Of Elections in India

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I have been in India for a few years now and I have realized that of the few matters every Indian always has an (informed) opinion about, Politics and Cricket take the cake. The Election season has just come to an end with the BJP capturing a Majority and their allies taking the numbers well over the halfway mark. The internet and Media is abound with congratulatory messages, expectations from the new government, reasons the old one lost and forecasts of economic growth among other topics. While the general tone seems hopeful of the future to come, it is the Muslims who seem most dejected by the electoral victory of the BJP.

Mr. Modi, who was always seen as a ‘polarising figure’ – a term coined specifically to rid himself of the memories of Gujurat – coming to power means an uncomfortable and uncertain future for Muslims in India. There is a lot to be said about the right wing, pluralism, multiculturalism and the idea of a nation and much more erudite men and women have expressed these opinions in bigger outlets. As for me, there were few thoughts that struck me during and post the elections that I thought I would share and others could benefit vy.

  1. Leadership – The Indian elections are usually fought on the basis of party ideologies and what parties have to offer the people. This election was however turned into the ‘Battle of the Premiers’ by both Mr. Modi and the media. While the champion of the ruling party was portrayed as ineffectual and indecisive, the challenger was the complete opposite. Portrayed as person who can ‘do’ things that would make your life ‘better’, the campaign was won on the back of a leader’s ability. It goes to show that if the leader has sufficient skill and charisma, he can truly rally the masses behind him. As Yawar Baig pointed out in a recent article on Muslim Matters, the Muslim community in India has failed to invest in developing true leaders that could guide the community to greater participation in national affairs.

 

  1. Victory Comes with Preparation – The elections in India are a numbers game. Be it pre poll alliances, election rallies, voting patterns or votes garnered, one needs to have a good idea of how different segments of society will act in order to campaign successfully. The RSS-BJP combine were better prepared in all aspects of this numbers games. From mobilizing cadres of volunteers early in the campaign to using social media to reach out to a large number of people, no stone was left unturned in attempting to win the elections. Another striking feature of the election was that the party that came to power, did so on the back of the least percentage of votes in their favour (31%).

         One is reminded of the many times in the Prophet SAW’s life when he would prepare of for battle – in terms of material strength            and seeking help from Allah SWT, the measures would never be half hearted

  1. A Reminder to Us – That Muslims cannot rid themselves of the memory of riots in the past and fears emanating from Mr. Modi’s leadership are a challenge that we as a community have to face.  But one can find comfort in the Hadith of the Prophet SAW when he said

         “If the whole of mankind gathered to do some thing to help us, they could not help in anything which Allah had not already                     written for us. And if the whole of mankind gathered together to harm us, then they would not be able to harm with anything                  which Allah had not already written for us.”

           One needs to realize that the decree of Allah SWT is over and above any of the creation in this world and all good or evil that               comes one’s way comes with His permission.

  1. Best of Nations – Realizing this would help a Muslim continue working towards good without a fear of creation but with the consciousness of His Lord SWT. The Muslim nation has been selected by Allah SWT to guide the rest of the mankind to its complete spiritual realization and we as Muslims are tasked with this heavy mission irrespective of the circumstances surrounding us. Muslims form about 13% of the Indian population, spread across the length and breadth of India. The fortunes of this community may not have improved very much through successful governments but in the light of the global awareness and inquiry into Islam, it our job to contextualize our faith to the wider population and espouse clearly the message of Prophet hood (through belief, speech and action) for the benefit of our brethren.

 

  1. Current System – Though there are many more thoughts about the victory of Mr.Modi, I would like to end with a critical look at our times. Democracy and Capitalism, two bedfellows of each other, can override all notions of morality through its inherent nature. Defining man as a materialistic creature and then giving him to power to decide his economic progress, has led people to be blind to morality and ethics as we know it. This election is another case in point that a sufficient incentive of economic progress can preclude moral considerations in making a decision.

         PS: A cautioning is in order – One might be pro-development without necessarily being anti-minority/Muslim. Please keep this              distinction in mind while interacting with your friends and family.

 

 

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Of success and farmers

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This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit my grandparents back home. Oddly enough the reason I had to go back hometown was to attend the prayers of a relative’s funeral on one day and the wedding of a friend the next. Those reasons aside going back home is always a time of family and this time was no different.

On inquiring upon the health of my grandfather, my grandmother replied that his knees are weak but his exercise still keeps him going. What she said made me think about my own laziness to start exercising. It has been six months since I moved to Bangalore but I keep finding excuses for myself to avoid starting at all. Yet my grandfather who has had a heart attack, moved 3 houses and still manages his shop at 75 has not seen it necessary to stop.

On thing I know about my grandfather is his steadfastness in his actions. Be they worship or every day activities, I have known him to be very strict about his routines and daily activities. His dedication to his exercise and the time he spends in worship of God Almighty made me reflect on the concept of success as mentioned in the Quran. In the chapter of the Believers (23), the first few verses speak about the characteristics of the successful believers. Nouman Ali Khan, a student of the Quran and the Arabic Language, has a beautiful explanation of these verses here. He talks about the same concept in this sermon about adopting value systems, as well.

From the video though, I wanted to concentrate on a particular word Muflihoon, which means success. While a mere translation of the word indicates successful people, the root of the word comes from Falah, which means a farmer in the Arabic language. One of the things that amazes me about the Arabic language is that, when you become aware of the roots of word used in the Quran, the understanding of the verses becomes that much richer.

In this case the use of the word Muflihoon whose root is farmer, indicates a success of the farmer. Back then and even today, in many parts of the world where farming doesn’t take place on an industrial scale, the life of a farmer is tough. For someone with an annual crop, he needs to expend a year’s worth of effort, to get his reward at the end. So he begins preparing the land in the dry season, plants his seed before the rain, tends to the crop during and after the rain and finally harvests the crop for sale and consumption. After all the effort though, he is still not guaranteed the crop because of so many natural factors yet that never stops him making the effort in the hope of the payoff at the end.

The parallel to the believer in this world is similar. Many people in my experience, both Muslims and non Muslims, tend to see Islam as a rigid set of do’s and don’ts. While I don’t make any bones about the existence of obligations and prohibitions, the way of looking at them has to be according to the legislator. By fulfilling obligations and avoiding prohibitions, we are putting in the effort in this world to reap its reward in the next. (I will hopefully elaborate on of the beliefs of Muslims in subsequent articles but as of now it is suffice to say that this life is only a test and the life after death is everlasting and eternal. The destination of each and every individual depends on his actions in this life)

Yet unlike the farmer who spends himself without being assured of a return, the believer is assured by God Almighty that his deeds will never be lost. In fact the believers are encouraged by the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) to strive as far as they are able to do so[1] and expect a reward from their Lord in the hereafter[2]. As the commands of the religion envelop many aspects of life, the underlying wisdom is that the believer is constantly directing his heart towards God Almighty, formally or informally.

Ibn Al Qayyim, a noted Islamic scholar, jurist and commentator on the Quran had to say about this – 

There can be no doubt that assuming the best about Allah only comes as a result of righteous conduct. It is the righteous person who assumes the best about his Lord, since he knows that Allah will reward him for his good deeds and will never break His promise. 

On the other hand, the sinner who persists in wrongdoing, injustice, and disobedience is prevented by his evil deeds from assuming the best about his Lord. We can see a similar situation in how people relate to each other. A runaway slave, for instance, is not going to assume the best of his master. Good assumptions never go hand in hand with the disturbed state of disobedience. A sinner is estranged from his Lord to the extent of his sinfulness. The person who has the best outlook on his Lord is invariably the one who is the most obedient to his Lord.

Which brings me back to my grandfather and generally the people of his generation who have spent a lifetime of worship to God Almighty – I pray that God Almighty forgives them their sins, accepts their deeds and enters them into His Paradise. Ameen.

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[1] Bukhari #7288 
[2] Muslim #6875