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Ayatollah Khomeini, AnjumanSharieShian and Aga Syed Hassan: A Case for Shi’i Movement in Kashmir

The resistance movement of Ayatollah Khomeini is off-spring of a massive Shi’i Usuli movement after its revival in Karbala. Kashmir is associated with Sufism when it comes to the Islamic engagement of the region.

However, apart from Sufism, Kashmir also has various Islamist and social movements that are indigenous as well as informed by the more significant changes of the Islamic World.  AnjumanSharieShian that was the culmination of the ‘Group of Moderns’ in a structured religious and Socio-political organisation is an indication of Shi’i activism. The Islamic revolution became an ideology of worldwide oppressed, and it also touched the land of Kashmir. This influenced AnjumanSharieShian too, and Aga Sayyid Hassan was first from the organisation to get educated in the revolutionary Qom. Therefore, his commitment to the Khomeinist ideas further shaped the Shi’i activism in Kashmir.

The revival of Shi’i activism after a considerable gap and hindrances brought about by the ideologies like secularism, communism and market-driven liberalism, was the outcome of a broader Islamic awakening. Though the contribution of the great Sunni scholars is always studied in this connection the contribution made by the Shi’i scholars like Mirza Shirazi and others is yet to be explored on a deeper scale. The However, Islamic Revolution of Iran lead by the charismatic personality of Ayatollah Imam Sayyid Rohullah Khomeini overwhelmingly broke the binary and brought under focus the contribution of Shi’i Islamist intellectual contribution to the world and to the Islamic world.

The Ayatollah’s philosophy, mystic explanation and rational arguments motivated his students, and the Hawza Ilmiya Qom became an epicentre of the Islamist revivalism revolutionary Ideas. The student activism of Qom seminary under the Khumeinist vision revolutionized not only Iran but all oppressed identified with it and particularly the foreign Students of the seminary took these ideas to their homelands and hence constituted the worldwide movement of the oppressed.

Ayatollah Khomeini was a high-ranking Twelver Shia cleric, claimed to be of Kashmiri origin, born in Khomeyn province of Iran and later relocated in the city of Qom. The Ayatollah rose to pivot position of the political opposition and resistance to the Shah or monarch of Iran before the revolution. The Ayatollah was genuinely under the influence of Islam and understood Islamism as emancipation for humanity. Ayatollah ultimately rejected the place of secular politics propounded by the European modernists. This is also the reason why the concept of the ‘rule of jurist’ was also reconstructed by him. The Ayatollah ptrecisely provided an alternative narrative against the European modernist ideas: including the ideas like imperialism, colonialism and socialism. He not only opposed the Shah on his westoxic politics but also protested against his oppressive policies and westernisation towards the Iranian nation.

The commencement of the Islamic revolution in Iran under the leadership of the Ayatollah took the entire world by storm. The Iranians were protesting on the streets of Iran and the wave of sentiments for the independence from the ideological giants, that is the United States of America and the Soviet Union, was taking over all across in the hearts of the Islamists throughout the length and breadth of the Muslim world. The Khomeinist ideas of challenging the power of oppressor and standing with the oppressed regardless of religion and other distinctiveness were more identifiable for the people of the Muslim world. This is also considered as third worldism of Khomeini.

Kashmir in this connection was not an exception though Kashmir is known for its centuries-old engagement with Islamic values and has many indigenous movements including Intellectual, Shi’i and Sunni movements, Sufi movements etc. However, I focus on AnjumanSharieShian’s post-Revolution activism. The organisation was a massive Religious and Socio-political movement of Kashmiri Shias in the twentieth century that sprouted out of the Aga Family’s socio-religious and intellectual engagement of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The campaign was initially part of more significant usuli movement after the usoolism was revived in Iraq in the eighteenth century. Many members of Aga family, like Ayatollah Aga Sayyid Mehdi al-Mosavi, took the trouble of travelling to eighteenth and ninetieth centuries Iraq to get training and education, leaving their families vulnerable in a hostile environment. However, they did not stay in Iraq after they completed their education under consideration of marginality of their community.

The Kashmir of the eighteenth and nineteenth century was under the tyrannical rule of the Dogra-Shahi and generally the Muslim papulation was downtrodden, and under oppression. Apart from this, the Kashmiri society was largely dominated by the Brahmanical Caste-System among the Muslims too. Being at the margins of the Muslim society, the most part of the Shia papulation was under multiple layers of oppression. The sectarian angle was also prevalent and that forced the Shias out from the public spaces.

The Usuli religious movement of Ayatollah Aga Sayyid al-Medi Kashmiri that came to be known as firqe jadid, or ‘group of moderns’, started to focus on such marginalities. The first target of the group of eradication of caste system prevalent among Muslims, the feudal system too was attacked and the most important thing associated with the Ayatollah was to structure Shi’ism in Kashmir by establishing Shia Friday prayers. He encouraged Hajj pilgrimage and other religious practices. He trained people and patronage them to assert their identity as Shia. The movement underwent many changes and was also named AnjumanMosavi and Shariyat Abad in Budgam was established as a model Islamic City on the pattern on major Islamic cities of Islamic world. Furthermore, the movement became a full-fledged organization as AnjumanSharieShian under Ayatollah Aga Sayyid Yousuf al-Mosavi. The organisation ultimately turned into an umbrella organization under which the vast Awaqf, Hawza, Madaris, Imam Barghas, Ziyaraat, etc were structured and still are managed.

The post-accession Kashmir was under the domination of Sheikh Abdullah’s vision and that mainly sourced in secular socialism. The irreligionist politics became a primary reason for ensuring desertion of Aga Sayyid Yousuf al-Mosavi and Aga Sayyid Mustafa al-Mosavi from the direct political spectrum of the state, besides being central to the Shia community and the Islamists of Kashmir. Furthermore, this ideological difference also turned the Aga’s into the steadfast challengers of the National Conference over the policies like the land reform act.

However, the activism and revolutionary outlook of AnjumanSharei also shifted to more proactive after the Islamic Revolution of Iran. The political and social activism of Aga Sayyid Hassan, who was the first member of the Aga family to have educated in Qom. Therefore, his world view is informed by the Khomeinist ideals. Ayatollah Khamenei was a cult personality who inspired people beyond his territorial boundaries or ideological pledge. During the twentieth century, the world was sandwiched between the communist and capitalist ideological camps. But the world came to find a breeze of different belief in the shape of Islamism with the emergence of Ayatollah Khomeini in the Iranian political landscape. The significant part of the twentieth century was also the time when Kashmir’s dominant narrative had a bent towards socialism, and that is a substantial reason for the Agas being at a distance from the secular politics of the National Conference.

However, Hassan started his political activism with the political parties in the state at a very early age, but his journey to the Khomeini’s Iran transformed his worldview drastically. The Kashmiri young man became a revolutionary when he went to Iran to complete his theological studies, which he started in the Indian city of Lucknow, to progress his family’s role in tableegh. In Iran, Hassan joined Hujjatiyah seminary in the city of revolution, Qom as a young cleric. The seminary was the epicentre of the Islamic revolution, and Khomeini’s ideas were crafted in this seminary in the decades together.

This first-hand interaction with Khomenism made Hassan choose political resistance as his politics and emancipation of oppressed as his social activism. After coming back to Kashmir, he joined AnjumanSharieShian and contributed hugely to induce the ideals of Ayatollah Khomeini into the organisation. Now, for more than four decades, Hassan is standing tall by the oppressed people of Kashmir like a pillar of strength. He always said no to power and never collaborated with it. During these decades he spent his golden days in the darkness of different jails, under house arrests and faced different kinds of political, religious and personal confinements.

After talking to him, one understands that Hassan is deeply troubled with the prolonged political instability, bloodshed over decades in Kashmir and intends to bring mitigation by reducing the pain of people and social cohesion. The Khomeinist ideas are visible in the social activism of Hassan’s Anjuman, wherein his involvement in philanthropy and social engagement programs makes an excellent case of how such approaches can have practical applicability.

The ideals of Ayatollah Khomeini have been influential in the resurgence of non-western ideas and particular Islamism in Kashmir. It initiated a discourse outside of the western imperial ideologies that could connect with the Muslims of Kashmir and Aga Sayyid Hassan with his politics of resistance and social activism of emancipation of oppressed consolidated the Khomeinism in the political and social landscape of Kashmir.

Therefore, the ideas of anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism and resistance to secular politics of the Imam also travelled to Kashmir. The ‘Group of Moderns’ patronaged Shia community against the vertical as well as horizontal oppression and initiated a process of awakening. AnjumanSharieShian structured the community into an organization and that ensured the role of Shias into the public sphere in the Kashmiri society. In the post-Islamic Revolution, Aga Sayyid Hassan’s personal experience with Ayatollah Khomeini and Islamist-revolutionary activism in Qom further shaped the Shi’i activism in Kashmir.

This article was written by Khairunnisa Aga, Doctorate in International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

ٌWriter Email: khairunnisaaga@gmail.com

About Ali Teymoori

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