Muslim Identity, Print Culture and the Dravidian Factor in Tamil Nadu – a book published by Orient Longman Private Limited, India mention Dar-ul-Islam and B. Dawood Shah, magazine and its editor significantly, describing their influence and impact on the Tamil Muslim society and print media during the second decade of 20th century and later. Details in that regard that are spread out on 30 pages, which is almost one-tenth of the book, attest to that fact.
Dr. More’s extensive research on this work is certainly commendable. With due thanks to him and the publisher, certain passages of the book are excerpted here. Also my thanks goes to Br. Hameed of Parangipettai (Port Nova) and Br. Raja Mohammed Hussain for bringing this book to my attention and obtaining me a copy from India respectively.
About the book
This work is an original attempt to study the influence of print technology on the Muslims of Tamil Nadu and their literature. It is based on literary works published by the Tamil Muslims from 1835, when restrictions on printing were removed, to 1920, when they participated in the pan-Islamic Khilafat movement. The author has systematically classified these works in the form of an exhaustive catalogue. By extension, the study of this literature becomes a study of the origins, society and identity of the Tamil Muslims.
About the author
J.B.P. More is a well-known historian. He has a Ph.D from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris. In 1988, he won the Book Room International Award for his first book, Political Evolution of Muslims in Tamil Nadu and Madras, 1930-1947. Besides his studies on the Muslims of South India, he has done extensive research on French colonial rule in India. His recent book, Freedom Movement in French India has won international acclaim.
Dr More is one of the founders of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences and Humanities, in Tellicherry, Kerala. He lives in France.
Tamil Muslim Printed Literature after 1835
The question now arises about the quality and nature of the Arabic and Persian that the Tamil Muslim authors used in their literary works. One of the staunchest critics of the Arabic-Tamil was B. Dawood Sha, the editor of the Tamil Muslim periodical, Dar-ul-Islam. He was a product of modern English education and held a B.A. degree. He was also a recognized Tamil scholar, having won the coveted gold medal of the famous Madurai Tamil Academy (Sangam). He took to task the alims and moulvis for their inadequate knowledge of both Tamil and Arabic- Tamil, which he said was ‘kitchen Tamil’. He also dismissed the works produced by them in Arabic- Tamil, which he claimed can be understood only if their authors were present. He also directed his ire against some Muslim publishing houses in Madras, which published such Arabic- Tamil books.
The foregoing proves that B. Dawood Sha’s condemnation of Arabic-Tamil was not after all an exaggeration. He was probably the first Tamil Muslim scholar who pointed out the inadequacies of the Arabic- Tamil or the Tamil admixture of Arabic and Persian of the Tamil Muslim authors. M.M. Uvais himself does not seem to contest the claims of Moulana Syed Yassin. Instead his silence seems to endorse the Moulana’s view.
The Bulk of Tamil Muslim Literature
In the sixth group, we have included stories, novels, dramas, and books on maxims. Many of these books are actually translations from Hindustani, Arabic, or Persian. The characters of these stories, dramas, and novels are purely Islamic. Generally, the stories are set in the Islamic countries, except for a few as those of B. Daud Shah (B. Dawood Sha).
Obstacles to the Adoption of Printing
Quranic and Hadith Literature
B. Dawood Sha, the editor of the Muslim periodical, Dar-ul-Islam, was in the forefront of the attack against the ulemas. He was the bête noire of the ulemas. He was an accomplished Tamil scholar, having even won a gold medal for his proficiency in Tamil, from the famous Madurai Tamil Academy (Sangam). He voiced, through the print media, one of the most strident criticisms of the ulemas’ inadequate knowledge of Tamil. In Dar-ul-Islam, he wrote:
We believe that the Tamil spoken by the Marakkayars and the Rawthers will render shy any student of Tamil. There religious teachers called moulvis and their knowledge of Tamil is very shameful. These Alims do not know the fundamentals of Tamil. They do not try to learn this language of the kafirs. Such people knowing to speak some Tamil, and wanting to put their dirty kitchen Tamil in writing, have named it ‘Arabic- Tamil’. Such books written in Arabic- Tamil can be understood only if their authors were present.
How can such moulvis, not knowing Tamil, teach about Islam to others?
At the Majlis-ul-ulema conference in Tamil Nadu, organised with the help of Tamil Muslim money, they speak in English and Hindustani. In such meetings, some Alims dare to speak in the Tamil of their houses.
Only a few Alims really know to read and write in Tamil. Even newspaper reporters can’t understand their [pure] Tamil.
…Tamil Muslims do not know anything more than some of the useless Arabic-Tamil books of such Alims and their story-telling…But now in Madras, some are publishing books. If they do not publish such books written in bad Tamil, they will be doing a great service to Islam and Tamil…
Dawood Sha was a recognized Tamil scholar. He had written several books in Tamil (see Appendix). He was editing Tamil Muslim journals from the time of the Khilafat movement and even after the independence of India. He had actually translated the Quran into Tamil in his later years and commented upon it. He was probably dissatisfied with the complete translation into Tamil of the Quran by A.K. Abdul Hamid Baqavi, which pushed him to re-translate the entire Quran and interpret it along rational lines. Six volumes of this translation and commentary of the Quran were published between 1962 and 1971, but the seventh and final volume still awaits publication. Given such a background, it certainly will not be out of place to rely upon his assessment of the ulemas’ knowledge of Tamil and their Arabic- Tamil.
However, Dawood Sha admits that only a few alims really knew to read and write in Tamil. One can probably include among them, Mustafa Alim Hajiyar and Nuh Alim Sahib, whose Arabic- Tamil works on the Quran was published in 1881 and 1890 respectively. The quality of such and other works in Arabic- Tamil remains yet to be ascertained fully.
However, during the 1920s, Dawood Sha himself translated the Quran into Tamil, from Mohammed Ali’s English version. This attempt to translate the Quran into Tamil from the English version rather than directly from the Arabic original seems to demonstrate that even the modern Muslim scholars were not well equipped in the knowledge of Arabic (not to speak of the ulemas’ inadequacies in it) in order to translate directly from Arabic into Tamil and get it printed.
In the light of above, it appears more plausible that one of the real reasons why the Quran and the Hadith were not translated fully into Tamil using the Tamil script and then published, seems to be the lack of adequate knowledge of Tamil, especially classical Tamil, as claimed by Dawood Sha and his school and probably also a lack of adequate knowledge of Arabic among the ulemas in the Tamil country despite the fact that Tamil Muslim works were regularly published from the 1840s. What is remarkable is that, this explanation is based not on speculation or theoretical assumption, but on actual irrefutable literary evidence.
However we are aware of the Tamil Muslim opposition to the secular values of the British, especially in the field of education. But, there is no factual evidence, either in the form of a fatwa or any other literary evidence which establishes their opposition to the printing of the Quran or the Hadeeth. Even if they were opposed to printing, it ought not to have prevented them from translating the full Quran into Tamil and writing in the Tamil script on palm leaves or on paper, something which they never did until the 1940s. This once again lends credence to Dawood Sha’s contentions.
Debates and Controversies
Regarding the Ahmeddiya movement in the Tamil country, it appears that at one stage, the Tamil scholar, Naraiyur B. Dawood Sha, was singled out and accused of being an Ahmeddiya by the orthodox ulemas and Muslims. Dar-ul-Islam, of which B. Dawood Sha was the editor in 1923, maintained that every religion was God’s religion and even cited the Quran to affirm that there was no people who had no prophets.
Dawood Sha began to interpret the Quran and explain Islam according to his own understanding. He had actually founded a Muslim sangam (association) at Natchiarkovil in the Tanjore region, during the second decade of the twentieth century and a Tamil Muslim paper, known as Tattuva Islam (Philosophical Islam), with a certain Khaja Kamaluddin as the co-editor.
The policies propagated by Tattuva Islam and that of the Natchiarkovil Muslim Sangam came to be known in Tamil as Sutta Sathya Sanmarkam (Pure and True Religion). From the very beginning, Dawood Sha used the press to attack the traditional ulema, whom he accused of blatantly exploiting the poor and ignorant Muslims and of having very little knowledge of Islam.
Probably, because of such criticism and because Dawood Sha was not a moulvi of the Arabic madrasa, but was a product of modern English education, the ulemas were obligated to defend themselves. So in their turn, they started newspapers and periodicals to counter the criticisms of Dawood Sha. One such monthly magazine was the Hifazatul Islam. Its editor was Moulvi S.S. Muhammad Abdul Khader Sahib Baqavi, who as we have seen earlier, had translated the Quran into Tamil from the Arabic script. He himself admitted, in his journal, that Hifazatul Islam was started to defend Islam against the false views and interpretations of Dawood Sha. Another Tamil Muslim monthly favourably disposed to the ulema was the Al Kalam. It too came down heavily on Dawood Sha in defence of the ulema. Saiphul Islam, which was started in 1921 by Moulvi Sayyid Ahmad was also not sympathetic to the Ahmeddiya movement. In fact, a Saiphul Islam publication of 1935 pointed out the erroneous principles of the Ahmeddiyas.
Generally, such journals depicted Dawood Sha as an Ahmeddiya, working against Islam. Vigorous propaganda was carried on against the Ahmeddiya movement in general and Dawood Sha in particular. On the basis of the material in hand, it is not possible to determine, whether there was any truth in the contention of the ulema that Dawood Sha was an avowed Ahmeddiya.
Nevertheless, it appears from his early publications that he was not a full-fledged Ahmeddiya. Dawood Sha had asserted on 1 May 1920 that the Quran wants to rid man of superstitions. He criticized the mahans (great men in Islam who are venerated as Sufis) and stated that there were no contemporary records to prove the miracles of the mahans nor any genuine biographies of their lives, which were generally shrouded by myths. Given this strong criticism of the mahans and their miracles, it is doubtful that Dawood Sha would have endorsed the miracles believed to have been performed by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Thus, there is a strong possibility that the accusation of the ulemas that Dawood Sha was an Ahmeddiya, was nothing but a ploy to discredit the personality who had challenged their traditional authority, invested in them by the Tamil Muslims.
The fact remains that Dawood Sha in the 1920s had translated the Quran into Tamil, from the English version by Lahore Moulvi Mohammed Ali, under the title, Jawahirul Burhan pi Tarjamattil Quran. Similarly, he had also translated Lahore Moulvi’s English version of the Hadith into Tamil, under the title, Sahiba Bukhari. A shorter version of the same called, Nayaka Vakkiyam, was also published by him.
But this Lahore Mohammad Ali, along with Kwaja Kamaluddin, had broken away from the main Ahmeddiya sect in 1914, and had created their own group. Ahmad Aziz maintains that this Lahori group regarded Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as a mere reformer (mujaddid) and not a prophet and, in general, was very close to Sunni Islam. Thus, we can reasonably conclude that Dawood Sha was never an Ahmeddiya and that he had resorted to translate Mohammed Ali’s English version of the Quran and the Hadith into Tamil as a matter of convenience, primarily because he himself obviously did not possess adequate knowledge of Arabic for a direct translation from Arabic- Tamil. However, it is quite possible that he might have had some sympathy for the breakaway Lahori group, which actually, as noted by Ahmad Aziz, was very close to Sunni Islam.
B. Dawood Sha, who was also a product of modern education like Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan, hardly refers to the Nechari philosophy, as far as I know. This does not mean that he, who was no doubt one of the leading, modern Muslim intellectuals of south India and Tamil Nadu, was never influenced by Sir Sayyid’s views though he generally seems to have adopted a certain rational approach to Islam.
… Dawood Sha, who was imbued with a certain rationality already, found in Mohammad Ali’s English Quran, a version corresponding to his own penchant for a rationalist approach to religion. This prompted him to translate Mohammed Ali’s English Quran into Tamil. But, in the process he was indirectly influenced by Sir Sayyid’s Nechari philosophy, for, Mohammad Ali’s source material in writing his English Quran was based substantially on Sir Sayyid’s views. This prompts me to conclude that Dawood Sha’s religious ideas had been influenced not only by Lahore Mohammad Ali, but also by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan.
In order to propagate his ideas, he had of course made good use of printing, though we cannot say how far print shaped his ideas. It rather appears that print, though it was the basis for stocking and diffusing information more efficiently, was only a part or rather an instrument of modern scientific knowledge and values, which had a decisive utility for Dawood Sha.
During the second decade of the twentieth century, Naraiyur B. Dawoo Sha, who had already established himself as a Tamil scholar and writer, founded the Muslim Sangam of Natchiarkovil, also located in the Tanjore region. In 1919 and 1921, this association published two volumes, which was a collection of several leaflets dealing with Muslim educational and religious matters, the Khilafat and world affairs.
Dawood Sha as we know, was a product of modern education. He even seems to have served as a sub-magistrate before he began to take interest in the Tamil Muslim society. He was particularly sensitive to the state of Islam in Tamil Nadu. His concern led to the establishment of the Muslim Sangam of Natchiarkovil, which was run primarily by scholars and intellectuals such as Khaja Kamaludeen, the first editor of Tattuwa Islam, the prime publication of the association. Dawood Sha who was influenced by western values, ideas, and methods, showed a keen interest in cleansing Islam of impurities or un-Islamic habits and traditions.
It is here that the issue is of interest. The association, mainly through its press organ, rather than public meetings, launched a multi-pronged attack on the various aspects that were infecting Islam in the Tamil country. It held that the Quran wanted to get man out of all superstitions. This assertion, though simplistic, has a certain importance because, according to it, the necessity for reforms in Tamil Muslim society arose from the Quran itself and not from modern ideas and values. But it appears probable that the latter might have pushed modern Muslim intellectuals and scholars to turn to the Quran itself, to find answers to the un-Islamic ills and superstitions affecting Islam and, thus, try to rationalize Islam itself rather than admit openly that the source of reforms in Tamil Muslim society, resided outside Islam.
Whatever the cause may have been, the association did not fail to direct its criticism against the dargah or tomb-oriented tradition in Islam, as practiced in Tamil Nadu. It even went to the extent of discrediting the miracles performed by the saints of these dargahs and questioned not only their authenticity, but also the rationality behind them. It criticized those who organized the Kanturi (Urs) festivals for their own self-pride and also adopted an uncompromising posture against the unnecessary expenditure involved in the celebration of ceremonies like Kaathu Kuthal (piercing of the ears) and Peyar Vaithal (christening). Some other Muslims, also, wrote against worshiping at the Dargahs.
Later in November 1931, Dar-ul-Islam came down heavily on the Dargah Sharif festival at Nagore as anti-Islamic. The Erode Muslim Youth conference also criticized the Nagore festival. The Dravidian publications such as the Kudiarasu, gave ample coverage in its papers to this position of Dar-ul-Islam and others against the Nagore festival.
Dar-ul-Islam, whose editor was B. Dawood Sha, lamented the pathetic condition of Muslim women, who were used just as objects of reproduction and to do household work.
It also lamented the atrocious Islamic knowledge of these women and criticized the attitude of some fathers who took pride in saying that their daughters had finished saying prayers in Arabic and Arabic- Tamil.
It held as inhuman the way of dress of the Muslim women and their habit of piercing a large number of big holes in the ears, called allikothu, which resembled more the Hindu habits rather than Islamic. It called upon the Muslims to abandon this practice and claimed that Islam was not like traditional Hinduism. But when it came to the abolishing of child marriage, which was common among some Muslims also, Dar-ul-Islam cautioned the government to examine whether this abolition would affect the Islamic Shariat laws.
Another Islamic association, known as Samuga Seer Thirutha Sabha (Association of Social Reforms), located at Koothanallur, also in the Tanjore area, took to task the ulema and the Muslim elderly, for not questioning this practice of piercing the ears of young Muslim girls of five to six years, in the name of beauty and custom. Ten to eighteen holes were pierced, in order that they might wear some years later, the gold jewellery, called allikothu arasilai. The children were slapped to prevent them from crying while the holes were pierced in their tender ears. This gold jewellery that they had to wear deterred them from playing, with the result that they became physically weak. Besides, they were a great hindrance while sleeping and also the noise they made caused the little girls to cover their ears with their hands and other people had to talk loudly to them to be heard.
Some women endured great suffering when the holes became septic, while some others who had delicate ears ended up with two or three holes stretching into one big hole. The Samuga Seer Thirutha Sabha wanted sincerely to abolish these customs and called upon the old Muslim grandmothers not to subject their children to such pain and suffering. Journals such as Dar-ul-Islam, gave adequate publicity to the activities of such Muslim social reform associations like the one at Koothanallur and brought to the fore the need for reforms in Tamil Muslim society.
Thus, there were clear signs of modern Muslim reformist tendencies in the Tanjore region. These tendencies, which had their influence on other parts of Tamil Nadu also, especially through the publication of journals like the Tattuwa Islam and Dar-ul-Islam, can be rightly termed as the Tanjore School of Islamic Thought. Though, we cannot affirm outright that these tendencies would have come into existence without print technology, it will not be incorrect to note that print had contributed largely to their staying power and to their popularization, unlike to the reformist works of Shamu Shihabuddin.
Dar-ul-Islam accused the moulvis for their inadequate knowledge of Tamil, which was a great obstacle to their teaching Islam to the great majority of the Muslims who were not well-versed in Arabic or Arabic- Tamil. If the alims’ knowledge of Tamil was such, Dar-ul-Islam wondered about the state of religious knowledge of the Tamil Muslims. Actually Dar-ul-Islam declared:
…Among the Muslims of the world, the Tamil Muslims know less about religion. The Tamil Muslims do not know anything more than some of the Arabic- Tamil books of such alims and their story-telling…Even the pesh Imam does not know what he is reading, leaving aside the listeners in the mosque, who just go to sleep…. Is it enough to perform some rituals just for the sake of tradition? Why don’t the alims talk about national problems in the mosques, as it was in the days of the first four Caliphs? The moulvis are responsible for keeping the Tamil Muslims in ignorance…. Except for some (Tamil Muslims) who go to foreign countries, and those who do business, the rest are betel-nut growers and live very frugally….
Even the Samuga Seer Thirutha Sabha of Koothanallur took to task the ulemas, whom it accused of not caring for the state of Tamil Islam. Others, like Kambam Khan Sahib N.K.P.P. Rowther held, like Dawood Sha, that the Muslims did not know their religion and instead of unnecessary expenditures, they should concentrate on education. Thus, on the whole, the Tanjore School of Islamic Thought accused the ulemas of having no enthusiasm to introduce and encourage reforms in Tamil Muslim Society along strict Islamic lines.
The Tanjore School of Islamic Thought, spearheaded by B. Dawood Sha, did not just print and publish to reform Islam, but it also wrote in defense of Islam against attacks from Christian critics. It took interest even in analyzing Christian theological points such as the belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God.
Dar-ul-Islam also rose against the vilification of Islam and the Prophet by the Christian missionaries.
It also published articles on the fallacies of the Hindu karma philosophy and asserted that our sorrows and happiness were not because of our last birth’s karma (action).
Also it wanted to put across the point that religious tolerance and freedom of conscience was more present in Islam than in other religions. It even opined that there was no need for military might in Islam and it did not spread through coercion like some other religions.
What is interesting is that school wanted the expansion of Islam across the world. It actually wrote:
It is not enough to propagate Islam in England alone, but it has to be done in France, Russia, America, Australia, Japan… Muslims have to help those who work for the expansion of Islam.
During this period, Muslims seem to have been worried by the activities of the Arya Samajists, a Hindu proselytizing organization, which was quite active in south India. Dawood Sha, who was very keen on the expansion of Islam across the world, was particularly worried about this. This prompted him to write and publish books like the one titled, Ariyarkku Oru Vedikundu against the Arya Samaj. He also feared the Ram Rajya of Mahatma Gandhi and asked the Muslims to strive and strengthen the reign of Islam the world over, rather than witness the establishment of the Ram Rajya desired by the Hindus, who were bent on rooting out Islam from India.
However, the traditional ulemas were not going to take the criticisms of Dawood Sah and others lying down. In their turn, the ulemas had their own publications such as the Saiphul Islam (editor, Moulvi Ahmed Sayyid), Hifazat-ul-Islam (editor, Moulvi Abdul Kader Sahib Baqavi and later Moulvi A.R Abdur Rahim Baqavi) and the Al Kalam (editor, K.A. Abdul Majid) in order to defend themselves and attack their detractors such as the Tanjore School of Islamic Though spearheaded by B. Dawood Sha. The latter’s attack on the ulema organizations such as the Majlis-ul-Ulema of south India, whose first conference was held in 1917 in Tiruchy, and the Jamiat-ul-Ulema of all India was seen by them as being detrimental to Islamic interests. Dawood Sha’s refusal to accept the fatwas or judgements of the Jamiat-ul-Ulema, if they did not seem correct, and his overt disrespect towards the prestigious ulemas of the preceding two organizations was condemned.
Hifazatul Islam, too, directed its attack against the Ahmeddiyas and their seer, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, who was supposed to have done great damage to Islam. Its editor claimed that the Hifazatul Islam was started primarily to counter the Ahmeddiya views expressed in a Tamil Msulim journal called Tattuva Islam, of which Khaja Kamaludeen was the first editor, and B. Dawood Sha was the second, and thus protect Islam among the Tamil Muslims. It also reiterated the necessity for conversions to Islam in Tamil Nadu and Travancore, where many people were willing to convert. It asked the rich Muslims to help with money to welcome these conversions. Saiphul Islam too expressed great interest in the matter of the conversion of Harijans.
Hindu Role in Social Reforms among Muslims
It was not just the Tanjore School of Islamic Thought spearheaded by Dawood Sha, which through print media was clamouring for reforms in the Tamil Muslim society and lashing out at the ulemas for their indifference to the state of Islam in Tamil Nadu. During this period, there began another major movement that contributed in no small measure to the need for reforms in the Tamil Muslim society. This movement was known as the Self-Respect Movement. It was founded in 1925, by E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, a high caste non-Brahmin Hindu, hailing from a wealthy merchant family of Erode in Tamil Nadu.
E.V. Ramasamy had actually parted company with the Indian National Congress of which he was one of the leaders in south India, primarily because he was unwilling to tolerate its Brahmin leadership. Instead, he founded the non-Brahmin Self-Respect Movement with the avowed objective of doing away with Brahminism, the Hindu caste system, and its Gods. He characterized the Brahmins as Aryans, and the non-Brahmins including the Tamil Muslims as Dravidians. He also held that Dravidians and Muslims were of the same mother. In order to achieve his objectives, he did not just rely on propaganda through public meetings. Instead, he like Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Punjab and Dawood Sha of Tamil Nadu, put to good use the print media. Through this he carried on his propaganda war against all aspects of Hinduism throughout Tamil Nadu and elsewhere. The principal press organs of his were the Kudiarasu and the Viduthalai. Tamil Muslims were allowed to express their thoughts, feelings, and views in these journals. A perusal of these journals will demonstrate indubitably the extent of importance given to the Muslims and their affairs.
Even B. Dawood Sha, the most vociferous of the Muslim social reformers, seems not to have been totally impervious to this Dravidian dimension in south India. He openly claimed that Tamilians, Christians, and Muslims were all Dravidians, though they had different customs and habits. One could say that Dawood Sha had more or less subscribed to E.V. Ramasamy’s view as far as the latter’s Dravidian theory was concerned.
Dawood Sha was such a staunch supporter of the Congress until 1938 that Muslims in some places in Tamil Nadu even decided to boycott his paper, Dar-ul-Islam, and support papers such as Saiphul Islam, Viduthali and Uthaya Sooriyan which were considered to be favourable to Muslims and the Muslim League. Even an Urdu-speaking Muslim leader, Abdul Hameed khan publicly asked Muslims to support Saiphul Islam and also Viduthalai. The Self-Respecters referred to Dawood Sha as ‘Ramayana Sahib’, for being in the Congress and giving lectures on the Ramayana and Mahabharata like the Brahmins.
But on 1 January 1939, Dawood Sha did a volte-face. He joined the Muslim League and accused the Congress of ill-treating and cheating the Muslims. In the same year, he came out in favour of the development of Urdu or Hindustani as the language of the Muslims. Dawood Sha was known to one and all as a Tamil scholar. He had always campaigned for the development of Tamil among the Muslims, including the moulvis of Tamil Nadu. But suddenly in 1939, he switched over to the Muslim League from the Congress and even extended his support to the separatist Pakistan demand of Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the All India Muslim League. Now, as a Muslim Leaguer, Dawood Sha, like P. Khalifullah of Tiruchirapalli and other prominent south Indian members of the Muslim league, did not oppose Urdu or Hindustani, though, like them, he agitated aginst the introduction of Sanskritised Hindi into the south by joining hands with E.V. Ramasamy – for Ramasamy, though Urdu, Hindi, or Hindustani, were of the same north Indian Aryan extraction, and were seen as the enemies of Tamil. Naturally, people such as Dawood Sha and Khalifullah seem to have been obliged to pay at least lip service to Urdu in order to be in line with the policies of the All India Muslim League, which was dominated by Urdu-speakers, and to be in the good books of north Indian (Urdu-speaking) Muslim leaders. So it would not be incorrect to conclude that the support extended by some Tamil Muslim leaders to Urdu during this period, was not out of any genuine love for it.
Further, Dawood Sha held that the interests of the minorities could not be safeguarded, without supporting the Pakistan scheme. Following, Jinnah and the All India Muslim League, he, like most of the Leaguers, distanced himself from the separate Dravidanadu or Dravidasthan demand of E.V. Ramasamy, in spite of the latter’s consistent support to the creation of Pakistan and to the conversion of untouchables to Islam. This was to have serious consequences between the Self-Respecters and the Muslims or Tamil Nadu, especially after independence.
Muslims and Dravidians Strains and Frictions
Nedunchezhiyan, being an expert on the Tirukkural, was invited to speak at the seventh annual celebration of the Mylapore Tiruvalluvar Kazhagam. It appears that during his speech, Nedunchezhiyan was supposed to have held that the Quran was not suitable for the times prevailing in 1952, whereas the Tirukkural was. Tamil Muslims did not wait long to rise against this statement of Nedunchzhiyan’s, which if true, belittled the Quran. The editor of Dar-ul-Islam, B. Dawood Sha, who had taken an uncompromising position against both the DK and DMK, especially after independence, was in the forefront in opposing Nedunchezhiyan’s statement. Dawood Sha who was never really sympathetic either to Ramasamy or Annadorai, dismissed Nedunchezhiyan’s statement as the irresponsible statement of an ignorant person who knew nothing about Islam. Besides, he was never confident about Annadorai’s goodwill towards the Muslims.
Similarly, when the controversy over the Kural and the Quran arose, Muslim leaders were bent upon proving that the Quran was superior to the Kural. B. Dawood Sha, the erstwhile editor of Dar-ul-Islam categorized Tiruvalluvar as somebody who does not know God and the Tirukkural as a literature which was not a product of ‘revelation’. He did not think even that the author of Tirukkural was Thiruvalluvar. He attributed it to a naked Jaina saint. He blamed the Kural for not showing any interest in spiritual development or in life after death.
We have seen how the Tamil Muslims and their print media were pitted against the DK and DMK and its leaders and policies. We have also seen how the print media had aided and sustained these controversies, which had serious implications for the Muslim identity in Tamil Nadu. On the whole, it appears that after independence a considerable section of the Tamil Muslim print media had become more defiant and hostile towards the DK and DMK.
The editor of Dar-ul-Islam, B. Dawood Sha seems to have been the most hostile against the designs of both the DK and DMK towards the Muslims.
He used the press to launch a systematic attack against both of them. On the other hand the Dravidian publications also went on the offensive to checkmate Dawood Sha and ward off Tamil Muslim criticism and hostility in general.
As noted earlier, the DK under Ramasamy had modified its policy towards the Tamil Muslims, towards 1946-47. Contrary to their earlier stand they did not want to extend special privileges to Muslims any more. Instead, they expected them to cooperate in their agitations for Dravidanadu. The minds of the Tamils Muslims seem to have been very exercised by this volte-face of Ramsamy.
From this period onwards, articles began to appear in some Tamil Muslim newspapers against the new policy of the DK vis-à-vis the Muslims. They began to set conditions for participating in the agitations for Dravidanadu. These conditions were more or less the same as before independence. They wanted separate electorates, the right to profess their language, culture, and religion with interference, and the assurance that the majority community will not be an obstacle to the development of the Muslims.
Dar-ul-Islam asked Ramasamy to accept these conditions, if he wanted Muslim support for Dravidanadu. It held that the Tamil Muslims were still backward in education and in other aspects and therefore they needed special consideration and separate electorates. It was not considered right to deny these privileges to the Muslims, while there were being given to the Harijans.
But Ramasamy and the DK never really accepted these conditions. The opposition of the Muslims to this stand was at first mild, but later it became more pronounced. They began to consider Ramasamy himself as the greatest obstacle that prevented the Muslims from supporting the Dravidanadu cause. Contrary to their earlier stand, they even began to deride the racial foundations of the Dravidian movement and held that the Muslims could not support such a racially motivated cause.
Besides, Dar-ul-Islam took a position against the few Muslim newspapers such as Muslim (weekly) and Ishate Islam (monthly), which somewhat favoured the DK and the DMK. It accused the Muslim editors of these papers of stooping so low as to attack those who opposed the DK. It also accused them of trying to defend Ramasamy as when they claimed that ‘Periyar never said that God does not exist’, though the whole world knew about his stand. It refuted the claims of these papers which held that it was because of Ramasamy that the Muslims were safe in Tamil Nadu. Instead, it pointed out that at Erode, the seat of Ramasamy’s Dravidanadu, some Muslims were forcibly converted to Hinduism and it was at Ramasamy’s strongholds such as Tiruvannamalai and Salem that Muslim properties and mosques were damaged or destroyed.
Ramasamy was further accused of openly indulging in propaganda against Islam, in spite of his earlier stand in favour of it. He was also accused for his ambiguous attitude towards Islam in which he had warned that if the Muslims were not vigilant, Tirukkural would become their religion and Tiruvalluvar their Prophet. Dar-ul-Islam wondered why some Muslim editors were supporting Ramasamy when they knew that Ramasamy had decided, as early as 1932, to destroy Islam and had even passed a resolution to that effect at the Second Conference of Self-Respecters held at Mannargudi in the Tanjore District on 17 June 1932.
It is to be noted anyhow that neither Ramasamy nor the movement had annulled this resolution passed in 1932, despite the fact that pro-DK Muslims such as the publishers of Ishate Islam, from Athur near Salem, had actually asked for its annulment in 1946. The arguments put forward by these pro-DK Muslim editors that Ramasamy had been responsible for the conversions of thousands of Hindus to Islam were also squarely refuted by journals like Dar-ul-Islam.”
In the Viduthalai of 5 April 1949, it appears that once again Ramasamy had reverted to his earlier atheist stand. He held that in the event of a separate Dravidian state, there would be no place for ‘God’ and ‘religion’, as in the old Tamil literature such as Tirukkural and Tolkappiyam, where there was no place for such words.
“Taking his cue from this statement of Ramasamy’s Dar-ul-Islam wrote that in case Dravidanadu came about, then its constitution would be based on the Kural and Tolkappiyam and there would be no place for God or the Quran there. It was useless to think that Ramasamy would give special protection to Islam, Muslims, and God, when he had decided to abolish all gods. Dar-ul-Islam warned that it was high time that the Black Shirt (DK) Muslims realised this situation and parted company with Ramasamy, the enemy of Islam, the Quran, and God. Ramasamy was even considered as the foremost enemy of the Muslims.
Similar attacks were directed by Tamil Muslims against C.N. Annadorai, the founder of the DMK. Dawood Sha accused Annadorai of misguiding the Muslims on Dravidasthan and God and of wanting to burn the Quran and adopt the Kural, of wanting to destroy mosques and build schools instead, to abolish prayers and worship, so that the Muslims would go to factories. Sha maintained that for the past 1,383 years, Islam had defeated so many rivals and would vanquish Anna (Annadorai) and E.V. Ramasamy too.
Another area in which the Muslim print media was overtly active during this period, though to a lesser extent, was in the field of cleansing Islam of its impurities and making Muslims conform to the true Islamic principles. Every journal, from the old Dar-ul-Islam and Saiphul Islam down to Santhi Vikatan, focused on this in one way or the other.
In the 1920s, B. Dawood Sha, the editor of Dar-ul-Islam, accused the editors of the orthodox journals such as the Al Kalam and Saiphul Islam of indulging in propaganda against him. But during the second half of the 1930s, his opposition to such journals, especially Hifazatul Islam and to the moulvis and alims seems to have mellowed down considerably. These orthodox journals on their part appeared to have stopped deriding Dawood Sha as an Ahmeddiya, though the latter had never stopped translating the works of Lahore Moulana Mohammad Ali such as the Religion of Islam and the The New World Order into Tamil.
During the 1950s, Dawood Sha wrote against the Tamil pirs and auliyas, who claimed to possess special miraculous powers by the grace of Allah, through which they could satisfy the desires and solve the various problems of the Muslims, especially women who could not conceive. Muslims who believed in their powers offered money and gold to these pirs in order to become their murids (disciples). The pirs, taking advantage of the credulousness of the Muslims, exploited them. Dawood Sha held that they even abused the Muslim women, by promising pregnancy through their miraculous interventions. So, he asked the Muslims not to believe in such false pirs and to turn instead directly towards Allah, for anything they desired.
We do not know, the exact position of Dar-ul-Islam and Dawood Sha with regard to family planning and contraception. But it is interesting to note that Dar-ul-Islam carried advertisements regarding books explaining the necessity of contraception. Dawood Sha would not have allowed such advertisements to appear in his paper, had he been against family planning and contraception. It is quite possible that his position would have been similar to that of Haji Subagu Mohideen Sahib of Tiruchirappalli. It is useful to note in this context that Dawood Sha always wrote in favor of Muslim women’s education.
They of course wanted to reform Islam on the basis of the Quran and other Islamic scriptures. But, generally, they did not think that it was necessary to reform Islam on the basis of un-Islamic norms however rational or modern, for they considered that Islam in its essence was a rational religion and had an answer to all the problems of existence. Even a great Islamic social reformer as B. Dawood Sha did not deem it necessary to tamper with the Shariat laws. Besides, when some Muslims took a position in favour of contraception or family planning, they sought justification in the Quran itself and quoted verses from it in support of their stand. But they never abandoned or altered their religious principles, in order to make room for some alien ideas, however progressive and modern they might have been in their lives as Muslims.
Conclusions and Observations
Further, reasons such as the untranslatability of the Quran because of its sophisticated language or its sacredness is not tenable when we have clear evidences as those advanced by B. Dawood Sha, the foremost Muslim social reformer of south India, about the real reasons that prevented the translation of the Quran and the Hadith and its publication.