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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : Religious absolutism undermining the autonomy of the Indian Muslim


Source: The Hindu


  • Prelims: Current events of national importance(democracy, Uniform Civil Code (UCC), Minorities etc
  • Mains GS Paper I & II: Social empowerment, development and management of social sectors/services. Minorities and issues associated with them.



  • There is a growing tendency in India to increase the power of Muslim religious organizations for their tokenistic gesture.





  • Currently, only those communities notified under section 2(c) of the NCM Act, 1992, by the central government are regarded as minority.
  • Muslim minority(Census 2011): population of Muslims in India 2(fourteen point two)% of India’s population.


Minorities in India:

Constitutional Provisions for Minority:

Article 29:

  • It provides that any section of the citizens residing in any part of India having a distinct language, script or culture of its own, shall have the right to conserve the same.
  • It grants protection to both religious minorities as well as linguistic minorities.
  • However, the SC held that the scope of this article is not necessarily restricted to minorities only, as use of the word ‘section of citizens’ in the Article includes minorities as well as the majority.


Article 30:

  • All minorities shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.
  • The protection under Article 30 is confined only to minorities (religious or linguistic) and does not extend to any section of citizens (as under Article 29).


Article 350-B:

  • The 7th Constitutional (Amendment) Act 1956 inserted this article which provides for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities appointed by the President of India.
  • It would be the duty of the Special Officer to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards provided for linguistic minorities under the Constitution.


Stand of JIH:

  • Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) have embraced secular polity because it no longer considers it against Islam to participate in democratic elections
  • Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) accepted the existence of caste among Indian Muslims because it has legally sought reservation for “Dalit Muslims” in educational institutions and government jobs.
  • Original mission of Abul Ala Maududi’s Jamaat-e-Islami was the “establishment of an Islamic state/Allah’s Kingdom (hukumat-i ilahiyya ka qayaam)”
  • It had considered participating in elections in an “infidel (kafirana) state” an open violation of shari‘a and Islamic monotheism.
  • Mid-1980s: The JIH lifted its ban on contesting elections.
  • The Quranic phrase “iqamat-e din” (establishment of Islam) was inserted into the JIH Constitution as its new mission statement which replaced the earlier one, i.e., hukumat-i ilahiyya (Allah’s kingdom).
  • Article 4 of the constitution, that “Iqamat-e-Deen” should be “so enforced and given effect to in all aspects of human life, individual as well as corporate.
    • The development of the individual, the reconstruction of society and the formation of State should all conform to this very Deen”.
  • JUH has never questioned the tribalistic definition of marital equality (kafa’at) propounded by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB).
  • Section 117(3) of its Compendium of Islamic Laws: “Regard shall be had in respect of descent among the Arabs, especially the Quraish, and those non-Arab families who have preserved descent.
    • People in the rest of the non-Arab Muslim world are mutually equal.
    • On the basis of this principle, a girl can terminate her marriage to a non-equal contracted by her guardian
    • A guardian has the right to terminate the marriage of an adult woman to a non-equal.”


Exclusivism of Muslim religious outfits:

  • It can be traced to the pre-colonial period when Muslim sovereignty in India was equated with Islamic conquest.
  • Wiping out “polytheistic practices” was one of the reasons given by Shah Waliullah (1703-1762), the famous Hanafi theologian
    • He invited the Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali to save the Mughal empire from the Marathas and Jats.
  • Fear of the dilution of Islamic ideals forced another Hanafi mystic, Shaikh Ahmad Sirhindi (1564-1624), to oppose emperor Akbar’s religious universalism.


Power versus authority:

  • Unsuccessful attempts to Islamise pre-colonial India was a manifestation of the struggle between power (the state) and authority (the ulama) that has been going on ever since the establishment of the Umayyad dynasty in 661 CE.
  • The clerical demand: Islam should be the state religion, and the authority to interpret it must be vested with the ulama.
    • Example: Articles 227-231 of the Pakistani Constitution: all laws shall be in conformity with the injunctions of Islam as laid down in the Koran and Sunnah, and a “Council of Islamic Ideology” will decide “as to whether a proposed law is or is not repugnant to the injunctions of Islam.”


Way Forward

  • Some religious outfits continue to be under the delusion that even in democratic India they would be allowed to establish their authority over Muslims in the name of protecting an unreformed personal law.
    • Silences and statements on contemporary issues give the impression that they live in a medieval bubble.
  • Supreme Court delegitimize the practice of instant triple talaq, the JUH general secretary is alleged to have responded that the practice will continue to be recognised.
    • Likewise, on the issue of interfaith marriage (under the Special Marriage Act, 1954), the AIMPLB, in press release, asked Muslim parents to keep a penetrating eye (gehri nazar) on the mobile phones of their children, and convince them that the life partner for a Muslim can only be a Muslim.
  • Secular parties of North India need to integrate the productive elements of the more robust southern model, promising “substantive representation” to Muslims while fending off the ‘attacks’ of “minority appeasement”.



Are tolerance, assimilation and pluralism the key elements in the making of an Indian form of secularism? Justify your answer.(UPSC 2022) (200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)