By Haider Abbas
Maulana Syed Rabey Hasani Nadwi breathed his last, on April 13, corresponding to Ramzan 21, in the historical Nadwat-ul-Uloom Islamic seminary at Lucknow, UP. He was buried at his ancestral graveyard Takiya Kalan, in Rae Bareli, UP-the next day on April 14. He was perhaps the longest surviving member of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) who had witnessed both pre-and post independence India.
He was 94 and had been serving AIMPLB as its President since 2002. This legacy was passed on to him after a brief stint of Maulana Mujahidul Islam Qasmi, in 2002. Qasmi Sahab had succeeded Maulana Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi popularly known as Ali Mian Sahab , who was one of the greatest Islamic scholars from the Indian subcontinent. Ali Mian Sahab had left for heavenly abode on December 31, 1999. AIMPLB is highest Muslim umbrella body in the country which is representative of every Muslim sect in the nation.
It was on a very cold day when the news of Ali Mian Sahab came-out as there was no internet then and hardly anyone had a mobile phone. I was present at Nadwat-ul-Uloom and the great buzz was as to who would inherit the legacy of Ali Mian Sahab. Permutations had pointed towards Rabey Sahab but AIMPLB has its ‘traditions’ and Qasmi Sahab took to the position. Qasmi Sahab lived-up to his reputation and played a commendable role in Babri Masjid campaign and on issues pertaining to Muslim community in the country.
As today Rabey Sahab, after serving head to AIMPLB for over two decades, leaves the world, I could find the same buzz at Nadwat-ul-Uloom, where thousands and thousands had thronged to get to the last glimpse, the big question which surrounded the air was? As to who will be scouted as the next chief? Ironically, unlike then in 2002, when the likes of Syed Nizamuddin, Salim Qasmi who is the son of Qari Taiyyab Sahab-the Ex. rector of Darul Uloom Deoband, UP, Abdul Kareem Parekh or Syed Kalbe Sadiq etc were present, there are no such stalwarts present today as many in these years have passed-away.
AIMPLB has a tradition to make its Chief, in consonance with unanimity of choice, and the then Chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Syed Siraj-ul-Hasan, is said to have played an instrumental role into putting up the stakes with Rabey Hasani Sahab. In 2002, after Rabey Sahab declaration, during the press-conference Syed Kalbe Sadiq had quipped to have been always with ‘Rabey’-which in Arabic means-the fourth.
Today, the choice lies widely between Maulana Khalid Saif-ul-Lah Rehmani, who is the General-Secretary of AIMPLB and is based in Hyderabad, Telengana, and that of Maulana Khalil-ur-Rehman Sajjad Nomani, whose base is Lucknow. Sajjad Sahab has been groomed inside Nadwat-ul-Uloom and is very articulate within AIMPLB for decades. He runs a Trust in Pune, Maharashtra, but can easily shuttle between Lucknow and Pune, given his chance to serve AIMPLB.
Maulana Sajjad holds a vast experience of all the political streams in the nation, and this, gives him an edge over his compatriot. He is also well versed in English and Hindi apart from impeccable Arabic speaking skills. Both Khalid Sahab and Sajjad Sahab are renowned scholars of Islamic jurisprudence. Yet, it is considered that Sajjad Sahab has a much better understanding of Muslim history and the various political movements spearheaded in India in the past one century. His knowledge and political acumen of Muslim’s role in independence (1947) is a treasure trove for Muslims to encapsulate, in order to march in this century. He at the same time has a great legal mind too.
Maulana Sajjad main forte is that he has a pan-Indian image and perhaps out of his most extensive travelling, amongst Muslims, is therefore a house-hold name inside Muslims societies. There is no one other than him who could now hold this pivotal rank, as the reins of AIMPLB deserve to be handled by the likes of him. His efforts of dialogue with Hindu community, his parleys with Sikhs, Christians and activists, which he has been waging since decades, will now definitely overhaul and galvanize AIMPLB worldview, into making peace and also to bring peace in these otherwise tumultuous times.
However, there may also be a surprise! As Maulana Arshad Madani-the Chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind is also a contender. His flirtations/dialogues with RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat are well-known under the sun. These dialogues are going on-sometime under secrecy and also sometime otherwise, despite the fact that Mohan Bhagwat has gone on record to assure ‘no guarantee’ from Hindu side claims on thousands of Muslim Mosques/Eidgahs/Hospices/Mausoleums etc, even if Muslims surrender Kashi and Mathura sites-to the Hindu side!
In case, Arshad Madani, wins the coveted race, it would be a ‘doomsday’ for the most credible and reputable Muslim body, as then it would be total ‘give-up’ from even the last vestige of Muslim resistance in the country. AIMPLB had once withstood the massive pressure of the erstwhile AB Vajpayee government, in 2003, to ‘give-into’ Kanchi Kamakoti Shankaracharya demands that Muslims should forsake not only Babri Masjid but Kashi and Mathura sites too! Will AIMPLB this time weather to it? Or wither to it? Is what is to be counted.
Who will be chosen as AIMPLB President only time will tell, but the position of Sajjad Sahab is a much cut above the rest.
However, this time the situation is much grave, even graver to when AIMPLB was actually formed in 1972-after Bangladesh was created! Muslims as well as AIMPLB today stand on their very existential crossroad.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner.Views are personal.