Two Islamic clerics with a huge following in India and Pakistan have passed away within a couple of days in Lucknow and Lahore respectively. Alas, their similarity ends here. Shia cleric Syed Kalbe Sadiq was the epitome of class and dignity. His sermons always spread the message of peace brotherhood among people of different faiths. Maulana Kalbe’s Pakistani counterpart Khadim Hussain Rizvi was known for using the most venomous language for his rivals and people of other religions in full public view. Khadim had no qualms in using choicest Punjabi invectives.
Khadim Hussain Rizvi, chief of the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), became a hero after he came openly in support of Mumtaz Qadri, who sprayed bullets on Salman Taseer. The then Punjab Governor of Punjab of Pakistan on January 4, 2011. Again, he came into the limelight in 2017 when his supporters brought Islamabad under siege for two weeks on the issue of the blasphemy law. Khadim Rizvi used the blasphemy issue to whip up religious sentiments.
As noted Pakistani writer Zahid Husain has rightly said, “His death may have come as a great setback for his group, but he has left a legacy that will continue to haunt Pakistani society. The spectacular rise of what is described as a “radical Barelvi” movement that he led has given a new and dangerous twist to the issue of religion and politics in Pakistan”.
On the other hand, Maulana Kalbe was respected due to his seer like virtues. Apart from being a prominent Islamic scholar, he was a reformer and educationist. Despite Covid-19, people of Lucknow transcending caste, community, religion and sect came out to bid adieu to their cleric Kalbe Sadiq during his last journey. He was a voice of sanity.
On the Ayodhya issue, Maulana Kalbe was of the view that if the Supreme Court’s verdict comes in favour of Muslims, then the Muslim community should give up their claim on the disputed land. “The Supreme Court is dealing with the Babri Masjid issue, and we have full faith in the top court’s verdict. If Babri Masjid verdict is not in favour of Muslims, then they should peacefully accept it. And if the verdict is in favour of Muslims, then they should happily give the land to Hindus. The issue should be dealt with respect by both the communities.” Maulana Sadiq made this statement while addressing the World Peace and Harmony conclave in Mumbai on August 13, 2017.
Maulana Kalbe, known for his inclusive and broad-minded interpretation of Islam, was born in Lucknow in a highly respected Shia family. He was seen as a prominent exponent of communal harmony between Hindu and Muslims and also Shias and Sunnis. Peaceful coexistence had been one of his basic principles of life. It is a well-known fact that earlier Lucknow was known for the sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis, particularly in the days of Muharram. Thanks to his continuous efforts and confidence-building measures, now everything is fine in Lucknow. Lucknow will remain indebted to him for his actions.
Education was one subject that was very close to his heart and soul. When Maulana Kalbe stepped into the religious and social leadership of Muslim masses in the 70s, he was moved by the pathetic condition of Muslims. They were backwards in all fields and deeply sunk into the darkness of illiteracy, poverty and ignorance. That was then he had started exhorting Muslims to learn modern education and knowledge.
Unfortunately, Khadim Rizvi had nothing to do with modern education. He lived in dark ages. Yet, hundreds of thousands of people attended the funeral paying homage to the hardline cleric. This shows growing support for an extremist and sectarian ideology, which Khadim Rizvi’s death will not diminish. He was not a Shia Muslim as some people may believe due to his name.
Meanwhile, If Pakistani media reports are to be believed the funeral of Khadim Rizvi’s was one of the biggest in terms of people’s participation that is seen during the last 100 years. It is said that the funeral of Ilm Din, who had murdered publisher Mahashe Rajpal was equally huge. Rajpal was murdered for publishing an allegedly blasphemous book. It may be recalled that Rajpal’s two sons—Vishwanath and Dinanath came to Delhi post-1947 and established Rajpal publications and Hind Pocket Books. Both are formidable names in the field of publication.
Meanwhile, the last rites of Ilm Din held in Lahore on November 14, 1929. Mohammad Ali Jinnah had consented to be Ilm Din’s defence lawyer on a special request from Iqbal. Ilm Din’s father had requested Muhammad Iqbal to lead the funeral prayers, who replied that since he was a sinful person, he was not competent enough to do the job of leading the funeral prayers of such a matchless warrior.
However, as Iqbal was placing Din’s body inside the grave with tears oozing out of his eyes, he had reportedly remarked, “We only kept talking, the carpenter’s son surpassed us in upholding the glory of the religion.”
It seems that the likes of Ilm Din to Khadim Rizvi would continue to be adored by people of our neighbouring country. Thankfully, Gandhi’s India would never accept merchant of deaths. It would try to follow the path shown by Maulana Kalbe Sadiq.
(The writer is the former editor of Somaiya Publications and author of Gandhi’s Delhi)