And role of Master Muhammad Yousuf Bhat Saheb of Natipora Srinagar
Religion forms an integral part of any social system. So far as propagation of Islam in Kashmir is concerned, it began with the coming of travellers, traders, adventurers and saints and Sufis of Iran and Central Asia. Undoubtedly, people of Kashmir are highly indebted to Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (RA) for conversion to Islam, the universal religion and complete code of life. Accepting Islam as a faith demands understanding and following of it in a proper sense.
The Ahl-i-Hadith movement or Salafism in Kashmir started during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh of Dogra dynasty when Sayyid Hussain Batku, a resident of Batakpora near Madeen Sahib in Srinagar, raised his voice against “Pir-mureedi” or tomb worship, customs and other superstitious practices which were deep-rooted in the Kashmiri Muslim society. Under Batku, the movement did not make any headway due to opposition from several sects and it was later that Moulvi Anwar Shah and Atta Muhammad Khan were able to advance the cause of Ahl-i-Hadith movement to a great extent.
The main objective of Ahl-i-Hadith movement was to purge Islam of all its accretions and to bring it to its pristine glory. Ahl-i-Hadith movement contributed to the growth of consciousness of the Kashmiri Muslims and gave a new direction to their religious thought. Moulvi Hassan Shah was the first to refer to Ahl-i-Hadith in his voluminous works and after him it was Mohammad Ishaq Khan who in his works entitled “History of Srinagar” and “Perspectives on Kashmir” drew attention to the activities of Ahl-i-Hadith in Kashmir.
Like any other part of Kashmir, Natipora, an uptown area of Srinagar, lagged behind in Islamic knowledge with people following traditional rites in the name of Islam. No proper arrangements were available, like sermons in the local mosque or a Darasgah, for imparting Islamic knowledge and the traditions of the revered Prophet (pbuh). It was in the late sixties that an educated group of youth initiated and set up two evening (Shabeena) darasgah, one each for boys and girls, which ran very smoothly for a decade. As a matter of fact, some non-conformists, who are always dangerous to the faith, could not tolerate the pace of faith reformation among the people, as it would cut their own sources of livelihood and status. So they tried their level best to impede the current of reformation. They claimed success in their devilish efforts but, obviously, they proved to be a failure. This gave more strength to others who continued their mission and constituted an organisation under the name of “Tanzeem-i-Muhammadia” which in the course of time was renamed as Jamiat-e-Ahl-i-Hadith. Its Natipora unit was established in the early seventies. The unit is associated with Jamiat-e-Ahl-i-Hadith J&K which has its head office at Barbarshah Srinagar. The Natipora unit at its birth comprised only ten persons who worked fervently day and night with the mission of bringing people out of the pall of polytheism and innovations. The group focused on influencing the youth and provided them with religious literature that taught the basics of Islam – Tawheed wa Sunnah. It also started a library and a reading room. The results were encouraging and the number of students grew by the day.
It was in 1980 that the unit thought of building a mosque, which by the grace of Allah was founded in 1983 and rebuilt in 2001 with a concrete structure. The unit later started a Baitul Maal (public exchequer) to provide assistance in kind and cash to needy persons of society. This act was highly appreciated by the locals. Presently there are five mosques, four Darasgahs, four Baitul Maals run with the provision of Zakat and alms collected from people of the localities of Natipora, Mehjoor Nagar, Rambagh, Azad Basti, etc. By the grace of Allah (swt), whole of the area adjacent to Natipora is illuminated with the light of Quran and Sunnah. The credit of founding the Natipora unit goes to Master Muhammad Yousuf Bhat Saheb, who along with Lt Abdul Sattar Parray and Abdul Rehman Bakshi felt greatly distressed to see the Muslims sunk in shirk and bidat and strived hard for reforming them.
Master Muhammad Yousuf Bhat was born on October 20, 1945, in Natipora. He did his graduation at Kashmir University, and secured an E.L.T degree through Central Institute of English & Foreign Languages, Hyderabad. He was first appointed as a teacher in 1964 and retired in the year 2003 as headmaster of a high school. Master Sahab took upon himself the job of purifying the religion from evil practices that had crept in and which were being practised ignorantly by common masses. Besides being a scholar of Islam, Master Sahab has complete command over English, Urdu and Kashmiri. He writes for the weekly magazine ‘Muslim’ and is the chairman of the Salfia Muslim Institute. Master Sahab is a model of the Salf-e-Saliheen and leads a pious life. He is loved and respected by everyone in the area. But, there are still some hypocrites who make confedaracies against him and the Natipora unit, but by the grace of Allah (swt) Master Saheb and the Ahl-i-Hadith movement is continuing to make progress.
May Allah bless the departed souls of the torch bearers, give courage to new entrants to keep up the light, and protect us from hypocrisy (Aameen).