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Peace Watch » Editor's Take, Kashmir-Talk, Memeiors » Ramzan And Our Childhood

Ramzan And Our Childhood

Our Religious Schooling


Z.G. Muhammad

Reminisces how so sweet they may be, have their poignancy. Many a time writing about my childhood, I feel like Shelly that I am writing, an ‘epitaph of the glory fled’. Believing, ‘the loveliest and the last, is dead’, I hear the cry inside me, ‘Rise, Memory, and write its praise- for now, the Earth has changed its face, a frown is on Heaven’s brow.’

Grand Mosque Srinagar

Indeed, the earth has changed; childhood has fled. It cannot be brought back.  Every year on the sighting of the Ramadan moon this harsh reality dawns on me but still, memories, make me bask in the spiritual ambience that overwhelmed our part of the city on the commencement of the holy month. I remember the Sahar Khawan during our childhood would not only just beat drums ferociously to wake up people for midnight meals and prayers, but many times they also recited loudly manqabat and naats in a melodious voice.  

During our childhood, there were hardly any darul-ulooms with boarding and lodging facilities in the city. Our part of the town had remained fountainhead of Islamic learning during the period of the Sultans.  Hundreds of students from Central Asia studied in many religious schools, seminaries and universities that were in around the Jamia Masjid. The Sikh governors followed by Dogra rulers destroyed these institutions, leaving behind ruins only that spoke of their glory even during our school days. In our childhood, only a few Islamic seminaries had remained, of these the most important was the Anjuman-i-Nusrat-ul-Islam. This institution founded in the latter part of the nineteenth century was mother institution of my alma mater. It functioned from a building in our school, and only a few attained proficiency in Islamic studies in this institution. Widely most of the boys in our generation did not get any formal religious education and whatever little bit we learnt about religion was in our school, where Deenyat was an important subject. I was not different from the lot- I got no formal education in theology.  Nevertheless, it was during the Holy month of Ramadan only that boys of my generation got a rigorous religious training.

I remember, many times, my peers and I supplemented the efforts of Sahar Khawan in waking up people for midnight meals by going around in our locality and knocking at the doors of the people. Sometimes, we picked up an old tin canister from the piles of them in our area- our locality was famous for stocking and trading of the old canisters and bottles. Stacks of them were found in every open space. Beating the tin canister loudly sometimes out of fun, we indulged in lots of jocular catcalls to the annoyance of some neighbours.

After having our Sahari, our morning journey for having fajr prayers started. Going for prayers had its fun for us- we very rarely said fajr prayers in the masjid of our Mohalla. At the very start of Ramadan, we drafted an itinerary for a full month. There would be hardly an Astana or hospice in our part of the city where we did not offer our fajir prayers. One of best pastimes after the fajir prayers was listening to the sermons on the importance of the holy month from smalltime preachers on the lawns of Astana’s or hospices and Masjids. Of all the places, where we enjoyed listening to sermons the most was under the canopy of big Chinar tree on Kastur-Pand, a small plateau overlooking the Nageen and the Dal Lakes on the Koh-e-Maran. Many a time, when I look back, Kastur-Pand, lawns of Khanqah-e-Moula and Jamia Masjid were for us open-air religious schools.

Listening to the sermons of one or other preacher, from small wooden pulpits under the shade of Chinars in Jamia Masjid,  I remember many elders would feel nostalgic about Mirwaiz Yusuf Sahib. They would often tell us that children born after his exile  to the other side were unfortunate. Many remembered his sermons verbatim and could repeat it in the same tone and tenor. We as children also looked for the day when we would listen to his great discourses on Islam.

 It is fresh in mind, when I was yet to cross ten yes that was 1958,     there were rumours about the return Yusuf Saib from Pakistan. Three months after Ramadan in July, he reached Amritsar with lock, stock and barrel. But, he was not permitted to visit Srinagar. For refusing to sign some documents brought to him by an envoy from New Delhi, he sent back to Pakistan from Amritsar only.  So children of our generation were deprived of getting religious education from this great religious scholar. Then started another phase of faith-based schooling for the Downtown boy – tryst with Mirwiaz Muhammad Farooq. 

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