Munshi Premchand and Islam

Munshi Premchand, an Indian Hindu writer talks about equality in the Islamic faith in his article "Islamic Civilisation" published in 1925.

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Below is a short article ‘Islamic civilisation’ written by Munshi Premchand (1925), a celebrated Indian Hindu writer. His medium of writing was both Urdu and Hindi. We may easily see love and respect of Islam in his writing. The theme of this small article is ‘equality in Islam’. He tried to explain this with three very relevant examples. He made mention about ‘importance of equality in Prophet’s last sermon at Arafat’, he wrote about ‘slaves who became Muslim rulers’ (Slave dynasty of India) and he also compared Islam and the Bolshevik communist revolution (Bolshevik revolution was a very attractive political movement of Premchand’s time). In the end he mentioned about ‘usury’, which is the reason of many evils in history and prohibited in Islam.
I would highly recommend my friends to both read and share this rare piece of writing by Premchand. We ought to spread his message of peace and amicable coexistence of two communities for centuries in India. This rare piece is as relevant now as it was in the year 1925.

This article was originally published in the Hindi ‘Pratap’ magazine (1925). In the year 1995, India Today Hindi edition, reprinted this article in a special literary edition. ‘Radiance’ published it in the late 90s.

“Islamic Civilisation”
By Munshi Premchand

Although Hindus and Muslims have coexisted for a thousand years in India, they do not understand each other. They are an enigma for each other, carried away by baseless reports they fight with each other. For Hindus, Muslims embody all evils and they appear as shorn of any virtue of mercy, faith, tolerance and forbearance. In an equal measure, Muslims look upon Hindus as pagans and animal like … True, Muslims have been guilty of great injustice, even while invoking their faith. But, have Hindus, though being votaries of nonviolence, not indulged in large-scale violence?

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The Prophet’s Sermon on the Mount Arafat is a life-giving message which would always invigorate Islamic life. This sermon permeates with a deep and genuine concern for justice. Justice applies to all be they the king or the subject, the rich or the poor … Instances of tolerance and broadmindedness exemplified by Muslim rulers are unprecedented in history. They routinely appointed non-Muslims to august offices of state on the criterion of merit alone.

Below are rare postcard from my collection, issued by Postal Department of India on Munshi Premchand.

A rare postcard from my collection, issued by Postal Department of India on Munshi Premchand.

Although Karl Marx and Russians are credited for the principle of equality. It was Muhammad who preached and practiced it first. He never laid any claim to a special position. He professed and practiced perfect equality. Islam is justifiably proud of its treatment of slaves. As soon as a slave embraced Islam, he became a free person. And there have been many slave rulers in Muslim history. Which code of life can boast of granting women the right to property which Islam does. Islam firmly believes in equal opportunities. Islam attaches much significance to the principle of fraternity.

So Islam is the only faith that has forbidden usury. It goes without saying that usury has given rise to numerous evils and problems in the society. Few can rival Muslims in their contribution to knowledge. Muslims are inspired by the ideals of freedom. It has achieved amazing success owing to its teachings of equality and fraternity.

Hindus are, of course, free to reorganise and restructure their social life. However, it should be done without fanning differences with Muslims.

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