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Muslim leaders slam Shahi Imam

Mr. Syed Ahmed Bukhari (Shahi Imam)

Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, has kicked up a storm by extending invitation to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his son’s Dastarbandi. Bukhari recently named his son Shaban as his successor and said he will be anointed as the ‘Nayab Shahi Imam’ (Vice Imam) at a ceremony called Dastarbandi on November 22.

For the function, the Imam has sent out invitations to several Indian and foreign political leaders, nearly 1,000 religious leaders from across the world, and others. However, Mr. Bukhari has failed to invite his own Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to the event. This is not acceptable with many, including many other Muslim leaders. On a question regarding this, Mr Bukhari snapped: “It’s my party and I decide who to invite. I have no place in my heart for Narendra Modi.”

All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board member Kamal Farooqi said that Bukhari’s act will give the entire Muslim community a bad name. Mr. Ashfaq Saifi, national general secretary of BJP minority cell said that ‘Dastaarbandi’ is a public function and all members of the public are eligible to attend the function. Jama Masjid in Delhi is not the personal domain of Imam Abdulla Bukhari that he is transferring to his son; it belongs to every Muslim of the country.

All India Madarsa Board general secretary Maulana Uzair Aalam said that the Madarsa Board does not support Ahmed Bukhari’s step, however I do resent that fact that the Prime Minister has not sent out any greetings on Muslim festivals that took place since he assumed charge, while earlier, all Prime Ministers used to do that. He said that as Prime Minister, Mr. Modi should protect the sentiments of people from all religions, instead of practicing right-wing Hindu Nationalism.

Agra Muslims took a drastic step of censuring the so-called royal cleric, claiming that if the Imam considers himself above national interest, he should go and live in Pakistan.

Religious experts said that “Dastaarbandi” of Bukhari’s son Syed Shaban Bukhari is regressive and the concept of a Shahi Imam has no space in a democratic setup like India.

When Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the majestic Jama Masjid in 1650s in Delhi (then Shahjehanabad), he asked the rulers of Bukhara (Uzbekistan) to send an Imam for the grand mosque. Maulana Adbul Gafoor Shah Bukhari was deputed. Shahjahan bestowed on him the title of Shahi Imam (“Shah” means king and “imamis the one who leads prayers in a mosque. So Shahi imam means an imam appointed by the king.)

Since then, the offsprings of first Imam have been Shahi Imams of the Jama Masjid as a matter of inheritance. After the end of Mughal rule, they have simply bestowed this title on themselves. The government of India never created or sanctioned this title and rightly so.

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