Bandipora: The joint Itikaf being performed by over 600 men at the Islamic seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Raheemiya in north Kashmir's Bandipora district has brought joy to many locals who are assisting in the event and dedicating themselves to it.
Over the years, the seminary in Bandipora has been a popular destination for people from both within the country and abroad.
The event brings locals from different areas and sometimes, even outsiders, together to perform this significant religious event for “spiritual fulfillment”.
Scores of helpers also called Khadims come together to extend a helping hand in meal preparations and to serve it to the Itikafis.
Itikaf is performed during the last 10 days of Ramadan when people seclude themselves in Masjids or homes to perform supplications and other religious practices.
People familiar with the Islamic seminary say that following the challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, there was a renewed excitement for the joint Itikaf being performed at the seminary.
The atmosphere is filled with a sense of spiritual devotion as individuals and groups engage in individual and joint supplications.
“This year, more than 600 men have gathered at the seminary to perform the Itikaf. The number used to be higher in the years prior to the impact of COVID-19," a spokesman of the seminary, Mufti Fayaz Ahmad told Greater Kashmir. “Nonetheless, this year's gathering has brought renewed enthusiasm and it is beginning to regain the popularity of previous years.”
He said that all those who were performing the Itikaf this year were from within Kashmir.
They expressed hope that outsiders would be able to join them next season.
The Khadims help spread out Dastarkhan to serve the biggest Iftaar and Sehri in Kashmir at the seminary.
This involves breaking the fast and eating pre-dawn meals, allowing the Itikafis to spend their time with ease to perform secluded religious supplications.
Auqil Jibran, a local from Plan, Bandipora, said that it had been a tradition for many years for the locals to go to the seminary and assist with serving Iftar and Sehri. Although the number of people performing Itikaf is limited this year, the spiritual atmosphere remains the same.
In addition to those performing the Itikaf, many locals join in for prayers and a grand Iftaar is also served.
Usually, around 800 people are served a simple Iftar this year, consisting of two dates and a slice of fruit at times.
“However, during important nights like Shab-e Qadr, the number doubles,” said Jibran, a regular helper at the seminary.
Later during the pre-dawn meals, which begin around 3 am, around 150 to 200 oversized copper plates (Tramis for four) are served.
Jibran says the helpers normally get to the seminary in the afternoon and spend the night there.
Wahid Malik, another local, said that helping those performing Itikaf was “spiritually fulfilling”.
Malik said that the Itikafis also benefit as they, guided by the Islamic scholars of the seminary, perform soul fulfilling religious supplications.
He said that the founder, patron, and rector of the seminary Moulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi supervises all the practices.
In the "selfless" practice, the Khadims seek eternal reward and contentment for doing it for the sake of Allah.