Last week, Kashmir’s biggest seminary Darul Uloom Rahimiya wore a different look, as hundreds of Islamic scholars from all over India and the world sat together to do something that has not been heard of in the valley so far.
Their agenda was to find solutions to some critical questions Muslims are facing in their daily lives. Founded by the renowned scholar Rehamtullah Mir Qasmi, an alumnus of Darul Uloom Deoband, the conference hosted 70 accomplished scholars in Islamic jurisprudence and roughly 200 juniors who assisted them in holding threadbare discussions on medical insurance, and property matters between a father and a son. Several thousand people, mostly clerics and students of various seminaries, came to listen to them in the wonderful seminary in northern Kashmir’s Bandipore town.
For two days, the scholars deliberated on the issues at hand, agreeing on some and disagreeing on others. According to a report published in Urdu daily Inquilab, they agreed on an edict that, in the given circumstances, medical insurance is permissible. The justifications for the edict included compulsion by the government, or by corporations on their employees, and the need to fight against deadly diseases that have become a threat in the recent times. They also came to a consensus on the other agenda item.
The two-day conference was held under the aegis of the Centre for Jurisprudential Debates that works directly under Darul Uloom Deoband. But this is not the only centre that gave a green signal to medical insurance. The Fiqah Academy headed by Qazi Mujahidul Islam has given a similar edict on why Muslims should opt for medical insurance.
Many of them were thrown out of their houses, along with their mothers
The two-days conference in Bandipore is a very significant event, where experts in the traditional teachings of Islam carried out Ijtihad, to derive principles from the sources of Sharia to address modern day issues. While Ijtihad is still rare, in some areas it does throw up solutions to critical questions. For that, Rehamtullah Mir Qasmi and the organizers deserve to be congratulated.
However, while the discretion of choosing a theme lies with the organizers – who have held 10 such conferences all over India – it is important to keep in mind the local sensitivities when the agenda is being framed. Since the conference was being held in Kashmir, the issues people have been confronting in last 26 years of conflict should have been included in the discussions. Medical insurance is an important subject, but the second item on the agenda could have been expanded so that it was thematically related to Kashmir.
For example, there are two important issues that have assumed significance in Kashmir during this conflict, that can only be resolved through such an exercise in consensus. One is concerning those women whose husbands have disappeared during the two decades of the turmoil, mostly in the custody of security forces. Known as “half-widows”, they do not know if their husbands are dead or alive, and are not aware of their own status as they wait endlessly. Various schools of thought have suggested various solutions to the problem, but there has been no consensus.
A great effort was made by a local NGO in 2013 when six Islamic scholars from various schools of thought (one among them from Darul Uloom Rahimiya Bandipore) issued a decree on December 26 saying that such women could remarry after waiting for four years. Many such women may not have been keen to remarry, but it came as a major psychological relief for them. In India, as per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act of 1939, a married Muslim woman is entitled to obtaining a decree for the dissolution of her marriage if the whereabouts of her husband are not known for a period of four years. In the case of Kashmir, the issue was slightly different.
Another important issue is related to inheritance, from grandparents to a child whose father is missing. Since a grandchild has no right over the property of their grandparents in the absence of their father according to the Sharia law, the rule had been used in most cases to usurp the property of those children whose fathers were missing and their whereabouts were not known. Many of them had been thrown out of their houses along with their mothers, or in some cases when their mothers had remarried, they were not being looked after by close relatives.
The scholars could have included this issue in their agenda and deliberated on it in the context of the situation in Kashmir. The conference could also have put its stamp on the edict on the remarriage of “half widows”. When issues that are locally important and sensitive are ignored, many see such conferences as attempts by various schools of thought in Islam to promote their own agendas.
Kashmir has become a laboratory for such competitions, such as putting the Attiqadis (those who believe in worshiping at shrines) against non-Attiqadis and vice versa. Such practices have led to fragmentation in the Kashmiri society. Kashmir does not need to become a battleground for Deobandis, Jamaatis, Ahle Hadith and Barelvis. On the contrary, it needs help in healing its wounds of conflict.
The author is a veteran journalist from Srinagar and the editor-in-chief of
The Rising Kashmir