Okay! So, you are laughing. Good! I love to make people happy and after all we all have our right to fantasize. The question I asked myself was, ‘If I were to be invited to advise the AIMPLB (All India Muslim Personal Law Board ) at this rather heated moment, what would I say?’ Key word? IF. Please don’t get too worked up and excited.
Before I talk about the advice, let me draw the picture that I am seeing as I look at the political landscape in my country.
I see a ruling party that is afraid to rule. So, it takes every opportunity to draw the attention of the public away from the non-delivery of promises it made when it was elected. Muslims are a dream come true; a prayer answered for the ruling party. They are their greatest helpers as they provide readymade issues and then react with blind emotion – josh without hosh – when the ruling party makes use of these issues. If Muslims demanded payment to do what they seem to be doing for love, I am sure purse strings would not only be loosened but the entire purse would be handed over. I can well imagine the ruling party chiefs praying for the continued presence of Muslims in their midst but in their current state of ignorance and singing, ‘Na hota gar yeh AIMPLB ka sahara, hum kahanjatay?’ It would be very tough otherwise to tell those who have intelligence the real reasons why Achchay din abhikyonnahin aye.
The biggest challenge that the ruling party has at present is the UP election. Any central government which is not in control of UP is DOWN. So UP must be won at any cost. And if it is at the cost of Muslims, then it is SonaypeySuhaga – two birds with one stone and so forth. That the UP rulers; the Yadav clan looks hellbent on helping the ruling party to win the election by voluntarily self-destructing is a boon. The Nehru-Gandhi family remains comatose. But what will help even more is if the Muslims continue to react instead of responding intelligently and acting proactively. I can see the grin on your face and your eyebrows raised like world-famous McDonalds arches. But give me a break. I told you this is my fantasy. Which brings me back to the title of my article; ‘If I advised the AIMPLB’, what would I tell them to enable Indian Muslims to take our puppet strings away from the puppeteers and stop being puppets in the hands of those making us enact a tragedy.
The AIMPLB whether it likes it or not has suddenly been ‘kicked upstairs’ into the role of LEADER OF INDIAN MUSLIMS. I say ‘Kicked upstairs’, as it is the term used in the corporate world for someone who has been promoted first time as manager and is clearly at sea, clueless about what to do and how to act. So, he does what he knows, which is to work at the level he has been at all his life. This is such a common phenomenon that one of the most successful courses that I teach is, ‘NMDP (New Managers Development Program)’. This is a course that I teach at GE, Crotonville, the greatest leadership university in the world. It is a five-day residential program which every first-time manager in GE is mandated to attend. That GE is happy to take managers out for five days and pay them to attend this course is testimony to one simple fact; that to succeed in a new role, you need new competencies.
People don’t get promoted because they are bad. They get promoted because they are good. But what happens in most organizations is that the powers-that-be don’t factor in one simple but fundamental fact. That in the new role, your strengths, most often, become your biggest weaknesses and that without the new competencies that the new role requires you are destined to fail. The Titanic didn’t sink so fast because it struck the iceberg and its engine failed. It sank fast because its engine didn’t fail and its propeller didn’t stop turning. Its engine kept running and so the propeller which was designed to drive the ship forward continued to drive it forward even when the ship was pointing south – to the bottom of the ocean. The very thing which was the source of power for the ship, became the means of its demise.
In my view, that is the dilemma of the AIMPLB. The AIMPLB was founded by one of the greatest of our scholars, Hazrat Maulana Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi in 1973 as an NGO to be a single point of reference for the interpretation of Muslim Personal Law. It is not an elected body, has no legal authority, can’t enforce anything and is not the representative of Indian Muslims in any formal sense of the term. The name of the organization is testimony to what it was supposed to do. In other words, it was a collective Darul Ifta, which would consult internally with Ulama of the many different sects of Muslims and then speak with one voice on any issue dealing with Muslim Personal Law. This was a need. It still is. The AIMPLB has admirably fulfilled it over the years. This ‘brief’ (albeit unwritten) is also reflected in its membership which consists almost entirely of Ulama. This was appropriate given it frame of reference. However, over the years, the AIMPLB has been promoted to become the ‘representative of Indian Muslims’. Now that is a very different ballgame from speaking about the Personal Law alone. Telling Muslims what to do is very different from speaking to the Supreme Court of India on issues of Muslim Personal Law that the Court raises; but which are in reality, issues of power and authority about who will be the final arbiter on Islamic issues in this country. The complexity is that for the people on either side of this debate, the answer is obvious. But if life were that simple, we wouldn’t have the heat and light show that we are witnessing where the heat far outweighs the light. I believe therefore that the time has come for all concerned to dunk our heads in a bucket of cold water (not the same bucket) and think with cool heads and with our emotions locked up in a safe place. Emotions and intellect are companions but don’t work well together.
Using my ‘consultant’ hat and invoking my knowledge acquired from being 35 years in the field of leadership development with a consulting practice on three continents and on the faculty staff of some of the greatest leadership development corporate universities of the world, here is my diagnosis and cure for what ails the AIMPLB.
- The AIMPLB finds that it has been catapulted into a place that it was neither designed for nor wanted to be in and therefore has no idea what to do.
- Its Core Strengths have become weaknesses and acquiring new strengths is not an easy task especially when that journey starts from accepting that one is in need and so needs a teacher.
- The public demand to be led. They are willing to follow without thought. They are willing to trust, even blindly. But what will happen when that trust is not fulfilled and the scales drop from the eyes of the people? I fear that day more than anything else.
- At the same time the AIMPLB has the unique opportunity to become a single point of reference for all matters relating to Indian Muslims with a mandate given by the people and represent all their needs and not the Personal Law alone; as well as an opportunity to take advantage of the high interest in Muslim matters to highlight Islam for the entire nation.
- Balanced with this opportunity is the very real threat that if the opportunity is not handled well and the AIMPLB doesn’t upscale its game, it will become redundant and Indian Muslims will get even more divided and lost. There will be (isn’t that happening already?) huge damage to the image of Islam and Muslims if current high visibility is not handled competently.
- The structure of the Board is another symbol of its role as being more scholarly than action oriented. It has a Working Committee (MajlisAmla) of fifty-one members. If there is one formula to guarantee inaction, it is to have a Working Committee of more than five people. The AIMPLB’s committee is ten times that size.
- The membership of the Board is not open. Membership is lifelong. So, you must die to get out. No terms of office for members and no expiry dates for membership except what our Creator wrote for us all. I don’t know who is more delusional; those who expect octogenarians (even nonagenarians) to work full time or O’s and N’s who think they can do so? But this is the fate of all our Muslim organizations; no term of office and no retirement date. The result is that youth leadership is throttled at birth and succession planning doesn’t exist. So, every time a leader falls, we have a crisis. Yet after over fourteen centuries of history we still haven’t learned this lesson. As the saying goes, ‘Nations that don’t learn from their history are condemned to repeat it.’ I bear witness that this applies to the Muslim nation globally. It is almost as if being blind to our faults is a pillar of Islam.
- ‘The Competition’, is ramping up its efforts at influencing and thought steering, big time. RSS Think Tanks are a case study in collecting competent people and inspiring them to work for their cause. They AIMPLB has not even attempted to do anything in this line and I am not sure if they even feel the need.
- I did a comparative study of other organizations which represent other minorities globally and was astounded with the differences I saw. I am not mentioning them here but am happy to share that information with the AIMPLB, if ‘I advised the AIMPLB’.
- Structures define behavior and behavior drives results. The structure of the AIMPLB doesn’t need modification. It needs to be dismantled and rebuilt.
So, what would I advise the AIMPLB?
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (1926-2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies and the author of the groundbreaking book,‘On Death and Dying’, where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief. The five stages are, Shock (denial), Anger, Resistance, Acceptance, Help. It is only after acceptance that we can talk about the cure. Note the stages before acceptance. Shock (denial), Anger and Resistance. Only then will people even consider alternatives. That is why we say, ‘If you want to change, you have to make friends with ‘SARAH’. I can tell you clearly which stage I believe the AIMPLB is at, but it is for them to recognize and accept it. Only then can they go forward to the next stage. The one single lesson I learned in thirty-five years of leadership development consulting is that this process can’t be hurried. Like pregnancy it is painful and the pain must be endured.
Here’s the cure, conditional upon the AIMPLB coming to the stage of acceptance.
- Redefine AIMPLB and accept the bigger mantle of leadership consciously and knowing that the mantle has been placed on their shoulders but the shoulders need to be strengthened to carry the load. The AIMPLB must change its name to Indian Muslim Council (IMC). That would be more in keeping with the much larger and powerful role than of being a glorified Darul Ifta. This role is critically needed and the AIMPLB is the best organization to take it on. But to do that it must metamorphize. To change its very being from caterpillar to butterfly. Only then will it be able to visit every flower in the garden and attend to its need.
- The IMC must strive to create a genuine partnership between all Indian Muslims to address all critical to survival issues, not only Personal Laws. The IMC must enable active participation of all sectors of Indian Muslims in matters that concern them to enable Indian Muslims to positively impact their own future and the future of our nation, its security and development.The IMC will be Constituted under the appropriate legal framework, will not be affiliated to any political party or Maslak. It will support and work with all existing organizations. It will have Ulama as members along with others and will have effective participation of women, not merely token representation.
- The AIMPLB after restructuring, must build in competence development into its schedule and budget for it and do it on a structured plan. Without regular competence development, you can’t expect anyone to remain current and relevant.
- The AIMPLB must have a structured mentoring plan to develop successors and ensure that there are ample opportunities for youth to grow and take leadership positions in due course. For this having a retirement age is absolutely essential.
The overall Organizational Structure of the IMC will be as under:
The Local Council is the fundamental building block of the IMC. This will be at the city, or smaller level.Membership is open to all members of civil society. Members of the Admin & Finance Task Force will be fulltime professionals but will not have voting rights.Each Council at every level will be organized as under:
All Councils will be organized in Task Forces of specialists who will elect one member to the Governing Council. The Governing Council will take policy decisions which the individual Task Force will implement. This ensures that everyone has a say in the decision-making process. The Governing Council will elect an Ameer who will be the spokesperson for the council. This structure will apply to all councils at all levels.
Each Task Force will decide on the issues it needs to deal with and prepare a budget. This will be presented to the Governing Council. There will be a half-yearly Internal Assessment and an Annual External Assessment of achievement of goals.
IMC Election & Term
All members of the Local Council will be elected by their community for a period of 5 years.Members will be eligible for re-election for another term.Members under 50 who have served 2 terms may be re-elected after a cooling off period of 5 years. All Members will compulsorily retire at the age of 65 years on their date of birth.
Board of Emeritus Advisors
Retired leaders will automatically become members of the Board of Emeritus Advisors which will be an advisory body to provide guidance, counsel and dua for the organization. The Board of Emeritus Advisors will have no executive powers.
Elections will be conducted by an Election Commission which will be constituted every 4 years for the elections in the 5th year. The EC will be made up of prominent members of society represented as per the constituents of the IMC. Members of the Election Commission will not be eligible to stand for election in that year.
It is not in the scope of this article to write about this structure and working in detail but I will be happy to explain it to the AIMPLB – ‘If I advised the AIMPLB’. This is only as a teaser for those who share my anguish and frustration at what is happening today.
Information about me and my work, clients and consulting practice is here www.yawarbaig.comIf the AIMPLB is interested and wants to actually do something about understanding what I have proposed in detail, then I am available.
If not, I have completed my task and stand absolved before my Rabb.
Mirza Yawar Baig is based in Hyderabad, India and is the founder and President of Yawar Baig & Associates; an international leadership consulting organization. He can be reached at email@example.com