Sunday, January 20, 2013

An observation by Syed Ahmed Khan

In his booklet Asbab-e-Baghawat-e-Hind (The Causes of the Indian Mutiny), Syed Ahmed Khan observes the various causes leading to Hindustanis' suspicion that the British government was going to try to convert them to Christianity, and then notes (1873 translation) (emphasis added)
All these causes rendered the Muhammadans more uneasy than the Hindus. The reason of this, I take to be that Hindu faith consists rather in the practice of long-established rites and forms, than in the study of doctrine. The Hindus recognise no canons and laws, or appeals to the heart and conscience. Their creed does not admit of such things. Hence it is that they are exceedingly indifferent about speculative doctrine. They insist upon nothing excepting the strict observance of their old rites, and of their modes of eating and drinking. It does not annoy or grieve them to see such rites and observances as they consider necessary, disregarded by other men.

Muhammadans, on the contrary, looking upon the tenets of their creed as necessary to Salvation and upon the neglect of them as damnation, are thoroughly well-grounded in them. They regard their religious precepts as the ordinances of God. Hence it was that the Muhammadans were more uneasy than the Hindus, and that, as might have been expected, they formed the majority of the rebels. It is wrong and impolitic on the part of a government to interfere in any way with the faith of its subjects. But of all courses, the most unjust is to hinder the study of the tenets of their religion: and especially of such an one as is heartily believed by its votaries to be true. But be this as it may, all I wish to prove is that, whatever the intentions of Government might be, matters were so managed that the people were left to stumble on in error, suspicion, and ill-will.
Syed Ahmed Khan notes the indifference of Hindus to doctrine, canons and laws, and he mentions that Muslims consider their religion to be true; by absence of mention, he perhaps thinks Hindus are indifferent to the truth of their "religion" (my scare quotes).   These remarks are interesting in the context of the Balu's theory of religion.