Yaniye Baniye Musalmaani, Mir Syed Ali Hamdani- reverberates in his Khanqah here where he laid the foundation of Islam in Kashmir 700 years ago.
In 21st century Muslim Jammu and Kashmir, his Khanqah, from where he preached and guided his disciples to spread Islam far and wide in Kashmir, is in shambles.
As one enters Khanqah Mualla in downtown Srinagar, the “cheap” buntings during Urs placed by Waqf management to hide their failure cast a shadow on the majestic view of this historical place.
To make it bit attractive, two wooden pillars from the front side have been given make over by painting it sky blue and the rest of the building is in a pitiable condition.
This correspondent visited the Khanqah before and after floods to check the status of this oldest and historical spot only to find that during this time the condition has gone from bad to worse with government or the Waqf management showing no interest to refurbish it.
Evidently with no cement layer covering over the stones at the base during decades, the flood water of 2014 seeped in deep to erode the structure as four pillars of this Khanqah stand damaged from the base.
By placing white tapes a year ago over the depleted portion of the pillars on which Ya Rab is engraved magnificently in paper machie work done by devotee, the Waqf officials ignored the repeated SoS from the erstwhile Intizamia committee to reconstruct the foundation pillars of the Khanqah Maulla.
Shamshuddin Hamdani, 80, who is Mauzin Khanqah Maulla, and served as Supervisor (honorary) in the then Muslim Auqaf Trust before 2002, blames the Waqf board for the neglect and revealed that the interiors or exteriors of the Khanqah have been always refurbished, revamped or reconstructed by the devotees.
“Why don’t you ask Waqf board as to what they do with the donation of the devotees,” questions Shamshuddin, who has traveled to Khatlan in Tajikistan where the grave of Hazrat Ameer-e-Kabir (RA) lies. “Even during Urs, the boxes were full of charity amount but look at the pathetic condition of this Khanqah,” he explained.
According to him, it was in 2000-2001 that Haji late G M Matoo spent Rs 7 lakh for interior and exterior paper machie work of the Khanqah.
“Similarly, Matto spent Rs 97000 for varnish of the wood work in 2004-2005. Even Noorkhan (ladies segment) was refurbished by him,” reveals he.
The Khatamband work on Sultan Khan (first floor), as per Shamshuddin, was also donated by a devotee by paying Rs 12 lakh.
“Even after a year, the dilapidated pillars are not repaired, nor do they allow the devotees to reconstruct them at the base. The erstwhile Intizamia Committee is contemplating to consult lawyers to move out from the Waqf Board,” says Shamshuddin, adding that prominent among those in the panel are Molvi Riyaz Hamdani, Haji Abdul Rasheed Shaafee, Abdul Majeed Matoo, Abdul Rasheed Ghani, Ghulam Hassan Ghani, who is also custodian of the revered and historical documents pertaining to Khanqah.
HAMAM AND MASJID LOCKED
Apart from Khanqah’s shabby condition; the adjacent Hamam and Masjid on the right side constructed during Mughal period some 400 years back are locked.
As per Din Muhammad Khan, a private television producer who lives in the vicinity and a regular attendant at Khanqah, this is the only religious place in Kashmir “where we don’t have Wadhukhana (bathroom) for devotees.”
“Now ablution is done in open with new water pipes laid for males but female devotees have no place to go for ablution,” says Din.
The condition of Hamam and Masjid got worsened after floods.
Similarly, on the left side and near the adjacent graveyard lies the Shaikh Baba Ali Wali’s (RA) shrine which is under construction with roof being renovated while original wood work taken out, has been dumped at the entry point.
“This construction or repair work too is being undertaken by devotees,” reveals Shamshuddin.
Shaikh Baba was one among hundreds of disciples of Hazrat Ameer-e-Kabir (RA) who settled in Kashmir to spread Islam here. Among the disciples, his grave is comparably well managed. Rest of the graves in open from rear side of the Khanqah reflect their pitiable position.
In front of Baba Wali’s grave is small park named Hamdani park with no sign of maintenance as filthy wooden racks, worn out iron grills and dirty scrap dot its outlook.
Just outside it lies a shabby CGI covered security room which hardly looks like the one but inside it lie dumped cement bags and other construction left over.
From the River Jhelum side in rear portion, the silt has not been removed even after a year.
The intricately done paper machie work from rare and Noorkhan side is now picture of dull and moth eaten pieces hanging around pitifully.
The dust over small perched wooden ladder from the rare side of the Khanqah, from where Ameer-e-Kabeer (RA) would enter it for prayers, the dirty long wall robes in which Quranic words are inscribed, the ragged exteriors all over, clearly reflect the callousness of the Waqf to maintain the revered place in Kashmir.
“This is for the first time that pillars have got damaged. We had given written request to Waqf Board to either repair the pillars immediately or upkeep the Khanqah properly or leave it to us for maintenance,” says Peerzada Masood Ahmad Hamdani. Inside Khanqah, the feel of spiritual aura is reminiscent of Hazrat Ameer-e-Kabeer’s (RA) religious discourses as he propounded tenets of new religion.
However, the worry for devotees and the erstwhile Intizamia Committee is how its sanctity should be maintained and preserved.
“We are concerned that this holy place should remain intact. This worry got triggered after we witnessed what happened to Dastageer Sahib (RA) in a fire,” Din Muhammad said.
Here inside the Khanqah, the electric wires hardly match the safety standards with boards and switches ordinarily fixed on the wooden panels in the backdrop of paper machie work.
“Some fire extinguishers are there with sirens but at times these hardly work and are regular and disturb during prayers,” he says.
The decorated jars almost 23 in number which hang around middle are not fully functional with about four in working condition while savers attached to these jars illuminate the surroundings.
“Look at the dirty hanging robes which are put on the walls inside. Even water is given to devotees using plastic buckets throwing light on the callous approach of the management,” argues Muhammad Altaf Shah.
Altaf and Din echo views of Shamshudin about the carelessness of Waqf in upkeep of generator and transformer.
“A new generator was purchased before floods and now it’s not working for want of a mechanic. Similarly, the transformer is not functional for want of repair,” they say.
Adjacent to Hamam lies Gulshan Hamdania park which also presents look of apathy.
At the spot where Shaikh Hamza Makhdoom Sahib (RA) would meditate is a place where bedding of security personnel is dumped amidst collection of matting piled in a corridor overlooking the Gulshan Hamdania Park.
“This revered place should be taken over by Ministry of Culture or JK Bank with INTACH and Tourism department joining in to restore its lost glory,” suggests Din Muhammad.
Arguing that massive hue and cry was raised against the concert at Shalimar Garden with the plea that it would impact the architecture and landscape of Shalimar Garden, Din and Altaf favour similar response to the present apathy of the place where Islam’s roots spread across the Valley and elsewhere.
Despite Archaeological Survey of India declaring it as monument of National Importance under the ancient monuments and archaeological sites and remains act, 1958 (24 of 1958), Waqf Board has not cleaned the Khanqah once.
“I had purchased two vacuum cleaners for carpets which are not working now. Similarly carpets which were also donated by devotees remain dirty with no care or wash over the years,” says Shamsuddin.
Secretary Waqf Board G M Rather when asked about the deteriorating condition of the Khanqah, said the pillars and Hamam would be repaired soon.
“There is also need of some paper machie work at some portion and we will also do that.”
“We spend donations on the employees who are responsible for maintenance and other tasks of the Waqf properties. Donations are only source of income as we don’t receive any financial help from the government or any other source,” he added.
WITH ALI IMRAN HAMDANI