By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Founding Editor, Word for Peace
October 29: New Delhi
Indian Muslims’ prominent institution in Delhi, India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) which celebrates almost all Indian festivals of various faith traditions in order to promote peace, brotherhood and harmony in the country, also celebrates Meeladun Nabi, the birth anniversary of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) as a part of its sustained efforts towards promoting mutual understanding and amity among different communities. This year, on the last day of Rabiul Awwal on October 27, the IICC organized its regular annual Milad-un-Nabi Celebration.
India’s noted Islamic scholars including Professor Emeritus in Islamic Studies, Akhtarul Wasey, Comparative Religion Scholar M. H. Qureshi, a retired professor from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Maulana Muhibbulla Nadwi (Imam of Jama Masjid Parliament Street, New Delhi) and Indo-Islamic scholar and columnist, Mr. Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi spoke on various aspects of the holy Prophet’s life and legacy in this Meelad program.
Mr. Sirajuddin Qureshi, the President of India Islamic Cultural Centre welcomed the audience and dignitaries with his opening remarks in which he briefly explained the holy Prophet’s life and teachings. He gave a broader picture of the Prophetic life (Sirah) citing the glorious examples of Misaq-e-Madina, Sulh e Hudaubiyyah and Fath e Makkah. He also hailed the holy Prophet’s affection for women and children and especially his magnanimous manners and treatment with his beloved wife, Hazrat Khadijah r.a and daughter Hazrat Fatima Zahra r.a.
Mr. Sirajuddin Qureshi further said that since its inception, India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) has been actively working for national integration and communal harmony. By celebrating Milad-un-Nabi, Diwali, Holi and various other Indian festivals, the IICC aims at creating communal harmony and interfaith understanding and thus mitigating misunderstandings between them the different communities in India.
Rremarkably, he Chief Guest of this Meelad event was the chairman of the National Commission for Minorities and former IPS officer, Mr. Iqbal Singh Lalpura. He said that the true tribute to the holy Prophet (pbuh) would be to put his beautiful teachings and traditions into practice. “But in this day and age, it is too difficult to be a true Muslim, because the prophetic teachings require a Muslim to exercise utmost patience, restraint and forbearance. To be a true follower of the Prophet (pbuh) is easier said than done”, he said. Mr. Lalpura also averred that the nation has been built by the freedom fighters and great leaders of all communities, including the minorities of India.
“Our elders have rendered great contributions to the liberation, national integration and empowerment of our country. This country, in which religious minorities including the Muslims, Christians and Sikhs have all lived peacefully for centuries, does not belong to any single community”, he said. Quoting extensively from the central scripture of Sikhism—Guru Granth Sahib—Mr. Lalpura stressed the universal values of Islam and Sikhism and the striking similarities between the two faith traditions. “I, as a Sikh, strongly believe that the Prophet of Islam has greatly inspired our spiritual masters and our predecessors. The Prophet’s life and teachings have much to offer to us to live in peace and harmony and end the growing religious discord and communal conflict in the country”, he concluded.
Prof. Akhtarul Wasey shed light on the role of the Prophet’s wives in setting examples for the empowerment of women. “While Hazrat Khadija r.a. was a glaring example of economic empowerment for Muslim women, Hazrat Aisha r.a. emerged as the greatest educator, teacher and narrator of hadith traditions. Similarly, Hazrat Umm-e-Salma was an icon of political empowerment of women in Islam and almost all the Sahabiyaat i.e. female companions of the holy Prophet (pbuh) serve as models of spiritual empowerment for our sisters and daughters today”, he stated.
Prof. M. H. Qureshi dwelt on the scriptural similarities between Islam and Hinduism in terms of their essential message of Monotheism (Tawheed) and the universal and egalitarian values embedded in their texts. He quoted from both the Qur’an and Vedas to substantiate his key point that Muslims and non-Muslims need to come together to develop a deep understanding of each others’ religions, precepts and practices. If they do so, a lot of misconceptions and prejudices will vanish from their minds, he asserted. “Unity, equality and brotherhood of mankind are the essential messages of Islam and all other religions in India that we need to re-rediscover and promulgate in Indian society to preserve our shared heritage and protect the common good”, he said.
Mr. Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, one of the guest speakers in this program, spoke on the “Prophetic Mission and Mysticism” drawing attention to the moral, ethical and spiritual dimensions of the holy Prophet’s life.
Mr. Dehlvi highlighted the Prophet’s noble personality traits in both pre-prophethood and post-prophethod periods and his pursuits for peace in both Mecaan and Medinite phases, calling them the brightest sides of the Prophetic Persona that need to be revived and rejuvenated on every occasion of Milad-un-Nabi. Quoting from the Sirah literature, he stated: “From the Prophet’s key role in the formation of Hilf-ul-Fudul—an alliance for peace and justice through a collective action which was created by the Meccans in 590 AD—to the Peace Treaty of Hudaibiyyah (Sulh-e-Hudaubiyyah), and from the enactment of Misaq-e-Madina or Covenant of Madina, which was written as a constitution or charter of human rights, to the Conquest of Mecca (Fath-e-Makkah, the holy Prophet emerged as Peace-Maker for mankind”.
The best part of the Prophetic Mission was that holy Prophet reformed and civilized a Bedouin society which was deeply steeped in the pre-Islamic Jahiliyyah. He urged them to shun all forms of violence, retaliation and vengeance. A true Muslim in the sight of the holy Prophet is the one from whose hands and tongue all other people are safe, Mr. Dehlvi explained.
From this Miladun Nabi Celebration at India Islamic Cultural Center (IICC), Mr. Dehlvi said, a crucial message must percolate down to the community; that is, peace-building was the cornerstone of the entire Prophetic mission. Therefore, those who get swayed by extremist frenzies and radical rhetoric in the name of protecting of honour of the holy Prophet are the false claimants of being the holy Prophet’s lovers (Ashiqaan-e-Rasool).
He continued: Today, if someone goes berserk and beheads a human being, shouting the extremist slogan of “Sar Tan Se Juda” (separating head from body is the only answer to the insults against the holy Prophet), he is actually the biggest blasphemer who brings disrepute to the holy Prophet (s.a.w) and his noble character. Mr. Dehlvi continued: On the last day of Rabi-ul-Awwal Sharif, we should pay heed to this grim situation and take cognizance of the true Prophetic character. There’s no way to defend the dignity and sanctity of the holy prophet by shouting these nefarious and notorious slogans. The truest love for the holy Prophet is to walk in his footsteps, to excel in his noble character, to spread peace, love and harmony and serve the society and humanity at large. I believe every celebration of Milad-un-Nabi in India should mark the holy Prophet’s quest for peace, universal brotherhood, social cohesion, national integration, and deep compassion, affection, and mercy for mankind.
Other guest panelists and participants in this event included the famed Egyptian scholar on Urdu language and literature, Dr. Walaa Jamal El Esseily who recited her Urdu poetry in praise of the Prophet (pbuh), well-known Urdu poet and Nashed recite, Mr. Mateen Amrohavi and Maulana Muhibullah Nadvi, and Mr. Abrar Ahmed IRS (retired) Secretary. IICC. The welcoming address was delivered by Mr Abu Zar Hussain Khan and the program was moderated by Dr. Hafeezur Rahman, noted Islamic scholar and founder-president of Sufi Peace Foundation of India. It came to an end with Durood & Salam and Vote of Thanks by Mr. S. M. Khan Vice President IICC.
A Brief Background of the IICC
It was the beginning of the 90s when the entire Muslim world was celebrating the Islamic Centenary Celebration at the end of the 14th century Hijri. There was great enthusiasm among Indian Muslims too. Conferences, seminars and discussions on the history of Islamic culture and civilization and its impact on Indian society were being held at various places in the country. Since this period was also the starting point of the clash between civilizations, the Cold War was at its peak, some of the educated and resourceful Muslims of the country felt the need to establish a center in the heart of the country that would become a symbol of an Indian-Islamic civilization and Indian Muslim identity. Thus, in this backdrop, on 24th August 1984, the foundation stone of the Islamic Center was laid by the then Prime Minister of India Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Founder of the Hamdard Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who was also the first President of the Centre, arranged for Rs.1.5 million to pay the cost of the land and a grant of about the same amount from the Government.
Today, the beautiful and magnificent building of the Islamic Center spread over two and a half acres of land in the heart of Delhi is a beautiful and magnificent emblem of Islamic architecture. Its dome arches carved with verses of the Holy Quran remind us of our greatness.
The Indian Express in its February 25, 2009 issue declared the building of India Islamic Cultural Center as an Architectural Wonder. The IICC plays an active role in the establishment of a moderate Muslim society beyond the traditional stereotype and ghettoization as the bearer of an inclusive Indian Muslim identity, national unity and peaceful coexistence. It seeks to create an atmosphere of harmony between civilizations and dispel the misunderstandings and propaganda being spread about Islam and Muslims. The centre is also widely known also working on social and educational reform at different levels.