Do you know who Pasmanda Muslims are? Is there any casteism in Indian Muslims? Do Muslims feel that a section among them belongs to the lower caste? When we see a Muslim, these questions often do not strike us. However, there is a lot of discrimination among the Muslim communities, which in the words of Pasmanda activist Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, is hidden from the outer world.
The story of Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie, who left Tablighi Jamaat
Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie was a young, energetic Muslim who had a deep connection with Tablighi Jamaat since the time he remembers. When he was growing up, he used to see his paternal relatives going to Jamaat and dedicatedly following the guidelines provided by their leader. Faiyaz, who discussed why he left Tablighi Jamaat and why he is fighting for the rights of Pasmanda Muslims, said that his father was not happy with him going to Jamaat.
“He was, what you may call, a liberal,” Faiyaz said during a conversation with Abhinav Prakash on Urban Chatterati. His father did not want them to get ‘radicalized’. However, Faiyaz and his twin brother continued going to Jamaat and helping other members of the community. When he started going to college in Allahabad (now Prayagraj), he felt more connected to the Jamaat. He used to go to Jamaat at least 2-3 times a day.
‘Everything was fine from outside, but not from the inside’ – Faiyaz
Slowly, Faiyaz became more connected to Tablighi Jammat. He used to bring more members of his community to join and follow Jamaat. So much so, there was a time when he became one of the popular faces in Jamaat. He used to give lectures and spread the word about the teachings of Jamaat. He said Jamaat teaches about the world down under and up above, what lies in between is equal to the wings of a mosquito. However, what he observed during his visits to Jamaat was different.
During his conversation, Faiyaz mentioned Taril Jamil, a famous Tablighi leader, who tells his followers to stop worrying about worldly things and concentrate on developing a connection with ‘Allah’. “To tell his followers that they should not worry about the materialistic things, he leaves his posh house and come in an expensive vehicle,” said Faiyaz sarcastically. He said while the leaders of Jamaat tell others to follow a simple life, they prefer luxurious amenities.
Khawas and Awam – The discrimination that you don’t notice
In Jamaat, there are two sections of people. The first section is Awam, which includes common people. The second section is Khawas, which includes scholars, elites and the prosperous section of the society. The leaders of Jamaat belong to the latter. Faiyaz said when he had the chance to enter the room of Khawas for the first time, he was in shock to see that the leaders who tell them to eat together were eating on separate plates.
“They told us more hands in a plate, more will be prosperity, but they themselves preferred to eat in separate plates. I was shocked to see the real face of the leaders,” said Faiyaz. Unfortunately, he said, the problems with Jamaat did not end there.
Nepotism is deep-rooted in Jamaat
Faiyaz said that it is impossible for anyone who is not from Muhammad Ilyas Kandhlawi’s family to become the head of Jamaat. There were some instances when someone from lower caste became the head, but he was removed after an uproar among the upper caste or Ashrafs in Jamaat.
He mentioned a book by Masood Alam Falahi titled “Hindustan Mein Zaat-Paat Aur Musalman“, in which the author detailed the problems within the Muslim community. In the 9th chapter, according to Faiyaz, the author detailed the wrongdoings of leaders in Jamaat and how they discriminated against the Indian Muslims.
While explaining the deep-rooted nepotism in Jamaat, Faiyaz said that when Maulana Saad, the current leader of Jamaat, got old enough to be declared as the head of Jamaat, his cousin Maulana Zubair was also eligible. They took turns and worked as Ameer or head of the Jamaat. As soon as Zubair died, Saad declared himself as the head of Jamaat, which was opposed by those who followed Zubair. “It was a bloodbath in Nizamudin Markaz,” said Faiyaz. Now, there are two Jamaats, one headed by Saad and the other by Zubair’s son Zuhair.
The Pasmandas – Lower caste Muslims who are invisible
Faiyaz said that around 90% of Muslims in India are considered to be Pasmanda Muslims. When it comes to discussing the rights of Muslims, no one consider their voices. They do not get any position as a lawmaker. In an interview with Kushal Mehra for The Cārvāka Podcast, Faiyaz said that everyone puts Pasmanda Muslims in front and collect money for their upliftment. However, the Ashrafs control the funds and the money collected never reaches Pasmanda.
Pasmanda Muslims are the soldiers, not leaders: Faiyaz
He said that the leaders who belong to the upper caste, a.k.a Sheikhs etc., do not indulge in doing any work. They only prepare soldiers among Pasmanda Muslims. The influence of such leaders is deep-rooted in Pasmanda that even the educated ones leave their professions and open madarsas. “These upper-caste leaders or Ashrafs are the cause of all disputes in the country. They want to create an Islamic state. They believe that it will be their victory if they take the world back to the medieval times,” said Faiyaz.
He said that Jamaat is banned in many Islamic countries, but it is unfortunate for India that everything is allowed here in the name of secularism. The discrimination among Muslims is deep-rooted, and most of the benefits of government schemes are taken away by the Ashrafs. Pasmanda Muslims mostly never see those benefits. “Ashraf ke biryani se bhare hue pet ko shahi tukda dena, yehi Bharat ka secularism hai (Giving benefits to the already prosperous Ashraf community is what secularism means in India),” said Faiyaz.
No representation for Pasmanda Muslims
Faiyaz said there is no representation of Pasmanda Muslims in parliament or even the Muslim Personal Law Board. Every official on the board belongs to the upper caste. If someone tries to speak for the Pasmanda Muslims, the voice is silenced by the leaders. He said it was because of the increasing influence of Britishers that Muslim leaders of that time started building madarsas; otherwise, they were happy to keep lower-caste Muslims uneducated. “Britishers taught everyone English in 150 years, but they could not teach anyone Arabic,” said Faiyaz.
He added that even the government is unable to see the discrimination among the Muslim community. Before, it was Congress, and not it is BJP who is blind-sighted by the Ashraf leaders. No one talks about Pasmanda Muslims and the discrimination that they have to face daily.
The breaking point
Faiyaz said there was no single event that forced him away from Jamaat. A series of events and the teachings of his father played a vital role in his journey away from Jamaat. Every time he saw discrimination among Muslims in Jamaat, he detached himself from the community a little more.
Faiyaz now works as an activist to bring change in the lives of Pasmanda Muslims.