Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, on Saturday anointed his son, Shaban Bukhari as the Naib Imam with the glittering Mughal-era mosque forming the backdrop and thousands in attendance.
Shaban, a 19-year-old social work student, would become the fourteenth Imam of the Jama Masjid. The ceremony (dastarbandi) had been marred by controversies ever since the senior Imam announced that he would invite Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for the ceremony. He had also ignored inviting Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Delhi High Court had also said that the ceremony has no legal sanctity while refusing to grant a stay over it.
A little before sunset Imam Bukhari walked onto the dais with his son and other religious leaders from mosques around the country.
At exactly 7.05 pm, Bukhari told a huge gathering that he was passing on a 400-year-old tradition of choosing Imams from his family by appointing Shaban as the Naib Imam.
“This is a ceremony we have been following from the days of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. He built this mosque and knew an Imam had to be there to take care of this holy place. On July 8, 1973 I was appointed a Naib Imam by my grandfather. Today I appoint my son as one. God willing he will be the fourteenth Imam of this holy place,” he announced.
Mohammed Shahil Qasmi —who was conducting the ceremony — accused the wakf board of deliberately trying to interfere in the matter. It had been alleged that since the mosque is a wakf property, only the wakf board can appoint an Imam for it.
“They cannot take care of their property in the country. The government has been gradually usurping all the property. They have failed in their duty and are now disrupting us. A doctor wants his son to be a doctor while an engineer also wishes his son to be one, so what is wrong if an Imam wants his son to follow him?” said Qasmi
He continued,“We respect the laws of this country but any law which interferes with our religion, we will kick that law… who are these people working for? Is there anyone hiding behind the wakf board, I wonder?”
Shaban is pursuing his bachelors degree in social work from Amity University in Noida. His father is the thirteenth Imam of the Jama Masjid.