Monday, December 06, 2010

Clerics adopt a cautious, pragmatic stand over the Babri Masjid issue




Lucknow: Conservative Muslim clerics, who are generally blamed for everything that is wrong with the community, have taken a cautious and studied stance on the Allahabad high court's verdict over Ayodhya's Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute.

They are not despondent or even angry with the judgment that has accepted the argument that the spot under central dome of the demolished Babri mosque is the birthplace of Ram, believed to be an incarnation of Vishnu, part of the Hindu trinity. They are keen that there should be an appeal to the Supreme Court and the final decision should be awaited. They are willing to accept the possible outcome of the Supreme Court upholding the high court verdict.

Says Ateeq Ahmed Bastawari, professor of Islamic law at Nadwat-ul-Ulema – an institute of higher Islamic learning - “It is our duty to fight our case till the last. In case, it goes against us it does not matter. We will have the satisfaction that we have done the best we could, and that we left no stone unturned.”

Maulana Iqbal Qadri, who is the rector of Dar-ul-loom Warisiya, which runs a madrasa and a junior college for girls in the city, says,”We will accept the verdict of the Supreme Court because that is the highest court of the land.”

Maulana Qadri concedes that the view of the younger generation of Muslims of today is hugely different from that of those who were part of the Ayodhya dispute in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Today's youngsters are more concerned about their economic future, about education and about jobs.”

Professor Bastawari admits that he has not read the more 8,000-page judgment of the Allahabad high court and that it would not be right for him to comment on the merits of it. But he does feel that the high court verdict has to be challenged because it has given greater credence to faith and belief of the Hindus over the legal right of the Muslims.

He has ruled out the possibility of an out-of-court settlement. Taking the traditional Islamic viewpoint that once a mosque always a mosque, he says as the land on which the mosque stands belongs to God, Muslims do not have the right to give it away as part of a compromise formula.

What is conspicuous in the views of Qadri and Bastwari is the absence of anger, irritation and a sense of injured religious sensibility. They see the issue in purely legal terms and that is why they are willing to accept the case being thrown out. They also do no see the Ayodhya masjid issue as being fundamental to Muslim identity, and they do not perceive the Allhabad high court verdict undermining that identity.

Qadri looks at things in larger terms. He says that Gujarat is taking huge strides in terms of the economy, and he says that Muslims stand to benefit by it. He is also happy that the Mayawati government has recognised the 'alim' and 'fazil', the qualifying examinations at the intermdeidate and degree levels respectively, and that students passing these examinations in a madrasa will be able to apply for government jobs. He notes the fact that railway minister Mamata Banerjee too has adopted a similar enabling procedure.

True to his connservative traditions, Qadri is not too happy that Muslim women are taking to education in a big way and that they are going for jobs. “Increase in Muslim women's education has also brought with it an increase in social problems,” he observes.

Bastawari, who has studied at Dar-ul-loom Deoband and who has been teaching at the Nadwat since 1980, like a true scholar is content to Islamic jurisprudence and he is not too eager to broadcast the values embedded in the legal traditions.

The calm attitude of Qadri and Bastawari is not unusual. It is the new mood at the ground level in the ostensibly traditional section of Muslim society.

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