Recently Madras High court has made it compulsory to sing Vande Mataram in educational institutes across Tamil Nadu. Also Mumbai civic body passed a resolution to mandatorily sing Vande Mataram in schools. Nowadays some or the other news related to singing Vande Matram or some fatwa against it become a routine. Before getting into the right or wrong of it, let’s first discuss the origin of this song.
Vande Mataram is a poem composed by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1870s and later included in his novel Anandamath in 1881. The first two verses of the song were adopted as the National Song of India in October 1937 by Congress Working Committee prior to the end of colonial rule in August 1947. Congress Working Committee consisting of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Acharya Deva and Rabrindanath Tagore has recommended the adoption of two stanzas as the National Song. That’s interesting we see a Muslim name in the list! Yes, Maulana Azad also recommended the adoption of the song although Muslim League and Muhammad Ali Jinnah opposed the song.
So why do we see opposition from some section of society and constant controversy around the song? Indian reputed Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband has issued fatwa against singing the Vande Matram, on the ground that some of its verses are against the tenets of Islam. 3 years later Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has endorsed the same and passed a resolution in 2009.
Hell broke loose in certain circles with the passage of this resolution. The self-appointed custodians of Indian nationalism and some sections of media began attacking the JUH and Muslims in general saying that this ‘fatwa’ was unpatriotic and against national unity. Earlier, Shiv Sena had in an open threat told Indian Muslims that ‘Is Desh Mein Rahna hai to Vande Matram Kahna Hoga.'(If you want to stay in this country then you have say Vande Matram) So, the Muslims are finding themselves helpless between the two edicts, one asking them not to sing Vande Matram and the other asking them to leave the country if they do not sing it.
There is, however, another opinion espoused by moderates. Most of the Muslim participants in the television talk shows and Muslim leaders, including Salman Khursheed and some Muslim intellectuals are of the view that that the JUH resolution or fatwa was not acceptable to them, nor should it be given any importance because the Indian constitution has settled the matter long ago. The first two stanzas of the song, which are free from the Hindu imageries, are to be sung by the Muslims. Then, another school of thought asserts that the singing of any song cannot be imposed on the people as that violates the freedom of religion guaranteed by the constitution.
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Let’s deep dive into the first two stanzas of the National song, translated by Shri Aurobindo from original song written in mix of Bengali and Sanskrit.
Mother, I praise thee!
Rich with thy hurrying streams,
Bright with orchard gleams,
Cool with thy winds of delight,
Dark fields waving Mother of might,
Glory of moonlight dreams,
Over thy branches and lordly streams,
Clad in thy blossoming trees,
Mother, giver of ease
Laughing low and sweet!
Mother I kiss thy feet,
Speaker sweet and low!
Mother, to thee I praise thee.
Although in my humble opinion, there is no verse which seems to be against the tenets of Islam. And I would like to believe that a prominent Islamic scholar like Maulana Azad wouldn’t have approved it in first place if the two stanzas contain anything against the Islamic tenets.
One may note that Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind is one such organisation which stood solidly with the concept of composite Indian nationalism, opposing India’s partition, rejecting the two-nation theory. And there are several shades of opinion amongst Muslims. Legally while constitution recognises Vande Matram as a national song, it also gives Indians the freedom of religion, and the Supreme Court judgments have struck down the extreme position that Song must be sung.
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So far Muslims are concerned, true, as per the dictates of Islam, they can never worship or bow in front of anything other than Allah. But that doesn’t take from them the fact that they are loyal to the nation and that they do not need a certificate to prove this.
Muslims should not get carried away by a few lines of the song as nobody is asking them to bow down. They must learn a lesson from Maulana Azad.