New Delhi: Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari has said though his post has been herditarily occupied by his family for 400 years, he would respect the Delhi High Court order asking him to explain his decision to pick his son as his successor.
He also strongly criticised the Waqf Board for stirring up the issue but added that the people were with him and “that’s the only thing that is important”.
Mr Bukhari is going ahead with the function, which is being held this evening.
Following a plea on the matter, the court, on November 21, said his move “has no legal sanctity” but had not cancelled the ceremony. Mr Bukhari has been asked to explain his move by January 28.
The post, Mr Bukhari said today, “has been held for over 400 years by my family, it is a tradition and a custom followed not just by us but also has the faith of the people.”
“We always knew it’s not a legal matter, though the Waqf wanted to make it one. We will respect the court order and send a representation to court on the 28th,” he said. The Waqf board, he added, “has no importance”. “The people are with me and that’s what is important.”
“Waqf was not there when Emperor Shahjahan made his son-in-law the first Imam of Jama Masjid. Waqf has been around for only 60-65 years,” he said. This, “no matter what the Waqf says, no imam can ever be an employee of Waqf.”
Launching a direct attack on the Waqf Board, he said, “What is the condition of Waqf properties across India?” Waqf properties are in a shambles everywhere, he said. “Cemetries, masjids, all are being sold… houses are being made inside masjids… ask any Muslim what they think of Waqf.”
The pleas challenging Mr Bukhari has contended that the mosque is the property of the Delhi Waqf Board, which administers Muslim religious properties, and the Shahi Imam cannot unilaterally decide his successor.
Earlier, Wajeeh Shafiq, advocate of Waqf Board had told NDTV, “The Imam is an employee of the Waqf Board. The relationship between an employer and employee should be respected.”