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Does Mughal ‘farman’ hold key to Ayodhya land row?

A Hindu party cited Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s 400-year-old ‘farmans’ to argue that Babri Masjid could never be regarded as a mosque under Islamic law.

Aug 30, 2019, 11.02 AM IST
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(This story originally appeared in on Aug 30, 2019)
NEW DELHI: The vexed crosslitigation for ownership of the disputed 2.77 acre Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land in Ayodhya took an interesting turn on Thursday in the Supreme Court with a Hindu party citing Mughal emperor Shahjahan’s 400-year-old ‘farmans’ to argue that Babri Masjid could never be regarded as a mosque under Islamic law.

Appearing for Ram Janmasthan Punaruthan Samiti, senior advocate P N Mishra said for a structure to be regarded as a mosque, Islamic law mandates that it be constructed on land owned by a person who voluntarily dedicates it to Allah. He said a structure could never be regarded as a mosque if it was forcibly constructed on land owned by others or after destruction of a religious place belonging to another community.

Mishra first read out portions of the 2010 judgment of the Allahabad HC, which had divided the disputed land equally among idol Ram Lalla, Nirmohi Akhara and Sunni Waqf Board, to point out that there was no clear evidence to suggest the site on which the Babri structure stood was dedicated for the purpose of mosque by Mughal emperor Babur or his general Mir Baqi, who is believed to have constructed it in 1528.

A bench of CJI Ranjan Gogoi and Justices S A Bobde, D Y Chandrachud, Ashok Bhushan and S Abdul Nazeer said, “Let us talk about the (disputed) structure. You (Mishra) are arguing whether the owner of the land dedicated it for construction of the mosque. But it does not take away the fact that at the time of demolition (in 1992), a mosque stood there.”

Mishra said, “Shahjahan’s farmans prove my point that the structure can never be regarded as a mosque. In addition, Muslims had abandoned the mosque and never offered prayer twice daily at the structure, an essential norm under Islamic law to determine whether a building qualifies to be a mosque. Conversely, Hindus have been worshipping there for centuries. Under Islamic law, a mosque and temple can never co-exist.”

He gave details of farmans issued by Shahjahan. The first one cited by him was of August 3, 1648, narrating conversion of a temple belonging to one Sati Das Jawahari into a mosque by his son and then Gujarat governor Aurangzeb. Shahjahan ordered eviction of fakirs settled in the newly constructed mosque and asked the premises to be returned to Sati Das with full freedom to worship there. The farman had said, “By reason of it being the property of another person, it could not be considered a mosque according to inviolable Islamic law.”

Mishra asked if an cient Hindu temple was demolished or the Babri Masjid was constructed on its ruins, it could not be regarded as a mosque under the Islamic law. He went on to cite another farman of Shahjahan for acquiring land from Raja Jai Singh in 1633-34 for creation of waqf of Taj Mahal. The emperor had compensated Jai Singh by giving him sufficient land in lieu of the acquired land.

Mishra said since neither Babur nor Mir Baqi owned the land on which the temple stood and on whose ruins Babri Masjid was constructed, the structure could never be regarded as a mosque in the absence of a valid waqf. The Hindu parties will conclude their arguments on Friday and the Muslim parties will commence theirs on Monday.

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