Dr Mohammad Manzoor Alam
The intractable Ayodhya dispute defies resolution. Not that men of faith and goodwill on both sides have not tried, or not tried hard enough to resolve it. Among the tallest spiritual figures who tried to untangle it were the revered Ali Miyan and the highly respected centenarian Shankracharya of Kanchi. The dispute has survived both of them.
Now, Art of Living guru Shri Shri Ravishankar is said to be working on an out-of-court settlement of the issue.
We observe Swamiji’s work with respect and appreciation. In my visits abroad, particularly in the Mid-East, we hear a lot of laudatory remarks about his immense goodwill and efforts to bring about reconciliation with honest introspection, forgiveness and joyful acceptance of difference, in and between different countries.
The Ayodhya tangle is like a thorn in our flesh, and we have reason to endorse his view that the sooner we get rid of this thorn, the better. If anybody, or any faith community, has enough reason to quickly resolve the imbroglio, it is the Muslims.
We feel so because we have suffered the most: incessant anti-Muslim violence, mass murders, destruction of life, limb, liberty and economic assets. You name it, and we have suffered it. We also know that there will be no mass violence against us if continuous hate and hysteria is not built up by certain interested groups. Everybody knows who they are, but nobody dare mention them.
Caught in what one would perhaps call a vicious karmic cycle, we want to get out of it, if only we could. Men of goodwill and empathy like Swamiji, who do not really, or exclusively, belong to a single faith community, sect, sub-sect or cult, but are an asset to all humanity, generally fail to grasp the evil hiding in small, unlit niches of human hearts. Swamiji may not have noted that in the recent past some grandees have asserted, in different words, that the Ayodhya conflict is not about a temple over the foundation of a mosque, but “teaching a lesson to Muslims”. By the way, this is not for the first time we are hearing it: We have been consistently hearing it from different quarters for 1,400 years, in different times and climes.
If we go by such boasts and the long, sustained campaign of anti-Muslim hysteria and mass murder, we come to realise that Ayodhya’s unfortunate dispute cannot be realistically expected to be solved by a few hundred, or thousand, men and women of goodwill. I am saying it because I have the example of another dispute before me, which Muslims tried to resolve outside court by sacrificing a sizeable chunk of land. Once they signed off the deal the other side reneged, but kept the land. The Ayodhya issue came to the point of resolution several times earlier also, but at the last moment some people backed off.
With respect, I beg to have a different stance on the issue from Swamiji. To me, and to most Muslim organisations, it seems that our Constitution and our law of the land are binding on us, because our Constitution and our judicial system reflect the wisdom of our ancient ethos and are the most fool-proof institutions of conflict resolution.
I am not sure of the other side, but I am convinced that Muslims will certainly abide by the court judgment and accept it. If it goes against Muslims, they will simply say, “O Allah, we accept your verdict that you have sent through our most learned judges”. I am saying it because following the law of the land is part of our imaan, our covenant with God.
As a proof of the veracity of what I say, I cite the case of the Sheeshganj gurudwara in Pakistan. Muslims contended that the gurudwara was built in Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule by demolishing a mosque. The Muslims went up to the last judicial forum in British India, the Privy Council, which ruled that as the (then) present status of the place of worship was that of a gurudwara, it would remain so. Muslims accepted the verdict as God’s Will and never thinked of touching it, even after Partition, when they could have demolished it by brute force as was done in Ayodhya in 1992. Today, no Muslim thinks of Sheeshganj place of worship as a former mosque, but a legitimate gurudwara.
Swamiji should not worry about Muslims 50 years, or 500 years, after the judgment. Whatever God decides through our learned judges will be received with relief and joy over the resolution of a vexatious and unpleasant dispute. From the side of Muslims it would be a complete, irreversible resolution of an unpleasant affair for ever.