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Shifting Narratives on the Ayodhya Verdict Reveal Serious Confusion in the Indian Muslim Mind on the ‘Martyrdom’ Of the Babri Masjid

New Age Islam Special Correspondent

02 December 2019

The immediate response of the Muslim community to the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya was a sense of relief. There was a great deal of fear and uncertainty all around before the verdict as to what will happen if the Supreme Court does do real justice and give the Babri land to its rightful owners, the Muslims, who had prayed in the mosque for almost 500 years. So, the judgement was by and large welcomed as a great conflict resolution in view of the prevailing situation.

But now, politicians of various affiliations have started coming out and seeking to revive discord that helps them keep their politics in the limelight.

December 6—the Anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition—is around the corner. Before this Black Day falls, we Muslims should have consistently been advised by our community leaders and Islamic bodies to bury the hatchet for our own progress. But to our disappointment, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JuH) will file a review petition in the Supreme Court seeking review of the Ayodhya verdict on the very Black Day. The petition will be filed through the Jamiat’s UP general secretary, Maulana Ashhad Rasheedi, one of the 10 litigants from the Muslim side in the Ayodhya case. Maulana Wali Rahmani, general secretary of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) claimed on Sunday that “99% of Muslims stand with the review petition”, a press statement which does not stand to scrutiny. An inconsistently changing dynamics in the position of Islamic bodies like the JuH and AIMPLB during the past weeks—before and after the Ayodhya verdict, reek of serious intellectual disturbance, internal disagreements and lack of collective consciousness. This also shows how the Ulema fraternity has come at loggerheads with the Islamist politicians in the community.

For instance, Ilyas Azmi, former two-time MP from Uttar Pradesh and one of the Aam Aadmi Party's founder-members who quit the party alleging that it was “ignoring Muslims”, has now severely criticised the Ulema fraternity of the Indian Muslim community.

In his opinion piece in the Urdu daily, Akhbar e Mashriq, which has itself been quite critical of the Supreme Court Ayodhya verdict, Azmi has castigated some Ulema and imams for their ‘deafening silence’ or ‘un-Islamic’ stances on the verdict. Headlined in the standardised Urdu tenor as “Aye Kushta-e-Sultani-o-Mullai-o-Peeri”, his article appeared in the daily as a sharp rebuttal to the leading Ulema and Islamic clerics in India who the author accuses of being either ‘hypocrites’ (Munafiq) or rapacious sellers of the Babri mosque (‘Babri Farosh’). Azmi writes: “Hypocrites have existed in the community since the Prophetic times throughout the Islamic history but now our mothers have given birth to hypocrites not only in the forms of Waseem Rizvi and Zafar Farooqi, but also in the circles of Deoband Sharif, Bareilly Sharif and Nadwa Sharif. Successors of Abdullah bin Ubbay have emerged in these institutions and are not just indulged in illegitimacies and internal mischief, but rather they are getting more honoured now”.

Azmi cites an instance from the 1935 incident in Punjab, now in Pakistan, where a Naqshbandi Sufi cleric and mass leader of the traditional Barelvi Muslims of South Asia, Pir Syed Jamaat Ali Shah was accused of handing over a land of mosque to the Gurduwara Shahid Gunj, which exists even today. The case is historically known as Masjid Shaheed Ganj vs. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Amritsar. Pir Jamaat Ali Shah was a prominent Muslim leader in the region. The mosque was originally named Abdullah Khan Masjid and was built by Abdullah Khan, a cook of Prince Dara Shikoh during the Mughal reign of Shah Jahan. Later, Taru Singh, a man who supported the Sikhs fighting the Mughals, was punished and scalped. Thus, the Sikhs declared Taru Singh as a martyr and named the public square as the Shaheed Ganj or the martyr square. When Bhangi Sikh Sardar conquered Lahore in 1762 and occupied the mosque, Muslims thereafter were denied entry and prayers in the mosque, although the Sikhs were allowed to pray. A Sikh temple known as Gurudwara Shaheed Ganj Bhai Taru Singh was built in the courtyard and the building of the mosque was given to the Sikh priests.

The point Ilyas Azmi tries to make in his rebuttal to the contemporary Indian Ulema is that for 125 years in the Indian subcontinent, there has always been a section of ‘Ulama-e-Sou’ (sinful clerics) who indulged in the profitable Piri-Muridi (business of spiritual disciple-hood) and sold out even the mosque lands of the community.

Azmi goes to the extent of writing that ‘millions of Maulanas in the Indian subcontinents cannot even stand on the high pedestal where Mullah Omar rose as Mujahid (fighter) and Shaheed (martyr)”. The exact words in Urdu he wrote are as following:

عصرحاضرمیںملاعمرجومجاہداورشہیدبھیتھے،وہبھیصرفملاتھے،مولانانہیں. میرینظرمیںبرصغیرکےلاکھوںمولاناانکیجوتیوںکےدھولکےبرابربھینہیںہوسکتے

(Of the contemporary age, Mullah Omar, who was a Mujahid and a martyr, and was just a mullah, not a Maulana. In my view, the millions of Maulanas in the subcontinent cannot even be equal to the dust of his shoes) See: Akhbar-e-Mashriq, 28th November, 2019, page 7.

Azmi’s argument might not hold water but it shows an internal despondency and sense of complete dissatisfaction within a section of the Muslim society. Islamist politicians like Azmi seek to perpetuate this disturbing trend by provoking extremist sentiments on the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict which continues to persist. In all likelihood, it will create more communal and societal tumult, if not controlled, and ultimately will be detrimental to the community interests. At a time when there is a political consensus in this country in favour of the SC Ayodhya verdict, there was no need for arejection of the verdict by creating and furthering dissatisfaction in the Muslim community.

More to the point, there was no need to carry reactionary articles like the above, but a large section of the Urdu press continues to do that. Akhbar-e-Mashriq in its special Friday edition this week has published several pieces which again highlight the religious sanctity, significance and virtues in protecting mosques. The Kolkata edition of the Urdu daily carries an article written by one Maulana Sarfaraz Ahmad Milli al-Qasmi (Hyderabad) which, headlined as “Apne Ka’ba Ki HifazatTumhen Khud Karni Hai”, calls upon Muslims in India to get proactive about rehabilitation and protection of mosques. “There will be no more Ababil now”, concludes the article. Ababil, according to the Qur’an (chapter 105), were the miraculous birds that protected the Ka’aba from the Aksumite elephant army of Abraha, the governor of Himyar, Yemen, by dropping small clay stones on them as they approached. This incident is said to have happened just before the birth of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH), although some say it happened a couple of decades before his birth.

Another article in the same Urdu newspaper heaps praises on the Muslim Personal Law Board for its ‘guts’ in going for a review petition on the SC verdict, and tries to build a narrative that the board remains the true representative and saviour of the Muslim laws in India. It also criticises other Muslim organisations that oppose the review petition and says that “by holding contradictory views on the martyrdom of the Babri Masjid, these Ulema and religious leaders have created internal schism within the Muslim society”.

Also, Akhbar-e-Mashriq has interviewed Maulana Syed Arshad Madani in this context and posed several leading questions like the following: “Are you satisfied with the Supreme Court handing over the Babri land to Hindus”? In his answer, Arshad Madani maintains that the verdict is “unjust”, based on politics not on legality, and “overwhelmingly one-sided”. He reiterated that ‘there existed a mosque for several hundred years which was demolished by Hindu extremists and now the court has paved the way for construction of a temple over its site’. He further stated that ‘nothing can substitute the mosque’ and rejected five-acre plot in Ayodhya in an alternative place. But the most astonishing part of his response is the following: “Maulana Abul Kalam Azad had said, ‘I’m wondering whether the Hindu majority will accept Muslims in India as a national community. If the Babri Masjid is restored, the answer would be yes. And if not, the answer is in negation. Wait and behold! Other mosques in India will face the same fate’. These apprehensions of Maulana Azad have come true now”.

The full stories can be seen here:


What Ilyas Azmi tried to convey in his article in Akhbar-e-Mashriq, has also been expressed, though slightly differently, in a section of the English press. Saeed Naqvi, senior Muslim journalist and political commentator, wrote in The Asian Age: “The Ayodhya verdict is only a brick in the larger architecture. Leaders whom Muslims would listen to were duty bound to explain the “politics” of it to the community. They did not. Religious leaders and lawyers took over”.


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