Behind the turban: Khaliquz Zaman of Shahi Masjid Chitral

Behind the turban

Muhammad Ali Mujahid

As the subordinate judiciary is hearing the case of a mentally disturbed man who committed blasphemy while performing Friday prayers in Shahi Masjid Chitral on April 21, 2017, all eyes are focused on Maulana Khaleequz Zaman who had saved him from being lynched by an angry mob.

Ironically the incident took place only eight days after lynching of Mashal Khan, a student of mass communication, by an angry mob of students at Abdul Wali Khan University Mardan on April 13, 2017. Generally, university students are taken as liberal folks while Mullas and Madrassa students are dubbed as conservative lot. But the two parallel incidents in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa proved that a university may produce conservative and extremist elements and a madrassa can produce enlightened and moderate minds and souls. Behind the turban, there are people who are not extremists.

Maulana Khaleequz Zaman is son of a veteran scholar Maulana Sahib Zaman, a graduate of Deoband and student of Maulana Hussain Ahmad Madani. He received his early education in a school and after matriculation went to Darul Ulum Islamia Chitral and got a degree of religious education from Wifaqul Madaris. He also pursued his studies for bachelors’ exam and did his BA and BEd consecutively. He is teaching in a school and leading Friday prayers in the biggest mosque of Chitral, the Shahi Masjid built in 1924.

On April 21, 2017, a mentally disturbed man entered Shahi Mosque Chitral during Friday prayers and claimed prophethood. On hearing that, the worshipers started advancing towards him to beat him to death. At this point, the Imam, Maulana Khaleequz Zaman, moved ahead and shielded the man. He told the charging mob that the man was mentally disturbed. He also immediately called the police which arrived from the nearby police station and took the man in their custody. While the mentally disturbed man was in police station, a large number of people from nearby madrassas gathered outside and besieged the police station. They wanted to lynch the man to death.

Meanwhile, the paramilitary force reached the spot and controlled the situation. The angry mob then went to the mosque and set the Imam’s car on fire. They also wanted to burn down his house but could not do that due to the presence of the police.

Maulana Khaleequz Zaman remained in hiding for a long time but saved the life of a half-witted man who was considered a “blasphemer” by the mob.

Famous blogger Aamir Hazarvi wrote on the incident and paid tributes to Maulana Khaleequz Zaman for his extraordinary wit, courage and law abiding attitude.

Iram Abbasi of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) filed a story from Shahi Masjid Chitral covering details of the event that followed the act of blasphemy in the grand mosque. She lauded the extraordinary valour and courage displayed by the cleric incharge of the mosque on the spot. She particularly mentioned his sharp response and befitting disposal of the accused to the safe hands of law enforcement agencies.

Famous columnist Waseem Altaf compared the character of the religious scholar with the valour of Neerja Bhanot, a flight stewardess of Pan-Am World Airways who had saved the lives of 359 passengers onboard the plane hijacked by four terrorists on September 5, 1986.

German Ambassador Bernard Schlagheck made it all the way from Islamabad to Chitral to meet the cleric. He paid homage to Maulana Zaman by saying that he was inspired by the broadminded approach and religious harmony which he showed in the unfortunate incident.

Had it been a country other than ours, the federal and provincial governments would definitely have awarded the cleric with a civil award for his prompt action and valor in saving the man charged with blasphemy in the hands of an angry mob. On the contrary, our rulers paid no heed to the demand of civil society and academia to this effect. It is high time that Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Minister Mehmood Khan and Governor Shah Farman honour the cleric with a national award.


Also: From secular to sectarian

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