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Great Kashmiri Personalities

01. Sir Mohammad Iqbal
02. Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri
03. Gani Kashmiri
04. Khwaja Abdul Karim Kashmiri
05. Habba Khatoon
06. Lalla Ded
07. Mehjoor
08. Sheikh Abdullah
09. Shaheed Maqbool Bhat
10. Mirwaiz Mulana Farooq
11. Dr. Farooq Abdullah
12 Mirwaiz Muhammad Omar Farooq

Sir Mohammad Iqbal :: Among the Kashmiris of International repute, Dr. Muhammad Iqbal, the greatest poet and philosopher of the continent, tops the list. Iqbal’s ancestors were the Kasmiri Pandits of the Saproo family who, after embracing Islam, cam be known as the Sheikhs. His grandfather migrated to Sialkot in order to explore the better avenues of livelihood and then settled there permanently. Iqbal always boasted of being a Kashmiri and used to introduce himself in these words: ‘The seeds of this flower are from the flower-gardens of Kashmir” . The plight of Kashmiris always dominated Iqbal’s thinking which prompted him to take’ active part in the freedom struggle of Kashmir. He loved his ancestral land immensely and did his utmost to make its inhabitants realize the true value of freedom and the dignity in struggling for it. For higher education Dr. Iqbal had to go Lahore where he settled permanently. His tomb is situated adjacent to the famous Shahi Masjid in Lahore (Pakistan). All foreign delegates and dignitaries visiting Lahore visit his tomb and pay homage to this world famous philosopher-poet.

Besides Iqbal, Kashmir has produced numerous philosophers , intellectuals and poets who in their own age were considered the great literary figures. These include Gani Kashmiri,
Shaikh Nooruddin Wali, Shah-e – Hamdan, Habba Khatoon, Rasul Mir, Wahab Khar, Mehjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, Agha Hashar Kashmiri and Agha Shoorish Kashmiri.

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Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri :: The valley of Kashmir has also produced the world famous Theologians and accomplished religious scholars. Among these Maulana Anwar Shah who was born in 1875 in Lolab area of the south-west Kashmir, merits special consideration. His father’s name was Peer Muhammad Muazam Shah and his mother was called Maalded.
Maulana Anwar went outside Kashmir for higher studies and came back after receiving education and then started delivering sermons on various aspects of religion and theology.
During his pilgrimage to Mecca also he got great recognition for his erudition and knowledge of Islamic theology. He also went to AI-Azhar University in Egypt which has a great distinction among the Islamic Institutions of the world. On his way to Malta from Cairo he was detained for his radical thoughts on Islam and was imprisoned for two years. He returned India in 1920 and settled in Deoband (UP) where he was buried after his death, in accordance with his own will.

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Gani Kashmiri :: Due to his superb Persian poetry, Gani Kashmiri became famous in Iran also. His philosophical Persian poetry prompted Saib, a famous Persian poet, to travel all the way from Iran to Kashmir in order to see Gani and have a deeper insight into his philosophy. On his arrival the Persian poet went to meet Gani a number of times but was disappointed to find the doors of his house locked. Still he didn’t give up his mission and at one occasion found the doors open. With great enthusiasm he went inside the house but found Gani missing and the house without any human being inside it. Ultimately when through some local contact Saib succeeded in meeting Gani Kashmiri, he inquired about the philosophy of locking the door while Gani himself was inside and keeping it open when he was not in the house. At this Gani is believed to have said, “I am the only treasure in this house. In order to protect this treasure the doors have to be locked. Once the treasure is not in the house there is no need to lock its doors”. The Iranian poet was deeply impressed and eulogized Gani Kashmiri for his wit and intelligence.
Gani Kashmiri wrote Persian poetry because during his times Persian was the official language and Persian literature was at its zenith. His poetry, because of its artistic merits, has a distinct place in the entire Persian literature.

Among other Kashmiri poets Rasul Mir enjoys a distinguished position due to his poetic thought and excellent craftsmanship. Even Wahab Khar, a great mystic poet, surpassed in artistic merits to the poets of his time. Peerzada Ghulam Ahmed Mahjoor, a great modem Kashmiri poet following the footsteps of Dr. Iqbal, has very aptly said:

“At an opportune time Kashmir will awaken the East Let me put this prophecy in the ears of Kashmiris”

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Khwaja Abdul Karim Kashmiri :: ‘Kashmiris have always been at their intellectual Zenith’, writes the famous historian, G.M.D. Sufi, ‘and among those great Kashmiris who achieved international recognition, Khwaja Abdul
Karim was the one who spent most of his time outside Kashmir. Born in Iddgah locality of Srinagar city, Abdul Karim very soon became a great intellectual and scholar of his time. During the reign of Nadir Shah Durani he decided to go for Hajj and had to stay in Delhi in order to get visa from the royal court which in those days was mandatory for every Hajj pilgrim. Following the procedure, this Kashmiri intellectual presented himself in the royal court and made a request for visa. During his brief encounter with Nadir Shah he impressed the King
with his extraordinary” intelligence to such an extent that Nadir Shah decided to take him to Iran and appoint him on an important position in the royal court itself. Khwaja Abdul Karim accepted the offer on the condition that he would be allowed to perform Hajj which Nadir Shah gladly accepted. Once appointed, this great son of Kashmir left an indelible impression of his capability and intelligence upon the Iranian King and his courtiers. He attained the position of Foreign Minister of Iran and was deputed to Turkey as an envoy of the King for resolving certain disputes between Iran and Turkey. After his diplomatic triumph in Turkey, Nadir Shah
deputed him to Baghdad and Damascus in order to resolve some important issues between these countries. After completing these important diplomatic assignments successfully Nadir Shah sent him to perform Hajj in the company of a learned religious scholar, Muhammad Hashim. After performing Hajj Khwaja abdul Karim came to India from Jedah and spent sometime in Delhi with some European tourists. Subsequently, he returned to Kashmir and recorded his experiences of Iran and Arabia in a lucid and vibrant prose which is considered one of the most precious treatises in Persian literature. He has recorded his experiences in such a manner that the reader feels completely involved in the happenings at Nadir Shah’s court and at the same time visualizes some important places and monuments of Damascus. He presents in just four pages a vivid picture of Nadir Shah’s court and administration which seems to be a precise of a long epic. Khwaja Abdul Karim has recorded that Takht-i-Tawoos (the peacock throne) which Nadir Shah along with the thrones of other captured kingdoms, had carried with him had decorated the royal court of Iran. Keeping in view the importance of these historical reminiscences of Khwaja Abdul Karim, an English writer Gladson translated them into English in 1793. In these reminiscences the documents pertaining to the period between 1739 to 1749 are considered very important because here Khwaja Karim has recorded some important development that took place in Iran and India during these ten years.

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Habba Khatoon :: Habiba, alias Habba Khatoon, was a great poetess of the late sixteenth century. Born in Chandhar (Pampore), fifteen kilometers from Srinagar, her parents used to call her Zoon (Moon) due to her extreme beauty. They educated her but did not appreciate her innate poetic talent. They married her to an illiterate peasant, a total mismatch to her poetic bent of mind, but the marriage ended in a divorce as she could not reconcile with her illiterate husband.
It is said that one day she along with her friends was heard singing love lores, in the saffron fields, by Sultan Yousuf Shah Chak. The Sultan was so much intoxicated with her melodious voice and poetry that he fell in love with her at first sight and proposed marriage which her parents willingly consented. In this way Habba Khatoon the poetess became the queen of Kashmir and a very wise adviser to the King.’ Her poetry scaled new heights of imagination and her poems became an important part of Kashmiri’ s folk literature.

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Lalla Arifa :: Lalla Arifa is seen as a blend of Hindu-Muslim amalgamation. The Hindus regard her the reincarnate whereas the Muslims, a perfect mystic saint. The Hindus say that her name was Lal Ishwari born of the Hindu parents and remained absorbed in meditation and praise of God. The Muslims hold that she was averse to the Hindu religion, embraced the Islam at the behest of Syed Hussain Samnani, disliked the Pundits and the Brahmins.
She is called by several names in Kashmir: Lal Vaid, Lalla-Ji, Lalla Ded or Lalla-Ishwari. In fact she was the lamp of Kashmir who benefited all the communities, Hindus as well as Muslims. Both love and respect her.
Lalla Arifa was lost in spiritual wonderment; walked about naked; fought against her self; and renounced the world. Her teachings gave new lease of life to thousands of people. She was a blessed soul and could move the hardhearted man. Lalla Arifa was a poetess and sang of spiritual and divine bliss.
Lalla Arifa was born in 1335 AD. To Shri Zaida Pundit or Zindia Bat, the landlord at a village Pander – then, three miles from away form Srinagar. He was God fearing gentleman.
From the very beginning Lal Arifa was inclined to the matters spiritual in nature and engrossed in deep thoughts and was not interested in worldly matters. Pundit Shri Kanth, a mystic and Yogi of High order and the family teacher, realized the spiritual virtues in her and took over the responsibility to educate her in the matter.
She was married at an early age to the illiterate son of the landlord of Pampore village. Apparently she performed her household duties, but inwardly she was given to meditation and knowledge. This resulted in the neglect of the house, which caused her mother-in-law, and husband complains. The mother-in-law treated her badly; put pebbles in a plate and placed some cooked rice around them. Lalla Arifa ate the few grains of rice and made no complaints. One day her Father-in-law came to know of it and he rebuked his wife. This angered her further, said untrue things about her to her husband, and turned him against her. He too treated her cruelly.
One day Lalla Arifa carried a pitcher full of water on her head. Her Husband arrived, and struck the pitcher with his stick in anger. The pitcher broke but water remained in body. She came to the house, filled in all the empty pots with water, and the remaining she threw outside into a forest from where ran a spring of water. The episode made her famous and people came to see her in large numbers and disturbed her. She then renounced her house and married life and engaged herself whole heartedly in prayers and meditation. At all times she recited verses, in Kashmiri language, in low tones in praise of God.
To mention here the practice of Lalla shall not be out of place that in a state of extreme ecstasy and wonderment that she roamed about the forest and human habitations naked. Once she was going through a bazaar, she saw a saint, was terrified and exclaimed, “Here is a man, should cover myself.” She ran to a baker’s shop and jumped into the blazing oven. People raised a hue and cry that Lalla had been burnt. The saint also came and asked her to come out. Lalla Arifa came out, dressed in, a long shirt with a beautiful, coloured shawl on her shoulder.
It is also said that during the condition Hazrat Makhdoom Jalal-Uddin Jehanian Jehan Gard met her, pacified her, and told her the good news that soon her teacher and guide, Hazrat Husain Samnani, would arrive and relieve her of her restlessness and sufferings. Eventually came Hazrat Samnani and Lalla Arifa, under his benign guidance, attained peace.
Lalla Arifa said verses in the Kashmiri language on subjects of spiritualism and mysticism reaching the common people with the message that color; castes, envy, prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and greed are worthless. Real thing is search for the Truth. In brief, Lalla Arifa gave people of Kashmir the message of fraternity and equality and served them irrespective of caste and creed.

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Gulam Ahmad Mehjoor :: The revolutionary poet Mehjoor, . Ghulam Ahmad Mehjoor popularly known as Shair-e-Kashmir (the poet of Kashmir) was born at Mitrigam, Pulwama on Ist August, 1887.
He is considered herald of didactic poetry in Kashmiri language. He was the first poet of Kashmiri language to incorporate themes closer to life and times of his age. Yet his lyrics have the magical appeal as those of “Habba Khatoon”. His poetry for the first time in Kashmir seemed to be concerned about national resurgence. He stands as a towering figure of transitional Kashmiri poetry from old to new.
“ Mehjoor” is the first and the only poet till now on whom a full-length movie was made. Thus he happens to be the only poet of Kashmir to have risen to the heights of legend in his life time.

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Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah :: ( B Dec. 5, 1905, Soura, near Srinagar, Kashmir, India d. Sept. 8, 1982, Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir )
By name LION OF KASHMIR, a prominent figure in India’s struggle for independence, who fought for the rights of Kashmir and won for it a semiautonomous status within India.
Abdullah was educated at the Prince of Wales College (Jammu) and the Islamia College (Lahore) and received an M.S. degree in physics from Aligarh Muslim University in 1930. He championed the rights of the Muslim majority of the state during British rule in India and fought against the discrimination exercised by the Hindu ruling house. After Abdullah served the first of many terms of imprisonment in 1931, he founded the Kashmir Muslim (later National) Conference. He supported the concept of a secular state, and when India was granted independence he strongly opposed the idea of joining Muslim Pakistan.
In 1948 Abdullah became prime minister of Kashmir. Despite his early support for Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, many Indians believed that Abdullah’s ultimate aim was independence for Kashmir; therefore, in 1953 he was dismissed and imprisoned. During the next 11 years he refused to pledge his loyalty to India and spent most of the time under detention. When he was released by Nehru in 1964, he received an enthusiastic reception from his people. In subsequent talks with the Indian government, he worked out the basis of a possible solution to the Kashmir problem.
He was dispatched on a foreign tour to gain the goodwill of Pakistan and Algeria, but India’s relations with Pakistan had by then deteriorated and Abdullah’s foreign tour was seen as seditious. At the same time, his support in Kashmir had been eroded by the apparent lack of progress in negotiations with India. Abdullah was again arrested and not released until 1968. From then until his appointment as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir in 1975, his Plebiscite Front gained some successes, but it lost to the Congress Party in the 1972 elections. His relations with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi were sometimes strained, but he persuaded her to allow Kashmir a form of autonomy. Abdullah’s government was later accused of corruption, but, though his popularity waned, he was still admired for his outstanding contribution to the cause of Kashmiri national rights.

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Shaheed Maqbool Bhat :: Maqbool Butt was born on 18th February 1938 to a peasant family in Trahagam village Tehsil Handwara, district Kupwara. His father was called Ghulam Qadar Butt. All we know about his mother is that she died when Maqbool Butt was 11 years old pupil in the village’s primary (junior) school. He had a younger brother Gulam Nabi Butt. As per traditions Ghulam Qadar married again to provide mothering for his children. From second wife he had two sons, Manzoor Ahmed Butt and Zahoor Ahmed Butt and three daughters. The early years of Maqbool Butt’s life, like thousands of other Kashmiri children were shaped by the harsh living conditions that characterised the life of peasants at this juncture of Kashmir history.
It was the feudal system in the Maharaja’s Kashmir that forced Maqbool Butt to participate in the first political action in his life long struggle against suppression, occupation and for equality, freedom and social justice. Telling this story on 12 April 1972 from Camp Prison Lahore in a letter written in reply to Azra Mir, the daughter of veteran Kashmiri political activist and intellectual, G.M. Mir who was in prison with Maqbool Butt in relation to the hijacking of an Indian plane ‘Ganaga’, Maqbool Butt wrote:
Further Education :: After completing his secondary school certificate, Maqbool Butt moved on to St. Joseph College in Baramula. This was a private missionary college. Here he gained his first degree (BA) in history and political science.
Crossing the Divide First Time :: The journey on that road to great sacrifice for Maqbool Butt was started while still a student at St. Joseph College. Responding to a question about crossing over to Pakistan in the above interview that was recorded in room number 26 of Mujahid Hotel International, Maqbool Butt said:
In Pakistan :: First and foremost problem before Maqbool Butt in Pakistan was to continue his education and at the same time find a job to meet the expenses. For with out that “it was hard to live in Pakistan’. Therefore, I joined ’Injam’ (end/conclusion/performance), a weekly magazine, as sub-editor and started my working life as a journalist. I did my MA (from Pehswar university) in Urdu literature and worked with ‘Anjam’ till the start of full time politics in 196 (Khawaja, 1997). Meanwhile his marriage was arranged by his uncle with a Kashmiri woman Raja Begum in 1961. He had two sons from this wife, Javed Maqbool born in 1962 and Shaukat Maqbool in 1964. In 1966 he married to a school teacher Zakra Begum and had a daughter Lubna Maqbool from her.
First Crossing Back to IHK :: For the next ten months the group of four recruited more people into the ranks of NLF including GM Lone (the vice president of PF) and on 10th June 1966 the first group of NLF members secretly crossed over to the Indian occupied Kashmir. Maqbool Butt, Aurangzeb, a student from Gilgit, Amir Ahmed and Kala Khan, a retired subedar (non commissioned officer from AJK force) went deep into Valley while Major Amanullah and subedar Habibullah remained near to the division line. The former were to recruit Kashmiris in the IOK into NLF while the latter were responsible for training and weapon supply. Maqbool Butt along with three of his group members worked underground for three months and established several gorilla cells in IOK.
Escape from Prison :: Soon they started planning escape from the prison and within a month and half managed to escape from the prison in Srinagar. Maqbool Butt later wrote in great detail about the escape and submitted that before the Special Trial Court in Pakistant where he was tried along with other NLF members for ‘Ganga’ hijacking. However, only a brief account of the escape is included here from one of his interviews:
The Ganga Hijacking :: The event that brought Maqbool Butt and the Kashmir Issue in limelight in Kashmir, South Asia and at international level was the hijacking of an Indian Fokker plane ‘Ganga’. There are several official and common theories about the background and impacts of this hijacking which can not be discussed in the scope of this article. Therefore only a brief account is presented below.
Ganga, an Indian airliner was hijacked on 30 January 1971 at 1305 hours while on its routine flight from Srinagar to Jammu. In total it was carrying 30 people including four crew members. The Hijackers were two young Kashmiris Hashim and Ashraf Qureshi. They brought the plane to Lahore airport and demanded the release of about
The Last Crossing :: With NLF dismantled and PF demoralised, Maqbool Butt once again crossed over to the Indian occupied Kashmir against the advice of many of his friends and comrades in May 1976. This time he went with Abdul Hammed Butt and Riaz Dar. Within few days of crossing they were spotted and arrested by the Indian forces. In 1978 the Indian Supreme Court restored death sentence on Maqbool Butt and he was transferred to Delhi’s Tihaar Prison. After eight long years in prison Maqbool Butt was hanged on 11th February 1984 while the legal team was waiting for Maqbool Butt’s case to be reopened on the grounds of flaws in the trial that convicted Maqbool Butt of murder. His execution was carried out in haste to avenge the killing of an Indian diplomat in Birmingham by an unknown group ‘Kashmir Liberation Army’. Rovendra Mahatre was kidnapped in the first week of February 1984 from his Birmingham office by KLA who demanded among other things the release of Maqbool Butt. Thus was ended the life of one of the greatest revolutionary of modern Kashmiri history and was born what Kashmiris remember as Shaheed e Azam (the greatest martyr). Ironically, death warrants of Maqbool Butt were signed by Dr Farooq Abdullah the then Chief Minister of IOK who spent several days with Maqbool Butt in ‘Azad’ Kashmir and Pakistan in 1974 and who said later that ‘I have found Maqbool Butt a very romantic man, just like Che Guevara. He could have added ‘like Shiekh Abdullah in 1930s’, whose politics initially inspired Maqbool Butt as a student at St Joseph College.
An Imprisoned Martyr in the world’s largest democracy :: India is acclaimed by the democratic world as the largest democracy on earth. While there is no doubt that democratic traditions and institutions in India are far more established, when it comes to Kashmir India is no more than an occupier and oppressive state that rules Kashmir through colonial like structures and authoritarian means with little regards for the democratic values, human rights and civil liberties. This neo-colonial face of Indian rule in Kashmir was demonstrated in its worst form in the way Maqbool Butt was hanged and what followed.
He had a dream :: Twenty two years on, since Kashmir’s first dreamer for an independent Kashmir was sent to the gallows, his dream, his prophecy and his legacy lives on, comments

While the political scene on both side of Kashmir changed dramatically after that fateful February day in 1984 – when Kashmir’s little known revolutionary was hanged in India, his hanging changed the fate and fortunes of Kashmir. That momentous change which evolved into an armed revolution has meant that the issue of Kashmir is not going to be brushed under the carpet until his mission is complete. He is now known as the Shaheed-e-Azam, ‘father of the nation’. He has become an icon for countless political groups both within and outside the vale of Kashmir.
11 February is being commemorated as Maqbool Bhat’s 22nd death anniversary. On this day the scene was set to make a modern day legend for Kashmir. On this day Kashmiris remember their hero with honors and pride. Kashmiri nationalist groups, on both sides of the dreaded line of control and all over the world, remember him well but his adversaries who had hoped that he would be forgotten with the passage of time wish their nightmare was over. Born after his death, young men of age 22 who have grown up with the only undisputed name in Kashmir’s turbulent history are not likely to forget his dream and his mission. That name will live on for centuries to come.
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Mirwaiz Muhammad Omar Farooq (born 23 March 1973) is the chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a coalition of disparate political parties in Jammu and Kashmir that wish independence for the state. He is also the Mirwaiz Mufti or high priest of Jama Masjid, Srinagar. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq enjoys popular support in Kashmir, as the Mirwaiz of Kashmir and head of the Hurriyat playing two important roles as a political and religious leader.He took on the challenging role of mirwaiz at the age of 17 when his father, Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq was assassinated. Omar Farooq united 23 Kashmiri militant organizations into the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), a loose conglemaration of 23 Kashmiri separatists parties, which claimed itself to be the legitimate voice of the Kashmiris in the region and demanded to be included in any talks on Kashmir.. He maintains that dialogue must take place with India and Pakistan, so long as the Kashmiri aspirations are heard as well. Hurriyat Conference, which represents the right-wing forces in Kashmir. Young, modern and pragmatic Ismalic leader, Omar is considered by many to be Kashmir’s last and greatest hope.

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