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The Muslim Psyche

Sanjoy Bagchi

By Tariq Hasan
Rupa & Co., New Delhi, 2006, pp. 292, Rs. 500.00

VOLUME XXXI NUMBER 10 October 2007

The Muslims after the Indian Mutiny ceased to be the country’s ruling class and became one of the many minority communities. It was not only a change of status in political and social standing but the new rulers of the country also distrusted the community under the mistaken belief of it being the perpetrator of the armed convulsions in 1857 against the growing might of the East India Company. The attitude of the Indian Muslims since then has been mostly moulded by three institutions in its theology and sociology. Of the three, Patna was the bastion of Wahabism in India strongly believing in the cult of jihad. The other was the Deoband madrassa promoting an uncompromisingly puritanical and exclusive fundamentalism among the faithful followers of Islam. The third was the Aligarh movement whose university shaped the destiny of the Muslims for many years. Tariq Hasan, a scion of one of the founding fathers of the Muslim university, has traced its history and role in the political development of India.   The Muslims were the ruling class for centuries, enjoying a dominant position despite their relatively small number. Their elite had almost complete monopoly of the top ranks in the army and administration. Their native language was the universal means of local concourse, adopted equally by the foreigners including the British for their transactions. Their superior status was threatened after the take-over by the British. Their advantage in the government was eroded when Persian was replaced as the official language.   Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, a great statesman, realized that his co-religionists, merely learning Islamic scriptures in the indigenous madrassas. would not be able to compete against modern educated Indians. Being a forward looking leader of the community and being dedicated to the cause of education, he established the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College (later converted into an university) at Aligarh to provide the benefits of modern education mainly to the Muslim masses. Sir Syed did not exclude the other communities from his College because he was passionately committed to Hindu-Muslim unity.   Initially Sir Syed was closely allied with the leaders of the nationalist movement but he feared that the Congress demands for representative government and civil service examinations in India would adversely affect the Muslims who would not be able to hold their own against the Hindus in the system that was being demanded. He then adopted the path of separatism and was increasingly ...

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