By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi
20 April 2018
Perhaps, first time after the independence, scores of Muslim outfits of Bihar gathered at Gandhi Maidan in Patna under the banner of “Shariah is in danger”. This call was given in the rally named as ‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’ (protect religion, save nation) jointly organised by Imarat-e-Shariah Patna and All India Muslim Personal Law Board. A sea of skull caps sprawled Gandhi Maidan to take part in the rally which was held on April 15.
Several Urdu dailies have noted that “Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao” rally gathered thousands of Muslims from Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand who made their views heard. They assembled to state that ‘under the present dispensation, both Islam and the country are in danger’.
Actually, the ‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’ rally at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan was primarily organised by Maulana Wali Rehmani, the AIMPLB general secretary. He is also head of the Imarat-e-Sharia in Patna, which is an influential Islamic seminary and fatwa-issuing authority particularly for Muslims in Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. Maulana Rahmani lashed out against the ruling government for failing to protect the Muslim personal laws. He assured the Muslim gathering in Gandhi Maidan that, “no attack on their personal laws will, henceforth, be tolerated”.
But one wonders why Maulana Rahmani who emerged as ‘hero’ of the massive Muslim gathering at Patna’s Gandhi Maidan for a roasting attack on the current regime, has fallen from grace now. Many of those who heaped high praises on him till the end of the rally are now castigating him on social media and in the Urdu press.
Questioning the ‘ulterior motives’ of the rally’s organisers, majority of them being Islamic clergymen, noted Muslim journalist at The Wire, Arfa Khanum Sherwani asks: “How come the maulvis are the self-imposed custodians of the Muslim society”? Lamenting on this rally, she avers that in a secular democracy like in India, calling such massive gatherings for religious polarization does not augur well for their future. She has pertinently asked this question: “Why the clergymen have failed to provide constructive leadership right from Shah Bano till the case of Saira Bano”?
While addressing the Gandhi Maidan rally, Maulana Rahmani particularly denounced the government for introducing the Muslim Women Bill 2017 (Protection of Rights on Marriage). He decried it as an “interference with the Shariat” and demanded revoking the bill. “We waited for four years, expecting that BJP would learn to run the nation as per the constitution. But we were wrong, take for instance Muslim personal laws which are under attack. We are compelled to inform our countrymen that Islam and our country is in danger under the present government at the centre.” He went on expressing his grave concerns about the Shariah in India such as: “Following triple Talaq, it will be Uniform Civil Code and also ban on Azaan through loudspeakers. There is a long list”.
Thus, the motif behind this massive gathering, as clearly stated in numerous posters and advertisings regularly published in the Urdu press, was to create a nationwide Muslim agitation against the government’s ‘inability’ to protect the Shariah and its ‘temerity’ to strike on the Muslim personal laws in India. Maulana Rahmani contended that the Indian Muslim community must wake up now to tackle the ‘onslaught’ on Shariah. “There are numerous issues on RSS’ agenda which this government will attempt to execute. Following triple talaq, it will be Uniform Civil Code and also ban Azaan through loudspeakers”, he averred.
But interestingly, having launched scathing attacks on the government’s interference in the Shariah laws, Maulana Rahmani himself is facing the ire of the Muslim community members and close observers. For instance, an Urdu journalist Naiyer Fatmi, formerly associated with the Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz, has stated: “Deen Aur Desh Bacha Hua Hai. Pehle BJP Wale Aur Board Ke Log Thik Ho Jayen,” (both Islam and country are safe. First let the BJP leaders and Board people mend their ways).
In fact, Muslim journalists like Naiyer Fatmi (formerly with Qaumi Awaz) and Abdul Qadir of The Times of India as well as intellectuals like Professor Mohammad Sajjad of AMU were repeatedly questioning the motive and necessity of the rally. But sadly, they were lambasted, pilloried and even trolled on social media. Amid this scathing criticism, famous Urdu novelist and Muslim writer, Musharraf Alam Zauqi penned and posted his article titled “Mr. Wali Rahmani, history of Indian Muslims will not forgive you on the deal you have made”! I stumbled upon this piece on a social media group “Fikr-o-Khabar”. It reads:
“April 15 was dedicated to ‘save religion and nation’ (Deen Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao). I was critical of this sloganeering right from the beginning. But when I discussed it with my friends, they silenced me by simply arguing that it was about time Muslims exhibited their strength. Now, when it comes to the mentioning of Ulema, I keep mum.”
Zauqi further writes that when he first knew of the plan to organize the rally at Gandhi Maidan, he was convinced that it was not going to augur well for the community. He opines that while the display of the ‘Muslim strength’ may cause unsolicited issues with the majority community, the mixing of ‘Deen’ and ‘Desh’ reeks of a deeper conspiracy and an ideological crisis of the religious leadership. He gives a concrete suggestion that “Muslims must understand that the majority of Hindus still stand by them for protecting their identity. But such events cater to the marginalization of the Muslims, as they cause antagonism towards the majority community”.
Even many of those who earlier expressed a wishful thinking about the rally are now dismayed at the perceived ‘deal’ between Imarat-e-Shariah Patna and the ruling party (JDU) in Bihar. A senior Muslim journalist with a prominent Hindi daily says that he had staunchly supported and defended the rally at all platforms. “But now I realise that I was wrong. From now onwards, I have decided to expose all the designs of the so-called leaders of the community”, he avers.
As a matter of fact, the common Muslim masses had travelled from across Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha despite the scorching summer heat, with a view to discussing the crucial community issues. But the deal between Imarat-e-Shariah and JD (U) to immediately announce the rally co-organiser Khalid Anwar an MLC has angered those who took part in the rally with great fervour. “Itna Sasta Sauda Kar Liya (what a cheap deal they have made),” commented a man who had worked day in and day out for weeks, spending money from his own pocket to make the ‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’ rally a success. His comments were targeted at Maulana Rahmani in the context of Khalid Anwar being nominated as an MLC during the rally.
Thus, ‘Deen Bachao, Desh Bachao’ rally is increasingly being criticized as an event to benefit the Bihar JDU politics rather than the Muslim community. But Maulana Rahmani—popularly known as ‘Ameer-e-Shariat’—has tried to rebuff the allegation of making a ‘deal’ to nominate Khalid Anwar as an MLC. In his recent press release, he has attached great importance to the rally and has stated: “It was for the first time after the independence that this large gathering of Muslims came together to reclaim their rights and protect the Deen and Shariat. Hence, this conference has infused a new passion among the Muslims to showcase their numeric strength in this democratic country”, as reported in the Urdu daily Hamara Samaj today.
But what Indian Muslims at large fail to fathom is that, as long as they are indoctrinated into believing that “Islam or Shariah is in danger”, the clerics will continue to exploit their energies in such large-scale gatherings organized on the public donations and funds raised from Masjids and Madrasas.
While the Law Commission’s public notices on UCC have gone unnoticed among Muslims which will raise another storm, they should seize this opportunity to debate whether the Shariah is in danger or in need of rethinking (Ijtihad) and constant renewal (Tajdeed).
It’s highly important to note that the Hanafi Islamic jurists (Fuqaha’) introduced the idea of employing the ‘Urf (customary practice) as a guiding principle for legislation. If Indian Muslims take a careful look at several assumptions incorporated into classical Islamic law based on the ‘Urf (custom) and ‘Adah (tradition), they will be able to re-examine their point of view on the basis of a fresh interpretation of Qur’an and Sunnah, guided by customary practices, societal values and contemporary ethics of the land rather than the medieval customs and practices.
In essence, the significance of ‘Urf in Islamic legal tradition implies that when the prevailing custom changes, several rulings of the Shari’ah also get adapted to them. Prof. Hashim Kamali states: “The Shari’ah has, in principle, accredited approved custom as a valid ground in the determination of its rules relating to Halal and Haram.” However, the customary practice must not go against the definitive principles (nusus) of the Qur’an. If it does so, custom will be given no consideration. “But if the custom opposes only certain aspects of the text, then custom is allowed to act as a limiting factor on the text”, he writes in his book “Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence” [Cambridge: The Islamic Texts Society, 2003].
Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a classical Islamic scholar and English-Arabic-Urdu writer. He has graduated from a leading Islamic seminary of India, acquired Diploma in Qur’anic sciences and Certificate in Uloom ul Hadith from Al-Azhar Institute of Islamic Studies. Presently, he is pursuing his PhD in Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.