By Azeem Akhtar
I have witnessed countless waqf properties spread from one corner of Delhi to the other being embezzled and illegally encroached but have always avoided writing about it in this column. It is because as a responsible Muslim officer of Delhi Government I have served in the past at different times, as a secretary in various sensitive and important institutions such as Delhi Wakf Board, Delhi State Hajj Committee, Urs Committee and Delhi Urdu Academy with which Muslims of Delhi have deep emotional attachment. It was this emotional attachment that had forced me to shoulder the burden of and discharge various important duties in these organisations.
Notwithstanding, having seen the behaviour and conduct of the so called servants of the community who through intrigues and deceit and with the support of heavy weights of political parties, succeeded in occupying posts in these institutions I could get nothing but disappointment at every step and any light [and hope of betterment] kept disappearing further and further away.
No doubt the ones who had been entrusted with the responsibility of looking after Waqf properties had outwardly at the tip of their tongues the repetition of the teachings of Allah and His Prophet (PBUH) and the injunctions of Shari’ah which in practice they had set aside while their worldly dealings always sought the help of the man-made laws and unashamedly mirrored with deceit, fraud, corruption and dishonesty which no one knows how long this practice will keep on going in future? Witnessing the embezzlement of waqf properties by our own people more than the others, I lost all the interest whether the Wakf Board existed there at all.
However, reports in local press of the dilapidation and disrepair of Shahi Masjid Fetehpuri, due to the negligence of Wakf Board, and the lamentation thereof by Imam Shahi Mufti Mukarram, I was myself reminded of many incidents relating to Wakf Board and Masjid Fatehpuri that I feel now it is my moral responsibility to bring it to the knowledge of Muslims of Delhi.
Lamenting about the negligence of Wakf Board, the Imam of Shahi Masjid Fatehpuri said, ‘According to the injunctions of Shari’ah a mosque has the first right on its income. Any income earned by a mosque cannot be used on anything else. In cases however where it is made sure that the mosque does not at that moment need that money only then this money can be given for some other purpose as a loan. But the Delhi Wakf Board keeps all the income from the mosque to itself and spends it in other projects.’
I think the religious injunction about spending the money of a mosque given by Mufti Mukarram also applies to other endowed properties and therefore all the income from an endowed property should be spent in accordance to the will of the endower. In my humble opinion using any amount of it to pay the salaries to the employees of the Wakf Board or other expenses is against Shari’ah and is akin to breaking the trust. It was with this view that when I was appointed as a secretary of Delhi Wakf Board I had refused to accept any salaries from that money. It was then that I was made its (Wakf Board) secretary in a Diverted Capacity i.e. I used to work in one place and was paid by another department.
Only the religious scholars can give a better opinion on the arguments put forward by Mufti Mukarram. However could it be that he had also thrown some light on the role of those Imams who have through [allegedly] conspiring with and lying to the officials of Waqf Board, rented the unused parts of the Mosque, violated the sanctity of the Mosque and disfigured its beauty and have built residential house there.
I fully agree with Mufti Mukarram that to look after the Mosque is the responsibility of Delhi Wakf Board and that the Board must immediately start repair work needed in the Mosque so that its beauty does not become a story of the gone by era.
I should at this point inform the readers that the income of Delhi Wakf Board is less than its expanses. The Board does not get any financial assistance from the state or central governments. With the limited income that it has and huge expanses it faces, the Board is unable to carry repairs work of any small mosque let alone a huge one like the Fatehpuri Mosque.
In 1996 when Siraj Paracha was the Chairman of Delhi Wakf Board and Delhi was being ruled by Bharatya Janata Party, he had drawn the attention of BJP High Command towards this problem. For BJP high command the revelation that the Government did not give any financial help to Delhi Wakf Board was astounding. Siraj Paracha then made the full use of his personal contacts [and as a result] presenting the annual budget for the financial year 1997-98 the then Finance Minister Jagdish Mukhi announced to award a fund of Rs two crores to Delhi Wakf Board. This was the first time in the history of Delhi Wakf Board when a Government had extended a helping hand to tackle its economic problems and limitations.
This significant amount of two crore of Rupees awarded to the Board was granted on the condition that the Board will repair Wakf Properties, put them on rent and establish a Corpus Fund so that lack of financial resources did not become an excuse for keeping the Wakf properties in poor state.
This was a laudable act of BJP and the fund granted should have been used appropriately. [Unfortunately] what happened afterwards was that the Rs 2 crore could only be given to the Wakf Board after Congress had come to power and while the Board itself consisted of Congress sympathisers.
If the then Chairman and other members of the Wakf Board were sincere to the Board, Rs 50-60 lakhs would have been specified for the repairs work of Masjid Fatehpuri. But as far as I know neither any part of this fund was used for repairs of Wakf property nor any Corpus Fund was established. I think if the sum of Rs two crores had been spent according to the instructions of the government and Corpus Fund had been established then Mufti Mukarram Sahib would not have to complain about the dilapidation of Masjid Fatehpuri like this.
I remember in 1996 when I was Wakf Board’s Secretary even then Mufti Mukarram through press statements had made a forceful complaint about the disrepair of Masjid Fatehpuri. In view of the intensity of Mufti Mukarram’s complaint I deputed a junior engineer of the board to survey the Mosque and prepare a detailed report of the repairs required there. In two to three days the junior engineer prepared a report of the required work and I granted the permission to start the repair work immediately.
However, the next day when the Junior Engineer arrived at Fatehpuri Mosque with a team of workers, many people who were already there misbehaved with them and did not let them begin the work. When the junior engineer went in the Hujra [chamber] of Mufti Mukarram to bring the situation to his notice he refused to listen or talk to him. Such an incident of non-cooperation by an Alim was mind boggling.
One or two days later when along with one or two members of the Wakf Board the Junior Engineer arrived there they were greeted by an aggressive mob of 60-70 people present there. Some 10-15 days were wasted on this meaningless standoff. One wonders why and on whose prompt the prayer congregators did not want repairs work done by the Wakf Board.
Meanwhile Siraj Paracha Sahib, myself and some high officials of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had decided to carry out the repairs work of the walls of the mosque and outer minarets in the supervision of the experts of ASI. Hence ASI experts surveyed the mosque and accepted the responsibility to carry the repair work themselves.
One or two days later when scaffoldings were being erected at the gate towards the side of Chand Chowk, ASI officials had to face opposition from the congregators. When the ASI officials threatened them to call the police then they dispersed.
Delays in government offices, especially in ASI’s projects like this, are inevitable. Thus one or two weeks later when ASI officials reached Fatehpuri Mosque to carry on the work they had to face similar aggressive opposition and therefore they discarded the work and left. This was a Godsend opportunity for Mufti Mukarram. For months in his Friday sermons he continued pointing at the heavy boulders and the scaffoldings left near the gate and complaining about the insensitivity and neglect of the Wakf Board and ASI.
Near the Khari Bavli Gate of Fatehpuri Mosque there are some shops over their roof there is a big hall that was once rented out to Punjab National Bank. When the Bank moved to Gali Batashan, its management left the hall locked up. When Siraj Paracha Sahib took over as Chairman of Wakf Board he planned to have the hall freed from the Bank and use it for offices so that it could be rented out as a source of income for the Wakf Board. To achieve this goal Siraj Paracha Sahib and a social and political activist from Lal Kuan, Irfan Mir, worked hard. They met high officials of Punjab National Bank and due to their efforts occupancy of the hall was returned to the Wakf Board.
I remember it too well that I along with Rasheed Ansari and Shakir Ansari personally went there and put Wakf Board’s lock on the hall’s door. We were yet in the process of erecting cabin enclosures for offices in the hall when the news came that someone had broken Wakf Board’s lock and had replaced it with his own. For Wakf Board this was a challenge. Therefore the Board got that lock broken and replaced with a new lock of their own. After that the exercise of breaking the [illegal] lock and replacing it with Wakf Board’s continued for many months.
In the meanwhile threatening phone calls started coming asking to give the tenancy to one or two persons close to Mufti Mukarram or be prepared to face the consequences. I left the Wakf Board Disillusioned and disappointed after having spent seven to eight month there. Siraj Paracha Saheb’s tenure had come to an end as well and then the ruling Congress Party constituted a new Board that allotted the tenancy of the hall to a newly formed NGO run by those very persons for whom we had received phone calls and had been threatened to face the consequences if we did not give the tenancy to them.
Let me share one more interesting story with the readers of getting tenancy of a part of the mosque. Perhaps it was in April or May in 2003 when during those days my friend Shakir Ansari, who is now national secretary of BJP’s Minority Cell, was a member of Delhi Wakf Board phoned and told me that Board’s Property Committee’s meeting was being held in which an application from a lady for tenancy was being reviewed. She had applied for the tenancy of an unoccupied roof of a waqf property in Chandni Chowk and instead of putting her husband’s name in her application she had written the name of her father and her address of Pahari Imli Churiwalan. Board’s rules required the applicant for any tenancy to be present in person so that rent and the donation to be given to the board may be fully discussed face to face. As the lady was not present at the meeting which was against the rules and therefore her application should have been rejected. But Board’s Chairman, Chief Executive and other members were taking extraordinary interest in getting the application accepted. Shakir Ansari Sahib wanted us to collect and provide him information about the applicant and the waqf property in question in Chandni Chowk.
I advised Shakir Sahib to write a dissenting note on the application according to the rules and make it a condition that the applicant should present herself at the next meeting in person. Shakir Sahib followed my advice and any action on the application of the lady was postponed until the next meeting.
In those days Shakir Ansari Sahib was a member of Central Hajj Committee as well. The next day he left for Saudi Arabia for 10-15 days to look after Hajj arrangements. That evening later when I was able to manage and collect the required information I was aghast with what I had found. I got wondering if those who are regarded as and counted among the very pious and virtuous ulema could lie and misuse waqf properties and hide the truth then what can be expected of the ordinary folks? The lady who had applied for tenancy had deliberately tried to hide all of the facts so that the tenancy remained a secret.
The house number in Chandni Chowk the tenancy of which was applied for is not an ordinary house number. It is the municipal number of Fatehpuri Masjid and the applicant was the wife of the Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid Hazrat Mufti Mukarram Ahmad. In her application, of which I have a photo copy, the applicant, instead of giving the reference of her husband’s name had given the name and address of her father so that Kulhia me gur phoot sake [the work is done and no one finds out about it]. Icing on the cake was when the Board found out that Shakir Ansari was on a 25 days foreign tour so in order to avoid his objections the cohorts in the Board called Property Committee’s meeting in his absence and in the real proverbial sense kulhia meN gur phoor lia [stroke a big deal in secrecy] and did not only make the wife of Mufti Mukarram Sahib a tenant of a roof of Masjid Fatehpuri but also allowed her to construct a room on it and destroy the geographical beauty of the Mosque.
The Shahi Imam working on a war footing, constructed a sprawling house on the roof within four to five days and got it populated it with his presence. The usurpation of the roof of a waqf property, that too of a mosque, by a religious scholar aided and abeted by the big ones in Delhi Wakf Board is nothing less than a tragedy in the religious and milli life of the Muslims of Delhi.
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