MUMBAI, 31 December 2007 — Renowned Islamic preacher Dr. Zakir Naik has landed in trouble with the Muslim community in India and created controversy by addressing a controversial historical Muslim character with a laudatory title reserved for saintly figures.
In a recent 10-day peace conference held at Somaiya Ground in the Sion suburb of Mumbai, Naik is alleged to said “Radiallah tala anho” (May Allah be pleased with him) after mentioning the name of Yazid, and made remarks that Karbala was a political battle. Many Indian Muslims have condemned the remarks, with both Shiite and Sunni scholars threatening an agitation if Naik fails to apologize and retract his comments.
Muslim leaders, calling for harmony, fear that if the issue is not resolved soon, it may spark off sectarian clashes as the month of Muharram, which marks the anniversary of the battle of Karbala and martyrdom of Imam Hussain, grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), is just 10 days away.
Several Muslim leaders criticized the remarks calling them “uncalled” and said it was the same as praising terrorist organizations. Safdar Karmali, leader of the Shiite Khoja Jamaat said that Naik cheapens the martyrdom of Imam Hussain by suggesting he fought for political gain. “Dr. Naik has by his remarks hurt the sentiment of all Muslims and has turned it now into a Shiite-Sunni issue,” he said.
Maulana Mahmood Daryabadi of the Ulama Council said that although the preacher has expressed regret of having hurt a Muslim sect, he has, however, not retracted his remarks and instead tried to quote fatwas to prove he was correct. “It appears that Dr. Naik is intent on his remarks,” Daryabadi said.
However, other Muslim leaders called for calm. Maulana Qasmi from Markaz-ul-Maarif said that some feel too much is being made out of a minor issue. It is better that in the interests of the community, the matter should be closed. Altaf Shaikh, a software engineer, regretted that some vested interests are giving a sectarian color to the issue and creating trouble.
“The need in such a situation is to exercise restraint, as Moharram is a time for remembering the sacrifice of Imam Hussain and not discussing mistakes of Dr. Zakir Naik,” he said.
Azim Alamdar, leader of the National Muslim Front, said that Naik has put his foot in his mouth by making the unpardonable remarks.
“The problem with Dr. Naik is that he has an ego problem and considers himself to be an authority on Islamic issues, Dr. Naik many a times stretches too far, creates controversies and lands into problems,” Alamdar said.