chapter  9
Abdul Kader Mukadam: Political opinions and a genealogy of Marathi intellectual and Muslim progressivism
ByDEEPRA DANDEKAR
Pages 19

I decided to write about Abdul Kader Mukadam’s political opinions in early 2014, to explore the genealogical and intellectual context of Muslim progressive activism and its link with the rationalist movement in post-independence Maharashtra that had resulted in 1970 in the establishment of the ‘Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal’ (or the ‘Muslim Truth-Seeking Society’) under the searing leadership of Hamid Dalwai. Mukadam began his own journalistic writing career as a fire-brand ideologue under Dalwai in 1971 and had continued to investigate subjects pertaining to Muslim progressivism during his political trajectory as an intellectual writer and activist. However, he maintained important political differences from Dalwai that had less to do with their shared progressive ideals (i.e. the struggle against Muslim orthodoxy) but was more concerned with Muslim political identity and belonging in modern India and Maharashtra. Whereas Dalwai lamented orthodoxy, Pakistan-centered cultural belonging, the baggage of Mughal-cultural heritage and the backward gaze of traditional Indian Muslims (Dalwai 1968), Mukadam wrote about the intercultural Sufi tradition of India and the ever-ready preparedness of Sufis to mix with Hindu culture and religion in shared exchange that enriched both Hindu and Islamic cultures and religions. Although Mukadam obviously ascribes to the tenets of progressivism and

continues to write prolifically and robustly in ways that are synchronized with his activist origins that criticize Muslim orthodoxy, he shifts his target from Muslims and Islam to the hegemonic control wielded by the ‘ulamā’ (Muslim clergy) and their various centralized schools of thought and opinion control that lead to organized Muslim minority politics. His primary passions also lie in writing about relationships of ‘belonging’ for Muslim minorities in the context of a strong Hindu political reaction against ‘ulamā’ hegemony, which he feels atomizes ordinary Muslims and Islam’s tolerance in its crossfire. He therefore attempts to iron-out fraught communal differences between Hindus and Muslims by asserting how cultural identity for Muslims can be defined as being primarily regional – Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati, etc. – rather than Islamic, exemplifying this further by writing about Muslim religious issues in a regional vernacular himself: in Marathi. Mukadam therefore seeks to open a space for intellectual discussion on religious difference but common

cultural belonging between Hindu and Muslim orthodoxy within the imaginaire of a commonly shared and unified regional idea of Maharashtra that fits into the federalist structure of Indian nationalism. He attempts to underline how religious difference between Marathi Hindus

and Muslims is private, intellectual or emotional that cannot be allowed to spill-over into the public domain of Marathi cultural life in ways that disturb its unified regional ‘ethos’. He believes this cultural Marathi public domain to form an integrated, secular, modern, rational or progressive federal mainstream of the nation, of which Muslims form a healthy part. His writings make concerted attempts at educating his Hindu-Marathi readers about the true and composite nature of what an uplifting and indeed secular side of original Islam is meant to be, when revealed to the Prophet in the form of the Qur’an. Pure and secular Islam, according to him, soon became debased and corrupted by the formalist strictures imposed upon it by the Deobandi ‘ulamā’, the Dar-ul-Uloom, the Ulema-e Hind, the Tablighi Jamaat and other such organizations intent upon producing a more globalist or universalist structure of Islamic reformism. He denounces their recently arrived at and hegemonically centralized variety of orthodoxy and orthopraxy as antihumanistic and medievalistic, and this brings him back a full circle not just to Dalwai but to the general direction of Islamic progressive ideas that contribute to the Muslim intellectual genealogy that once produced the Muslim Satyashodhak Mandal in 1970. Mukadam’s criticism of conservative, present-day and modern Islam

upholds, indeed underlines and necessitates the establishment of ‘another’ modern present-day Islam that he both embodies and envisions: a liberal image of a regional and composite Islam that has to be cleansed of its own right-wing orthodoxy, by which he silently justifies Dalwai’s tacit rationalization of Hindu attacks on Islam’s debased and conservative aspects that hark to Mughal times as lost glory. Although this view, propagated by Dalwai, remains problematic in its insinuation of how Islam in India being medieval and culturally ‘other’ (leading to Pakistan) is therefore righteously attacked by Hindu nationalists, Dalwai also remains sadly naive in requesting Hindu nationalists to give up their own hyper-Hindu practices as well, while exhorting Islamists to become more secular in order to create a more modern and secular forward-looking society. The aim in this tortuous logic is to envisage a society that could be somehow rid of religion, so that an important impediment to modern India’s growth that once produced a painful partition based on religious difference would never repeat itself (Dalwai 1968: 36-39).1