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

Shia board: a solution or a new problem

Major Shia ulama and educational institutions were ignored by the Shia personal law board, says Faizabad-based journalist Manzar Mehdi Faizabadi

The Milli Gazette Online

After repeatedly criticising the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) for its activities and responsibilities and questioning its usefulness, Barelvis first and Shias later set up their own boards. They have tried to give the impression that their boards will work for the welfare and finding solutions to the problems of their respective sects in which the old board failed. But only time will tell what work the Shia board could do and how it could solve the problems of the Shias. It is not difficult to conclude that such a step has been taken by those who probably consider themselves wiser than others.

AIMPLB is now more important than ever

There is a lot of difference between difference for the sake of difference and difference for evaluation. Such differences are not common among Muslims only but are found among people of all classes, communities and nations. As regards differences among Muslim Ulama, before analysing their differences it would be apt to ask as to why there are differences even among scientists and how. Why differences crop up among doctors and hakeems and philosophers? 

If there were no difference of opinions among scientists, all development activities will come to a stop. If all the thoughts of philosophers were same, thinking and its growth will also become static. All the progress and activity, hustle and bustle that we see is because of difference only.

What, after all, is the necessity of a Muslim personal law board and why? Why this question arises only about the Muslim Personal Law Board? Aren’t there personal laws of Hindus and Christians? Are there no castes or sects among Hindus and Christians and don’t they too have their own separate personal laws? I think well-informed and educated people must be aware that even the castes and sub-castes which have no place or importance in any religion have also their own specific personal laws. Why then all this hulla-buloo about the Muslim Personal Law only? 

As regards personal laws of Barelvis or Shias, answer to this question partly lies in what has been stated above. At the end I simply want to clarify and emphasise that after the formation of Barelvi and Shia personal law boards, the importance and status of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has risen further because the formation of Barelvi Muslim Personal Law Board and the statement of the pro-BJP Maulana Tauqir Raza Khan that there is no place for Deobandis and Shias on his board itself indicates that he does not enjoy the representation of the Muslim community as a whole. Again, the very nomenclature, i,e., Shia Personal Law Board, itself indicates that the entire Muslim nation is not represented on this Board also. Hence, after the formation of these separate boards the stature and importance of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board has all the more increased in the sense that it is the representative body of all Muslims, whether Barelvis, Shias, Deobandis, Wahabis, Ahl-e Hadith et al. 

Syed Zeeshan Hidayati
President, Safinatul Hidayah Trust
40-41 Imambara Lane, Rasheed Mkt Extn,
Delhi 110051

Any sincere and impartial person will admit that the AIMPLB was not living up to the expectations of the Muslim community. Its workings and expediency had been questioned. Persons of a particular school of thought dominated its affairs and people of other sects were marginalised. This was one of the main reasons that led to the formation of other boards. If people of other sects would have been allowed to have a say and preside over its deliberations, perhaps the need to form separate boards would not have arisen. 

Maulana Kalb-e Sadiq, a person of world fame, certainly deserves to represent the Shia community on the AIMPLB. The services rendered by him in the educational field are indeed unforgettable. However, the objection that inspite of holding the important post of vice president of the board he did not do for the interests of the Shia community what he should have done also carriers weight. One of the Shia clerics went to the extent of saying that Maulana Kalb-e Sadiq has been pursuing the cause of Sunnis among the Shias. Some of his statements on certain highly sensitive issues have made him controversial. Also, some of his statements have been such on which neither the board agreed nor Shia ulama could come forward in his defence.

The contention of Shias is that they did not benefit from the Haj subsidy and other facilities provided by the government, though they are also entitled to them. One of their demands has been that at least two air carriers should be reserved for their pilgrims in order to undertake some rituals specific to their sect during Haj. But neither the Indian government nor the AIMPLB paid any attention to their demands.

Despite all this, the question remains, was it necessary to form a separate personal law board? Persons behind this move, without taking their community into confidence and consulting ulama and leaders in other parts of the country, took the hasty step of forming a separate board. Forming a separate board with the help of some people and hoping that they are representing the wishes and aspirations of 50 million Shias in the country may satisfy their hunger for power but how far they will succeed in solving the problems of the community is difficult to say. If they were sincere and well-wishers of the Shia community they would have discussed the problems of the community with responsible authorities of the AIMPLB, especially at a time when Barelvis had already formed their own board. The AIMPLB would probably have conceded their demands in order to avoid another group.

If an organisation is formed with good intentions, all aspects of the problems are discussed with an open mind in consultation with best brains but in this case only people holding similar views were invited and those holding different views were ignored. Even an important centre of Shia community like Faizabad was totally ignored. 

The authors of the Shia board did not even consider it fit to consult learned personalities of Wasiqa Arabic College before taking a decision. Only Maulana Taqiul Haidari’s support was sought through a telephonic call, not as the principal of an Arabic college but as a religious scholar. Persons like Maulana Mohsin, Maulana Wasi Hasan, and Maulana Zul Qadar Abidi, who in addition to being a teacher of Wasiqa Arabic College and a brilliant speaker, has deep knowledge of Shariah, were not invited to the board’s meeting. Syed Ibn Hasan, Imam of Jama Masjid in Faizabad denied receiving any such invitation. Similarly non-participation of people like Maulana Shamimul Hasan, principal of Jawwadia Arabic College, Banaras, and Maulana Ahmad Hasan, principal of Imania Arabic College of Banaras is a matter of concern. Maulana Syed Ahmad Ali, the moving spirits behind Najafi House, Mumbai, was also ignored. Representation of Shia madrasas was virtually nil. Teachers of religious institutions like Nazimia, Sultanul Madaris, Jamia Anwarul Uloom, Allahabad, Mansabia Arabic College, Meerut, Babul Ilm, Mubarakpur, Jamia Abu Talib, Sitapur, Khairabad, Mohammadabad and Azamgarh were also ignored.

Maulana Mohsin, teacher of Wasiqa Arabic College said that making laws is the prerogative of Allah and its enforcement is the duty of the prophets and imams. If common people want to do it, at least care should be taken to see to it that their head should be a scholar imparting education about Shariah. Similarly, Maulana Wasi Hasan said that preaching is a different thing and having mastery over Shariah related problems is another. People who are members of the board are not legal and religious scholars. Principal of Wasiqa Arabic College, Maulana Taqiul Hasan said that he is in favour of a Shia board but he would not like to be a part of such a board.

When this writer talked to senior advocate Sayyid Aftab Raza, corporator Zakir Husain Pasha, young leader Hasan Iqbal Husaini, federation chief Zakir Husain Jaffery, Urdu journalist Laeeq Akhtar Faizabadi, all of them termed the formation of Shia board as an emotional step motivated by selfish interest of a few persons. Many lawyers said that except nikah and talaq nothing personal is left with us because all matters pertaining to inheritance, zamindari, property and maintenance are now decided according to the laws of the land. Zakir Husain Pasha said that the Shia board has been formed to weaken and erode the popularity of leaders like Maulana Kalb-e Jawwad and Kalbe-Sadiq and politically strengthen and popularise BJP leader Ya’soob Abbas, son of Shia board president, Maulana Athar. Hasan Iqbal said that till now Shia youths were busy in forming anjumans and associations but now the maulvis have given them the toy of Personal Law Board. Had our Maulvis, besides preaching religion to our youth, motivated them to become IPS and IAS officers, the Shia community probably would have distinguished itself from others. Senior journalist Laeeq Akhtar Faizabadi said that Maulana Mirza Mohammad Athar is a fine orator but the aspirations of his son have brought him to a position where his spotless image has been soiled.

One thing is certain that the Shia board will affect the Shia-Sunni unity. Late Maulana Kalbe-Abid had strengthened the Shia-Sunni unity in Lucknow after it had been virtually torn to shreds. After his death, when his dead body was being taken for the last rites, Sunnis stopped the funereal procession at Tiley Wali Masjid and offered namaze-e janaza. Maulana Kalbe-Jawwad has also tried to maintain Shia-Sunni unity. But today hundreds of people are asking themselves whether this unity will remain or not? 

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