I don’t remember when I first met senior Shia scholar and vice-president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, who passed away at 83 in Lucknow on Monday.
But the one session I shared with him at a Television studio in Mumbai a couple of years ago is unforgettable.
WIN channel’s owner and my friend Imran Rasool invited me, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq and ex-principal of Rizvi College, Mr Zaidi, to the television studio located off a busy street at Dongi in Mumbai. Maulana Sahab wore marshy green sherwani, white pajama and black cap while I chose a light purple shirt and black trousers for the occasion while Zaidi sahab was in a coat and pants.
The topic of discussion was Jihad, mercifully not “love jihad”. Those who vociferously talk about “love jihad” neither understand love not jihad.
So the topic was about how some so-called Muslim organizations had hijacked Islam and defamed Jihad. Jihad means to strive, to struggle against evils and to struggle against the evils within is the biggest jihad. We were supposed to put jihad in its proper perspective and denounce the oppressive, tyrannical ISIS which butchered innocents and called their un-Islamic act jihad.
I was no match for the venerable Maulana sahab and admitted at the outset that I was there more as a student to learn from the senior cleric. I said whatever little that I could on the topic. Maulana sahab expectedly spoke eloquently and did justice to the topic. After the show was recorded, Maulana sahab was effusive in his appreciation for me. I thought he didn’t want to discourage a fellow panelist much younger to him.
But Maulana Kalbe Sadiq was not one to practice doublespeak. He said what he felt. He was admired because of his clean heart and sweet tongue, his honesty, his habit of calling a spade a spade. I am yet to come across another Shia cleric who commanded so much respect from the Sunnis too.
I witnessed this at an international Conference Prof Rashid Shaaz of Aligarh Muslim University had organised at Aligarh almost half a decade ago. Taking off his wristwatch, Maulana Kalbe Sadiq said he was stickler to the time given to him and he would finish in 10 minutes. He spoke of the character of a true Muslim. “Jo criminal hai woh Musalmaan nahin ho sakta auro jo Musalmaan hai woh criminal nahin ho sakta (A criminal cannot be a Muslim and a Muslim cannot be a criminal),” he said. He also stressed the need to shun sectarianism and promote Shia-Sunni, Hindu-Muslim unity. He recalled his meeting with Allama Sistani, Iraq-based venerable Shia scholar. Kalbe Sadiq had visited Iraq innumerable times and knew the country better than many Iraqis. He said that Allama Sistani had asked him to convey to Indian Muslims to get empowered with modern education. When he ended his talking, he held aloft his wristwatch and said he had finished his speech in 9 minutes.
After his talk, I saw a student come to the mike and propose a plan. He said he wanted Maulana Kalbe Sadiq to lead a prayer at the university Jama Masjid and all, Shias and Sunnis, to follow him (the Maulana). The Maulana’s message had certainly gone down well with Muslim youth there.
Many clerics tell their audiences to establish madrassas as they mistakenly think religious education alone will get them a place in paradise. Maulana Kalbe Sadiq was different. He would tell Muslims to establish institutions of modern education. He led by example and led from the front. He established and helped establish several institutions in Lucknow, including Era Medical College and Hospital. These institutions will keep his memory alive.
I remember yet another meeting with him at the wedding of a common friend’s daughter in Dubai. He recalled our meeting at the Mumbai studio and again stressed the need to denounce terrorism.
It was joy to hear him. Using his great sense of humour, he made his talks interesting. You never got bored in his company. Slamming the Orthodox maulvis, both Shias and Sunnis, he once quipped: “The way these maulvis keep sending members of each other’s sects to hell, I doubt if anyone will reach heaven.”
No one minded even when he criticized his own community. His criticism was constructive. He never intended to insult or humiliate anyone. In his own way Maulana Kalbe Sadiq played the role of India’s ambassador of peace and harmony. He travelled widely and had admirers everywhere.
Unlike the troll army on Twitter who used venomous, crassly communal words for him after his death–we were told our Indian culture teaches us to remember the dead in nice words–Maulana Sadiq never cursed even those few who opposed or disliked him. To the hate brigade whose soul has been darkened, mind poisoned and tongue embittered, the venerable Maulana must be sending blessings from wherever he is. For, spreading love was part of his imaan (faith) and closing cleavages his credo.
India will miss Maulana Kalbe Sadiq.
Mohammed Wajihuddin, a senior journalist, is associated with The Times of India, Mumbai. This piece has been picked up from his blog.