You are here:
ONLINE BOOKS > GANDHI AND COMMUNAL PROBLEMS > Religious aspects of the Communal Problem > Music before Mosoques
THE THING became clear in Nellore when the problem confronted me in a concrete shape. The relations between the two were none too happy. They fought only about two years ago over what appeared to me to be a small matter. It was the eternal question of playing music whilst passing mosques.
The question of music before mosques, and now, even arati in Hindu temples, has occupied by prayerful attention. This is a sore point with the Musalmans as cow-slaughter is with the Hindus.
The trouble about music is fast growing every day. A letter I had in Surat says that, as it is not obligatory on a Hindu to play music, he should stop it before mosques to spare the feelings of the Musalmans. I wish the question is as simple. Not a single Hindu religious ceremony can be performed without the accompaniment of music. Some ceremonies require the accompaniment of music. Some ceremonies require the accompaniment of continuous music. No doubt, even here due regard ought to be had for the feelings of the Musalmans. The music may in such cases be less noisy. But all this can be an ought to be done on the basis of ‘give and take’. Having talked with a number of Musalmans in the matter. I know that Islam does not make it obligatory for a Musalman to prevent a non-Musalman from playing music near mosques. Nor is such a thing on the part of anon-Musalman calculated to injure Islam Music should never, therefore, be a bone of contention.
I have heard of a peremptory demand for total cessation of music soft or loud, at any time what so over in front of mosques. There is, too, a demand for the stopping arati during prayer hours in temples in the neighborhood of mosques. I heard in Calcutta that even boys passing by a mosque early in the morning and reciting Ramanama were stopped.

Religious Necessity
I hold that we may not dignify every trifle into a matter of deep religious importance. Therefore, a Hindu may not insist on playing music whilst passing a mosque. He may not even quote precedents in his own or any other place for the sake of playing music. It is not a matter a vital importance for him to play music whilst passing a mosque. One can easily appreciate the Musalman sentiment of having solemn silence near a mosque the whole of the twenty four hours.
Either continuous music arati or the repeating of Ramanama is a religious necessity or it is not. It if is a religious necessity, no prohibition order by a court of law can be held obligatory. Music must be played, arati must be made and Ramanama repeated, cost what it may. If my formula were accepted, a procession of the meekest men and women, unarmed even with lathis, would march with Ramanama on their lips, supposing that that was the bone of contention, and draw down on their heads the whole of the Musalman wrath. But, If they would not accept that formula they would still proceed with the sacred name on their lips and fight every inch of the ground. But to stop music for fear of a row or because of an order of court is to deny one’s religion.
But then there is the other side to the question. Is continuous playing of music, even while passing mosques at prayer time, always a religion necessity? Is repeating Ramanama a similar necessity? What about the charge that the fashion nowadays is to organize processions purely for sake of irritating Musalmans, and to make arati just at the time of the prayer, and to utter Ramanama not because it is held religiously necessary but in order to create an occasion for a light? If such be in the case, it will defeat its own end and naturally the zest being wanting, a court’s order a military display or a shower of brick bats would end the irreligion show.
A religious necessity must, therefore, be clearly established. Every semblance of irritation must be avoided. A mutual understanding should be sincerely sought. Any where it is not possible, an irreducible minimum should be fixed making due allowance for the opposite sentiment, and then, without seeking the intervention of courts or in spite of a prohibition order, a fight must be put up for that minimum. Let no one charge me with every having advised or encouraged weakness or surrender on matters of principle. But I have said, as say again, that every trifle must not be dignified into a principle.

Use of Compulsion
Hindu and Musalmans prate about no compulsion in religion. What is it but compulsion if Hindus will kill a Musalman for saving a cow? It is like wanting to convert a Musalman to Hinduism by force. And, similarly, what is it but compulsion if Musalmans seek to prevent by force Hindus from prayers music before mosques? Virtue lies in being absorbed in one’s prayers in the presence of din and noise. We shall both be voted irreligious savages by posterity if we continue to make a futile attempt to compel one another to respect our religious wishes.
And just as the Hindus cannot compel the Musalmans to refrain from killing cows, so can the Musalmans not compel the Hindus to stop music or arati at the point of the sword. They must trust to the good sense of the Hindus.
But the Musalmans should never expect to stop Hindu music by force. To yield to the threat or actual use of violence is a surrender of one’s self-respect and religious conviction. But a person, who never will yield to threat, would always minimize and, if possible, even avoid occasions for causing irritation.
For the Hindus, cow-protection and the playing of music even near the mosque is the substance of Hinduism, and for the Musalmans cow-killing and prohibition of music is the substance of Islam. It is, therefore, necessary that the Hindus abandon the idea of compelling Musalmans to stop cow-killing, and the Musalmans the idea of compelling the Hindus to stop music.
The middle class people must be prepared for a beating, if they wish to play music in the teeth of opposition, or they must befriend Musalmans in a self-respecting manner.
In many places, however, the Musalmans have forcibly sought to stop Hindus from playing music. This is clearly intolerable. What is readily yielded to courtesy is never yielded to force. Submission to force is irreligion. If the Hindus stop music for fear of a beating from the Musalmans, they cease to be Hindus.

As a Hindu, I would certainly advice Hindus, without any bargaining spirit, to consult the sentiment of their Musalman neighbor, and wherever they can, accommodate him. I have heard that in some places the Hindus, purposely and with the deliberate intention or irritation the Musalmans, perform arati when the Musalman prayers commence. This is an insensate and unfriendly act. Friendship presupposes the utmost attention to the feelings of a friend. It never requires consideration.
It is clear that we have not arrived at the stage when a pact is even a possibility. There can be, it is clear to me, no question of bargain about cow-slaughter and music. On either side, it must be a voluntary effort and therefore, can never be the basis of pact.

General Principles
The general in this respect may be said to be this, that where the Hindus have long been deliberately observing the custom to stop music before mosques, they must not break it. But where they have been playing music without interference, the practice should continue. Where trouble is a apprehended and facts are disputed, both communities ought to refer the matter to arbitration.
When a court of law has prohibited music, the Hindus should not take the law in their own hands. And the Musalmans should not insist on stopping music by force.
Where the Musalmans refuse to yield, or where the Hindus apprehend violence, and where there is no prohibition by a court of law the Hindus must take out their processions with music accompanying, and put up with all the beating inflicted on them. All those who join such processions or who form the musical band must thus sacrifice themselves. They will thereby defend their faith and their self-respect.
The regulation of cow-slaughter and playing of music must be left to the goodwill of the respective communities. Each practice would assume a becoming proportion with the growth of the tolerant spirit.
For me, music before mosques is not on a par with cow-slaughter. But it has assumed an importance which it would be folly to ignore. It is for the Musalmans to say what would spare Musalman feelings. And if complete stoppage of music before mosques will be the only thing that will spare the Musalman feelings, it is the duty of the Hindus to do so without a moment’s thought. If we are to reach unity of hearts, we must each be prepared to perform an adequate measure of sacrifice.
They (music before mosques, cow-slaughter etc.) are questions of law. I want to capture your hearts and see you welded into one. If this is attained, everything else will be right itself. If your hearts are not united nothing can be right. Your unfortunate lot will then be slavery.
I had to listen not without shame and sorrow to the statement that Muslim friend made to me. He said with a sign that there is nothing left but a kind of subjection to the Hindu majority, and that might have to suffer in silence the playing of music before mosques whilst they were offering prayers. I shall have no such despair on the part of Muslims. The friend, who made to remark, did not realize that unconsciously implied that the Muslim majority would inflict duty in all humility, irrespective of what the other majority does in the other state. I suggest, therefore, that until the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and the union agree upon another course in both the states, the practice that was followed during the British regime, often under compulsion, should be fully and voluntarily impose their will on the minority are foolish and are vastly mistaken. If, therefore, you want to consolidate the prevailing goodwill, you will see to it that you act on the square under all circumstances.