On 20 June, the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Uttar Pradesh arrested Islamic scholar Umar Gautam along with his aide Mufti Jahangir alleging that they have converted around 1000 people including differently-abled persons to Islam. The ATS also accused Gautam of committing forced conversion and alleged that he has links with the Pakistan intelligence agency ISI.
However, prominent Muslim leaders, organisations and family members of Gautam slammed his arrest pointing out that the conversion is a constitutional right and the allegations of forced conversion and links with IS against Gautam are fabricated.
Gautam’s life and his works bring out many facts which can help to understand the truth behind allegations levelled against him. Gautam himself is a reverted Muslim, who embraced Islam when he was studying in the final year of BSc in Nainital. It is the incident of 1985 when he met with an accident. Then, one of his neighbours Nasir Khan helped Gautam during that tough time.
After the accident, Gautam was not able to go to college, hospital and mess. Khan helped him to go to college and hospital. He even used to bring meals from the mess for Gautam. This kind behavior of Khan touched Gautam deeply and as well as intrigued him.
In Gautam’s words, “He (Nasir Khan) served me for one year with love and care. He also talked about Islam and answered my questions raised on it. However, he never debated and argued. Nor did he express his desire to convert me to Islam. After one year, I myself told him that I want to become a Muslim”.
Gautam was born as Shyam Pratap Singh into a Rajput family in 1964 in Uttar Pradesh’s Fatehpur district. He is the nephew of former Prime Minister of India V.P Singh. When he was 15, he started doubting about idol-worship as his religious scriptures themselves talk against idol worship. There were several questions about the idol-worship and the concept of reincarnation in the Hindu religion which were haunting him. He approached many Hindu scholars with his questions but his anxiety and questions remained unanswered.
While studying at the University in Pratapgarh, he read almost all Hindu religious scriptures and biographies of Hindu social reformers. But it could not satisfy him. Once, he even decided to live as a hermit in the mountains in search of peace.
However, in 1985, he was impressed by Khan’s behaviour and started studying Islam, which was hated by his family. He studied the Hindi translation of the Quran and the life of Prophet Muhammed and his companions. A year later, he decided to embrace Islam.
But his conversion did not go well with many people including his family members. When he embraced Islam, he first announced in his college that “From today, I’m not Shyam Pratap Singh but Muhammed Umar. People opposed my decision. I was attacked. Some people tried to kill me. But I remain steadfast with blessings of Allah,” said Gautam.
Some members of Hindutva groups had intimidated him, then abducted him and took him to the jungle where he was assaulted. He was left with a warning that they would kill him if he did not come back to his former religion.
His family members too boycotted him. But with the help of Muslim friends, he continued his education and took admitted to MA Islamic studies at Jamia Millia Islamia.
Gautam was married when he embraced Islam. His father-in-law asked his daughter to leave Gautam since he converted to Islam but she decided to live with her husband and later embraced Islam. Gautam’s mother also embraced Islam.
Gautam made the ambition of his life to preach Islam to non-Muslims and clear misconceptions spread about it. He said that non-Muslims should not judge Islam through the behaviour of Muslims but through reading the Quran and Hadith. For this purpose, he founded Islamic Dawah Centre (IDC).
“DC provides educational support, financial support, legal support and moral support to more than 400 reverts both male and female,” says the IDC on its page.
Explaining the works of the IDC further, the IDC explained “In India, especially in the metropolitan city like New Delhi, people from different religions, caste and creed come to study and earn their livelihood. In the meantime, they come to interact with their Muslim colleagues and get a chance to understand Islam and finally turn to Siratal Mustaqeem (the straight path). Therefore it became necessary to establish an institute with the sole aim to help support reverts in terms of Islamic education, legal assistance, marriage, financial and moral support in all spheres of life”.