With his trademark style, Mufti Bashir-ud-din has been a familiar face for decades. A face specific for special occasions of start of month of fasting, Ramzan and celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, he used to confirm the sighting of moon and announce it on the state run Doordarshan on both the occasions in Kashmir. The last one was on June 15, 2018, “not a single testimony of moon sighting was received from any part of the state, therefore, the 1st of Shawwal 1439 will be on Saturday, 16th June. Based on local moon sighting, Eid-ul-Fitr will be on Saturday 16th June 2018.”
Eight months later, state’s grand mufti, Bashir-ud-din passed away when he complained of chest pain on February 11, 2019 and was shifted to SKIMS. He breathed his last at the hospital around 3 am and was 82.
Running a parallel judicial system calling it “Supreme Court of Islamic Shariet (Central Dar ul Fatwa) for over three decades, Mufti got masters degree from Aligarh Muslim University before pursuing religious education. He was appointed as grand Mufti by Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad, the state’s last prime minister.
Continuing his diktats from his court since its establishment, he was not new to the controversies. His fatwas riled with unionists and the separatists. At times, the separatist leadership accused him of acting on the government’s behest.
When Ghulam Nabi Abad as chief minister addressed a gathering of students on Gandhi Jayanti reportedly said while “Islam secures the world hereafter, adoption of Gandhian philosophy was the route to success in this world,” Mufti reacted. He asked Azad to undertake penance for his utterances. In an edict (fatwa), Mufti said that in case “he (Azad) does not undergo penance for his utterances, his act would be considered as anti-islamic.” He even asked him to clarify his position on the matter, “ Gandhi was relevant to his community but for the Muslims Prophet Muhammad was the only leader to be followed.”
Terming the initiative of army to repair the mosques as “un-islamic” he issued a fatwa in 2007 holding the army’s construction, repair and renovation of mosques and shrines in the valley as “un-acceptable” and “un-Islamic”.
At times he angered one and all. He invoked controversy his Sharia Court ordered the expulsion of four Christian missionaries and issued a diktat asking all Americans to leave the valley after an anti -islam video surfaced in Europe. There were reactions.
Though Mufti traced the history of his Sharia court to the year 1571 during the rule of Mughal emperor Akbar, but there were disagreements. One of the theory to counter his claim was “there is no history of having Chief Justice of Sharia Court in Kashmir. He has no mandate to issue fatwas, no one takes him seriously.”
He however, stayed his ground and continued to head the institution till he breathed his last.
An old city resident, Mufti’s well attended funeral led by his son and possible successor Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam was held at Khanqah-e-Mo’alla. He was later buried in his ancestral graveyard at Mahraj Gunj.
Known as state backed Mufti for all his life, his death was widely mourned with condolence messages coming across geographical boundaries.
– Tasavur Mushtaq