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Published in the 1-15 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Waqf Board and Mosque Committee silent spectators
Mutawalli loots Deoband mosque

Deoband: What do you do if a local bully becomes the Mutawalli (trustee) of your Mosque and is naively backed by seemingly pious and harmless group that happens to be very powerful and wealthy also? The Mutawalli does not attend the prayers, hardly comes to the mosque, has a record of insulting the elders, manhandling and bullying the weak people of the mohalla, including his own uncles and parents, both of whom have died. He had thrown out his mother of his house who had to spend the last days of her life with a relative and died there. There are rumors that this Mutawalli had a sinister hand in her death.


This is the story of a 16th century mosque built by Sikandar Lodhi in Mohalla Qila, Deoband known as Masjid-e-Qila. The mosque, located in a busy market has 12 shops and good income from their rent approximately Rs 7,000 per month.. Yet for its maintenance local youths have to raise funds through collections. The Imam and Mua'zzin study at Darul Uloom and are provided with free accommodation inside the mosque, with no pay, while food is provided by two residents of the Mohalla. All the essentials of the mosque from fans, coolers, prayer mats, wadu facilities to whitewashing the structure everything is either donated by the musallies or such expenses are met by contributions. Electricity bill and municipal tax have not been paid for a long time. Until before the last Ramadan, when it was whitewashed, again through collections, the mosque looked one of the most miserable buildings of the town. 

The Mutawalli in question is one Nifasat Ali Khan alias Bashid Khan. After the death of the former Mutawalli and Bashid's father, Wajid Ali Khan, in 1999 he became mutawalli in unusual circumstances when for the reasons best known to them the trustworthy elders of the mohalla refused to take the responsibility of managing the house of Allah. 

Unfortunately, like most of the old towns in India, mohallas in Deoband are divided on the basis of castes and as a result mosque committees are inevitably caste ridden too. Needless to say the musallies, imams and mu'azzins may and do belong to any caste. The committee of Masjid-e-Qila is run by Pathans. Taking advantage of the reluctance of responsible elders to accept mutalwalliship some of the supporters of Bashid managed to have him installed as the Mutawalli, regardless of his past record and questionable character.

With no source of income whatsoever and blatant disregard to the mosque committee, Bashid used Mosque's income to run his own household. He warned anyone who dared complain to the Waqf Board of dire consequences. "If you can't make wadu with cold water or do not like the dusty mats, go to any other mosque." He told many of the musallies. On other occasions he beat up weaker mosque users. Among them is a disabled washerman, single, commonly known as Khalifah, who earns his living by ironing clothes and has a passion of serving the mosque. On a number of occasions he has been mercilessly beaten by Bashid for opening his mouth against the misappropriation of mosque's funds. "Mein kuch nahin kehna chahta. Is ke badan main keede padainge or aap ko is ke khabar mile gi. ( I do not want to say anything. His body will be infected with worms and you will hear this news)" Khalifa told MG

Bashid has also forced the tenants of the shops to pay huge sums in advance. Where is the mosque committee and what is it doing?
This is the saddest part of the story. The Mosque has two houses one of which has been rented to Mother Teresa School on a minimal rent and by accepting a large sum in advance. The other house, adjoining the mosque was, until three years ago, occupied by a Hindu family. Former Mutawalli Wajid Khan managed to take the possession of the house and in order to avoid any further possible complications in future he got the common wall between the mosque and the house demolished and joined the house with the mosque. However, as soon as Bashid became Mutawalli he sold the house to Dr Sayed Jameel, muhtamim (principal) of Madarsa Asgharia for Rs 87,000 on a 30 years lease to run a madarsa. Dr Jameel started erecting the wall again which was immediately pulled down by the youths.

Madarsa Asgharia is named after one of the great and pious teachers of Darul Uloom Deoband, late Maunala Mian Sahib Sayed Asghar Hussain. It is run by the descendants of Mian Sahib.

Adjacent to the house are four shops. The authorities of Madarsa Asgharia have a claim on the shops and have been receiving the rent from these shops for years. They have even put up a stone on the shops making them waqf to Madarsa Asgharia (see photograph). Interestingly the son of Late Mian Sahib, Late Maulana Akhtar Hussain, a virtuous man and teacher in Darul Uloom had served as the mutawalli of the Mosque in 1940s. MG has obtained a writing by the late Maulana Syed Akhtar Hussain in which he clearly mentions that the shops belonged to the Mosque. At that time there were four shops that were later converted into four shops.

Fed up with Bashid's malpractices some of the members of mosque committee approached the UP Sunni Waqf Board which, on 2 June 2003, sent an official and an auditor to investigate the matter. In their report to the Board they confirmed the allegations as true. Staying its order of 12 May 1999, through which it had appointed Bashid as Secretary, the Waqf Board handed the matter to its member Zafar Ahmed Farooqi for hearing and appointed Abdul Azeem Khan as Secretary. However, Madarsa Asghria authorities would not sit idle. They financed Bashid to challenge Board's decision in the High court where he succeeded in having himself reinstated. Strangely enough none of the Committee Members had any information of Waqf Board's decision being challenged. 

There is anger and frustration among the youths of the Mohalla who have been stopped by the thekedars of deen (the so-called guardians of faith) from saving the house of Allah from an usurper.

This is a sad commentary on the state of affairs of deeni institutions but the fact is that the residents of Deoband sarcastically refer to madarsas of Deoband as family businesses and some times call them as three empires of Deoband meaning Darul Uloom Deoband, Darul Uloom Waqf and Madarsa Asgharia. While the world outside Deoband has some knowledge about the comfortable lives of the authorities of Darul Uloom Deoband and Darul Uloom Waqf, very few have any idea about the low profile authorities of Madarsa Asgharia which is virtually a family business with no outside interference or transparency. Over the last few years from building a mosque in a graveyard to encroaching land in Mohalla Qila and bribing the police for protection they have done anything illegal. The contributions of Muslims from within India and abroad are being used by the newly upstarts to act like the old zamindars.

The case of Masjid-e-Qila and the helplessness of Waqf Board and the Mosque Committee reflects the limitations of Muslim institutions in situations where they want to do some positive work.

Also see the following links
CIM had sent the copy of its open letter to the UP Urban Development Minister Mr Mohammad Azam Khan, Convenor of Babri Masjid Action Committee Mr Zafaryab Jilani Advocate, All India Muslim Personal Law Board and All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawrat. According to the CIM only Syed Shahabuddin has acknowledged the receipt of the letter while the Waqf Board and others have not even bothered to acknowledge CIM's Letter. Syed Shahabuddin's letter can be read on this link. 

UP Sunni Waqf Board can be contacted at this address: 3-A Mall Avenue Lucknow 226 001, India

MG Correspondent

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