Deserted Mosques, Distressed Faithful: Kashmir on Jumu’atul-Wida

Adhering to strict COVID guidelines, Kashmir offered the annual congregational prayers on last Friday of the holy month of Ramzan indoors, as mosques and shrines continue to witness pandemic-induced lockdown.

Text by Mubashir Amin

Photos by Abid Bhat

ON last Friday of Ramzan, septuagenarian Abdul Rashid of Apple Town, Sopore would leave home soon after the dawn prayers, for the massive religious gathering in Srinagar.

After travelling around 55 kilometres, he would be one of the first persons to reach Dargah Hazratbal to offer the Friday congregational prayers.

But this year, neither the elder left home for dawn prayers in his hometown, nor did he embark on his religious journey to Srinagar.

“It’s so heartbreaking to miss such an auspicious occasion,” Rashid lamented. “This virus did what chilling carnages of yore couldn’t. It confined our faith to the four walls of our home!”

‘Faith is a Lifeline’

Like Rashid, Noor-ud-din Shah of Old Srinagar would, on this day, leave home early, and reach the sanctum standing on the ghats of Dal Lake.

The elder in his late sixties never stopped this religious devotion even during the harrowing days of nineties, when curfews and curbs would make indoor routine a new normal in Kashmir.

“Faith is a lifeline for the oppressed,” Shah, the affable elder, said.

“Our worship centres always acted as the salvation spaces for us. Especially on the occasion of Jumu’atul-Wida, the congregational prayers would give us hope and strength, to brave the harsh and hostile living conditions in our homeland.”

But alas, he rued, this viral disease ended up inflicting a “faithful injury on us”.

Soon after COVID spread its tentacles in the valley, the mosques and shrines become a no-go zone for faithful. The step was taken by administration to maintain the mandatory social distancing.

Many believe the way Delhi’s Nizamuddin Markaz was hounded by media for being the so-called “COVID hotspot” also spiked the stringent vigil on mosques in vale.

To keep the faithful lot at bay from religious places during Shab-e-Qadr and Jumu’atul-Wida—the twin consecrated occasions during Ramzan, witnessing massive congregational prayers and gatherings—the administration lately held a meeting with religious scholars and prominent clerics of the valley.

“This Ramzan will be remembered for its pensive mood in the valley,” said Murtaza Bhat, a Srinagar-based transporter.

“The current situation made it certain that our worship centers are the significant social spots, other than salvation spaces, where people interact and introspect.”

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