We can’t accept an anthem which doesn’t mention Shah-e-Hamadan
PUNCHLINE BY Z.G. MUHAMMAD
These were three days of rediscovering ourselves. The international seminar on Mir Syed Ali Hamadani organized by the Institute of Islamic Studies, Kashmir University was ‘wide-ranging. Starting with thought- provoking keynote address by Prof. Muhammad Ishaq Khan, profound presidential address by Prof. M.A. Sofi and incisive valedictory address by Prof. G. R. Malik, the seminar was in more than one way introspective. Cascading with scholarship it set hundreds of participants thinking, rethinking rather rediscovering the great descendent of Hazrat Ali. Number of valuable original contributions made at the seminar will go a long way in widening the knowledge base in the state and outside about this great Islamic scholar, who not only metamorphosed Kashmir society but also brought about a silent social, cultural and economic revolution in this Elysian land. In his introduction to Allama Iqbal’s Javid Nama, Prof. Shaikh Mahmud Ahmad has aptly said, “Shah-i-Hamdan’s exposition of the problem of liberation of Kashmir has a surprisingly a relevant ring even today.” Shah-i-Hamadan after about seven hundred years makes his presence felt in all aspects of contemporary Kashmir society. For his ideas on governance, economic measures and social engineering he is as relevant today as he was in fourteenth century.
The scholarly papers and discussions thereof in the seminar persistently reminded me of the apathy shown towards this great benefactor of Kashmiris by myopic and jaundiced authorities of the University by deliberately and under a design not incorporating his name in the University Anthem. Most of the personages that have contributed to literary, religious or political landscape of this land have been hailed in the anthem. Some years back, when I asked the lyricist who had been hired by the University for writing its anthem, why name of Shah-i-Hamadan was not mentioned in the University Anthem. His stock answer was that he was not an aborigine. The anthem however mentions names of some literary and political personages who are not equally aborigines but have enriched intellectual scene of this land.
Not mentioning name of Shah-i-Hamadan, an embodiment of scholarship in the anthem of temple of learning is manifestation of particular mindset that has been denying Kashmir its own distinct identity. This attitude is a continuation of the mindset of his near contemporaries, as was rightly pointed by Prof. Khan in his address like “chroniclers, Srivara and Jonaraja who do not refer him at all in their works.” This mindset has been at work almost at all important junctures of our history. If one looks dispassionately at the names mentioned in the University anthem, none of them can match to the contributions made by Shah-e-Hamadan in the development of Kashmir personality. Most of them did not live beyond their times and whatever their contributions had no impact on society not to say revolutionizing it. Seen in right perspective Mir Syed Ali Hamadani is the architect of the Kashmir identity that for its political import has been part of both the ‘dominant’ and ‘popular’ discourses during past couple of decades. The ‘dominant’ discourse sees the Kashmir identity in syncretism of faiths for which a new word was coined and given currency as against this the ‘popular’ discourse attributes it to the ‘religious tolerance’ infused in our society by the great avant-garde.
History very subtly suggests that the concept of ‘religious tolerance’ was born in Kashmir along with the blowing of the breeze of new faith all over the valley. And it found a very firm pedestal in the teachings of Shah-i-Hamadan. The Kashmir society as far as religious faith is concerned before the advent of Islam was `not pluralistic. The influence of Buddhist faith had almost become extinct. However, it was overwhelmingly caste ridden and intolerant towards the members of the lower caste. Islam dissolved not only caste distinction but also elevated the status of the underprivileged and largely brought them at par with elite of the society. Mir Syed Ali Hamadani in consonance with teachings of Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) presented Islam in Brahmanical environment as a religious of love and equality thus laid foundation of a highly tolerant society that is nowadays counted as the most important trait of Kashmir identity. This identity founds its manifestation during most trying times of the history of the land.
He further enriched the identity that makes Kashmir distinct through his words and deeds. In a parasitical Brahamincal society, he by insisting his disciples to work for their living taught dignity of labor. Seeing Kashmiris irrespective of their background emerge as Insan-e-Kamil he intensely focused on education. Education for everyone largely redeemed the Kashmir society of the torturous ‘casteism’ and laid foundation of a new Kashmir. It is this “new Kashmir” that earned this land nestled in mountains a distinctive identity.
Kashmir handicrafts having ‘turned into symbol of royalty, epitomes of positions, totems of brilliance and ‘a determinant of commercial ties with foreign countries attracted imperial patronage.’ this made Kashmir known to the comity of nation and gave this land an identity of its own. His presence in fact affected every aspect of Kashmir life, language, literature, culture and fine arts and laid foundation of a new Kashmir that has survived many desperadoes and lives largely in its pristine form.
Not mentioning him in the anthem of the temple of learning is not discourtesy towards the founder of modern Kashmir identity but also a great intellectual dishonesty.
(Adopted from my presentation at the seminar)
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