A PhD student in Shia theology who claims to be the only Indian to have fought against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS, or IS) was on Sunday given a rousing welcome by the Shia community here on his return home.
Maulana Syed Abbas Nasir Saeed Abqati, 28, the son of prominent Shia cleric Maulana Agha Roohi, was studying at Najaf University in July when clashes with the ISIS broke out in Iraq. He claims to have enrolled for the force comprising civilians and others that was trained by the Iraqi forces and fought the ISIS for one month.
Felicitated at a function at Shia College on Nakhas road here, Abqati said he would go back after three months.
Thousands of Shia youths in Lucknow alone had earlier registered themselves as ‘razakars (volunteers)’, seeking to go to Iraq to fight the ISIS, but were denied permission by the government.
A campaign by Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad to send youths to Iraq as volunteers had been severely criticised by Sunni clerics, particularly Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid. The news of Abqati’s “feats” in Iraq though had reached home and been celebrated by Shias.
Abqati claimed that Iraqi Army regulars, the Sarai Salam army of influential Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr, civilians and people from several countries had been selected to set up an “anti-terrorism squad” and guard vulnerable locations.
“I was given one-month military training by Iraqi army regulars. There were people from several other countries, whose identity I cannot reveal. I was the only Indian and after the training we were sent to Samarra (around 125 km from Baghdad) to defend holy shrines during Ramzan,” Abqati told The Indian Express.
“It crossed my mind that some legalities may be involved in me taking part in a military exercise involving a foreign country. But when your house is under attack, you will not run to seek permission from the government. You will first defend yourself. The fatwas by various clerics also become immaterial when your life is in peril,” Abqati said.
Slamming ISIS for calling itself Muslim but killing innocent people, he said at the felicitation: “Children are being slaughtered, women captured and sold in the slave market. People who do not embrace Islam are being killed. There is even some mercy in killing, but ISIS are stone-hearted people who are against humanity.”
Talking about his own experience, Abqati said: “At times there was gunfire. We defended the city too and ISIS was pushed back. We held our fort for the whole of Ramzan. Once there was replenishment, I returned.”
He was hopeful of returning to the warfront, the young cleric said. “Now I am trained and there are lots of secrets which cannot be shared. If there is any need, I will again take up arms.”