Trending Among Kashmir Youth: Eitikaaf

Srinagar: Kashmir Observer reported that about 1200 young people turned up for Eitikaaf at Darul-ul-Uloom Rahimiya, Bandipore. It needs to be noted here that these mo’atakifeen( those performing the Eitikaaf) were not the students of the Darul Uloom but came from different parts of Kashmir.  

Eitikaaf, as many readers, would know, an intense spiritual exercise for at least a period of ten days. This exercise warrants a total withdrawal from the world and worldly affairs and entails vigorous and intense spiritual disciplines and exercises like zikr (devotional incantation wherein the worshipper is so absorbed in chanting Asma ul Husnaa (God’s names and attributes), durood shareef ( incantations and supplications in memory and honour of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and recitation of the Qur’an. 

Eitikaaf induces a special kind of orientation and transcendence in the mo’atakifeen but key here, to repeat , is the intensity it warrants. It is by no means an easy spiritual exercise; perhaps only the initiated or the intensely devoted can take part in Eitikaaf.

The question is: what explains the numbers that Eitikaaf is drawing or has drawn during Ramzan?

There are two strands to the answer: one generic and general and the other peculiar to Kashmir. Generically speaking, even though some of the philosophically minded might disagree, humans are spiritual beings as well. While and even if our corporeal (bodily) needs are met to “picture perfection”, there is a certain emptiness that defines us if our spiritual needs are not met.  Human beings then are a compendium of mind, body and the spirit and each dimension of our self needs to be attended to. It is then that we can lead balanced lives. However, it may be stated, that to give meaning to our lives, it is the anterior and the interior , that is, spiritual dimension of our lives that is important; spirituality gives us not only meaning but also succour and a compass and direction to our lives without which a certain emptiness or anomie defines us existence. 

Spirituality- of the higher order or even the lay type- then is perhaps an existential matter. And intense spiritual exercises reorient us with the Divine and the transcendent. Kashmir and Kashmiris are no exception to these general rules. But why are the youth getting drawn to this intense spiritual discipline?

Kashmir’s youth are a special youth- special not in the sense of being exceptional but rather the context and conditions in which they grow are defined by uncertainty, conflict and a certain directionlessness. This is overlaid by an obsessive materialism and opportunism that seems to have become the dominant narrative in Kashmir contemporarily. These themes , added up, can  among the sensitive lead to a certain restlessness and disenchantedness amongst the youth. In terms of the duniya(world), nothing appeals to or animates these sensitive youth. (This is not to state that all Kashmiri youth are drawn to higher order or even lay spirituality). The obvious retreat from the materialistic, crassly competitive and uncertain world is the spiritual world. Hence the draw of the Eitikaaf.

Spiritual succour and the elevation of the self that is arrived at through spiritual exercises like the  Eitkaaf accord wholesomeness and transcendence to some of Kashmir’s youth. It also reorients the self away from the prosaic and the mundane to a more profound reality. And in the process it accords balance and equipoise to these youth. 

A more wholesome and spiritual world view which keeps them socially and morally conscientious emerges and they become valuable members of society. This then is a trend that is set to grow.


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