In the 1990’s, our country was embroiled in the Lose- Lose Ram Temple- Babri Masjid controversy. Allow me to give the uninitiated a short history course. The majority community believed that an erstwhile minority community ruler destroyed a holy temple and constructed a mosque in its place . Almost 1000 years later, a militant wing of the majority community sought retribution, by razing the mosque to the ground and reinstating the temple. This issue divided the whole country along communal lines and unprecedented scenes of arson and killing happened all over. It was very tough to be non partisan and rational during those days as pain and hate inducing reports of death and atrocities were pouring in by the minute. I was in my teens and was quite effected by the happenings. I was mourning the destruction of the mosque and was giving vent to my feelings at every opportunity.
An ageing and wise relative who had called on us, called me aside and related a story from Islamic history that brought in tender showers of relief in my heart and soul. It gave me a new paradigm altogether. Let me share it with you today.
During the Caliphate of Omar Ibn Khattab (R.A) , Islam was spreading far and wide and hundreds of people were coming into its fold every day. The Governor of Egypt was facing a severe problem. The Masjid in the city was too small to accommodate the increasing number of believers. His only option was to renovate and enlarge the building. But a small house of a Coptic Christian lady stood as a major stumbling block to this plan. The house came in the way. The governor approached her and offered to give her a better place in the city and requested her to leave. She refused. He offered to pay her much more than the value of the land. She vehemently stuck to her stand. Finally the governor deposited this money in the treasury, enabling her to avail it any day and ordered for the destruction of the house.
The old lady was grief stricken. She went around seeking help. Someone told her that the Caliph in Medina, who was the commander of the faithful was a very just man. They advised her to meet him and seek his help. The old lady decided to do so. After travelling for many months, she reached medina and got to meet the Caliph. By this time, the house was demolished and the construction of the mosque was in full swing. The lady presented her case to the caliph. He pondered over the request for a while and sought the reason for her reluctance to move.
The lady tearfully said “My husband and sons are dead and they are buried in that compound. When I sleep in my house, I feel that they are standing guard over me and protecting me. I feel safe in their presence. I can never be comfortable anywhere else”
Upon hearing this, the just ruler ordered for the mosque to be demolished and the house to be rebuilt. The land was restored to her with honor.
The wise old man ended the story and opined “If you pray by treading on the tear drops of innocents, I don’t think they will be answered”.
I am not suggesting a solution for this age old highly politicized problem. But the tears of the old lady and the words of the caliph drove the radical out of my soul.. forever.