Feature: Ban for special Ramadan prayers at Srinagar Jamia Masjid hurts believers

Zenaira Bakhsh

On the last Friday of Ramadan, women desperately offered afternoon prayer outside the locked gates of Jamia Masjid. On the previous evening, the doors of Kashmir’s historic Jamia Masjid were once again closed after the Jammu and Kashmir administration disallowed congregational prayers on Shab-e-Qadr and Jumatul-Vida.

“The doors are closed. There is absolutely no one here we can talk to,” said Tayyiba Hakak, a 25-year-old woman, offering prayer outside the mosque’s gate.

“There are no explanations, it has always been like this.”

Shab-e-Qadar— night-long prayers and Jumatul-Vida— the last Friday of Ramadan are special occasions for Muslims across the world.

On Wednesday, officials headed by a magistrate visited Jamia Masjid and conveyed the decision of banning the congregational prayers. J&K police on Thursday said that they had received credible inputs about some fringe elements that may cause law and order issues at Jamia Masjid on the occasion of Shab-e-Qadr and Jumatul-Vida eve after which decision regarding temporary closure of the masjid was taken.

The police also said that after 3 pm on Friday (Jumatul-Vida), people are free to offer prayers at the Jamia Masjid again.

Hakak, a resident from the Eidgah area of Srinagar has over the years spent many afternoons praying inside the mosque. However, since the closure of the mosque, she feels that her Fridays are incomplete.

“Shab-e-Qadr and Jumatul-Vida are big days for us. But this sudden closure hurt us,” she told Maktoob.

Built more than 600 years ago, Jamia Masjid, located in central Kashmir’s Nowhatta, has for decades remained witness to Kashmiris coming together during congregational prayers, religious sermons, and major political uprisings in the region.

According to Anjuman-e-Auqaf, the managing committee of Jamia Masjid, the Friday congregational prayers haven’t been allowed more than 160 times in the past six years, reported Religion Unplugged.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Muttahida Majlis-e-Ulema, a conglomerate of religious bodies headed by the incarcerated separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, expressed strong resentment over the administration’s decision to once again disallow prayers at the Central Jamia Masjid on Shab-e-Qadr and Jumat-ul-Vida.

The Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Thursday urged the Indian government to reconsider its decision forthwith and allow the people to offer prayers in the mosque. Spokesman for the PAGD Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that the move will bar thousands of people from offering congregational prayers inside the historic mosque.

“Since it amounts to direct interference in the people’s religious matters, the move is unacceptable and reprehensible”, the PAGD said.

Qurban Nisar, a 37-year-old dry-fruit shop owner performed the congregational prayers on Shab-e-Qadr in Jamia Masjid. This year, after the mosque was finally thrown open for people to offer prayers, Nisar decided to spend the night of Shab-e-Qadr in Jamia Masjid.

“The police came suddenly on the previous evening and said that congregational prayers won’t be allowed,” he said, “I had tears in my eyes. We all know what they are trying to do to us.”

Once again looking at the locked doors of the mosque reminded Nisar of the previous years when congregational prayers would be held in the mosque. “The ambiance used to be so beautiful on the nights of Shab here in Jamia masjid. We miss that,” he said.

“Now we are even unsure about the Eid namaz.”

Courtesy Maktoob Media