In the immediate aftermath of Prophet Mohammad’s demise, there was a power struggle, in which two factions emerged, both claiming ownership of the status of Caliph. For the first time, there was a fracture in the Islamic world.
The first faction, the supporters of Ali (the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law), who initially called themselves the Shiat Ali and later shortened it to just Shia, laid claim because Ali was related to the Prophet through his daughter. Further, in order to strengthen their argument, the Shiits claimed that the Prophet had made Ali’s succession clear, in a statement he made at an oasis called Ghadir Khumm where his caravan had stopped to rest, on his way back from Mecca to Medina, a month before he passed on.
What the Prophet had actually stated remains, like Islam itself, interpretable in a thousand million different ways. I understand he said something to the effect that ‘If I am your master, then so is Ali. if you are his friend, then God is your friend and if you are his enemy, then God is your enemy.’ (Something like your enemy’s enemy is your friend, maybe).
While Ali’s followers took that as a proclamation that he had been anointed successor, the second faction, who had named themselves the Sunna or ‘the folk who practice what Mohammad practiced’, later to be known as the Sunnis, read his statement as merely an affirmation of Ali’s character as a just and honorable man and a demonstration of affection toward his son-in-law, which they didn’t seem to have an issue with. Of course, Ali was an honorable man. But that should not be interpreted as an anointing, they argued. Besides, if making Ali his successor was his intention all along, why hadn’t the Prophet simply said so?
The Sunnis in turn, sought to strengthen their own argument by stating that the Prophet himself had stressed all along that only consensus can choose a leader, not dynasty. ‘May the man whom the majority choose as the best man for the job, lead’, the Prophet had made clear, multiple times.
Sadly though, the Islamic world didn’t exactly turn out according to the Prophet’s wishes. In a culture where followers are told to believe blindly, stuff that are quite inexplicable to even them, especially after the onset of modern science, it remains a system which turns normal human beings into robots who are too terrified to question, where any right to choose is non-existent.
Naturally, the Islamic world is now replete with either dynastic or entirely totalitarian rule that those tiny bumps like the Arab Spring have not been able to reform. Understandable. For the Arab Spring to have succeeded, there had to have been a ‘Mindset Spring’ first, from a harsh and hideously patriarchal culture to a more open, peace-loving and tolerant one
Governance through dynastic or tribal allegiances has been the rule rather than the exception, in the Islamic world. The Mubaraks of Egypt, the Sauds in Arabia, the Assads of Syria and the Hashemites of Jordan are just a few examples of families that have their nations by the balls.
In the so-called democracies of the world too, dynasties hold sway, though things play out a wee bit differently. History has shown that wealth, lobbies and patronage can help dynasties subvert choice and thereby, the electoral process itself. Otherwise, someone like George W Bush could never have been made President of the US, the second time.
Neither, for that matter, could a humorless, wooden-faced, aloof and arrogant foreigner like Sonia Gandhi have held sway over a billion Indians for so long.
India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had at first opposed the marriage of his only daughter, Indira, to a young Parsi journalist and politician by the name of Feroze Ghandy. But when Mahatma Gandhi lent his support and more importantly, let the young fellow tweak his last name from Ghandy to Gandhi, Nehru let them wed in a marriage conducted under strict Hindu customs. They could pull it off then because secularism hadn’t yet become a buzzword.
Somewhere inside Nehru’s fertile, Cambridge-educated barrister’s mind must have come the realization that a last name like ‘Gandhi’ could do no harm and possibly (mis)lead 500 million illiterate Indians into believing that the guy was in some way related to the Mahatma and therefore special. The Mahatma played along simply because he was just that – a simple man, who genuinely liked Feroze and didn’t mind him adopting his last name.
Thus, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was born. On what was essentially a lie.
Out of the 70 years since India’s independence, the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has held the nation’s testicles in it’s greedy hands for more than 50. Those testicles are beginning to hurt. The curtain may be finally coming down on a bunch who have lorded over a billion people for six decades. Now, with Narendra Modi, India may have finally grown new balls, real balls.
Today the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is a pathetic shadow, led by a sterile, unimaginative, completely uninspiring young man, who has nothing going for him except maybe his boy-next-door looks – Rahul Gandhi, the son of assassinated ex-Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi. And like his father, Rahul too looks like he would be better off someplace else.
Personally I like his clean-cut features and his frequent open smiles. I like him as a man I wouldn’t mind bumping into at work or in the gym. Honestly, Rahul Gandhi is a regular dude you could have a beer with or laugh at those ‘knock knock, who’s there’ jokes with.
But with Rahul Gandhi, the politician, I would like to have a conversation like this one…..
“You’re a nice guy and I like you. But come on, dude, face it. You suck as a politician.
I know. It’s hard to stay relevant, but sometimes it is brave to gracefully admit that you don’t have it. Let go, man. Take your mom and your sis and that greedy brother-in-law of yours and scoot while you can, before the dobermans of the CBI who are now barking for their new masters, come calling…..
But then, maybe they won’t. India has been frozen, transfixed like a deer in the headlights of the Gandhi family’s star mystique….
Pardon me? Where? Why, to Italy of course. If your mom’s family won’t have you, those two Italian sailors you let escape can arrange bunk beds for you all in their basement. You can take turns twiddling your thumbs and picking your nose over there….
Besides, think of it this way – Italy is just an Alpine range away from Switzerland and all the loot your family has got, stashed away there. You could rent a U-Haul van anytime and within an hour you would be loading bags of smackeroonies in a Zurich parking lot outside the Credit Suisse….
Okay, okay, look at it this way. You’re so very not important anymore that if you fell into the ISIS’s hands, they would most likely shove a bus ticket in your hand and leave you at the Turkish border with a flat-bread nan and a lump of goat cheese…..
Come again? What’s in it for us? Why, we won’t have to listen to your mom’s imperiously accented Hindi harangues no more.”