Imam Al Sudais's India visit to lecture at the Deoband seminary is sending some sections of the Muslim community into overdrive. I received a card from the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) in Delhi to attend an address by 'His Holiness', Imam-e-Haram, Dr Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, presently imam of the mosque in Mecca. The accompanying letter details the imam's achievements including his educational degrees in sharia law. In 2005, he received 'The Islamic Personality of the Year' award and stood nominated for the Dubai International Quran Award, which he accepted.
The 'His Holiness' came as a jolt, for no such prefixes have ever been added to Prophet Muhammad's name or that of his companions, who rank the highest in Muslim piety.As one devoted to Islam, i believe using the Quran to name an award belittles the sanctity of God's word and borders on blasphemy. Legitimising such an award by its acceptance seems a worse action. The early history of Islam contains no examples of spiritual or religious leaders accepting state or private awards. On the contrary, sharia and prophetic traditions frown upon those who seek or allow public adulation, for all righteous deeds are for God alone.
The Deoband leadership has requested that Al Sudais not be frisked during his visit to Parliament. Due respect must be accorded to the visiting imam, because he leads the prayers at the Kaabah. This reverence flows from 'where' the prayers are led and not because of 'who' the imam is. To quote Arshad Madani of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind, "Sheikh Al Sudais is the highest religious leader of the Muslims". This is misleading because Al Sudais merely represents the highest-ranking sacred space.
Sadia Dehlvi in Times of India. More Here and Here.