By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
01 October 2018
So how should we understand the latest
pronouncement from the Supreme Court which upheld the Ismail Farooqui judgment
stating that a mosque was not an essential feature of Islam? The qualifying
rider being that if and only if the mosque would hold a special significance in
the formative history of that religion, then that could be considered as a
being essential to its faith. Thus earliest mosques in Mecca and Medina, the
birthplace of Islam, would qualify as being essential to the faith. So would
the Cheruman Jumma mosque in Kerala, which is one of the earliest mosques in
Islamic history although for Muslims who are oriented towards Arabic Islam,
this mosque holds no special significance. It is true that when Islam was
getting established, the concept of a mosque did not exist. Prophet’s
missionary appeal was through meeting people and convincing them of the
rationality of new faith that he was espousing.
The mosque comes in Islamic history after
the Hijri, the migration of the Prophet from Mecca to Medina. Mosques grew out
of the need for congregational prayers as the numbers of Muslims increased. It
was also a way of attesting that a new faith had arrived: a public proclamation
of a new covenant between men and God. Even today, Namaz can be offered
anywhere and is indeed done on any empty space, even on the roadside.
This would only mean one thing: that Namaz is the name of the process and any place at which Namaz
is offered temporarily becomes a mosque. Mosque is not essential but Namaz
certainly is. However, this logic certainly applies for all religious
traditions: that what is essential to a religious tradition is the ritual of
prayer and not the place where it is offered. However, in singling out Islam
for this special treatment, the Supreme Court has certainly not applied its own
principle equally to all religious traditions. Some might say that the Court in
this case was operating with pre-conceived notions.
Ayodhya has always been a case not about
religion but about politics. Mahant Gyan Das, a deeply religious figure who was
mysteriously murdered, argued that wherever God Ram appeared automatically
should have been regarded as a temple. The implication was that there was no
need to demolish the mosque to construct a temple, the mosque itself would have
become the temple. But then, we know that destruction was more important than
construction for a certain brand of politics.
of the political parties involved in the issue have been amenable to a peaceful
resolution of the problem. Everyone wants to benefit politically from the
situation. As Indian Muslims, this puts us in a very tricky situation. There is
a need to debate the Ayodhya imbroglio within the community and arrive at a
resolution internally. The major political parties have taken us for a ride
over the issue and deep down we must know that if the issue again goes out of
hand, we are going to be the greatest sufferers.
Although it masquerades as a secular party,
the whole Ayodhya issue has been the creation of the Congress party. The
placing of idols, the locking of the mosque, all happened under the secular
gaze of the Congress party. Moreover, after they lost the Muslim vote post
emergency, the Congress resorted to blatant communalism of both the minority
and the majority variety. It appeased the mullahs by rescinding the Supreme
Court judgment on Shah Bano; on the other hand, it started cultivating the
Hindu vote by re-igniting the Ram temple issue. It was under the Congress
governments of Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao that locks were re-opened, that
Shilanyas happened, that the land was acquired by the government and finally
that the Babri mosque was demolished.
us also not forget that Rajiv Gandhi started his election campaign from
Faizabad in what was largely understood as a symbolic nod to the Ayodhya
movement. It is another matter that the Congress could not reap the benefits of
its communalist politics owing to a number of factors and ultimately the BJP
would emerge as the champion of Mandir politics. The BJP unequivocally
supported the construction of a grand temple at the very site where the mosque
once stood. But that is not all. There was a broad Hindu consensus in favour of
the temple which had emerged and even the Left parties did very little to argue
against this consensus.
Today, we are in a similar situation after
the Supreme Court has paved the way for final hearings in the matter. We see a
studied silence from the Congress as if they have no idea how to react to this
verdict. For some time now, they have been trying to paint themselves as the
true Hindu and it will be very difficult for them to not support the temple
construction at Ayodhya. Even as it wants to court the Muslim vote, the
Congress has realised that it cannot win any elections without the support of
the Hindu vote. Once again, the Left parties have remained strategically
The Muslim today is all alone. And it is
the Muslim alone who has to articulate its position rather than depend on these
so called secular parties.
We need to realise that there exists a
Hindu consensus in this country over the temple issue. In a situation where
Muslims are in a minority, what should be the best course of action that this
community should take? The Muslim leadership has been banking on the Supreme
Court and has agreed that it will abide by its decision, even if it goes
Both scenarios are possible: either the Muslims win the title suit or they lose it. If they
lose, it will leave a psychological scar for many years to come. The fact
remains that a mosque stood at the demolished site and to declare it as a
temple, the Supreme Court will need more imagination than evidence. There is a very
real danger that Muslims will lose their confidence on the judiciary of the
country, perhaps the only part of the state on which they have some faith left.
The other scenario, where the Muslims win
the title suit, is no less hazardous either. Because even if the Muslims win,
no power on this earth will enable them to construct a mosque again. Therefore
the judgment of the Court will not have a lasting solution to the vexed
problem. The only way out perhaps is dialogue and Muslims themselves need to take
the first step. But first of all Muslims should get rid of their so called
representatives like the AIMPLB who have a vested interest in keeping the
political pot boiling.
They should form a new committee of Muslims
from different walks of life who are leaders in the true sense of the term.
Within a dialogue, all sorts of possibilities can come alive and the
possibility of gifting the land to the Hindus should be one of the options.
Muslims need to generate goodwill with the Hindu community and this gesture
will go a long way to prove that we are much more invested in this country as
compared to any other community.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com
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