The Media-Mullah Nexus, Darul Qaza & Progressive History of Imarat e Shariah
Prof Mohammad Sajjad
In their desperate drive to create polarization and in order to bail out the incumbent regime, the degenerate, self-serving, (as well as incompetent and intellectually lazy) TV News anchors, possibly in collusion with a section of the equally blinkered/self-serving mullahs, have begun to mislead the nation about the Shariah “courts”.
They are not, and never were parallel states or judicial systems. They are more like Alternate Dispute Resolution Centres. Though the idiot mullahs don’t prefer to call it like this.
Secondly, these Dar-ul-Qazas have been existing in Bihar since the 1920s. The Imarat-e-Shariah (founded in 1921) of Patna has been discharging such functions with whatever limitations and flaws, through its Dar-ul-Qazas in towns, and also in some villages of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa.
Contrary to what the Godi (Embedded) Media has been creating alarms that such organizations are divisive, these leaders and organizations have impeccable credentials of resisting communal territorial separatism.
In order to set the historical records straight, I reproduce some excerpts from book, (Muslim Politics in Bihar: Changing Contours. Routledge, 2014/2018 reprint; p. 71-79). Pardon me for it being a very long read:
The Role of Maulana Azad (1888-1958)
The point of divergence between the Muslim League and the pro-Congress Muslim organizations was grounded in the latter’s idea of Muttahidah Qaumiyat. At the pan-Indian level, the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind (founded in 1919), a body of the ulema affiliated to the theological seminary of Deoband, was the votary of the idea which was popularized in Bihar through the agency of its precursor, the Anjuman-e-Ulema or Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Bihar (founded in 1917) by Maulana Abul Mohasin Mohammad Sajjad (1880–1940); the idea of politically organizing the Ulema was evolving in the mind of Maulana Sajjad since 1908. The latter also went on to found the Imarat-e-Shariah in 1921, and launched the Muslim Independent Party (MIP) on 12 September 1936. The Imarat-e-Shariah owes its origins to Maulana Azad, in whose, “scheme of things, in countries like India where Muslims were a minority (aqalliat) and did not hold political power, the Imarat-e-Shariah would function as an institution of political authority and state power … He envisaged it [as] maintaining a relationship with the country’s government through a collective agreement”.
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad enjoyed considerable popularity among the Muslims of Bihar. It was his plan to set up an institution of Amarat (or Imarat) with Maulana Mahmud Hasan of Deoband as the Ameer-e-Hind or Imam-e-Hind.
In Azad’s scheme, Imarat was ‘[purported to become] political authority, state power, pure and simple’, rather than merely discharge judicial functions which could be done by the qazis.90 Azad told the Jamiat-ul-Ulema-e-Hind ( JUH founded in 1919) that the ulema as a class should exercise the function of Imam/Ameer.
In the Badayun session of the JUH (December 1921), a sub-committee proposed that till the liberation of the Ottoman Khalifa, his Deputy in India, the Ameer-e-Hind would be elected at a general meeting of the JUH. After securing liberation, the Ottoman Khalifa would appoint and dismiss the Ameer in consultation with the JUH; it also specified that the Ameer should be a scholar of tafseer, fiqh, hadees, besides being sufficiently aware of the politics of the time. The Post-World War I scenario witnessed the abolition of the Ottoman Caliphate, and this scheme did not materialize.
Thus, during his three years internment in Ranchi, Azad thought about beginning this scheme from the provincial level.93 Thus, Azad’s ‘young friend and comrade’, Maulana Abul Mohasin Mohammad Sajjad (1880–1940) met him, and started striving to implement it. Sajjad started approaching the ulema and the mashaikh (associates of the custodians of the sufi shrines), and travelled very widely in 1920 to establish an institution of Imarat to address the shariat related collective problems of the community in an institutional manner, so that the religio-cultural domain of the religious minority would remain a space wherein the state would not interfere.
Accordingly, the popular sufi shrines Khanqah-e-Rahmaniya in Monghyr, and the Khanqah-e-Mujibiya in Phulwari Sharif (Patna), extended their support. The Bihar branch of the JUH met at Darbhanga in May 1921 where it was decided that the ulema and mashaikh would be assembling to elect an Ameer-e-Shariat. In June 1921, the Bihar JUH, in the presence of Azad, persuaded Shah Badruddin (1852–1924), the Sajjada nashin (chief custodian of the shrine) of the Khanqah-e-Mujibiya, to become the provincial Ameere-Shariat, the chief of the Imarat-e-Shariah of Bihar and Orissa. Maulana Sajjad was to function as his deputy (naib). This is how the Imarat-e-Shariah came into existence, and endures till date. In no other province could this ‘dream’ of Azad fructify.
The Ameer and the Naib had a council of nine ulema. At its annual session in November 1921, the JUH approved the institution, Imarat-e-Shariah. Through the bait-ul-maal (public exchequer, that is the people’s contribution), from ushr(10 per cent), and zakat (a compulsory Islamic obligation of earmarking 2.5 per cent of total annual saving for charity), its financial affairs came to be taken care of. These monies were raised village-wise, and through district-level organizational networks.
The Role of Maulana Sajjad (1880-1940
He established schools — for example, in the village of Chautarwa (Bagaha, Champaran)… because of his educational and other social services earned him laurels and the support of the common people even in the rural hinterlands of Bihar. Having played significant roles in the Khilafat and Non-Cooperation Movements (1920–22), and the Civil Disobedience Movement (1930–34), his political prominence came to centre-stage with the formation of the Muslim Independent Party (MIP) in 1936. This had strong agrarian concerns, rather than being merely an exclusivist political organization of an embattled religious minority. It eventually formed the ministry to run the Bihar administration during April–July 1937, with Md Yunus (1884–1952) being the Premier.
On 20 February 1940, he wrote in Naqeeb, ‘Firqa warana Maamlaat ka Faisla Kin usulon pe hona Chahiye (On which principles should religious disputes be resolved?)’. He felt that, since the country consisted of populations following different religions and sects, there had to be specifications about the limits of religious spaces…
…Maulana Sajjad asked the Muslim League to adopt the resolution of complete independence (azadi-e-kaamil ka nasabul ain), and advised it to join hands with the Congress. Sajjad contended that the League did not have any answer for the problems of the Muslim minorities of Bihar and UP, and therefore there was no logic for the Muslims of these two provinces to extend their support to the ‘Pakistan’ Movement.
He even wrote a very long article in Naqeeb (14 April 1940) with the title ‘Muslim India aur Hindu India key scheme par ek aham tabsera’ (A Critique of the schemes of Muslim India and Hindu India) in which he wrote, “[t]his country is inhabited by the people of different religious faiths and the differences so sharp have reached their extreme which is very painful, e.g. the practice of idolatry which is offensive for monotheists, beef eating which is painful for cow worshippers, and when the situation is like this, our leaders should find out the ways and fix limits for religious freedom in a way that no sect feels that they have been adversely discriminated. Then he suggests that religion should be made a private matter rather than demonstrating it publicly, so that its practice does not become instigator or inflammatory”.
[Excerpted from, my book, Muslim Politics in Bihar: Changing Contours. Routledge, 2014/2018 Reprint, pp. 71-79].
Author is with Centre of Advanced Study in History, Aligarh Muslim University.