By Almas Kiran Shamim,
I am a Muslim and I am an Indian. I was born and brought up in this country, speaking Urdu/Hindi and using terms like ‘Namaaz’* and ‘Roza’**. I have no desire to suddenly change my language because ‘some’ people find it inappropriate. I absolutely hate the de-Indianization of Indian Muslims, saying, for example, “Ramadan Kareem” instead of “Ramzaan Mubarak”, and “salaat” instead of “namaaz.”
Today, someone told me that ‘Khuda hafiz’*** is not the correct word to be used, and we should rather say ‘Allah hafiz’. The reason given was that “Parsis also use Khuda hafiz”. I have heard the same ridiculous notion earlier as well. I am very sure that a lot of people reading this also have similar views. In any case, I make it clear to anyone and everyone reading this post, that I, Almas, will not stop saying ‘Khuda hafiz’.
An auto in Delhi street with "Khuda Hafiz" written in Hindi.
Firstly, for the benefit of the readers, ‘Khuda’ is a word incorporated into Urdu from Persian (like many other Urdu words). If you do a thorough search, you will find that the word ‘Khuda’ has a very elaborate meaning – from ‘the powerful one’ to ‘the one to whom sacrifices are offered’. To keep it simple, we shall use the commonest meaning for which the term ‘Khuda’ is used, i.e., ‘God’.
When I say Khuda, I mean my God, my Creator, the One to whom I shall return. When I say Khuda, I mean my Allah. However, obviously, not everyone in the world speaks Urdu, and not everyone in the world calls Allah ‘Khuda.’ Just like not everyone in the world speaks English, not everyone in the world would call Allah ‘God’. However, I am not ‘everyone in the world’, and I do call my God ‘Khuda’. It doesn’t matter to me who uses this word for what other purposes. There are people who say that ‘Khuda’ should not be used because a lot of other people use this term for their God.
Urdu is a language, so is Persian, and anyone who speaks in this language can use ‘Khuda’ for his God. A Christian from Pakistan can use ‘Khuda’, a Zoroastrian from Iran can use ‘Khuda’. This, by no means, implies that a Muslim from either Pakistan or Iran cannot use ‘Khuda’.
When you say that ‘Khuda’ can also mean the Christian God or the Parsi God or even the Sikh or Hindu God, you are actually trying to say that there IS a Christian God, a Parsi God, a Sikh God, a Hindu God besides a Muslim God Allah.
Tell me, is this what you believe in?
Does this make you a Muslim?
Tell me, what is the most important thing to be a Muslim?
The belief in one God.
La ilaha illallah.
There is no God but Allah.
So, when anyone says ‘God’, what should come to your mind?
Allah, because who is Allah but Allah?
There is one God who created us all, who provides for us all, whether we be Muslim or Hindu or Parsi or whatever. Then what exactly do you mean when you say that ‘so and so people also call their God ‘Khuda’?
Do you realize that a Christian Arab also uses the word ‘Allah’ but for him Allah is the father of Jesus. So, now, shouldn’t I stop using the term ‘Allah’ too? Do you realize that when Huzur (Salallaho alaihe wasallam) became a Prophet, Arabs belonging to the Jahiliya also worshipped Allah, only that they also worshipped Uzza, Lat, and Manat? So, doesn’t this also mean that I should stop using ‘Allah’?
A lot of Non-Muslims believe that Allah is some ‘other’ God, i.e, a God other than their own God. So, doesn’t ‘Allah’ too conjure images other than what we, as Muslims, know ‘Allah’ means? Now, if ‘Allah’ despite being used by other sects means Allah then I am sure ‘Khuda’ too can mean ‘Allah’ for me.
When a Christian says ‘Khuda hafiz’, he might be leaving you in the protection of God the Father. However, when I, or any other Muslim, say ‘Khuda hafiz’, we are leaving you in the protection of Al-Ilah – The God.
There are definitely reasons why you can tell me to use ‘Allah hafiz’ instead of ‘Khuda hafiz’. The best being that Allah calls Himself Allah in the Qur’an. Also, that saying the ‘word’ Allah itself brings blessings and that it binds the Ummati in a common thread. If you give me these reasons I will agree with you. However, if you give me the stupid reason that a Parsi also calls God ‘khuda’ than you are going to get a piece of my mind.
Besides, Allah created us all differently – there are Muslims with golden hair and blue eyes, Muslims with black skin and curly hair and Muslims with brown skin and black eyes. We eat different food, speak different languages and have different cultures. We are united in our belief and our belief doesn’t include us becoming Arabs. No, I don’t mean that ‘Allah’ is for Arabs alone. What I mean is that this sudden need among Indian Muslims to switch over from ‘namaaz’ to ‘salaah’ and the like, and also a sudden defilement of ‘Khuda hafiz’, have all arisen (I believe) from that same misconception that Muslim and Arab is synonymous.
It is NOT.
I live in Kerala (at present) and the Muslims here use the term ‘Niskkaram’ or ‘Namaskkaram’ for ‘Namaaz’ / ‘Salaah’. Yet, I don’t find huge forums on the Internet debating the usage of the term. Nor do I find Keralite Muslims with any sense of shame in their usage of a word that is well known to have Hindu origins (if I can call them that) to refer to the second pillar of Islam. Yet, ‘namaaz’, ‘roza’, and ‘khuda’ are so vehemently opposed. The only explanation that I can find for this absurd phenomenon is the huge population of Hindi/Urdu Muslims.
Keralite Muslims form a small population and their ‘terms’ are not so apparent to the larger Muslim world, nor are they a threat. Urdu/Hindi Muslims are a huge group of people and since we have become part of a global community the Urdu/ Hindi Muslim ‘terms’ have somehow stood as competitors to their ‘Arabic’ counterparts.
With an increasing Western Muslim population, due to an unprecedented rise in reversions, Arabic in its chaste form is being embraced as the sole language of Islam.
In such a scenario, naturally, the older Indian/Pakistani Muslims who use Urdu/Hindi in its various forms, present the single largest ‘alienation’. Thus, there is this need to extol the usage of ‘Arabic’ terms, or rather deprecate the usage of Urdu/Hindi terms that the larger Muslim World cannot understand.
I feel that this is ridiculous. Trust me, my God can understand all the languages he created. He really does. The need to de-Indianize us (Urdu/Hindi Muslims) stems from the belief that how can anything Muslim be non-Arab? It is very similar to the Urdu/Hindi Muslim belief that how can anything Muslim be non-Urdu/Hindi (within India)?
Since most Muslims in India know one or the other form of Urdu/Hindi, even if their mother tongue is something totally different (for example, Tamil), there is a common belief that all Indian Muslims speak Urdu. This is not true. I know Keralite Muslims who don’t know the ‘alif’ of Urdu and yet they are beautiful Muslims.
We need to realize that the pulse of the Ummati, the golden thread that binds us as Muslims, is our belief and not our language. We need to understand that ‘your God and my God and his God and her God and that God and this God and their God’ is for people who believe that there can possibly be more than one God.
What makes us Muslims is our proclamation: “There is One God.”
Now, whether I call him God, or ‘Rabb’ or ‘Khuda’ or ‘Bhagwaan’ or ‘Maalik’ or ‘Parwar dighaar’, is not of as much importance as that I call Him and Him alone.
There is only One who can possibly be God
Him – Al-Ilah – The God
Wahadahu la shareek
*Regular prayers that Muslims are supposed to do five times a day
*** A common term used by Indian Muslims to say 'farwell' .
Almas is a medical student in Kerala and blogs at http://almasshamim.blogspot.com/