First things first, Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, who goes by his hereditary title of “Shahi Imam” is not a representative of Muslims in this country. In fact, no individual, organisation or seminary is.
Muslims, who speak different languages, and live in different regions of this vast country have a very syncretic identity, and contrary to popular belief are not monolithic.
Secondly, Delhi’s Jama Masjid is not Makkah, Madina, or Al Aqsa (Jerusalem) for Muslims, it’s, as it has always been – a mosque, just like any other mosque. So, this ceremony of anointment of Imam Bukhari’s son to the title of ‘Nayab Shahi Imam’ (Vice Imam) has nothing to do with the faith of Islam or its followers. Without grinding words, it’s merely a personal event, given that its appointment has become a genealogical bequeathment than one based on competence, which anyways is frowned upon in Islam.
Having said that, this author is well aware that, when this “Shahi Imam” of Jama Masjid invited Nawaz Sharif and “ignored” Narendra Modi for his personal ceremony, it is, as a matter of course, has been taken by the media, political establishment and a great number from the masses, as a case of Muslims embracing the “enemy” and snubbing the “great leader”.
Nothing could be further from the partial truth.
Muslim organisations from various parts of the country have expressed their annoyance over Imam Bukhari and his act in the name of Muslims.
Shia Personal Law Board and All India Ulema Council Secretary (Mumbai) Maulana Zahir Abbas said: “The relations between India and Pakistan is critical at the moment and at this time such an act by the Imam may spread a wrong message among Indians.”
“I think, inviting Nawaz Sharif and not inviting our own PM Narendra Modi is unacceptable; if he invitied Nawaz than he should have invited our PM too,” Abbas added.
All India Ulema Council General Secretary Maulana Mehmood said: “I dont want to give this a political colour. If Bukhari has invited Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif and not invited Narendra Modi, it is his personal choice, I don’t want to comment on it”.
All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqi reportedly said Bukhari’s act will give the entire Muslim community a bad name.
Aligarh based, Forum for Muslim Studies and Analysis (FMSA) asked the Indian government to end by an act of parliament the “un-Islamic Imamat” that allows the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid to designate his successor from his own family.
“We do not support the BJP but once the electorate has made its choice, Modi is the prime minister of all citizens including Muslims,” said Rozaullah Khan, chairing a meeting at the Media Centre.
By inviting Sharif and ignoring Modi, Bukhari has greatly insulted Indian Muslims, he said, and urged Indian Muslims to boycott Bukhari.
FMSA Secretary Jasim Mohammad said the mentality of the Shahi Imam was not positive for Muslims and the nation. He said that while Bukhari was at liberty not to invite Modi, he should not have invited Sharif.
Another speaker, Farhat Ali Khan, said the Imamat in Jama Masjid should be run on Islamic principles. “This undemocratic Imamat must end.”
Humayun Murad, a professor, said religious heads had a duty to bring about communal harmony.
“Ahmad Bukhari has turned the Jama Masjid into a political platform. We will not allow it to go unchallenged.”
The FMSA passed a resolution condemning the Shahi Imam’s invitation to Sharif and asked the Indian government to end “this un-Islamic Imamat through an act of parliament”.
Congress MP Husain Dalwai was critical of the Shahi Imam over the ceremony, saying there is no succession act in Islam and that it was not necessary that the son of the king should succeed him.
He wondered why he should have called Pakistani Prime Minister.
“Why he did not call prime ministers of other Muslim countries?” he asked.
For the ceremony, Imam Bukhari has sent out invitations to several Indian and foreign political leaders, nearly 1,000 religious leaders from across the world, and others. Congress President Sonia Gandhi will not attend the ceremony.
We are not sure, what’s on platter for dinner, but if you are interested in going, please check it with the Imam yourselves. The grand event is on November 22.