Mirwaiz Maulana Muhammad Farooq’s assassination brought to a close one of the most significant chapters of religious and political movement of Kashmir.
by M. S. Rehman Shams
In his brief lifespan of 46 years, Shaheed-e-Millat Maulvi Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq’s immense contribution to the Muslims in general and Kashmiris in particular would always be remembered. His multiple roles as chief cleric, Islamic scholar and thinker, an agent of social change and a political leader makes his life one of the most significant chapters of Kashmir’s collective religious, social and political movements.
Mirwaiz Farooq was born on December 14, 1944 (27th Zilhaj, 1363 AH) at Mirwaiz Manzil, Srinagar when the people were up in arms against the despotic rule of Maharaja Hari Singh.
Some years after the Mirwaiz was born, his uncle Mirwaiz Muhammad Yousuf Shah had to migrate to Pakistan. As a result, the Mirwaiz family had to face a great deal of hardships.
It had a deep impact on Mirwaiz as a child. He observed how his family had to suffer when they stood up and fought for the rights of Kashmiri people. The injustice and cruelty meted out to the family stoked in him a fire for rebellion.
Mirwaiz studied at Islamia and Oriental College and later went on to study theology, Islam, and Arabic language and literature. A bright, inquisitive student, he also studied English language and literature. By the time he was 18, he was anointed as the Deputy Mirwaiz of Kashmir and went on to become Mirwaiz after Mirwaiz Muhammad Yusuf Shah passed away in Rawalpindi.
On December 26, 1963, Kashmir’s holiest relic, Mo-e-Muqqadas (a strand from the beard of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh) went missing which led to widespread protests. People converged in droves on Mirwaiz Manzil, Rajouri Kadal in Srinagar’s downtown neighbourhood.
With unshakeable faith in the Mirwaiz, people chose him as the representative to mount pressure on the authorities to recover the holy relic.
Mirwaiz called a meeting of the heads of religious, political, and social bodies which led to the formation of Awami Action Committee (AAC). As he had played a pivotal role to lay the foundation of the committee, he was appointed as its president. Mirwaiz’s tireless efforts and an uncompromising leadership led to the recovery of the holy relic on January 4, 1964.
Shaheed Mirwaiz was an ardent votary of the resolution of Kashmir issue – a cause that he dedicated his life to. He propagated his thinking and party policies through his newspapers, Hurriyat and Haraf-e-Haq.
Throughout his life, he kept impressing upon India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue which he believed was imperative for lasting peace in South Asia. He always advocated that Kashmiris be accepted as the prime party to the dispute. He was a great believer in the United Nations resolutions on Kashmir.
As the Indo-Pak war broke out in 1965, Shaheed-e-Millat was put behind bars without trial for over two years. This was Mirwaiz’s first jail term. The jail authorities tortured him which resulted in serious damage to his eyesight. A 24-hour curfew was announced after Mirwaiz’s arrest. Thousands of AAC activists were arrested. Violent clashes with police were witnessed on the streets which led to the martyrdom of many including a number of students.
Following the Indira-Abdullah accord of 1975, late Mirwaiz mobilized public opinion against it as it was being done against the people’s wishes.
He said that there was a need to convene a roundtable conference involving all the three parties: Kashmir, India, and Pakistan. Denouncing the accord, he said that if Kashmir issue had to be resolved permanently, it was important that tripartite talks were held between India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri leadership.
Shaheed-i-Millat wanted stability and peace in the subcontinent. He was always of the view that permanent peace would only arrive once Kashmir issue was resolved following the implementation of the UN resolutions.
As a Muslim Leader
Shaheed-i-Millat was a great Islamic scholar, thinker, public speaker and writer committed to spreading the message of Islam. Throughout his life, he imparted religious teachings to people.
He was keenly interested in following the issues of the Indian Muslims and often brought up the problems that the community was beset with.
Education of Muslims was on top of his agenda and he worked for it religiously. He was a member of the two most significant organizations of the Indian Muslims: ‘All Indian Muslim Personal Law Board’ and ‘Kul Hind Muslim Majlis-e-Mashawrat’. In the service of Islam, Shaheed-e-Millat travelled around the world on a number of occasion.
He was the president of the leading educational institution of Kashmir, Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam. He worked his whole life to improve the quality of education of the madrasas which were run by the organisation.
Under his leadership and supervision, Idara-e-Tasneef-o-Taleef founded in 1984, brought out several publications, which included booklets journals and pamphlets. It included the books written by him.
His book Islam Ka Afaqi Paigam is widely acclaimed by Islamic scholars. For a common Muslim, his book Islam Ki Buniyadi Talimat is held in high esteem as is his Islam ka Sandesh in Hindi.
Shaheed-e-Millat enjoyed a warm rapport with Islamic scholars and noted ulema of India and Pakistan.
His deep love and association with Islam is reflected in his speech in the presence of a massive gathering organized by All India Muslim Personal Law Board at Neo College in Tamil Nadu. In his impassioned speech, he said: “You know which force has attracted me to this place. I am proudly declaring that it is only and only Islam which has brought me here.” He would regularly deliver sermons in other states as well.
For his uprightness, straightforwardness, and fearlessness, it was on May 21, 1990 that Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq was martyred after a conspiracy was hatched against him. A pall of gloom descended upon Kashmir. When his body was being brought back from Medical Institute, Soura to his ancestral house, Mirwaiz Manzil, in a procession, the mourners were indiscriminately fired upon by paramilitary forces resulting in scores of deaths with hundreds of people being injured as well, many of them seriously.
However, despite being showered with bullets, the flailing and falling mourners refused to hand over the body to the forces. Many among the injured were left maimed for life. Shaheed-e-Millat’s assassination brought to a close one of the most important chapters of religious and political movement of Kashmir. He was laid to rest at martyrs’ graveyard where thousands of people offered his nimaz-e-janazah.
S. Rehman Shams is Secretary, Awami Action Committee, and a close associate of Mirwaiz Muhammad Umar Farooq.