By K.N. Pandita
The Shahi Imam of Jamia Masjid Delhi is in news. He has stirred a controversy without realizing it could have serious consequences.
He has announced anointment of his son to make him his successor when he is no more in this world. The fundamental question is whether Imamate in Islam is by heredity or by acquisition? An Imam’s son does not become the Imam-regent by virtue of his descent; he becomes Imam by virtue of his scholarship in Islamic studies and his popularity and acceptance among the people of the faith.
Secondly, anointment of a successor to a high socio-religious position is unheard of in Islamic history and tradition. It is not clear which tradition the Shahi Imam is following in making the announcement of anointing his successor.
Imamate of Jamia Masjid Delhi was installed by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan after the construction of Jamia Masjid was completed. In medieval times Bukhara in present day Uzbekistan grew a very important and impressive centre of Islamic religious learning. Many outstanding scholars of theology sprang from this centre. It also housed the most famous Mir Arab seminary wherefrom celebrated Islamic scholars like Imam Bukhari, al-Ghazali, al-Farabi and others rose to enrich Islamic scholarship. Madrasah Mir Arab still exists with its pristine glory close the famous mosque of Bukhara.
Doctors of Divinity and the alumni of Mir Arab Madrasah of Bukhara enjoyed great respect at the Mughal court and with Mughal high ranking courtiers. Appointment of Shahi Imam for the grand Jama Masjid must certainly have been an event of considerable significance.
As the students of Mughal history know it very well, Mughal monarchs did not permit undue interference by the ecclesiastical authority of their times in the affairs of the State. The Shahi Imam was no exception. He had to conduct religious affairs of the ummah. Showing them respect did not preclude seeking their views on certain matters that fell within the ambit of religion. But it never meant that the state went by the views of the ecclesiastical authority.
Sermons delivered by the Imams in Friday congregations were strictly restricted to religious matters. Never were political issues raised and publicly discussed in mosques anywhere in the country. It was only after the British colonial power subjugated independent and autonomous Muslim states in the Asiatic countries, that state politics began to creep into religious sermons. However the focus of that sermonizing was the ummah and not the individual.
After the independence of India on the basis of two-nation theory, the inheritor of state power, namely the Congress, lost no time in pandering to communal politics under the rubric of secularism. Its six decades of rule was marked by advertently denigrating India’s Hindu majority ethos on the one hand and subtly but steadily bolstering Muslim minority exclusiveness on the other.
This phenomenon, emanating from intellectual bankruptcy and lust for power, dragged Indian Muslims and their prestigious institutions like the Imamate of Shahi Masjid, into the morass of dirty politics of conflict and controversy far distanced from national mainstream. The institution of Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid became a den of political intrigues. Its religious agenda was relegated to the backburner but taken recourse to only when religious sentiments of Indian Muslims were required to be sensitized for political purposes.
Those who swarmed around the Shahi Imam were political activists of various hues, communalist as well as pseudo-secularists. Congress was always in the front row of such attendants at the institution. It was Congress which put the words into the mouth of Shahi Imam that the only party with which Indian Muslims were safe was Congress.
In recently held parliamentary elections, the Congress President went in person to the Shahi Imam and beseeched him to give a call to the Indian Muslims from his pulpit to vote for Congress as it was the only party that could provide safety and security to the Muslims and promote their interests. The grapevine has it that he became a beneficiary of congress largesse.
This clarifies that the Shahi Imam is running the role of a politician and not a religious leader. This is the widespread impression among the vast majority of Muslims in India. His statement that he did not invite PM Modi to “anointment” because the latter was not a friend of Muslims is brazenly politically motivated statement which masses of Indian Muslims have rejected.
Shahi Imam has given a proof of his naivety when, playing in the hands of Congress, he sent invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but not to his own Prime Minister. The Congress backed him by stating that he was free to invite anybody. Imagine how Congress wants to settle its score with Modi by playing in the hands of a communalist like the Imam and adversary like Nawaz. Has the Congress anything by the name of conscience if not patriotism?
At the same time, the Imam has left no stone unturned to humiliate both, the Indian Muslim ummah and the Prime Minister of Pakistan. But we are fully aware that India Muslim community, with insight into history, will not succumb to blackmail and will not compromise its individuality to a move on the part of the Imam that is reminiscent of mediaeval potentates and satraps.
Indian Muslims will cast a glance to their right and left and see for themselves if the Muslim ummah in any Asiatic country has as much of all round freedom as they have under Indian democratic dispensation. They are wedded to democratic norms and will never let these slip out of their hands.
As far as the likeness or dislike of Indian Muslims for P:rime Minister Modi is concerned, the Imam should put this question to UP Muslim community where they have 34 per cent population, which rejected Congress outright and voted for Modi in the parliamentary elections. This should become the eye opener for the Imam.