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Rich tributes paid to a revivalist
By MH Lakdawala, Mumbai

0n the 150th birth anniversary of Imam Raza, one of the revered scholars held in high esteem by the Sunni wal Jama'at in India, was recently celebrated in Mumbai. Going by the functions organized by the slew of the Sunni organizations it's quite apparent of change in their approach and a wind of reforms is blowing across the community.

Previously in the name of propagating the ideology of Imam Raza,Sunni Wal Jama'at followers used to engage in the debate with the people of other sects on many frivolous and putative issues. Calling names and giving Fatwa of Kafir to persons belonging to other sects were rules rather than exceptions. But in last few months a change is discernable. First the change was noticeable in the annual Ijtema of Sunni Dawate Islami held recently in Mumbai where no controversial issues were discussed or raised and now the approach in celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Imam Raza.No debates on frivolous issues, no calling names to the followers of other sects. The Mumbai-based Raza Academy organised several programmes to celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of the noted Islamic scholar and spiritual leader Imam Ahmed Raza. The celebrations commenced with a function at Madnapura Sunni mosque where Islamic scholars paid their tributes to Imam Hazrat Raza. 

As part of the celebrations, the academy has sent copies of a book on the life and works of Imam Hazrat Raza, titled The Muslim Revivalist, to 400 prominent personalities across the world for their views. In December, 1999, Indian Islamic scholars had conferred the title "the greatest personality of 20th century'' on Imam Ahmed Raza. The revered scholar was born at Barielly in Uttar Pradesh and lived there from 1856 to 1921. ``He spent his entire life spreading the teachings of Islam among the people,'' said Mohammed Saeed Noori, general secretary of the academy. He added that the Imam had also laid down several rules and regulations for right living.Known for his command over a number of languages and subjects, Imam Ahmed Raza firmly believed that education was of prime importance for any person to progress mentally and spiritually. He had a deep interest in mathematics, an extraordinary memory and intellectual capacity. Imam Ahmed Raza believed that a country could progress only if its problems were solved without any external help. Domestic problems too, he said, should be solved within the family and not taken to court. He also floated the idea of a non-interest bank to help the needy, who could borrow money at zero interest. 

The 150th birth anniversary of Imam Ahmed Raza was celebrated on January 13th aboard a chartered Indian Airlines plane.About 150 religious scholars and delegates participated in the celebrations and paid rich tributes to Imam Raza by reciting Qur'anic verses and prayers for peace and harmony. A book titled Jam-e-ul-ahadith , a compilation of 3,663 ahadith (sayings), was released in-flight by Maulana Mufti Mohammad Rafiq.

Mohammad Syed Noori said that the function, which lasted for about 50 minutes, was the third in a series of festivities held to mark the birth anniversary of the Islamic scholar. The earlier events were held at a city masjid and aboard a catarman off the city's coastline, and were addressed by Maulana Qamruzaman Azmi, general secretary of the Manchester-based World Islamic Mission. The gathering was addressed by several Islamic scholars and religious leaders including Maulana Mansoor Ali, Maulana Maqsood Ali, Maulana Abdul Razzaq Jabalpuri and Maulana Abdul Sattar Hamdani.

Besides medical camp, distribution of scholarships to needy students, sending on Haj pilgrimage few of the prominent Ulema etc were some of the other programs organized as part of the celebration. Instead of raising controversial issues for the first time people heard about the reforms within the community. Many irrational practices relating to Moharram and other superstitions in the name of religions were condemned by the eminent Sunni ulema.

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