The essentiality of mosques

Why the Supreme Court needs to reconsider the Ismail Faruqui verdict
The importance of mosques in Islam has come into focus again. During the hearing of the Babri Masjid case, advocate Rajeev Dhavan asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its judgment in Ismail Faruqui v. Union Of India (1994). The Bench in that case had ruled by a majority that a mosque is not essential to Islam, and allowed the Central government to include the 2.77 acres (on which the Babri Masjid once stood) in the 67.7 acres of land to be acquired under the Acquisition of Certain Area at Ayodhya (ACAA) Act, 1993.
Among the court’s arguments to justify the acquisition of Babri Masjid land was that “a mosque is not an essential part of the practice of… Islam and Namaz (prayer) by Muslims can be offered anywhere, even in open.” This conclusion was reached on the belief that “under the Mahomedan Law applicable in India, title to a mosque can be lost by adverse possession”. As proof, the judges cited Section 217 from Mulla’s Principles of Mahomedan Law.
A reading of the Koran and authentic traditions of the Prophet make clear the significance of the mosque in Islam. In fact, the first act of the Prophet after migrating to Medina was to establish a mosque. The Prophet had demonstrated by example that mosques went beyond the ritualism of ‘worship’. They were spiritual, humanitarian and educational centres open to all people irrespective of their social, financial or racial status, or gender, thus emphasising the importance of equality for social progress. The Koran protects this higher purpose from being compromised by listing the qualities of people who are allowed to maintain mosques.
In the minority judgment, which struck down the entire ACAA Act as unconstitutional, Justices S.P. Bharucha and A.M. Ahmadi flagged Section 7(2) and noted that it “perpetuates the performance of puja on the disputed site. No account is taken of the fact that the structure thereon had been destroyed in a most reprehensible act. The perpetrators of this deed struck not only against a place of worship but at the principles of secularism, democracy and the rule of law…” The judges also said that Article 15 of the Constitution debars the state from discriminating against any citizen on the ground of religion, among other things. These facts, coupled with the lack of scriptural evidence to prove that the mosque is not an essential part of Islam, lay the groundwork for the Supreme Court to reconsider the Ismail Faruqui verdict at the earliest.
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