Shia board shows the way

Shia board shows the way

By THE SUNDAY GUARDIAN | 18 November, 2017

Any individual who genuinely believes in the truth of all life being the creation of a single Almighty, would hesitate to segregate himself or herself from other human beings solely on the grounds of faith. The ancient Indian tradition of Sanatan Dharma is explicit that the numerous paths (or theologies) that are followed by the people of the globe are each intended to reach spiritual salvation. The objective being the same, no particular path should be considered superior or inferior to any other. Individuals have the right to believe in the uniqueness of wisdom of the particular faith they have been born into or adopted, but it would be a travesty of genuine belief in a single Almighty force to consider others born from the same source as somehow undeserving of respect. Such exclusivism is, however, the rule rather than the norm, especially in select theologies that promote what has been termed by an expert as the concept of “Religious Supremacy” i.e., that any single faith ranks far above others, and indeed represents the only correct path towards eternal salvation. Just as “Racial Supremacy” has correctly come under attack and has retreated somewhat in many places where it was rampant, for example in South Africa, unfortunately, “Religious Supremacy” still continues its sway in several regions, blighting the lives of those outside the approved circle of faith. A mindset that sees itself as superior may be behind the resistance of a section of the minority community towards any effort at resolving the vexed issue of the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi. In fact, so clear is the prohibition on doing injustice to others on the basis of a different faith that any house of worship built after demolishing that of another faith would itself ensure a swift journey, not to heaven but to hell for any individual involved in that act or in patronising such a structure. The reality is that thousands of years before the Babri Masjid was built by Mir Baqi (who was himself a Shia) in 1529, the ground on which it got constructed was regarded as the birthplace of Lord Ram, whose life for millennia has served as an exemplar and inspiration. Jawaharlal Nehru, who was chosen as India’s first Prime Minister by Mahatma Gandhi, was himself what was regarded by the British as almost one of their own, being an Old Harrovian. 

Perhaps as a consequence of such a social background, the injustice done to the teaching of history during the millennia, when the people of India were enslaved by foreign invaders, was not reversed, so that even today classics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are not routinely taught in schools the way they ought to be. 

The Catholic Church has the Vatican and the Islamic faith has Mecca and Medina. In the same way, the billion individuals who believe in Hinduism, consider Varanasi their holy centre, just as they revere the birthplace in Mathura of Lord Krishna and the Ayodhya birthplace of Lord Ram. Should the Muslim community, in an epochal gesture of warmth to their Hindu brethren, hand over these three sites to the Hindu community, the impact will be profound not only on Hindu-Muslim relations in India, but on the global perception of the Islamic faith, which is the second-most influential faith in the world, after Christianity. The fact is that the Islamic faith places a very high value on the virtues of charity, compassion and mercy. Hence, a gesture as divine as giving these three holy sites back to the Hindu community will resonate in history for its nobility. In such a context, the gesture by the president of the Shia Wakf Board, Wasim Rizvi to join with Hindu organisations in calling for the rebuilding of the Ram temple on the janmasthan of Lord Ram is fully in line with the noble traditions of his great faith. Rizvi has also called for the building of a magnificent mosque in a plot of land separate from the Ram Janmabhoomi area. Those calling for a mosque to be built within the janmasthan area itself seem to believe that the site is somehow sacred to them as well. The people of India have endured the tragedy of the 1947 Partition, in which millions died and tens of millions were dispossessed. An amicable settlement of the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi matter would be a golden chapter in the history of India, and would clear the way for relations between Hindus and Muslims to be what the Almighty intended them to be, as brothers and sisters of each other.

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