Muslims offering namaz at the dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi (File Pic; Ravi Batra)
Atir Khan/New Delhi
The people's objections to Muslims offering namaz have been making news in different places in recent months. This is becoming an unnecessary issue, which needs to be tackled at the earliest before it is blown out of proportion.
Last night, Namaz was trending on Twitter it was the top trending news. The reason was that Moradabad Police in UP had withdrawn the charges against a certain group of Muslims, who were offering namaz inside a village house. They were doing so because their village doesn’t have a mosque.
Interestingly several Hindus on social media had commented and opposed the police move of pressing charges against those Muslims, in the first place. They were only worshipping inside their house so why book them, many people asked this question.
It appears that the local police acted hastily and registered a case based on a complaint filed by a Dulhepur villager, who claimed that those offering namaz were spreading hatred and enmity among the people of the village by the act of offering namaz.
Moradabad Police investigated the matter and found no evidence to this effect and has now withdrawn the case. Moradabad SSP from his official Twitter handle had clarified his video message.
The matter is of some concern because this was not the first case of its kind. In recent times several other such instances have surfaced where actions have been initiated by local police against the people offering namaz, in some instances in public places. It happened in Dehradun, at a mall in Lucknow, and then in Bhopal. The issue had originated with the complaint of some residents of Gurgaon stating that Muslim factory workers were offering namaz on roads and were obstructing the traffic.
There are a limited number of mosques in Gurugram and on Friday, which has special significance in the Muslim calendar, the crowd of Muslims devotes to offering namaz was spilling over onto the roads and obstructing traffic. It was contended that this was causing inconvenience to the public.
Following these complaints, the Gurgugram administration had taken some firm steps to ensure that the situation was controlled and did not flare up. While this was happening, a Hindu resident from volunteered and offered his piece of land to Muslim devotees and offered the Muslims to offer namaz on his piece of land.
While there are instances of magnanimity it has been observed some people are filing mischievous complaints against people offering namaz, as happened in the case of Moradabad, or perhaps overreacting in the present polarised environment to Muslims exercising their right to religion as guaranteed by the Constitution of India. The police are also taking hasty action against the accused.
Right to Religion guarantees that any person of India has the right to practice his or her religion in any part of the country. But even the Constitutional rights have to be enjoyed with reasonable restrictions and as long as they do not infringe upon the rights of other people.
The offering of namaz five times a day is an essential practice as per Islam. A Muslim is expected to offer namaz three times during the daytime, it’s generally the time when he or she is at work. So, they need to either say their prayers at a mosque or any other nearby suitable place. It’s typical for Muslims who follow Islam and are required to offer namaz at a particular time.
Though there is an exception when they are travelling. But devout Muslims don’t like to miss their prayers even while they are travelling due to fear of facing consequences as per their religious beliefs.
As per these requirements, a Muslim is expected to fulfill the basic religious obligations but at the same time, they are also expected to be mindful that while doing so they do not obstruct the work of any person or cause any inconvenience to people of other religions.
Akhtar-ul-Wasey a renowned Islamic scholar says: “Muslims have a right to practice their religion just like others in the country. There is no need to make an issue out of anybody’s prayers. Any religious practice should be done with the right intention and not to provoke, hurt, cause disturbance or with any malafide intention.”
Similarly, Khawaja Iftekhar, another noted scholar says, “Special provisions should be made in public places such as malls. There should be a prayer room so that people could fulfill their religious obligations without disturbing anybody else. Due precaution needs to be taken and as far as possible and people should try to offer namaz in mosques and their homes.”
Interestingly in Uttar Pradesh on National Highway 24 several dhabas, which are owned by Hindus have special prayer rooms for Muslims to offer namaz while they are traveling by road. Similarly, there are many instances where Hindus living by the highways have offered their accommodation to Muslims to offer namaz while they are travelling and have stopped by to say their prayers.
Largely people of all religions respect the religious practices of others. However, some unnecessary police complaints against Muslims for offering namaz in public view undermine the syncretic culture of India and present a distorted picture of intolerance to the outside world.
All religions encourage people to respect humanity and follow the law of the land. Jurist Firdaus Wani says no law prohibits or restricts Muslims from offering prayer even in public places. In most of the cases in which people have been booked for offering namaz, the police have attracted legal provisions for disturbing public tranquillity or law or order in the area, as a precautionary measure.
Advocate Shams Khawaja says Muslims are allowed to offer namaz even in a suitable public place. They cannot say their namaz on railway tracks or ATMs. By doing so they will obstruct smooth functioning and cause inconvenience to other people. The Right to Religion has to be exercised with reasonable restriction.
But the Moradabad case was a bolt out of the blue in which Muslims had been booked for offering namaz inside a house. As per the law of the land, there is no requirement either for people to seek permission from the local administration for performing puja or offering namaz inside their houses.
Moradabad Police have taken a good decision of promptly probing the matter and withdrawing the charges. Though the case should not have been registered in the first place. Traditionally Indian Muslims have offered namaz even in public places and have faced no problems in the past.
Moradabad instance is a case study and should set a precedent for police to follow. They need not initiate any legal action against people of a particular faith having good intentions and for merely following their faith. The police should not give into the pressure of a mischievous nature. Rather they should be firm in their resolve of ensuring that the law of the land is upheld and no one is allowed to violate it.
In a democracy, the police need to be taking a dispassionate and sensible approach in such matters. Similarly, People must see to it that while they perform their religious obligations, they do not infringe the constitutional rights of others in any way.