Ajmer: A long-running family feud at the revered Ajmer sufi shrine culminated on Wednesday with the "sacking" of its spiritual head Syed Zainul Abedin, who was dubbed by his younger brother as an "apostate" for his "blasphemous" support to the ban on slaughter of bovines and selling beef in the country.
Abedin stood by his remarks opposing cow slaughter and said he was the "lifelong deewan" - the spiritual chief of the Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti mausoleum in Ajmer -- one of the most famous Muslim shrines visited by millions of devotees from across the sub-continent every year.
But his brother, Syed Alaudin Alimi, claimed he had the support of the family in "sacking" Abedin and anointing himself as the new "deewan".
The post is hereditary and belongs to heirs of the 12th-13th century sufi priest. Deewan has no control over the management of the shrine but gets a monthly remuneration from the management committee, which is appointed by the government.
"I am the new deewan. I have the support of the entire (Chishti) clan," Alimi told IANS, alleging that Abedin was an "apostate because he had spoken in violation of the Islamic law".
"I am not interested in (taking) salary. He (Abedin) can have the money. Buy I won't allow him to enter the shrine now. Whatever he has said is blasphemous. I have spoken to muftis (Islamic scholars who interpret sharia) and we will be issuing a fatwa (decree) against him. He is no longer a Muslim."
Abedin has been the deewan of the shrine since after the Supreme Court 1987 order, ruling him as the most direct and eldest descendant of the sufi priest.
He said his younger brother "had gone mad" and had no powers to anoint himself as the deewan.
"It's a religious post. Nobody can snatch it. Nobody has enough powers to change it. Nothing has changed," Abedin told IANS, threatening "legal action" against his brother.
"I stand by my statements on beef," he said.
Abedin sparked a controversy on Monday by asking Muslims in India to stay away from slaughter of "bovine animals" and to stop consuming beef for communal harmony in the country.
He read his message during the 805th annual function at the shrine that was also attended by religious heads of various shrines from different parts of the country. He also announced that he and his family members "will never eat beef now".
The spiritual leader got support from the head of the government-appointed committee, M.A. Khan.
"This is a dispute between two brothers and the deewan cannot be sacked like a coup," Khan said.
One of the members of the committee, Syed Hameed Chishti, who is also a caretaker at the shrine, told IANS that the two brothers have been fighting over the post since years and Wednesday's development was a culmination of the feud in the family.
"It is a fight for money. They claim they are descendants of the Khwaja (sufi saint) but their role is limited to conduct qawalis and mehfils (spiritual sittings) at the shrine," Chishti said, agreeing that Abedin can't be removed.