A letter to a son


Mughal Emperor Babar ILLUSTRATION/Wikipedia

In the current superheated nationalistic discourse that is at the heart of India’s Hindutva appeal, the Mughals are cast as the villains.

In this version of Indian history, this dynasty contributed little to the country’s architecture, administration and the arts. Indeed, Emperor Babar and his descendants are supposed to have done little but destroy Hindu temples, and cruelly subjugate non-Muslims.

This crude, black-and-white portrayal of the Mughals seeks to justify the treatment of Indian Muslims under Modi’s right-wing BJP government. For years, the Mughal contribution to India has steadily been airbrushed from textbooks and public consciousness. But in these febrile times of hysteria and hyperbole, it is useful to read Babar’s letter to his son Humayun written on Jan 11, 1529:

“Oh my son! The realm of Hindustan is full of diverse creeds. Praise be to God … that He has granted unto thee the empire of it. It is but proper that you, with heart cleansed of all religious bigotry, should dispense justice according to the tenets of each community. And in particular refrain from the sacrifice of cow, for that way lies the conquest of the hearts of the people of Hindustan; and the subjects of the realm will, through royal favour, be devoted to thee.

“And the temples and abodes of worship of every community under the imperial sway, you should not damage. Dispense justice so that the sovereign may be happy with the subjects and likewise the subjects with their sovereign. The progress of Islam is better by the sword of kindness, not by the sword of oppression.

“Ignore the disputations of Shias and Sunnis; for therein is the weakness of Islam…”

If there’s a lesson here for India, there’s a more powerful one for Pakistan. Indeed, the entire Muslim world would be a far better place if we took Babar’s words to heart. Although his message of tolerance is universal, it is now largely ignored.

But it is not just Muslims who are intolerant: from America’s Trump to the UK’s Brexit, the public discourse has coarsened. Instead of listening to each other, we shout stridently in an effort to gain acceptance of our views. Recently, the speaker of the British parliament had to rebuke members for the toxic language used on the floor of the house.

Dawn for more

Comments are closed.