By Arman Kazmi
Recently, a petition was filed in the Indian Supreme Court charging “first three Islamic Caliphs of distortion in Quran” by adding 26 verses that that petition argues lead to the spread of terrorism. This claim not only questions the integrity of the caliphs ( Khulfa e Rashideen) but also raises a question on the authenticity of Quran, challenging all the scholars of past and present shared the belief that Quran in the present condition is without any doubt, the word of God, narrated by the Prophet without any form of distortion or adulteration.
As far as the content of the petition goes it may fail to make any legal mark but has been successful in yielding favourable results for some.
Wasim Rizvi, a college drop out, worked with Samajwadi Party for a few years and then served as Chairman of Shia Waqf board in Lucknow for 10 years. He has been charged with corruption in Waqf properties, disrupting communal harmony and also making sexist remarks against a prominent female politician.
Currently, he seems to be a die hard supporter of the Prime Minister Modi, as he had decided to commit suicide, if by any chance Narendra Modi lost the election in 2019.
Going by the track record of the petitioner, the intention of the petition seems to be far fetched from what has been projected in the PIL . The intention may be dressed in the garb of promoting peace and ending terrorism but what lies beneath is his nefarious agenda besides engaging in sectarianism is to to gather as much attention as he could for dissenting from the Muslim community in order to appease the Hindu majority by playing the secluded Muslim card. This may be the only way left with him to please the ruling party to stop him from getting arrested. As they say, Dushman ka Dushman, Dost hota hai ( The enemy of your enemy is a friend), Wasim may not have firm faith in Quran but seems to have full faith in this proverb.
The sincerity of his intention gets further exposed on analysing the contents of his petition. The petition is full of vague notions, spelling mistakes and makes no definite arguments. Wasim Rizvi in his petition mentions that I have done a thorough research regarding the distortion but there is hardly any form of research output attached or a research paper annexed with the petition. He also mentions that he did spoke to the scholars of Islam about his claim but there is no mention of the names of those scholars or any evidence for the support he got for the same.
Given the rationale of the petition, there are chances that soon he might also file a petition for removing the verses against corruption from Quran to justify his corruption.
Nevertheless, by this petition, Wasim Rizvi has achieved his goal of getting attention for the right/wrong reasons, a secluded Muslim challenging the fundamentals.
Wasim Rizvi served as an ideal powerless opponent for clergy, a straw man to re-establish their strength and prominence. From past few years due to the political developments taking place in India and epistemic developments taking place around the world, the place and authority of traditional clergy has got weakened to a greater extent. In the form of Wasim Rizvi, the clergy got the weak opponent they were looking for to get back their lost prominence. On streets, TV debates, and social media you could see the clerics in their usual style, blessing the opponent with apostasy, calling him Kafir, Murtad etc. They used every opportunity to use people’s anger and emotions in their favour. Hatred and anger became the language of faith and resulted in violent actions in the form of demands like beheading and destruction of his property.
This way of using labels, exciting emotions of people and making hatred the language of faith than love and rationality, is something that clergy over the history has used to consolidate their position and power. This approach if not less, is equally problematic as is the nefarious agenda of the petition by Wasim Rizvi. This approach not only causes extreme violent outcomes but also makes society intolerant to any from of dissent in the future. It successfully creates an atmosphere of fear and othering caused by those labels resulting in dehumanising of the other. Clergy used all their energy to unleash every form of wrath whether heavenly or subaltern on the petitioner but very rarely tried to engage with the content of the petition.
The problematic petition would have been a blessing in disguise if rather than asking for capital punishment, calling him Kafir and giving him all due attention he wanted, the clergy would have used the opportunity to rationalise the community by having a dialogue and discussion on the the distortion of Quran (Tahreef ul Quran).
This is not the first time some one has a made a claim about distortion in the Quran, “Distortions in Quran” ( Tahreef ul Quran) has been a topic of discussion since the demise of Prophet Muhammad. Majority of Muslim scholars till date have a consensus regarding Quran being without any distortion but there have been scholars who have raised this issues while discussing topics related to Quranic sciences. In both the schools, Sunni as well as Shia there are scholars who have mentioned traditions about distortion. Prominent Islamic scholar from Egypt Al Siyuti in ‘Al Itqan fil Uloom ul Quran’ and in’ Tafsir Dhurr al-Manthu mentions those traditions in which some prominent companions have raised issues regarding the length of some chapters(Surahs) and verse about stoning to death in the Quran. Ibn Majah also mentions some of these traditions. Nuri Al Tabrasi or Al Mufid, from the Shia School also talks about the same. It’s the engagement with such claims that has bought enrichment in the field of Quranic Sciences (Uloom ul Quran) and the importance of historicity of Quran. Quran being the divine book of Muslims doesn’t take away the fact that collection and recording of its verses in oral or written form is an historical phenomena bound in time and space and open for historical scrutiny and critical analysis.
The reaction to these kind of criticism shouldn’t just be restricted to emotional exploitation but also to rational/historical engagement, opening a way for dialogue and discussion.
Despite this, one aspect of their reaction where the Muslim clergy deserves due appraisal is in their role of maintaining communal harmony. The clergy from both the sides were successful in handling the sensitive situations properly and avoiding any form of sectarian clashes.
The PIL is yet to be considered by the Supreme Court and given the nature/content of petition and the track record of the petitioner, there are very high chances that Supreme Court would reject the petition. The petition if rejected offers Supreme Court an opportunity to restore the bruised faith of large section of Indian Muslims in the judiciary. If not mosque at least we saved your Quran, a win-win.