Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Faith Journey of Chand Muhammad

Why do people convert and what are the foul motivations of those who do is a question that comes up for frequent speculation. So while people are still frothing at the mouth at the recent conversion to Islam of former Deputy Chief Minister of Haryana, Chander Mohan, the answer is worth investigating. It has all the ingredients of a pot boiler. Bhajan Lal, the wily former chief minister has perhaps done the smart and politically correct thing by distancing himself from his son and his conversion by disowning him from the family.

But jokes apart, the story of Chander Mohan, the eldest son of former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal is worth recounting for a reason. Chander Mohan was already married and had two children when he got to know a lady by the name of Anuradha Bali, a former Deputy Advocate General in Punjab. After an acquaintance of about five years, they landed up at a TV station on December 7th to announce that they had both converted to Islam and had subsequently got married according to Islamic law. Chander Mohan had become Chand Muhammad and Anuradha Bali had become Mrs. Fiza.

The story of Chand Muhammad and Fiza who have developed faith in Allah in rather odd circumstances explain the more common and earthy reasons for conversion that most people have…..the inducements and enticements are there for all to see and examine….. reasons that are beyond control and regulation by any Freedom of Religion Act enacted any where in the country.

If only we would get politics out of the way, we would soon recognize that just as few conversions are for spiritual reasons, few are also at the other extreme for crass political reasons. There was of course a time when all or most conversions happened because of purely pious reasons. There was also a time when a lot of conversions happened because of purely political reasons – possibly in the middle ages. But today the reasons for an apparent change in one’s faith and belief are far simpler and therefore paradoxically more complex to interpret. The journey from Mohan to Muhammad has got shorter; even more brazen but not much simpler to understand.

The sad thing about conversions today is that the individual story behind each conversion – with all its motives, drama, pain, anguish as well as ecstasy are completely concealed. It is presented as a conspiracy full of social and political intrigue, funded exclusively by American dollars or Middle Eastern petro dollars. Well this is not to say that these kind of monetary incentives and tools do not exist or have no influence at all. But in every conversion of every individual, genuine or not, driven by love of lucre or not, caused by inducement or fraud or not, there is a human element, which is no longer considered of any value; for we are so busy chasing the foreign hand – or is it the hidden hand?

Whether the reasons for a conversion are the most sublime or the crassest, it is, was and will bean individual phenomena. Whether it is to gain a new wife, a new job or a new identity, who is to define an inducement? And for those interested, we can now follow the faith journey of Fiza and Chand Muhammad to observe if they become the new pillars of Islamic piety.

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