Just when you think it’s over, there’s always someone new who drums the fossilized jungle beat. I wouldn’t have been this harsh but for the fact that this was said by the generally-sensible Vijay Vikram, who’s doing some commendable work at his new portal in terms of bringing fresh and alternate shades of discourse to the jaded, corrupt, and crumbling citadel of Indian secularism. And before I kill you with suspense, here’s what he tweeted:
I love @amargov for bringing up Dara Shikoh and the Hindu-Muslim synthesis. We must never forget the India that could have been.
This idea of “Hindu-Muslim synthesis” is a pipedream at worst and sheer, romantic naiveté at best. It additionally reflects ignorance and/or poor reading of history and religion. But I wouldn’t entirely fault Vijay Vikram or Amar for propounding this synthetic theory. The roots go much deeper.
If you look at Dara Shikoh’s life, it’s entirely clear why he is rightly held up as a beacon of Hindu-Muslim synthesis (sic). Equally, if you look at Dara Shikoh’s life, it’s entirely as clear why this synthesis is an impossibility. A basic question to set the ball rolling: who can show me exactly one other person in the 150+ years of uninterrupted Mughal rule who even attempted to do what Dara Shikoh did? And no, Akbar was not a “synthesizer” in the strict sense of the word: he was merely less Islamic than the rest. His absolute and unchallenged power allowed him enough leisure to indulge his philosophical and religious fantasies. This is not to deny any of his liberal policies—abolition of Jaziya and the rest—but they need to be put in perspective: because your WC is made of gold, you can’t have your dinner sitting on it. Dara Shikoh was the only Mughal who did that and paid for it dearly, brutally, humiliatingly. The reason is precisely because of…oh well, let’s let the evidence speak :
…the villainous ways of Dara Shukoh—what became the chief cause of Aurangzeb’s wrath was the inclination of his heart to the principles (or practices] of the Hindus and the spreading of disregard of Islamic religious prohibitions (Ibahat and Ilhad). Therefore, considering it necessary to defend the faith and the State, Aurangzeb determined to go to Shah Jahan… 1
On the 23rd June 1659, Dara Shikoh with his second son, Sipihr Shikoh, and two daughters, was delivered to Bahadur Khan, and two months later the party arrived outside Delh, on the 23rd August. A week after his arrival the royal captive was paraded in the bazaars of Delhi. ‘On 29th August the degrading parade was held. To complete his humiliation, Dara was seated in an uncovered hawda on the back of a small female elephant covered with dirt…[T]he captive heir to the richest throne in the world, the favourite..son of the most magnificent of the Great Mughals, was now clad in a travel-tainted dress of the coarsest cloth, with a dark dingy-coloured turban, such as only the poorest wear, on his head, and no necklace or jewel adorning his person. His feet were chained, though the hands were free. Exposed to the full blaze of an August sun, he was taken through the scenes of his former glory and splendour. In the bitterness of disgrace he did not raise his head, nor cast his glance on any side, but sat “like a crushed twig”…A decree was obtained from the Doctors of Muslim law that Dara Shikoh deserved death on the ground of infidelity and deviation from Islamic orthodoxy. On the night of the 30th August, the executioners tore. away Sipihr Shikoh from his father’s arms, and after a violent struggle beheaded Dara Shikoh. The severed head was sent to Aurangzeb to satisfr him that his rival was really dead; and the corpse, by the Emperor’s order, was placed on an elephant and paraded through the streets a second time and then buried in a vault under the dome of the tomb of Humayun. 2
[Emphasis mine in both places]
Aurangzeb was perfectly justified in murdering Dara Shikoh because he stuck to Islam to the last alphabet. Dara was the black sheep, the apostate royale. Which is why the entire Ulema threw its weight behind Aurangzeb against the rightful heir—and Shahjahan’s favorite son—of the Mughal empire. As evidence shows, Dara’s dastardly death actually underscores the true reason why the Hindu-Muslim synthesis can’t be achieved.
Synthesis—in this context, of the religious sort—is by definition give and take. Hinduism is by definition an inclusive religion. Most Hindus won’t have a problem accepting Muhammad as say, a Guru or Sant or Mahatma. But the record on the other side reveals that the ultimate goal of Islam is to make the earth Dar-ul-Islam. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible to understand why Dara was killed or the fact that Dara Shikoh was an apostate to begin with given that Islam forbids Muslims from reading literature of other religions and recommends death as punishment for such an act. He knew Sanskrit, was learned in various Hindu religious texts in the original and had even translated the Upanishads into the Persian. And he could do all this because he had immunity from the Ulema’s wrath being the designated crown prince at one time. What are the odds that an ordinary Muslim could do this and hope to remain alive in those times?
This is the glaring, fundamental contradiction that prevents accomplishing the said synthesis.
Which brings us back to the proponents of the Hindu-Muslim synthesis yarn. Here’s one such well-known yarn-spinner. The Hindu-Muslim Synthesis Story is simply a variation of the Grand Theory of Composite Culture and the Hindu-Muslim Syncretic Epic Romance conceived by Nehru and nurtured by our Marxists. Thanks to the Brainwashing-as-history Project, this Grand Theory became widespread and successful—its success can be gauged by the fact that even sensible folks like Vijay Vikram and Amar accept it without critical scrutiny. Actually, the Dara Shikoh episode is seductive if it’s taken at face value. And it’s precisely what our secular brigade wants: to prevent an honest and open examination, which will compel us to face really brutal truths and expose their game.
It’s curious how those who use Dara’s example of an “India that could have been” never pause and think about the magnanimity of hundreds of Hindu kings who allowed their Muslim subjects to practice Islam without fear, favor or state interference. This despite knowing that kings of their religion had vandalized temples, converted, and killed Hindus. This was the India that actually was. Synthesis in every sense of the word was practiced by Hindu rulers. Somebody needs to show us exactly one counterpart in a Muslim king. Again, if you hold Akbar as an example, here’s what will ensue: for all his liberal policies, Akbar was careful not to seriously antagonize the Ulema. Granted that he allowed his numerous Hindu wives practice Hinduism but why did only a Jahangir become his successor? And what about his other children who all became Muslims despite being born to Hindu mothers? You can’t call this synthesis: partial synthesis is no synthesis.
In the end, this kind of wishy-washy “analysis”—or even an expression of hope, which is what Vijay Vikram’s tweet is according to my humble deduction—ignores the basic tenets of both Hinduism and Islam. Knowledge of these tenets is mandatory if you need to be taken seriously. The reason the “enlightened” democracies of Europe, and the USA today can’t make sense of the behaviour and attitudes of their Muslim immigrant populations lies precisely in its inability to look at the root of the problem: the core tenets of Islam, which precludes the sort of synthesis that Vijay Vikram speaks about. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Salman Rushdie, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, et al are contemporary equivalents of Dara Shikokh minus his knowledge of Hinduism.
Here’s the thing—if the Hindu-Muslim synthesis could have happened, it would’ve already happened in some form or the other. 800 years is a long time for something like that to not have happened. Think about it.
1. Masir-i-Alamgiri (or A History of the Emperor Aurangzib-‘Alamgir) Chapter 1, Page 2. Translated from the Persian by Sir Jadunath Sarkar
2. Aurangzib Vol 2, Page 211 by Sir Jadunath Sarkar