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Vande Mataram and the Darul Uloom Deoband’s fatwas

November 5, 2009

There has been much debate on the fatwa issued by the Sunnite seat of learning in Deoband, Uttar Pradesh the Darul Uloom in Nov, 2009 soon after the 9/11 attacks. The ulemas there have issued a fatwa, a decree, urging the Muslims of the nation not to sing the national song of India, Vande Mataram. They say that it is un-Islamic to do ‘sajda’ (bowing down in reverence) to anyone except Allah (God). The Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind has endorsed the fatwa issued by the Darul Uloom.

There was a conference held at Deoband by Darul Uloom in which a resolution was passed condemning terrorism and it was exhorted by the clergy there that the Muslims must fight this scourge that has inflicted not only India but the world. The Home Minister, Mr. P. Chidambaram graced the occasion as did some other dignitaries including Swami Agnivesh and Baba Ramdev.

Darul Uloom, Deoband is a seminary of the Sunni Muslims and has affiliations across the world.  It was founded in 1866 by several prominent Islamic scholars, headed by Maulana Muhammad Qasim Nanautawi. I may add here that Taliban and other ultra-orthodox outfits find their ideological moorings in the edicts of the Darul Uloom, Deoband.  There was much noise in the media as to how the Darul Ulooom had contributed to the freedom struggle and how they have always been faithful to India. The fact is that within the Darul Uloom, Deoband there were two factions, one that supported an undivided India and the other wanted an Islamic state of Pakistan. While Shabbir Ahmed Usmani and Ubaidullah Sindhi and others advocated a separate state of Pakistan for the Muslims of the subcontinent, others like Husain Ahmed Madani called for a united India. They hedged their bets both ways and knew they would never be the losers.

Vande Mataram is a song taken from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Anand Math which is a mixture of Bengali and Sanskrit. It is a beautiful song that became the beacon of Indian struggle for Independence. The said novel contains information about the violent revolt of Sanyasis against injustice inflicted by Muslims and the British in Bengal in the year 1772. The song has inspired a whole generation of people against oppression and was to become the national anthem after India’s independence. The only reason it was not approved was that Muslims objected to it. In the year 1937, during the meeting of the Congress Working Committee in Kolkata, it was decided to cut short this National Song, with the sole motive of appeasing Muslims. Thus began the era of misfortune of this song! The Muslims were not satisfied even then. They wanted to eliminate this song completely. On 17th March, 1938, the Chairman of the Muslim League, Barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah raised objection to reciting the first stanza of ‘Vande Mataram’ also. Many believe that the opposition to Vande Mataram was the beginning of the formation of the Islamic state of Pakistan. Similar objections are being raised again, even though the edited version of the song is sung everywhere. This smacks of times past when Jinnah and the Muslims of the sub-continent were very keen to show a separate identity for themselves.

It is not as if all Muslims endorse what Deoband has proclaimed. Prof. Mushirul Hassan has said that there was no need for the Home Minister to go to Deoband. He added that any presence of the state in such functions gives legitimacy to orthodoxy. Farooq Abdullah said that he had no problem in singing the whole of the song as this is our national song. But then people like Farooq Abdullah are rare in politics. I may add here that the fatwas issued by Deoband include the following:

  1. No coeducation for girls above the age of 10.
  2. Opposition to women’s reservation bill in the Parliament, adding that this will further erode Muslim representation.
  3. The Jamiat strongly opposed the Delhi High Court ruling legitimizing gay sex which it said would lead to “sexual anarchy and recognition of debauchery.”

Within Darul Uloom Deoband there are two factions now. The one led by Mahmood  Madani had organized this conference while the other abstained and called it a farce. It is evident that there are schisms within the Muslim society and there are sects and sub sects and while the Home Minister may have gone there to get an endorsement against terrorism and may have felt he had achieved a lot by roping in Deobandi school of Islam, the fact is that this is mere tokenism and such genuflection in front of the ultra-orthodox only weakens the ordinary Muslim who wants to move forward away from such extreme religious gatherings. Is it not true that most of us do not go to the temple, church or the mosque regularly? Religion has its place and it should not become the center of our existence.

Below are the lyrics of the beautiful song that has given us Indians (including Muslims) a sense of pride and joy:

Lyrics of Vande Mataram

Vande maataraM
sujalaaM suphalaaM malayaja shiitalaaM
SasyashyaamalaaM maataram ||

Shubhrajyotsnaa pulakitayaaminiiM
pullakusumita drumadala shobhiniiM
suhaasiniiM sumadhura bhaashhiNiiM
sukhadaaM varadaaM maataraM ||

Koti koti kantha kalakalaninaada karaale
koti koti bhujai.rdhR^itakharakaravaale
abalaa keno maa eto bale
bahubaladhaariNiiM namaami taariNiiM
ripudalavaariNiiM maataraM ||

Tumi vidyaa tumi dharma
tumi hR^idi tumi marma
tvaM hi praaNaaH shariire

Baahute tumi maa shakti
hR^idaye tumi maa bhakti
tomaara i pratimaa gaDi
mandire mandire ||

TvaM hi durgaa dashapraharaNadhaariNii
kamalaa kamaladala vihaariNii
vaaNii vidyaadaayinii namaami tvaaM

Namaami kamalaaM amalaaM atulaaM
SujalaaM suphalaaM maataraM ||

ShyaamalaaM saralaaM susmitaaM bhuushhitaaM
DharaNiiM bharaNiiM maataraM |”

वन्दे मातरम्
सुजलां सुफलां मलयजशीतलाम्
शस्यशामलां मातरम् ।
शुभ्रज्योत्स्नापुलकितयामिनीं
फुल्लकुसुमितद्रुमदलशोभिनीं
सुहासिनीं सुमधुर भाषिणीं
सुखदां वरदां मातरम् ।। १ ।। वन्दे मातरम् ।
कोटि-कोटि-कण्ठ-कल-कल-निनाद-कराले
कोटि-कोटि-भुजैर्धृत-खरकरवाले,
अबला केन मा एत बले ।
बहुबलधारिणीं नमामि तारिणीं
रिपुदलवारिणीं मातरम् ।। २ ।। वन्दे मातरम् ।
तुमि विद्या, तुमि धर्म
तुमि हृदि, तुमि मर्म
त्वं हि प्राणा: शरीरे
बाहुते तुमि मा शक्ति,
हृदये तुमि मा भक्ति,
तोमारई प्रतिमा गडि
मन्दिरे-मन्दिरे मातरम् ।। ३ ।। वन्दे मातरम् ।
त्वं हि दुर्गा दशप्रहरणधारिणी
कमला कमलदलविहारिणी
वाणी विद्यादायिनी, नमामि त्वाम्
नमामि कमलां अमलां अतुलां
सुजलां सुफलां मातरम् ।। ४ ।। वन्दे मातरम् ।
श्यामलां सरलां सुस्मितां भूषितां
धरणीं भरणीं मातरम् ।। ५ ।। वन्दे मातरम् ।।

Translation by Shree Aurobindo

Mother, I bow to thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark 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 drove
Back 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 nervs 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 her
swords of sheen,
Thou art Lakshmi lotus-throned,
And the Muse a hundred-toned,
Pure and perfect without peer,
Mother lend thine ear,
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with thy orchard gleems,
Dark of hue O candid-fair

In thy soul, with jewelled hair
And thy glorious smile divine,
Lovilest of all earthly lands,
Showering wealth from well-stored hands!
Mother, mother mine!
Mother sweet, I bow to thee,
Mother great and free!

The best part about this is that while it is not compulsory of all Indians to sing the song most Indians want to sing this. It is the so-called secularists who have reservations against the song. The most pathetic situation is that of the Bengali secular intellectuals. They are between a rock and a hard place on this one. While they would hate to endorse anything that is seen as ‘communal’, as is this song, the fact that this is a Bengali song interspersed with Sanskrit makes them cringe because they love their language so. They cannot reject this song nor can they advocate it, for obvious reasons. Majority of Muslims would not mind singing the national song, they would rather love it. It is so Indian and just so beautiful.

Darul Uloom, Deoband would also have not raised this issue again. They had their political compulsions. They did not want to be seen bowing down to the Indian state when they passed a fatwa against terrorism. They wanted to be seen to be the leaders of the Muslim community who had a mind of their own. Therefore while condemning terrorism they added a caveat that they exhort Muslims from singing the National song. It was a political assertion, more than anything else. Most Muslims do not take these ulema’s too seriously. But they do have a nuisance value and can turn the masses one way or the other. It was political brinkmanship when the ministers descended on Deoband. This helps no one, not the state, not any political party and definitely not the cause of fight against terrorism.

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