Islam's holiest imam to lead Deoband prayers

The grand imam of Islam's holiest shrine in Mecca, Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais - who is to Muslims what the Pope is to Christians - will lead evening prayers at Darul Uloom Deoband on February 25.

The historic trip to India will be his first to a non-Islamic Asian nation.

A chance to say the namaz after Al-Sudais, who directs the five daily prayers at Mecca's Masjid al-Haram, will give thousands who can't afford the Haj a rare occasion to seek his blessings.

Few could have predicted that the 51-year-old spiritual leader would decry terror and outlaw suicide bombings during the 2006 Haj. This gave the cue to Darul Uloom's fatwa against terrorism in 2008.

Al-Sudais is also slated to lead two prayers at Delhi's Ram Lila grounds on February 26.

Millions flock to Al-Sudais to hear him live during the holy month of Ramzan. Few fly back without a CD pack of his Quran recitals sold on Mecca's streets.

Al-Sudais is known for his theme-based sermons, often focusing on thorny contemporary issues, such as the treatment of women and terrorism.

At London's Regents Park Central Mosque in July 2010, he urged western Muslims to be "polite and caring" to their wives and to women in general, quoting al-Nisa, the Quranic chapter on women.

At Islamabad's Faisal Mosque, which he visited in June 2007, Al-Sudais declared there was "no room for terrorism in Islam".

"It will not be surprising if he reiterates this in India," said Zafarul Islam, head of Islamic studies at Aligarh Muslim University.


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