Caribbean Muslims of Indian ancestry must embrace and celebrate their heritage.

Newly arrived (1897) Indians under indentured contracts
“O people! Beware of your Lord who created you from a single soul and created from it its mate and spread from those two many men and women and beware of Allah in whose name you ask one another and [beware of] the wombs. Verily, Allah is ever watchful over you.” Qur’an (4:1)

As we take the time out to commemorate  165 years of the presence of people of Indian heritage on this Indian Arrival Day in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the Muslims of this nation [and by extension elsewhere in the Caribbean and South America] should embrace and celebrate their heritage alongside the descendants of jahajee bhais and bahins.  The wombs that borne us were from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madras in India, so take heed and show the appropriate respect and gratitude.

In fact Islam encourages us to maintain ties with non-Muslim family members as well. The mother of Asma bintu Abi Bakr (radiyallaahu anha) was a disbeliever. Rasulullah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) commanded Asma to maintain ties with her mother. (Bukhari, #2620).

It has become fashionable to reject all things India and Indian for the unannounced assumption is that all such things are Hindu.  This is a betrayal of the truth and buys into the sentiment that to be Muslim one must adapt to or adopt Arab culture. Despite splashing their money hither and thither all over the globe; the Arabs have no claim to hegemony of any kind, be it cultural, religious interpretation, political, economic etc on the Muslims of the world.  Truth is that the Arabs traveled to Delhi to study the hadith sciences, to seek employment and to seek refuge from the constant turmoil of the Middle East. The Muslims of India lobbied for the retention of the Caliphate when the Arabs attempted to trade their “uprising” against the Ottomans for the seat of power of the Caliph, only to be double crossed and succeeded in its abolishment.

Indian Muslims joined side by side with their compatriots of India to remove the oak of British power and oppression since the late eighteenth century, whereas those with whom they share the bond of faith in the Middle East joined with the British and other western powers to attack and dismantle the Caliphate.  This betrayal was protested by Indian Muslims who were joined by Indians of all faiths in the streets of Lucknow, Lahore and Delhi.

Against this backdrop today we have Arabs giving subversive advice to our youth that democracy is haram, elections are haram and that voting for a woman leader is forbidden.  As we all know that the Middle East is rife with totalitarian and authoritarian forms of government.  Violence is the main instrument that has been used to remove one despotic ruler after another.  Civic society is absent, much less having developed a culture in civic matters in these societies.  It would seem that having lived under these conditions for such a long time, the “scholars of religion” from these parts use the “pulpit” to reinforce the “legitimacy” of these despotic regimes.  The masses do not have access to participation in civic society or basic freedoms of association or assemblies.  Though it’s a human right that everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his/her personality is possible. They are blocked by the nature of the political systems from participation in shaping and influencing their societies. The basis of the authority of their respective governments is not derived from the will of the people but by inheritance or violence. There are no right to freedom of opinion and expression; including the freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas.

Yet amongst us there exist groups who condemn the peaceful and civilized manner that the people of Trinidad and Tobago have chosen to change their government.  They also condemn and discriminate on the basis of gender the chosen leader of one of our political parties.  What alternative mechanisms are these pathetic imbeciles advocating should replace the smooth transition of power that took place in Trinidad and Tobago?  Anarchy? Military government? Monarchy?  Critical thinking or for that matter any type of thinking is unknown to this lot.  Apparently stupidity is elevated to being a pious virtue in their circles.  The scary part of it is that they couch their subversion in sacred language.  Their advocates in this are the “scholars of religion” from these despotic countries.

The partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1948, into two countries, India and Pakistan also cut the psychological ties of local Caribbean Muslims with India.  But we need to know that India today has the third largest number of Muslims at over 160 million after Indonesia and Pakistan.

As Muslims of Indian heritage living in the Caribbean we share a common history with the Muslims of India.  As the reality is that we share the common feature of being minority communities living in democracies.  The latter concept is unknown to the Muslims of the Middle East.  Consequently their scholarship and interpretative understanding of our faith is infused with totalitarianism and devoid of a sense of civic society.  We also share common values with our Indian counterparts. “These values include a stress on the community rather than the individual, the privileging of order and harmony over personal freedom, refusal to compartmentalize religion away from other spheres of life, a particular emphasis on saving and thriftiness, an insistence on hard work, a respect for political leadership, a belief that government and business need not necessarily be natural adversaries, and an emphasis on family loyalty.”   (Anthony Milner)

Additionally both the Muslims of India and the Caribbean share the interpretative school of religious understanding, Hanafi, in the main.

Aside from learning Arabic for religious purposes, we should also learn Urdu and Farsi in order for our communities to gain access to the rich literature (religious and otherwise) of the Indo-Pak subcontinent.

So yes, multiple influences – our Caribbean landscape and experience, our country of heritage, the shared values of the Indian sub-continent and our faith have shaped our identity.  Lets commit to commemorate and honour the sacrifices of those who came before us to build the societies and institutions we enjoy today.

Be the first to comment on "Caribbean Muslims of Indian ancestry must embrace and celebrate their heritage."

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.