Remembering Syed Shabir Ahmad Sidiqi
Contribution as a Socio-Religous Reformer
Syed Shabir Ahmad alias Shabir Sidiqi, the brain behind the formation of Islamic Educational Trust, Jammu and Kashmir , a religious leader par excellence, much known and famous in the social circles for his affability and above all, among the very few great names who implemented in practice what he believed, sacrificed his life for the cause of the freedom of Kashmir, was born in a highly revered religious cum Sufi family in Soibugh Budgam, in today’s Sidiqi Colony, named after him, which falls in south eastern part of Soibugh. His father, Syed Anwar Bukhari, was a great saint of his times whose fame transcended the bonds of time and space. It was in his lapses that Syed Shabir Ahmad received early education. Syed Anwar Bukhari, a Sufi Pir, cultivated the Sufism based latitudinarian principles in him and thereby helped in developing his broad mental faculties. Besides his father, the other person who laid a profound impact on the early life of Syed Shabir Ahmad Sidiqi was his uncle Syed Alaudin Bukhari who was a renowned Islamic scholar.
After stepping up the ladder of secular education successfully from government High School Soibugh to Government Higher Secondary School, Budgam Syed Shabir Ahmad first worked in a school in Ichigam, Budgam under Anjuman Nusratul Islam. Later on ,he was appointed as government teacher and performed his professional duties at Talapora Khansahib, Budgam. However, he attained fame by becoming a religious preacher. His melodious and eloquent but vociferous speeches attracted people form far off places to listen to their beloved religious preacher. Syed Shabir Sidiqi adopted a Sufi approach and used to advise people to cultivate love for the Prophet Muhammad (S. A. W), his followers, Sufi saints and follow their broad humane principles in letter and spirit. Syed Shabir Sidiqi worked with the zeal of a socio-religious reformer and started a chain of Islamic seminaries in Budgam . However he did not stop here and taking on the mantle of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan he launched the Islamic Educational Trust, Jammu and Kashmir with the purpose to disseminate modern education among the future generations of students. Interestingly, Syed Shabir Sidiqi, aware of the importance of English, started it as medium of instruction in the schools under this trust.
However Syed Shabir Sidiqi earned fame as a political leader, one who was original and innovative at a time when leaders at large toed the line scripted across the border in Pakistan. He provided an intellectual background for the Independent Jammu and Kashmir and persuaded by his intelligent articulation many thinkers ,scholars and intellectuals agreed to his point of view. It was his independent and critical thinking which brought him at the central stage of Kashmir politics as he assumed the reins of JKLF. Syed Shabir Sidiqi believed in debates and discussions and no wonder he visited a number of colleges and university to discuss the nuances of Kashmir politics with the purpose to evolve a common perspective and a unified goal to be achieved.
Political Philosophy of Syed Shabir Sidiqi
Syed Shabir Sidiqi had a profound understanding of the different political philosophies. Syed Shabir Sidiqi had a discerning eye and he kept himself abreast of different movements and the latest political developments across the globe. After a deep study and reflection Syed Shabir Sidiqi came to the conclusion that the best solution for Jammu and Kashmir (as it existed prior to 26th October , 1947) was complete independence. It is interesting to mention that Syed Shabir Sidiqi didn’t subscribe to the view that the part of Kashmir which is under the control of Pakistan was “Azad” in the technical sense of term which was lent credence by the those who were for the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. Instead he maintained that the part of Kashmir under the administrative control of Pakistan was their protectorate till the final resolution of Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. This was a revolutionary departure from the established notion in Kashmir. Syed Shabir Sidiqi evolved his political philosophy after a thorough study of Quran, Islamic history and different political philosophers of Islam like Syed Abu Ala Maududi. In a letter written in the Central Jail Srinagar Syed Shabir Sidiqi strongly advocates for complete independence of Jammu and Kashmir and contested the dominant view which saw the merger of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan as a logical solution of Jammu and Kashmir. The reasons for this line of thought and consequent action had to be seen in the dismemberment of Pakistan in 1971. Moreover, Syed Shabir Sidiqi didn’t see anything unislamic in his advocacy for the Independent Jammu and Kashmir. In the first instance ,He exhibits confidence in his belief emanating from the Quran which describes the event of Bilquees as a case for complete political autonomy in lieu of her accepting the faith in Allah. Second , Syed Shabir Sidiqi had a discerning eye on history and quite clearly saw the dismemberment of Pakistan which proved beyond doubt that religious solidarity is short-lived as this type of solidarity is not based on worldly interests but on inner faith which is not constant. Syed Shabir Sidiqi’s favouring and strongly advocating the cause of complete independence was in a way reflection of his rational analysis which took into account the historical, socio-cultural and traditional factors for the perfection of which a common goal has to be identified. Thirdly, Syed Shabir Sidiqi questioned the rationale of the leaders who considered the propagation of independent Jammu and Kashmir as a heretical tendency by asserting that mutually compatible territorial Islamic states can co-exist. Moreover Syed Shabir Sidiqi upheld the view of many muslim philosophers who thought that with the expansion of muslim world as unified Islamic State was a remote possibility given the historical, racial , regional and other factors. Yes Syed Shabir Sidiqi favoured an Islamic state in Jammu and Kashmir which would be a civilised regime of law whose end should be the good of this world as well as the next. And then despite his unambiguous stand concerning the resolution of Kashmir dispute, he maintained that people were the source of power and he would support any resolution which bears the attestation of the majority of people. However , time has proved Syed Shabir Sidiqi right as a number of surveys done by the reputed international agencies suggest that the mass majority favours an independent state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Syed Shabir Sidiqi advocated arms as a means to liberate Kashmir. He advocated this unequivocally while giving interview as the President of JKLF. No wonder, He was perhaps the first prominent political and militant figure who died in a combat with Indian Armed forces. Syed Shabir Ahmad’s name struck the headlines for his involvement in the 2nd Hazaratbal Siege and died while fighting Indian forces along with his colleagues in the premises of the world famous Hazratbal Shrine on 30th March, 1996. A pale of gloom descended upon entire Soibugh and its neighbouring area when the news of his martyrdom rang the ears of people. His body was taken in procession and laid to final rest at the martyrs graveyard in Iddgah, Srinagar.
(Author is Assistant Professor in History. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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