SRINAGAR: Last week Darul Uloom Rahimiya, Kashmir’s biggest seminary, wore a different look as hundreds of Islamic scholars from different parts of India and also abroad sat together to do something that has not been heard of in the Valley so far.

Their agenda was to find solutions to some critical questions Muslims are facing while dealing with the day-to-day life. Hosted by Darul Uloom, founded by a well-known scholar Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi, an alumni of Darul Uloom Deoband, the conference had top 70 clerics who are considered to be accomplished scholars in Islamic jurisprudence. There were roughly 200 more juniors who assisted them in holding threadbare discussions on the subject. With their Deobandi orientation, they followed the thought process with which they have reached the levels of being authority on the subject.

This year’s theme was medical insurance and the property issues between son and a father when it comes to doing business. As a few thousand people, mostly the scholars and students of various seminaries, converged in the beautifully laid Darul Uloom in north Kashmir’s Bandipore town, it made news.

For two days the scholars deliberated upon the issues they had chosen. Even as the formal outcome of the conference is known, some of the newspapers reported that they had consensus on some issues and they are almost resolved. According to a report published in Urdu daily Inquilab, the scholars issued an edict that in the given circumstances the medical insurance was allowed. They gave different interpretations from the “compulsion by government” on its employees or by the corporates to the need to fight against deadly diseases that have raised the head in the recent times.

Similarly on the property issues between son and the father, they seem to have arrived at a consensus. The two-day conference was held under the aegis of Idarae Mubahisul Fiqiyah (Centre for Jurisprudential Debates) that directly works under Darul Uloom Deoband. But this is not the only centre that gave a green signal for medical insurance. Fiqah Academy headed by Qazi Mujahidul Islam has also given a similar edict on why the Muslims should opt for medical insurance.

The two-days conference on Islamic jurisprudence is very significant given the scope to discuss the issues that the Muslims confront from time to time. Islam has a fine set of rulings in the shape of Holy Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and that make it a religion which shows the way to a complete life. Besides, Ijtihad is something that could address the modern day issues. Ijtihad in Islamic legal terminology meaning “the process of deriving the laws of the shari'ah from its sources”. It has hardly been seen that Ijtihad becomes a permanent feature for resolving the issues but in some areas it does throw up solutions to critical questions.

In this backdrop, the conference is a welcome move by the scholars and credit must go to Moulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi for hosting it in Kashmir. While the discretion of choosing a theme lies with the organisers who have held 10 such conferences all over India, it is important to keep the local sensitivities in mind during the course of framing the agenda.

Since the conference was being held in Kashmir, the issues people have been confronting in last 26 years of conflict must have been included in the discussions. People have suffered a lot and the disputes that have crept in the wake of conflict need attention from the Islamic scholars. Medical insurance is an important subject that was touched in the conference but the second one related to father-son property issue could have been thematically expanded in relation to Kashmir.

There are two important issues that have assumed significance in Kashmir conflict and that can only be resolved through an Islamic ruling. One is concerning those women whose husbands have disappeared during two decades of turmoil mostly in custody and have been endlessly waiting for their return. They are known as “Half Widows” and do not know what to do with their status. Different schools of thought have been giving different directions but there has no consensus.

A great effort was made by a local NGO in 2013 when six Islamic scholars (one among them was from Darul Uloom Rahimiya Bandipore) issued a decree on December 26 saying that they could remarry after four years of waiting. Signatories to the decree were scholars from all the schools of thought being practiced in Kashmir. Whether or not the women were keen to remarry but it came as big psychological relief for them.

In India as per the Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act 1939 also, a married Muslim woman is entitled to obtain a decree for the dissolution of her marriage if the whereabouts of the husband are not known for a period of four years. But here the issues were different.

Another important issue was related to the property a child whose father was missing in custody would get from his grand parent. Since there is clear rule as per Shariah that a grand child has no right over the property in absence of his father, here it has been used in most cases to usurp the property of those children who have lost fathers in such situations. Many of them have been thrown out of their houses along with their mothers or in some cases where mothers have remarried, they are not being looked after by any nearest relation.

The scholars should have chosen or included this issue in the agenda and deliberated it in the context of given situation. The conference should have put its stamp on the fatwa issue vis a vis remarriage of the Half Widows. Ignoring the issues that are locally very important and sensitive raises eye-brows about the objective of such conferences since competing organisations working for different “schools of thought” in Islam in Kashmir have to grind their axe.

Kashmir has become a laboratory for such “adventures” putting Attiqadis (those who believe in worshiping at shrines) against non-Attiqadis and vice versa. This has serious consequences that lead to fragmentation in the society. What Kashmir needs today is not to become a battleground for Deobandis, Jamaatis, Ahle Hadith and Bralvis but it deserves a space to heal its wounds of conflict. The conference could have provided a succor to the categories mentioned above and that is what is expected from Islamic scholars of repute.

(Shujaat Bukhari is the Editor of Rising Kashmir)