Chapter Nine
Rama-Janmabhumi Temple Muslim Testimony
Harsh Narain

All relevant British government records followed by the District Gazetteer Faizabad compiled and published by the Congress government in 1960 declare with one voice that the so-called Babari mosque at Ayodhya is standing on the debris of a Ramjanmasthan temple demolished by the order of Babar in 1528.  Syed Shahabuddin, JNU historians, and. self-styled ‘secular’ scholars and leaders are hotly contesting that the existence and demolition of such a temple is a myth floated by the British in pursuance of their policy of ‘divide and rule’.  Syed Shahabuddin and many Muslim divines go a step further and assert that neither Babar nor any other Muslim for that matter would take into his head to erect a mosque by displacing a temple, for, they argue, such a mosque would not be a mosque in the eye of the Shari’ah and would be liable to demolition by the Muslims themselves.

With this idea in mind, Syed Shahabuddin is going about proclaiming that, if it is shown independently of the British sources that the Babari mosque has displaced a temple, he would pull it down with his own hands and hand it over to the Hindus.

The challenge is worth taking, and I hereby do it with good grace, on behalf of those who place truth above politics.

Well, granting for the nonce that the Babari mosque cannot be shown to have displaced a temple, there are certain other mosques which can indisputably be shown to have done so. Is Syed Shahabuddin prepared to keep his word in the case of such mosques? It is common knowledge that most of the mosques built by the Muslim invaders stand on land grabbed or extorted from the Kafirs. And what about the Ka’bah itself?

Sayyid Shahabuddin Abdur Rahman, the well known Muslim historian who died in an accident recently, modifies the stand of the Muslim divines thus: ‘It is also thinkable that some mosque was erected close to or at a short distance from a temple demolished for some special reason, but never was a mosque built on the site of a temple anywhere.’ (See his Babri Masjid, 3rd print, Azamgarh: Darul Musannifin Shibli Academy, 1987, p. 19.)

As regards the verdict of the Shari’ah, it is true that there are theologico-juristic rulings to the effect that no mosque can be built on land grabbed or illegally/illegitimately acquired. See for example the great Fatawa-i Alamgiri, Vol. 16, p 214. But the question is, Do they hold true for land acquired in Jihad as well? The answer has to be an emphatic ‘No’. The Prophet has made it clear that all land belongs to God or the Prophet (A’lamu ann’l-arza li’llah-i wa rasul-i-hi), and, obviously, through the Prophet to the Muslims (Bukhari, II, Kitab al-Jibad wa’s- Siyar, Hadith 406). Iqbal puts the following words, in a Persian verse, into the mouth of Tariq, the great conqueror of Spain : Har mulk mulk-i ma’st ki mulk-i Khuda-i ma’st.  That is, all land belongs to the Muslims, because it belongs to their God. Ibn Taymiyyah, the 14th century theologian and jurist, argues that Jihad simply restores lands to the Muslims, to whom they rightly belong.  This serves to vouchsafe to them the moral right to extort lands in Jihad from others.

Thus, the argument from the Shari’ah has no leg to stand upon.

Now, I proceed to cite certain purely Muslim sources beyond the sphere of British influence to show that the Babari mosque has displaced a Hindu temple-the Ramjanmasthan temple, to be precise-wholly or partly.

First, an indirect evidence.  In an application dated November 30, 1858, filed by one Muhammad Ashghar, Khatib and Mu’azzin, Babari Masjid, to initiate legal proceedings against ‘Bairagiyan-i Janmasthan’, the Babari mosque has been called ‘masjid-i Janmasthan’ and the courtyard near the arch and the pulpit within the boundary of the mosque, ‘maqam Janmasthan ka’. The Bairagis had raised a platform in the courtyard which the applicant wanted to be dismantled. He has mentioned that the place of Janmasthan had been lying unkempt/in disorder (parishan) for hundreds of years and that the Hindus performed worship there (maqam Janmasthan ka sad-ha baras se parishan para rahta tha. Ahl-i Hunud puja karte they). See Sayyid Shahabuddin Abdur Rahman, op, cit., pp. 29-30.  Well, if the Babari mosque is the Janmasthan mosque, its courtyard is the Janmasthan, and the Hindus had all along been carrying out their worship, all that implies that there must have been some construction there as part of a (Janmasthan) temple, which Mir Baqi partly demolished and partly converted into the existing Babari mosque, with or without Babar’s approval. And the Hindus had no alternative but to make do with the temple-less courtyard. Otherwise, it is simply unthinkable that they might have been performing worship for such a long time and on such a sacred place without a proper temple.

Failure of Jihad

My second document is the Hadiqah-i Shuhada by one Mirza Jan, an eyewitness as well as active participant in the Jihad led by Amir Ali Amethawi during Wajid Ali Shah’s regime in 1855 for recapture of Hanuman Garhi (a few hundred yards from the Babari mosque) from the Hindus. The book was ready just after the failure of the Jihad and saw the light of day in the following year, viz. in 1856, at Lucknow. Ra’is Ahmad Jafari has included it as chapter IX in his book entitled Wajid Ali Shah aur Un-ka Ahd (Lucknow: Kitab Manzil, 1957), after, however, omitting what he considered unnecessary but without adding a word from his side.

Now, let us see what information we gather from it, germane to our enquiry. Mirza Jan states that ‘wherever they found magnificent temples of the Hindus ever since the establishment of Sayyid Salar Mas’ud Ghazi’s rule, the Muslim rulers in India built mosques, monasteries, and inns, appointed mu’azzins, teachers, and store-stewards, spread Islam vigorously, and vanquished the Kafirs. Likewise, they cleared up Faizabad and Avadh, too, from the filth of reprobation (infidelity), because it was a great centre of worship and capital of Rama’s father. Where there stood the great temple (of Ramjanmasthan), there they built a big mosque, and, where there was a small mandap (pavilion), there they erected a camp mosque (masjid-i mukhtasar-i qanati). The Janmasthan temple is the principal place of Rama’s incarnation, adjacent to which is the Sita ki Rasoi. Hence, what a lofty mosque was built there by king Babar in 923 A. H. (1528 A.D.), under the patronage of Musa Ashiqan! The mosque is still known far and wide as the Sita ki Rasoi mosque.  And that temple is extant by its side (aur pahlu mein wah dair baqi hai)’ (p. 247).

It must be borne in mind that Mirza Jan claims to write all this on the basis of older records (kutub-i sabiqah) and contemporary accounts.

My third document is a chapter of the Muraqqah-i Khusrawi, otherwise known as the Tarikh-i Avadh, by Shykh Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami (1811-1893), who happened to be an eyewitness to much that happened during Wajid Ali Shah’s regime. The work was completed in 1869 but could Pot see the light of day for over a century. Only one manuscript of it is extant and that is in the Tagore Library of Lucknow University. A press copy of it was prepared by Dr. Zaki Kakorawi for publication with the financial assistance of the Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad Memorial Committee, U.P., Lucknow. The committee vetoed the publication of its chapter dealing with the Jihad led by Amir Ali Amethawi for recapture of Hanuman Garhi from the Bairagis, from its funds, on the ground that its publication would not be opportune in view of the prevailing political situation, with the result that Dr. Kakorawi had to publish the book minus that chapter in 1986, for the first time.  Later, however, lie published the chapter separately, and independently of any financial or other assistance from the committee in 1987 from the Markaz-i Adab-i Urdu 137, Shahganj, Lucknow-3, under the title ‘Amir Ali Shahid aur Ma’rkah-i Hanuman Garhi’.

It is a pity that, thanks to our thoughtless ‘secularism’ and waning sense of history, such primary sources of medieval Indian history are presently in danger of suppression or total extinction.  Dr. Kakorawi himself laments that ‘suppression of any part of any old composition or compilation like this can create difficulties and misunderstandings for future historians and researchers’ (p. 3).

Well, what light does our author, Shykh Muhammad Azamat Ali Kakorawi Nami, have to throw on the issue of demolition versus non-existence of the Janmasthan temple?  The opening paragraph of his book is akin to the passage quoted above from Mirza Jan’s Hadiqah-i Shuhada. I give below the paragraph in the author’s own words, omitting very few details: ‘According to old records, it has been a rule with the Muslim rulers from the first to build mosques, monasteries, and inns, spread Islam, and put (a stop to) non-Islamic practices, wherever they found prominence (of kufr). Accordingly, even as they cleared up Mathura, Bindraban, etc., from the rubbish of non-Islamic practices, the Babari mosque was built up in 923(?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Musa Ashiqan in the Janmasthan temple (butkhane Janmasthan mein) in Faizabad-Avadh, which was a great place of (worship) and capital of Rama’s father’ (p. 9).  ‘Among the Hindus it was known as Sita ki Rasoi’ (p. 10). The passage has certain gaps, thanks to the wretched condition of the manuscript, which I have tried to fill within brackets.

Dr. Kakorawi has appended to the book an excerpt from the Fasanah-i Ibrat by the great early Urdu novelist. Mirza Rajab Ali Beg Surur (1787-1867), which constitutes our fourth document.  It says that ‘a great mosque was built on the spot where Sita ki Rasoi is situated. During the regime of Babar, the Hindus had no guts to be a match for the Muslims.  The mosque was built in 923(?) A.H. under the patronage of Sayyid Mir Ashiqan… Aurangzeb built a mosque on the Hanuman Garhi… The Bairagis effaced the mosque and erected a temple in its place. Then idols began to be worshipped openly in the Babari mosque where the Sita ki Rasoi is situated,’ (pp. 71-72). The author adds that ‘formerly, it is Shykh Ali Hazin’s observation which held good’ and quotes the following Persian couplet of the Shykh:

Bi-bin karamat-i butkhanah-i mara aiy Shaikh!
Ki chun kharab shawad khanah-i Khuda garded

Which means: O Shykh! just witness the miracle of my house of idols, which, when desecrated, or demolished, becomes the house of God (a mosque). So, purporting to mean that formerly temples were demolished for construction of mosques, the author, Surur, laments that ‘the times have so changed that now the mosque was demolished for construction of a temple (on the Hanuman Garhi)’ (p. 72).

Clinching the Issue

The forming four-fold documentary evidence leads us to certain incontrovertible conclusions, which can be stated as under:

1. That, in their zeal to hit Hinduism and spread Islam, the Muslim rulers had the knack of desecrating or demolishing Hindu temples and erecting mosques, etc., in their place-bigger mosques in place of bigger temples and smaller mosques in place of smaller temples.

2. That there did exist a temple called the temple of Janmasthan at Ayodhya, where Rama is believed to have incarnated and that adjacent to it was what is called Sita ki Rasoi, which might originally have been part of it.

3. That, like Muslim rulers who desecrated Mathura, Vrindavana, etc., Babar chose Ayodhya for spread of Islam and replacement of temples by mosques, thanks to its supreme importance as a holy place of the Hindus, and in 1528, under the patronage of Sayyid Mir Musa Ashiqan, got the so-called Babari mosque erected in displacement of the Rama Janmasthan temple, certain relics of which appear to have persisted at least till 1855.

4. That the Babari mosque was also called ‘masjid-i Janmasthan’ and ‘masjid-i Sita ki Rasoi’ from long before 1855.

5. That the Hindus had long been carrying on worship at the Rama Janmasthan even after the replacement of the Janmasthan temple by the Babari mosque.

6. That the foregoing facts are yielded by authentic Muslim records and have not been fabricated by the much-maligned British to ‘divide and rule’.

These conclusions are irresistible and should clinch the issue of demolition versus non-existence of the Ramjanmasthan temple.

Indian Express, February 26, 1990

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