"..........We did not leave ANYTHING out of this qur’an…! " 6:38
S I L E N C E D . . . .? ( The case of Moulavi Chekanoor )
....An important subject in the Islamic curriculum of law, languages, literature, logic, philosophy and religious commentaries, the Hadees has been used, alongside the Koran, as a powerful tool in speeches made during the pre-Independence Khilafat movement by Muslim leaders and the ulema (learned men who by their fatwa or decision can influence public and private matters of importance) to gain the adherence of the masses who accept the infallibility of these texts. The Hadith has been ingrained in the Muslim psyche for more than 1,300 years, and strong reactions have been witnessed to radical utterances in the past......
( FRONTLINE ) ( Frontline - February 25, 1994)
Seven months ago, an intrepid scholar-crusader who had devoted a lifetime to research and spoke out what he believed to be the Koranic truth disappeared without a trace in northern Kerala, leaving behind a family, a small band of friends and followers, 17 books, volumes of his monthly journal Al-Burhan and the incomplete manuscript of a Malayalam translation of the Koran.
At 9 p.m. on July 29, two men, thirty something, one fair and the other dark, came in a blue jeep to the house of Chekannur P K Mohammed Abul Hassan Moulavi, popularly known as Chekannur Moulavi, at Kavilpady in Malappuram district, ostensibly to escort him urgently for Koran classes somewhere in the neighboring Kozhikode district.. The only witnesses, the Moulavi's wife Hawa Umma and an assistant, Jabbar, had not seen the men earlier, but were accustomed to the Moulavi venturing our for speeches and lectures, although never so late at night. It did not dawn on his familt till almost 48 hours later that the Moulavi, who had taken just one set of clothes with him, was missing.
What eventually grew into a heightened drama of suspense with religious and political undertones was being routinely investigated by the Malappuram district police as a 'man missing' case registered at the Ponnani police station on July 31. There was a public demand for a thorough investigation into the 'abduction' of the Moulavi, who was a prolific writer and an orator of some standing with friends in literary circles. On August 16, the Director-General of Police transferred the case to the Crime Branch, and a special team comprising senior police officials from the state's northern districts was constituted under the supervision of Additional Director General of Police M A Sattar Kunju.
Out of fear that the Moulavi may have been killed, his wife moved the High Court in September for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Invetigation (CBI). The verdict in October dismissed the need for the CBI's entry on the ground that the Crime Branch investigation was satisfactory. The family, which has persisted with its plea, lives in the hope that the next court verdict will grant the CBI inquiry. in late January, the case was postponed indefinitely.
Prior to his disappearance, the Moulavi, a traditionalist historian who was radically opposed to several current Islamic customs and practices, had received a numberof threats. Tepid statements lie "We choose to ignore the Chekannur Moulavi" had turned into dire warnings like "The Chekannur Moulavi will be silenced". His public addresses were sometimes disrupted by unruly men storming the dais.
The last book he published was Communal Harmony. Some quotations from thte Koran grace the cover of the book. They are: "There is salvation for followers of all devine religions"(2:62,5:69); "Koran accepts all divine religions" (5:48, 3:3); and "Every community has thrown up Prophets. It is imperative that Muslims should recognise them all" (2.285).
In other passages in this book he showed that the Koran prohibits the destruction of places of worship of other religions (22:40) and tht the faithful ought not to say night prayers so loud as to disturb others (17:110). He had written, "In many places foolish priests through loudspeakers impose there prayers on communities where Muslims and non-Muslims live and earn their displeasure" The Koran, he had stated, preached universal brotherhood and did not divide communities, but subsequent texts, also deemed sacred, brought in a divisive element.
Even as the investigators wait for a breakthrough, Malappuram and Kozhikode districts are rife with rumors about who could have engineered the crime. The 57-years-old Moulavi, schooled in Islamic thought since childhood, had followed a pattern of resigning from jobs in religious institutions whenever he felt the Koran was being violated. He had been close to different Muslim sect-Sunnis, Mujahids, Jamaat-i:"lslamis and Ahmadiyas -.at varying points. Each of the sects has further subdivisions. The version doing the rounds is that a secret Tiger group in one of the Sunni groups 'abducted' him. Since his enemies are legion, it is difficult to pinpoint the culprit. The founder of the banned Islamic Sewak Sangh, Abdul Nasser Mahdani, had warned the Moulavi in his taped speeches. "Once I had asked him," his wife recalled, "why must you do this if it makes so many people angry? He had replied, 'I'm doing no wrong. I am only reminding them to understand and follow the Koran'."
The fundamental premise upon which the Moulavi based all his thoughts and action was that the Koran is the only sacred book which all Musliins should revere. This seemingly innocuous standpoint got the Moulavi into deep trouble because the thrust of his research was to debunk the Hadith or Hadis, popularly translated as the Canon or Traditions of the Prophet and widely accepted as a second religious text.
Through four decades of painstaking research, which germinated inside the library of a madrassah (Muslim religious school) at Vellore, Tamil Nadu and later took him to the Jamia Millia College at Medina, Saudi Arabia, where he had opportunities to discuss his nascent theories with Egyptian scholars from Al-Azhar University, the Maulavi had become gradually convinced that many passages of the Hadith were sharply at variance with the essence of the Koran.
The Moulavi's theory is that after the period of the Prophet and the four Khalifas, Abu Bakr, Usman, Uhmer and Ali, interpolations were introduced through verses in the Hadith by Abu Huraira, a Yemeni Jew who converted himself to Islam in the seventh Hijra (marking the Prophet's flight to Medina, when the Islamic calendar begins) year, as part of a conspiracy by opponents of Islam to destroy the new born religious revolution in the region.
This line of thought emerged out of. research he completed in Saudi Arabia. After performing the Hajj, he returned to Kerala, to find that all religious institutions preferred to follow Abu Huraira's version. His wife recalled a moment when he said, "I'm not getting anywhere this way. I must take my ideas directly to the community."
His books and journals and the meetings he organised in town halls hired for nominal sums, and the 27 units of the Koran Sunnath Society he established, were means to this end. He had started publicly advocating his cause in the early 1960s through a journal, Nireekshanam. After Ii few issues, the journal folded up, but the Moulavi's enthusiasm did not dry up. Well-versed in Arabic, he burrowed into tomes on Islam to substantiate his theories.
In his first book, 'Namaskaram How? When? Why?'published in 1988, the Moulavi wrote the Koran had prescribed that all Muslims without exception should offer prayers thrice daily and give zakat, alms amounting to two and a half per cent of one's annual income. According to the Moulavi, Abu Huraira exempted some incomes from zakat (those owning slaves and horses, the measure of wealth in those days, were exempt) and emphasised five-time daily prayers and ritual fasting, aspects which give a set of people called Ammavis greater control.
"As it was customary then to make all changes in the name of the Prophet, the masses accepted them," the, Moulavi said. "Successive generations of powerful lobbies propagated the Abu Huraira version, which allowed a class of priests to emerge, ignoring the Koranic concept of a priestless movement. "
A common argument the Moulavi faced was that the Hadith, and not the Koran, elaborated on issues relating to prayer. His response was, "The Koran clearly mentions three daily prayers. There are 16 references to namaskaram in the Koran. At 10 places the morning and evening prayers are mentioned, and at six other places there is also mention of night prayers. The noon prayer is a Judaistic element and so are certain other stylistic features of praying, of which there are ample references in the Hadith but not in the Koran. "
Based on the Koran he argued against the aged, invalids and children fasting during the month of Ramzan. He viewed the muezzin's call for prayer and ritualised fasting as interpolations. The Moulavi wrote there was recorded evidence that Abu Huraira had introduced the muezzin's call at the Medina mosque and that was nothing to prove that the Prophet and the first four Khalifas had offered prayers five times daily.In another book, Succession Law in Islam (July 1991), the Moulavi pointed out several discrepancies between what the Koran allowed and what is in vogue. On the back flap of the book, he offered a Rs. 1 lakh reward to anyone who could prove that the succession law as practised in the Islamic world today has been derived from the Koran. The Moulavi found the common practice of' disinheriting orphaned grandchildren as "anti-Koranic". His written suggestion to the Pakistan Government, it is said, resulted in a change of law in this regard in that country.
The president of the Quran Sunnath Society (QSS), K. V. Veerankutty, an engineer living in Kozhikode, said, "He wanted Muslims to turn away from Abu Huraira's version and follow the authentic voice of Allah, as revealed by the Prophet through the Koran. He openly criticised the priests for concealing the Koran from the people.
The Moulavi was aggrieved that charity funds coming from the Gulf countries were not being used to spread education and benefit the poor. In one issue of Al-Buhran, he had asked whether building new, large mosques was more important than serving the poor. "Isn't it necessary to educate the masses and create opportunities for work?" In case of a shortage of mosques, he suggested hiring a hall for the weekly mass prayer, something which he often did himself.
In his personal life the Moulavi had been keen to fulfil some of the aspirations he desired for the community, family members said. His thr,ee daughters, graduates, had simple ,'weddings. Based on his own experience, the Moulavi advised everyone not to marry more' than once as it would increase one's difficulties. When two sons by his wife, Hawa, died, he was entreated to marry again. His second wife, Zubeida, who has four sons, lives in another town.
There were allegations that the Moulavi was hiding to escape debts he had accumulated. His friends and relatives countered this saying he and his wife had inherited a lot of property, parts of which have been periodically sold to meet their expenses and clear debts incurred by the Moulavi to publicise his ideas. About 10 years ago he had set up a printing press at Edappal from where he published his books and the monthly, AI-Burhan, with a circulation of 1,500 copies. He also received monetary support from well-wishers in the Gulf.
The nonagenerian freedom fighter Moidu Moulavi, who is also Hawa Umma's uncle, Prof. Sukumar Azhikode, Chairman of the National Book Trust, Yusuf Ali Kechery, poet, the Left parties, the Congress(l) and the Bharatiya janata Party have demanded a CBI inquiry into the disappearance.
The Indian Union Muslim League, a partner in the ruling United Democratic Front, has drawn flak for being silent on the issue. Contacted by Frontline, Education Minister E. T. Mohammed Basheer, the IUML MLA from the area, said, "Weare against giving the issue a communal colour. If does not matter whether A or B, a Moulavi or a Sanyasi, is missing. The inquiry should .be thorough and the culprits caught. A person's freedom of expression is an important matter. The Moulavi was entitled to his vision, whether others agree with it or not."
An important subject in the Islamic curriculum of law, languages, literature, logic, philosophy and religious commentaries, the Hadith has been used, alongside the Koran, as a powerful tool in speeches made during the pre-Independence Khilafat movement by Muslim leaders and the ulema (learned men who by their fatwa or decision can influence public and private matters of importance) to gain the adherence of the masses who accept the infallibility of these texts. The Hadith has been ingrained in the Muslim psyche for more than 1,300 years, and strong reactions have been witnessed to radical utterances in the past.
The Moulavi, who differed from many contemporary reformers in approach and style, was a purist, seeking answers through detailed historical research and exhaustive. Comparative study. He wanted to be challenged as a scholar, where a learned opponent would point out errors in his argument, but in all the public gatherings he arranged there were many to ridicule him but none to speak with the same conviction, his associates said.
In the absence of a writer-orator like the Moulavi, QSS members believe his movement has lost its momentum, thus fulftlling the wishes of those who wanted him out of the way. Nevertheless, some effort is being made to carry forward the work he had begun. One book by the Moulavi, who wrote only in Malayalam, has been translated into English and will be published soon. AI-Buhran continues to appear. Some meetings of his supporters are being held in Malappuram district. But there is a distinct gloom in the Moulavi camp, where his absence is compared to a brilliant stream of light disappearing suddenly, leaving behind a dark age...!