Friday, March 18, 2011

Synthetic Pipedream

Synthetic Pipedream: "

If you look at Dara Shikoh’s life, it’s entirely clear why he is rightly held up as a beacon of Hindu-Muslim synthesis (sic). Equally, if you look at Dara Shikoh’s life, it’s entirely as clear why this synthesis is an impossibility. A basic question to set the ball rolling: who can show me exactly one other person in the 150+ years of uninterrupted Mughal rule who even attempted to do what Dara Shikoh did? And no, Akbar was not a “synthesizer” in the strict sense of the word: he was merely less Islamic than the rest. His absolute and unchallenged power allowed him enough leisure to indulge his philosophical and religious fantasies. This is not to deny any of his liberal policies—abolition of Jaziya and the rest—but they need to be put in perspective: because your WC is made of gold, you can’t have your dinner sitting on it. Dara Shikoh was the only Mughal who did that and paid for it dearly, brutally, humiliatingly. The reason is precisely because of…oh well, let’s let the evidence speak :

…the villainous ways of Dara Shukoh—what became the chief cause of Aurangzeb’s wrath was the inclination of his heart to the principles (or practices] of the Hindus and the spreading of disregard of Islamic religious prohibitions (Ibahat and Ilhad). Therefore, considering it necessary to defend the faith and the State, Aurangzeb determined to go to Shah Jahan… 1

Aurangzeb was perfectly justified in murdering Dara Shikoh because he stuck to Islam to the last alphabet. Dara was the black sheep, the apostate royale. Which is why the entire Ulema threw its weight behind Aurangzeb against the rightful heir—and Shahjahan’s favorite son—of the Mughal empire. As evidence shows, Dara’s dastardly death actually underscores the true reason why the Hindu-Muslim synthesis can’t be achieved.

Synthesis—in this context, of the religious sort—is by definition give and take. Hinduism is by definition an inclusive religion. Most Hindus won’t have a problem accepting Muhammad as say, a Guru or Sant or Mahatma. But the record on the other side reveals that the ultimate goal of Islam is to make the earth Dar-ul-Islam. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible to understand why Dara was killed or the fact that Dara Shikoh was an apostate to begin with given that Islam forbids Muslims from reading literature of other religions and recommends death as punishment for such an act. He knew Sanskrit, was learned in various Hindu religious texts in the original and had even translated the Upanishads into the Persian. And he could do all this because he had immunity from the Ulema’s wrath being the designated crown prince at one time. What are the odds that an ordinary Muslim could do this and hope to remain alive in those times?

This is the glaring, fundamental contradiction that prevents accomplishing the said synthesis.

It’s curious how those who use Dara’s example of an “India that could have been” never pause and think about the magnanimity of hundreds of Hindu kings who allowed their Muslim subjects to practice Islam without fear, favor or state interference. This despite knowing that kings of their religion had vandalized temples, converted, and killed Hindus. This was the India that actually was. Synthesis in every sense of the word was practiced by Hindu rulers. Somebody needs to show us exactly one counterpart in a Muslim king. Again, if you hold Akbar as an example, here’s what will ensue: for all his liberal policies, Akbar was careful not to seriously antagonize the Ulema. Granted that he allowed his numerous Hindu wives practice Hinduism but why did only a Jahangir become his successor? And what about his other children who all became Muslims despite being born to Hindu mothers? You can’t call this synthesis: partial synthesis is no synthesis.

Here’s the thing—if the Hindu-Muslim synthesis could have happened, it would’ve already happened in some form or the other. 800 years is a long time for something like that to not have happened. Think about it.