Kerala Model of Development for Muslims in India

Essay-theme: Muslims in Kerala, Muslims in North India, Islamic view of Development, the Myth of Minority

M.S. Alam Oomeri

Presently, India is experiencing a Gujarat model of development envisioned by the BhartiaJanta Party (BJP); the ruling party in New Delhi. Based on several reports, after 4 years of the rule, the Gujrat model has failed severely on various facades including the most projected election manifestos of job creation and reducing corruption in the country. Many reputed media have published four years of BJP’s performances which can be googled and authenticated. However, my intent here is to write about development model for Muslims in India. Fortunately, I was among the participants of ‘Meet and Greet with Dr. Abdul Salam Ahmad’ program of Mehfil Malaysia organized in Kuala Lumpur on 24 June 2018. The invited guestDr. Abdul Salam Ahmadholds the post of rectorshipinAl-Jamia Al-Islamia, Santhapuram, Kerala. The guest has discussed about Muslims in Kerala and analysed their social, economic and political lives and emphasized that Muslims across India should practice similar things. Thus, this write-up is based on his sharing and discussion which I have named as Kerala Model of Development for Muslims in India.

The Malayalam (ما لم يعلم) speaking Keralans including Muslims are very hardworking, goal oriented, cooperative and vibrant community. The ما لم يعلم expression or feature of Malayalam language mentioned by the guest playfully suggests how hard is the language to speak and learn. The indicated Arabic expression means ‘one that cannot be learnt’. Having only one language for communication among all communities of Kerala offers tremendous opportunities for Muslims to cooperate with others, to create feeling of ownness, fraternity and brotherhood among them as well it allows them to present Islam’s peaceful messages easily and clearly to them. Very small portion of Muslims speak Hindi or Urdu in Kerala.Even they speak very rarely as the guest was talking in Urdu after two-years of time. The Muslims in Kerala did not face trauma and tragedy of the partition as experienced in Northern India where many wealthy, educated and influential personnel migrated to Pakistan, mentioned the guest. It given a better bargain for Keralan Muslims in preserving their identity, nation building and nation development.

The 80 lakhs (8 Million) Keralan Muslim population is quite active in all fronts of lives. According to the guest, religious community is quite vigorous as well. Each group from Jamat-e-Islami to Salafi, Barelvi etc. all are active and work rigorously for religious development of Muslims in Kerala. Educationally, Kerala attained 100% literacy including Muslims. Today throughout India and abroad, Muslim intellectuals and scholars are working and thinking on combining two streams of knowledge; secular and religious while in Kerala, it was in 1955 when Al-Jamia Al-Islmia has put this thinking in action by removing the dual system of education in Muslim society. This enabled Muslims in Kerala to represent Islam and Muslims in all fields since that time and the graduates of this college currently offering their services inside and outside of Kerala dazzlingly. This model later was adopted by other Muslim groups as well.In terms of economic and social position, Muslims are well as well. Muslims hold dominant position in Malappuram and Calicut cities of Kerala economically and socially. He said that the Muslim League; the political party of Kerala is never seen as a communal party in Kerala neither from Christian community nor form Hindu community and not even from BJP. The reason is very simple that the party aimed on inclusive developmentsince beginning, avoided emotional based statements and sought votes based on performances. The party is crucial in Keralan politics and no other party can take her granted. The people regardless of Muslims do listen to opinions of party. The two significant government portfolios; education and industry are normally held by the Muslim League candidates in Kerala.

Media which was and is very important tool of communication and informing people. It shapes people thinking and drive them for action positively or negatively. Seeing the negative image of Islam and Muslims portrayed by media throughout the world including India. Keralan Muslims started Madhyamam Daily in 1977 itself. This daily newspaper became very popular in Kerala claiming the third largest selling newspapers due to giving accurate news without exaggerating issues related to Muslims and Islam in it. It covers news related to every community and every field which make it attractive and worth-buying for people. Media One Tv is another media channel started by Muslims recently in 2013 and due to similar philosophy of accommodating every community, every issue, it among 15 channels of Kerala, attained four or fifth positions in terms of viewers and subscribers in Kerala. The message given by the guest here that Muslims are and should be joining the communities rather than dividing them. They should take part in others’ interests and affairs and show them equal importance while they deliver the message of Islam and true image of Muslims to them at the same time.

The guest then moved to highlighting the issues Muslims in North India are facing. According to him, Muslims in North India are clever and brilliant as he observed by the Urdu speaking, North Indian students’ performances at Al-Jamia Al-Islamia but the issue with them is their thinking, which is rigid, and they refuse to change. He narrated the story held between him and others with the guardians of MadrashDeoband related to reviewing the teaching method and syllabus of Deoband as per the need of time, but they decline his proposal. It looks they consider Deoband syllabus and teaching method as sacred. I wonder with their method of Hadith learning as one student among 1000 or 500, reads Hadith texts i.e. Bukhari Sharif with the speed of Rajdhani Express and in one-hour class, only few places where teacher interfere in it and explain some linguistic and jurisprudence points. How with such method of teachings, Muslims will avail wisdom of Prophet (peace be upon him) to lead proactive lives and play greater role in all domain of modern times?Deoband is centre of Muslims in North India and until or unless they upgrade their syllabus and teaching method as per modern times, the situation of Muslims in North will be similar. It is time to speak and spread true message of Islam beyond four-walls of Masjid and Madrasah.

He said, what we aspire today is we should create 10-years’ timeline for Muslims across India and work tirelessly to achieve it.We strive to bring Muslim literacy rate from less than 50 percent of today to 80 percent. We struggle to increase Muslims presence in bureaucracy from 2.5 percent of current time to 10 percent and we work diligently to send Muslim representatives to Parliament from 20-25 members of today to 100 members in ten years of time. The Islamic rule of rise and development is based on true love of Allah.If the love of Allah requires our beloved sacrifices as mentioned in chapter At-Taubah, verse 24 — Say: If your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your wives, your kindred, the wealth that you have gained, the commerce in which you fear a decline, and the dwellings in which you delight … are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger, and striving hard and fighting in His Cause, then wait until Allah brings about His Decision (torment). And Allah guides not the people who are Al-Fasiqun (the rebellious, disobedient to Allah) –, we Muslims must do it. The true love exemplified in being true believer and practicing the commandments given in Qur’an and Hadith and it is the only way for Muslims rise and development. As Allah said in chapter Aal-‘Imran, verse 139, ‘So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers.’.

The guest has concluded his discussion by confiscating the myth of minority that since they are lees in number, they are weak and cannot do anything. He said, if we read Islamic history, we find Muslims were always in minority. Muslims were minority in Makkah. They were minority when they fought their first and second wars i.e. battle of Badr and Uhd against non-Muslims. They were in minority when they fought against Roman and Persian empires etc… The point is made is being minority is not a problem or a reason of being backward, underdeveloped and at the position of obscure and insignificant. What is needed is to strategize our affairs as they were manoeuvred during Prophet time, during Caliph time and during the peak of Islamic history. Today, we find Jews community who are about 6 or 6.5 million people only; a minority community, but they are dominant in entire world. They are leading in education, business, technology, agriculture and of course in politics that’s the reason being in the centre of twenty-plus Muslim countries, they are not only survived but many Muslim countries are dependent on its security advise and technologies. The issue is we need to showcase Qur’anic principles and character in our thinking, studies, politics, economic, society and everything we do and everywhere we gofrom the streets of Kuala Lumpur to Riyadh, Istanbul, Tehran, New York, Berlin, New Delhi etc…

As conclusion, the points made here are Muslims in India should abstain from negative thinking of being minority in the country; in the sense that they cannot do anything, and they must live on the sympathy of majority. Second, they must review their happenings as per time and understand the nature of society and live accordingly. Third and last, they must strive to be model of Qur’an in their affairs; be kind to people, respect them and invite them towards Islam with wisdom andbest manner.

(Writer is a PhD. Researcher at IIUM, Malaysia. He can be reached on