Divine Revelation

A blog with an Islamic perspective

Objective: to examine the context in which VM was written and what experts and even Rabindranath Tagore had to say about it.

Vande Mataram was composed by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee in a highly Sanskritized form of the Bengali language. The song first appeared in his book Anandamatha, published in 1882 amid fears of a ban by British Raj, though the song itself was actually written six years prior in 1876. The central plot in the book Anandamatha moves round a band of sanyasis, called santanas or children, who left their hearth and home and dedicated their lives to the cause of their motherland. They worshipped their motherland as the Goddess Kali. This aspect of the Ananda Math and the imagery of Goddess Kali leave no doubt that Bankimchandra's nationalism was Hindu rather than Indian. This is made crystal clear from his other writings which contain passionate outbursts against the subjugation of India by the Muslims.
To quote R C Majumdar a well known historian "Bankimchandra converted patriotism into religion and religion into patriotism." Anti-Muslim references are spread all over the work. Jivananda (a character in the book) with sword in hand, at the gate of the temple, exhorts the children of Kali: "We have often thought to break up this bird's nest of Muslim rule, to pull down the city of the renegades and throw it into the river - to turn this pig-sty to ashes and make Mother earth free from evil again. Friends, that day has come." The use of the song 'Vande Mataram' in the novel is not adventitious, and it is not only communal-minded Muslims who resent it because of its context and content.
M.R.A. Baig's analysis of the novel and the song deserve attention. "Written as a story set in the period of the dissolution of the Moghul Empire, the hero of the novel, Bhavananda, is planning an armed rising against the Muslims of Bengal. While busy recruiting, he meets Mahendra and sings the song 'Bande Mataram' or 'Hail Mother'. The latter asks him the meaning of the words and Bhavananda, making a spirited answer, concludes with: 'Our religion is gone, our caste is gone, our honour is gone. Can the Hindus preserve their Hinduism unless these drunken Nereys (a term of contempt for Muslims) are driven away?'... Mahendra, however, not convinced, expresses reluctance to join the rebellion. He is, therefore, taken to the temple of Ananda Math and shown a huge image of four-armed Vishnu, with two decapitated and bloody heads in front, "Do you know who she is?" asks the priest in charge, pointing to an image on the lap of Vishnu, "She is the Mother. We are her children Say 'Bande Mataram'" He is taken to the image of Kali and then to that of Durga. On each occasion he is asked to recite 'Bande Mataram'. In another scene in the novel some people shouted 'kill, kill the Nereys'. Others shouted 'Bande Mataram' 'Will the day come when we shall break mosques and build temples on their sites?

Rabindranath Tagore who composed the song Jana Gana Mana adopted as India's national anthem in his letter to Subhas Chandra Bose (1937) wrote, "The core of 'Vande Mataram' is a hymn to goddess Durga: this is so plain that there can be no debate about it. Of course Bankim does show Durga to be inseparably united with Bengal in the end, but no Mussulman [Muslim] can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as 'Swadesh' [the nation]. This year many of the special [Durga] Puja numbers of our magazines have quoted verses from 'Vanda Mataram' - proof that the editors take the song to be a hymn to Durga. The novel Anandamath is a work of literature, and so the song is appropriate in it. But Parliament is a place of union for all religious groups, and there the song can not be appropriate. When Bengali Mussulmans show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating." In a postscript to this same letter Rabindranath says: "Bengali Hindus have become agitated over this matter, but it does not concern only Hindus. Since there are strong feelings on both sides, a balanced judgement is essential. In pursuit of our political aims we want peace, unity and good will - we do not want the endless tug of war that comes from supporting the demands of one faction over the other." (Letter #314, Selected Letters of Rabindranath Tagore, edited by K. Datta and A. Robinson, Cambridge University Press ).

These are facts. Analyse and absorb them.
Here is a great link to Anadmath images in AmarChitra Katha comics.
Another link to A G Noorani's article on VM published in Frontline of January 1999.
My next post InshaAllah on the same topic.

Posted by Arshad on Thursday, August 31, 2006.

It is very clear from the translation below that this song is all about paying obeisance to a goddess that has been personified as motherland.


Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Green fields waving

Mother of might, Mother free.
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I bow.
Who hath said thou art weak in thy lands
When the sword flesh out
in the seventy million hands
And seventy million voices roar
Thy dreadful name from shore to shore?
With many strengths who art mighty and stored,
To thee I call Mother and Lord!
Though who savest, arise and save!
To her I cry who ever her foeman
droveBack from plain and Sea
And shook herself free.
Thou art wisdom, thou art law,
Thou art heart, our soul, our breath
Though art love divine,
the awe in our hearts that conquers death.
Thine the strength that nerves the arm,
Thine the beauty, thine the charm.
Every image made divine in our temples is but thine.
Thou art Durga, Lady and Queen
With her hands that strike and herswords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,

And the Muse a hundred-toned, Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear, Rich with thine hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair in in thy soul with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Loveliest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!Mother sweet, I bow to thee, Mother great and free!
I have highlighted the objectionable material. Read V M Series(I) to find out why?

Posted by Arshad on .

Objective: To find the importance of verbal proclamation in Islam
Bilal (ra) was one the most illustrious companions of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). He was an Abyssinian slave in Mecca and one of the earliest converts to Islam. He was constantly tortured by his master Umayya bin Khalaf who made him lie on the scorching desert sand by placing huge boulders on his chest. Bilal would be told to recite the name of Lat and Uzza the principal deities of the Mushrikeen or idol worshippers, but instead he would just defiantly raise his finger and chant ahad ahad meaning one, one. Bilal immortalized the resistance against Shirk (joining partners to Allah) and became an epitome of Tawheed or the one-ness of God.
The creed or the first pillar of Islam is embodied by the Kalima or Recital "La Ilaha Il Lal Lah" which means none is worthy of worship except Allah". This doctrine of One-ness of Allah or Tawheed (derived from Wahada which means One) is the preamble of Muslim faith, in which no compromise or modification is permitted.
The Holy Quran says in Sura Saffat 37:4

Translation: Verily verily your Allah is One!

The Sura Al-Fatiha (may be termed as the opening chapter of the Holy Quran) is recited in every rakat of the Muslim prayer or Salat. The Sura begins with the words

Transliteration: Al Hamd o lil lahi Rabbil Aa-lameen
Translation: All Praise belongs to Allah the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Worlds.
A natural corollary of Tawheed is that Allah alone is deserving of all praise and gratitude.The word Hamd implies both Praise and thanksgiving.In Urdu it is usually translated as "taareef" and in Hindi as prashansa.However the Sanskrit word Vandana must qualify as being closest to render its true meaning. According to the Cologne Digital Sanskrit Lexicon vandana means praise worship adoration. The verb vande is a derivative of this noun vandana.Thus Alhamdoillah could also be translated as "Poori vandana Allah hi ke liye hai". Replace the word Allah with another Deity and you have something that is against Tawheed the cornerstone of Iman or faith. It is tantamount to Kufr (rejection of faith) and Shirk (joining partners to Allah). It is an absolutely unpardonable sin in Islam which no true Muslim can think of committing.
So it is quite clear that verbal profession of faith has immense value. Next to understand the background and meaning of Vande Mataram.

Posted by Arshad on .

I suggested in my previous post "Who sets the agenda" that we need to develop advertisements that can be placed in conventional and mainstream media and the target audience can be directed towards alternate or unconventional media.

Here is a sample ad that I conceived about Tawheed or the concept of one-ness of God which is the foundation of Islam. I want to post ads like those below in mainstream media .....and thus do Islamic Dawah.....

Posted by Arshad on Wednesday, August 30, 2006.

If you watch TV, listen to the radio or read the newspaper there is one thing that stands out quite clearly: some issues take an unfair precedence over others .

Media is part of society and reports what it sees but it has an additional responsibility. Media has the power to set the agenda for public consumption and discussion and should therefore act more responsibly for the good of society at large. Media can be broadly classified in 2 types. State owned enterprises or private businesses managed by a family or by shareholders.

It is obvious that state owned media is never completely free and hence tend to become the mouth piece of the government. There are very few exceptions to this expected and accepted phenomenon. This media tries to project itself as serving the national interests and mostly site achievements of the establishment with lack of genuine criticism and investigation into irregularities and improprieties. There is a further risk of this media coming under totalitarian control and mis-used to spread lies and deceit to serve the selfish interests of its masters; thus degenerating into a propaganda tool.

Private owned media is more independent but the editorial policy sways with the ideological leanings of its editors and owners. It is definitely a lot better than the state owned media both in terms of content, presentation and the scope of critique and investigation. The problem with private media is that it is completely commercial. As a business enterprise a healthy bottom-line becomes the ultimate objective resulting in an imbalance in the amount of focus given to certain issues and stories that sell while the real and critical ones face relegation to the background. For private media the TRP and ABC ratings translate into advertising revenues and act as their bread and butter. All other things acquire secondary status.

So where does that lead us to a people who want to promote an ideology and a way of life that is for the good of one and all. Alternate media has to be tapped in a big way. Advertising in the mainstream media for targeting people and redirecting them to alternate media and direct interaction by mail or telephone seems to be the temporary work around till we have enough resources to start and run mainstream media outlets. A lot of hard work and determination is required. Planning with commitment is the need of the hour. Setting the agenda is not easy. Media control is only the first step.

Posted by Arshad on Saturday, August 26, 2006.

Professor Popkin, from the University of North Carolina told the International Association of Agricultural Economists that the number of overweight people had topped 1bn, compared with 800m undernourished. Effectively suggesting that for the first time in history the overweights outweigh the under-weight both in terms of weight as well as numeric strength. While the learned professor and his like gave very factual reasons for the growing number of the obese I would like to highlight a simple solution to this new disease called obesity,that requires strong faith and will power.

Allah says in the Holy Quran 7:31

Translation : O Children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: But waste not by excess, for Allah loveth not the wasters.

The first thing that you need to avoid is wasteful excess at a social level. Obviously one will eat more than required when there is more to eat. One should therefore try and cultivate a culture and society that looks down on wasteful excess of food and promotes and encourages a simple and frugal food eating life-style. One only has to visit a typical marriage feast to see how contemporary society first wastes cooked food and then mocks and jokes about the victims of this over eating culture.

Secondly each individual must become weight conscious and try and exercise if he is trapped in a sedentary life style with no time and opportunity for physical excursion.

Thirdly, the most difficult and yet most effective. Curb the gluttonous instincts and regulate ones intake with clean and nutritious food only.

The following Hadith taken from Tirmizi should act as inspiration.

Narrated by AbuKarimah heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) say: No man fills a pot worse than his stomach. For a person a few mouthfuls are sufficient to keep his back straight. But if he wants to fill his stomach then he should divide his stomach into three parts: He should fill one third of the belly with food, another third with drink and leave one third empty for easy breathing.

Posted by Arshad on Sunday, August 20, 2006.

I read a very interesting oped by Maqbool Ahmed Siraj titled 'Challenge of Conservatism' in the August issue of Islamic Voice. I respect Maqbool a lot and do not doubt his credentials as a well-wisher of the Muslim community. However his views on the supposed Muslim resistance to new technology are highly disputable.

Maqbool cites the inability of an aalim to fill out a railway reservation form as illustrative of the low self esteem of Madrassa graduates. He accuses the Madrassas of being archaic, draining Muslim charities and teaching incorrect geography. All attempts to modernize Madrassa curriculum are opposed vociferously and there are no attempts to divert Zakat funds to other social infrastructure says Maqbool as he blames Muslim leadership for spearheading the disdain for reform and change.

The aalim who failed to fill out the railway reservation form is an isolated case in point and cannot be generalized for the entire aalim fraternity. The archaic Madrassas are a thing of the past and every Madrassa now endeavors to impart basic secular education with their core curriculum and are open to any improvement in their standard of education if provided with the state of the art technological tools like computers and overhead projectors. You just have to visit their websites to see and believe.

The opposition to diversion of Zakat funds is understandable as it is the only major source of income for funding community Madrassas. The Madrassas are schools of religious learning. They are mostly run through voluntary funds and students are almost taught free or at subsidized fees. They receive no governmental aid in cash or kind. One can only salute the dedication and motivation of these Madrassas churning out thousands of pious young men and women, ready to serve the community for little by way of material compensation and reward. Madrassas are part and parcel of the Muslim society and their state of affairs cannot be isolated from that of the community.

I do not understand Maqbool’s fixation for all Muslims to celebrate Eid on the same day when there are clear cut instructions on how the moon is to be sighted and Eid day to be finalized.

A Hadith from Sahih Muslim and narrated by Abu Hurairah The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) made a mention of the new moon and (in this connection) said: Observe fast when you see it (the new moon) and break fast when you see it (the new moon of Shawwal), but when (the actual position of the month is) concealed from you (on account of cloudy sky), then count thirty days.

Maqbool laments the closing of two Muslim managed institutes of hotel management upon the opinion of Muslim scholars who ruled that learning how to serve liquor and cook pork is un-Islamic. He wants Muslims to learn from other communities on how to manage hotel management institutes. I am at a loss of words to contest his erroneous grieving over the institutes’ closure, but pointing out the need to learn from really hurts, when it comes from the likes of Maqbool Siraj. For Muslims the guidance of the Quran and the Sunnah is sufficient and there is no need to brew a cocktail of the lawful and the prohibited for a paltry few material gains.

Maqbool has also cropped up the issue of women not being allowed to pray in mosques. This is more of a logistics issue for most Muslims who accept women in mosques but are unable to provide them the necessary space. As for those who oppose their presence must also surely be having their own proofs and it is best to educate and engage them in dialogue, rather than loathe and despise them as male chauvinists.

As for Muslims boys avoiding veterinary sciences for fear of having to deal with dogs and pigs, would it not be prudent to let every student choose the profession of his likening and taste. I am all for freedom and liberty at every level of society.

Maqbool also brings out the dislike of Muslim girls to take up nursing as a career as it would entail attending male patients. I do not think that the same Muslim girl would refuse to become a doctor all though it would necessitate the same thing. The reason to avoid nursing is more to do with the nature of the job, its status and stature and the expected remuneration. I am sure that Muslim girls will not be found wanting as their illustrious pious women Sahaba(ra) to discharge their duty as caring nurses in case of emergency and war.

Finally Maqbool directs his ire at the Muslim clergy who are accused of being misfits in adopting technology and coming up with conservative interpretations that are out of sync with contemporary society. I hope Maqbool is a regular visitor to the www.islamonline.net website by Shaikh Yusuf Al Qardhawi which has regular discussions and articles from stem cell research to artificial insemination and foster motherhood to the permissibility of Viagra etc.

Can the supposed inability to produce a single recognized global brand product, a single invention and the failure to attract students to Muslim universities act as a benchmark to gauge our failure as a Muslim Ummah? Have we been sent by Allah for this purpose? We have been made a community that is justly balanced. A community that commands virtue prohibits evil and believes in Allah.Let us measure ourselves according to that yardstick.

To accuse the Ummah of failing to come to grips with technology, pluralism and democracy does not hold water and is suitably demonstrated every year in the magnificent staging of the Hajj: where we have nearly 3 million Muslims of every nation hue and color join together and performing all the rituals in an absolute show of strength and unity and using the latest technologies to conduct such a massive public exercise.

Maqbool Ahmed Siraj, you need to engage rather than blame. Understand rather than confuse. Appreciate and not belittle. We need you but not your sweeping generalizations. This Ummah is trying hard to come up against all odds. Lend it a hand of support not a finger of accusation.

Posted by Arshad on Wednesday, August 16, 2006.

I recently came across a highly disturbing news item in the Khaleej Times today and promptly dispatched a letter to the editor about the same.

The news item described the discovery of about 25 aborted foetuses in a well near a clinic in the state of Punjab in India.

Its a clear cut case of selective abortion and female infanticide.

Allah says in the Holy Quran 17:31

Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you: verily the killing of them is a great sin

Allah also says in the Holy Quran 81: 8 and 9 that on the Day of Resurrection the female child will be brought as a witness to this horrendous crime and asked

8) When the female (infant) Buried alive is questioned
9) For what crime she was killed

There is a Hadith from Bukhari and narrated by Aisha(ra) that:

A lady along with her two daughters came to me asking (for some alms), but she found nothing with me except one date which I gave to her and she divided it between her two daughters, and did not eat anything herself, and then she got up and went away. Then the Prophet came in and I informed him about this story. He said, "Whoever is put to trial by these daughters and he treats them generously (with benevolence) then these daughters will act as a shield for him from Hell-Fire."
One must appreciate the exalted status that Islam has given to women even before they are born. Allegations against Islam of female suppression and male dominance smack of ignorance or prejudice or both.

Suggested reading on related topics

Posted by Arshad on Sunday, August 13, 2006.

Allah says in the Holy Quran 5:32
Translation: On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if anyone slew a person unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if anyone saved a life it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear Signs yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

There is a Hadith from Sunan Abu Dawood and is narrated by Thawban The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: The people will soon summon one another to attack you as people when eating invite others to share their dish. Someone asked: Will that be because of our small numbers at that time? He replied: No, you will be numerous at that time: but you will be scum and rubbish like that carried down by a torrent, and Allah will take fear of you from the breasts of your enemy and last enervation into your hearts. Someone asked: What is wahn (enervation). Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him): He replied: Love of the world and dislike of death.

I have composed some lyrics (inspired by a popular song) with embedded links for anyone interested in the history of the formation of the state of Israel.

Irgun Haganah Lehi is a Stern Gang then the IDF
Arabs fight Jews gain Suez nationalized
Egypt dares Israel flares Yaum Kippur war
West Bank occupied Gazans loose their pride Golan in the dock
Jerusalem east and west Bait ul Maqdis and the rest lie in Jewish hands
We did'nt start the fire it was always burning......."

Posted by Arshad on Tuesday, August 08, 2006.

My favorite Marathi newspaper SAKAL run their own blog asking for comments on topics of their choice. Today they raised the issue of rape and punishment. Please read the comments that have been posted. The first one is mine.

Posted by Arshad on Thursday, August 03, 2006.

Your personality is defined by the way you dress. Dressing up has always been the touchstone of culture with the fashion and garment industry driving the wheels of all economies. What you wear is personal choice but the influence of culture, fashion, region and religion is difficult to overcome. The question of dress for men is not as controversial as that for women. Womens dressing is in fact firmly equated with the liberty, freedom, modernity and civility of any given society. The question of dress stirs up the deepest of emotions amongst women and it can be difficult to convince them of any alternate model of dressing up other than what is in vogue. Male dominance, religious bigotry and curtailing womens liberty are the expected allegations if one were to talk of modest dressing.
Let us turn to our Creator Allah Subhanahu Ta'la to find out what He has to say.
Allah addresses the entire mankind and says in the Holy Quran 7:26
Translation: O ye children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover your shame as well as to be an adornment to you but the raiment of righteousness that is the best. Such are among the signs of Allah that they may receive admonition

Allah further says in 7:31

Translation: O children of Adam! wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer: eat and drink: but waste not by excess for Allah loveth not the wasters.

Islam being a complete 'Deen' (system of life) has not left any sphere of life without definite guidance and injunctions. The question of 'dress' being an important component of human life has therefore been naturally addressed and answered without ambiguity. The human body has to be covered. How much? For males the area from the navel to the knee cannot be exposed. This part to be hidden is called "Satar" However a womans "Satar" in Islam is her entire body except her face, palms and feet. Dress must not be transparent or too tight. The idea is to discourage exposing ones body contours. Some Islamic scholars call for a womans face also to be hidden and hence we have the niqab or veil.
  • What are the benefits of modest dressing (Purdah) ?
  • What is the harm in dressing the way one likes without any regard to accepted norms of decency and socially acceptable behaviour?
  • Are Muslim women oppressed and forced into backwardness by the all enclosing veil?
The questions can go on and there are answers to all of them. What is required is a study with an unbiased and empathatic mind. So, dress as you desire but within the boundaries of the Divine dress-code.

Suggested reading material.
A must read Maududi on Purdah.
An American revert's scholarly treatise on should a Muslim woman cover her face?
The veil in Christianity
Femininity & Modesty

Posted by Arshad on Tuesday, August 01, 2006.