Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Huququn Niswan: A revolutionary book on rights of women

The poetry of Ghalib and Iqbal, the satire of Akbar Allahabadi and the genius of Saadat Hasan Manto are well known. Urdu lovers treasure the masterpieces of Deputy Nazir Ahmed and Faiz Ahmed Faiz. They have all tried to convey their messages in their own way. However, recently I was surprised to read in the Times of India about a book on rights of women published in Urdu way back in 1898. Titled Huququn Niswan, it was authored by Maulvi Syed Mumtaz Ali Khan who was based in Lahore.

The book was considered way ahead of its time so much so that the great reformer Sir Syed Ahmed Khan advised the Maulvi not to go ahead with the publication of the book fearing a backlash from the traditionalists. The book dwelt on the rights of women as enjoined in Islam and sought to shatter the conventional role of women in a Muslim household. According to the Times of India report by Mohammed Wajihuddin the book is being re-discovered by a section of Muslim intelligentsia and activists to make a case for education among Muslim girls and press for their rights.

Maulvi Syed Mumtaz Ali Khan sought to establish that women are in no way inferior to men. The book dwells on the question of 'women Prophet' and citing the Holy Quran and Hadith seeks to challenge the dominance of men over women in the society. Even today in many societies women are miles away in education. It is considered unworthy to provide them education or allow them to attend schools and colleges. It would be interesting to know more about the life of Maulvi Syed Mumtaz Ali Khan who took the efforts to write such a book more than a century ago.

According to the October 2009 issue of Communalism Combat, Maulvi Syed Mumtaz Ali Khan in the preface to the book wrote: "If this humble effort of mine results in the protection of rights of even a single old woman in the entire country I would consider my effort to have been worthwhile."

Sunday, November 22, 2009

'Iqbal would have reacted to affairs in Pakistan the same way as Gandhi to affairs in India'

November 9 was the birth anniversary of Allama Iqbal. This post is a bit late, but then one need not remember the birth and death anniversaries of a personality like Allama Iqbal to write about him. Allama Iqbal is an evergreen personality, and will always be popular among academicians and scholars.

The great poet-philosopher captured the imagination of the masses and filled the void caused by the death of Mirza Ghalib. However, unlike Ghalib, Iqbal's body of work was not restricted to poetry. His lectures and talks on issues facing the Muslim world are discussed around the world.

Five years back I interviewed Javid Iqbal (in picture with Allama Iqbal), son of Allama Iqbal, to try and know more about him. Javid Iqbal is a former chief justice of Lahore high court and retired judge of Pakistan Supreme Court. The interview was published in the Sunday edition (November 21, 2004) of Mid Day, Mumbai. Javid Nama, one of the several books written by Allama Iqbal was named after him. I reproduce the interview here:

Although much has been written about Jinnah and his role in the creation of Pakistan, Allama Mohammed Iqbal seems to have faded away from public memory.

Many historians believe it was Iqbal's letters to Jinnah, written to him when he was in England, that got him back to India, after which Jinnah took up the cause of Pakistan fervently. Dr Javed Iqbal talks about his father to Sunday Mid Day.

Do you think historians and politicians from India and Pakistan have viewed Iqbal according to their own convenience, making Iqbal, the poet, suffer in the bargain?

Iqbal was a multi-dimensional thinker. It is possible that he is known in India more as a poet, whereas in Pakistan he is acknowledged essentially as poet-philosopher and a political thinker. He has not suffered in the bargain because he is poet, philosopher and political thinker at the same time.

Is it true that some of Allama Iqbals lectures are banned in Saudi Arabia?

No. However, I am aware that some conservative Muslim scholars disagree with his interpretation of Islamic thought.

Muttahida Qaumi Movements MQM, (a party which represents Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from India in the post-partition era) leader, Altaf Hussain, has admitted that Partition was a big mistake. After the creation of Bangladesh, dont you think culture is a more binding force than religion? Even poet Iqbal called Lord Ram Imam-e-Hind.

The MQM leader who made this statement has fled from Pakistan under the fear of assassination at the hands of his own party faction.

He has adopted British nationality and lives in England as opposed to India, which seems inconsistent with his views on Partition.

As far as Bangladesh is concerned, if culture is a more binding force than religion, then Bangladesh should have merged with West Bengal rather than emphasising on its own identity as an independent Muslim nation-state.

Iqbal did consider Lord Rama as Imam-e-Hind because he respected the religion and culture of the Hindus. His Muslim philosophy was not based on the hatred of religious and cultural traditions of others.

Jinnah is quoted as saying, Iqbal is not a politician. He is a poet and a poets dream. How do you describe their relationship?

The statement attributed to Jinnah is false. In the introduction to Iqbals Letters To Jinnah, he writes that Iqbal was not only a poet and a philosopher, but he was his guide and stood as a rock by his side during the struggle for the establishment of Pakistan.

He is also stated to have remarked that if he was given the choice between becoming the head of state of Pakistan and acquiring all the works of Iqbal, he would chose the latter.

There were many other Muslim leaders like Maulana Azad, Dr M A Ansari, Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Maulana Hussain Madani, who were certainly more devout than Jinnah. Why did Iqbal choose Jinnah, who even didnt know Urdu, to plead for Pakistan?

Because Iqbal felt that Jinnah was more sincere to the cause of Muslims than any other Muslim leader of the sub-continent.

How would have Iqbal reacted to the present state of affairs in Pakistan?

The same as Mahatma Gandhi would have reacted to the present state of affairs in India. I am referring to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the massacre of Muslims in the state of Gujarat.

From Sare Jahan Se Achcha Hindustan Hamara to his poems respecting Hindu gods, Iqbal has devoted much of his work in praise of India and its composite culture. Doesnt this show that he had a sense of belonging with India?

No. The poem was written during the earlier phase in Iqbals life, when he was an Indian nationalist. He was thereafter forced to change his mind as he became disappointed with the Hindu leaderships inflexibility and rigidity.

Is your ancestral family, who didn't embrace Islam, still in Kashmir?

I do not know exactly. In the Sapru clan, one Hindu gained eminence the late Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. He did not live in Kashmir but I understand he lived and died in Allahabad.

What according to you is the solution to the Kashmir problem?

The Kashmiris must be given the choice to consider remaining with India or joining Pakistan.

Who was Allama Iqbal?

Allama Iqbal, poet, philosopher and political leader, was born in Sialkot, Punjab, in 1877.

After studying in Lahore and Europe he became a barrister. He returned to India in 1908. Besides teaching and practicing law, Iqbal remain devoted to his passion writing poetry.

By 1928, his reputation as a great Muslim philosopher was established. In 1930, Iqbal was invited to preside over the open session of the Muslim League at Allahabad.

In his historic Allahabad address, Iqbal visualised a sovereign state for Muslims in north-western India.

Later, through a series of letters dated between June 1936 to November 1937, Iqbal conveyed to Jinnah his personal views on the political problems of Indian Muslims and persuaded him to come back from England. Iqbal died on April 21, 1938.

He lies buried in Lahore.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Vande Mataram and Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind

The recent controversy over the fatwa on Vande Mataram has brought into focus Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind. The body endorsed the fatwa given by Darul Uloom on Vande Mataram in its session in Deoband. The fatwa said that Muslims should not sing Vande Mataram as it violates their faith. I do not know what prompted the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind to come up with the resolution.

This has started a debate with some parties and leaders opposing the Jamiat's view. Jamiat's stand has been termed as unpatriotic and anti-national. However, the endorsement of the fatwa has nothing to do with love towards the nation. It is purely on religious grounds that the body is opposing the rendition of the national song. The founding fathers of the Jamiat were champions of freedom struggle and strove to drive the British out of the country.

While going through some papers at the British Library, I came across a report prepared by the CID on a meeting led by Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani. The report had the abstract of a speech delivered by Maulana Madani at the 'Juma Masjid, Moradabad' on 27th February, 1931. I reproduce below the abstract in its entirety as recorded by the British police officers. It was attended by 1000 people.

The abstract says: "Naushey Khan captain of the volunteers of the Jamiat read a poem called 'Shikwe Iqbal' after the Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani delivered a speech of which an abstract is given below

If a man claims to be faithful his claim is not accepted unless and until he produces evidence. No colonel or soldier is believe to be loyal unless for his King’s service he throws his life into danger. If you want that the government should do you honour then you will have to sacrifice your religion, nation, country and self respect. Then and only then you will get high sounding titles and chairs.

In the great war some people of Moradabad helped the government with no less than 11,000 recruits to fight against the Turks thus when you had sold your religion and had proved yourselves to be called 'todis' then the government rewarded you with honours. So if you want to get honour in the nation and country you should sacrifice for your people and country and then you get honours. You cannot get respect among your people be merely becoming a leader unless you make some sacrifice. You cannot be accepted unless you make some sacrifice.

You cannot be accepted as a leader by becoming a mere graduate unless you serve your religion and people by doing sacrifice. The foreign people permitted the body of Maulana Mohammed Ali to be buried in Palestine on account of his sacrifices. Every honour has to undergo an examinaton. The Prophets had to pass this examination. It is the tradition of our Prophet (peace be upon him) that we should lead a crusade against the enemies of Islam by our life, property and tongues.

The thing which will injure prestige of the enemy of Islam destroy his power or do some damage to him is called crusade. Wearing a khaddar cap makes the enemies heart to tremble and the weavers of Liverpool have to suffer a great loss of no less than 33 and half crores of Rs in 1930. By whichever means you break the enemies power it is crusade. You should do economic fight against the government which has destroyed your rule form the whole world. The Christians have occupied no less than 75 lakh square miles of the Muslim land. The policy of the present government has annihilated civilisations, cultures and humanity.

The Englishmen even confess that they have destroyed the Indian sciences and the old treasures of Indian science have been thrown in the back ground and are being forgotten as the time passes. As in the olden days the powerful and influential men were made lazy and useless by administering opium juice to them so our government has made us Indians quite useless. You should at least boycott English goods.

The Muslims have suffered at the hands of the government much more than the Hindus. They are destroying our religious law. The Hindus are fighting for freedom and we should help them in their efforts as it is our religious duty. The Muslims had joined the round table conference with their points but the British Prime Minister has not acceeded to any of them. Saying that you should settle your point with the Hindus. By purchasing English cloth you are helping the enemies of Islam and your money is going out of India.

Portugal, Spain, Herzegovina, Bosinia, Bulgaria and Greece were all under the Muslim rules, These christian wolves uniting together have spoiled the Muslims of them and by treacheries and cruleties have killed and destroyed the Muslims. The most powerful and rich of our enemies is Britain. In face if all this you say that the English are your friends. India is as great as a continent. It was under your rule form one end to another- and your Kalma La Ilaha Illallaah was honoured through the lenght and breadth of India. The law of this land was not penal code but the fiats of Alamgir. Who has destroyed our rule and empire? Have the Hindus done this? No it has been destroyed by the European world.

In this very India no less than 400 colleges in (Thath inly) of various sciences as stated by Alexander Kaiten. God knows how many thousands of colleges will be at Delhi the capital of India. It is praised that the British government has spread education in India. There are only 700 colleges throughout the country. While in Muslim period there were 400 colleges in a single city only.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dr Rafiq Zakaria and Jinnah

Few years back when I was working for a Mumbai-based daily I had a visitor. He was a cartoonist, working for an Urdu publication as its sole representative based in Mumbai. I had met him a few times before and as he had come to the newspaper's office for some work, he asked for me. "So what are you reading these days?" he asked me. "I am reading a book by Dr Rafiq Zakaria," the moment I uttered the name he asked me to stop. "I do not want to discuss this," he said, in an angry tone. I asked him why was he so agitated.

"This man (Dr Zakaria) wants to show that the only person responsible for the Partition was Jinnah. Not once or twice, but in his every major work, speech and talk he loves to criticise Jinnah," he said. I was shocked. I just mumbled and heard him patiently. How and why would an Indian Muslim show so much contempt towards Dr Zakaria?

After this conversation, I read references to Jinnah made by Dr Zakaria in his books. In one of his books he describes his experiences of inviting prominent Indian leaders to Ismail Yusuf College, where he was studying. He managed to get some national leaders, including Jinnah, to the college and wrote in detail about how he got them. Reading that account Jinnah came across as arrogant as compared to the other leaders.

In one of his books Dr Zakaria writes about a joint rally by Dr Ambedkar and Jinnah in Bombay. According to Dr Zakaria, Jinnah made most of his speech in English for the benefit of the present press members, conveniently overlooking the fact that the majority of the people assembled would not understand a word.

Such writings and his 'uncharitable' remarks made him hugely unpopular in some Muslim/Urdu circles. Some would insist, "Why does he lay the blame for Partition only on Jinnah?" I remember attending one of Dr Zakaria's talk in which he said if our leaders had acted like Abraham Lincoln who did not let the USA crumble, we would have been one. The Partition happened and the riots and killings took place. So if the Partition had not happened the riots and killings would have still taken place but at the end the country would not have been divided.

So why is it that Dr Zakaria primarily holds Jinnah accountable for Partition? Jinnah asked for a separate homeland for Muslims thinking that they would not get their due in a Hindu-majority nation. Dr Zakaria on the other hand maintained that the Partition only divided Muslims in three different nations diminishing their power and prestige. It was I believe this thinking that made Dr Zakaria come harsh on Jinnah. If Jinnah was interested in the welfare of Muslims, what happened in the end? They were left grappling with the struggle of a new-born state, being viewed suspiciously by their own neighbours and fellow countrymen, and fought to see their mother tongue getting the status it deserved.

Dr Zakaria had seen the atmosphere and the situation during those tumultous years that led to the Partition. And he lived to see what happened much after that. After the World War II, Dr Zakaria led a delegation to meet Lord Pethick Lawrence, the then secretary of state for India and demanded that India be given independence. He was involved in India League and was also leading a students' association, while he was a student in London in 1940s. He also met Nehru in London saying that the Partition should not take place. He must have been constantly bothered by the question: Who benefited from the Partition?

His comments on Dr A P J Abdul Kalam sent shockwaves when he wrote in a newspaper that Kalam cannot be considered a Muslim. Personally, it was a shock to me as well. But that was Dr Zakaria. In one of my journalism class, veteran journalist M V Kamath described him as a 'nationalist Muslim without a beard'.

It was only the welfare of Muslims that was uppermost on his mind. Be it the numerous educational institutes that he started or the writings that he put forward defending Muslims and Islam, Dr Zakaria was a man of impeccable reputation and charisma. Viewing him only on the basis of his criticism of Jinnah would be unfair and demeaning to the work he did for the nation and Muslims.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The personality of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan has been painted and presented in several shades by historians and academicians. He has been shown as communalist, supporter of the British Raj, educationist, social reformer, father of Pakistan movement, Urdu-supporter and much more. For a young person though he will be mostly identified with the establishment of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

While there is no doubt that Sir Syed Ahmed Khan was a pioneering social worker who set his sights on imparting education especially to the Muslims, no one can deny that his views and thoughts changed with time.

I read somewhere that he was shocked to find that the Hindu members of his Scientific Society wanted the society's journal to be published in Hindi. A strong proponent of Urdu he is also reported to have made highly controversial comments on the Urdu/Hindi issue. He told a commission looking into the education system in India: "Urdu was the language of gentry and Hindi that of the vulgar."

A large number of Muslims saw Urdu as one of the most important tools defining and symbolising the 'Muslim identity and heritage' in India. Urdu was one of the last few branches of the once strong and robust tree of Muslim dominance and power, and with the gradual decline of Muslim powers they felt it needs to be protected and nurtured.

I believe Sir Syed Ahmed's 'transformations' mirrored the complexities of the Muslim society. The end of the great Mughal rule, the increasing might of the British Raj, and the 1857 mutiny pushed Muslims into a corner. They were dejected, perhaps had an identity crisis, and were left to grapple on how to conduct themselves in a British-dominated India. The ones who were the most hit were the Muslims who were Hindu converts and belonged to the low class and were artisans, weavers, carpenters. A change in the religion did not change their economic status or standard of living. This legacy still continues and I believe is one of the major reasons for the 'backwardness' of Muslims in India. The wealthy, educated and well-settled Muslims opted for Pakistan.

Coming back to Sir Syed Ahmed. He gauged the situation of Muslims and realised that the English did not think Muslims could be loyal to them. Bahadur Shah Zafar's titular role in the 1857 mutiny, which also marked the end of the Mughal (Muslim) dynasty, was also a factor that made the British place Muslims below the Hindus. So what did Sir Syed Ahmed do? He thought of establishing a learning center based on the model of Oxford and Cambridge Universities. He visited England and impressed by the British education system, established what is now the Aligarh Muslim University.

To meet his objective Sir Syed it seems became very flexible with the British. An educational institute of the magnitude he visualised was perhaps impossible without the support of the ruling Britishers. Recognising this, Sir Syed, who was in the English judicial service, started to make 'amendments' with the British to ensure that they do not paint every Muslim with the same brush.

He figured in the book 'Pillars of the empire' where he rubs shoulders with senior British officers and administrators. Published in 1878, a portion in the chapter on 'The Hon. Syud Ahmed Khan, C.S.I' says:"Even many of the warmest admirers of Syud Ahmed Khan personally, still maintain, his political and social doctrines to be utterly antogonistic to the spirit, and inconsistent with the vitality and progress, of Islam. But though the Naturalists are in a minority, they comprise among their adherents the best educated and the most intelligent of the Mahomedan population, and in reality their influence is far greater than their numbers and is steadily increasing." It is the same Sir Syed who wrote a book countering some offensive directed at Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him. The same book also says that his imperfect command of English came in the way of promotions.

The resignation of Syed Mahmud, his son, as a judge of the Allahabad High Court made Sir Syed write about the way Britishers treated the native officers. The man who was seen as pro-British had indeed changed. Sir Syed's utterances on Hindi/Urdu had also galvanised 'Hindi supporters' who sought to make Hindi the primary language. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was one of the many who felt that Hindi was being neglected at the expense of Urdu. Pandit Malviya was well versed in law and a famous lawyer at Allahabad High Court.

Interestingly, it is a great irony that during a condolence meeting held for Pandit Malviya, the then chief justice of Allahabad High Court, Kamlakanta Verma also remembered Sir Syed, linking them to their common background in law. I reproduce below the relevant text: "If I may here digress a little, I should like to say that we lawyers have every reason to feel proud of the great services which lawyers in this country have rendered. Confining myself only to the field of education, I wish to remind you that the Aligarh Muslim University also owes its origin to the vision, courage, perseverance, hard work and devotion to high ideals of a lawyer. It was the Mohammedan Anglo-Oriental College which in the fullness of time, grew into the Muslim University and that College was founded, you will remember, by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who was also a lawyer. Although he was not a practising lawyer, being a member of the Judicial Service of these provinces, he was still a lawyer."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe: Part 3

"Narang however, has entirely distorted his image. It is not up to Sahitya Academy or Narang’s supporters to reinstate his image. Only Narang can restore it - not on the same altitude however - if he admits his unethical and unliterary act. At this stage, it is not up to the Sahitya Academy to decide the future of the plagiarist. Let the honest readers determine the actual place of Narang in Urdu literature and criticism."

-Imran Shahid Bhinder


You wrote about it in a Pakistani journal and later in a Delhi-based Urdu magazine. What response did you get?

Primarily the news about Narang’s plagiarism was appalling for the literary community in general and for Narang‘s companions in particular. Its impact was certainly anti foundational. Initially when I published my first article in a Pakistani journal, a common reader perhaps was all at sea so he or she considered it better to keep silent. However, as the matter ascended further, when I published, simultaneously, a number of detailed articles particularly in a Germany based literary journal “Jadeed Adab”, many readers responded harshly. Narang and company intended to convert Narang’s detestable act of plagiarism as a part of traditional literary antagonism between the two rival literary groups based in India.

Nevertheless, this time it was a genuine literary concern not just an act of mudslinging against each other as they have been indulging in for past many years. A particular literary community in Pakistan who claims to have done a lot in introducing postmodernism to Urdu readers has been quiet since the beginning of the issue. Their silence gives a unique message to the genuine researcher that he or she should excavate the issue of plagiarism further.

Have you spoken to Mr Narang? Or someone from his behalf got in touch with you?

Why should I speak to Narang? Why should Narang’s companions need to contact me? When the evidence about his plagiarism is there which they have not rebutted, Narang like a true reader of literature just needs to execute self-introspection. Similarly, Narang’s helpers need to analyse the evidence that I thoroughly recorded in my four essays and must condemn the act while adhering to the literary ethics. I will draw their attention to this point again, to compare the plagiarised material, which I have identified, against the actual writings by the western interpreters of structuralist theory.

This is no longer a demanding exercise as I have made the matter smoothly accessible even to a layperson. After getting confirmed the integrity of evidence, if they feel motivated by the crooked act of their mentor, come forward and play their part to get rid of this firmly established iniquity in Urdu. This matter must not be considered between two persons or two groups, it is twenty first century for God’s sake, and it must be a concern for the whole Urdu world. Rationalist approaches must go on. I also expect from Narang, if he has ever been an honest student of Urdu literature, to come forward and confess his blatant mistake.

In addition, it will be of great interest to your reader to know that an increasingly condemnable act by Narang was committed as a response to my articles. Instead of repenting over the act which is supposed to ruin his own literary standing, Narang approached the publisher of “Jadeed Adab”, and threatened him that if he publishes more essays about Narang’s plagiarism, he will have to face the consequences. I must say thanks here to the editor of “Jadeed Adab”, Mr Haider Qureshi, who really deserves appreciation. Qureshi took a firm stand and published my three essays in his journal. The details of this episode can be read in another Mumbai based literary journal “Esbaat-3”.

Narang got the Sahitya Akademi award for the book. What do you think does it say about the Urdu writers and intellectuals who did not seem to have found it for so many years?

I think all awards, including Sahitya Academy award, which Narang has received after the publication of his book have absolutely lost their credibility. All other writers who did not get it so far must thank God. Think for a while what impact will it have on a sixteen-year old student of Urdu as well as a student of other languages? To plagiarise and get awards? The awards are not given on the basis of true achievement of writers.

In the West, only those writers are honoured who help expanding effectively an ideological apparatus for the ruling class. In order to accomplish the assignment they extensively sponsor subjective philosophies. Subjective philosophies question the validity of objective truth. Rather than concentrating on the actual exploitative and barbaric capitalist structure, which shape even the literary and artistic trends in the west and has a deep link with both their real and imaginary life, students are compelled to believe on some timeless abstractions because they consider these abstractions a superior part of reality.

However, in India extreme communal factor as well as ideological propensities of the ruling elite plays a decisive role in determining the credibility of writers. Against this background a true intellectual - rather than waiting for the awards - should extinguish such a desire if he or she has one.

Do you think this is an exception, or is it that plagiarism is rampant in the Urdu world? Gopi Chand Narang is a renowned name in the world of Urdu literature. Do you think this episode will sully his image? Or will it be forgotten?

I would like to give a detailed answer to this question. Plagiarism is not an exception. It has always been a part of Urdu literature and criticism. For the past several decades particularly with the rise of modernist movement in Urdu literature, this tendency in Urdu literature and criticism seems to have escalated. Plagiarism is an act of enormous moral bankruptcy and cause serious damage to the literary process. If you analyse this activity more deeply you will find out that a plagiarists absolutely ignores the society he live in. Plagiarism is committed not with an intention to lead literary process to a different dimension, but under the sole desire of image management.

For past few decades, plagiarism has expanded like a plague in Urdu literature. I view the roots of this rising phenomenon in the modernist movement started in the west and blindly adopted by the Urdu world. Although in the west, the modernist movement flourished with the imagist manifesto in 1910 it however intensified the tendency of extreme subjectivism among the poets and critics. It is true that in the Urdu world the passivity borrowed from the modernist movement revealed a partial and inherent compatibility with the Indian mentality and temperament.

Proponents of the western modernist borrowed all their appropriate theoretical instruments from great German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Modernist movement under immense influence of Kantian philosophy culminated in Heideggerian and later Sarterian existentialism.

Heidegger was an important representative of German Nationalism; he preferred ontologism rather than rationalism, and borrowed the key philosophy of time from Kant, which meant that man was not in time; on the contrary, time was in man. Based on this Kantian conception, it was important for Heideggerian Being to understand his own destiny as historical being. Heideggers Dasein was not an empty abstraction; it was not wise to imitate it without understanding the causes of the emergence of Heideggers philosophy of Dasein. In this way, Existentialism helped in promoting selfishness in the west that ended as barbarism.

Urdu writers did not locate the emergence of philosophies within a particular context; lack of this aspect led them to ignore the internal contradictions of their own societies. Western existentialism founded the modernist movement in Urdu. Politically western existentialism never lost the collective spirit, in Urdu it emerged in its distorted form as individual based process that finally ends up as all sorts of insatiability.

I give you some examples of the poets and writers of the west see how they established a link with the political history of the west. The overall objective situation of the twentieth century was not so encouraging, which further strengthened their subjectivism. Ezra Pound turned out to be a fascist. W B Yeats propagated Irish Nationalism and another important figure T S Elliot, first converted into fascism but later abdicated from fascistic activities. Western philosophical approaches have always been rational in both subjective and objective process. Having influenced by this kind of philosophy, Urdu writers said good-bye to collective causes and adhered strictly to their own passive individualism.

When we read the history of Indian mythology, we discover that it has remained subjective throughout, but as there is a difference between subjectivism of rationalism and mystics, Indian subjectivism will have to be classified as mystical subjectivism. Western rationalism centralizes human subject although ideally, mysticism however decentralizes human subject in the name of human centrality.

In short, however, under the huge influence of western rational subjectivism, Urdu writers found western rationalism more attractive. Because unconsciously they could see a clear link between social and political life and theoretical discoveries, although they do not express it, but if you read any book by the Urdu critics or poets you will find innumerable references of the western writers and hardly find any by the Indian mystics. Deep contradiction in their writings and behaviour is that they support Indian mysticism in a self-contradictory way. Western rationalism questions the decentralizing aspect of Indian mysticism.

Extreme form of subjectivism debases objective process and reality, and turn writers to pursue self-interests. Urdu writers for their personal interests - their desires to be popular - completely ignored the objective process and eventually fell victim of this plagiaristic virus.

Narang however, has entirely distorted his image. It is not up to Sahitya Academy or Narang’s supporters to reinstate his image. Only Narang can restore it - not on the same altitude however - if he admits his unethical and unliterary act. At this stage, it is not up to the Sahitya Academy to decide the future of the plagiarist. Let the honest readers determine the actual place of Narang in Urdu literature and criticism. I would further add that if Sahitya Academy does not take stringent action against Narang’s act of Plagiarism, you would see that in the near future Sahitya Academy would have to rectify its own image. I understand that this deeply rooted literary evil can never be uprooted within days, which occupied so revered place among the hearts and minds of the so-called theorists and poets of Urdu.

However, I can hear the echo of a storm rushing towards these privileged people and places. Honest writers and critics must come forward and raise the issue further. They should also contact the relevant authorities to form a committee as Haider Qureshi suggested few months ago, and decide the fate of Narang’s plagiarism as far as award related activity is concerned, as well as devise strategies to prevent it from arising in the future.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe: 2

I borrowed Narang’s nice-looking book from him. I went through it within next four days. As I was going through this award-winning book I was extremely astonished to discover the fact that how valiantly, without having a second thought to his reputation, Narang had translated several chapters from the books by the Western interpreters without acknowledging the actual sources.

- Imran Shahid Bhinder


When and how did you first find out about the plagiarism?

In 2005, I was enrolled for the Master of Arts in English Literary Studies at Birmingham City University (formerly known as University of Central England) to study contemporary trends in literary, social or cultural phenomenon, strictly in the Western context. Before I enrolled for the above course, I studied Post-modern epistemology privately and developed an enormous interest in the epistemological and sociological aspect of postmodernism, which is well known as post-structuralism.

Philosophy in general has always been a passion. I have been studying post-Cartesian Philosophy for the last sixteen years. For the first semester, I wrote two essays, one on great German philosopher Immanuel Kant’s extremely complex philosophy of aesthetics, and second on one of the foremost French psychologist Jacque Lacan’s theory of fragmentation of the self, deeply influenced by Ferdinand de Saussure’s linguistic theory. At that time, I had already studied Robert Scholes, Christopher Norris, Catherine Belsey, Terence Hawkes, Raman Seldon and so on.

A friend of mine came from Pakistan, had a huge book in his hand, which he had bought from Islamabad, by Gopi Chand Narang entitled Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat. We exchanged thoughts about the epistemological dimensions of structuralism that can be located within the periphery of the highly systematic Kantian philosophy. I established that there is nothing new in Structuralism; it is not even an extension, on any level, of Kantian transcendental philosophy. Structuralism of Ferdinand de Saussure is just a linguistic description of Kantianism.

He suggested to me to read Narang’s book because he believed that Narang had taken an original angle. According to his reading of Narang’s controversial book, structuralist philosophy and Derrida’s deconstructive reading of the whole history of western metaphysics had absolutely rejected the entire philosophical tradition. Moreover, Narang, according to him, had shown it. I was inquisitive to learn more about structuralism but this time through Narang’s reading of structuralist theory.

I borrowed Narang’s nice-looking book from him. I went through it within next four days. As I was going through this award-winning book I was extremely astonished to discover the fact that how valiantly, without having a second thought to his reputation, Narang had translated several chapters from the books by the Western interpreters without acknowledging the actual sources.

Can you share with us what portions of his book is lifted and from where?

In all my previous articles, I have written extensively about Narang's plagiarism. I would like to enunciate here few important aspects. English readers will certainly be astonished to know about this strange episode. The first part of Narangs award winning book entitled Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashraqi Sheriyat, in which Narang seems to have discussed structuralism and post-structuralism, consists of exact three hundred pages.

Narang and all the members of his literary company, who have been ingredients of Narangs award related conspiracy, cannot come up with twenty original pages. When I pronounce twenty original pages I do not refer to ideological, linguistic or sociological originality, I mean those twenty pages, which Narang has not plagiarized. Is anybody out there to prove it wrong? I would say no. As I have claimed that a substantial part of the book on western structuralism, Narang has awfully grabbed. It is now Narangs or his well-wishers responsibility to break the silence and crack this enigma however.

I will now indicate the books Narang has plagiarised. Professor Raman Seldons significant introductory book entitled A Readers Guide to Contemporary Literary Theory (1993) has been so unhesitatingly abused that this act would definitely seem to any genuine intellectual unimaginable. Narang has just spared the first chapter where Seldon discusses New Criticism of academic Marxist critic F R Leavis, and the last chapter of the book in which Seldon introduces Feminist theories.

Rest of the book, which consists of about 150 pages are reincarnated (but this time in Urdu) as Narangs award winning Sakhtiyat Pas-e-Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat. Apart from this extremely deplorable act, an interesting book by Robert Scholes entitled Structuralism in Literature (1974) suffered from the same fate at the hands of the winner of Padma awards. Similarly, particular chapters from Christopher Norriss entitled Deconstruction (1990), John Sturrocks Structuralism and Since (1979), Catherine Belseys Critical Practice (2003), originally published in 1980, are also word for word translations. However, this is not the final episode.

You can read Anthony Easthopes British Post-structuralism since 1968 (1980), for an interesting, precise although superficial analytical study of Derridean deconstruction and Terry Eagletons Marxism and see how Narang has lifted that discussion in the last chapter of his book. For an interesting discussion about Readers Response Criticism and inauspicious aspect of Narangs plagiarism, also see Elizabeth Freunds The Return of the Reader: Reader Response Criticism (1987). For equally interesting facts see Terence Hawkess Structuralism and Semiotics (1977).



Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe

Gopi Chand Narang has been in the news for a while now. Accused of plagiarism for his award winning book 'Sakhtiyat aur Mashriqi Sheriyat' by a young scholar Imran Shahid Bhinder, a Birmingham-based doctoral candidate and a teacher. Bhinder has in fact gone ahead and written a book on Narang's alleged plagiarism, which is in the press now along with his other book "Postmodernism and Terrorism", a critique of postmodernism and its claims regarding epistemological, aesthetic, terroristic and revolutionary aspects.

Unfortunately, apart from C M Naim's articles in Outlook, there has not been much coverage of the Narang issue. The latest one from Naim sahab is titled "The Emperor's New Clothes". Taking a cue from it I have titled this post "The Emperor's 'Borrowed' Robe" - an extensive interview with Imran Bhinder on Narang, plagiarism and Urdu literature.


"I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer."
- Imran Shahid Bhinder


What impressions you had of Gopi Chand Narang and how did it change after you found out about the plagiarism?

Impression as an epistemological theorist or literary critic? As a social or cultural critic? Fairly speaking, let me ask you that, can a reader of Urdu literature classify Narang as one of these? I do not think someone can answer this question so straightforwardly. To look for a detailed answer of the questions, I posed above, rather than isolating Gopi Chand Narang, I would like to explore Narang’s work in a general literary, social and cultural context.

Following literary ethics, I can affirm that a writer must be judged by the quality of his work and the impact he or she has on the individual as well as on the collective social, cultural or literary trends and spirit of his epoch. Has Narang produced such a work on the basis of which Narang can be tested against literary criteria? Has he constructively influenced the literary, social or cultural atmosphere? The answer is emphatic no. I find absolutely futile and weightless argumentatively the writings of Narang’s well-wishers through which they make huge propaganda to prove him highly revered theorists.

Some of them have gone to the extent that they propagate that Narang is one of the main theorist of postmodernism in the West. This is so shocking that I cannot even find words to express this severe absurdity. Frankly speaking, I have always been a reader of Western philosophy, literature and criticism and have never been a great admirer of Urdu literary criticism, because I believe that there is no literary criticism in Urdu.

Most of the so-called Urdu critics have imported certain Western ideas, without comprehending the contextual importance of the complicated themes. Through personal experience, I can understand that how concretely the ideas originate in a particular context and how the ideas are tested against the empirical reality within a different context. Any particular social, cultural or literary theory becomes obsolete if it contradicts with the existing or emerging empirical reality of human life. Transcendental criteria, I mean some timeless principle, annihilating empirical reality of its importance, has never been categorically exercised to judge the invigorating aspect of a theory.

Let me draw the attention of readers to the contextual significance of theoretical and ideological approaches in the West. For instance, in the twentieth century, from Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure onward to French Postmodernist Jacque Derrida, all believed in a very strange idea that reality is not socially constructed, it is claimed, on the contrary, that the reality is linguistically constructed. Well, Derrida, in the first chapter of one of his most important book Of Grammatology, sees the emergence of Cybernetic theory as well as immensely complex system of information as an essential outcome of recent development in the scientific and economic sphere. Despite certain fascistic aspects in Derridean deconstruction, such as debasement of meaning, I appreciate his move of locating his arguments in a concrete social and historical context.

Derridean science of grammatology views suspiciously the whole Western philosophical or metaphysical tradition that, he thinks, is based on Logocentrism. Philosophy based on Western Logocentrism, attempts to justify the difference between signifier and signified, then the difference between signifier and signified; as a totality, is reduced under the philosophy of Western metaphysics of presence. According to that, transcendental consciousness occupies a privileged place. It determines meaning according to its own conditions. Transcendental means an immovable presence, a fixed point.

Derrida’s intention is to liberate the signifier, which according to transcendental consciousness eventually reduces itself as a signified. Derrida extremely motivated by the marginality of Jews in the west developed his strategies to deconstruct all the polarities and dichotomies that occupied privileged location conceptually under Christian theological Logos, Reason or Logic.

The point to ponder is that Derridean deconstruction is implicitly a Jewish philosophy that struggles against the reduction of Jews under the Christian Logos. Jews should liberate themselves from the oppressive Christian philosophy, say Derrida. As a Jewish philosopher, in one of his most obscure, but important book Glas, Derrida challenged the fundamental theme of Logos and trinity in Christian theology.

Let me ask this question to Narang or the other ingredients of his propaganda machine, had he ever tested the western fascistic theoretical work against the concrete aspect of his own society? Did Narang, through his de-contextualised and distorted translations, ever attempted, implicitly or explicitly, to explain the meaning of “Western Metaphysics”, which was so integrated with Derridean deconstruction?

The point I want to lay emphasis on is that the Western theorists do not disregard the significance of the whole social, political and economic developments. They also keep on the agenda their loyalties with their own class or groups.

In this background let me come to your question now that the impression I had about Narang. I firmly believe that Gopi Chand Narang has always been a passive adherent to the western so-called superior theoretical work, who completely failed to conceive the western theoretical process. He also absolutely lacks the principal intellectual traits, which are essential not only to perform subtle analysis, but also to establish his reputation as an honest writer.

Before discovering the truth about Narang’s plagiarism, I had always been suspicious about his stature as a critic or writer. Narang mendacious act of massive plagiarism has just converted my suspicions into a firm belief.



Thursday, September 3, 2009

Islamic literature in Urdu

Few weeks ago, I was in the historic town of Bath in England. Bath is famous for the early Roman grandeur, and was the site of the Roman town of Aquae Sulis. The main attractions are the Roman Baths that attract hundreds of people.

It was a weekend and the city centre was teeming with people marvelling at the architectural beauties or finding their way to the museum dedicated to famous author Jane Austen. As I was walking through the busy market area, I saw some Islamic literature in English and Urdu. I was amazed by the sight of the Urdu booklets. The small booklets sought to clear doubts about Islam and could be picked up for free.

Though there were not many who were interested I managed to get a peek but had to rush as I was running against the departure time of my bus back to London. The collection was from the Bath Islamic Society and it had two volunteers who were standing near the humble collections.

It felt good to know that such books are being published and are being circulated in such a way. Apart from newspapers, magazines and old titles, Islamic literature seems to be the only other subject which has found expression in Urdu, especially in the Indian sub-continent. This has perhaps also given credence that Urdu is the language of Muslims.

How many books on other religions are available in Urdu? The number of non-Muslim Urdu writers are on the decline and I haven't heard of popular comics having Urdu editions, even though some of them come out in multiple languages.

The same also goes for Sanskrit. One of the oldest languages, it is fast disappearing from colleges and universities. My only memory of Sanskrit is from my cousins in a primary school in North India studying it for their exams. That too was 15 years ago, I do not know what the status is now.

Booklets and thin books apart, I am not sure how many people would be interested in reading 'Bahishti Zhevar' written by Maulana Ashraf Ali Thaanvi. Do people look out for such books?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Waheed Allahabadi

We all have heard about Akbar Allahabadi, the great poet who went on to become a session judge in the Allahabad high court. Allahabadi used humour and satire to highlight the plight of Muslims and had his own take on the trend of Westernisation in Muslim society. His teacher was Waheed Allahabadi another poet of eminence and a resident of Allahabad.

I am not sure if there are any works of Waheed Allahabadi that is available in the market. Which is why I was thrilled to discover this website http://usmaninetwork.com/main.htm.

It apparently belongs to the family of Waheed Allahabadi who have put up some work of the poet with his photo (which I have used here) on the website. The site also has a copy of a letter written to the poet by the Viceroy of India, though it does not open completely. It will be interesting to know what the letter says.

India has produced several poets, some forgotten and many who have slipped away from the collective memory of society. It is website like these that help keep alive the memories and the work of eminent men and their contribution to the society.

If the Viceroy of India wrote a letter to Waheed Allahabadi, then he must be a man of considerable prestige and intellect of his time. Sadly, chroniclers and historians seem to have left out many such men of learning and talent, who remain lesser known even though a study of their life might throw light on several matters and issues.

I hope Urdu academicians write and research more about Waheed Allahabadi, rather then just describing him as Akbar Allahabadi's teacher. Or perhaps I need guidance by someone to any book or periodical that contain details of Waheed Allahabadi's life.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide...

"Let me come down to your level and your idioms. Arey (O!) Hinduo (Hindus) learn Urdu. Pakistan is your enemy. If you don't learn your enemy's language, how will you fight them? Let me explain it to you differently. India has several million Muslims, and you say Urdu is their language. Let me explain this for a minute. Even then brothers, if you will not understand the language of such a big minority, how will you know what they are doing and what they are thinking?"

I have taken this from the book Urdu/Hindi: an artificial divide : African heritage, Mesopotamian roots, Indian culture & British colonialism by Abdul Jamil Khan. The book is a compulsory read for those interested in Hindi/Urdu.

According to the book, the above comments were made by Firaq Gorakhpuri in an interview that apparently did not come out in public domain. Firaq uttered those words referring to all those who worked towards the disappearance of Urdu from schools after the Partition.

The sad aspect in those days, and even now was/is the compartmentalisation of Urdu/Hindi with religion. For several decades Urdu was spoken and learned by the people of India, but took a backseat in later years.

One could see Urdu posters/banners in the background in many of the early Hindi black and white movies. In later years, I believe Bollywood has played a role in its own way in getting the common masses acquainted with Urdu words. The posters though are nowhere to be seen, neither in the films, nor on the streets.