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Jama Masjid gets new Shahi imam

All Delhi roads converged to the same place on 14 October. Everyone who is worth anything in the capital wanted to be there on this significant day. The Old Delhi area was beaming with enthusiasm and activity. The whole walled city was shining like a bride, waiting for the groom to come. And the groom on the occasion was Maulana Syed Ahmad Bukhari.

It was the occasion to nominate the new 'Shahi Imam' of the Shahjahani Jama Masjid. The Shahi Imam, Maulana Syed Abdullah Bukhari, had announced a fortnight ago that the Naib Shahi Imam will be made the Shahi Imam of the 400-year-old Jama Masjid of Delhi, built by the Mughal emperor Shahjahan. The Shahi Imam after serving for more than 27 years as imam had decided to pass on the responsibility to his eldest son as is the tradition of the Jama Masjid. He also announced that the eldest son of Ahmad Bukhari would be appointed Naib Imam when he completes his education. He said that he is forced to take this step due to his continuing illness. Maulana Syed Abdullah Bukhari is suffering from cardiac ailments and was admitted to the Escort Heart Institute of the capital several days ago. But he got discharged from the hospital to discharge this responsibility.

Twenty-seven-years ago he and his eldest son, the new incumbent, were nominated Shahi Imam and Naib Imam respectively. He was earlier the Naib Imam to his father, late Syed Hameed Bukhari. The outgoing Imam has served the Jama Masjid for more than 55 years.

‘After serving the Jama Masjid for more than 50 years I declare before this public gathering my retirement from the post of Imam on health grounds and appoint my eldest son Syed Ahmad Bukhari,’ declared the outgoing Shahi Imam who was choked by the emotions. He had to stop several times to breathe and regain composure. He wept profusely when he made the declaration. 

The outgoing Imam said that he has always tried to discharge his duties with great responsibility. He said that he has been selflessly serving the community and has always said fearlessly what he perceived to be right. 

No one can deny the octogenarian imam’s claim. When in 1984 he said that it is the government that has massacred the Sikhs, people thought that he is finished, but no one could harm him. He remained unscathed. 

Syed Ahmad Bukhari, his eldest son is a big crowd-puller. His recent rallies in protest of UP Religious Places Bill have been great success. His rally in Delhi attracted hundreds of thousands of people. 

More than thirty thousand people had gathered to see this historic occasion. Several politicians including the Delhi chief minister Shiela Dixit, union railway minister Mamta Banerji, union minister of state Maneka Gandhi, and several senior Congress office-bearers were present on the occasion. The Prime Minister had sent a message on the occasion from his hospital in Mumbai to Maulana Syed Ahmad Bukhari. Ambassadors from more than a dozen countries were also present to see this great occasion. Imams and Muftis of a number of cities were also present to witness this investiture. 

The Delhi Wakf Board had tried in vain to stall the investiture, on the plea that the mosque belongs to the Waqf Board and it alone has the right to nominate the next imam. President of Delhi Waqf Board, Haroon Yusuf, has accused advocate WA Warsi, a member of the Board, that he went to the High Court on his own and the Board has nothing to do with it. However, Warsi has rebutted the charges and said that it was decided by all Board members in a meeting.
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