By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
01 October 2018
So how should we understand the latest pronouncement from the Supreme Court which upheld the Ismail Farooqui judgment stating that a mosque was not an essential feature of Islam? The qualifying rider being that if and only if the mosque would hold a special significance in the formative history of that religion, then that could be considered as a being essential to its faith. Thus earliest mosques in Mecca and Medina, the birthplace of Islam, would qualify as being essential to the faith. So would the Cheruman Jumma mosque in Kerala, which is one of the earliest mosques in Islamic history although for Muslims who are oriented towards Arabic Islam, this mosque holds no special significance. It is true that when Islam was getting established, the concept of a mosque did not exist. Prophet’s missionary appeal was through meeting people and convincing them of the rationality of new faith that he was espousing.
The mosque comes in Islamic history after the Hijri, the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina. Mosques grew out of the need for congregational prayers as the numbers of Muslims increased. It was also a way of attesting that a new faith had arrived: a public proclamation of a new covenant between men and God. Even today, Namaz can be offered anywhere and is indeed done on any empty space, even on the roadside.
This would only mean one thing: that Namaz is the name of the process and any place at which Namaz is offered temporarily becomes a mosque. Mosque is not essential but Namaz certainly is. However, this logic certainly applies for all religious traditions: that what is essential to a religious tradition is the ritual of prayer and not the place where it is offered. However, in singling out Islam for this special treatment, the Supreme Court has certainly not applied its own principle equally to all religious traditions. Some might say that the Court in this case was operating with pre-conceived notions.
Ayodhya has always been a case not about religion but about politics. Mahant Gyan Das, a deeply religious figure who was mysteriously murdered, argued that wherever God Ram appeared automatically should have been regarded as a temple. The implication was that there was no need to demolish the mosque to construct a temple, the mosque itself would have become the temple. But then, we know that destruction was more important than construction for a certain brand of politics.
None of the political parties involved in the issue have been amenable to a peaceful resolution of the problem. Everyone wants to benefit politically from the situation. As Indian Muslims, this puts us in a very tricky situation. There is a need to debate the Ayodhya imbroglio within the community and arrive at a resolution internally. The major political parties have taken us for a ride over the issue and deep down we must know that if the issue again goes out of hand, we are going to be the greatest sufferers.
Although it masquerades as a secular party, the whole Ayodhya issue has been the creation of the Congress party. The placing of idols, the locking of the mosque, all happened under the secular gaze of the Congress party. Moreover, after they lost the Muslim vote post emergency, the Congress resorted to blatant communalism of both the minority and the majority variety. It appeased the mullahs by rescinding the Supreme Court judgment on Shah Bano; on the other hand, it started cultivating the Hindu vote by re-igniting the Ram temple issue. It was under the Congress governments of Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao that locks were re-opened, that Shilanyas happened, that the land was acquired by the government and finally that the Babri mosque was demolished.
Let us also not forget that Rajiv Gandhi started his election campaign from Faizabad in what was largely understood as a symbolic nod to the Ayodhya movement. It is another matter that the Congress could not reap the benefits of its communalist politics owing to a number of factors and ultimately the BJP would emerge as the champion of Mandir politics. The BJP unequivocally supported the construction of a grand temple at the very site where the mosque once stood. But that is not all. There was a broad Hindu consensus in favour of the temple which had emerged and even the Left parties did very little to argue against this consensus.
Today, we are in a similar situation after the Supreme Court has paved the way for final hearings in the matter. We see a studied silence from the Congress as if they have no idea how to react to this verdict. For some time now, they have been trying to paint themselves as the true Hindu and it will be very difficult for them to not support the temple construction at Ayodhya. Even as it wants to court the Muslim vote, the Congress has realised that it cannot win any elections without the support of the Hindu vote. Once again, the Left parties have remained strategically silent.
The Muslim today is all alone. And it is the Muslim alone who has to articulate its position rather than depend on these so called secular parties.
We need to realise that there exists a Hindu consensus in this country over the temple issue. In a situation where Muslims are in a minority, what should be the best course of action that this community should take? The Muslim leadership has been banking on the Supreme Court and has agreed that it will abide by its decision, even if it goes against them.
Both scenarios are possible: either the Muslims win the title suit or they lose it. If they lose, it will leave a psychological scar for many years to come. The fact remains that a mosque stood at the demolished site and to declare it as a temple, the Supreme Court will need more imagination than evidence. There is a very real danger that Muslims will lose their confidence on the judiciary of the country, perhaps the only part of the state on which they have some faith left.
The other scenario, where the Muslims win the title suit, is no less hazardous either. Because even if the Muslims win, no power on this earth will enable them to construct a mosque again. Therefore the judgment of the Court will not have a lasting solution to the vexed problem. The only way out perhaps is dialogue and Muslims themselves need to take the first step. But first of all Muslims should get rid of their so called representatives like the AIMPLB who have a vested interest in keeping the political pot boiling.
They should form a new committee of Muslims from different walks of life who are leaders in the true sense of the term. Within a dialogue, all sorts of possibilities can come alive and the possibility of gifting the land to the Hindus should be one of the options. Muslims need to generate goodwill with the Hindu community and this gesture will go a long way to prove that we are much more invested in this country as compared to any other community.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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