Guest Post by SUMBUL FARAH
The move from ‘Khuda Hafiz’ to ‘Allah Hafiz’, which Shireen Azam sees as a move towards Arabisation of subcontinental Islam is problematized by Nandagopal Menon when he questions if ‘Arabised’ Islam is an Islam ‘we do not like’. Menon’s argument provides some important ways of thinking about cultural assimilation, territorially bounded nationalisms and notions of piety central to Islam. However, it misses out on the important point that the project of ‘correcting’ belief is often premised on an exclusivist understanding of religious interpretation.
To emphasize the ‘correct’ usage might well in be accordance with Islamic notions of ‘islah’ and piety but unless we stop and question as to who is it that determines ‘correctness’ we risk aligning ourselves with the hegemonic narratives within Islam. The issue underlying the usage of ‘Khuda’ versus ‘Allah’ is not that the Indian version of Islam is somehow more desirable than an Arabised one owing to some notion of cultural nationalism, which is premised on modern nation-states; it is a questioning of the processes through which traditionally acceptable usages and idioms become marked out as ‘incorrect’ in the light of a hegemonic narrative. Particularly in the context of Islam, there is a tendency to seek a return to a supposedly ‘pure’ version of Islam, which in turn, means privileging the Arabian interpretation of Islamic beliefs and practices. Continue reading A God by Any Other Name: Sumbul Farah
Guest post by NANDAGOPAL R MENON
Some recent posts on Kafila have identified a “movement of sorts” in South Asian Islam – A Short Memoir On the Arabisation of Islam in India and The Sheepification of Bakistan
Named ‘Arabisation’, this is a “remarkably dispersed” and “subtle” movement most readily evident in certain changes in quotidian linguistic choices, for example, Khuda Hafiz and Ramazan has or is being replaced by Allah Hafiz and Ramadan. This linguistic shift from Farsi/Urdu to Arabic is taken to index a “great cultural battle” under way in South Asian Islam – one that attempts “to ‘correct’ Islam as Muslims in the subcontinent have understood, practiced and lived it, and instead replace it with an Islam which is uniform, seemingly universal and which need not have any affiliation with our cultural and local identities and beliefs”. That ‘Arabisation’ is not something innocuous or laudable is clear, for it “conveniently ignores” – or undermines? – Islam’s “age-old assimilation in the Indian sub-continent”. The following are some thoughts provoked on reading these posts. This is not meant as a coherent response to any of the posts, but just an unsystematic attempt to think through some of the assumptions that condition the creation of concepts like ‘Arabisation’ in public discourse. Continue reading The Islam we do not like: Nandagopal R Menon
This is a guest post by SHIREEN AZAM
A Pakistani writer Mina Malik Hasan recently wrote about the Arabisation of Islam in Pakistan, (The Sheepification of Bakistan), a movement of sorts which is transforming Islam in the Indian subcontinent by the day, even though it is remarkably dispersed and often subtle. The Arabisation of Islam seeks to “correct” Islam as Muslims in the subcontinent have understood, practiced and lived it, and instead replace it with an Islam which is uniform, seemingly universal and which need not have any affiliation with our cultural and local identities and beliefs. Having been a participant observer of this change in India, I wish to supplement Mallik’s experience in Pakistan with my own, in the form of a short memoir of the nearing extinction of the urdu phrase “Khuda Hafiz”, a customary way to bid goodbye, with the phrase “Allah Hafiz”. While both the phrases literally mean ‘May god keep you safe’, the reason for the shift was likely because of a lack of clarity in the particular god being invoked term by the term ‘Khuda’, since Khuda has Persian roots. If anything, “Khuda” speaks of Muslims’ age-old assimilation in the Indian subcontinent, something that ‘Arabisation’ of Islam would conveniently want to ignore, and is sadly becoming successful in. Continue reading A Short Memoir On the Arabisation of Islam in India: Shireen Azam