The first of Muharram marks the beginning of the new Islamic, or Hijra year. It also points to one of the most significant events in the Islamic history, i.e., the Hijra (Divinely ordained migration) of Muhammad the Prophet of Islam, from Makkah to Madeenah, nearly 1439 years ago.The Islamic calendar, which is based purely on lunar cycles, was introduced in 638 Christian Era (CE) by Umar ibn Al Khattab, a close companion of the Noble Prophet and the second Caliph of Islam. He did it in an attempt to rationalize the various, at times conflicting, dating systems used during his time. Umar consulted his advisers on the starting date of the new Muslim chronology. It was finally agreed that the most appropriate reference point for the Islamic calendar was the Hijra. The actual starting date for the calendar was chosen (on the basis of purely lunar years, counting backwards) to be the first day of Muharram, the first month of the year of the Hijra.
The Islamic calendar is usually abbreviated AH in Western languages from the Latinized Anno Hegirae. Muharram 1, 1 AH, corresponds to July 15, 622CE. The Hijra is the central historical event of early Islam. It led to the foundation of the first Muslim city-state, a turning point in Islamic and world history.To Muslims, the Hijra calendar is not just a sentimental system of time reckoning and dating important religious events, e.g. fasting and Hajj. It has a much deeper religious and historical significance.
As an Islamic scholar wrote on the advent of the 15th century of the Hijra calendar, “It (the advent of the 15th century) is indeed a unique occasion to ponder that the Islamic Era did not start with the victories of Islamic wars, nor with the birth or death of the Prophet nor even with the Revelation of the Holy Quran itself. It starts with Hijra, or the sacrifice for the cause of Truth and for the preservation of the Revelation. It was a divinely inspired selection. Almighty Allah wanted to teach man that struggle between Truth and Evil is eternal!”
The Islamic year reminds Muslims every year not of the pomp and glory of Islam but of its sacrifice, and prepares them to do the same. All the events of Islamic history, especially those which took place during the life of the Prophet and afterwards, are quoted in the Hijra calendar era. But our calculations in the Gregorian calendar keep us away from those events and happenings, which are pregnant with admonitory lessons and instructions. And this chronological study is possible only by adopting the Hijra calendar to indicate the year and the lunar month in line with our cherished traditions.
It is considered a divine command to use Hijra calendar with 12 (purely) lunar months without intercalation, as evident from the following verses of the Noble Quran (which mean): “They ask you [O Muhammad] about the new moons. Say, ‘They are measurements of time for the people and for Hajj’…” [Quran 2:189] Allah Almighty also says (what means): “Indeed, the number of months with Allah is twelve [lunar] months in the register of Allah [from] the day He created the heavens and the earth; of these, four are sacred. That is the correct religion, so do not wrong yourselves during them. And fight against the disbelievers collectively as they fight against you collectively. And know that Allah is with the righteous [who fear Him]. Indeed, the postponing [of restriction within sacred months] is an increase in disbelief by which those who have disbelieved are led [further] astray. They make it lawful one year and unlawful another year to correspond to the number made unlawful by Allah and [thus] make lawful what Allah has made unlawful. Made pleasing to them is the evil of their deeds; and Allah does not guide the disbelieving people.” [Quran 9:36-37]
Reversing the history
In a rare move, the Jammu Municipal Corporation (JMC) has passed a resolution to declare the birth anniversary of Dogra monarch Maharaja Hari Singh on September 23 as State holiday, days after the State paid tributes to people killed during his rule in 1931 in the Valley. Jammu-based BJP corporator Narotam Sharma moved the resolution on Thursday. It was passed without any opposition from the Congress or independent candidates in the general house meeting, where out of 75 corporators BJP has 43 members. The resolution has been sent to Governor Satya Pal Malik for his consent. The development is shocking to vast majority of the people of the state who know Hari Singh historically a villain. The 101 years (1846 to 1947) of Dogra rule is a story of harassment, torture, persecution, neglect and denial of rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was against this backdrop that a political movement was launched against Hari Singh in 1931. Initially, it was the Muslim leadership of the time that set off the fuse against Hari Singh’s autocratic rule. As the movement picked up, prominent Pandit leaders too joined it, making it all-inclusive. It was at the persistence of some Pandit leaders, mainly Prem Nath Bazaz, that Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah broke away from Muslim Conference to form National Conference in 1938. Abdullah, as the history says, did it to accommodate non-Muslims in the movement against Hari Singh. Singh’s response was too oppressive. Over 20 persons were shot dead by Singh’s forces on July 13, 1931 outside the Srinagar central jail. Since then, July 13 has become a reference point in the struggle and it has all along been observed by the people of the state as government holiday. Now regarding the same person, who presided over the July 13 massacre and other voluminous atrocities on the people of the state, as the hero of the state is quite reversal of the history. Ironically, the JMC’s move comes days after the State observed a holiday and paid tributes to J&K’s 22 martrys who fell to the bullets in Srinagar on July 13, 1931 to the Maharaja’s forces. Congress leader Vikramaditya Singh was first to stoke a controversy. He tweeted that “plunder, loot and rape by criminals and jail breakers in Srinagar city was put to an end in 1931”. “It is a blot on J&K that this is glorified as State Martyrs Day,” he added.
The discreet silence by NC and PDP leadership, the two dominant political voices in Kashmir, is quite intriguing. They are more concerned about their power than genuine historical issues. They owe an explanation as what could be the status of July 13 martyrs now on. The worst kind of reversal of history surely entails a political cost which the political parties of Kashmir shall have to pay. In 2017, Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council passed a resolution, almost unanimously, to observe Hari Singh’s birthday. One grandson of Hari Singh (Ajatshatru Singh—who is in BJP) moved the resolution, and other grandson—Vikramaditya (who was in PDP) supported it. In a house of 34 members (then), BJP had just 8 members. But the resolution was passed without any resistance from the PDP (which had 11 members), NC (with eight members) and the Congress (which had seven members). National Conference has more responsibility at this juncture. The NC considers itself as the treasurer of Kashmir’s contemporary history. It claims that the entire era from 1931 till 1947 belonged to it. The NC founder Sheikh Abdullah led a heroic battle against the autocratic rule of Hari Singh which ultimately saw the end in 1947. The Jammu MC’s resolution negates all the history. It also disapproves the role of Abdullah and puts him in a villainous shadow as against Hari Singh. The party needs to take a strong stand against any such move and ensure that this suicidal reversal of history is stopped.
A familiar but unhappy trend is again affecting the relations between India and Pakistan, and the leadership of both the countries appears to be more interested in domestic posturing than genuinely seeking to engage with each other. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling on Indian prisoner in Pakistan, Kulbhushan Jadhav, is being used as a ruse to show each other down by Islamabad and New Delhi.
The ICJ, on Wednesday, granted some relief to Jadhav by suspending his death sentence and asking Pakistan to review the case and grant government of India consular access to the accused. Jadhav is facing death penalty in Pakistan. A former officer of Indian Navy, he was arrested by Pakistan in troubled Balochistan in 2016 on accusations of “spying and terrorism”. A fake passport under an assumed Muslim name was recovered from him. Jadhav was sentenced to death by Pakistan’s military court in 2017. India rejected Pakistan’s accusations against Jadhav and moved to ICJ for his release. India said that Jadhav’s sentencing followed a “farcical trial”. New Delhi acknowledged that Jadhav was an Indian national, but said he had been kidnapped by Pakistani agents from Iran, where he had gone on a business trip after retiring from the Indian Navy. Pakistan, which has constantly accused India of supporting Baloch separatists, saw Jadhav’s capture as proof of India’s involvement in the unrest. Government of India also took exception to Islamabad’s not informing the Indian High Commission within stipulated time of Jadhav’s arrest.
Pakistan took three weeks to inform India of taking Jadhav into custody. India’s high commission in Islamabad had made requests to meet Jadhav but was eventually denied by Pakistan. In May 2017, India approached the ICJ, which restrained Pakistan from executing Jadhav till the adjudication of the case. While the ICJ put brakes on the death sentence of Jadhav and asked Pakistan to give him consular access, it, however, did not entertain Indian requests as well. India had requested to annul the military court verdict, retrial in a civilian court and release and safe passage of Jadhav.
The verdict has been claimed as victory by both the countries. No less than the Prime Ministers of the two countries gave public statements on the verdict. Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as “huge win” for India and said “truth and justice has prevailed”. Pakistan PM Imran Khan, for his part, tweeted: “Appreciate ICJ’s decision not to acquit, release & return Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav to India. He is guilty of crimes against the people of Pakistan. Pakistan shall proceed further as per law.”
The media and other state officials of both the countries also made much of how the two claimed victory. The United Nations’ principal judicial organ has given a ruling that favours neither side. It is the worst kind of immaturity that is being displayed on both the sides. Wisdom has it that, both, Islamabad and New Delhi should understand the gravity of the situation and instead of indulging in showdown against each other, they must engage diplomatically to resolve the problems affecting the bilateral relations. It is quite a sad commentary on the wisdom of Indian and Pakistani governments that they are following the street sentiment while formulating their relations. They must rise above the street mentality and move forward with maturity. Apart from Jadhav’s, the two neighbours have a host of other issues that have been marring their relations. They cannot live permanently with those problems. Those have to be addressed sooner or later. It would be in the best interests of the two countries to resort to a comprehensive dialogue process to resolve all the issues affecting their relations.
The Universal Declaration of Independence
About fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave to humanity a document, containing universal truths including those mentioned in The Declaration of Independence.This also was a declaration of independence, based on permanent values, but it was for the entire human race. It was a declaration of universal human rights and freedoms, of universal peace and security, of universal trust, of a universal code of ethics, of universal human dignity, of universal freedom of thought and expression. In short, it was a declaration of the universal brotherhood of humankind. This document is called the Qur’an. Can it serve as the constitution for entire humanity? Can it save humanity from the destruction that seems to be its destiny? It boldly proclaims that it can.Under our Prophet’s leadership the world was transformed, as people were given freedom to develop their human potential. Even today, historians and philosophers marvel at how the most backward and barbarous people became the most advanced, most civilized in such a short time. Yet, sadly enough, today, instead of being astonished, we are perplexed at how the succeeding Muslim generations came to lose that glory. They lost independent thought by self-concentrated individuals.
Over and over again, AllamaIqbal emphasizes the importance of independent thought. For example, he says:The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us( page 78). …The teaching of the Quran that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems (Page 134). …False reverence to past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedies for a people’s decay. ‘The verdict of history’, as a modern writer has happily put it, ‘is that worn-out ideas have never risen to power among a people who have worn them out.’ The only effective power, therefore, that counteracts the forces of decay in a people is the rearing of self-concentrated individuals. (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Page 120).
AllamaIqbal goes on to explain the meaning of “self-concentrated individuals.” Individuals must have freedom of thought to be able to develop the self. In a well-known couplet, he compares the “self” or “khudi” to unique pearl, urging individuals to focus on the development of “self” through freedom of thought, and not to destroy it by blind following:
“Taqlid se naakaaraanakarapnikhudiko
[Do not destroy your self by blind following. Protect it because it is a unique pearl.]
This can be elucidated by an example. While every tree is subjected to restrictions by nature, these restrictions are imposed to optimize the growth and development of a tree’s latent potential. The same principle can be applied to human society. And the application of this principle is what our Prophet (PBUH) accomplished in Medina. He implemented, in Medina, a socio-economic and political infrastructure within the boundaries of the Qur’anic principles. The Quran constitutionally protected the human rights and freedom of all people. Everyone was equal, including the Prophet (PBUH), before the law. Within these Qur’anic limits, human beings enjoyed full freedom of thought, which, in turn, gave human beings the opportunity to realize and nourish their God-given latent potential. Hence, the glory of Islam in its early years!
The system that can guarantee equal rights and freedoms for all human beings irrespective of race, color, language, ethnicity, etc. must be based on permanent values. Since human thinkers and philosophers, searching for permanent values, are limited by time and space, it becomes obvious they cannot find these except through trial and error. On the other hand, if we are able to structure our society based on the permanent values contained in the Quran, then humanity will not only be assured dignity and equality, but it will also be set free to realize its God-given potential, as it did 1400 years ago in the glorious days of early Islam. The challenge for us is to show the world that the Quran is the only book that contains the complete set of Permanent Values.