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Mahal as a pivot of Muslim community

A decisive factor in the collective life of Muslims in India is mahal meaning, literally, 'locality' and, in effect, a local governing body associated with a masjid. It plays, and is capable of playing, many significant roles as far as Muslims are concerned. It gives them religious identity by enlisting them among the community of believers in a specific locality as well as running and maintaining a masjid, a pivot of all believers. Without their being aware of it, it performs their rites of passage by running a madrasa under the local masjid and, therewith, giving education in religion. It serves as a mediator with the government in registering their birth, marriage, membership as a separate family unit, and death. As for collective religious practices like Friday prayer, zakat, obligatory sacrifices, nuptial rites, funeral rites etc, and for settlement of disputes like martial discords, divorces and for charitable courses like supporting a bereaved family, allocating fund for education and self-employment, mahal is indispensable for all believers in the community.

Government-mahal dynamics

India has a welfare-oriented socio-economic paradigm. That is, for amelioration and uplift of all communities in the country the state brings out schemes and policies. Since Muslims in India constitute a significant minority, the government has constitutionally bound to assess its socio-economic status and introduce policies and schemes to improve it. For example, during the tenure of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, a committee was formed under Justice Rajindar Sachar to study the status of backward communities in India and table proposals to significantly better it. As for Muslims in India, the Commission found the data it collected as showing significant lacuna in the socio-economic indicators and suggested various proposals for governmental interventions. Many ensuing policies and schemes under the central and state administrations all over the country are being guided by the proposals of the committee. The formation of minority welfare ministry is a remarkable step in that direction. The ministry has introduced various schemes, scholarships and proposals for individual members to benefit from. Also, some well-intentioned business groups in the community have, as part of corporate social responsibility and as motivated by the principle of generous offering encapsulated in the dictum of sadaqa, introduced alternative schemes and scholarships for the uplift of the community In the larger welfare of individuals in the community, the ball can be said to be now in the court of mahals. They have a heavy responsibility on their shoulders: identifying benefits and identifying beneficiaries. But there must be soul-searching about the capabilities of mahals in that respect and about state-of-the-art ways to better it.

Addressing problems

One of the main problems in the current mahal structure is the obsolete way of collecting data bank. Many scholars have pointed out that the religiously mandated institution of zakat has become virtually defunct because it does not reach beneficiaries owing to the obsolescence of the mahal databank. Also, improper way of communicating schemes and policies to individuals have led to stagnation. But these problems had existed in all aspects of social life prior to the innovation in information technologies and social media. Syncing mahal administration to the technology is the most important solution to these problems. Hence, the proposed mahal soft

Mahal as a pivot of Muslim community

A decisive factor in the collective life of Muslims in India is mahal meaning, literally, 'locality' and, in effect, a local governing body associated with a masjid. It plays, and is capable of playing, many significant roles as far as Muslims are concerned. It gives them religious identity by enlisting them among the community of believers in a specific locality as well as running and maintaining a masjid, a pivot of all believers. Without their being aware of it, it performs their rites of passage by running a madrasa under the local masjid and, therewith, giving education in religion. It serves as a mediator with the government in registering their birth, marriage, membership as a separate family unit, and death. As for collective religious practices like Friday prayer, zakat, obligatory sacrifices, nuptial rites, funeral rites etc, and for settlement of disputes like martial discords, divorces and for charitable courses like supporting a bereaved family, allocating fund for education and self-employment, mahal is indispensable for all believers in the community.