In 1958, Sofi sneaked across LoC to go see ‘this man who challenged everything on the grounds of reason’
Sopore: Ghulam Hassan Sofi is 75 years old, but the long years have diminished none of the vivid memories of his teenage, when, longing to meet his political, religious and ideological inspiration, he made three daredevil attempts to cross the Line of Control (LoC). He failed twice but in the third try he was across, on his way to Lahore.
Today he is a prominent figure in Sopore town and a member of the Jama’at-e-Islami, the organisation founded by his great inspiration, Syed Abul Ala Maududi. As a 13-year-old boy, Sofi was so inspired by the scholarly writings of Maududi that he determined to go to Pakistan to see him in person.
“There was no political reason, whatsoever, weighing on my mind when I decided to cross over to Pakistan,” Sofi told Kashmir Reader. “My desire to meet Maulana Maududi was born of a deep appreciation of his works and writings on secularism, nationalism, women’s emancipation, western colonial imperialism, and the Islamic world. As a member of the Tehreek-e-Islami (Jama’at-e-Islami), I found his intellect towering and I decided I had to see him in person.”
Formerly a resident of Sofi Hamam, Ghulam Hassan Sofi now lives in Badambagh locality of Sopore with his two sons, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. Advancing age has covered most of his life’s events in the mist of forgetfulness, but he vividly remembers the journey to Pakistan from Kashmir.
Sofi said he was in Class 7 at Sopore’s Islamia School when he first read Soum-I-Salah, the first text of Maulana Maududi that he came across. “I once saw a private tutor of mine crying. I asked him why, and while he did not reply, I took the books he was holding from him and started reading them at home. They were the books Maulana Maududi sahib wrote. I don’t remember what really touched my heart, and mind, while I read them, but that was the time when the love for Maulana Maududi was born within me,” Sofi said.
“I never stopped reading Maulana Maududi sahib after that. In my school days, I read him in three different rooms in old town Sopore. I read his Risalah Deeniyaat in the 8th class. Through Maududi sahib’s writing, I understood that a nation without reason is illogical and that Islam is a command we all have to follow. Such ideas of his influenced me, and they raised a desire within me to see this man who challenged everything on the grounds of reason,” Sofi recalled.
“It was 1956 when I decided to visit Pakistan. I left home but I was caught by some locals who used to do business in those days with my elder brother in Kupwara. That could not stop me. I attempted the journey again after a year, but I was again caught in Panzigam, Kupwara, and was handed over to my family. But the desire to see Maulana Maududi was so great that I attempted the crossing once more in 1958, through the Nowgam sector, when I was in my second year at Sopore College. This time I was successful. I was accompanied this time by two friends, Ghulam Ahmad Bacha and Ghulam Ahmad Bhat,” Sofi said.
“We reached Muzaffarabad but we were arrested there by Pakistani forces, who kept us at the Nishat interrogation centre. Luckily, we were identified by Ghulam Qadir Tar, who was already present there, having left Kashmir many years before and who was a member of the Muslim Conference in Pakistan. He asked me the reason of my visit; I replied that I wanted to meet Maulana Maududi sahib. I was sent to Lahore, but when I reached there, I learnt that Maulana sahib had gone to attend some all-party conference in Karachi.
“I was reading Tarjuman-ul-Qur’an in the library when I heard that Maulana Maududi had arrived there. I immediately rushed to the lawn and hugged him. As soon as I hugged him, he asked where the other two were who had come with me from Kashmir. I told him they weren’t there. Then, as he was tired, he told me we would meet after the Asr prayers,” Sofi recalled.
“I spent almost two months with Maulana Maududi in Lahore. He sent me to Islamia College in Lahore, but it was my bad luck that I couldn’t accept the lifestyle and came back (to Kashmir) through Uri sector. There I was arrested and brought to Qadir Ganderbali’s office. When the officer saw me, he started abusing Pakistan and told them to release me. I was released and I became a member of Jama’at-e-Islami, ideologically but not actively,” Sofi said.
“As I was a friend of Mohammed Maqbool Butt, the head of the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front, I was arrested in 1967 for two years, then released. The routine of arresting me and putting me in different jails continued till the 1990s. I have spent almost ten years in jails,” Sofi said.
“One of my sons was among the first militants from Sopore who achieved martyrdom. His name was Abdul Roaf and he was affiliated with the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen when he was martyred. I was in Hiranagar Jail at that time,” Sofi said.
When asked for his views on the politics of Kashmir, Sofi said, “Our religion has 72 sects, but the irony is that our politics has 172 sects. Till we are not all together, every goal will be difficult for us.”
Sofi has maintained a small library at his home, in which most books are of Maulana Maududi. “Even at this age, the desire of reading is the same as it was during my youth. Due to bad health, I have not been an active member of the Jama’at-i-Islami but ideologically I will be always associated with this party,” the wise old man said.