April 18, 2011
Special Dispatch No. 3769

Saudi Sheikh Al-Sudayyis, Imam of Grand Mosque in Mecca: Need for Islamic Social Order in India; Muslims Should 'Bring the Kashmiris Out of the Indian Despotism'


In New Delhi, K. Rahman Khan, Deputy Chairman of Rajya Sabha (upper house of Indian parliament), hosted a banquet in honor of Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudayyis, the Imam of Mecca's Grand Mosque. Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attended, along with a host of lawmakers and politicians (Image courtesy: Arab News, Saudi Arabia, March 28, 2011)

In March 2011, Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, took a five-day trip to India at the invitation of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (Assembly of Indian Islamic Scholars). He was invited to address a conference in Delhi on the life of Prophet Muhammad's companions, arriving in New Delhi on March 24 and leaving March 28, 2011. During the trip, he also visited Darul Uloom Deoband, the second-largest Islamic seminary in the world after Cairo's Al-Azhar University. Various Indian Muslim organizations held several public events at which the Saudi cleric addressed Muslim audiences; the organizations included Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, Jamiat Ahle Hadees and the Students Islamic Organisation of India (SIO) as well as the India Islamic Cultural Centre, a government-facilitated Islamic community center.

On March 24, he was received at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi by Maulana Syed Arshad Madani, President of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind. On March 25, he was flown to Darul Uloom Deoband in the northern Uttar Pradesh state to deliver a lecture and lead prayers at the Rashidiya Mosque of Deoband. On March 26, Al-Sudayyis addressed the main event, the Azmat-e-Sahaba [Greatness of the Prophet's Companions] Conference, at the Ram Lila Grounds of Delhi. He also led prayers at the Jama Masjid, a 17th century mosque best known in India and built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.[1]  

In the Indian capital, he visited the headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind and addressed a gathering of Islamic scholars. He also laid the foundation stone for the Students' Islamic Center of the SIO, the student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind. Al-Sudayyis was also celebrated at the government level, with Indian Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and with ministers, lawmakers and leaders of political parties attending a banquet in his honor.[2]  The banquet was hosted by K. Rahman Khan, deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian parliament).

The following are excerpts of media reports on Sheikh Al-Sudayyis' visit, from reports on him from the MEMRI archives, and from op-eds on the visit.

Al-Sudayyis Urges Indian Muslims To "Unite to Change the Social Order," Says: "The Followers of Islam Should… Use the Internet and Electronic Media to Spread the Religion in Modern Times"

Following are some excerpts of media reports on his visit:

Sheikh Al-Sudayyis delivered a lecture at the Rashidiya Mosque of Darul Uloom Deoband, in the town of Deoband, stating: "It's only modern education through which a community can progress… It is responsibility of the religious leaders to spread the message of peace in the world so that violence can cease…"[3]

At a program to lay the foundation stone of SIO's Students Islamic Centre in New Delhi, Sheikh Al-Sudayyis said: "I am very happy to learn that the SIO is playing an important role in the Indian society… The student community is a vital source of development and progress for any country…"[4]

Addressing religious students on the occasion, the Saudi imam urged Indian Muslims "to unite to change the social order" in India, calling upon "the student community to work together to change the social order and bring about progress and prosperity."[5]

At the Azmat-e-Sahaba Conference, held by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind (the oldest organization of Islamic clerics in India), Al-Sudayyis called for establishing up a television channel dedicated to spreading the teachings of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad and stressing the importance of inculcating values professed by the sahaba, the Companions of the Prophet, in their daily lives. He stated: "A special TV channel should be set up to ensure that people get to know about the noble lives of the sahaba and their values and messages…"[6] He continued: "If the sahabah had not gone about spreading the Prophet's message, Islam would not have grown. The followers of Islam should, therefore, use the Internet and electronic media to spread the religion in modern times."[7] His call to set up a special television channel came at a time when his hosts, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, have urged Indian Muslims not to watch television and cinema.

On March 26, he also visited the headquarters of Jamaat-e-Islami Hind in Delhi, where he addressed a gathering of religious scholars and Islamic activists. According to a report in the Urdu-language newspaper Dawat, he told the audience: "As Muslims, moderation, balance and following a middle path should be our tenet. Extremism is contrary to the soul of the Ummat-e-Wasat [Muslims on middle path]…"[8]

He also stressed the principles of "interpersonal harmony, brotherhood, consensus and unity" and added: "In our religion, the foundations of unity and consensus are deeper and wide when compared to differences."[9] Al-Sudayyis said: "The Sunnah of the Prophet [Muhammad], peace be upon him and his teachings, are enough for guiding us in every walk of life… It is also necessary to remain aware of and away from internalizing un-Islamic concepts coming from outside."[10]

Al-Sudayyis added: "The preaching of Islam has a consistent history… no era or region has been devoid of striving and spread of the religion of Allah. In a pluralist society like India, the need of the hour is to continue the preaching activities… Good behavior is the best way to overcome the misunderstandings of the world's nations [regarding Islam] and to bring them together."[11]

On March 28, prior to his departure, he restated his message to Indian Muslims at a meeting with a group of journalists. According to a report in the Urdu-language daily Roznama Sahafat, Sheikh Al-Sudayyis "urged Muslims to follow a path of brotherhood, moderation… and steadfastness in religion; and appealed for not creating a controversy around doctrinal differences [among Islamic sects]… A Muslim is peace-loving, justice-seeking moderate, and a lover of truth and beneficial to humanity…"[12]

At a meeting at the headquarters of Jamiat Ahle Hadees in Delhi, Al-Sudayyis also prayed for a "peaceful resolution" of the Kashmir issue.[13]

He was also invited to visit Kashmir in future by Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, president of the Jammu and Kashmir Jamiat Ahle Hadees. While accepting Maulana Showkat Shah's invitation to visit Kashmir, Al-Sudayyis said that he was eager to witness the natural beauty of the Kashmir valley and commented on the problems faced by the Muslim Ummah, stating: "The Muslims around the globe are facing many challenges. It is high time for the Ummah to forge unity and work for spreading the message of Islam."[14]

From the MEMRI Archives – Al-Sudayyis: Muslims Should Do Their Part "To Bring the Kashmiris Out of the Indian Despotism and Autocracy"

In May 2009, Al-Sudayyis said that Muslims must do their part "to bring the Kashmiris out of the Indian despotism and autocracy, and [Muslims] should join hands with Kashmiris in this crucial situation… The Indian Army launched genocide by killing innocent children and by raping women; mosques were being demolished and they wanted to impose the secular and blasphemous system in Kashmir…"[15]

From the MEMRI Archives – Al-Sudayyis: "Oh, Allah, Heal Our Sick, Have Mercy On Our Dead; Liberate Our Al-Aqsa Mosque From the Defilement of the Occupying and Brutal Zionists"

Addressing worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in July 2005, Al-Sudayyis stated: "With all the violence and bombings that today's world has suffered, and with all the terrorism and destruction which have robbed the world of sleep, which are considered by all intelligent and honorable people as criminal, which are prohibited by all esteemed Muslim scholars, and whose negative effects afflict the Islamic nation – one of the most dangerous wars to afflict the Islamic nation and to cause atrophy and decadence to nations and civilizations is the war against virtue and to promote vice.

"The noble Islamic law deals with all issues. One of the most important issues is protecting women's honor – indeed, defending families, and protecting societies and generations from the flames of vice, from the removal of the veil, from the volcanoes of debauchery, from the storms of evil, from the armies of harlotry, from the voracity of pleasure, and from bestial libertinism.

"The most dangerous weapon which the enemy has raised against us – with which he tore to pieces our established order, and with which he soiled our spiritual and social purity, is the terrible deluge of all manner of vice, which is considered a form of moral terrorism against the values, ideals, and virtues of the Islamic nation.

"[This war is waged] by means of the licentious satellite channels and the vile spider-webs of the Internet, whose gloom fills the sky with darkness and spreads its stench in all directions, and by means of those hidden computer discs, which are the cauldron of sin, consumed by the old, young, and inexperienced, while fathers, mothers, and educators are heedless and negligent.

"Oh brethren in faith, morning has dawned upon all with eyes to see, without ambiguity or falsehood. It has become clear that the enemies of virtue, the marshals of licentiousness, and the heroes of sexual promiscuous pleasures have a most ill-fated hope and aspiration to export sexual diseases and vice in the form of a plague, which shall crush the fortresses of the Muslims, the fortresses of honor and virtue, and they hope that [Muslims] will abandon the castles of chastity, honor, and virtue, which have been effaced by time, and have become a matter of the past.

"Oh, Allah, heal our sick, have mercy on our dead, release our prisoners, and save our Al-Aqsa Mosque. Oh Allah, liberate our Al-Aqsa Mosque from the defilement of the occupying and brutal Zionists. Oh Allah, make it high and mighty until Judgment Day. Oh Allah, punish the occupying Zionists and their supporters from among the corrupt infidels. Oh Allah, scatter and disperse them, and make an example of them for those who take heed."[16]

From the MEMRI Archives – Al-Sudayyis: "Oh Sons of Brave Mujaheedin… You have Revived the Hopes of This [Islamic] Nation Through Your Blessed Jihad"

Addressing worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in April 2004, Al-Sudayyis stated: "The history of the [Jewish] people is written in black ink, and has included a series of murders of the prophets, the Mujaheedin, and righteous people. This, although the book [that] descended upon Moses is all mercy. Allah has said: 'And [it] is preceded by the Book of Moses, which was a guide and a mercy for people before him…' So where is this mercy in all this barbarity, devoid of moral and human values? But maybe it is the beginning of their end.

"Oh brothers in the land of missions and the cradle of valor, oh sons of brave Mujaheedin, oh descendents of conquering heroes…You have revived the hopes of this nation through your blessed Jihad. By Allah, be patient until, with Allah's help, one of two good things will be awarded you: either victory or martyrdom. Our hearts are with you; our prayers are dedicated to you. The Islamic nation will not spare money or effort in support of your cause, which is the supreme Muslim cause, until the promise made by Allah, who never breaks a promise, is fulfilled."[17]

From the MEMRI Archives – Al-Sudayyis Describes Jews as "Scum of Human Race," "Rats of the World," "Offspring of Apes and Pigs" 

In a 2002sermon, Al-Sudayyis described the Jews as "the scum of the human race, the rats of the world, the violators of pacts and agreements, the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs."[18]

In another sermon, he called to Muslims: "Read history and you will understand that the Jews of yesterday are the evil fathers of the Jews of today, who are evil offspring, infidels, distorters of [others'] words, calf-worshippers, prophet-murderers, prophecy-deniers... the scum of the human race 'whom Allah cursed and turned into apes and pigs...' These are the Jews, an ongoing continuum of deceit, obstinacy, licentiousness, evil, and corruption..."[19]

From the MEMRI Archives – Al-Sudayyis: "Only One Nation is Capable of Resuscitating Global Civilization – And That Is the Nation" of Islam"

In an address to worshippers at the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 2002, Al-Sudayyis stated: "The most noble civilization ever known to mankind is our Islamic civilization. Today, Western civilization is nothing more than the product of its encounter with our Islamic civilization in Andalusia [medieval Spain] and other places. The reason for [Western civilization's] bankruptcy is its reliance on the materialistic approach, and its detachment from religion and values. [This approach] has been one reason for the misery of the human race, for the proliferation of suicide, mental problems… and for moral perversion…

"Western civilization's credibility as the one capable of leading the world to happiness and man to stability - is shaken… Only one nation is capable of resuscitating global civilization, and that is the nation [of Islam]… No decent man in the world will deny that there has never been a culture more merciful towards [all] creatures, with more supreme values, and which rules with greater justice than [Islam]… While the false cultures sink in the swamp of materialism and suffer moral crises… our Islamic nation is the one worthy of grasping the reins of leadership and riding on the back of the horse of pioneering and world sovereignty…

"When this happens, our nation will not use cultural progress as a tool for exploiting the peoples, exhausting their resources, and dishonoring them. It will not use [scientific] inventions and discoveries to spread secularism and support terror... It will not use military equipment and war technologies as an excuse to threaten the security of countries and peoples, or for barbaric and wild operations, and it will not recruit the media to mislead public opinion… The Islamic message, whose aim is to save the human race and to bring about happiness for man who is today lost in the dark tunnels of injustice and misery… takes this burden upon itself…"[20]

Urdu Newspaper Questions Aim of Al-Sudayyis's India Visit, Asks Why There Was No Event on the "Zionist Aggression Against Palestine," "Uprisings in the Middle East"

Roznama Dawat, an Urdu-language newspaper published by Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, carried a short comment following Sheikh Al-Sudayyis's visit questioning the purpose of the trip. A comment on the front page of the Urdu daily noted: "One point is not clear. The main and real purpose of the Imam-e-Haram [Imam of Grand Mosque in Kaaba] was to participate in the Azmat-e-Sahaba [Greatness of the Prophet's Companions] Conference. The gathering in the Ram Lila Ground [of Delhi] was given the title of Azmat-e-Sahaba Conference, announcements about which were being made in local Urdu newspapers for several days before.

"The question that comes to mind is: What was the need for a conference under this theme, that was also with the participation of the Imam-e-Haram? Is it that the Muslim Ummah is not aware of the greatness of the Companions, or there is some decline in this? Has any person or group in the world committed a blasphemous act against the Companions? Is the greatness of the Companions under attack somewhere?

"There are many topics for conferences and gatherings: uprisings in the Middle East, the Zionist aggression against Palestine, the conspiracies of Islam's enemies against the Muslim Ummah and Islam. Any of these themes could have been the topic of the conference. Why was a non-issue [Greatness of the Companions, the theme of the main conference] made an issue?"[21]

Indian Author Sadia Dehlvi Questions Al-Sudayyis's India Visit, Examines Saudi Role in Spreading Islamic Extremism

In an article titled "Keeping the inclusive faith," renowned Indian author Sadia Dehlvi, who was invited by the Indian Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi, to attend one of Al-Sudayyis's events, questioned the purpose of Al-Sudayyis's visit and the undue honor accorded to a government-appointed cleric from Saudi Arabia.

Ms. Dehlvi, a socialite of Delhi and a renowned Islamic reformist writer, commented on the visit by examining the role of Saudi Arabia in spreading Wahhabism and extremist Islam worldwide. She also questioned the organizers of the visit for using such appellation as "His Holiness" in conjunction with Al-Sudayyis.


Ms. Sadia Dehlvi is the author of Sufism: The Heart of Islam

Following are excerpts from her article:[22]

"The Early History of Islam Contains No Examples of Spiritual or Religious Leaders Accepting State or Private Awards [like Al-Sudayyis]"

"Imam Al-Sudayyis's India visit to lecture at the Deoband seminary is sending some sections of the Muslim community into overdrive. I received a card from the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) in Delhi to attend an address by 'His Holiness,' Imam-e-Haram, Dr. Sheikh Abd Al-Rahman Al-Sudayyis, presently imam of the mosque in Mecca. The accompanying letter details the imam's achievements including his educational degrees in Sharia law. In 2005, he received 'The Islamic Figure of the Year' award and was nominated for the Dubai International Quran Award, which he accepted.

"The 'His Holiness' came as a jolt, for no such prefixes have ever been added to the Prophet Muhammad's name or to that of his companions, who rank the highest in Muslim piety. As one devoted to Islam, I believe that using the Quran to name an award belittles the sanctity of God's word and borders on blasphemy. Legitimizing such an award by its acceptance seems a worse action. The early history of Islam contains no examples of spiritual or religious leaders accepting state or private awards [like Al-Sudayyis]. On the contrary, Sharia and prophetic traditions frown upon those who seek or allow public adulation, for all righteous deeds are for God alone.

"The Deoband leadership has requested that Al-Sudayyis not be frisked during his visit to Parliament [in New Delhi]. Due respect must be accorded to the visiting imam, because he leads the prayers at the Kaaba. This reverence flows from 'where' the prayers are led and not because of 'who' the imam is. To quote Arshad Madani of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind, 'Sheikh Al-Sudayyis is the highest religious leader of the Muslims.' This is misleading because Al-Sudayyis merely represents the highest-ranking sacred space. The worldwide Muslim majority does not subscribe to the radical Wahhabi ideology propagated by Saudi clerics."

"Saudi Clerics, Including Al-Sudayyis, Face International Criticism for Inciting Passions Against the Barelvis, Shias, Other Muslim Minorities and Non-Muslims"

"This [Wahhabi] political, narrow, legalistic and literalist interpretation of Islam emerged from the desert wastelands of Najd in Saudi Arabia from among the followers of the Bedouin Abd Al-Wahhab, an 18th century self-claimed reformist. The trajectory of the Wahhabi movement is rooted in violence, legitimizing jihad as an armed conflict to kill fellow Muslims in disagreement with their vision of Islam by declaring them kafirs, infidels. Related to the ruling family through matrimonial alliances, Abdul Wahhab's family continues to control the ministry of religion, quashing many reforms desired by the political leadership, particularly by the present moderate King Abdullah.

"The Wahhabis, who call themselves 'Salafis,' have a limited following in the [Indian] subcontinent. It includes the Deoband seminary, Tablighi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith and the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan. Together, they constitute not more than 15 to 20% of the total population. Unfortunately, the government and the public fall prey to media-driven stereotypes. The perceptions of these factions representing majority Muslim opinion are baseless. Muslims are not monolithic communities but adhere to varied interpretations of Islam. In India and Pakistan, the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat represented by the Barelvi creed has the largest following.

"Saudi clerics, including Al-Sudayyis, face international criticism for inciting passions against the Barelvis, Shias, other Muslim minorities and non-Muslims. The Saudi state outsources its Wahhabi ideology by spending billions of dollars in patronizing the building and running of mosques, madrassas, journals and cleric training programs. It remains the fountainhead of the extremism infiltrating Muslim communities, tearing their local cultures apart. The bombing of dargahs [shrines] and Shia mosques in Pakistan is one such manifestation."

"The Saudi State has Robbed All Muslims in the World of Their Legitimate Cultural, Historical and Spiritual Legacy, Both in the Physical and Spiritual Realm"

"The Saudi state has robbed all Muslims in the world of their legitimate cultural, historical and spiritual legacy, both in the physical and spiritual realm. In 1925, despite global outrage, all mausoleums including those of the Prophet's family at Jannat-ul Maali and Jannat-ul Baqi, the sacred graveyards of Mecca and Medina, were demolished. Once reflecting Islamic glory and heritage, the bulldozed compounds are now typical Wahhabi burial grounds with rows of featureless unmarked graves. Several other historical sites continue to be obliterated.

"Throughout history, Sufis and their disciples from different parts of the globe inhabited Mecca and Medina, the first centers of spiritual Islam. Now, the constant patrolling by the mutawwah, the religious police, ensures that pilgrims do not participate in collective spiritual gatherings. Forced to follow Wahhabi practices, devotees in Medina are not allowed to face the Prophet's chamber in supplication.

"Women face severe restrictions of time and space at the sacred mosques. It is decreed sinful and therefore criminal to write, read, sing or listen to 'naat,' poetic praise of the Prophet. Enforcements have washed away these traditions commonplace during Prophet Muhammad's life. Thirty-five of the Prophet's poet companions composed naat, Hassan ibn Thabit being his favorite.

"The aims and objective of the IICC is to preserve and promote the composite and inclusive cultural traditions of Indian Muslims. Since its inception, the Centre has been trying to decode which cultural activities are Shari'a-compliant and which are not..."


Endnotes:

[1] A video of Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais leading prayers at Delhi's Jama Masjid can be viewed by visiting http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_-gxvevVM8&feature=player_embedded#at=11

[2] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 28, 2011.

[3] www.sify.com (India), March 27, 2011.

[4] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 28, 2011.

[5] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 28, 2011.

[6] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 28, 2011. Ironically, Al Sudayyis's call to set up special television channel to spread the message of Islam came at a time his hosts Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind has asked Indian Muslims not to watch television and cinema.

[7] www.indianexpress.com (India), March 27, 2011.

[8] Dawat (India), April 4, 2011.

[9] Dawat (India), April 4, 2011.

[10] Dawat (India), April 4, 2011.

[11] Dawat (India), April 4, 2011.

[12] Roznama Sahafat (India), March 29, 2011.

[13] www.greaterkashmir.com, India, March 27, 2011.

[14] www.greaterkashmir.com, India, March 27, 2011.

[15] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 2365, "Al-Qaradhawi, Al-Sudayyis, Other Prominent Arab Islamic Scholars: Kashmiri Movement Is Jihad," May 20, 2009, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/3299.htm

[16] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 939, "Friday Sermon By Leading Saudi Imam Al-Sudayyis in Mecca: 'Oh Allah, Liberate Our Al-Aqsa Mosque… Punish the Occupying Zionists and Their Supporters Among The Corrupt Infidels… Oh Allah, Scatter and Disperse Them,'" July 21, 2005, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1419.htm.

[17] MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 939, "Friday Sermon By Leading Saudi Imam Al-Sudayyis in Mecca: 'Oh Allah, Liberate Our Al-Aqsa Mosque… Punish the Occupying Zionists and Their Supporters Among The Corrupt Infidels… Oh Allah, Scatter and Disperse Them,'" July 21, 2005, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1419.htm.

[18] MEMRI Special Report No. 11, "Based on Koranic Verses, Interpretations, and Traditions, Muslim Clerics State: The Jews Are the Descendants of Apes, Pigs, And Other Animals," November 1, 2002, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/754.htm .

[19] MEMRI Special Report No. 11, "Based on Koranic Verses, Interpretations, and Traditions, Muslim Clerics State: The Jews Are the Descendants of Apes, Pigs, And Other Animals," November 1, 2002, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/754.htm.

[20] Friday Sermons in Saudi Mosques: Review and Analysis, MEMRI Special Dispatches Series No. 10, September 26, 2002. See the dispatch by clicking the following link: http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/736.htm.

[21] Roznama Dawat (India), April 4, 2011.

[22] Times of India (India), March 24, 2011.  The text of the article has been lightly edited for clarity.


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