When Sheikh-ul-Hadees Allama Anwar Shah Kashmiri died in 1933, the greatest poet of the subcontinent, and another Kashmiri by descent, Allama Iqbal organised a condolence meeting in Lahore. While addressing the gathering Iqbal, besides reciting his famous couplet Hazaron Saal Nargis Apni Benoori Pe Roti Hai, Badi Mushkil Se Hota Hai Chaman Me Deedawar Paida, said that Allama Kashmiri is undoubtedly the greatest Islamic scholar born in the last 500 years. Iqbal wasn't alone, every scholar of that time expressed similar feelings.
Though Allama Kashmiri was the most revered Islamic figure of his times, his native land Kashmir remained aloof to his legendary status. Though he used to get hero's welcome whenever he came to Kashmir but as the time passed, his memory faded and the current generation have just a faint idea about the stature of Allama Kashmiri. It was this situation that prompted Nazir Ahmad Qadri, 68, a retired school principal from Pattan, to undertake the task of writing a book on Allama Kashmiri. "It is an irony that Allama Kashmiri who is known world over particularly in Islamic world like Saudi Arabia and Egypt remains unknown in Kashmir. People hardly know about him," said Qadri author of The Pride of Kashmir.
It took Qadri around four years to research on the subject as till that time there were just two books on the subject, "There was almost no literature on him. I could find only two books one written by Abdul Rahman Kondu and another by Farooq Shah Bukhari," said Qadri. "So to get the material for my book I had to travel everywhere Allama had been to, be it Deoband, Dabhel, Delhi or other places. I even went to Darul-Ulooms in Kashmir but unfortunately they had nothing on the subject."
Qadri collected the material from every source which he could manage.
Apart from making people aware of the personality of Allama Kashmiri, the idea to write the book was also catalysed by Qadri's close proximity to Maulana Anzar Shah Kashmiri, son of Allama Kashmiri. "I used to attend all lectures of Anzar Shah Kashmiri and I was close to him. He once suggested to me that I should write book on Allama Kashmiri," said Qadri.
The author has managed to highlight some very fascinating facts about Allama Kashmiri. From being called as a mobile library for his immense knowledge to his interactions with the likes of Iqbal and Abul Kalam Azad, the book has everything in it. "One thing that was also his biggest gift but also proved to be a difficulty for authors like us was his lack of habit of keeping notes. He had unprecedented memory power. If he read any book that would stay in his memory forever. He wouldn't forget anything and that is the reason he never thought it necessary to keep notes," said Qadri.
Allama Kashmiri used to have frequent exchange of letters on different matters. The letters were often very lengthy, even upto 5-6 pages. It is said that when Iqbal was in doubt regarding any matter it was Allama Kashmiri who he used to consult and the later would answer all questions satisfactorily. "Unfortunately this is the one thing which I have been unable to find. The letters would have proved inside look into the two great minds of their times. I searched everywhere but those letters are still proving elusive," said Qadri. "Even in Pakistan they have some books on letter wiring of Iqbal but apart from reference of having correspondence with Allama Kashmiri, there are no actual letters anywhere present."
The book is a great inspirational story and a must read for a student and a Scholar alike. According to Dr Javid Iqbal, who reviewed the book, "The author – Nazir A Qadiri – has filled a vital need by providing an elaborate compilation of [the] life and work of the illustrious scholar. How an obscure boy from Lolab, son of a cleric – Mu'azzam Shah – made it to the exalted chair of Sadr al-Mudarrisīn of Dār al-Ulūm Deoband, the prime theological school of the subcontinent, is a story replete with quest for learning and attaining the status of one of the most knowledgeable scholars of all times in the realm of the religion of Islam and its profound understanding."
The book was highly appreciated by people and it prompted him to write the Urdu translation of same, which was released last week. Qadri says that the biggest quality of Allama Kashmiri was that he didn't confine himself to just Islamic literature and was equally passionate and propagated science and other subjects. Allama Kashmiri knew History, Geography, Geometry, Astronomy, Logic and other subjects. The second thing was his wish to unite people. "He wanted entire Muslim Ummah to unit and Iqbal shared his passion in this regard. Once there was a bitter war of words and conflict between Barelvis and Deobandis and many used very cheap language against each other. But not even a single time was anything said against Allama Kashmiri. Everybody owned him and he was an example of unity," said Qadri.
Qadri's journey to literature started in 2009 when he wrote his first book My Kashmir My Life. The book comprises of two section one dedicated to celebrate the unsung heroes of Kashmir and another section documents geography, art and culture and socio-economic problems of Kashmir. "I have found that there are so many people who have done a lot of work in Kashmir but nobody knows about them. People outside document every minor achievement and cherish every known personality, but here we have tendency to forget everything," said Qadri. The book has documented people like Mohammed Amin Owaisi Qureshi a big name in spiritual mysticism, Abdul Samad Kakroo, a scholar businessman and philanthropist and some others.
The book received a lot of appreciation from readers and currently Qadri is working on its revised second edition that will have updated and additional knowledge.
The book, which is dedicated to his son, also touches the personal tragedy faced by Qadri. In 1994 Qadri's son Basit Nazir who was then studying in class 11 went to school to inquire about his examination result and marks obtained. "He left at 9.30 am and never came back. Till this day we had been yearning for him but there is not even an iota of information about him," said Qadri. Basit became one of the thousands of persons who disappeared from their homes in Kashmir. The family looked for him at every police station, jail and security camp but had to come back empty handed. "We don't know whether he was killed, arrested, went to that side or is still alive. Was his blood splattered on roads and meadows of Kashmir or it is still warm and flowing, only God knows," said Qadri.
Qadri's other famous work has been his Urdu fiction Raet ke Dore, which was equally cherished by Urdu lovers. He has written another book Afsanvi Majmooa and a book based on his diary. The author of eight books is currently working on few more books. The versatile author also writes poetry in English and intends to publish his poetic collection soon.