Ramzan Times

Behind the visible economic slowdown, many things happen during the yearly month of fasting. Saima Bhat offers an idea about how people try to spend their hot, long month of fasting in Srinagar

On May 21, when Kashmir was observing the anniversaries of Mirwaiz Mohammad Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone, Ghulam Muhammad Mir, 65, was having his hectic Sunday. President of local masjid in Natipora Srinagar, he was supervising the cleaning of roof, floor, bathrooms, of his masjid and dusting out carpets and curtains. It was a dawn to dusk work.

This is not new to the man who had retired from government services and is managing the affairs of the masjid. Mir undertakes massive cleaning of the praying space prior to the Ramazan, the Muslim month of fasting.

“In Ramazan we have all the people coming to the masjid and both the storeys are usually occupied, so we are gearing up for the holy month,” he said while testing the loudspeakers of the first floor. The month witnesses huge rush to masjids as the devotees seemingly rediscover themselves. All of a sudden, mosques lack space, massive money goes to charities as every Muslim exhibit a change.

“While fasting, nobody wants to miss his prayer,” says Abdul Hamid, a resident of Ram Bagh. An engineer, Hamid prefers to stay on leave during the month and attend to the affairs of his local masjid.

The scene outside various central masjids in Ramazan turns to a busy affair. The vendors lay their stalls full of specific items; the dates, caps, perfumes, miswaks, books, scarfs, kurta pyjama.

The local masjids apart, the Jamia Masjid in Srinagar presents a festive look. People from adjoining areas come to grand mosque, sit in the lawns to spend the intervening time between Zhar and Asar prayers. Full of activity, the children accompanying their parents are seen playing and enjoying their time.

“From last over 10 years, I visit Jamia Masjid to offer day time prayers,” Asmat Bhat, a resident of Baba Dem told Kashmir Life. Accompanied by her mother-in-law, Asmat frequently goes to Jamia for last many years. “I have the habit of going to Jamia Masjid since the days of late Mirwaiz Molvi Farooq. But for some time we couldn’t go as the situation was not conducive. For last over 10 years I have resumed the practice,” says Asmat’s mother-in-law, Hanifa Banoo.

Another old masjid of Srinagar, Aali Masjid presents similar festive look. Under the shade of dense mighty chinars, some of them almost half of the age of Islam in Kashmir, the people sit and chat for hours together. The only break is prayer timing. The little girls wearing hijab and having Quran in their hands pass through to offer prayers. The oldies lay on the grass and are busy in discussing religion, politics and days of yesteryears.

On both sides of the path leading to the main area of the masjid, vendors sell a variety of things. The hanging kurta pyjama and perfumes are the most sought after. The entire left side of the road is instant car parking. This mosque has been celebrated in the folklore for having been the abode of Djins. It was almost abandoned until recently when the state government invested in its repairs that led to its revival. Now it has become a major space for interactions.

As charity soars, the beggars have their pie. Their number surges and most of them are found around Masjids – men, women, handicaps and children. In certain cases, the preachers announce from pulpits to help a few.

“At times we are compelled to keep someone on the door to regulate the number of beggars coming inside the masjid because they create disturbances,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a resident of Karan Nagar said.

Not in vogue till recent past, now Masjids in Kashmir have elaborate arrangements for Iftar- breaking of fast. Depending upon the locality and the resources, the delicacies may vary, but arrangements are in place. “It is a great feeling to serve people,” says Mohammad Altaf, a resident of Barzulla.

The basic minimum starts with water and dates. The affluent ones have kept the cool water dispensers to provide the cold water in scorching weather.

In most of the Masjids, the arrangements are done by individuals who get different items on different days; like fruits, dates, juice, milkshake, biryani, Tehri (yellow rice), sweet dishes (Halwa, Firini). By and large, most of these dishes are funded by affluent individuals as no mosque can afford to raise funds for this or to divert part of collections to it.

In the old city, the evenings are special. After the Maghrib prayers are over, people emerging from Masjids enjoy the roadside delicacies and the smokers take few quick puffs before reaching home for having the proper meals. The streets are lined up with vendors selling mouthwatering food items. Most of the shops near the Jamia are open until the Taraweeh prayers are over.

With changing the trend in the valley from past few years, now people prefer extended late night prayer, Taraweeh and intend to complete 30 chapters of Quran before Shab-i-Qadr, the night when Muslims do not sleep, that falls on one of the even nights in the last 10 days of Ramzan.

The services of scholars and students (hifz) of various Darul-Ul-Alooms (seminaries) are availed for this purpose. Every Masjid has at least two Imams (one who leads prayer).

The past practices suggest that most of the people raise donations for the renovation work for Masjids in Ramazan.

“People donate generously during this month as it is believed that this is the month of spending,” said a teacher Ghulam Qadir Wani. “Allah has promised to give 70 times virtue of every single deed. So people prefer to pay their Zakat and Sadqa in this month only.”

Off late, now mosques have started having Air Conditioners (AC). As part of the heritage, Hamam is part of every masjid to fight the winter chill, so has now become the AC to combat the hot summers. Mosque managers say Hamam has become a costly affair as AC’s are economic.

“People prefer comfort in worship as well. Masjids having AC facility are being preferred because the burning of wood in winters has become hectic. First wood has become costlier and then getting a person to set it afire has become difficult,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a resident of Bemina.

In various Masjids where AC’s are installed, people prefer to stay from Zuhr to Asar and even extend their stay up to Magrib.

Every Ramazan, Mohammad Sultan, an octogenarian, leaves from his home in Baghat at 12 noon. He prefers to stay in Masjid till Maghrib. “I offer prayers and then rest of the time I spent in reciting Quran Sharief. We have six AC’s in this masjid so in this hot summer it brings relief to me.”

In the last six years, the demand for AC’s for has soared, with a part of the demand going to Masjids. The trend, as per dealers, started with posh areas in Hyderpora, Baghat and Rajbagh.

“The trend has been adopted by smaller Masjids as well,” retailer, Aarif Bashir, owner Green corp at Hazuri Bagh, says. “The change has happened the same way it happens in marriages from elites to the middle class.”

Earlier the AC’s from LG, Lloyd and Voltas were preferred but now people prefer to get higher brands of inverter series of Daikin, IFB, Panasonic and Bluestar. “AC’s from Daikin and Panasonic brand works well in minus temperatures. Now Bluestar is also doing good but it is preferred by less number as it costs more.”

Dealers say they have a demand for hot and cold AC’s more as winter season last for at least seven months.

Out of his experience, Aarif says out of every three masjids in Srinagar district, two have AC’s. A major chunk of Masjid’s have been covered and the change is witnessed in towns of rural areas as well.

“Every Masjid has a minimum two to 10 AC’s. Buying an AC depend on affordability and electricity supply. Rural areas usually don’t prefer it because they don’t have adequate electricity supply in winters.”

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