By Mushtaq Ul Haq Ahmad Sikander
The tragic assassination of Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, President of a faction of Jamiat e Ahli Hadees, Kashmir, ahead of Friday prayers, on 8th April, 2011 came as a rude shock to me. Once again the streets of Srinagar turned red with the blood of a religious preacher. I didn’t know Maulana personally, but frequently used to read his statements in Press, as he had jumped into the field of the Pro Freedom politics. My maiden acquaintance with Maulana is still fresh in my memory, though shocking and surprising was my maiden encounter. In the month of Ramadan, 2006 on Sunday 22, October Jamai Ahli Hadees, Gaw Kadal, Srinagar on whose footsteps Maulana was assassinated, hosted a religious congregation where different religious scholars belonging to the Ahli Hadith school of thought were scheduled to deliver sermons, and all were welcome. I too joined as one of the scholars with whom I newly had gained acquaintance but never witnessed him speak was too was on the list of speakers, thus being a reason for me to join the congregation, despite being a born again Salafi those days I rarely went to listen sermons, as I relied more on self study, which later led me to embrace the inclusive Sufi stride of Islam, in contrast to the puritanical Salafism. Maulana Showkat too was scheduled to deliver his Presidential address, but when the Asar Prayer was ready it was announced that Maulana alongwith his close associate has been attacked, while traveling in his personal vehicle, but they have escaped unhurt, and the announcer requested all people to join peaceful protests after prayer to nearby Kralkhud Police Station where Maulana was safe under Police Cover. I too alongwith my newly acquainted scholar went there, least bothered by protests and continuing our scholarly discussion but expressing solidarity with Maulana and demanding the culprits to be brought to book, which they never were. After this shocking but memorable incident, I never had the chance to listen to Maulana, and in the aftermath Maulana was always accompanied by the Personal Security Officers (PSO).
During his Presidentship, Jamiat Ahle Hadith was always mired in controversies and it came to be divided in various factions and various allegations were leveled against Maulana from being a dictator to corruption. His predecessor Prof Muhammad Ramzan too was assassinated by unknown men at the doorsteps of the same mosque. Factionalism, accusations over money swindling and controversies were a norm during his tenure. Not many in the party were happy with his Presidentship.
Meanwhile Maulana grew more intimate to the Chairman of a faction of Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Yasin Malik who portrays himself as a self styled secularist. This relationship too was witnessed with hostility, as the ideologies of both these men were poles apart with apparently no meeting ground. This relationship also angered many within and outside the Jamiat. Many began to accuse Maulana of compromising the ideals of Jamiat which believes in a strict, exclusivist, puritanical and literalist version of Islam and looks down upon other sects as deviant. The dichotomy of Secularism versus Salafism even today remains a puzzle in the Maulana’s career.
In the aftermath of Maulana’s assassination, a friend called up, and recanted that Maulana should have concentrated more on religious, reformatory, educational and social issues as there was no need for him to jump the bandwagon of the political clique, an accusation which his critics used to level on him that he had a desire for fame, wealth and pomp, adorning a Pro Freedom garb can best guarantee it all, though I don’t believe that Maulana did join politics for the same, rest Almighty alone knows Maulana’s real intentions. By the simple chat of my friend, I was reminded of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who during his 1944 visit to the valley advised then Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, head cleric that he should give up his role in politics and concentrate on religious issues alone, and guaranteed him that Muslims would respect him in a similar manner as Christians respect Archbishop of Canterbury, as has been quoted by Chaoudhary Ghulam Abbas in his autobiography Kashmakash (The Struggle). Similarly Maqbool Sahil in his new book Tanazay e Kashmir Tarikh Key Aaiyeney Mein (The Kashmir Tangle in Historical Perspective) quotes Maulana Anzar Shah Kashmiri advising the present Mirwaiz Umar Farooq to detest from Politics and concentrate on religious issues only, but both the Mirwaiz’s seem to have throw the advise to winds.
My friend concluded that when polytheism, Shirk, Christianity, Qadayanism, immorality among youth and liquor is spreading its devilish tentacles in our society Maulana should have concentrated on these, leaving politics for the lesser mortals to indulge as it would have made him less controversial, because in Kashmir Politics none is aware of who works for whom, and many behind the screen activities and clandestine acts of politicians come to fore time and again widening the vicious circle of controversies, I have but to agree with my friend.
Maulana Showkat became more prominent during the Amarnath Land Row Agitation, 2008 as he alongwith Yasin Malik used to lead Pro Freedom marches and instill crowds with his Pro Freedom speeches and he was even arrested under Public Safety Act for a brief period during 2008, but released soon afterwards. After his release he echoed the then SSP Srinagar, Afhadul Mujtaba in denouncing the Stone Pelting by youth on Police and Para Military forces as Un Islamic in his Friday sermon, giving his critics and enemies fresh evidence to label him as an Indian agent, who was conspiring against his people and the freedom movement.
In the aftermath of this Fatwa, a Pro Freedom Leader Shakeel Ahmad Bakshi, Chairman Islamic Students League (ISL) organized a group discussion on 29th March, 2009 at a local hotel on the title Sang Har Shaksh Ney Haaton Mey Kyou Utha Rakha Hai (Why everybody’s hand is armed with a stone?). I too went out of curiosity of a writer to acquaint myself with the views of the youth of whom I too am a part. Many political, religious and social activists were present and even Maulana Showkat was extended the invitation which he declined due to some urgent work which he needed to attend, and everyone in the hall was aghast at the Fatwa against stone pelting and arms against Maulana. One Youngman said that Maulana gave a written testimony of thirteen points to the Police for his conditional release and this Fatwa was fulfillment of one these conditions. The authenticity of these thirteen point testimony was ‘obviously’ known to that youngman?
Others denounced him by stating that he was no religious scholar and possessed no knowledge about Fiqh (jurisprudence) to pronounce a Fatwa, and this claim seemed to hold weight, as Maulana had humble beginnings being son of a tailor, and spent more than thirty years as a shawl dealer, before acquiring Presidentship of Jamiat. Besides a pamphlet was distributed too on this occasion which proved from Quran, Sunnah and Muslim History that stones were used against enemies, hence Stone Pelting isn’t unIslamic. Whether Islamic or Unislamic youth wouldn’t have given it up and Maulana forgot to take lesson from Maulana Abdul Haq Haqqani(d 1831), author of the famed exegesis of the Quran known as Tafsir Haqqani, while issuing Fatwas. During his times British Government replaced the Gold and Silver with Paper currency. These paper notes apparently from the traditional jurisprudence rulings were anti Islamic in nature. Maulana was asked to issue a Fatwa regarding the permissibility or impermissibility of using this Paper Currency from Islamic Perspective? He declined to issue a fatwa and said “Mera Fatwa Nahi Chelega, Note Chaljayega”(My Fatwa will not work and note will). Similar is the case with Stone Pelting.
In the aftermath of his assassination many conspiracy theories are in the air, Pro Freedom Parties blame it on Indian Agencies, who wish to divide Kashmiri Nation, and put a halt to the India-Pakistan dialogue which will pave way to the Peaceful Resolution of Kashmir issue. Mainstream politicians and police blame it on militants discreetly and on those who aren’t happy with moderates and Dialogue, and Indian Media too blames it on those elements who don’t want Peace to return, and I humbly surmise the hand of those
Elements who wish to repeat 2010 again this summer as Khoon Ka Badla June Mey Leingey (We will avenge the innocent blood in June) is doing rounds in the air.
In between these blames and counter blames we have lost another person to the ravaging conflict and as a norm all parties to the conflict would do politics over this assassination, and the real culprits as usual is apprehension would go Scot free, though Yasin Malik has vowed to expose the killers, and time would judge how consistent he would remain in his promise??
This assassination also exposed the bankruptcy of our morals as a Nation, our Writers, Intellectuals, and Activists who used to heap abuse on Maulana when he was alive began to shower blessings and benedictions on him after his death, the adherents of other factions of Ahle Hadith who would never tolerate to pray behind him now describe him as a martyr and for those to whom Maulana was a culprit too are describing him to have secured a place in Jannah. What a sorry state of affairs, instead of weighing a person by his pros and cons we raise their status equal to God, as if they were immortals, though during their lifetime we shower our vilest abuses on them.
Keep aside politics, Maulana’s Pros and Cons he can be described in the similar words as Sergy, described his father Nikita Khrushchev, “There were many who loved him, there were many who hated him, but there were very few who would pass by him without looking in his direction”.