Friday, August 28, 2009

Justice and equity to all is our motto!! FACE-TO-FACE with Moulana Shafi Moonis

I could not resist the temptation to share this interview of Moulana Shafi Moonis given to Dr Waquar Anwar. I cherished it and enjoyed reading.

I know Dr. Waquar Anwar Sahib and have met him a couple of times. I had the privilege of translating his speech in Tamil once. I had discussed with him ways and means to improve the contents and style of Radiance views weekly.
He usually used to write on Budget issues and economic policies. As they are Latin to me I would just give a glance and turn the page. I have read a story written by him long ago.
His stint of last page comments are crispy, witty and thought provoking. But the format was very formal and without any buildup, narration they didn't make you absorb in them. And they are that type of matter too.
But, recently, to my delight he has started interviewing old van guards of the movement and has tried to extract inspiring anectodes, comments, gems of advices. This interview of Moulana Shafi Moonis is his third such interview.
It is pleasing, inspiring to read. The answers are to the point, blunt and very guarded. You can see the typical Shafee Moonis stamp on them. Dr Waqar Anwar has tried very hard to get stuff from the Moulana. But, it might have been a very adventorous experience of him. The Jijhak, dar with which he placed and phrased his questions is very palpable.
The issues raised are varied. But still there is a thishnagi. The rendezvous with the Moulana ends suddenly. A sequel or more than two, three sequels are needed. It should not be a onetime affair. Here is a great tahreeki leader, a contemporary of Moulana Moududi, one who has seen the ups and downs of the tahreek..! He is virtually a mine of knowledge and informations. You have to dig more and more.
Uh! the build up has become lengthy..! No more comments. Go on and enjoy the interview.

Justice and equity to all is our motto!!


I had to take extra care to be punctual as I knew that Maulana Muhammad Shafi Moonis himself is very careful about time. He has been among the first to enter the mosque for obligatory prayers and foremost in reaching meeting places. He was often found waiting alone for other participants not so particular about time.

I was correct. Although I was more than five minutes earlier than the appointed time, he was already ready to be face to face with me.

I enquired about his schooling and engagements before devoting full time to the Jamaat-e-Islami. His native place is Kulheri village of Muzaffar Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, but he was born and brought up in maternal side of his family in Siwal Khas village of Meerut district of the State. After completing Munshi and Kamil he joined a school. Further, he did Vernacular Teacher’s Certificate (VTC) course and joined as a teacher at Ajmeri Gate School in Delhi.

His initiation to the Jamaat was done by Hafiz Abdus Shakoor, now no more, a good religious scholar of Ahle Hadees school of thought who met him before he came to Delhi. Another person, who later became father-in-law of Maulna Salman Saheb, editor Al-Dawah, also met him. They discussed different issues and enquired about his opinions on varied subjects, including communism.

“I knew a bit about communism. Although I was a practising Muslim saying my five-time obligatory prayers regularly, I was somewhat attracted towards communism. In those days every educated young man was supposed to know, like and appreciate it. In fact (says smilingly) it was said that if a young educated and intelligent person is not attracted towards communism he must be an abnormal person needing medical and psychological treatment.”

These persons who approached him decided to provide books of Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi. They gave him all the three volumes of the book Siyasi Kashmakash. The night he finished the third volume of the book he was a changed person. Earlier he had been closely associated with the Congress party since 1929. He became mentally associated with the Jamaat. Rest followed in normal course. He became its member.

I asked how he had been associated with the Congress party.
“The headmaster of my primary school was a Persian knowing non-Muslim who taught us the Urdu language. He was a subscriber of a newspaper named Tej and used to leave the newspaper on his table and I used to read the same in his absence. It was a Congress leaning newspaper and I, despite my childhood, became an admirer and activist of the party.”


“I met Maulana Maudoodi and shook hands with him in the public meeting (Ijtima-e-Aam) of 1945. I heard his Friday sermon on that occasion. That sermon has since been published. Further, I heard his speech there and was greatly impressed. Prior to that he used to write his lecture and read the same in meetings. There, for the first time, it was an extempore lecture. That too has been published and it was the ability of Mian Tufail Muhammad to write that extempore lecture verbatim and accurately. It was thought that Maulana Maudoodi cannot give lectures. But he used to write his lectures as a mere cautious attitude on his part so that no incorrect word can be attributed to him. It was because of the charged atmosphere those days. I had not earlier heard such a good speech. With the exception of Bahadur Yar Jung of Hyderabad I have had the opportunity of hearing all prominent speakers of the time. But the quality of the extempore speech that I heard from Maulana Maudoodi was par excellence. Its logic, its appeal and its content, everything was superb. However, in the winter vacation of 1946 I went to Pathankot to meet Maulana Maudoodi. He knew about me and met as if he was an old acquaintance. He told me that I do not appear to be from Muzaffar Nagar as my dialect and manner of speaking certain words were different. Then he mimicked the way persons from Muzaffar Nagar speak. He was correct because despite my short stay in Muzaffar Nagar I had not picked the local dialect.”


My next query related to different personalities he came across in the Jamaat, particularly those who were leading it.
“I was impressed by Ali Mian. He left the Jamaat even though he had no personal difference with the Jamaat. He was basically inclined towards the Tableeghi Jammat. Even when he was the local president of the Jamaat Islami Hind’s Lucknow unit he used to go out for tableeghi daurey (excursions for propagation of basic tenets of Islam). He later engrossed himself fully in that work. So his departure from the Jamaat was unannounced and in a natural fashion. It was unlike the case of Maulana Manzoor Nomani.

“It is very difficult to assess personalities. However, we should judge the services of different persons for the Jamaat. I have been impressed by Maulana Sirajul Hasan. He is neither a great religious scholar nor a luminary of modern education. But I am impressed by his selfless and tireless services to spearhead the Jamaat at a very critical moment of its history.

Another person whom I adore much was Maulana Sadruddin Islahi. I consider him to be a thinker and author of highest calibre who had no parallel in the subcontinent as to comprehend and elaborate the underlying concepts and principles of the Islamic movement. (Maulana Maudoodi ke baad is barre sagheer mein Jamaat ke sub se achhey mizaj shanas they woh). I used to consider that he would be a very impressive and attractive person like other religious scholars. But when I first met him in Pathankot, where he had come to the railway station to receive me, I was taken aback and surprised. He was a simple and lean and thin person with the appearance of a commoner. Besides his intellectual faculties and writing abilities he was a very pious person. Jamaat-e-Islami succeeded in attracting a good number of able and pious persons. It is not possible to talk about all of them. However, I must add the name of Maulana Afzal Hussain.”


I dared discuss the vexed issue of participation of the Jamaat in elections and its political activities. I particularly referred to the studied silence maintained by Maulana Abul Lais Islahi Nadwi in his second term as President of the Jamaat. Maulana Shafi Moonis agreed that that silence sent wrong signals in the Jamaat. “Maulana Abul Lais was keeping mum to keep the Jamaat united and in a bid to keep our members from the South in good humour. He should have spoken and taken a clear stand.

“The attitude, particularly the political approach, of South India is different from that of North India. It is all related to different political conditions up to partition of the country. I used to think in Hyderabad that the type of language, slogans and speeches made in Hyderabad is neither possible nor desirable in North India. Deep South, Kerala is more different. It appears to be a different country.”

I asked whether the Jamaat was wrong in engaging in Muslim issues. He disagreed and said, “We are loyal to Islam and to Muslims. These loyalties do not trespass each other. In the same breath we are loyal to the humanity at large, including the downtrodden. Justice and equity to all is our motto. The question is only to do justice and practice equity in our intents, words, acts and deeds. The moment we will deviate from justice we will do great harm to our faith and movement. Remember that the Satan is more active than us. (Smiles). It is his full time job to distract human beings. So be guarded.”


Our discussion went to the quality of new entrants in the Jamaat and the decision to discontinue with the system of education and training started earlier in the name of Sanvi Darsgah. He said,“The quality of persons attracted towards our movement has come down. It was wrong on our part to discontinue the system of education we started earlier. We should have continued with the experiment so that a stream of properly trained and educated entrants would have joined us.”
I commented that the products of that system that we praise and refer mostly did not make themselves available to the Jamaat or to India. They settled outside and some of them became useful to us only after their respective retirements abroad. The Maulana disagreed and said, “It is all a question of quantity. Had we continued and produced a good number of young men from the system a good number would have served us directly too.

“When the Jamaat decided to disband its experimentation relating to Sanvi Darsgah I was neither in Shoora nor in Markaz. I was in South India. I heard it later. We should have continued with the experiment. I agree that a major cause was resource constraint. Similarly Markazi Darsgah should have been a major concern of the Markaz. It was, instead, handed over to the local persons from Markaz. I never agreed with this approach.”

I enquired about failure of the Jamaat in running Darsgahs, parallel educational system, nationwide. He said, “We should have at least one model institution which could be replicated elsewhere. We simply followed the existing system with certain sketchy modifications. So it was a question of the justification of our efforts. We may have produced some better results somewhere. But these institutions formed by us did not represent in totality our viewpoint on education.”

I commented that there is a question mark about the justification of forming educational institutions by us. He replied, “Yes, justification has been questionable. But this does not mean that there is no need of such institutions. Efforts in the right directions are badly needed. It is more difficult to address that need today as compared to those days. If there is no model before us whatever will be done will be akin to the existing systems without any marked difference.”

I asked what is wrong with the new products coming from SIO. He said, “They are not properly trained and they lack dedication to serve the Islamic cause. They are more career conscious about their worldly affairs. The first team of Islamic workers joined to serve the movement without much bothering about their own well beings in this world. That attachment is waning, rather it is no more there.”

I commented that some of the young men who have come up in the movement are, instead of their not having been trained properly, are made resource persons. It is harmful for them and for the Islamic movement. Maulana Shafi Moonis raised his head, watched my face intently in his characteristic manner and said, “I agree, I agree with your comments. This is not correct.”


informed him that he is considered to be a trouble-shooter in the organisation. Either he could not understand my question or it was unexpected intrusion in his privacy. He made me repeat and explain it. He might be buying time to organise his thought.

Then he replied, “It is true that I have been often sent to different zones to resolve different issues or assigned tasks that were apparently difficult or tangled. Alhamdulillah I have been successful in solving those. I have been sent so often outside the Markaz (headquarters) in places like Hyderabad, Bangalore or Lucknow that an impression got created that Maulana Abul Lais was keeping me away from the Markaz. But it was not true. I had a very cordial relationship with Amir Jamaat and every assignment given to me was meant to do some specific task. If you call it trouble-shooter it is your word (laughs). I have been sent to resolve differences and do corrective actions besides organising relief works in the face of communal riots and natural calamities. Whether I had proper abilities to do such tasks or not, I cannot say. It was for the Jamaat to consider my usefulness for the assignments.
“I have worked in Markaz (headquarters) of the Jamaat. I was sent twice to Hyderabad. I have worked for the Jamaat in Karnataka and in Uttar Pradesh. I dealt with vexed issues and resolved differences between persons and between groups. Nowhere was I accused of favouritism


Encouraged by earlier bold comment I sent another volley and asked whether he agrees that he was a Congress-man and is a congress-man? (Aap Congressi they aur Aap Congressi hain). As if I meant, once a Congress-man, always a Congress man!

He retorted, “Yes, I was a Congress-man. I was its member. And I was not a member for name sake but I did what I could do for the purpose.”

After a pause he continued the discussion and described his approach to politics. “What is happening in politics today? Congress thinks that Muslims will ultimately vote in its favour. Moonis thinks, rightly or wrongly, that the real opponent of Muslims is the Hindutva forces (BJP etc.) and it should be contained if Muslims have to live with respect and flourish in India. Now if the approach be to make it a target to weaken the Congress itself the Hindutva forces will be strengthened. For example, the policy adopted in Bihar of totally aligning with Lalu Prasad at the cost of Congress, Paswan or Nitish has not been correct. Congress has its own weaknesses, Nitish is an ally of the BJP and Paswan has been its ally, all this is accepted but I differentiate between them and the BJP, considering its basic policy and philosophy of annihilation of Muslims. We should not ignore Paswan and should keep track with Nitish too. I appreciate that every state has its own specific scenario and political decisions may be taken severally in their backdrop but whereas the Centre is concerned we need a strong government sans Hindutva forces.”


I wanted to know the background in which the decision to shift Jamaat headquarters from Old Delhi to Okhla was done. He said, “Our offices were scattered in old Delhi. We were in the lookout for a place where all offices may be kept closer to each other. We applied for a big chunk of land near Eidgah but our application was not accepted despite our efforts. I was in Lucknow those days and whenever I was in Delhi I used to visit different places in a bid to solve this problem. My one relative had purchased a piece of land in the Okhla area and I too negotiated a piece of land for me at the price of Rs.55 a square yard from Abul Fazl Farooqi. He promised to arrange further land if needed. The Jamaat had formed a committee for this purpose comprising Syed Hamid Ali, Syed Hamid Hussain and Shafi Moonis. The committee members along with Afzal Hussain and other leaders of the organisation visited the place and liked it. The next Shoora meeting was due per chance in a couple of days. Its members also visited the place and approved the proposed deal. The deal was completed at the rate of Rs.40 a square yard and it was much lower than the rate I had purchased earlier because the Jamaat was purchasing a much bigger piece of land.”


“After the riots in Jabalpur there was an atmosphere of despair. Maulana Muslim (then Editor Dawat) met different leaders and Ulema including Maulana Hifzur Rahman, who was a very good person. We had very good relations with him and whenever he came to Rampur he used to drop in our Markaz without any prior information. As general secretary of Jamiatul Ulema he was in complete charge of its affairs. The leaders decided to call a national convention of Muslims sponsored by different organisations including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and Muslim League. Pandit Nehru disapproved the names of the Jamaat and the League as co-sponsors and Maulana Hifzur Rahman yielded to his pressure. The convention was held but it was not successful in its objectives.

“Maulana Muslim, who was more active in the affairs of the Muslim community than the Islamic movement, kept on pursuing leaders and Ulema to come to a common platform and they started a series of tours and meetings in the country. These attempts were accepted with greater enthusiasm in South India and Maulana Sirajul Hasan played a pivotal role in it. Further riots in Calcutta (now Kolkata), Rourkila and other places added to the seriousness of the efforts. The Mushawarat was formed and it was a very positive effort giving confidence to the Muslim community and giving good message to the right thinking non-Muslims that the menace of communalism should be fought jointly.

“However, there was one development that caused much harm later. Maulana Ahmad Ali Qasmi, who was working in Imarat Shariah of Bihar, joined Mushawarat as office secretary and later made himself, on his own, general secretary. I have a feeling that Maulana Minnatullah Rahmani wanted to get rid of him from Patna and placed him in Delhi. This particular event owing to the way Ahmad Ali Qasmi dealt with the affairs and properties of the Mushawarat proved disastrous and led to disillusionment of the leaders of various Muslims organisations. We tried to bring in some measure of accountability in it and succeeded in re-establishing the rule of law and proper democratic functioning. Mushawarat is doing a good job. Its basic work is to think collectively about the problems that the Muslims are facing and arrive at their solutions and highlight the Muslim opinion through press releases, letters to editors, and communications with persons who matter and meeting with political leaders, ministers, and government officials. Mushawarat under Syed Shahabuddin and now under Zafarul Islam Khan is doing all these jobs. One may draw a list of tasks not done. But then one should also consider what is being done.”

I tried to engage Maulana Shafi Moonis on the issue why Jamiat-ul-Ulema kept itself at a bay from these collective measures of the Muslim community in India. I could not succeed in discussing the matter any long. He gave a short reply and wanted me to ask other questions. “Jamiatul Ulema’s affairs after Maulana Hifzur Rahman are being managed by Ulema whom we find not different from other Ulema we normally come across.”

I suggested that formation of Milli Council had weakened the Mushawarat. Maulana Shafi Moonis did not agree in toto and added, “Milli Council did not weaken the Mushawarat. It was already weak before this development. Sheikh sahib and Dr. Manzoor came to me to discuss the formation of Milli Council. We informed them that we are continuing with the Mushawarat and we cannot join a group that is trying to take its place. However, as a matter of policy, we are always with any good work done by anybody. Milli Council today a baby of Dr. Manzoor.”


The views of Maulana Shafi Moonis on the issue of participation of the Jamaat in elections are well known. He is credited with the discipline of elaborating (Tafheem) and representing the decisions of the Jamaat which were contrary to personal stand. I brought this trait in discussion. He elaborated his approach, “I have a weakness. Consider it a weakness or my strength, it is up to you. I do not like to present only my opinion with added emphasis, in the Jamaat or in the Millat, not lending my ears to the viewpoints of other persons and, if made to hear or happen to hear their opinions, to ignore their logic, strong points and positive aspects. As the secretary or secretary general of the Jamaat it was my duty to present correctly the decision of the Jamaat. How can I mix that up with my own opinion or any other person’s point of view? I was not assigned by the Jamaat to elaborate or represent its decision (Tafheem) on the election issue to its rank and file. But it was my duty as an official of the Jamaat to do so.”


One of the vexed issued solved by Maulana Shafi Moonis was the formation of Students Islamic Organisation of India. I enquired about the background of this event and the circumstances in which SIMI was left behind and it gone astray.

He said, “I was one of the members of the committee of the Jamaat on the issue of students organisation. Maulana Sirajul Hasan and T.K. Abdullah were also its members. In its meeting at Aurangabad the proposal came to form the students organisation under the aegis (sarparasti) of the Jamaat. SIMI leaders had agreed to abide by the decision of the Jamaat’s Shoora. But they later backed out and kept SIMI from the new setup. Its initial leaders kept it at the right path but ultimately it adopted a wrong path. I guided the formation of SIO, particularly in drawing up its constitution. Rest is history, you know.”

Monday, August 03, 2009

Lalu Prasad Yadav visits Jamaat-e-Islami Hind Head Quarters.

The RJD president and former union Railway Minister Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav had a meeting with Jamaat leaders at Markaz JIH. Mr. Yadav was accompanied by former Union Minister Mr. Jay Prakash Yadav and Former Chairman of Bihar Minorities Commission, Mr. Suhail A. Khan. Ameer-e-Jamaat Moulana Jalaluddin Umari and other Jamaat leaders attended the meeting. Also present were, Ml.Muqeem Faizi, Ml. Ameeduzzaman Kairanvi, Mr. Moji Khan and Mr. A.R. Agwan.
Mr. Yadav was briefed about Jamaat’s multifaceted activities and also about the issues Jamaat considers important for the country. Mr. Yadav agreed that the government should present Liberhan Commission Report along with ATR in the parliament and all the culprits should be punished. He assured that he would demand the immediate presentation of Rangnath Misra Report in the parliament and its implementation.
Mr. Yadav’s attention was brought to the recent judgment of Delhi High Court regarding article 377 of IPC. Mr. Yadav assured that he would fight against any move to legalise homosexuality. He clarified his stand about reservation for women in the legislatures and said that he was not against the reservation. He was against the present form of the bill that was a conspiracy against minorities and backward classes.
Mr. Yadav supported the demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter . He also agreed to have a mechanism to constantly remain in touch with Muslim Leadership.

From a report in Jamaat's website More Here


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