Guest Post from Usama Hazari.
Allah mentions in the Noble Qur’an:
The ones who have answered [the summons of] Allah and His Messenger [to press on in pursuit of the aggressors—even] after they had been stricken with wounds. For such of them as have excelled in [doing] good and have been God-fearing, there is a magnificent reward [awaiting];
the ones to whom the [faithless] people said: “Indeed, the people have amassed against you. So be fearful of them!” This, then, [only] increased them in faith. Thus they [said] to them: “Allah is sufficient for us. And He is the most excellent Guardian!”
Abdal Hakim Murad mentions in his book, Travelling Home:
The weak or absent convictions of the hypocrites, as they whimper under the Islamophobe’s lash in modern as in ancient times, cannot protect them from fear and stress; by contrast the believers find their faith (īmān) paradoxically growing under this pressure, as they recognize more clearly in the midst of misfortune that this world is not comfortable but that everything is still in the Creator’s hands.
Murad’s book provides a perfect description of the current situation of Muslims in India.
As we witness hypocrites surfacing at every level, whimpering under the lash of Hindutva fascism in India, we also notice the faith of the believers growing and becoming stronger under this oppression. After having been let down utterly by every secular outlet, they are finally turning to Allah for protection, thereby paving the way for an Islamic revival.
This phenomenon was also pointed out by Mawlana Khalil-ur-Rahman Sajjad Nu’mani (may Allah preserve him), within a lecture. He speaks of a sifting process that is currently taking place:
“From the millions of people, there will be just a few whom Allah will accept as believers, i.e., people of īmān (faith). The rest of the people will exit the fold of Islām, they will become Murtadd (apostates), they will support the Munāfiqīn (hypocrites), and they will join and be part of the army of Dajjāl. I am speaking about the present moment. I am saying this in the light of hundreds of aḥādīth. This is not a normal time or era. I am saying these words, “This is not a normal time or era” for the last twenty to twenty-five years. This is an era of change; whenever there is an era of change, there is first a sifting process that takes place.”
وَلِيُمَحِّصَ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَيَمْحَقَ الْكَافِرِينَ
«And that Allāh may purify the believers [through trials] and destroy the disbelievers.» (Sūrah āl-‘Imrān: 141)
لِيَمِيزَ اللَّهُ الْخَبِيثَ مِنَ الطَّيِّبِ وَيَجْعَلَ الْخَبِيثَ بَعْضَهُ عَلَى بَعْضٍ فَيَرْكُمَهُ جَمِيعًا فَيَجْعَلَهُ فِي جَهَنَّمَ أُولَئِكَ هُمُ الْخَاسِرُونَ
«[This is] so that Allāh may distinguish the wicked from the good and place the wicked some of them upon others and heap them all together and put them into Hell. It is those who are the losers.» (Sūrah Al-Anfāl: 37)
This is the time and era that is being described in these verses wherein Allāh Ta’ālā will separate and remove the pure and genuine believers – they will be very few. Listen to this and bear it in mind very well. There will be very few of them, i.e., believers. The rest will be dirt. We are living all together, no one recognizes the other, and no one will be able to make out and distinguish either. However, each person can recognize his or her own self. We keep a watch on others but never look at ourselves.
Growing up in India, the only famous Indian Muslims the world had any knowledge of were three Bollywood actors: Shahrukh Khan, Salman Khan and Aamir Khan. We would actually feel a sense of pride knowing that three of the top entertainers in India are Muslim. We also celebrated when the newspapers were replete with images of Salman Khan emerging from a mosque wearing a skull cap; when Shahrukh Khan made the movie “My Name is Khan,” embracing his “Muslim identity”; and when Aamir Khan had taken his mother for Hajj.
However, come 2014, this all changed. Everyone knew who was responsible for the 2002 Gujarat massacre, but we saw Salman Khan go and promote his election campaign, even flying a kite with him. We witnessed Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan endorse these tyrants and look on in silence as Muslims in India were lynched in broad daylight and the oppression of Muslims became systematized.
It was time for us to finally wake up and realize that these actors do not represent us.
We then looked to our secular leaders, such as Rahul Gandhi and Arvind Kejriwal, to save us. However, they too were ineffective. We had giant Muslim leaders whose personas attracted millions of followers, such as Asaduddin Owaisi and Mahmood Madani. However, they too failed us. They chose to adopt the strategy of appeasing the fanatical majority, one that is hell-bent on erasing the existence of Muslims in India. This reality has even been pointed out by genocide expert, Dr Gregory Stanton.
“We are warning that genocide could very well happen in India,” Stanton said, speaking on behalf of the non-governmental organisation he launched in 1999 to predict, prevent, stop and seek accountability for the crime.
Stanton said genocide was not an event but a process and drew parallels between the policies pursued by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the discriminatory policies of Myanmar’s government against Rohingya Muslims in 2017.
Among the policies he cited were the revocation of the special autonomous status of Indian-administered Kashmir in 2019 – which stripped Kashmiris of the special autonomy they had for seven decades – and the Citizenship Amendment Act the same year, which granted citizenship to religious minorities but excluded Muslims.
Stanton, a former lecturer in genocide studies and prevention at the George Mason University in Virginia, said he feared a similar scenario to Myanmar, where the Rohingya were first legally declared non-citizens and then expelled through violence and genocide.
“What we are now facing is a very similar kind of a plot,” he said.
Our final recourse was the Indian judiciary. However they too slammed the doors of justice in our faces. They failed us completely, especially following the 2020 Delhi riots. Left with nowhere else to go—and after having been deluded for 70+ years about the reality of the situation—Indian Muslims are finally turning to Allah for help.
The first public sign of this Islamic revival in India was when Zaira Wasim quit Bollywood in 2019. She was a Bollywood actress who had starred in big budget movies alongside Aamir Khan. At one point she had even played a blasphemous role in “Secret Superstar,” wherein the final scene was of her discarding her burqa and running to chase her dream of becoming a singer. She stated that her work contradicted her religious beliefs.
“This field indeed brought a lot of love, support, and applause my way, but what it also did was to lead me to a path of ignorance, as I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of imaan [faith]. While I continued to work in an environment that consistently interfered with my imaan [faith], my relationship with my religion was threatened.”
“It was always so easy to succumb to the environment that damaged my peace, imaan [faith] and my relationship with Allah.”
She now regularly posts traditional Islamic content on Twitter.
Following her lead, another Bollywood actress, Sana Khan, quit showbiz in 2020:
“In my past life, of course, I had a name, fame, money. I could do anything and everything I wanted but there was something missing and that was peace in my heart. I was like I have everything but why am I not happy? It was very tough and there were bouts of depression, there were days of Allah’s message that I could see through His signs.”
“In 2019, during Ramadan, I still remember I used to see a burning, blazing grave and I could see myself in it. I just saw the empty grave, I saw myself. I felt this is the sign that God is giving me that if I don’t change, this is what my end is going to be. That got me a little anxious.”
She then married a traditional Islamic scholar, Mufti Anas Saiyad, and now she too shares Islamic content regularly on various social media platforms. She also speaks often about the importance of hijab.
Surprisingly this phenomenon is not restricted to Muslims alone.
A famous motivational speaker, Sabarimala Jayakanthan, accepted Islam. She mentions:
“I asked myself why there is so much hatred against Muslims in the world? I started reading the Quran as a neutral person. Then I came to know the truth. Now I love Islam more than myself.”
Even though Indian Muslims were religiously practicing due to the hard work of Islamic movements and Sufi orders, Islam in India was being ideologically subverted by some of its own “scholars” and “leaders” who were trying to win the approval of the establishment and the majority. We thus lacked a holistic perception of Islam and tried to fit in, alongside the polytheistic pagan culture of India.
The earlier generation of Indian Muslims were overrun with the kufr ideologies of secularism, nationalism and perennialism in the form of “wahdat e adyan,” or “unity of religions” (an ideology propagated by secular congress which claimed that all religions have some elements of truth within them, as well as a path to salvation). However, with the advent of the internet and social media, Indian Muslims were able to reconnect with the wider Muslim Ummah and its scholars. Our eyes were opened up, and we finally started to recognize the problems.
Dr Zakir Naik also played an important role in planting the seeds with his unapologetic public debates and his discussions with non-Muslims. However, the reals fruits of the labor of all the Islamic movements and Sufi orders came to fruition when the right wing Hindu Nationalist BJP government started systematically persecuting Muslims post 2014. We watched as the hypocrites all threw us under the bus and realized that our only true hope in these times, was Allah.
Following the Delhi program in particular, me and many of those around me, who earlier followed ideologies such as liberalism; secularism; feminism; progressivism; socialism; and Marxism, abandoned it all in favor of Islam. This may come as a surprise, but I personally used to be a hardcore socialist and a liberal. I was knocked firmly out of my delusion when I read a translation of the Qur’an in the Ramadan of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. I spent two years in a social democratic party called “Aam Aadmi Party” and even went to Delhi in the 2019 general elections to campaign for Arvind Kejriwal. Going into the lockdown, I had started studying Marxism. I even started writing a book titled “Revolution in the 21st Century” and had started making plans to join the Communist Party of India when given the opportunity. However:
“They were devising a plan. But Allah was devising a plan. And Allah is the best of those who plan.” (Qur’an, 8:30)
Reading an essay by Bhagat Singh (a Marxist revolutionary), “Why I Am an Atheist,” really shook my faith, and I had plans to refer back to Dr Zakir Naik’s debates in order to clear these new doubts arising within me about Islam. However, I never had any time to spare due to all the Netflix shows I had been consuming.
During the anti CAA NRC movement in India, I had made a good circle of leftist friends, one of whom was… let’s just call him ‘Atish.’ He was a hardcore leftist, LGBTQ supporter, and now he even identifies as “them” (we don’t speak anymore). In one of our revolutionary halaqas during CAA-NRC, his sister asked:
“What is it about the Qur’an that is so unique?”
Me, being the textbook liberal that I was at the time, distanced myself from the question and answered plainly:
“I don’t know.”
Atish, while high on weed, interjected in a philosophical manner:
“The Qur’an is a magical book. Whatever you seek from it, it will give it to you.”
Whatever it was that he was implying here, I made up my mind to go and search the Qur’an for the revolution that I was looking for. It was only during the lockdown that I finally sat down and said to myself:
“Here is the Qur’an, the word of Allah, as claimed by so many people. I’ll see for myself if it is indeed the truth, and I’ll also search for my revolution within it.”
While reading through the Qur’an, I was initially uncomfortable with the “misogyny,” the “us vs them” narrative and the “homophobia,” but I kept on reading. It felt as though Allah was speaking to my heart and my soul was answering:
“This is the truth, and all else is false.”
It felt like Allah was ordering me to agree with the Qur’an, and I couldn’t help but submit.
Eventually, I was completely absorbed by its straightforward and unapologetic approach. I was not even halfway through reading the Qur’an, and I had attained complete conviction in it being the absolute truth, accepting everything it stood for and conveyed. After having completed the Qur’an, I then read the sirah (biography) of the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace). At this point, I was convinced that there is no greater revolutionary than the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), and there is no greater revolution than Islam.
While searching for my “Marxist revolution” in the Qur’an, I instead became revolutionized by the word of Allah.
After wholly submitting to Islam with my renewed and revitalized faith, I quit the Aam Aadmi Party and joined the student wing of an Islamic party. I also started learning more about Islam from graduates of traditional madrasas.
Those around me, friends and family members, used to support liberal causes; they had marched in LGBTQ+ rallies. Now though, they only wish to see one thing: the revival of Islam.
My best friend since childhood was someone who had an average, modern, secular upbringing. To add to this, his father is a movie producer. We both went to Hyderabad’s most westernized elite school, Meridian school. In Amity University, Mumbai, he had marched side by side with blue-haired lesbians, supporting the LGBTQ+ cause.
As for high school, he was shipped off to a boarding school in North India where he was bullied and beaten up by his fellow Hindu schoolmates simply for praying salah. He was called insulting names such as “katue” and “katmulle” (derogatory terms used against Muslims in India), which led him to further distance himself from the Din.
After going through bullying due to his Muslim identity, even though he was not very practicing back then, during his college years he started advocating for liberalism and rationalism, and he started opposing Islam. During the COVID-19 lockdown, when he finally had some time to himself to ponder and contemplate, he realized how foolish he had been, and he started studying Islam. This friend of mine, who had once dreamed of being a diplomat in the United Nations, now desires to be a da’i (a caller to Islam) and wishes to work towards reviving Islam. He remarked:
“Islam saved me from the Tartarus called modernism and made me embrace tradition in all its glory.”
As part of this write up, we also interviewed a sister from Delhi. She mentioned:
“I grew up in a society where religion was a secondary thing. My parents taught me to treat people as a human and even my soul followed this principle.”
The first time she had encountered Islamophobia was when she was in fourth grade, when some guy was going around telling others to avoid her because she was Muslim. Despite other kids standing by her, she was unable to comprehend the situation as she was new to the idea of “Hindus” vs. “Muslims.”
Growing up, she said she tried her best to hide who she was and that she had even learned some pagan values just so she could blend in.
“Being that popular kid, I never wanted to disappoint people.”
She said regarding her household:
“We never cared about religious knowledge. To me, religious people were dumb, arrogant and abusive.”
However, things changed when she met her Arabic teacher, who was also the kindest person she had ever met.
Meanwhile however, things were still the same in school:
“I was trying to blend in; and refused to accept myself; and questioned the religion of my father.”
Eventually, in order to avoid all the drama, she decided to become an atheist.
“It was me who stood firm against religion and told everyone humans need morals not religion (silly me didn’t understand that morals come into existence through religion).”
In class 11, she came into the limelight as she was made the class captain. She was as vocal about her thoughts back then as she is today. Her class transformed into a war zone when the government passed the citizenship amendment act (CAA) and protests broke out across the country. Though some were ok, many people around her revealed their true colors as radical Hindutva fanatics. People would save her number in their phone contacts as “pattharbaz” (stone pelter); they would message her, ranting about Islam, whenever she posted about atheism and equality. However, her name alone was reason enough for them to bully her.
“I argued with my parents, which I sincerely regret, asking, ‘Why am I a Muslim?’ and ‘Why are we Muslims?’
I said ‘Muslims are terrorrists!’ and ‘They eat animals!’ etc., and ‘Why don’t we leave this religion?!’
My father defended Islam and proved me wrong. This was the moment I realized that something needed to be fixed, ‘Either I’m right or Islam is right.’
I spent the next two years learning about Islam and alhamdulillah life is better, it was never good this good before.”
This sister is now part of an initiative in trying to revive the intellectual culture of Islam and decolonialisation.
These are just two examples of the many people who have made a hijrah from the ‘isms’ of modernity, back to Islam.
I had asked people to share their stories regarding returning fully to Islam from liberalism, modernism, secularism, feminism, atheism, progressivism, socialism, nationalism, Marxism. An overwhelming number of the responses said it was due to the social media Dawah of people like Mohammad Hijab, Daniel Haqiqatjou, and Dr Israr Ahmed. They had helped them break out of their shells of materialism and return to a holistic perception of Islam.
Surprisingly, a number of people said that it was from watching Turkish dramas like Diriliş Ertuğrul and Payitath Abdülhamit. Please note that we do not condone watching movies and television programs.
There is an endless philosophical war between truth and falsehood. During such times, it is pertinent to remember the examples of our greatest heroes from Islamic history, including the likes of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal and his stand against the rationalists; Imam al-Ghazali and his scathing intellectual onslaught against Hellenistic philosophy and the batinis (esoterics, basically the liberals of their time); and Mujaddid Alf Thani Shaykh Ahmad al-Sirhindi and his defense of Islam under the onslaught of “Din e Ilahi” (a new religion invented and forced upon the Muslims by the murtadd Mughal emperor, Akbar).