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Maulana Vastanvi and Darul Uloom Deoband

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The storm the Deoband fraternity has raised over a statement attributed to Maulana Vastanvi which the reporter Yagnesh Mehta wrote and was published by the Times of India (that regularly publishes mischievous news about Muslims), reminds me of an incident related to the famous religious scholar Sheikh Ahmad Raheem Mulla Jeevan which was published in the mouthpiece of Jamiatur Rashad Azamgarh, Al Rashad, during the editorship of Maulana Mujibullah Nadvi. Maulana Nadvi was a very reliable alim. This incident was noted by Maulana Nayeem Siddiqui Nadvi and included in his book Iman ke tabanda nuqoosh (Illuminating imprints of faith) under the title ‘Musalman Jhoot nahin bol sakta’ (A Muslim can never tell a lie). Maulana Nayeem belongs to the Deobandi sect. He is a very cautious writer. I wrote these introductory lines to lend reliability to the incident.

Mulla Jeevan was a teacher of Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. The king kept him in high esteem. His book Nooral Anwar is a reliable work on jurisprudence. The incident is of the time he was staying in Jaunpur. One day one of his students came looking nervous and said to him, “Something very drastic is going to happen today. The bridge over the Gomti River is very angry. It says that people trample it under their feet but no one cares for it. So it says that it will shift to Jaunpur.” Mulla Jeevan asked him, “Then what happened?” The student said, “He is asking for Rs 100 to stay there. I have persuaded him to stay on with great difficulty. If he is not given the money, he will go.” Mulla said, “This is a very big amount. Try to lower it.” The cunning student went away and came back after some time and said to Mullaji, “It has agreed on Rs 50”. Mulla Jeevan said,” This is also too much.” After a little bargaining the student said, “It cannot be less that Rs 10”. Mulla Jeevan said, “OK, it can be given. He then arranged for Rs 10. The student went away and came back smiling and said,” The bridge has agreed.” Mulla Jeevan narrated this incident in his assembly in the presence of the student. People asked him how he believed that the bridge could move and talk. Mulla Jeevan said, “I understand that but how can I believe that a Muslim can tell a lie? So I believed my student to be true and considered my understanding to be wrong.”

You may be surprised to think what relation this can have with Maulana Vastanvi. In spite of realising the conceit of the student, Mulla Jeevan believed his student because he believed that a Muslim could not be a liar. But today the situation is that not a student but a religious scholar who is respected by millions of people by dint of his words, deeds and actions and is the patron of more than one lakh seventy thousand ‘guests of the Prophet (pbuh)’, is the supervisor and advisor of many madrasas and has been a member of the Majlis-e-Shoura of Darul Uloom for the last twelve years and has devoted himself to the promotion of the faith has been saying that his statement that was published in the newspaper was distorted. But some self-styled saviours of Darul Uloom insist that they will not accept it. ‘In our view, the reporter of the newspaper Yagnesh Mehta is true and an alim like Mualana Vastanvi is a liar. So if he does not go on his own, he should be ready to face the consequences. We will not allow him to stay.’ God forgive us. We can see the difference in our character. It can be understood from the attitude of the Deoband brothers in the context of the incidents how responsible we are for the schism and chaos among the community. It would be better that these gentlemen who have been publishing their ads along with their photographs (which do not have any Shariah-based logic) should have done their own introspection instead of holding Maulana Vastanvi accountable. The reasons that are being cited for the resentment against Maulana Vastanvi are: Firstly, he reportedly said something praising Modi; secondly, he presented a memento containing the picture of some Hindu deity to a minister. The third rumour has been spread that he is an ‘outsider’. There is no doubt that during the rule of Modi and probably under his patronage, the worst Gujarat massacre was carried out. Instead of following his ‘raj dharma’, he preferred the Sangh dharma that is, the slaughter of Muslims. Muslims are still subjected to bias and prejudice in Modi’s Gujarat. That should be admitted. Maulana Vastanvi has also done that. This is the horrible face of Modi. The second aspect of his personality is his administrative prowess and his developmental work. If someone mentions this second aspect, we should not lose temper and call him a liar as it will be an injustice to him. Our community is unable to understand that we have turned away from the teachings of the Prophet (pbuh) and consider our egotistic approach as Islamic approach. Again, I recall here a golden chapter of the life of the Prophet (pbuh). During the initial stage of Islam, when the total number of Muslims was 26 or 27, Abu Jahl and Umar ibn Khattab were the greatest enemies of Islam and persecuted Muslims the most. Albeit one aspect of their personalities was such that Hadhrat Muhammad (pbuh) prayed to God,” O God, accept either Abu Jahl ibn Hasham or Umar ibn Kiattab for Islam and give strength to Islam through him.” There is a lesson for us in the prayer and that is: we should not ignore the positive aspect of our enemies. Instead of cursing them, we should try to follow in the footsteps of the Prophet (pbuh) practising patience and tolerance. Hadhrat Umar (R.A.) is the first person who planned to kill the Prophet (pbuh) and announced his intention to do so. What was the Prophet’s reaction when Hadhrat Umar reached his door to kill him with his drawn sword in hand? He did not drive him away but greeted him and asked, “Umar, what has brought you here?” This incident has been narrated in books of Seerat in detail. What was the effect of the Prophet (PBUH)’s treatment of him? His whole existence shuddered and he offered himself for the service of Islam. With God’s blessings, the worst enemy of Islam became a friend of Islam. We do not expect anything good from Modi but we have this belief that losing hope in God is kufr. We believe that God does not become indifferent to us. You observed how God awakened the conscience of Aseemanand. We should rather pray that God raises another Abdul Kalim from among us who can awaken the conscience of Modi too. I humbly request the Deoband brothers, who are hell-bent on creating disturbance in the Darul Uloom, to introspect their actions and decide if their actions reflect the character of the Prophet (pbuh) or of the unfortunate people whose swords are tinged with the blood of Hadhrat Ali, Hadhrat Usman and Hadhrat Umar.

The issue of the picture on the memento is really serious. The very first hadith of Bukhari which is also a Hadith Qudsi and defines Islam and faith on the whole says, ‘Innamal A’mal Biliniyat’. What does that mean? The Prophet (pbuh) himself has explained it: we stand before the Kaaba and offer namaz and supplicate before it. The detractors say that we worship the Kaaba which is a lie. They see the obvious and do not see our intentions. How can one think without Satan creating doubt in his mind that the person who is busy giving religious education to about two lakh students will become guilty of shirk by merely holding a paper that has a picture on it. The act of worshipping an idol has a specific procedure which is not observed here. We exchange papers containing pictures every day. Every bank note has some or the other picture on it with which we offer namaz. The newspapers we buy have many such pictures on them. Many a time there is very little time to take a decision and we act as a courtesy. We think that Maulana Vastanvi could have found a way out if he had known in advance that the memento had a picture on it. What happened unintentionally should be ignored. It does not have any bearing on his administrative abilities.

The third objection is that Mualana Vastanvi is not a Deobandi. I am afraid this kind of bias has already been disapproved of by the Prophet (pbuh) in his sermon of the Last Hajj. If an ‘ajmai (non-Arab) did not have any superiority over an Arab, how can a Deobandi have superiority over a non-Deobandi. This way of thinking is a negation of the Islamic thought. Mualana Vastanvi has been associated with the Darul Uloom Deoband for the last 12 years as a member of its highest body. The only difference is that he has now become the Vice Chancellor. That has no basis for opposition. The concept that the administration and management of Darul Uloom should remain in the hands of the Qasmis is illegitimate. Is the organisation a legacy of the whole community or a property of the Qasmis? This concept is against the spirit of Islam.

 It can be asked: how can the maulanas, who publish their photos with their ads violating the fatwas of Darul Uloom, be the inheritors of Darul Uloom? This furore is also against the teachings of the Quran. The Quran has clear instructions on collective issues. It says, “They solve their issues through consultation.” The Shoura has pronounced its decision after much thought. It should be respected without creating trouble. If the decision was not satisfactory, the members of the Shoura should have been consulted. God says, “Ati’ullaha wa ati’ur Rasool wa oolil amri minkum.” In Darul Uloom’s context, Shoura is the Oolul amr. Everybody associated with Darul Uloom should accept it. Creating trouble and schism among the community and giving an opportunity to others to laugh at us cannot be appreciated. People who do not obey Allah, his Prophet (pbuh) and oolul amr and instead obey their own self, commit shirk according to Sheikh Ali Hajweri’s book Kashful Mahjoob, Kimiyaye Sa’adat of Imam Ghazali, Taqwiatul Iman by Shah Muhammad Ismail Shaheed and many other exponents of Shariat. May Allah illuminate their graves with His light! God has kept open the door of repentance for His devotees, so they should revert back to Him as soon as possible. (Translated from Urdu - originally published in Hindustan Express daily, Delhi, 5 Feb. 2011)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-28 February 2011 on page no. 1

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