What’s Muslim about Abdul Kalam? – Dr Rafiq Zakaria
Posted by jagoindia on October 22, 2008
What’s Muslim about Kalam? Dr Rafiq Zakaria
Publication: The Asian Age
Date: June 19, 2002
Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who will be our next President, is by all accounts a great scientist; his contribution to India’s defence is of the highest order; he is rightly called the Missile Man; every Indian feels proud of him; he is in every respect a Bharat Ratna. But because he was born a Muslim and bears a Muslim name, he should not be put in the same category as the two former Muslim Presidents, Dr Zakir Husain and Mr Fakruddin Ali Ahmed. Both of them were as great a patriot and Indian to the core as Dr Kalam. But they were also Muslims in the real sense of the word; they believed in the tenets of the Quran and faithfully followed the traditions of the Prophet. They worked for the uplift of the Muslims as much as for the progress of India. They were ardent followers of Gandhiji and had sacrificed for the cause of India’s freedom. They opposed Jinnah’s Two-Nation theory and were close associates of Maulana Azad. They had full faith in India’s composite culture and never hesitated to be a part of her ancient heritage.
Withal, they were also deeply involved in the hopes and aspirations of Indian Muslims; they engaged themselves actively in the emancipation of their community. Dr Zakir Husain built up the Jamia Millia Islamia and was for some time the vice-chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University. Similarly Mr Fakruddin Ali Ahmad always took up the cause of the Muslims, both in Assam and in the rest of the country.
I am afraid, Dr Kalam has kept himself completely away from Muslims; he refused to mix with them and even when invited to participate in their nationalistic activities, he politely declined. As chairman of the All-India Khilafat Committee I requested him to be the chief guest at the mammoth Prophet’s birthday celebrations in Mumbai, which is attended by more than ten lakh Muslims every year, but he refused. This was, in fact, started by Gandhiji in the wake of the Khilafat and the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1921 to promote Hindu-Muslim unity. It has been attended by most of our national leaders both during the Freedom Struggle and after Independence, even Prime Ministers and other highest dignitaries have graced the occasion by their participation. Likewise, Dr Ishaq Jamkhanwala, president of Anjuman-i-Islam, which was founded by the third Congress president, Mr Justice Badruddin Tyabjee, tells me that his invitation to Dr Kalam to visit the Anjuman to deliver the famous Seerut lecture to pay homage to the Prophet was turned down by him. He has hardly shown any interest in the affairs of the Muslim nor has he had any affiliation with the practices and conventions of Islam. He was one of the founder trustees with me of Maulana Azad Educational Foundation, floated by Government of India for promoting and aiding education among the Muslims; but Dr Kalam showed no interest in its work.
Dr Kalam feels much more at home with the Hindus. His Hindu friends, with whom he has spent a good deal of his life, have testified to the fact that he is far more attracted to Hinduism than Islam; I find nothing wrong with it. But for God’s sake, don’t describe him as a Muslim President and take credit for having obliged the Muslims for giving them this great honour. K. Rama Rao, former director of Defence Research and Development Laboratories (DRDL) writes: “I have known him for more than three decades, but find him the same, from the simple and unassuming fellow who shared a room with me in 1954 to the one who became my boss in the ’80s. He would stay up late at night, eat vegetarian food and never show any signs of being a Muslim. I have not seen him offering prayers during namaz nor fast during Ramzan.” Likewise R. Aravamudan, former director ISRO’s Satellite Centre, Bangalore: “We lived in Indira Bhavan Lodge in Thiruvananthapuram. People there called him Kalam Iyer because he moved around with Brahmins and had similar eating habit. The only non-vegetarian food he ate occasionally was egg masala along with Kerala parottas. He would not talk much about his parents or siblings.”
Dr Kalam never reads the Quran but every morning he goes through the Gita and is enchanted by it. He is sincerely devoted to Krishna. He recites the Hindu mantras on every occasion. Namaz does not appeal him nor has he ever fasted in the month of Ramzan. He is a strict vegetarian and a life-long brahmachari. His roots are really in Hinduism and he enjoys all the sacred Hindu scriptures. Hence the credit for his elevation, in communal terms, should go to the Hindus; to give it to the Muslims would be wrong. In fact Dr Kalam himself would be happy if he is not described as a Muslim President and his name is not linked with Dr Zakir Husain and Mr Fakruddin Ali Ahmad.
This does not mean that he is not a good man or inferior to the two Muslim Presidents; I am only objecting to the appellation. He is in fact most worthy to be President. He is great in the true sense, and his simplicity, humility and honesty will add lustre to the highest office of our country. I wish him all the best; may God, of whatever denomination Dr Kalam believes in, be with him.