The word Mirwaiz is a contraction of two words mir meaning chief and waiz meaning preacher. In Islamic tradition there is no such institution in the strict sense. However, when Hazrat Amir Kabir Mir Syed Ali Hamadani came to Kashmir as supreme daiyee (propounder of the Islamic faith), he was the supreme preacher himself who preached and explained the teachings of Islam to all and sundry especially the ruling class. Since his companions were all preachers in their respective capacities, he himself was their Ameer or simply Mir (chief). In this historical perspective the Mirwaiz assumes the same position as that of Shah Hamadan. His duties were to take care of the religious, social and economic needs of the people. More importantly, the Amir also tried his best to reform the rulers of Kashmir vis-à-vis their political as well as religious and moral condition. Therefore, the role of the Mirwaiz should be no different in present times. He is the religious head of the masses. He is supposed to play his role for the development of socio-politico-religious condition of the people to the extent the established political system permits him. Given the deplorable condition of the people of Kashmir and socio-economic problems, fresh soul needs to be infused into this institution. So far this institution has been imparting awareness in many ways but it has been confined to some issues only. The field is open. People of Kashmir need guidance especially in religious matters, which in turn can govern other aspects of their social behaviour. If at least the institution offers that guidance, there will be an all-round improvement in other spheres of our lives. So far we have been longing for such role models to lead the institution of the Mirwaiz. Of late, we have seen those leaders and preachers who are engaged in activities which are not of primary importance. They spend most of their time in petty issues. They neither possess the knowledge of the scripture nor thorough understanding of politics. We long for leaders who in Quranic terminology are called Rabbaniyuun – religious scholars, reformers and epitomes of wisdom. Only then will the institution of Mirwaiz become meaningful.
The institution of Mirwaiz has served Kashmir in every sphere of life. Be it religious, social, political or educational fields, the Mirwaizs of Kashmir have been making their part from the past two centuries. Be it the mass uprising against Dogra rulers, or laying the foundation for Muslim Conference, they have been at the vanguard of political struggle in Kashmir.
They have given sacrifices for this nation. Moulvi Yusuf Shah, the present Mirwaiz’s grandfather did hijrah, Moulvi Farooq gave his life for the noble cause. Thanks to this institution, Kashmiris got the much-needed impetus to continue their struggle and further the resistance movement against Indian occupation.
Even today, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq leads the freedom struggle from the very front. We must also give credit to other Mirwaizs of Shopian and Islamabad who support the resistance movement. They too have served the Kashmiri society.
In the aftermath of September 2014 floods, when the government left the entire population in a lurch, it was the Mirwaiz who went from door to door, lending a helping hand to the needy. Till this day, the programme of giving flood relief to the flood affected continues.
One may have personal differences with some persons of this institution, but you can’t have differences with them as an institution.
As told to Aasif Sultan