A top Muslim cleric's dissenting opinion on Babri Masjid seems to have divided the All India Muslim Personal Law Board. Maulana Salman Nadwi, a member of the Muslim Law Board's top decision making body for the last three decades has been shown the door by the top Muslim body for his opinion on Babri Masjid.
Maulana Salman Nadwi, who is a renowned cleric and known for his free and frank opinion on almost everything, stumped everyone, when after meeting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Bangalore he said that Muslims should hand over the Babri Masjid land to Hindus. He said that Muslims be given a large tract of land elsewhere for mosque where Muslims build a massive mosque and a university with the generous support of the community.
After meeting the Hindu cleric, the Maulana said the "prayers are not being offered at the site of the Babri Masjid land for several decades now. As Hindu temple already stands on the very place where mosque once stood, we want to allow our Hindu brethren to erect a better temple on the site. Muslims should be allotted land on Faizabad-Lucknow Highway where they can construct a mosque".
If that was not enough, he went on to add that an agreement should be prepared, expressing clearly that no mosque or mazar will be encroached upon or demolished in future and that anyone indulging in such criminal acts will be severely punished. He further said that under one of the four Muslim schools of jurisprudence, the mosque can be removed and shifted to another place if the need arises.
Muslim Law Board condemns Nadwi
Following Maulana Salman Nadwi's compromise formula that he presented along with a few other Muslim leaders and former bureaucrats, All India Muslim Personal Law Board not just condemned his proposal but also threw the cleric out of the board's top decision making body. The Law board reiterated its oft-repeated stand that a mosque when once built, remains a mosque forever.
Following the meeting of its executive board, the Muslim body said there is no change in its stand that the land once dedicated for mosque can't be sold, gifted or in any way alienated. "If once dedicated, it vests in Allah".
Maulana Rabe Hasani Nadwi, the Muslim Law Board chief, while delivering his presidential address during the meet in Hyderabad said "Babri Masjid has been used for prayers by Muslims for the last several centuries. It was mosque, when idols were put inside the mosque after the independence. There is an effort to change it by force by people in power now. This is gross injustice and the Muslim Personal Law Board cannot remain a mute spectator in this regard".
Urdu media too condemns the cleric
Meanwhile Maulana Nadwi has been condemned as a whipping boy and projected as a pariah. Community newspapers are stunned by what the Maulana has said. An editorial in Daily Inquilab while discussing the opinion of Maulana Nadwi says, "Why people presenting such opinions so easily forget that the issue is no longer limited to Babri Masjid. The Hindu right wingers are claiming their rights over several other mosques. If the formula to hand over mosque for a piece of land elsewhere is accepted, will it not embolden the right wingers further. It is better to wait for the court verdict".
Salman Nadwi not the first
Maulana Salman Nadwi is not the first Muslim cleric to make such offer. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan a renowned Muslim scholar, immediately after the demolition of the Babri Masjid by Kar Sevaks who were led by LK Advani, on 6 December 1992, had asked the community to hand over the site to Hindus and construct the masjid elsewhere. It is known to everyone, how he was hounded by other Muslim leaders including Azam Khan, (late) Syed Shahabuddin and others who were in the forefront of the Babri Masjid movement.
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, while writing in the Times of India said, "In 1991, during the prime ministership of Narasimha Rao, the Indian Parliament passed a legislation called the Places of Worship Act, 1991. According to this Act, the government of India was bound to maintain the status quo of all places of worship on the Indian soil as it stood in 1947... This Act was a most reasonable one and Muslims should have accepted it as such. But they rejected it outright and resorted to street demonstrations. The demolition of the Babri masjid on December 6, 1992, was nothing but the culmination of this negative course of action adopted by the Muslims".
He went on to add, "The Muslims subsequently took the very impractical line that the masjid should be rebuilt on the same spot. At that time, i said that the rebuilding formula was totally unrealistic; Muslims should accept the alternative formula of the relocation of the mosque...It is a well-known fact that the relocation formula has been adopted by Arab countries. When these countries wanted to replan their cities, they found that there were many mosques that were obstacles to city planning. They did not hesitate to relocate such mosques. I said at the time that Muslims in India ought to adopt this same formula and accept the relocation of the Babri mosque. But again the Muslims refused."
Maulana Wahiduddin Khan's views made no impact on the Muslim narrative at that time, nor Maulana Nadwi's suggestion is going to cut any ice with the Law Board. Maulana Khan is called an RSS Maulana. Now Maulana Nadwi is also going to endure the same fate.
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Syed Ubaidur Rahman is a New Delhi based writer and commentator. He has written several books on Muslims and Islam in India including Understanding Muslim Leadership in India.