The Pilgrimage to Makkah, is one of the essential elements of the Islamic faith. It is obligatory on all believers provided they have the financial capability and physical ability to endure the challenges of the pilgrimage.
According to Islamic tradition the Kaaba, a simple square cube structure in Makkah, was the first house of worship established to remind humanity of the One Supreme God. The structure was reconstructed by Prophet Abraham and his son Prophet Ishmael.
And when We made the House (at Makkah) a destination for humankind and a sanctuary, (saying): Take as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood (to pray). And We imposed a duty upon Abraham and Ishmael, (saying): Purify My house for those who go around and those who meditate therein and those who bow down and prostrate themselves (in worship). Quran 2:125
The gathering of millions of faithful in Makkah during the days of annual pilgrimage, Hajj is a fulfilment of Prophet Abram’s prayer.
And, lo, Abraham prayed: “O my Sustainer! Make this a land secure, and grant its people fruitful sustenance – such of them as believe in God and the Last Day.” .. Quran 2:126
The Pilgrimage to Mecca is a sign of supreme significance. It was Prophet Abraham’s unconditional commitment to God that led him to leave his wife Hagar and his infant son Ishmael in this desolated desert. Prophet Abraham was reward for his unwavering submission to God, by a promise from Him to make this uninviting land into a place of promise and plenty.
Muslims who visit Makkah for Hajj become part of God’s promise to Prophet Abraham.
Like any other article of faith, the pilgrimage can become meaningless if it is regarded as an end in itself rather than a means for the attainment of a meaningful life.
The following story reminds us of the spirit of Hajj.
The Cobbler’s Hajj
It is related that a noted Muslim scholar Abdullah bin Mubarak, had a dream while he was sleeping near the Kaaba.
Abdullah bin Mubarak saw two angels’ descend from the sky, and start talking to each other.
One of the angels asked the other: “Do you know how many people have come for Hajj this year?”
The other angel replied: “Six hundred thousand have come for Hajj.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak had also gone for Hajj that year.
The first angel asked: “How many people’s Hajj has been accepted?”
The second replied: “I wonder if anyone’s Hajj has been accepted at all.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak was grieved to hear that. He thought, “So many people have come from all over the world, crossing so many obstacles like rivers, jungles, mountains, suffered so many hardships, and meeting so many expenses. Would their effort be wasted? Allah does not let anyone’s effort go to waste”.
He had thought only so far when he heard the other angel speak: “There is a cobbler in Damascus. His name is Ali bin al-Mufiq. He could not come for Hajj, but Allah has accepted his intention of Hajj. Not only will he get the reward for Hajj, but because of him, all the Hajjis will be rewarded.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak woke up, he decided he would go to Damascus and meet that cobbler whose Hajj intentions carried such a lot of weight.
On reaching Damascus, Abdullah bin Mubarak inquired if anyone knew a cobbler named Ali bin al-Mufiq. The town people directed him to a house. When a man appeared from the house Abdullah bin Mubarak greeted him and asked his name. The man replied “Ali bin al-Mufiq”.
Abdullah bin Mubarak asked: “What do you do for a living?”
Ali replied: “I am a cobbler”. Then Ali asked the stranger’s name that had come looking for him.
Abdullah bin Mubarak was a very well-known scholar of Islam, when Abdullah bin Mubarak introduced himself, the cobbler was anxious to find out why such a well-known scholar was seeking him out.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak asked Ali to tell him if he had made any plans to go for Hajj. Ali replied “For thirty years I have lived in the hope of performing the Hajj. This year I had saved enough to go for Hajj, but Allah did not will it, so I couldn’t make my intention translate into action.
Abdullah bin Mubarak was eager to find out how could this man’s Hajj be accepted and blessed for all the people who went for Hajj that year when he didn’t go for Hajj in the first place. While talking to the cobbler he could feel a certain purity in his heart. Islam regards greatness not in wealth or in power, but in civility, in good manners and the goodness of heart.
Abdullah bin Mubarak further asked: “why could you not go on Hajj?” In order not to disclose the reason, Ali again replied “it was Allah’s will”.
When Abdullah bin Mubarak persisted, Ali revealed: “Once I went to see my neighbour’s house. His family was just sitting down for dinner. Although I was not hungry I thought my neighbour would invite me to sit down for dinner out of courtesy but I could see that my neighbour was grieved about something and wanted to avoid inviting me for dinner.
After some hesitation the neighbour told me: “I am sorry I cannot invite you for food. We were without food for three days and I could not bear to see the pain of hunger of my children. I went out looking for food today and found a dead donkey. In my desperation I cut out some meat from the dead animal, and brought it home so that my wife could cook this meat. It is halal (lawful or permitted) for us because of our extreme condition of hunger, but I cannot offer it to you.”
Ali continued: “On hearing this, my heart bled with tears. I got up and went home, collected the three thousand dinars I had saved for Hajj, and gave my neighbour the money. I too had to go hungry but that was to save money for Hajj, but I thought helping my neighbour during his difficult times was more important. Although I still desire to go for Hajj if Allah wills.”
Abdullah bin Mubarak was greatly inspired by the cobbler’s story and told the cobbler of his dream.
God is merciful and shows mercy to those who do likewise to his creatures. This act of compassion on the part of the cobbler was so pleasing to God that it not only earned him the reward of Hajj but was extended to all the people who came for Hajj.
Rs 4 crore released for strengthening power infrastructure in Srinagar
Srinagar, Jan 16: The Srinagar administration Thursday released Rs 4 crore to the Power Development Department for strengthening power distribution network in various areas of the district.
The funding was released for creation of new sub-stations and augmentation of existing ones at various places across the district.
The new sub-stations which include a total number of 30 are being set up at an aggregate cost of over Rs 2 crore. Most of these also include setting up of HT and LT networks.
The funding has been provided under the Special Area Development Programme of Government of India.
Deputy Commissioner Srinagar Dr Shahid Iqbal Choudhary said that in addition to creation of new sub-stations the existing infrastructure of divisional workshops of electric divisions 1st and 4th are also being upgraded.
The upgradation of these divisional workshops includes installation of modern electro-mechanical facilities aimed at enabling faster repair of damaged transformers. It is being done at an aggregate cost of Rs 1.5 crore.
The DC said these divisions have also been provided an additional Rs 30 Lakh for enhancing buffer stock of transformers utilised during times of damages to existing sub-stations.
The funding also provides for augmentation of existing sub-stations and reclamation of damaged transformers in the electric division 4th which caters to old city areas of the district. It also provides for installation of a 63 KVA power generator at Peer Dastageer Sahib shrine.
Dr Shahid said the power infrastructure is being strengthened across the district adding that deficits and requirements of upgradations are being taken care of wherever required.
ACB arrests NC leader’s son over alleged bank fraud
Srinagar, Jan 16: The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) in Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday arrested Hilal Rather, son of National Conference leader and former finance minister Abdul Rahim Rather, in a bank fraud case involving Rs 177 core.
“Hilal Rather was arrested by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) Jammu today in a case related to the alleged misappropriation of crores of rupees from the term loans running into Rs 177 Crores sanctioned by Jammu and Kashmir Bank for his ambitious township project known as Paradise Avenue at Narwal Bala Jammu in the year 2012,” an ACB spokesman said.
Hilal”s father Abdul Rahim Rather was the finance minister of the erstwhile state in 2012 when the loan was taken from the bank.
According to the official statement, “ the investigation conducted by the Bureau has revealed that Paradise Avenue, a Partnership Concern of Hilal Rather, Dr Rizwan Raheem Dar of Sanant Nagar Srinagar, Ghulam Mohd Bhatt of Baramulla Kashmir, Daljeet Wadhera and Smt. Deepshikha Jamwal of Jammu was sanctioned a term loan of Rs 74.27 crores in the first phase and in relaxation to the credit policy of the bank which restricts loan to a partnership firm at Rs 40 crores and the loan was approved by the Board of Directors of the J&K Bank when Hilal Rather despite the fact that he had already entered into a OTS with the State Financial Corporation in the past. The remaining loan amount were granted by the Board despite the fact that the repayments of the first loan taken was not complete”.
Hilal Rather, who also owns Simula Group of Companies, was being questioned for the last few months by the Bureau in connection with the siphoning off crores of rupees from the loan amount sanctioned by the New University Campus Branch of J&K Bank for the construction of Flats under the name of Paradise Avenue.
He has been evading details of property raised & others transaction related to siphoning of funds meant for construction.
Smugglers make hay as exploitation of medicinal plants goes unchecked
Srinagar, Jan 14: Three hours into the arduous trek, Salim, 45-year-old forager hailing from indigenous Gujjar community of Sonamarg, lets out a shriek of joy, as he spots a cluster of medicinal plant species called Trillium Govainum, locally known as ‘Tripather’ on the grassy floor. He digs into the roots gently with a spade and carefully places the bulbs in a cloth bag slung on his shoulder.
“I am selling these plant bulbs to a smuggler in Srinagar for Rs 2000-3000 per kilogram. This is how I make my living,” he says.
Every year, in the month of April, Salim gears up for the trek and extracts around half gram of the plant bulbs daily. The mountain, he has chosen is at an altitude of 2,500 metres, as this is the ideal height, where the healing Himalayan green grows.
Similarly, Janna Begum, 40, starts her foraging journey annually in the month of June. Her sought after plant is Fritlaria Roylei, locally known as ‘Sheet Khaar’, which grows abundantly in Gurez Valley, Gulamarg, Lolab and Hirpora wildlife sanctuary. It is used to treat around 80 ailments.
“We don’t know if it is used for curing diseases. We are simply extracting it to make some money out of it. There are plenty of smugglers who are in need of it,” she says.
She, however, notes that they always fear getting caught by the forest guards. “We only sell when we are familiar with the smugglers otherwise there are chances we may be caught,” she says
Likewise, there are scores of local foragers from other areas of Jammu and Kashmir who go out in the quest of finding the rare plant species.
Smugglers send local men and women to the forest to get these plants as it becomes difficult for forest guards to identify these people because they go in forests to collect various things like forest wood and dried leaves.
Kashmir has a rich resource of medicinal plants, which are used in aromatherapy and cosmetics as well as medical treatments. Demand for these plants from Europe, China, Japan and other nations have made Kashmir a fertile ground for smugglers.
More than 80 percent population in developing countries is dependent upon traditional system of medicine.
According to the official data compiled Department of Bio diversity and Taxonomy, Kashmir University, there are 1000 different kinds of medicinal plants available in the J&K out of which 300 are endemic –they are found in particular geographical region. Among them are some high end plants having high commercial value and are dwindling fast due to huge demand.
Sample this: Trillium, which was earlier a lesser known medicinal plan in trade, has gained popularity in commercial utilization these days. It is one of the most sought after medicinal species of the western Himalayan region. However due to high demand and no significant regeneration, it is declining by the day, as per the official data.
“The underground part of the plant, i.e. rhizome is key material of trade containing Trillarin which on hydrolysis yield diosgenin and used in preparation of steroidal and sex-hormones. It is sold in lakhs internationally,” it says.
Similarly plant species like Podophylum Hexandum (local name: Vane Wangun), Sasurra Caustus (local name: Koth), Aconitum Heterophulym (local name: Phatrees), Sasurra Sicra (local name: Jueg Badshah) are on the verge of extinction, as per various studies.
Akhtar H Malik, a researcher at the Kashmir University, attributed “overexploitation, habitat destruction, unchecked deforestation and overgrazing as the primary reasons for the declining rate of medicinal plants”.
“The locals get Rs 2500 to 3000 per kilogram of Trillium. It sells at Rs 70,000 per kilogram. There are some foreigners who come as tourists but carry medicinal plants in their bags. These medicinal plants are being exported in trucks laden with fruits to Chandigarh from where it is being supplied to various parts,” he said.
Former Nodal officer, Medicinal Plant Board, Dr Wahid Hassan said forest department has already reserved 1785 hectares of land for the conservation of medicinal plants.
“This step was taken under a project sanctioned in 2010 and was competed in 2017. Around 4.34 crore rupees were given for the conservation of medicinal plants. For rehabilitation, the department is already planning to collaborate with the forest dwellers. They will be given the mandate of extracting and selling the plants. This will eventually generate employment and help us in securing the plants for posterity,” he said.