How Ram, Ramayana live in Muslim imagination - Hindustan Times
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How Ram, Ramayana live in Muslim imagination

Feb 03, 2024 10:13 PM IST

There is much evidence to suggest that the extraordinary sacrifices and inspiring character of Lord Ram attracted many Muslim kings as well as ordinary Muslims.

It is not certain when and who declared that Muslims in general do not respect Lord Ram. Political disagreement with Hindutva politics is one thing but Muslims are duty-bound to respect the prophets of every religion. The Quran states that God has sent his messengers in every community and in every part of the world. Imam Hanbal referred to a hadith which states that 1,24,000 messengers of God were incarnated on the Earth. The Quran mentions some of them by name and even Gautama Buddha has been mentioned as Zul Kafil (inhabitant of Kapilvastu). Having said as much, there is much evidence to suggest that the extraordinary sacrifices and the inspiring character of Lord Ram attracted many Muslim kings as well as ordinary Muslims.

New Delhi, Jan 20 (ANI): Artists make religious paintings during the 7th Edition India International Ramayana Mela 2024, at Purana Qila, in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo/ Jitender Gupta)(Jitender Gupta ) PREMIUM
New Delhi, Jan 20 (ANI): Artists make religious paintings during the 7th Edition India International Ramayana Mela 2024, at Purana Qila, in New Delhi on Saturday. (ANI Photo/ Jitender Gupta)(Jitender Gupta )

Kabir alludes to Ram as a synonym of God and not as the king of Ayodhya. He states: “Kya Kashi kya osar maghar, Ram hriday base mora” (Both Kashi and deserted Maghar are the same to me because my God, Ram dwells in my heart). Interestingly, Ram is a word which is common in Persian as well. In Persian, “Ram kardan” denotes conquering. Not only in India but in several Muslim countries, Ram is an ideal of humanity and sacrifice. In Bali, western Papua, Sumatra and Sulawesi (all regions of Indonesia) Ram Leela is celebrated with great enthusiasm and energy. Some of the Indonesian Muslims fast during the 30 days.

Recently, Tehran University commissioned Persian translations of the Ramayana. Translating Valmiki Ramayan started during the Khilji and Tughlaq regimes. But these translations have been lost, their references survive in history books. Akbar had established a translation department and ordered translations of Hindu texts including the Ramayan. Abdul Qadir Badayuni, a historian and a contemporary of Akbar mentions several of these translations in his Muntakhab-ul-Tawarikh. Mulla Saad-ullah Masih Keranvi translated the Ramayan on his own during the reign of Jahangir. This translation consists of 5,407 stanzas. Though a politically ineffectual king, the Mughal ruler Farrukh Sayyar was a patron of the arts and commissioned the translation of Valmiki’s Ramayana into Persian in 1715 AD.

Mirza Mazhar Jaan-e-Jaa, an 18th-century saint, writes that there is no harm if we call the almighty Parmeshwar or Ram, instead of God. The last Mughal king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, used to distribute presents on the eve of Ram Leela every year and used to watch the Ram Leela. The greatest poet of Urdu, Ghalib once visited Banaras and wrote: “In this charming city every boy is Lakshman and Ram and if I were not afraid of being made fun of by my enemies, I would have worn a janue, put tilak on my forehead and sit on the bank of the Ganga.”

Altaf Hussain Hali, a close associate and biographer of Ghalib has described Ram endearingly as “Hubb-e-Watan”. “Paaon uthta thha us ka ban ki taraf aur khinchta tha dil watan ki taraf. Guzrey ghurbat mien is qadar mh-o-saal par na bhoola Aayodhya ka khayal. Teer ik dil mien aa key lagta tha aati thi jab Ayodhya ki hawa.” (Though he was heading into the woods, his heart was torn towards his homeland. He spent many years in alien lands but couldn’t forget Ayodhya. Whenever he sensed the wind coming from Ayodhya, it pierced his heart.)

Allama Iqbal, the Islamic poet also called the philosopher of the East, saw Ram in the light of Islamic teachings. “Hai Ram ke wajood pe Hindosta(n) ko naaz ahl-e-nazar samajhtey hain us ko Imam-e-Hind. Aijaz us charagh-e-hidayat ka hai ye hi roshan tar az sehar hai zamaney mien sham-e-Hind. Talwar ka dhani tha shuja-at mien fard tha pakeezgi mien josh-e-mohabbat mien fard tha” (India is proud of the existence of Ram, those who have real discernment and insight consider him to be the prophet of India. It is the miracle of his teachings that the twilight of India is brighter than the aurora. He was not only a skilled warrior and an accomplished swordsman but also unique in his purity and his spirit of love).

Qurratulain Hyder, the great Urdu novelist, refers to Ayodhya several times in her Aag Ka Darya. Beneath layers of philosophy lies Hyder’s thesis that religion is influenced by its milieu. She cites a piece of poetry that evokes Sita as the ideal woman. An important character of her novel, Champa, who appears throughout the novel in different forms, mentions Ram and Sita as the ideal couple and Ayodhya as a paradise on earth. Another of Hyder’s novellas, Sita Haran, compares the agony of Indian women with Sita’s story and predicament. Similarly, Kaifi Azmi’s poem Doosra Banbas conveys his message of love and is severely critical of those who politicise religion.

There are innumerable references to Ram in Persian, Arabic and Urdu literature composed by Muslim scholars. There are at least 300 Urdu translations of Valmiki Ramayan as well as Ramcharita Manas. Some of the translators are Saghar Nizami, Nafees Khaleeli, Mehdi Nazmi, Safdar Aah, Talib Allahabadi, Imtiaz Khan, Molvi Abdussattar, Noorul Hasan Naqvi, Zafar Ali Khan, Zamin Ali Khan, and Tahira Banu Rind Rehmani. The reason for their love can be expressed in the words of Saghar Nizami: “Hinduon ke dil mein baki hai mohabbat Ram ki mit nhi sakti qayamat tak hukumat Ram ki” (The supremacy of Ram can never be vanquished because we Indians love Ram).

Khalid Alvi is an Urdu critic and literary historian. The views expressed are personal

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