By Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN
The doctor has advised Maulana Syed Nizamuddin, general secretary of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to rest as much as he can.But come October 16,the ailing,octogenarian Patna-based cleric will be in Lucknow,at the AIMPLB's working committee meet.Why is the Maulana ignoring his doctors advice
The answer may lie in his zeal about Muslim Personal Law. Particularly, the need to safeguard it. As head of Bihar’s Imarat-e Sharia or Sharia court, Maulana Nizamuddin is as one on this with other senior clerics across the country. More remarkable, however, is the Law Board's unprecedented interest in an issue in which it is not a litigant. The Sunni Central Waqf Board and 90-year-old Hashim Ansari are the Muslim litigants in the case. The High Courts verdict on the basis of faith and belief, its rejection of the Waqf Boards title suit and Ansaris reported confabulations with Hindu religious leaders in Ayodhya for an out-of court settlement seem to have rankled with the men and few women who run the powerful Law Board.
No one on the ulema-dominated and essentially patriarchal Board will admit it right now but it looks all set to become a litigant in the Ayodhya dispute and challenge the High Courts verdict in the SC.
Given its background, the Board's direct involvement in this dispute is bound to influence Muslim politics in India. Established on April 7,1973 at Hyderabad, following the December 1972 Mumbai resolution, the Board has been a self-appointed watchdog against any tinkering with the Muslim Personal Laws guaranteed in the 1937 Shariat Application Act.
Over the years, it has emerged as a cleric-dominated club, which seldom tolerates dissenting voices. In the 1980s, it whipped up a storm over the SC decision to grant alimony to the destitute divorcee Shah Bano. It stonewalled attempts to declare the triple talaq pronounced at one go illegal. Many believe it is the Board that has kept India’s Muslim staked to medieval customs and practices.
The Personal Law Board's move seems to be motivated by the politics of identity. The space for liberal voice within the community will further shrink. The Law Board has not brought any significant reforms in Muslim society, says reformist-scholar Asghar Ali Engineer who favours challenging the High Courts verdict. But he insists any challenging needed should be done by the original litigants the Waqf Board and Ansari.
Engineer’s criticism of the Board as antireform is explained away by Qasim Rasool Ilyas, convenor of the AIMPLBs committee on the Babri Masjid. He blames external threats (read anti-Muslim campaigns led by the Sangh Parivar).Battling external threats consume most of our time and energy which could have been used to reform Muslim society, explains Illyas.
So why has the overworked and presumably overstretched Board jumped on the Babri bandwagon AIMPLB's members say the Board has been involved in the Babri issue ever since Babri Masjid Action Committee and the Babri Masjid Co-ordination Committee became defunct, i.e. soon after December 6,1992.These two committees requested the Law Board to monitor the Babri case. In our conventions and meetings we have been discussing the issue even if we were not a litigant, says senior counsel Yusuf Muchchalla, convenor of the Board's legal cell. Muchchalla justifies the Law Board's intervention in the Babri dispute because it concerns the Muslim identity. It is not a mere building we are fighting for. We are fighting to protect our faith, our identity, he adds.
So what can we expect the Board to say about the Babri issue No one is sure but it has not budged from its well-known stand from the time it agreed to monitor the case after the mosque's demolition. The committee on Babri Masjid was launched after the Hindu Dharm Sansad at Kumbh Mela in 2001 announced a mass movement to build a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Subsequently, the Law Board passed a resolution, saying a mosque is waqf-ullah (donated in the name of Allah) and it cannot be shifted, gifted or sold. Land which is waqf-ullah for a mosque cannot be used for any other purposes, points out Akhtarul Wasey, professor of Islamic Studies at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Interestingly, members of the AIMPLB, especially presidents and general secretaries, appear to part company with the organization only when they bid farewell to the world. So it's not surprising that 84-year-old Maulana Nizamuddin who took over as AIMPLBs general secretary after Maulana Minatullah Rahmani died in 1991,will keep yet another date with the Board.
Source: The Times of India