SRINAGAR: Neither the throng of devotees nor night-long prayers followed by display of holy relics on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj took place at the Hazratbal Dargah in Srinagar on Monday. The only other time this had happened was 27 years ago, in 1993, when militants had occupied the shrine for more than a month.
Mosques across Kashmir cut short Shab-e-Meraj prayers and avoided sermons in the wake of the coronavirus scare. No night-long prayers were held anywhere in the valley. Few people turned up at mosques; most preferred to stay indoors and prayed at their homes.
The Jammu and Kashmir Wakf Board had on Saturday announced that no congregational prayers and celebrations will be held on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj at prominent shrines across Kashmir valley. It had also suspended regular prayers in shrines affiliated with it.
Following the lockdown ordered by the administration last week, strict restrictions were put in place at Hazratbal on Sunday and again on Monday to prevent any gathering or movement of people near the shrine.
Devotees who every year visited Hazratbal and offered night-long prayers there on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj felt disheartened that circumstances had confined them to their homes.
“We are unhappy because our shrine has remained closed on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj. We had never thought that the situation will come to such a pass that we will not be able to celebrate the day at our shrine. May Allah bless us all, this is a very unfortunate time for all of us,” said Mohd Shafi, a regular Naat and Awrad Khawaan at the shrine.
Abul Hassan Farooqi, aged 70, has been closely associated with the shrine since decades. He said, “It is for the second time that Hazratbal shrine has remained closed on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj. Last time it happened in 1993, and now it is due to this virus.”
Night-long prayers are held at Hazratbal on the eve of Shab-e-Meraj and the next day, the holy relics of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) are displayed before thousands of devotees who throng to the shrine to witness them.
Masood ul Haq, administrator of the shrine, said, “The celebrations of Shab-e-Meraj were not allowed in the wake of the coronavirus. It is the second time since the Hazratbal siege in 1990s that Shab-e-Meraj has not been celebrated here and holy relics not displayed.”
Shab-e-Meraj is usually observed on the 27th of Rajab month in the Islamic calendar. The biggest congregation in Kashmir is witnessed at Hazrabal, followed by the Kabamarg shrine in Anantnag where thousands of devotees assemble to have a glimpse of holy relics. However, this year no congregations were allowed in the Kabarmarg shrine as well.
In the year 1993, militants had held hostage Hazratbal shrine for a month, during which time the festival of Shab-e-Meraj fell. People were not able to go inside the shrine and the siege laid by government forces around the shrine had ended with the militants surrendering without any bloodshed taking place.