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Ayodhya Dispute – the Muslim viewpoint

September 29, 2010

The much awaited verdict on the Ayodhya dispute will come tomorrow. The nation has woken up to this contentious issue which has been in courts for all of 60 years. Schools and colleges have been closed. The time of the judgment will be 3.30 pm. Allahabad High Court’s Lucknow bench will give the verdict. The nation is awaiting the decision with bated breath.

Whatever the verdict will be, both the parties from the Muslim and the Hindu communities will have the option to go to the Supreme Court if they are dissatisfied with the High Court verdict. I am not going into the history of the dispute nor am I going to chronicle the events as they unfolded over a period of hundreds of years. How the idols of Lord Rama appeared, how the locks were opened and how the Babri Masjid was destroyed. I am also not going to talk about the legality of the whole issue and whether one or the other party has a right over the disputed site.

The fact of the matter is that as of today, there is a small temple at the disputed site. The Muslim community knows that there is going to be a temple and nothing else on the site. As it is, there cannot be a mosque on a site where there has been a temple. That is haram in Islam. Then why are the Muslims including the Personal Law Board, or the Waqf Board and others fighting the case for the site? What they are fighting for is the title to the land where the Babri Masjid-Ramjanambhoomi stood. Can such a contentious dispute be reduced to a title suit between the two sides? The site is holy for the Hindus though it may not have as much of an importance to the Muslims yet the Muslims are fighting the case for the title of the land. Such eminent lawyers as Soli Sorabjee are representing the Muslims. Do people like Soli Sorabjee not know what significance that piece of land has for the Hindus? Yet they are fighting the case for the Darul – uloom Deoband? The question is why?

It is true that there can only be a temple at the site. No political outfit or political leader can change this basic fact. There can only be a temple at the Ramjanambhoomi site. The title of the disputed site is being fought by the Muslims only to make sure that they are not bull dozed by the Hindu majority. It is also a fact that majority of the Muslims want that a temple for Lord Ram be built at the holy site. They are even ready to contribute to the construction efforts. What the Muslims are afraid of is that after Ayodhya there will be other places where the Hindus will start laying claim and then there will be no end to destruction of mosques. That is the fear of the Muslim community, and if one looks at it from their point of view one can appreciate their apprehensions.

Mr. Kamal Farooqi of the Muslim Personal Law Board has said in no uncertain terms that there can be reconciliation even after the verdict of the Supreme Court. What does that mean? It only means that Muslims have already made up their minds to gift this land to their Hindu brothers as a mark of goodwill, if they were to win the title suit of the disputed site. They also know that they have a strong case as they have documents from British times and even earlier in Persian which clearly mention the site as that of a mosque. Hindus are citing the evidence of construction of the Babri Masjid which clearly had Hindu temple structures on which was built the mosque. However, the title suit of the land is what the Honorable Courts are going to decide and from purely legal perspective, experts say that the case of the Muslims is much stronger. Such eminent personalities like Soli Sorabjee are fighting the title suit of the land and not the veracity of the fact whether there should be a Ram temple or a mosque at the disputed site.

Muslims do not want to give the site to Hindus on a platter for they fear that they shall then demand Kashi and Mathura and many other places where there has been a dispute over the years. If we look at the whole thing dispassionately, one feels that Muslims have a point. The issue is so emotive from the Hindu point of view and in a nation that is on a short fuse as it were, such matters can really vitiate the atmosphere.

One cannot but agree that this is more than about a title suit of a land. It is about the sentiments of the Hindu community that is also the largest community in the land. When it is about belief no court of law can pass a judgment. I am sure the learned judges will not attempt to define the issue about belief of a billion plus Hindus the world over. To my Muslim brothers I can only say that we would love to build for them a beautiful mosque where they can pray regularly. This will not be the first time when Muslims would have come forward to build a temple for Hindus and neither will this be the first time Hindus would have come forward to build a mosque for their Muslim brothers. Let us understand this basic fact we are one people and one nation. Muslims have the kind of rights in India that most do not enjoy anywhere else in the world. Indian Muslims are Indians first and Muslims later. This they realize when they travel abroad. Hindus and Muslims have lived together for ages and need to join hands to take this country to its pinnacle, which will be a source of envy to the world.

Update 30.09.2010: There has been a judgement where a three judge bench has held that the place where the idols are placed is the birth place of Lord Ram and belongs to Baby Ram (Ramlala). The learned Judges have also held that 1/3rd of the land should go to the Waqf board, 1/3rd to Nirmohi Akhara (one of the litigants) and the rest being the birth place of Lord Ram should go to Ramlala. They have held unanimously that the place where the idols are placed should remain intact and in that the status quo should be maintained.

The Muslims have taken this as a setback to their claim. The learned Judges have gone by archaeological evidence and have tried to give a verdict that they believe should be acceptable to all. While the Hindus have welcomed the judgement the Muslims have felt cheated. They are now planning to appeal in the Supreme Court.

Maybe I was wrong. Maybe the Muslims are not keen on a settlement and want a Masjid at the site. If I were a Muslim I would stop this legal process here and now and would magnanimously offer even the 1/3rd land that the courts have given to the Muslims for a magnificent temple in accordance with the importance of the place for the Hindus. The courts have given their judgement and that should be respected. This is the first time any judgement has come on this contentious issue. RSS and other Hindu organizations have called on the Muslims to come forward in the construction of Ram temple. The Sunni Waqf Board has rejected all overtures and are planning their next legal option. One prominent Muslim went on to say that he was as numbed by the judgement as he was when the Babri Masjid was destroyed on the 6th of Dec, 1992. This does not auger well for Hindu-Muslim relations. The courts in their wisdom have given a judgement that they believe is the right way to go for both the communities. Muslims must respect the judgement and as a gesture of goodwill must voluntarily offer their share of land for the construction of a temple. Hindus in return must build a beautiful mosque at a suitable site where Muslims can pray regularly. Taking this any further judicially does not auger well for the country.

Update 4.10.2010: While most people from both communities have welcomed the verdict Mulayam Singh Yadav has said that Muslims felt ‘cheated’.

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangimahli, the Naib Imam of Idgah and member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board reacted sharply saying, “The atmosphere at the national level has been positive with religious leaders of both the communities, political leadership as well as the media. It would not be wise if politically motivated statements which could vitiate communal harmony are issued now.”

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