Srinagar: People from different walks of life today participated in a workshop to deliberate art and religious spaces for women in the Kashmir valley.
The session was held on the concluding day of a week-long exhibition ‘Mashq e Arba’een’ to commemorate the 40-day mourning period of Ashura.
Syeeda Zehra, a research scholar and organizer of ‘majalis’ for women in Muharram, said they had always and will continue to take a lead in organizing religious functions.
“Women have always organized majalis separately during Muharram in Kashmir. In the past, majalis were confined to sermons and reciting eulogies. Now, it starts with reciting the Qur’an followed by a series of hadiths, and then poetry is also recited in the majalis of women. In today’s context, the gatherings that are held should continue to encourage the participation of women,” she said during the session organized by the Educational Revival through Arts and Aesthetics (EdRAAK) at the Mahatta Studios.
“In the majalis, we also talk about the social evils and other issues facing the community. God willing, these majalis will continue and women will continue to occupy religious spaces,” she added.
Saba Riyaz, an art lover and doctoral scholar in Statistics from the University of Kashmir, said they drew inspiration from Zaynab bint Ali (AS) while batting for greater participation of women in religious and other aspects of life.
“Our source of inspiration is Syeeda Zaynab (AS) who has started the tradition of Azadari. She kept Karbala alive in humanity through her speech after the tragedy of Karbala. She is the best example to all women in the world. Women have an important role to play in all aspects of life: at home, at work, in the community, at the university, at our centers and mosques,” she said.
“More opportunities and positions for women should be created to take on leadership roles to help our communities to grow in all positive domains. We need to have self-confidence, and events like this one, are a source of our grooming. We should not underestimate our strength even during the most difficult times!”
EdRAAK founder Dr. Ilyas Rizvi said Shia women had already started to play a leading role in religious and other events.
“Shia women, in general, have always played a leading role in the tradition of ‘Azadari’. Imam Bargah Zadibal has been the first Imam Bargah where Zanana Majalis started where a Zakira recites the Kashmiri Marsiya in the same way as the men. While the older generation women are busy in the Marsiya Khwani, the new generation is experimenting with a new genre of poetry, nouha khwani, art, calligraphy, etc,” he said.
He said the weeklong ‘Mashq e Arba’een’ too saw active participation of women.
“During the Arba’een Heritage Walk, women actively participated and we also had works of women artists and calligraphers displayed at the exhibition. We concluded the exhibition with a session with a women’s group. They talked about art, spaces for women in Kashmir….particularly in religious spaces,” Rizvi said.