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Dear Sanskaris, Understand Your Own Religion Before Calling Faiz or 'Hum Dekhenge' Anti-Hindu

The dimwitted objectors have missed the point that the idea expressed in the song is the essence of Vedanta.

Ravi Shanker Kapoor |

Updated:January 7, 2020, 11:25 PM IST
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Dear Sanskaris, Understand Your Own Religion Before Calling Faiz or 'Hum Dekhenge' Anti-Hindu
A protester holds up a placard with Faiz’s iconic words during a demonstration against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at Jamia Nagar in New Delhi.

The controversy over Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s famous song Hum Dekhenge underlines not just the unadulterated philistinism of sanskaris, but also their ignorance about their own faith and ethos. This is a point that needs to be highlighted.

Liberals have correctly pointed out that only an obtuse person could call Faiz or any of his poems anti-Hindu. Even if one is not a connoisseur of Urdu poetry, they can Google and check this out: in this day and age, nobody has an excuse to be ignorant. Yet, ignorance, along with philistinism, is rampant.

So, a teacher at the Indian Institute of Technology-Kanpur found the recitation of Faiz’s Hum Dekhenge anti-Hindu. The song was being recited by protesters against the Citizenship Amendment Act. He complained to the authorities; IIT-Kanpur, it was reported, began a probe to examine if the song was anti-Hindu or not. Later, IIT-Kanpur denied the reports. “Fake news,” said IIT-Kanpur’s deputy director Manindra Agrawal on the probe.

Come what may, that an assistant professor could be so thickheaded as to accuse a communist poet of being an Islamist is a sad commentary on the quality of teachers in the institutions of higher education. There is nothing wrong in not knowing about a poet, but there is everything wrong, especially for an IIT teacher, in formally objecting to something that he didn’t understand.

Faiz was a revolutionary poet; he was jailed several times for his views and poetry. Hum Dekhenge was written in protest against the dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq, who also happened to be author of Islamisation of Pakistan. It has been widely reported that in 1986 it became extremely popular after Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano sang it in the presence of 50,000 people in Lahore. The fact that she wore a saree made the rendition even more defiant, for Zia had banned the saree, calling it Hindu.

The defiance was more than sartorial; it was substantively subversive — that is, subversive to the ideology of Pakistan. The song ends with ‘Utthega an-al-haq ha nara/Jo main bhi hoon, aur tum bhi ho’.

The dimwitted objectors to the song have missed the point that the idea expressed in the song is the essence of Vedanta. Concomitantly, this is profoundly un-Islamic, if not downright anti-Islamic. It was the genius of Faiz that he presented an un-Islamic poem in Islamic imagery.

Prominent Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad understands this: “People have not understood (Faiz’s) his poetry. He wanted a communist rule in Pakistan. Those who are protesting should know about Faiz.”

The concept of an-al-haq — meaning ‘I am the Truth’ (or Reality, God) — is essentially a Vedantic concept, almost a translation of Aham brahmasmi (I am brahman, or the Ultimate Reality).

In brief, the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, as propounded by Adi Shankar (788-820), teaches that the truth or reality, brahman, is one. Hence the term Advaita (non-dual, literally). The duality that we witness in the subject and the object, man and the world etc., is not real; the working of maya makes the individual and the universe appear as different entities; in actual fact, there is no duality. This, in effect, is compatible with universal humanism, since essentially there are no differences between humans.

However, the Semitic or Abrahamic tradition -- comprising Judaism, Christianity, and Islam -- has a fundamentally different conception about the world which is created. The three faiths believe that God created the world ex nihilo — that is, out of nothing.

A couple of points need to be noted here. First, the world, being created out of nothing, is absolutely dependent upon the Creator or God. Second, the concept of ex nihilo is completely alien to Indic faiths, be it Hindu, Buddhist, or Jain.

This implies that the very utterance of an-al-haq is anathema to Islam, for it removes the difference between the creator and the creation. This was the reason that the ninth-tenth century Sufi, Mansur Al-Hallaj, who first said an-al-haq was executed.

It is interesting to note that Faiz’s song Hum Dekhenge doesn’t just use the aphorism of an-al-haq but also elaborates it in the following line: ‘Jo main bhi hoon, aur tum bhi ho’. This is the reason that orthodox Muslims and the ulema don’t like Faiz, as evident from Jawad. They know Faiz, so they don’t like him.

The sanskaris, on the other hand, don’t understand Faiz; nor do they understand his poem Hum Dekhenge, despite the fact that it resonates with the philosophy they claim to subscribe to. They also don’t know much their own theology and tradition. Yet, they badmouth him. Ignorance doesn’t just make people blissful; it can also make them cantankerous.

Perhaps, it is time the sanskaris pondered over the dictum of the fifth-sixth century philosopher and author, Bhartrihari. He wrote in Sanskrit, “A person devoid of literature, music, and art is like an animal without nails and horns. And it is the good fortune of animals that such persons do not eat grass like them.”

(The author is a freelance journalist. Views are personal)

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