Book Review: Busting Myths

  • Zahir-ud-Din
  • Publish Date: Apr 9 2018 1:47AM
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  • Updated Date: Apr 9 2018 1:47AM
Book Review: Busting Myths

A new book sets the record straight about Shi’a-Sunni relations in Kashmir


The Shi’as of Jammu and Kashmir

Author: Justice Hakim Imtiyaz Hussain

Publisher: Srinagar Publishing House

Price:` 1,800


Retired Justice Hakim Imtiyaz Hussain’s The Shi’as of Jammu and Kashmir is an eye opener. It explodes many a myth and will go a long way in setting some historical distortions right. 

It is widely believed that Sheikh Hamza Makhdum, popularly known as Makhdum Sahab, and Sheikh Baba Dawood Khaki were instrumental in inviting the Mughals to invade Kashmir. But, quoting reliable sources such as Abdul Majeed Sair’s Tazkira-i-Aslaf, Justice Imtiyaz busts this myth. 

Makhdum Sahab, he points out, died on May 23, 1576 while Emperor Akbar attacked and occupied Kashmir in 1586 AD. Baba Dawood Khaki had virtually renounced the world and gone into seclusion around 1560 AD. “When Akbar’s army proceeded for Kashmir,” Justice Imtiyaz writes, “Khaki had gone to Multan to meet his murshids and pirs. He had become physically so weak that on his return he died in Islamabad (Anantnag) on...January 24, 1586.” That was months before the Mughals arrived.

A section of the population in Kashmir mistakenly holds that since it was Makhdum Sahab who originally acceded to India, the ongoing freedom struggle has no spiritual sanction and, therefore, won’t succeed. They believe that Kashmir shall remain with India for all times to come. The pro-freedom camp is thus indebted to Justice Imtiyaz for busting this myth at this crucial juncture in the freedom movement. He has made clear that neither Makhdum Sahib nor his disciple Baba Khaki acceded to India. 

Makhdum Sahab died during the reign of Sultan Ali Shah Chak and his funeral prayer was led by Hazrat Tahir Rafique. Clearly then, Makhdum Sahab did not even witness the rule of Yusuf Shah Chak, Kashmir’s last independent sovereign, let alone help bring it down. This is further established by a furman, or royal decree, issued by Yusuf Shah Chak granting a vast estate for the maintenance of Makhdum Sahab’s tomb. The furman, preserved in Research Library, Srinagar, shows that Yusuf Shah Chak held the saint in high esteem. 

Justice Imtiyaz also disentangle the web of misconceptions and lies that has served to divide Shi’as and Sunnis in Kashmir. It is a misconception, he writes, that Mir Araki and Sheikh Hamza Makhdum “were inimical to each other”. “It is also not correct that Makhdum Sahab hampered the work of Mir Araki in the Valley. Makhdum Sahab was May 1495 while as Mir Araki paid his second visit to the valley and established his Nurbakshi order in the year 1503. It means that at the time of Mir Araki’s first visit to Kashmir, Makhdum Sahab was not even born and at the time of his second visit, Makhdum Sahab was hardly 8 or 9 years old.”

The book details the persecution of Kashmir’s Shi’a community, the “11 holocausts” as they are described. The last of them took place during the rule of the Dogra king Ranbir Singh. But the king offered compensation to the affected Shi’as and found jailed around 1,000 people who were guilty. 

In the second of his two-volume book, Justice Imtiyaz explodes another myth about the role of Shi’as in Kashmir’s freedom struggle. The Shi’as, he writes, were no fence sitters as is alleged. They not only participated, but offered huge sacrifices. Munshi Muhammad Ishaq, Hakim Qasim Ali, Haji Jafar Khan, Aga Shaukat Ali, Raja Muhammad Ayub Khan, Hakim Ali Reza, Muhammad Yusuf Gazi, Kh Ghulam Naqui and just a few members of the Shi’a community who laid down their lives for Kashmir. Indeed, the book reflects on how Sunni-Shi’a unity had reached its zenith in the early stages of the freedom struggle. Quoting Munshi Ghulam Hasan, he refers to a public meeting that was held at Khanqah-i-Maula, Srinagar, on June 21, 1931. “This was a historical and magnificent meeting after a long period of slavery in which Shi’a, Hanafi, Ahmadi and Ahle Hadith etc met for the first time after Chak rule under one banner,” he writes. “Such an event of unity was seen after centuries where an active member of the movement late Ahmadullah Karra (father of Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din Karra) announced that he was willing to give his daughter in marriage to a Shi’a...”

He also highlights the contribution of Shi’as to Kashmir’s art and culture and literature. Some of the newspapers published by Shi’as were Zulifkar, Al-Hilal, Naya Kashmir, Aawaz, Haqeeqat, Naya Sansar, Safina, Al-Irshad, Sadaqat, Sahafi, Bud Shah and Dabistan. 

The book reproduces some rare historical photos, illustrations and papers, including the English translation of the Khanqah-i-Maula’s wakfnama. The original, prepared by Mir Syed Ali Hamdani and executed on Rabi al-Awal 29, 797 AH, is preserved in the Khanqah.

The book also gives a brief history of Shia’ism in Poonch, Gilgit and Baltistan, and Ladakh. It is a must read for all Kashmiris, especially students of Kashmir’s history, and one to treasure.