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Published in the 16-31 March 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Whiff of breeze from Deoband

By Zafarul-Islam Khan

The Milli Gazette Online

The quarter-century-old feud in Deoband seems to be coming to an end. Stalwarts of Deoband, Maulanas As’ad Madani and Salim Qasimi have realised the futility of the dispute which led to a split in the world-famous Darul Uloom making way to two institutions, the old and a new one identified as “Waqf”. Personality clash between the two revered clans which dominated Darul Uloom, the then rector Qari Tayyib and scion of Maulana Husain Ahmad Madani, led to violent clashes in 1982 when firearms and knives were used to settle scores and the Madani group took over the institution allegedly with Indira Gandhi’s tacit support to Maulana Madani who was a Congress MP (Rajya Sabha) at the time. The other group licked its wounds, moved on and built a new institution with same name and philosophy while the personality clash continued with disastrous results for the Muslim community in India and abroad which highly revered Deoband and many followed it too in matters of faith.

Asad Madani (left) and Salim Qasmi

 Asad Madani (left) and Salim Qasmi

The split seemed final until recently when Maulana As’ad Madani was suddenly hospitalised during Haj, and on 28 January Urdu newspapers carried a report based on Jamiatul Ulama-e Hind sources that Maulana Madani is hospitalised in a critical condition in the King Fahd Hospital in Madinah. Maulana Salim Qasimi took the initiative and phoned his archrival to enquire about Maulana Madani’s health and arranged for a meeting to pray for his health. This touched Maulana Madani deeply and on his return to India a few days later he wrote on 31 January to Maulana Qasimi thanking him and adding, “It is a fact that Hazrat Nanotwi, may his secret be sanctified, is the basis of this group. We do not equal even the dust beneath his feet. Whatever differences arose in the past were ill-fated. Let all that was said, done and occured be forgiven and not left for the Hereafter.” 

Maulana Qasimi reciprocated the feeling and said in his reply on 9 February that these sentiments are a reflection of his own old wishes. He added that “Prestige of the [Deoband] group lies in an end to hurting the way of the great past leaders and ending the disputes altogether. In my view, at the last leg of my life, it is my shared wish and effort that you and me should not leave behind for the new generation this unblessed heritage. Rather we should prepare to meet Allah the Almighty according to the tradition of the ancestors based on unity, accord, theoretical and practical unity and shared sincere wishes to serve knowledge and faith.”

Thus a new phase was inaugurated in the recent sad history of Deoband. The two groups, whose influence runs to many countries around the globe, were not even on talking terms only a few weeks ago. A number of meetings over tea and dinner have been held since between the two groups. According to a report, Maulana Anzar Shah Kashmiri, an important member of the Qasimi group, has gone to the extent of saying to Maulana Madani that “everything is now placed in your hands.” 

According to sources, both sides have agreed in principle to withdraw dozens of court cases which both sides had slapped against each other. A number of meetings have been held on various levels. Some resistance remains within both groups. The best outcome would be to merge the two darul ulooms into one (they stand facing each other) and both administrations absorbed into one. Even if vested interests prevent this desired outcome, the old enmity will give way to cooperation and mutual respect which in turn will be good omen for the entire Indian Muslim community.
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