By Irfan Siddiquee, New Age Islam
June 18, 2013
A new religious outfit called Majlis Ulema-e-Islam recently held a convention in Kolkata, West Bengal where the percentage of Muslim population is thirty. The convention was participated by two Muslim leaders of TMC and Congress, Sultan Ahmad, General Secretary of TMC and Khalid Ebadullah, General Secretary of state Congress. Apart from delivering some fiery speeches on the political strength of Muslims and lamenting on the poor economic condition of the Muslims of the state, the speakers, or more precisely the Ulema did not present any solid policy framework for the solution of the problems of the Muslims. It was like any other Muslim conference or convention on Muslims.
However, two of the political leaders, Sultan Ahmad of TMC and Khalid Ebadullah of the Congress who spoke in the convention made an important statement. They advised the Ulema to provide social and political leadership to the community and the country. Khalid Ebadullah expressed his naive hope that if Ulema take on the leadership of the community or the country, all the problems of the Muslims in particular and of the country in general will be solved. One wonders if Mr Sultan Ahmad or Mr Khalid Ebadullah understands the ramifications of their advice or suggestion.
During the last five or six months, Kolkata has witnessed similar such Muslim conferences or conventions held by different Muslim organisations representing different sects or schools of thought. Lakhs and even crores were spent on these conferences in which big Ulema and mullahs delivered their fiery speeches on the strength of Muslims and at the same time ruing their economic and educational backwardness. All the conferences served no purpose other than presenting the picture of I came, I saw and I conquered. Such conferences are held with the covert purpose of establishing one’s leadership among the Muslims as many Muslim Ulema are power hungry and love to remain with the ruling party to gain political, social and economic benefits. Then there is competition among the Ulema for establishing one’s superiority over others. And such conferences are exploited for this purpose. Ordinary Muslims are herded to the conferences by selling them dreams of economic and social prosperity and well being and even the dream of establishing Islamic caliphate where no Muslim will remain hungry or persecuted.
The Ulema whom Mr Sultan Ahmad or Khalid Ebadullah appealed to provide leadership to the community are themselves divided into groups, political parties, sects, sub-sects and lobbies. When a group of Ulema hold a convention in Kolkata, another group of Ulema hold another convention in Kolkata to prove the strength of their group to the ruling government so that they can blackmail the government for their own political benefits. Why don’t all the Ulema come on the same stage if they are so sincerely determined to change the fate of the Muslims?
Apart from the power hungry, moderate Ulema; there are militant Ulema who are not bothered about the economic and social backwardness of the Muslims, particularly the youth. They have no policy or scheme for the economic uplift of the Muslims. They are obsessed with certain religious causes and are haunted by some imaginary threats to Islam or to their own sect which to them is the only group on the right path leading to heaven.
History has proved that Ulema have never been able to provide political leadership to Muslims because they do not possess the level of political wisdom required to judge the present and prophesy the future. For example, in the late eighties, Maulana Bukhari appealed to the Muslims to vote for BJP which later demolished Babri Masjid and was involved in Gujarat massacre of Muslims. During the pre-formation of Pakistan and soon after the formation of Pakistan, Ulema took centre stage in the Pakistan politics which resulted in confusion in the making of Pakistan. Consequently, Pakistan till today does not know if it is an Islamic country or a secular democratic country. They mingled politics and religion so badly that the medley was neither religion nor politics. Politics of Takfir was an innovation of the Pakistani Ulema and was a tool to beat political opponents with. This tool is freely used by Ulema who come forward to provide the community with ‘political leadership’.
Recently, Muslim Brotherhood won the elections in Egypt and the government was based on Islamic Shariah. Since the government was formed by an Islamic party, all the Ulema worth their salt considered it their religious right to poke their noses into the political affairs of the country. They issued fatwa after fatwa declaring the murder of political opponents and rape of women protestors against Morsi lawful. Ulema of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Tunisia deemed it their religious duty to incite youth (both boys and girls) to take part in the sectarian strife in Syria.
In Pakistan, Maulana Fazl ur Rahman declared his political opponent Imran Khan an agent of the Jews and issued the fatwa that voting in his favour was Haram. Thus, Takfir is a handy tool for these Ulema whenever they do not have the strength to defeat their opponents, religious or political.
In India too, these Ulema are divided into sects, groups and lobbies. Everyone has held on to his area of supremacy and does not want to lose his ground, at any cost, even at the cost of bloodshed. Bareillvi and Deobandi, Shia and Sunni is their identity. Ulema who are expected to unite the Ummah and lead them to the path of economic and educational advancement are more interested in breaking the matrimonial alliances of Muslim boys and girls on the grounds of sectarian differences. They are busy distributing pamphlets declaring other sects kafir. The education and literacy of Muslims is not important to them. What is important is whether offering salaam while standing is right or wrong. What is important is how to prepare Muslim youth to prepare for jihad (suicide bombing) against Ahmadis in India. Whenever you hear Maulana Habib ur Rahman Sani Ludhianvi, you hear of jihad against Ahmadis and his plan to prepare Muslim youth to carry out attacks against Ahmadis. You will not hear anything else from him. You will not hear the talk of how Muslims should be more visible in bureaucracy, on how to root out the evil of dowry custom among the Muslims, about the need to build schools, colleges and hospitals in Muslim majority areas because these are not important to them.
Recently, a rally was organised by fifteen Muslim religious and semi religious organisations in Bengal. The rally was not organised to press for the implementation of Sachar Committee or Ranganathan Commission recommendations or for providing policy based guidance to the Muslims of Bengal. The rally was organised to demand from the Mamata Banerjee government some actions to save the rapists and perpetrators of violence and massacre of Bangali Muslim men and women during the nine month old war of Independence in 1974. These so called Ulema had mobilised public support to demand action against the Hasina government to save the ‘Ulema’ who were actually proved to be murderers and rapists. These so called Ulema did have no sympathy or pain for those killed or raped during the nine month orgy. They had concerns only for the Ulema who did what they did in the name of Islam. Their political wisdom said to them that those who wanted a separate independent land for Bengali Muslims were not merely anti-Pakistan but were anti-Islam and those who are anti-Islam must be killed. They did not realise that the courts have not ordered a crackdown on all the Ulema of Bangladesh but only trying those handful of people who allegedly helped the Pakistani army locating sympathisers of Bangladesh and also actually killing them. Later, the imams of Kolkata also came out with their statements supporting the convicts of Bangladesh only on the ground that those convicted were Ulema. Can’t Ulema commit mistakes or sins? Aren’t those who issued Fatwas of rape against Muslim women in Egypt Ulema?
In India, Deoband and other seminaries come out with Fatwas declaring terrorism un-Islamic. This is a general statement and meant to fool the world. They never say that those who are carrying out suicide attacks against the Shias are committing an un-Islamic act, an act of Kufr or those carrying out suicide bombings or firings at the mosques or congregations of Ahmadis in Pakistan or Shias of Lucknow are Kafirs. They will not come out with specific Fatwas like this because their Darul Ifta has already declared Shias kafir.
These are some of the incidents or examples that show that religious Ulema have not been able to provide a comprehensive and all inclusive leadership to the community. They themselves have always been divided on ideological lines. Mostly Ulema have sided with the ruling governments in their respective ages and it is true in our age too. Therefore, due to their narrow-minded approach to national, social and religious problems, Ulema have not been able to unite the community but have unfortunately divided the community on sectarian and social lines for their own benefits and ambitions.
The Ulema have not been able to sort out religious differences of the Ummah though they claim that they are the custodians of the religious knowledge. They are divided on the issues of who is a Muslim, what defines Islam, who is a kafir, who is a Mushrik, the right process of divorce, on the issues of the form of government for Muslim countries, on the issue of Purdah, on the issue of whether non-Muslims should be allowed to use the word Allah, on whether Muslims can wish Christians Merry Christmas, on whether a bearded Muslim should eat or drink in the house of a clean-shaven Muslim and other such non-fundamental issues of Islam. You name an issue and you find irreconcilable differences. No two Ulema agree on any one theological issue. How can then Mr Sultan Ahmad or Khalid Ebadullah expect from these same Ulema to come on a common platform and provide a political leadership to the Muslims?
Ulema should come forward and provide leadership to the community
New Age Islam News Bureau, June 18, 2013
Kolkata: An all Bengal Muslim convention was held in Kolkata on Sunday by the Majlis Ulema-e-Islam in which religious scholars from all over India participated. The convention resolved that Ulema should provide leadership to the community as they had led the war of independence. Speaking to the audience in the Muslim Institute, the President of the Majlis, Maulana Qasim Alwi said that the Muslims of West Bengal were backward in social, educational and economic development and we should march forward as well as create pressure on the government in this regard. The former central minister and TMC leader Sultan Ahmad said that now the Muslims were in a position to make or break a government and so they were a need of the political parties. Mr Ahmad also lamented the poor educational standards of Urdu medium schools. He also appealed to the Ulema to come forward and lead the fight against social evils. ’Ulema should come out of the confines of the mosque and the pulpit and provide leadership to the community’, he said.
The general secretary of the state Congress, Khalid Ebadullah also said that if Ulema take the reins of social and political leadership, problems will be solved.