Akhlaq Ahmed Usmani for TimesHeadline.com
Commercial or Trade Events are rarely exciting for Indian Public. In fact, Delhi populace feels it troublesome for them because of consequent traffic diversion & Jams. FICCI, CII etc keep organising events round the year and general public does not care. But the trend was upside down when Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Elsisi was in India. Recently in September this year and once India Africa Summit in 2015. It excited general public of India. I witnessed several regimentations including India’s largest Muslim Students Organisation (MSO), largest Sufi cleric body Tanzeem Ulama e Islam (AITUI), one Chamber of Commerce and other Sufi religious organisations and non government social organisations, all applied to ministry of External Affairs, Government of India for seeking permission to welcome Egyptian President Elsisi here in New Delhi. Though they failed to get permission to welcome President Elsisi. Such excitement for visit of state head of any gulf country is rare for India. It was rare for Sufi religious organisation, Chamber of Commerce and social organizations from both majority Hindu & Minority Muslim community to come together and show interest in a visiting head of state. Indian government expressed its inability to allow them to organise any processions. On the other hand, such language was not shown by Sufi organisation when President Mohamed Morsi was on India visit in 2013. The two different guise of majority Indian Sufi Muslims giving the message that they are not welcoming radical Muslim Brotherhood, while they support Elsisi for his liberal view on Political Islam.
The Visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah ElSisi during India Africa Summit of 2015 was a memorable affair. This was a diplomatic coup for both nations with long history of friendship since India’s independence. His visit caused much excitement in public. Indian Sufis were excited because of his fight against extremism whereas business community was excited because ElSisi’s Suez canal development policy makes Egypt important for trade with Africa, Europe & Middle East. Sufis of India were very happy with this visit, which was shown in various precessions and speeches in his favour throughout Delhi. His visit allowed Indian Sufis to hope that his arrival in India will be helpful in tackling certain problems, common in both the countries. It was expected that Indian Government would take some cues from him in countering extremist menace and propaganda through mosques.
Association of one million Muslim Students ie Muslim Students Organisation (MSO), league of all around one million general populace and Sufi clerics ie All India Tanzeem Ulama e Islam (AITUI) was among the top of several organisations which held series of various speeches in honour of President Elsisi. In fact, a small procession was organised outside Embassy of Egypt, while Elsisi was in New Delhi in 2015 during India Africa summit. These Organisations arranged for this procession on fears of some news in local media indicating a procession of hardliner Wahhabis plans to protest the Egyptian Presidents visit. It showed pure love and respect of Indian Sufis.
MSO General Secretary Shujaat Ali Quadri is very vocal in his support for Egyptian President by praising the steps taken by ElSisi. He categorically stated that the steps taken by ElSisi to save Egypt from Wahhabi Terrorism & Muslim Brotherhood deserves all the praise in the world. AITUI President Mufti Ashfaq Hussain Quadri was on record saying that the Egyptian President has achieve miracle by bringing peace back to Egypt. Rajasthan state based Entrepreneur turned socialite Murshid Raza said in a statement that the steps taken by President ElSisi, to curb death and destructions in his country, are an example to follow by all those states that are suffering from extremism and terror. All these statements & press releases clearly demonstrate the special positions Egyptian President holds in the heart of Indian Sufis.
Emerging Businesses Chamber of Commerce (EBCC), among the most developing Indian Business community welcomed Egyptian President with open hands. EBCC was leading from the front in organising the procession which welcomed Egyptian President. EBCC Founding Secretary & Treasurer Kumar Aniket was very positive about the effects of the visit on the relations between two countries. He praises Egyptian president for creating a business friendly environment in a country torn by Muslim Brotherhood. He said that there is a great synergy between two nations and Egypt has a potential as gateway to Africa because of Suez Canal. Similarly Uniserve Knowledge Foundation (UKF) President Harsh Pushkarna has openly supported the measures taken by Abdel Fatah ElSisi in eliminating extremism from Egypt.
Indian Sufi community is fragmented into several small organisations, each guarding its school of opinion. Mufti Ashfaq’s AITUI is trying to rise above the rest with its emphasis on collective leadership. AITUI has organised a large gathering of about 0.2 millions at Ramlila Grounds in 2015, which was supported by all major Sufi Leaders of India, which was exceptional. Likewise a preliminary event at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi was organised on this February. Egypt is always a big issue to discuss at every Sufi gathering. “We are descendents of Egyptian Sufi culture here, we want to keep continue support AlAzhar University. President Elsisi is a symbol of Sufi leadership in Political world while Mufti El-Tayeb is a symbol of Spiritual leadership in Islamic world.” Mufti Ashfaq told to reporters while a question was raised on flying the Egyptian flags and Elsisi pictures in his rally.
Young student leader of one million strength, Muslim Students’ Organisation, Shujaat Ali Quadri organised a huge rally in support of Egypt’s works in popularity of Sufism at Jaipur City of Rajasthan state this March. The gathering specifically praised the work done AlAZhar University in controlling the situation and providing able guidance to ElSisi and his team in controlling extremism. “I found AlAzhar University is the most vigilant Sufi students community and we keep support them. It is unfortunate that AlAzhar has no specific India policy but we can help them in this regard as we are unofficially world’s largest Muslim population in the world.”
Still Indian Sufis are by and large a divided lot. It was surprising that all of them joined hands to welcome Abdel Fattah ElSisi. This was truly historic for India Sufis which have not sat together for long time with the exception of AITUI public gathering of 2015. Growing menace of terrorism and their love and respect for ElSisi was something which inspired them to praise his visit with single voice. Such Unity on any point between Indian Sufi Leaders is a new thing. General Sufis are very happy with this unity between Sufi Leaders and they are very thankful to the visit of Egyptian President to India.
Indian Sufis admire the clearcut approach of Egyptian President and his straightforward approach in countering extremist preaching through mosques. His steps for controlloing extremist preaching through mosques was far reaching step and Indian Sufis hope someday Indian Governmnet also will be able to take similar steps to counter terror. It is to be noted that almost all Indian Mosques and Waqfs have Sufi Heritage. Not, with the help of Petro Dollar and organised effort extremists were able to snatch these mosques away from Sufis. The docile nature of Sufis combined with fragmented leadership was one factor which allowed it. However, this extremist takeover of mosques in India has turned these mosques into ‘threat’ factors. Indian Sufis admire the way AlAzhar helped Egyptian government in identifying non government Mosques as Muslim Brotherhood stronghold. AITUI and MSO have been advocating copying of ElSisi policies for Mosques in Egypt. Indian Sufis love for Sufi has origin in these path braking policies of Egyptian Government, which Indian Sufis want Indian Government to copy. Indian Sufis particularly admire his decision for strict enforcement of Naseer era law, which mandated only Certified Imams can preach had far reaching effect on controlling extremist ideology supported by Muslim Brotherhood. One of the path breaking ideas was the idea to standardise Friday sermons, requiring all imams to preach on a predetermined topic each week. “AlAzhar played a pivotal role in educating public about true version of Islam through various courses run by AlAzhar.” Khalid Ayyoob Misbahi said, Editor of Sufi ideology magazine ‘Ehsas’.
AlAzhar is one of the most respected institution of Islamic World and has served as the main pillar of moderate Islamic study since time immemorial, not only for Egypt but for the entire Islamic world. AlAzhar has always been an autonomous institutions working under Egyptian Government. After Egypt’s fall into the hands of extremists ie Muslim Brotherhood under Mohamed Morsi, Alazhar has become a beacon of hope for moderate muslims of Egypt. “AlAzhar has openly supported Abdel Fattah ElSisi’s fight against extremism. It has become a staunch ally of Egyptian government in controlling extremist ideologies. It is leading from the front in educating people against extremist propaganda and spreading the message of peace of the prophet. AlAzhar has become the state’s greatest ally in eradicating extremist ideologies and their propaganda.” Syed Muhammed Quadri, a preacher of Sufism and working for Sunni Daawat e Islami at Rajasthan utters. “AlAzhar leadership under Grand Imam Ahmed El-Tayeb, University is focusing of Sufi version of Islam. This effort by AlAzhar demonstrates it’s love for peace and harmony, which lies at the hear of the message given by the Prophet” Murshid Raza prelected.
Moderate Muslims across the world including Indian Sufis look towards AlAzhar and Egyptian Government to show way against rising tide of extremism. Egypt has a larger role to play as counter to extremist ideology because of being home for AlAzhar, which has always been the most respected Moderate Muslim Institutions. Indian Sufis hope that Fateh ElSisi will restore Egypt to its old glory and take it forward. “Egypts position as a stalwart of moderate Islam in midlle east is statement for all extremists who are increasingly spreading terror across middle east. Muslims have lost trust of everybody because of extremist version of Islam and Indian Sufis look towards AlAzhar to show the world that Islam is not what ISIS or Al Qaida practice but trues Islam is what AlAzhar parctices and advocates.” Mufti Ashfaq stated. Shujaat Quadari says that Indian Sufis hope that Egypt and AlAzhar will show the world that all muslims are not terrorists and help moderate muslims in regaining trust of common public. The rise of Donald Trump in USA and right wing parties in Europe and Asia have made Sufis doubt the future of Islam but Al Azhar gives a hope. “Egypt is a land of miracles. We hope they will surprise again and again in the hard time of Muslims. Egypt means Sufism and we adore it.” Shujaat Quadri confabulates.
Akhlaq A. Usmani is a senior journalist and a well known political commentator on International Islamic Affairs.