When I first read the following tweet by Karan Johar about Kareena Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan’s newborn son, I was flabbergasted:
My Bebo had a baby boy!!!!!!! Am so so happy!!!!!!! #TaimurAliKhan
— Karan Johar (@karanjohar) December 20, 2016
This was equivalent to an Israeli Muslim naming his or her son 'Hitler'.
How could anyone in India name their son after a man who ordered so much bloodshed in India?
Then I thought, perhaps this was just the parents liking the sound of the name and that 'Saifeena' did not know of Taimur, the genocidal maniac who not just slaughtered tens of thousands of Hindus in Delhi, but massacred countless Muslims in Iran and Turkey ending up reducing the world’s population by five percent (17 million back then). Not even Hitler came close to being such a marauding hate-mongering symbol of racial and religious fanaticism.
However, Kareena herself quashed the benefit of doubt I gave to the parents. It has been widely reported that in a candid conversation with actor Neha Dhupia, Kareena revealed the background to naming her son Taimur: “Saif is a historian and would want a traditional old school name”.
What this says is that it wasn’t some innocent affection of a nice sounding name that caught papa’s attention, but rather a well-thought out process to name his son equivalent to his own war-like name 'Saif Ali' (the sword of Prophet Mohammad’s son-in-law Ali).
Perhaps Saif overlooked the record of Taimur vis-à-vis Hindustan and Delhi, where he ordered the slaughter of 100,000 Hindus in just one night.
Justin Marozzi, in his 2004 book Tamerlane: Sword of Islam, Conqueror of the world, writes:
“The capture of the Delhi Sultanate was one of Timur's (Taimur) greatest victories, arguably surpassing the likes of Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan because of the harsh conditions of the journey and the achievement of taking down one of the richest cities at the time. After Delhi fell to Timur's army, uprisings by its citizens against the Turkic-Mongols began to occur, causing a bloody massacre within the city walls. After three days of citizens uprising within Delhi, it was said that the city reeked of the decomposing bodies of its citizens with their heads being erected like structures and the bodies left as food for the birds. Timur's invasion and destruction of Delhi continued the chaos that was still consuming India, and the city would not be able to recover from the great loss it suffered for almost a century.”
Notwithstanding the hatred Taimur had for Indians — Hindus and Muslims alike, the keeping of such warlike names for one’s son is also contrary to the Prophetic traditions of Islam and a betrayal of Mohammad’s guidance to Muslims. The late internationally renowned scholar on Islam and Sufism, Professor Annemarie Schimmel in her book Islamic Names, quotes a saying (hadith) by Prophet Mohammad that among the three obligations a Muslim father has towards his son "to select a good name for him".
In suggesting a 'good name', the Prophet’s pronouncement was directed against ancient Arab custom of calling sons by frightening or harsh names like Harb (War), Sakhr (Rock), Murra (Bitterness). Or, may I add, Taimur (Steel).
Schimmel writes, “As outward signs are supposed to reflect the inner condition, children bearing such (harsh) names were certainly unfortunate, for a beautiful name — so one thought — was also the expression of a beautiful character: Adi guzel tadi guzel (Whose name is nice, his taste is also nice), as the Turkish proverb has it.
Alas, in the Indian subcontinent, Allah’s Islam is pitted against the mullah’s Islam and more often than not, the latter prevails.
Just imagine the outburst of goodwill in India if newborn Taimur Ali Khan had been named Tagore Ali Khan instead
I am told that countless other Indians outraged at the honouring of Taimur by Saif and Kareena have no right to interfere in their personal matters. I’m sorry, but unlike many star-struck Bollywood addicts, I consider critique of public figures, politicians or film stars; priests or princes fair game, especially when they are from my faith and when their actions have consequences on millions more.
This incident is not just about Taimur.
It's a reflection of a larger ailment in Muslim society inside the Indian sub-continent. Its their comfort level with mass murdering invaders who still believe are their heroes. As one Islamic cleric told me on Zee TV, he considered invaders and marauders like Mahmud Ghaznawi, Muhammad Bin Qasim as his heroes, that he considered the murderous jihadi Mughal emperor Aurangzeb a saint.
As an Indian born in Pakistan and a Punjabi in Islam, I have often scratched my head wondering what is it about the culture and history of Mother India or Hindustan that we Muslims find unworthy of a tight cultural embrace?
What is so offensive about Bharat that hardly any of us in the last 1,000 years has been given a name that reflects this ancient civilisation nurtured by the Indus, Ganga, Narmada and the Brahmaputra rivers and protected by the Himalayas that rise in the West from Balochistan in the Arabian Sea, tower over us in the north across the K2 and the Everest before sweeping down into the Bay of Bengal in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
Charity, or in this case ignominy begins at home so let me start by my own name ‘Tarek’ and ‘Mahmood’, my brother. Why would our parents give us names of two men who invaded and looted Spain and India?
We could have been named Dara (after Dara Shikoh) and Bulle (after Bulle Shah). A more daring Indian Muslim parents could even have named us Atish and Ashok, but no, both of us and countless other Muslim boys in the Indian subcontinents are given Arab, Afghan, Turkish, Uzbek, or Persian names, but never ever names rooted in Hindustan’s history. Not necessarily with Hinduism, but plain Indian culture.
For instance, there are countless boys names Shams (Sun in Arabic), but hardly any with the Suraj (Sun in Hindi, Punjabi etc). What is it about Shams that is so different from Suraj, I wonder? Could it be that we Muslims of the Indian subcontinent harbour contempt for the very land that gave the Prophet’s progeny sanctuary?
Around the world, Muslims of Indonesia carry Indonesian names; the Turks do too and the Iranians and Kurds as well as the Baloch and Bosnians have distinct names that are not Arab. After all Megawati Sukarnoputri and Brahamdagh Bugti are not lesser Muslim for not wearing Arab names not is Turkey’s Erdogan or Iran’s Dariush Forouhar.
And considering the racism and insults that Muslims from India-Pakistan-Bangladesh suffer at the hands of Arabs in West Asia, it makes the rejection of Bharatiya names by us Muslims even more tragic. Of course it's the parent’s prerogative to name their children, but if Saif is a historian (as Kareena has claimed) and as a Muslim father, has sought a traditional Muslim name from history, I suggest he follow Allah’s Islam and ensure he does not violate the prophetic guidance in naming names.
How about Mansour? The great medieval Muslim rationalist and Sufi saint Mansour Hallaj who gave his life for standing up for the truth and who is admired universally.
In addition, the name Mansour should be familiar to you, isn’t it Saif? Or how about Tagore Ali Khan, that should ring a bell?