Wasim Rizvi, the Chairman of the Uttar Pradesh Shia Waqf Board, has pitched a proposal to return 9 Hindu temples which were destroyed and mosques built on top of their ruins, back to Hindus. He made this proposal on 28 February 2018 in a letter to the All India Muslim Personal Law Board(AIMPLB). He states that a mosque constructed on land grabbed by destroying another religious place is illegal per Islamic law. Now, according to Islamic law, he does seem to make sense.
The temples he has listed in this letter include the Ram Janma Bhoomi temple in Ayodhya, the Keshav Dev Temple in Mathura, Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi, Atal Dev Temple in Jaunpur, all 4 in UP; Rudra Mahalaya Temple in Batna, Bhadrakali Temple in Ahmedabad, these 2 in Gujarat; Adina Mosque (Adinatha Temple) in Pandua, West Bengal; Vijaya Temple in Vidisha Madhya Pradesh; Quwwat-ul-islam mosque in Qutub Minar, Delhi.
For the uninitiated, Wasim Rizvi’s proposal might seem confusing as to why the leader of a Muslim sect is speaking in favor of the “kafirs”. Let us have a little background check on Wasim Rizvi.
Wasim Rizvi has crossed swords with other Muslim clerics and organizations in the past. He had accused prominent Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad of selling waqf properties and misappropriation of funds. On another occassion, he wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to shut down madrasas as they produce terrorists. His support for Ram Mandir at Ram Janma Bhoomi, Ayodhya is well known. And he went beyond mere posturing.
But is that all? Not really. Let us look at another aspect of the whole thing to understand it better.
The Shia Side
Reading this far, readers must have come across the word “Shia” on many occasions. Shias are a sect of Islam that separated out due to a succession battle after the death of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam, as we shall see.
If you’re an avid news reader, you’d be aware of the soft corner the Shias have been displaying for Hindus and those who claim to care for Hindus. Muslim aversion to the cultural nationalism of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP is well known. Unexpectedly, however, here’s the Shia take on these organizations.
While this can’t be taken as endorsement for the ideology RSS stands for, this support has been consistent and vocal. Even though their most influential cleric preferred BSP, he still offered qualified praise of BJP’s development agenda just before UP Assembly election 2017.
If there are any other Muslim denominations that have similar sentiments, they’re not as vocal as Shias. So it’s safe to assume that as a group, Shias politically, and sometimes culturally, are quite opposite to the position of the majority Muslims i.e. Sunnis. Why though?
Let’s see how these sects came into being and what is the rift between them. To begin with, there are no major theological differences between the two. The separation arises from a historical event that led to formation of two camps with two beliefs. On the death of Muhammad in 632 CE, a debate started upon “Who will the caliph – ‘the deputy of God’?”. While most people believed Abu Bakr to be the Caliph as he was Muhammad’s closest companion, a smaller group favored Ali, the son-in-law and cousin of Muhammad.
This difference of choice of successor led to division of Islam into sects. Sunnis – “followers of sunna”, sayings, deeds, and traditions of Muhammad, chose Abu Bakr, while Shias – from shiat Ali, or followers of Ali, chose Ali as the next caliph.
What difference does it make?
This difference led to other minor differences. Like the structure of clergy, places of worship, continuation of authoritative revelation which allows some changes in Shia traditions unlike with Sunnis, etc.
One thing to note here is that there are not major differences in the belief system of Islam itself that these two sects follow. Both shias and sunnis draw from the hadiths, difference only being the choice of experiences in those texts.
There have been battles between the sects that have deepened this divide, and struggle for dominance continues in one form or the other – the intense rivalry between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, and the persecution of Shia Muslims in Pakistan being just two examples of how this deadly ancient rivalry plays out to this day. a case in point. But what has this got to do with Wasim Rizvi and his stand(s)?
What’s in it for “kafirs”?
Indian politics, despite a sizable shia population, has mostly been tilted towards sunnis in terms of Muslims in politics. They got the major share of appeasement politics not only in terms of sops and doles, but also in top positions in cabinets as well as institutions.
During the tenure of Atal Biihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister, the process of instituting Shia Personal Law Board started. There are Shia ministers like Makhtar Abbas Naqvi in the current Union Cabinet, and Mohsin Raza in UP cabinet. Gairool Hasan has been appointed as Chairman, Minority Commission as this report explains.
So in light of these facts, there’s a case for looking at this seemingly pro-Hindu posturing as a continuation of shia-sunni rift where shias are aligning themselves with the forces that will help with their relevance and safety. Remember, Maulana Kalbe Jawwad has openly said “There is no place where Shia Muslims are safe except Iran and India.”
We need to understand that shia would still argue that us “kafirs” are destined for dozak (everlasting hell) after qayamat (judgement day) unless we accept allah as the only God and Muhammad as his final messenger. And this doesn’t change the fact that Babur, who destroyed Ram Mandir in the first place, had shia support.
We need to remember that just as shias might be looking at some temporary political alliance for their safety, the shia Nawab Shuja-ud-Daula supported and joined forces with Sunni Ahmed Shah Abdali to defeat the Marathas at Panipat and the butchery that followed; and that it was a Shia, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who divided Bharat on the basis of the two-nation theory.
A civilization is as strong as its civilizational memory. While making a tactical alliance with someone, a history of treachery and a condescending and bigoted view of “kafirs”, should mean that we stay ahead of the curve and be mindful of their potential for deception.
Yes, Wasim Rizvi does make sense, but he bases his argument on something being “unislamic”. What if it wasn’t? Are we to live our lives and make our choices based on Islamic doctrine? Hindus shouldn’t be wary of using certain means or certain alliances to get our temples back. But at the end of it, the message that goes out should be that of “rightful Hindu resurgence” and not “Islamic benevolence” towards us “kafirs“.
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