By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The Muslim community in Andhra Pradesh is now in search of GenX religious leadership to guide it through the challenges being thrown in by the fast changing world.
The Muslim religious leaders in the State have let down the community on more than one occasion with their old ideas, most of them impracticable in this modern day society. The average age of top Muslim religious scholars is 60 years and some of the Moulanas cannot walk without support. And they have been at the helm of religious affairs for as long as two to three decades, literally blocking the growth of young leaders.
In the absence of second-rung leadership there are instances of madrasas and religious institutions suffering heavily following the death of the chief promoter. A few institutions have been closed down causing untold hardship to students.
"Some of the Ulema in the State had grown to such a stature that they had become institutions by themselves. And when they died the institutions they had nourished for decades also suffered slow death. This would have been avoided had there been a second-rung young leadership," observes Moulana Abdul Kareem who is in his early 20s.
With the old Ulema refusing to make way for the GenX, an attempt is being made by a group of Muslim social and religious activists to create what they call the "Third Muslim Force" in the State. They want to take on the old Muslim political leadership on one hand and the old religious leadership on the other, through the proposed TMF movement. A series of meetings have been planned and six of them have been completed.
"Be it politics or religion, we have been seeing the same old faces at least for the past 20 years. It's high time they stepped down and encourage young leaders to occupy high positions in religious institutions and madrasas. We have made a beginning with like-minded Muslim leaders in the State to create an alternative force to old Muslim politicians and old Muslim Ulema," says State IUML general secretary Abdul Sattar Mujahed.
Social activist Mubhashiruddin Khurram squarely blames the Ulema for the lack of second-rung religious leadership in the State. "Most of these Ulema send their children and grand-children to English medium schools and consequently they do not find anyone in their family to don the mantle after them. Moreover, they do not trust outsiders. This makes things complicated for them. They continue to run the show as long as they live and the moment they die the institutions suffer. This bad," he observes.
Jamiat-e-Ulema Hind State president Hafiz Peerzada Shabbir Ali advocates the system of "Majlis-e-Shura" (consultative committee) in all the religious institutions in the State to encourage a blend of old and young leadership in the community. He points out that eminent Muslim institutions in north India including the Nadwatul Ulema and Darul Uloom Deoband follow the tradition of Shura with 21 members. "Why not this practice be followed in Andhra Pradesh? We generally do not allow young leaders to occupy top positions because they easily become emotional. They do not think with heart. What we need is a blend of old and new leadership for a balanced direction to the community," Shabbir argues.
However, All-India Personal Law Board general secretary Abdul Rahim Qureshi does not agree that there's a generation gap in the Muslim religious leadership in the State. "You find many young Muslim scholars in madarasas. If some of them have turned old while serving the institutions, we cannot blame them," says he.
The notable Muslim organisations in Hyderabad with old guards at the helm of affairs include Tameer-e-Millat, Amarat-e-Millat-e-Islamia, Jamia Nizamia, Sunni Ulema Board and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. There had been no change in the top leadership for many years.
Eminent institutions like An-Noor (Moulana Taqiuddin), Idare Islami (Moulana Akbar Qasmi) and Sabeelus Salam (Moulana Rizwanul Qasmi) fell in deep trouble after the demise of their founders. The change in leadership has not been smooth in the case of Sabeelus Salam with different claimants to its vast property.
"Yes, the generation gap is being felt by young and educated people in the community. Many of the old Ulema do not know what's happening in this new world. One has to take pains to explain to them terminology like AIDS, condoms or new methods in family planning while obtaining fatwas," says educationist B Moinuddin, recalling his experience with one of the old scholars.
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