Noor Ahmad: A real community leader

Even though we have been incessantly in mourning  for a long time yet some moments of loss intensify it to new levels.  The passing away  of Noor Ahmad at this juncture in time is such a moment that left the entire Tral division orphaned and dwarfed, and its ripples have been felt far and wide. I  am extremely grieved by his  last journey as I  understand beyond personal grief, his communitarian significance and how almost impossible it is to fill the void left by his passing away. I have  known him from my teens and have been deeply impacted by his speeches. He was the first person for me who added intellectual dimension to Islamic teachings when I was at an impressionable age; a time when their was no internet  and no YouTube lectures of scholars to listen to diverse brilliant voices on the exegesis of Islam and the ‘ constructed theology’. Over the years he had outgrown the earlier stages of Tableeg  and expanded his scope of intervention in the society.

Out of four sons his father’s mantle fell on him and he proved himself more than worthy of it. His father was given the charge of Talimul Islam Tral when it was established by some prominent  community members when; my father was a child and Noor Sb offered to work on two rupees salary whereas he was getting fifteen rupees in Srinagar Islamia School at the time. He developed the school literally brick by brick and gradually developed it into the best school in the area. Noor Ahmad took the school to new heights by upgrading the school  to higher classes  and dividing  it into three full fledged branches namely Boys school, Al Banaat and Darul Aloom at three  separate locations. Darul Aloom is situated near Panzinag in our vicinity and a grand mosque, the only one of its kind, has been constructed in its compound  of eight kanals of land in the recent years where he would lead prayer and deliver  Khutba on every Friday as thousands of people from all directions would throng the mosque to listen to him.

What set Noor Ahmad arguably apart from all the current Ulema in Kashmir are his all encompassing teachings on almost all aspects of life  that are classified as: 1) Imaniyat and Tasdeeqaat 2) Aamaal and Ibadaat 3)  Adaab and Muashirat 4) Mamlaat and Siyasiyaat  and 5) Salooq and Maqamaat according to Islamic teachings.

This particular feature greatly impressed the younger generation and intelligentsia who are baffled by several contemporary issues and are  in search  of answers to many questions that modern life throws up. In the light of Islam. This also took him away from criticizing one sect or the other, which he used to do sometimes in the past, and concentrate on the core Islamic thought and philosophy of action. The result was, he was able to unify all sects under the broader contours of Islam transcending  hegemonic sectarian politics and competitive discourses that has done a lot of disservice to  the unity  and monolithic  grand narrative of Islam and  Muslims. This was testified  by the sea of people who came weeping for his Namazi Janazah, and to have the  last glimpse of their revered and beloved Imam. On every  Friday he would choose a particular theme  confronting society  besides other things and explain that in the light of Islamic ethos.

He had a sterling character, led a simple life, was taciturn by nature and constantly cultivated his spirit by zikrullah. He was devoted to his wife  and the couple had  a deep bond of love, fidelity and commitment to each other, and never allowed her to do tough domestic chores. He had so much love for her that when she was ailing and was to be taken to hospital for medical consultation, he put the shoes on her feet himself and did not let his daughters to do so (as told to me by his elder daughter). She further said that he never reprimanded his children but would point to their mistakes indirectly in a friendly manner.

In the earlier stages of his life he was not averse to Peer Muridi –  what is called tariqa.  and may have even criticized it but his evolution was apparent in seeking spiritual guidance first from  Masihulah Khan  and after his passing away from Hazrat Shah Abrarul Haq Hardoi from UP. Both these personalities were khalifas of  Maulana Ashraf Ali  Thanvi.

My regret has been that I did not get a chance to get education in MTI  under his guidance  as girls were not allowed those days, and I carry this sense of bereavement/ loss even  today. I always yearn to go back  in years  to my childhood through  the operation of some magic wand and join the school to learn everything afresh particularly languages – Arabic, Persian, Urdu and English, and Islamyaat from him. My siblings, two sisters and two brothers, were fortunate to be his students in the school. Though my father got the best teachers from this school to teach me at home yet I couldn’t get over this sense of loss of not  having learnt from him.

All those people who have done well in education in Tral have got their mental nourishment from  this school. His father’s contribution to religious education is invaluable but Noor Ahmad stole a leaf over him by contributing to the holistic education as he was well versed in both. In a nutshell, he was a mard e momuin, who had achieved tazkiyai nafas, a genuine traditional scholar, a Qazi, an adminstrator, a waiz, and a social leader. Tral, and its adjacent areas have lost an all protecting shield, a real community leader who played multiple roles and whose place none could replace at present. May God grant him the highest station in Jannah and strength to us to tread on the path he painstakingly showed during his mature life time.

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Since I have gone down the memory lane I feel an irresistible urge to give more details related to Noor Sahab,  and women’s education.

When Noor Sahab had come back from Deoband after completing his formal education there, he started preaching Tawheed and systematic Islamic thought and Ibadaat. He was persecuted by his brethren who mistakenly thought that he was attacking their beliefs, an attempt was made on his life and he leapt from the window to escape the bid on his life, and never returned to that home. He preached that the Prophet is the messenger of God and not a partner unto Him, nor has any saint any divine power. It is wrong to ask them for help. He bore all those torments and disgraces gracefully, but stuck to his beliefs. That time there were a handful of people who followed him. For the rest he was an untouchable. As education spread, the entire area came under the influence of his teachings and when he died on  23rd Jan 1993  swarms of people, in  lakhs, came from all regions to mourn his death, and his opponents paid glowing tributes to his service to Islam and people of the area.

Noor Ahmad didn’t have to go through all those trials and tribulations. He had a vast youth following when his father passed away.

I clearly remember Noor Sb’s evolution about women’s modern education. When I and my sister were sent to Govt school, Noor Sb had objected to my father for sending us to govt school, because sometimes he led prayers and people will object to his Imamat for sending  his daughters to govt school, and that girls are at the risk of losing their values. My father had a great passion to educate his daughters and craved for some magical short cut to take us to higher classes. That is why I was directly put in the 2nd primary class at the insistence of my father and the school administration added four more years to my actual age for jumping up the ladder. My father disagreed with Noor Sb arguing that if he ever felt that his girls were going astray, he would call them back. My father thought Matric was the ultimate degree for girls at that time and wanted us to reach there faster. He promised to Noor Sb that he would let his daughters to  have that degree if they stick to the right path. He told him that he was not committing any blasphemy that people could object to his imamat by trying to educate his daughters even in a govt school and Quoted: Talabul ilmu bisceen; talabul ilmu farizatan alla kuli muslimin wa muslimah. In this hadith  it was not said which kind of exclusive education one should get. In the lighter vein  he told him that China would not have been  suggested as a favorite spot for acquiring religious education by the Prophet.

When I was appointed in the university and visited Noor Sb to give him the news, he asked me for his share in my salary in  a humourous tone. I reminded him again light heartedly of the general fallacy in the then Muslim society that women’s earnings are haram for men and how could he take my earnings. He debunked this fallacy very forcefully. Incidentally by this time all his progeny – his sons, grand daughters and grandsons were getting modem education  so much so that his grand daughters went to medical college and the university and became teachers, doctors etc.

The real liberator for me, however, from the dead weight of customs and conventional absurdities, and the slavery of the literal sense was Mohammad Akbar Ganaei Sahab who taught in the Islamia School and who tutored me at home. He was a mystic by nature and took me to the heart of Quran and Hadith beyond words and beyond literality of legal discourse in Islam. I could never repay him for opening up vistas of my mind and imagination and opening up the reality of things. My mental growth started with him and came to another level at the university where I was introduced to western philosophies. I had by this time the confidence of rejecting many philosophical ideas which were shorn from godhead. Otherwise I could easily have  been alienated from God. Ganai Sb would often say  that Noor Sb is a modern day Qutub. Bottom of Form Ganai Sb himself was no less than a Qutub.

More on that some other time as I owe it to him to tell his story even though this realization dawned on me belatedly .