- Apr 17, 2009
Food for thought.You say Ramadan, I say Ramzan
But the call to scrub all traces of Saudi Islam in the name of 'Indianness' is another kind of intolerance.
On June 30, the first day of Ramadan, my Facebook wall turned into a collage of pictures, graphics and status messages announcing the beginning of the Muslim holy month. The message "Ramadan Mubarak", written calligraphically against a backdrop of a minaret or a crescent or a pack of dates, was shared by several of my friends belonging to varied faiths and living in different parts of the world, including India.
Hold on, how can someone living in India, and being Indian, ever say "Ramadan"? That was a point raised by one Facebook friend (not real-life friend), when she posted, "Aap sabhi ko Ramadhan, Ramadan nahi — sirf saada, sachcha, hindustani 'Ramzan Mubarak' !" In English, she meant, "Wish you all not Ramadan, but only simple, true Indian Ramzan Mubarak'. She later even suggested that those who prefer "d" over "z" are followers of "Saudi Islam", and that choosing "Ramadan" over "Ramzan" is not just a spelling preference but a "political decision" of favouring Arabs over Persians!
Despite making her repulsion to "Ramadan" clear in her wall post, many people still wished her "Ramadan Mubarak" in their comments.
Ramadan is an Arabic word, and is pronounced with a "d", not a "z". But in Persian or Urdu, the "z" replaces the "d". American and British English use Ramadan, while English-language dailies in India use both spellings. In India, most people say Ramzan when they speak Urdu/ Hindi, but many now prefer to use Ramadan at least when speaking in English. It's a trend that has worried several "left-liberal" Muslims who "fear" the "Saudisation" or "Arabisation" or "Wahabisation" of Indian Muslims. It's not uncommon to see such Muslims declaring their allegiance to "INDIAN ISLAM" (yes, written in all caps) on their Twitter bios. It's also not uncommon to see followers of "Indian Islam" rebuking fellow Indian Muslims for saying "Allah hafiz" instead of "Khuda Hafiz", and for breaking their fast in "Ramadan", not "Ramzan".
When "Indian Islam" followers rebuke Indian Muslims for "digressing" from their so-called version of the faith, they are no different from Hindu fundamentalists who demand that "Indian culture" be followed in our arts, and from the moral police who manhandle lovers for public displays of affection on Valentine's Day. These examples may seem unrelated but have a singular theme: intolerance of everything perceived to be not "Indian".
Who decides what is Indian? And could someone please define "Indian Islam"? Surely, Indian Muslims are as diverse as India itself, so shouldn't there be a "Tamil Islam", a "Bihari Islam", a "Kashmiri Islam", etc? Perhaps there are as many versions of Islam as there are varieties of biriyani cooked across India? Some followers of "Indian Islam" suggest that the Sufi branch of the religion, which emerged in faraway Turkey but found many takers in the subcontinent, is the only "peaceful" form of Islam. Those who don't follow Sufi/ Barelvi branches are dubbed "Arabised", "puritanical", "Wahabi" and certainly not followers of "Indian Islam".
As unclear as "Indian Islam" followers are about what they believe in, they are absolutely certain about what they do not believe in. Anything that is Arab, and so their nit-picking of "Allah Hafiz" and "Ramadan". They conveniently forget Islam first came to India through Arab traders who arrived on Kerala's shores. Those were peaceful chaps, unlike the marauding armies that had come from Central Asia and spoke Persian, the preferred language of the "Indian Islam" followers.
But it's not history the "Indian Islam" followers are worried about, it's the current "Arab-Saudi-Wahabi" influence that has them worked up. Sure, the Arab world is in turmoil, with crises in Iraq, Syria and Palestine nearing no end. Sure, there is the ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hamas, all Arab gun-toting militants who, by the way, kill hapless Arab civilians. But there is also the peaceful United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman — countries that host more foreigners than their own nationals, and have temples and churches along with mosques. Does not that speak of Arab tolerance? As for Saudi Arabia, it is intolerant of all faiths except Sunni Islam, but the kingdom hosts people of several nationalities. There are more Indian expatriates in that country than elsewhere, and many of them are not Muslim.
So, let's not, in an attempt to prove our patriotism and secularism, run down the Arabs and Indian Muslims who prefer Arabic over Persian, or who don't visit Sufi shrines. If "Indian Islam" followers think their anti-Arab, pro-Sufi stance makes them more secular and patriotic in the eyes of non-Muslim Indians, they are wrong. Almost all my Hindu friends have wished me "Ramadan Mubarak", and are not bothered about my preference of "Ramadan" over "Ramzan". In fact, since "Ramadan" is used by Westerners too, many young people think the term is "cooler" than "Ramzan". Their preference has nothing to do with Arabic vs Persian/ Urdu.
In the end, it's about the freedom of choosing to speak, to spell a word whatever way you want. And in democratic India, there can be no place for intolerance against exercising such freedoms. By the way, I say "Khuda Hafiz" and "Ramadan Mubarak". So, am I a follower of "Indian Islam" or "Saudi Islam"? Let's free the Indian Muslim of such unnecessary questions.
You say Ramadan, I say Ramzan | The Indian Express | Page 99
However, it is more of raising a storm in a teacup.
There is nothing like 'Saudi Islam' or 'Indian Islam'. There is simply 'Islam'
What, however is there, is 'Indian Muslim' and 'Saudi Muslim' that is just to finetune the identity and nothing more.
Yet, if Urdu is taken by the Muslims to be the language of the subcontinental Muslim, then it is 'Ramazan' and not 'Ramadan'.
However, if one feels closer to the Saudi genes and not the sub continental genes, then is equally fine.
Here is the other side of the argument
An interesting commentary.Allah Hafiz vs. Khuda Hafiz
By Almas Kiran Shamim,
I am a Muslim and I am an Indian. I was born and brought up in this country, speaking Urdu/Hindi and using terms like 'Namaaz'* and 'Roza'**. I have no desire to suddenly change my language because 'some' people find it inappropriate. I absolutely hate the de-Indianization of Indian Muslims, saying, for example, "Ramadan Kareem" instead of "Ramzaan Mubarak", and "salaat" instead of "namaaz."
Today, someone told me that 'Khuda hafiz'*** is not the correct word to be used, and we should rather say 'Allah hafiz'. The reason given was that "Parsis also use Khuda hafiz". I have heard the same ridiculous notion earlier as well. I am very sure that a lot of people reading this also have similar views. In any case, I make it clear to anyone and everyone reading this post, that I, Almas, will not stop saying 'Khuda hafiz'.
Firstly, for the benefit of the readers, 'Khuda' is a word incorporated into Urdu from Persian (like many other Urdu words). If you do a thorough search, you will find that the word 'Khuda' has a very elaborate meaning – from 'the powerful one' to 'the one to whom sacrifices are offered'. To keep it simple, we shall use the commonest meaning for which the term 'Khuda' is used, i.e., 'God'.
When I say Khuda, I mean my God, my Creator, the One to whom I shall return. When I say Khuda, I mean my Allah. However, obviously, not everyone in the world speaks Urdu, and not everyone in the world calls Allah 'Khuda.' Just like not everyone in the world speaks English, not everyone in the world would call Allah 'God'. However, I am not 'everyone in the world', and I do call my God 'Khuda'. It doesn't matter to me who uses this word for what other purposes. There are people who say that 'Khuda' should not be used because a lot of other people use this term for their God.
Urdu is a language, so is Persian, and anyone who speaks in this language can use 'Khuda' for his God. A Christian from Pakistan can use 'Khuda', a Zoroastrian from Iran can use 'Khuda'. This, by no means, implies that a Muslim from either Pakistan or Iran cannot use 'Khuda'.
When you say that 'Khuda' can also mean the Christian God or the Parsi God or even the Sikh or Hindu God, you are actually trying to say that there IS a Christian God, a Parsi God, a Sikh God, a Hindu God besides a Muslim God Allah.
Tell me, is this what you believe in?
Does this make you a Muslim?
Tell me, what is the most important thing to be a Muslim?
The belief in one God.
La ilaha illallah.
There is no God but Allah.
So, when anyone says 'God', what should come to your mind?
Allah, because who is Allah but Allah?
There is one God who created us all, who provides for us all, whether we be Muslim or Hindu or Parsi or whatever. Then what exactly do you mean when you say that 'so and so people also call their God 'Khuda'?
Do you realize that a Christian Arab also uses the word 'Allah' but for him Allah is the father of Jesus. So, now, shouldn't I stop using the term 'Allah' too? Do you realize that when Huzur (Salallaho alaihe wasallam) became a Prophet, Arabs belonging to the Jahiliya also worshipped Allah, only that they also worshipped Uzza, Lat, and Manat? So, doesn't this also mean that I should stop using 'Allah'?
A lot of Non-Muslims believe that Allah is some 'other' God, i.e, a God other than their own God. So, doesn't 'Allah' too conjure images other than what we, as Muslims, know 'Allah' means? Now, if 'Allah' despite being used by other sects means Allah then I am sure 'Khuda' too can mean 'Allah' for me.
When a Christian says 'Khuda hafiz', he might be leaving you in the protection of God the Father. However, when I, or any other Muslim, say 'Khuda hafiz', we are leaving you in the protection of Al-Ilah – The God.
There are definitely reasons why you can tell me to use 'Allah hafiz' instead of 'Khuda hafiz'. The best being that Allah calls Himself Allah in the Qur'an. Also, that saying the 'word' Allah itself brings blessings and that it binds the Ummati in a common thread. If you give me these reasons I will agree with you. However, if you give me the stupid reason that a Parsi also calls God 'khuda' than you are going to get a piece of my mind.
Besides, Allah created us all differently – there are Muslims with golden hair and blue eyes, Muslims with black skin and curly hair and Muslims with brown skin and black eyes. We eat different food, speak different languages and have different cultures. We are united in our belief and our belief doesn't include us becoming Arabs. No, I don't mean that 'Allah' is for Arabs alone. What I mean is that this sudden need among Indian Muslims to switch over from 'namaaz' to 'salaah' and the like, and also a sudden defilement of 'Khuda hafiz', have all arisen (I believe) from that same misconception that Muslim and Arab is synonymous.
It is NOT.
I live in Kerala (at present) and the Muslims here use the term 'Niskkaram' or 'Namaskkaram' for 'Namaaz' / 'Salaah'. Yet, I don't find huge forums on the Internet debating the usage of the term. Nor do I find Keralite Muslims with any sense of shame in their usage of a word that is well known to have Hindu origins (if I can call them that) to refer to the second pillar of Islam. Yet, 'namaaz', 'roza', and 'khuda' are so vehemently opposed. The only explanation that I can find for this absurd phenomenon is the huge population of Hindi/Urdu Muslims.
Keralite Muslims form a small population and their 'terms' are not so apparent to the larger Muslim world, nor are they a threat. Urdu/Hindi Muslims are a huge group of people and since we have become part of a global community the Urdu/ Hindi Muslim 'terms' have somehow stood as competitors to their 'Arabic' counterparts.
With an increasing Western Muslim population, due to an unprecedented rise in reversions, Arabic in its chaste form is being embraced as the sole language of Islam.
In such a scenario, naturally, the older Indian/Pakistani Muslims who use Urdu/Hindi in its various forms, present the single largest 'alienation'. Thus, there is this need to extol the usage of 'Arabic' terms, or rather deprecate the usage of Urdu/Hindi terms that the larger Muslim World cannot understand.
I feel that this is ridiculous. Trust me, my God can understand all the languages he created. He really does. The need to de-Indianize us (Urdu/Hindi Muslims) stems from the belief that how can anything Muslim be non-Arab? It is very similar to the Urdu/Hindi Muslim belief that how can anything Muslim be non-Urdu/Hindi (within India)?
Since most Muslims in India know one or the other form of Urdu/Hindi, even if their mother tongue is something totally different (for example, Tamil), there is a common belief that all Indian Muslims speak Urdu. This is not true. I know Keralite Muslims who don't know the 'alif' of Urdu and yet they are beautiful Muslims.
We need to realize that the pulse of the Ummati, the golden thread that binds us as Muslims, is our belief and not our language. We need to understand that 'your God and my God and his God and her God and that God and this God and their God' is for people who believe that there can possibly be more than one God.
What makes us Muslims is our proclamation: "There is One God."
Now, whether I call him God, or 'Rabb' or 'Khuda' or 'Bhagwaan' or 'Maalik' or 'Parwar dighaar', is not of as much importance as that I call Him and Him alone.
There is only One who can possibly be God
Him – Al-Ilah – The God
Wahadahu la shareek
*Regular prayers that Muslims are supposed to do five times a day
*** A common term used by Indian Muslims to say 'farwell' .
Almas is a medical student in Kerala and blogs at JaLpArI - tHe MeRmAiD
Allah Hafiz vs. Khuda Hafiz | TwoCircles.net