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Dr. BR Ambedkar’s thoughts about Islam and Muslims in India

14 October 2021 marks the 65th year since Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar took one of the largest decisions of his adult life. He gave up Hinduism and adopted Buddhism. He was joined by close to 360,000 supporters at Deekshabhoomi Nagpur where they renounced Hinduism and took up Buddhism.

Ambedkar was born in a Mahar caste (Dalit), who were considered untouchables. Ambedkar decided, to end the suffering caused by Hinduism, to switch to another faith. After contemplating for two decades which religion best fit his needs, he decided on Buddhism and converted on 14th October 1956.

Ambedkar had to decide which faith he would choose before he could make a decision. He was sure that the religion he converted would come from Indian soil and not be influenced by other religions. After deep analysis of Abrahamic faiths at the time, he concluded that their homogeneity as well as monotheistic principles didn’t fit in with the pluralistic and diverse nature of Indian society.

Ambedkar was the most critical among the Abrahamic faiths. It is a travesty to history that BR Ambedkar, whose horrifying criticisms of the caste systems are routinely cited in order to scorn Hinduism but whose trenchant critique of Islam and more specifically the history Muslims in India have received little critical examination, has been swept underthe rug.

Babasaheb is known for his openness and willingness to share his views. He didn’t shy away from speaking his mind and was often open to discussing complex issues that politicians were hesitant to address.

Babasaheb Ambedkar did not hesitate to express his opinions on Islamic doctrines.

Ambedkar’s barbaric views on Islam, Muslims in India, and Islam

The seminal book titled ‘Pakistan Or The Partition Of India,’ which was published first in 1940 with subsequent editions of 1945 and 1946, contains Ambedkar’s thoughts on Islam, Muslims in India, and other topics. This book, a collection his speeches and writings about Islam, provides a fascinating account of Ambedkar’s thinking.

These thoughts might earn him the label “Islamophobic”, which radical Islamists would use to describe him today.

Ambedkar stated in a clear and concise way that Islam was divisive. It was a religion that divided people into rigid groups of Muslims (Muslims) and non-Muslims (Non-Muslims). The benefits of brotherhood or fraternity were restricted to Muslims, while the former was treated with contempt, hatred, and enmity.

“Hinduism divides people, while Islam binds them together. This is only half-truth. Islam is as irreversible as it is bound. Islam is an intimate corporation. Its distinction between Muslims and non Muslims can be very real, very positive, and very alienating. The brotherhood of Islam does not represent the universal brotherhood. It is a Muslim brotherhood that is only for Muslims. There is a fraternity. But it benefits only those within the corporation. “There is nothing except contempt and enmity among those who are not within the corporation,” BR Ambedkar wrote on ‘Pakistan, Partition of India.

Ambedkar also pointed out the incompatibility that Islam has with local self-government. Ambedkar, underscoring the Islamic ideology a Muslim Ummah, stated that a Muslim’s loyalty does not depend upon his place of birth in the country. It is determined by the faith he adheres to. According to BR Ambedkar Islam couldn’t have allowed a true Muslim India to be his motherland. This was possible only if Islamic rule could be established.

This was because India was a majority Hindu nation. Thus, he concluded India couldn’t be his motherland as a Musalman. This was the basis of the two nations theory, as propounded by The Muslim League. This eventually led the country to be divided.

“The second problem with Islam is that it’s a system based on social self-government. It is therefore incompatible. The allegiance of a Muslim to a country is not determined by his residence in the country, but the faith to which the faith belongs. It is not possible to say, “ibi bene ibi patria” (Where it is well for me, there’s my country) with Islam. The rule of Islam is everywhere. His own country is where it is. Islam can’t allow a true Muslim Indian to call India his motherland, and consider a Hindu his brother and sister.

BR Ambedkar explains: “For a Musalman. loyalty to faith trumps he loyalty to the country.”

Ambedkar wrote the following:

“Among the tenets, one worth noting is the Tenet of Islam. It holds that in any conflict between Muslim law (or the law of a land) in a country where there is no Muslim ruler, the former must prevail. The Koran commands a Musalman to declare his allegiance to God, His Prophet, or those who are in authority .

Ambedkar claimed that the Holy Quran had made it nearly impossible for a government to exist. He was much more alarmist by the Muslim tenets about when a country should be considered a Motherland to Muslims.

According to Muslim Canon Law (abode and war), the world is divided in Dar-ul-lslam. Dar-ul-Islam refers to a country that is ruled and governed by Muslims. Dar-ul-Harb refers to a country where Muslims live in it but not its rulers. India, being the Canon Law for Muslims, cannot be the common motherland to the Hindus or Musalmans. It can be the home of the Musalmans but it cannot also be the home of the Hindus living as equals’. The Muslims must govern India. It ceases be the land the Muslims once it is subordinated to the authority of non-Muslim forces. It no longer becomes Darulul-lslam but Dar-ul Harb,” he declared.

According to Islamic teachings: The world is divided into two parts: Muslim or non-Muslim. Ambedkar explained this was the basis for the extremist Islamic Jihad concept. Dar-ul-Harb – a name that is used to refer non-Muslim lands – is another testimony to the bigotry and hatred promoted against non-believers.

BR Ambedkar – “To Muslims in India, a Hindu a Kaffir; therefore, unworthy of respect and equal treat’

The Muslim Canon Law imposed upon Muslim rulers the obligation to convert Dar-ul-Harb to Dar-ul-Islam. This was the basis of all the crusades undertaken by Islamic invaders in the Middle East to conquer India from the 9-10thcentury.

This ideology is actually the basis of Jihad. Today, thousands upon thousands of Islamic terrorists in all parts of the world continue their crusade on non-believers. Ambedkar summarized the process by which Muslims were instructed to convert Dar-ul-Harb from Dar-ul-Islam.

“…It’s worth noting that Hijrat isn’t the only route to escape for Muslims trapped in Dar-ul-Harb. Jihad, a Muslim Canon Law injunction that allows for the expansion of Islam’s rule to the entire globe, also becomes “incumbent” upon the execution of a Muslim ruler. The world is divided in Dar-ul-Islam or abode Islam and Dar-ul-Harb. Each country falls under one of these two categories. Technically, Dar-ul-Harb is to be transformed into Dar-ul-Islam. Christophe Jaffrelot cited Dr BR Ambedkar as saying this in his book Dr Ambedkar & untouchability: Analysing & Fighting caste’.

Ambedkar addressed concerns about Muslim obedience in the face of a Hindu majority-ruled government at the center. He said it was unlikely that Muslims would accept the authority a Hindu majority-ruled government, since Hindus are Kaffirs.

“A Hindu is a Kaffir to Muslims. A Kaffir isn’t worthy of respect. He is not well-off and of low rank. Dar-ul-Harb means a Kaffir in a country. No further evidence is required to prove that Muslims don’t want to obey a Hindu government. The basic feelings that people feel of sympathy and deference which lead them to obey government authority do not exist. It is possible to prove it if one needs. It is so abundant that the problem lies in what to tender and what not to. In the midst Khilafat agitation where the Hindus were doing so many things to help Musalmans. Muslims did remember that Hindus were a very low and inferior race.

Ambedkar’s opinion on Islam’s high prevalence of caste inequality

Ambedkar was the first to make the case for the existence and importance of the caste system as an Islamic concept. Hinduism, which had been long denigrated for its caste system, was now being highlighted by Ambedkar.

He said that Muslim society was riven due to the social division between Ashrafs & Ajlafs. The Ashrafs included convert Brahmins as well as foreign descendants. The Ajlafs represented lower caste Muslims.

Muslims were identified and stratified based their castes even after they converted to Islam. A third category was called Arzals. This is, according to many, the most discriminated of all Muslims. Arzals had a ban on Muslims joining them. Arzals could not enter mosques to say prayers. Arzals were also prohibited to use the same burial sites as other Muslims. On rare occasions they were considered untouchables.

Ambedkar was not content to stop there. Ambedkar did not stop there.

“Take the casting system. Islam speaks out for brotherhood. Everyone infers that Islam must not be subject to slavery or caste. Slavery needs no explanation. It has been officially abolished. Although it did exist, a lot of its support was provided by Islam and Islamic states. Although slavery has disappeared, the Musalman caste has not. It can be argued that the Indian Muslim Society is plagued by the same social ills as the Hindu Society. Indeed, Muslims have all of the social ills of the Hindus plus one more. Ambedkar was referring to the casteism epidemic that plagues India’s Islamic society.

Babasaheb Ambedkar displayed great insight and character. Ambedkar expressed his opinions about India and Islam, even though other Congress leaders were not able to call out such behaviour. However, decades later, when ‘liberals’ take him to task and selectively invoke his statements in order to make a run at Hinduism, which would drive Dalits away their Hindu roots and take aim at Hinduism as well, this aspect of Ambedkar’s life where he led a thorough, comprehensive assessment of Islam (and the social maladies that plague Muslims) is conveniently forgotten. It is high-time that Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s views regarding Islam are subject to the same scrutiny and criticism as his views about Hinduism.