Not going to Iraq to fight but to protect our holy shrines and do voluntary services: Anjman-e-Haidari

By M Reyaz,,

New Delhi: Last few days national and international media reported the ‘recruitment’ of over 25,000 Shia Muslims by Delhi based Anjman e Haidari across the country, who are willing to go and fight against the Sunni rebels of Islamic State in Iraq and the Syria (ISIS) in Iraq. Anjman e Haidari, however, sort to clarify that they are not encouraging people to go and fight in Iraq, but people are coming forward to protect the holy shrines and perform voluntary services, like providing nursing, donating blood, etc.

Support TwoCircles

Speaking to at the office of the Anjman-e-Haidari at Dargah Shah-e-Mardan, Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, General Secretary of the organization said, “We are not running any recruitment drive to fight in Iraq,” adding, “people are registering voluntarily to defend the holy shrines.”


“We will primarily do the voluntary work like donating blood, nursing the injured, providing humanitarian aid, etc. But if the holy sites are attacked, we will form human-shields around the shrine to safe-guard them,” he told TCN, adding, “We are not going to protect Iraq, but are concerned only with the shrines.”

Since the news of recruitment came people have been questioning the motive and flayed the decision to create sectarian frenzy and wondered if at all they will ever go.

Showing the registration form of Razakars (volunteers), he explains that whoever registers to go, take pledge to protect the holy sites “by all means legal, just and moral.” The application form, nowhere, mentions the word ‘fight’ or ‘jihad,’ but condemns “terrorism of all kinds,” stressing on the belief that “the principles of humanity, justice and peaceful co-existence of all are most precious and must be defended at all costs.”

The volunteers also take the pledge to “not violate any Indian, International (laws) or those of host country Iraq.”

‘Not Sectarian’

The recruitment drive had also raised questions that it will encourage sectarianism, engulfing Shia-Sunni divide. Confronted with the question, Bahadur Abbas Naqvi retorted, “Are revered sites in Karbala or Najaf not holy to Sunni Muslims?” We all are Muslims and whether Mecca or Karbala are revered places for all of us, he said adding that Imam Hussain was the grandson of the Prophet Muhhamd and is revered by even Sunnis, although there maybe ideological differences.

Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi leading a protest against attack of ISIS rebels.
Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi leading a protest against attack of ISIS rebels.

He elaborated that the current conflict in Iraq is not a Shia-Sunni conflict, pointing that most of the cities captured so far are not Shia dominated but Sunni dominated regions and yet local population, by and large have remained aloof from the conflict and are deserting the places. “This is not a revolution of local population, but acts of terrorism by misguided outsiders,” he said. The real battle is for the oil-field, he said.

“In the name of terrorism, some people are defaming Islam world over. Killing innocent people is not Islam and we want to show to the world that we are the true Muslims who are selflessly working, donating blood, defending our revered places, while abiding by the laws, and that is the real face of Islam,” the general secretary of the Anjuman said.

Bahadur Abbas Naqvi explained that although overwhelming number of people who have come forward are Shias, but their aim is not at all sectarian. “About a lakh people have already registered across the country, and around 1000 of them are Sunnis. Another 500 are non-Muslims,” he said while flipping through the registrations of stacked in several files, adding that over 20% of those who have registered are females.

People who have registered so far included doctors, engineers students, businessmen, etc, besides clerics. Some of the prominent Shia clerics who have registered themselves included Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi, Maulana Firoze Hussain, Maulana Musir Raza, Maulana Mohammad Qasim Zaidi , Imam of Qanati Masjid, etc.

He reminded that in collaboration with Khudai Khidmatgar, they also organized a peace march for Shia-Sunni unity.

Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, General Secretary of Anjuman-e-Haidari.
Syed Bahadur Abbas Naqvi, General Secretary of Anjuman-e-Haidari.

Is it mere consolidation drive to reap the advantage of emotional outburst of faithful?

Asked if Anjuman-e-Haidari is using recruitment drive as a ploy to reap the advantages of emotional outburst of faithfuls who are angry at what’s happening in Iraq, Bahadur Abbas Naqvi laughs at the suggestion. “The campaign is being led by Maulana Kalbe Jawad, who does not need any publicity stunt as he is a celebrated and respected cleric of Shias,” he says, adding that the Anjuman had been leading the agitation for Karbala (Replica of original Karbala) of Delhi for over three years now, and their organization or Dargah Shah-e-Mardan does not need any campaign to become famous.

Maulana Syed Kalbe Jawad Naqvi is a Shia Muslim cleric and scholar from Lucknow, and comes from a family of scholars known as “Khandaan-e-Ijtehad”.

Bahadur Abbas Naqvi
Bahadur Abbas Naqvi

Anjuman-e-Haidari is responsible for the preservation and upkeep of the trust of Dargah Shah-e-Mardan and has been at the forefront of battle over the Waqf land dispute at the heart of the city in Jor Bagh.

“We have been fighting for the Karbala Replica, and if it’s time to safe-guard the real Karbala, we should not flinch,” Bahadur Abbas Naqvi told TCN.

People associated with the Jor Bagh land dispute case were agitated when they heard about the imminent danger to Shia shrines and holy sites in Iraq and approached the Anjuman and expressed their willingness to safeguard them, he claimed and that’s when Maulana Kalbe Jawad and others decided to take initiative and act as “facilitator.”

Even if there is not political motive and the intent of the people are entirely based on faith, there seems to be logistic problem at a time when Indian Government is grappling with the problem to safe exit of Indian workers in the war torn country.

Government of India has issued an advisory urging Indian national to avoid traveling to Iraq and has urged workers to vacate the conflict torn region. Government is working overtime to evacuate over 100 workers apparently trapped in the conflict region.

Maulana Kalbe Jawad
Maulana Kalbe Jawad filling details in the registration form.

Logistic problem?

In such a scenario and in such conflict ridden zone, if people who have registered are not going to fight but only to defend the holy shrines and would not be armed, does not it amount to risking their own lives and encouraging others to do the same?

The Anjuman Secretary quips, “We are Hussainis and it’s our religious obligation to protect our revered sites. We do Qama Zani (mourning by inflicting injuries with chains) even that is dangerous…We are choosing it voluntarily and Government would not be liable as individuals are taking full responsibility for themselves.”

Pointing to the photographs of the protest they recently held in Delhi he said, our clerics and demonstrators are already wearing kafan (shrouds) and are ready to sacrifice their lives, if need be, in protecting their holy sites.

He also told TCN that over a lakh people have already registered from across the country and their target is to register 10 lakh people by the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, he says the first batch of about one thousand people that includes clerics, doctors and nurses are ready to leave soon.

They are preparing the documents and will soon approach the Iraqi Embassy for visa and are confident that they will get the visa after reports of Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki acknowledging their zeal.

If, however, they are denied visa they may take alternative routes through Iran, Turkey, etc and from there enter Iraq, he says and are even open to take the sea route.

About two lakh pilgrims, anyways, go to Iraq each year from India, he says, to visit the holy sites. We will go legally and would not indulge in any illegal act, he assured.


‘Tender’ to take people in bulk to Iraq

Meanwhile, on June 27, Anjuman-e-Haidai issued a “tender for chartered flights”, published in the news daily, The Statesman, inviting “Expression of Interest from Aviation/Travel business entities having capacity to carry passengers in bulk at short notice in the sector India to Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey.” They have invited companies with “enough experiences and financial and technical capabilities” to carry around 100,000 passengers from August 1 to 10th November, 2014.”

Asked if the Anjuman received any communication from the government of India asking them to cancel the trip, Bahadur Abbas Naqvi said that they had at least three meeting with the officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and they never asked them to drop the plan.

Mixed reactions among Shia Intellectuals:

Asked about his opinion on the ‘recruitment’ drive, Chief Editor of daily Urdu newspaper Qaumi Salamati, Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi says, “What is happening in Iraq and Syria is nothing but terrorism and we know how people were recruited from around the world to fight in Syria and Western forces supported it. If some people are standing up against the terrorism and expressing solidarity what is wrong in that?”

He added that Shias mourn the sacrifices of family members of Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali every year, and if the holy sites are attacked, it is but natural that the community will rise in anger and would be willing to protect the holy sites.

Kazmi also questioned the larger silence of the major Muslim groups, particularly of Sunnis, and asked, “Tell me which group other than Anjman-e-Haidari is raising voice against what’s happening in Iraq. Should not their silence be interpreted as support to the terror unleashed by ISIS?”


Not Every Shia Supporting the Idea:

When contacted, senior Journalist and Political Commentator Sayeed Naqvi said that he is aware of the reports in the media, but wondered if at all it’s happening. He said that if such things are happening it’s “wrong,” adding, “The entire Muslim world seems to be in turmoil from Pakistan to Syria and Iraq in the name of global jihad at the behest of Saudi Arabia, Wahabis and some Takfiris. Fortunately we, in India are safe, but such actions will only encourage sectarianism and if Shia will back one side, in reaction Sunnis will support other side and that will be disastrous for the Muslim community and for the nation.”

Political Analyst and Expert on West Asia, Qamar Agha explained that while the Grand Ayatollah al-Sayyid ‘Ali al-Husayni al-Sistani has given a call to Jihad to the Shias of Iraq to defend their country and the holy sites, he clearly added that the Iraqis will battle against the outsiders and hence other groups of outsiders should not interfere in what is “not simply a religious war but purely political and concerns larger geo-politics.” He added that as soon as the rebels of ISIS entered Mosul they killed a Sunni Imam and later killed several other Sunnis, and thus it would be wrong to see it as clear cut Shia-Sunni conflict.

He also echoed Naqvi’s sentiments of peaceful co-existence in India and warned against doing anything that would harm the harmonious situation in the country, but sort to clear the air that everyone who registered themselves are not going to fly to Iraq to combat. “People are emotionally attached with the holy sites and it was their way of expressing solidarity,” he said, adding that it also includes Sunnis and Non-Muslims and we should not see it as recruitment of Shias.

He seemed to question the intent of the Anjuman, however, and wondered if they would actually execute it or this was just another publicity stunt.