Is lighting a lamp Haraam to Government of Kerala?
by C I Issac on 20 Nov 2011 29 Comments

Kerala cabinet minister Dr. M.K. Muneer, in-charge of Social Welfare and Panchayats, refused to light the lamp (nila vilakku) at this years’ inaugural ceremony of Revathi Pattathanam, the traditional literary colloquium of Kozhikode (Calicut).


Tradition maintains that this literary assembly was started in 1309 CE by the Zamorin (King) of Calicut. Muneer was the proposed inaugurator of the function which held at Tali Zamorin Guruvayoorappan Hall, Kozhikode, on Nov. 9, 2011. The universally accepted practice of inaugurating an event or beginning an auspicious occasion in Kerala is by lighting a lamp. It is a symbolic exercise by which the message of “from darkness to light” is transmitted. Even the oldest Muslim mosque of Kerala, Kodungalloor Cheraman Mosque, still keeps a lighted lamp, nila vilakku. Earlier, several such mosques were there, but now under fundamentalist pressure, such conventions are muted.


Revathi Pattathanam, a seven day literary assembly, begins on the day of Revati asterism in the month of Tulam of Malayalam Era (October –November). This intellectual colloquium was regularly conducted by the Zamorins in the premises of the Tali Temple of Calicut, except during the days of Tipu Sulthan’s invasion/onslaughts over Malabar in the closing decades of the eighteenth century. Distinguished scholars from all over India participated in the colloquium since its inception. At the end of the colloquium, the Zamorin honoured the outstanding scholars by presenting the title Bhatta along with a cash award.


Dr. M.K. Muneer is an allopath-cum-politician. Though a member of the Indian Union Muslim League, he so far retained an identity as a secular and national Muslim. Through this reactionary measure, it is clear he has surrendered to the ever growing Islamic fundamentalist and terrorist outfits of Kerala.


For more than a decade, the Muslim League leadership fell between the horns of a dilemma with regard to the extremist vs. moderate path. Dr. Muneer was then an advocate of the moderates; his surrender to fundamentalist elements is a bad omen and shows that the near future of Kerala is disastrous. Dr. Muneer’s action shows that the moderates and right thinking progressive groups of the Muslim League have lost base in the communal politics of Kerala. In the past too, both coalition fronts competed for the favour of Abdul Nasser Madhani, an incarnation of Islamic terrorism. 


By declining to light the lamp in the opening ceremony of the prestigious literary assembly, Dr. Muneer showed cowardice and humiliated our cultural and national symbols. As an MLA, of course he hails from the Muslim League outfit, but at the same time he is a product of the coalition politics of Kerala. Thus, under the glare of fundamentalist elements, he ignores the full glare of secular votes behind his victory in the last election.


This is not new to Keralites. Another ustad of anti-national and anti-cultural tempo amongst fundamentalist Muslim groups of Kerala is Mr. E. Ahamed, now Minister of State for External Affairs and Human Resource Development in the Government of India. Mr. Ahamed has also declined to light lamps on several occasions. He is, incidentally, the person who forcibly opened the Masjid sealed by the police after the Marad genocide. This masjid was used to store lethal weapons used by the Muslim terrorists. Several vital evidences, including fingerprints of persons who participated in the communal violence related to the Marad genocide was lost to the police. Making him a Union Minister is ratification of his anti-national stand. Those at the apex of affairs are either non-committed Indians or totally ignorant of the price we have paid for independence and national integration.


It is a paradox that once a Muslim comes under the bandwagon of the Muslim League / fundamentalists, he becomes reluctant to respect national and cultural symbols. Muslim leaders of Kerala in the Congress, Left, BJP (secular and national parties) like finding fault with reciting Vande Mataram or lighting lamps. Prof. Hameed Chennamagalloor, a veteran Malayalam writer, vehemently criticized the absurdity behind the taboo of lighting of lamps by Muslim brothers, including Dr. M. K. Muneer. Moreover, those cultural magnets from the non-partisan segment of the Muslim community of Kerala do not agree with the extremist thinking of fundamentalists / Muslim League.


Dr. Muneer as minister of Kerala took an oath of allegiance to respect the national ethos; by declining to light the lamp at an auspicious function he humiliated not only the people of Kerala, but the entire nation and its traditions. The Government in our democratic setup is believed to be an institution of collective responsibility. Thus the act of Muslim League ministers has infringed this noble concept of collective responsibility and the spirit of the oath allegiance.


So far, the Government of Kerala has neither justified nor condemned the act of Dr. Muneer. Hence it is reasonable to believe that “lighting lamp is haraam [unethical] to the Government of Kerala”. Until the 1940s, fundamentalist elements in the Muslim community believed that the language Malayalam is the language of ibilis [ghosts] and forbade members from studying Malayalam. The outcome was disastrous. But the fundamentalist elements failed to learn any lesson from it.  


Before concluding, it is better to see what the role of lamp was in the general social life of Kerala. Thirty years ago, eighty percent of households of Kerala used kerosene lamps at night. Until the early decades of the last century, people from all walks of life used vegetable oil-fed conventional lamps (nila vilakku) to dispel the darkness. Kerosene reached in Kerala only after the First World War. After the introduction and popularization of kerosene by the British, the traditional household lamps got ritualistic and antique status. Unfortunately, kerosene lamps and electricity pushed the traditional nila vilkkus to the haraam list of intolerant Muslims.   



The author is a retired Professor of History, and lives in Trivandrum

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