobia is on the rise across the world today? Does that encourage more Muslims to accept/adopt a more orthodox position?

Yes I agree with you that Islamophobia is on the rise across the world today. The problem is that Muslim leadership globally has failed to give confidence to non-Muslims that Muslims believe in the modern, open societies. Ulema have rarely condemned terrorist attacks against non-Muslims and majority of Muslims remain quiet when acts of violence are done in the name of Islam. The resultant fear and hatred has divided the world. Since it goes in a vicious circle, more Islamophobia means more sense of victimhood which then leads to radicalization and extremism. This will have to stop somewhere and as a Muslim the responsibility is on us to present the right picture of Islam to the world and follow the tolerant, syncretic and inclusive message of Islam.

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