Kalbe Sadiq, Champion of Interfaith Harmony in India, Sadly Passes Away

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In his last will and testament, he appealed to his followers to work for the unity of hearts “so that brotherhood is maintained and we can progress in the atmosphere of mutual brotherhood to bring about a better society and better world.”

Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, regarded as a reformer, an educationist, a philanthropist, and a champion of interfaith harmony in a country beset with increasing communal polarization, passed away last month. He was 81.

Battling colorectal cancer for the last three years, Sadiq passed away on November 24th at a private hospital in his native city, Lucknow, in north India.

Sadiq, one of the most important figures from India’s Shia Muslim community, which form around 10% of the 200 million Muslims, has been a pioneer of Shia-Sunni unity and it is perhaps for this reason that his funeral prayers were also led by a Sunni Imam. His death was widely condoled and religious personalities from the Hindu and Sikh communities also showed up at his funeral.

Born in 1939 to a respected Shia Muslim family of Islamic scholars, Sadiq dedicated his life to serving religious and social causes. Later in his life, he also got a college education at the prestigious Aligarh Muslim Univerity in Arabic literature and a doctorate from Lucknow Univerity.

In 1984 Sadiq founded a philanthropic society, Tauheedul Muslimeen Trust, that offered free education, scholarships, and healthcare to the less fortunate. Under his watch, the society ran a network of schools, colleges, and hospitals for those most vulnerable and in need in India.

He campaigned for the importance of rational thinking and scientific knowledge. “Our community has to come up with a structure of modern education built on a strong religious base,” Sadiq wrote in the foreword in the latest annual report of the trust.

For the trust, his death feels like the loss of a head of the family, said Najmul Hasan Rizvi, Sadiq’s son in law and the current patron of the trust.

Sadiq had also led the S2S initiative involving Shia and Sunni Muslims, offering joint Salah on important occasions and festivals in his home city that has often in history witnessed occasional bouts of violent sectarian disturbances. He was also the deputy chairman of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a non-governmental body formed to safeguard Muslim personal law.

“He was known for his candour and appreciated for his philanthropy which helped innumerable needy children,” the President of India Ramnath Kovind wrote while condoling Sadiq’s passing on Twitter.

Sadiq’s public speeches mainly focused on the message of Imam Hussain, and he also tried to address the ignorances and misconceptions about Islam prevailing in non-Muslims. His work earned him fame across the globe.

Sadiq would often organise interfaith dialogues and would also participate in events organised by his counterparts in other communities. He would often take a conciliatory approach to disputes to promote amity. For instance, his stance on the protracted Babri Masjid dispute, flexible; he had suggested Muslims to give up the claim and let Hindus build the temple to “win their hearts”.

Though his views did not find much resonance within the community, eventually India’s Supreme Court cleared the way for the temple. Muslims felt let down by the decision which they say was passed to appease the Hindu majority. He also opposed the practice of triple Talaq and supported the women’s right to modern education.

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“Sadiq followed a pragmatic approach and would have a different viewpoint on issues but he never raised his pitch argument,” Mualana Sajad Nomani, spokesperson of the Muslim law board and a close associate of Sadiq, said.

He was a vocal critic of the divisive policy of the current nationalist government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last December when the Indian Government passed a citizenship law that excluded Muslims, women came out on streets in protest including in Sadiq’s hometown. Health complications had left him wheelchair-bound, but he showed up at the protest in solidarity and warned that if the law was not reversed, these women would unseat Prime Minister Modi.

In his last will and testament, he appealed to his followers to work for the unity of hearts “so that brotherhood is maintained and we can progress in the atmosphere of mutual brotherhood to bring about a better society and better world.”

India needed him more than ever.


HindustanTimes: Tributes Pour In

The Telegraph: Maulana Kalbe Sadiq

The Wire: Farewell Kalbe Sadiq

Ayodhya Dispute: Muslims should give up claim on Babri land, says Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Sadiq

Hindustan Time: Kalbe Sadiq Meets Women Protesters

Annual Trust Report

All quotes of Kalbe Sadiq’s son-in-law and also Maulana Nomani were from a conversation over the phone with the author of this article.

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