Brown Pundits – Episode 4, three Hindus talk about the Golden Age of Islam

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Note: Using the older context of Hindu.

33 thoughts on “Brown Pundits – Episode 4, three Hindus talk about the Golden Age of Islam”

    1. Is it necessarily Western?
      I just made the point, it’s not a particularly salient model for Pakistanis. We have multiple identities and it’s important we look at Indian Golden Ages (Ashoka as well as Akbar) as models for statecraft ..

        1. Vijayvan, it may be insufficient but the spirit of greatness speaks for itself. When present societies reflect on the ambitions of forebears they may gain an appreciation of what is required to build an impressive society.

  1. I do not know anything about Islam, but talk about the golden age is a trap for the poorer segments of the population (since I know only about India and US, I refer to OBC/ST/SC/Indian muslims, and the poor rural and working class people in rustbelt of US). Have you ever heard a scheduled caste or an OBC person in India or a landless farmer in Pakistan talk about the golden age of Hinduism or Islam in India? It is a trap by the elite to dream about a past glory that never existed and force the poor to dream the same dream.

    Noted examples abound: one in poor taste can be made regarding the pied pipers of Pakistani elite talking and leading several millions of Indian Muslims to Pakistan with a dream of recreating the Mughal or Turkish empires. The present administration of the most powerful entity ever is an elite concoction that talks of a return back to near past where the rural or working class white attained their greatest (power? wealth? happiness?). In India, a similar dream of Ramarajya has been propagated by two extremes of the polity, with limited outcomes.

    Talk about the golden past is extremely injurious to the health of the followers.

      1. Love it, but I own means of production (at least, in India). I am living the Marxian dream. As Indian society moved from feudalism to capitalism, as a Haute bourgeoisie, I am the the real power holder, at least until the next recession when the bank calls its loans, when I will become the bankrupt class.

        1. As a class conscious bourgeoisie, you will be making Marx proud, next to class conscious proletariat.
          Don’t overestimate the spine of Indian banks to call in their debts.

  2. “Talk about the golden past is extremely injurious to the health of the followers.”

    Bingo! Succinct and accurate! You can add the Germans following Nazis, Russians following communists, and Italians following Fascists to the list too. Every such march to glories ended in gutters.

    1. The Chinese, on the other hand, seem to have successfully harnessed notions of past glory in the service of building a powerful modern nation. The Vietnamese, too, rallied behind memories of national traditions of resistance to unite against the French, the Americans and now, the Chinese.

      Myths of golden ages work best when they can unite a society more than they divide. All this talk of the poor not caring about it is Communist delusion.

        1. Let us not confuse intent with ignorance.

          The history of Pre-Arabia, before the prophet included jews and christians, in addition to Pagans. How much of that history will be taught in any islamic country except that Arabians used to bury their girl children, which of course is not true.

          The islamic polity in Damascus, Baghdad, later day Constantinople and in Delhi were often, multi-ethnic, multi-religious. Muawiyah also encouraged peaceful coexistence with the Christian communities of Syria, granting his reign with “peace and prosperity for Christians and Arabs alike.

          Promoting a version of history of pure Islamic (and Islamic-only) polity is favorable to harking back on a golden all-sunni age (i.e., rightly guide caliphates) and plotting a future that is all-Sunni.

          Kabir has also clarified that the creation of Pakistan has completely wiped out all of the history before the arrival of Muhammad bin Qasim in Pakistan. Omer Kan who maintains also concurs with that assessment, and sees the disappearance of most of the Moenjadarao and Harappa ruins (intentionally or otherwise) in the next 25 years.

          1. The Indus Valley Civilization is taught in Pakistan Studies. It is only the “Hindu period” that the State of Pakistan is very uncomfortable with.

  3. What you “want” to see as “Golden age” in history depends on where you stand. There is no objective golden age. If India would have been a majority Buddhist country it would have seen the Ashoka’s period as “golden age” (as neo buddhist and ambedkarite see). If India would have been a majority muslim country it would have seen Mughals/Delhi Sultanate as the “Golden age” .

    But i dont think Akbar/Dara Shikoh would have been seen as the golden boy since a muslim majority India need not have provided lip service to “sycrentic culture” and “composite culture” just like it does not need to provide lip service to pagan arabia / pre islam egypt/ zorastrian persia. All this talk about “composite culture” heroes is needed when you have to contend with power with another religious demographic who you have failed to convert totally. Where total conversion has occurred your heroes tend to be the “warrior king” not the “philosopher king”. So most probably the golden boy of muslim majority India would have been Ghori/Qasim/Khilji/Auranzeb. Which we see in Pakistan and thats what you see in “Cordoba” example as well.

  4. I first read “incomplete Islamization” as the reason forwarded for the Indian/S Asian Muslim tendency to locate the root of their civilization exogenously in Naipaul’s Among The Believers.

    I personally do not find it convincing. I think the reason why S Asian Muslims latch on to exogeneity so easily (and so do Indian Christians to some extent) has more to do with a lack of a strong, extant political nationhood in India.

  5. cordoba looms large partly cuz arab-islamic translations came up from spain into france/england. the influence on university of paris was real.

    but the italian renaissance was more influenced by byzantine refugees and travelers.

    the modern emphasis clearly cuz it was a multireligious polity dominated by muslims in europe.

    1. And I have to say, the Mezquita in Cordoba is a thing of astonishing architectural beauty.

      The bits that the Spaniards modified to install the baroque statues of virgin mary and arbitrary cherubs stood out like a sore thumb to me. I am no Islamic revisionist, but even I was offended at the architectural blasphemy.

      There is a minimalism in Islamic architecture that just takes my breath away. Whatever the benefits of Islam, Islamic architecture is certainly a thing to behold.

  6. Correction: Three Hindu Mlecchas loll

    I love the irony that Pakistan is the land of the Pure and India is the land of the Indus.

    Despite the fact that the Indus pretty much runs through Pakistan, it is India that is considered the “Pure Land” in Hindu scriptures. It reminds me of the Israel Palestine situation where much of ancient Israel is in modern Palestine (West Bank) and vice versa (Ashkelon etc)..

    The contradiction of nationalism never ceases to amaze (Poland is in Prussia; Belorussia is in Poland that sort of thing)..

  7. many topics were touched, but no notes are made. Golden age: an argument people keep making, but as you have spoken about it, in modern sense, its about science and values that come with it. Again, it shows a distinction in values in terms of what was golden about the golden age. Also, about identity and what can be invoked as part of identity given who the neighbors are and in how much numbers. What does this say?. Is there no discernible pattern?.

    Maybe it is better this way, talk about things without making a case for any patterns, that way, conversations can perhaps take off. Or maybe not.

      1. what are the troubles at hand that holds back better values from gaining. Perhaps thats not the way to talk about things, maybe what you guys are doing is better. Conversations in our part of the world need to happen, in order for that one must perhaps be willing to suspend judgments. In any case there are a lot other people out there who do make judgements, so perhaps the niche of brown pundits can be about having free conversations.

  8. The quality of a civilization or culture is not only the heights of science, knowledge, art and culture touched but also the depths to which it sank.
    Will 20th century stand out as a golden age ? very very doubtful. While science and technology leapt up by thousands of times, the century was also a period of great wars, massacre of innocents , gulags, tyrants, concentration and extermination camps, total wars in which no difference between soldiers and civilians. Going by knowledge production, science and technology alone to measure the quality of a period or society is fraught .

  9. For all the combined intellectual credentials of you three, this was a rather banal episode. I suppose it is impossible to extricate yourselves from the childhood indoctrination of Islamic Studies, regardless of how much you believe you are “atheists”. You will never free yourselves of the monotheist-imperialist web that caught you early.

    The possibility of Indianization of South Asian Muslims is as much an utopian dream as anything else. If it was indeed possible, Pakistan and Bangladesh wouldn’t have existed in the first place. What could not happen in a 1000 years will not happen in another 1000.

    May be one of you should read Jan Assmann and his theory of normative inversion. That said, the history of Islam is the proof that memes (of religion) trump genes. Why would a South Asian Muslim care about Ramayana or Mahabharata if he/she was taught that everything that preceded Mohammad was Jahilliyah?

    On a side note, I have been following Dr. Omar Ali for a while and I didn’t know that he too was a Love Jihadi.

    1. regardless of how much you believe you are “atheists”.

      i’m the only atheist on the podcast dumbshit.

      don’t repeat stupid lies or i’ll ban you.

      (anyone who responds to this comment, i will IP ban)

    2. Murshid Sayed S, I think you misread the BIG THREE. Great are they(master Yoda grammar)

      Inshallah Allah will transcend and bless you continually every moment.

  10. South Asia has a sizeable Shia (Ismaili, Bohra, Sufi, Twelvers, etc) population, is there any overlap in their construct of Golden Age of Islam with mainstream Sunnis ?

    1. the golden age for ismailis would probably be the fatimids?

      as i said in the podcast, the shia don’t like the umayyads. but some of the abbasids leaned to the shia party and some did not

    2. Sarahna. The answer to your question is long and nuanced. There are many Shiite perspectives.

      I favor the irfan sufi tilted twelvers and Sixers.

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