Blind Faith

Your query asking for my views on “how intelligent humans can keep their mind hostage to one book”, is a hard one. I think it begins with the uncomfortable eternal question “What is the purpose of your life”? – which does not have a straight answer.

I think that we tend to find an easy way out of any difficulty, laziness perhaps comes naturally to us. Not able to answer it ourselves, we ask a Religious Guru for guidance, subordinating our thinking capability to him. We are now at peace, so-and-so great man said this—, seems to satisfy us. We feel assured that strict following will ensure Moksha, Nirvana or heaven or 72 virgins or whatever in afterlife.

Religious and political leaders take full advantage of this human weakness and prescribe their book to us advising us to follow it faithfully to the letter. It is still easier if this belief is instilled in our minds since early childhood.

We also know by experience that ‘drill’ is very helpful. The endless marching and parades by military men serves the purpose to making blind obedience of instructions our second nature. The religious leaders prescribe daily prayer routines, fasts, penances, pilgrimage to achieve complete domination of our minds. It is a Win-win situation both are now happy and that is why all religions succeed in getting believers in their fold.

Ghalib saw through this 200 years ago,

हम को मालूम है जन्नत की हक़ीक़त लेकिन,

दिल के बहलाने को ‘ग़ालिब’ ये ख्याल अच्छा है –


–       Pratap Srivastava

Tradition or Reform ?

The dilemma between reform and tradition is always staring at us. Urdu poet Majaz, whose 105th birthday was observed a few days ago, wrote a Ghazal in simple language, which comes to my mind,

जिगर और दिल को बचाना भी है
नज़र आप ही से मिलाना भी है

महब्बत का हर भेद पाना भी है
मगर अपना दामन बचाना भी है

ये दुनिया ये उक़्बा कहाँ जाइये
कहीं अह्ले -दिल का ठिकाना भी है?

मुझे आज साहिल पे रोने भी दो
कि तूफ़ान में मुस्कुराना भी है

ज़माने से आगे तो बढ़िये ‘मजाज़’
ज़माने को आगे बढ़ाना भी है

Note: Uqba = the other world

The last couplet sums it up nicely.


–       Pratap Srivastava

Agricultural Subsidies

I would suggest reading Sharad Joshi of Shetkari Sangathan on the subject. His “Visionaries of Bharat” gives a summary.


He is advocating elimination of all subsidies and controls. I take it that restricting the sale price of agricultural produce is punishing the farmer, so it is a negative subsidy. Any restriction in movement or marketing of agricultural produce would be ‘negative subsidy’ for the farmer. Whatever little subsidy he gets by controls on the cost of inputs is more than negated by these restrictions. Sharad Joshi advocates leaving the prices to market forces for fertilisers as well as the produce.

  • Pratap Srivastava –  12th July 2015

Matters of faith, peace and war

Criticism of Tarek Fateh’s book “The tragic Illusion of an Islamic State” appeared in The Hindu in May 2015, suggesting that Fateh was unnecessarily angry and advocated a patient approach.

My reaction is given below:

The column by Ziya Us Salam is reassuring on the surface but it makes disappointing reading for me. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan’s and Ziya Us Salam’s belief that Islam stands for peace and that Jihad is essentially a peaceful struggle does not help, if more and more Muslims around the world are being successfully persuaded to accept the contrary Saudi sponsored Wahabi teachings.

The author goes on to talk about ‘the blatant contradiction’ between the principle as laid down in the Quran and practice as occurring in ‘latter-day Muslim history’. These contradictions exist within the Quran, Hadith and Sharia itself and cannot be dismissed as aberrations due to degeneration over time. Islamic thinkers are doing a disservice to their community and the world by trivialising the dangers due to the exclusivist ideas and violent prescriptions of the Wahabi doctrine. Pretending that they are insignificant is like the ostrich burying its head in sand, it does not work. One has to confront ones demons and exorcise them, and that is what Tarek Fateh seems to be asking for. Unfortunately, the author terms it as ‘unprovoked aggression’ and chooses not to address the questions raised by Tarek Fateh.

However, the author has rightly summarised the problem as that of contradiction between ‘principle’ and ‘practice’. Logically, ‘Principle’ holds for all time while ‘Practice’ has to be changed as and when required to keep it in tune with the principle. The prescriptions laid down in the early days of Islam appear to need revision in order to meet its principles, as the social environment is now different. Muslim society should find the ways and means to do so. Solutions have been found in the past; Sufi thought is a shining example where love has been recognised as a most powerful force.

  • Pratap Srivastava

31 May 2015

The Task of Reform in Islamic Practice

Farkhunda Malikzada was a 27-year-old Afghan woman who was publicly slain and beaten by a mob in Kabul on March 19, 2015. A large crowd formed in the streets around Farkhunda when accusers began yelling, announcing her alleged crimes to the public. They claimed that she had burned the Quran, and for that, her accusers announced that she must be killed.

“In “Madd o Jazr-e-Islam (Ebb and Tide of Islam)”, an epic poem written in 1876, Hali speaks of these religious marauders, found in all times and places. He rejects their authority to speak on matters of religion. In the very first issue of his journal, Al-Hilal (1912), Maulana Azad also writes on these so-called keepers of religion: “It is a strange phenomenon that the very same priests who at the birth of new faith are agents of uplift and reform, become the instruments of vice and depravity once the movement has peaked. Rarely has any group caused as much harm to a religion as its own perpetrators and servants… Since the beginning of its history, Islam has been infested by the superstition and communalism of this group. Islam’s great achievement was to rid the world of their domination… But much to the world’s surprise, in a very short while, Islam played right back into their hands.”

“As Muslims, we need to heed such voices of sanity. These voices are among us; we don’t have to look towards the Western world. They are being raised in Afghanistan, in South Asia and West Asia. We need to rage against those who deliberately kill the spirit of a religion that was revealed to humanity, both women and men, as “rahmat” and “rahmaniyat”. Farkhunda is dead. Long live Farkhunda.”

The task of reform in Islam is many times more difficult and complex than it is for reform in Hinduism or Christianity, though I fully agree that the fundamentalists of all religions are badly wanting in compassion.

Islamic thought has a basic exclusivist trait which makes the task of accommodating other faiths and internal differences within the community an uphill task. One does not hear of many ‘Farkhunda’ stories. Not that it cannot be done; the Nawabs of Awadh went to great lengths in accommodating local sensitivities and succeeded in establishing unparalleled communal harmony. As a result, the Mutiny in Awadh took another full year to quell even after the rest of India had capitulated to the British forces. Some days ago, in response to another post of Sri Aniruddh Mithal, I had made some observations, which I am putting forth again for consideration.

For full appreciation, we must examine the issue from the perspective of the silent Muslim majority as well. The average common Muslim is mainly concerned with earning his living and looking after his family and their future. He has children to feed, clothe, educate; and then to arrange for their marriages to set them up independently. For this he has to conform to the norms of his society. While he does not want to antagonise the non-Muslims in his social context, he feels he cannot go against the norms laid down by the leaders of his society. On the other hand, we want him to raise the banner of revolt against the Mullahs and ask for changes in the social restrictions laid down by the Islamic texts.

Islam, as perceived and interpreted by most of its followers, does not permit any criticism of the prophet, his teachings and the holy texts. It does not permit anyone to leave the fold. Blasphemy and Apostasy are punishable by death in Islamic countries and strong social ostracisation in other Muslim societies. They are considered as crimes against God. Blasphemy by non-Muslims also attracts the same punishment. The stranglehold of Wahhabi ideas on the Muslim society is very strong. Dissent does not attract such extreme reactions in the case of Hindus or the Western world and hence it is not so difficult to raise ones voice against the existing practices there, but it calls for a lot of courage and sacrifice in the case of Muslims. The average Muslim is more of a victim than a religious crusader. ‘Meer’ says,

नाहक़ हम मजबूरों पर यह तोहमत है मुख्तारी की,
चाहते हैं सो आप करें हैं हमको अबस बदनाम किया –

‘Meer’ was of course different and he could have his say, and the times were also different. So he goes on to say,

‘मीर’ के दीन-ओ-मज़हब का अब पूछते क्या हो उन ने तो,
कश्का खेंचा, दैर में बैठा, कबका तर्क इस्लाम किया –

Religions and political ideas which incorporate violence as justified instruments of persuasion and propagation cannot be opposed easily as has been seen in Nazi Germany, communist regimes all over the world and Khalistan movement at home. So while we can no doubt exhort the silent majority of Muslims to rise up in rebellion, we have to be mindful of their difficulties. The stimulus for reforms has to come from within and only then it will be effective. This is only one half of the story.

Now if we come to the actions of the Western nations (led by the United States of America aided and abetted by all countries of Western Europe), they were not under any such pressure. Wahhabi Islam is propagated and financially supported by Saudi Arabia, a regime strongly supported and backed by the West. Why cannot these sermons by Western thinkers be delivered there? President Obama has also admitted that the Western interventions in Iraq have spawned ISIS. The Taliban were promoted by CIA. Afghanistan is in ruins today courtesy the US intervention otherwise at worse it would have been a country under Russian influence. ISIS is said to be manned substantially by Chechnian rebels, again nurtured by USA. Is it wise to humiliate nations and then expect them to be your loyal supporters? Are all the actions of Israel in Gaza and Palestine justified? Why is no advice being doled out there? Will it be wrong to conclude that the West on one hand expects the Muslims to take action to contain and eliminate their fundamentalist hardliners and on the other hand actively supports regimes and organisations who lead them?

Religion has acquired an undue influence in politics over the last hundred years and it is time the State asserts its supremacy. The State has to be staunchly and firmly secular.

We have to simultaneously call for changes in Western attitudes as well otherwise we all know that “ पर उपदेस कुशल बहुतेरे” .

– Pratap Srivastava
23rd May 2015

नोटबंदी –

नए नोट लेने की लाइन में खड़े खड़े इस ग़ज़ल का ख्याल पैदा हुआ –

किसलिए इतने इन्तिशार में हैं
मुस्कराइए, आप क़तार में हैं

वायदों से तो भर गयी झोली,
आप अब तक भी इंतज़ार में हैं

बनते-बनते ही अब बनेगा मुल्क,
लोग तो पूरे एतबार में हैं

दाग़ काला लगा के उंगली पर,
गिनते हमको कसूरवार में हैं

चाहतें मुख़्तसर करें साहेब,
घडियां कितनी अभी बहार में हैं

– प्रताप श्रीवास्तव – 15-11-2016
इन्तशार – बेचैनी, मुख़्तसर – छोटा, कम


अकेलेपन से जूझती एक कविता और एक ग़ज़ल:-

ख्वाब जो देखे थे, तुमने और मैंने,

आधे मेरे, आधे तेरे,

गीत जो गाये थे, मिल कर अकेले में,

आधे मेरे, आधे तेरे,

यादों से चल कर, आँखों से उतरे हैं,

झिलमिल सितारों से, पलकों पे ठहरे हैं,

आधे बिखरे, आधे पूरे –

अपनी कहानी को, लिखने मैं बैठा हूँ,

बोल हैं मेरे, सुर हैं तेरे,

कहने कुछ जाता हूँ, कहला कुछ देती हो,

किस्से में मेरे, सपने तेरे –

तस्वीर मेरी है, मैंने बनाई है,

रेखाएं मेरी पर रंग तेरे,

शीशे में चेहरे को, मैं देखता हूँ,

शक्ल तो मेरी है, अक्स तेरे –

सोच लेता हूँ, कि साथ न छूटा है,

साँसों के ये तार,

आधे मेरे, आधे तेरे –

  • २४ नवम्बर २०१५


और ग़ज़ल:-

मिली न हमको सही राहगुज़र, क्या कहिये

न सीख पाए हम जीने का हुनर, क्या कहिये

तमाम रात सजाते रहे सपनों के महल,

है डर कि अब तो है होने को सहर, क्या कहिये

है बोझ अनकही बातों का मेरे सीने पर,

सहूँगा सब, है मगर चाक जिगर, क्या कहिये

खिला है चाहती फिर आज वो अपनी बगिया,

कहाँ से लाऊं मैं अब उनकी नज़र, क्या कहिये

वो मुस्करा के मुझसे खैरबाद कह के गया,

रहा ख़ामोश मैं, है वक़्त-ए-सफ़र, क्या कहिये

  • प्रताप श्रीवास्तव

My stray musings— This blog is written with my family and immediate circle of friends as intended readership, so everyone may not connect with some of the events or places described; not that I have any objections to others reading it. In fact, they are most welcome–