Allah Naam ki Siyasat: On political Islam in India

Hilal Ahmed’s bookwill go a long way in educating everyone about Islam’s values and vision.

Published : Feb 15, 2023 18:29 IST

Islam, whose 1.9 billion followers constitute the world’s second largest religious community, has a mystique as well as a mystery about it. Its core philosophy remains difficult to access for both followers as well as non-followers because of a lack of understanding of its key tenets, its history, and the complexity associated with its worldview encompassing the secular or non-religious affairs of the society and the individual.

The fact that almost all of its original sources are in Arabic and Persian acts as a formidable impediment to the acquisition of knowledge about Islam as a religion and as a way of life. Premchand once lamented that despite having lived with each other for more than a thousand years, Hindus and Muslims knew very little about each other’s religion and culture. He was of the view that unfamiliarity with each other was also a major factor in the growth of suspicion, animosity, and communal attitudes among both the communities.

Against this backdrop, it is a heartening development that Hilal Ahmed, Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, has come out with a book titled Allah Naam ki Siyasat (Politics of the name of Allah) in Hindi on the way political Islam exists in India and shapes contemporary politics as well as social, cultural, and political discourse.

The bane of Hindi in general is that social scientists who hail from the Hindi belt seldom write in Hindi and their works are mostly translated from English into Hindi. Ahmed is a welcome exception to this rule and his book will be accessible to all those who read Hindi. In today’s north India, all literate Hindus and Muslims read Hindi. Therefore, one can reasonably expect that this book will go a long way in educating Muslims as well non-Muslims about the nature of Islam, its core values, and social vision. This will help allay many a misunderstanding and pave the way for communal harmony and mutual respect.

A journey of self-exploration

In an autobiographical introduction, Hilal Ahmed undertakes a journey of self-exploration and tries to find an answer to the inevitable question of the true identity of a secular Muslim in the contemporary Indian society. His is an attempt to provide historical reference to three things: spiritual belief in the existence of an omnipotent Allah/God, belief in the Gandhian concept of ‘Sarva dharma sama bhava’ (equal treatment of all religions), and commitment to building an egalitarian sociality.

He gives a detailed autobiographical description of the kind of contradictions, dilemmas, and obstacles that a secular-minded, religious Muslim has to face in this self-exploratory journey. It’s a fascinating and eye-opening account and many a reader will be able to relate to the inner struggle that Ahmed had to wage on spiritual, emotional, ideological, and intellectual planes. On the basis of his reading of the Quran, he arrives at the conclusion that Allah is the name of infinite knowledge as He is omniscient and knows everything.

ALSO READ: Ekakini, an iconic Hindi work

The book has been planned in such a way that the reader becomes familiar with the fundamentals of Islam, the life of Prophet Muhammad, the distinctiveness of Indian Islam, and the lives of prominent Muslim intellectuals and political leaders who have made effective interventions in Indian politics, both before and after Independence. It has been divided into four sections.

Indian Islam and prominent Muslims

The first section is titled “Islam or Indian Islam? Debates and Issues” and has sub-sections such as “What is Islam? Religion or Politics?”, “Who was Prophet Muhammad? The founding and expansion of Islam”, “Prophet Muhammad and Politics: Theory of Islamic State System”, “What is Mosque”, “What is, after all, Indian Islam?” and “Who is Dalit-Pasmanda Muslim?” A close reading of this section will equip even those who had no prior knowledge and understanding of Islam with a good grasp of its true nature and the issues being faced by Indian Muslims.

The second section introduces and discusses the role of prominent Muslims such as Sayyid Ahmad Khan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Abu-Ala Maududi, and Muhammad Iqbal, thus familiarising the reader with pre-Independence Muslim politics and its key players. Without understanding this period of our history, it is not possible to understand how Muslim politics evolved and unfolded after the departure of the British from the subcontinent.

The third section deals with Indian Islam and its various interpretations, having sub-sections such as “Gandhi’s Muslims”, “Hindutva’s Muslims”, “Syed Shahabuddin’s Muslim Indians”, “Asghar Ali Engineer’s Proletarian Muslims” and “Mushir-ul-Hasan’s Secular Muslims”.

The fourth and last section is titled “Muslim Politics, Electoral Politics: An Alternative View” and discusses the question of Muslim political representation, the problem of proving one’s identity, and answering the question if one is a true Indian or a Muslim bigot. This section also offers a detailed analysis of communal violence and its legitimisation and the way politics has shaped up after 2019 in the specific context of Hindutva’s treatment of Muslims.

Ahmed has done a great service by writing this scholarly yet poignant book in Hindi as it offers a panoramic view of the past as well as present state of Muslim politics and the problems faced by Indian Muslims against the background of the rising strength of communal forces. One hopes more such books are written in Hindi and educate millions of Hindi-speaking people.

Kuldeep Kumar is a senior journalist who writes on politics and culture.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment