There was an innocuous news item in the Mumbai edition of Times Of India on March 21, 2010. It was about Dawoodi Bohras of Mumbai, who restored the Great Mosque at Kufa in Iraq. There is nothing strange or new about restoring a mosque and that to by the followers of a sect of Islam. But here are two pertinent points to ponder, two important questions to answer. Question no. 1, Why were Dawoodi Bohras of Mumbai needed in Iraq ? Iraq is a muslim country. And question no.2, why a mosque in Kufa was in urgent need of repair and restoration? Again Iraq is a muslim country and Kufa has significant religious importance to the Shiites. But the second question itself has the inbuilt and inherent answer. Since Kufa mosque is venerable to the Shiites, it was not properly maintained by Sunni Iraq in general and by a parochial dictator like Saddam Hussain in particular. Though this mosque is a silent witness to many historical moments of Islam. In the holy precincts of this very mosque, Hazrat Ali used to offer namaz and prayers and in the precincts of this very mosque, he was murdered in 661 by Ibn Muljim at the behest of the ruler of the day, while he was in sajda. He was buried in Najaf and his holy tomb is also situated near Kufa. Karbala, where Hazrat Ali’s second son and Prophet’s grandson Imam Hussain was brutally killed in 680 by the army of Amir Yazeed, is also situated close by. Kufa, Najaf and Karbala, all the pious and holy places of Shiites are situated in Sunni dominated Iraq. And Saddam Hussain, being a despot and tyrannical as ruler and Sunni as believer, hated and despised Shiites. So he paid no attention to the up keep and maintenance of these holy Shiites shrines and this historical, pious and important shrine was in a rundown condition.
Now the question arises about Shiite and Sunni divide. The origin of this great divide is very tragic and sad. Hazrat Ali was Prophet’s son-in-law and according to Shiites, should have been a true successor of The Prophet. He is the most venerable to Shiites, next only to The Prophet. They assumed that he would succeed The Prophet. But Hazrat Ali was sidelined and ignored at the time of succession and The Prophet was succeeded by Hazrat Abu Bakr, Hazrat Umar and Hazrat Usman in that order. After murder of the third Caliph Hazrat Usman, finally and ultimately Hazrat Ali was chosen The Caliph. Though he was fourth in the hierarchy and not the first, still his followers were happy. But as The Caliph, Hazrat Ali was never allowed to rule with peace. He was accused of Hazrat Usman’s murder and in the name of avenging the murder, Amir Mawia, who was at that time, Amir-E-Sham ( Governor of Syria) refused to accept Hazrat Ali’s supremacy and revolted against his Khilafat. He rebelled against Hazrat Ali and proclaimed war. By deceit and with the help of his politically clever associates, he was able to turn tables at the battle of Siffin and was able to hoodwink Arab world and was successful in removing Hazrat Ali, the greatest name in the Islamic history after The Prophet, from the Post of Caliph. Hazrat Ali accepted this humiliation silently, tolerated this deceit gracefully and started leading a pious and holy life as per the teachings of the Prophet. But his enemies were still frightened of him. His very existence was considered dangerous for the Amir and the conspiracy was hatched to eliminate him physically. One day when Hazrat Ali went for the namaz at the mosque, he saw an unknown man sitting and dozing off on the stairs of the grand mosque of Kufa. He woke him up and told him that its time for namaz and if he doesn’t move fast, he won’t be able to offer his namaz. That man, Ibn Muljim, looked at Hazrat Ali and smiled as if Malkul Maut ( Prophet Of Death ) is himself smiling and looking at Hazrat Ali. When Hazrat Ali bowed for sajda, Ibn Muljim, took out his dagger and attacked Hazrat Ali ferociously and repeatedly. Hazrat Ali aka Sher-e-Khuda fell on the ground and after few days struggle, succumbed to death. Grand mosque at Kufa is the same place where this incident happened in 661. Kufa is situated on the banks of the Euphrates river and is close to Baghdad. It is sad that a place of this importance was subjected to neglect and disrespect.
The Dawoodi Bohras have achieved the impossible. Undaunted by the circumstances, they started rebuilding the Great Mosque in 1998. Saddam was still alive and was ruling Iraq with iron fist. Condition was not conducive and congenial. US invasion made matters worst and sectarian strife, which followed US invasion, made it almost impossible. But Bohras worked silently, diligently and completed the project in 2009.
This is a great achievement. This work is worthy of inspiration. Unfortunately electronic media ignored it completely. This kind of news brings brotherhood, fosters amity and has soothing effect on the frayed nerves of our society. Alas ! Tragic events of Gujarat are always shown and played repeatedly, while this kind of news is overlooked. Communal riots of Gujarat is an aberration and restoring the Great Mosque of Kufa is our national and natural ethos. It should be encouraged and not ignored.
Filed under: Eulogy