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Meet Dr. Mubeena Ramzan, the first Kashmiri woman to feature among world’s 500 most influential Muslims

Dr Mubeena Ramza, head of Ansar-un-nissa' a soio religious organisation (Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)

By Auqib Javeed, TwoCircles.net

Dr Mubeena Ramzan of Kashmir created history earlier this month when she became the first Kashmiri woman to be enlisted among the 500 most influential personalities in the Muslim world. The list was released by The Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Centre, an independent research entity affiliated with the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought.

The list named Dr. Mubeena from North Kashmir’s Sopore as one among the world’s most influential persons. Dr Mubeena heads the women-only socio-religious organization ‘Ansar-un-Nissa’ and is the Rector of ‘Jamia Islamia Mahdul Muslimat’, which has its branches in Sopore (Baramulla), Baghat (Srinagar) and Sumbal (Bandipora) under the aegis of a registered public trust namely ‘Mahdul Muslimat Educational Trust’ in Kashmir. Dr Mubeena travels extensively across the valley for women’s rights and ensure that women suffering from domestic violence are provided “a vent”. In an exclusive interview with TwoCircles.net, Dr Mubeena talks about her activism, journey and her views regarding role of women in conflict-torn state.

Here are the excerpts

Could you please tell us a little about yourself?

I was born in Sopore of District Baramulla and had my initial schooling from Islamia High School, Sopore where we were taught Islamiyat, Arabic and Hindi, which broadened our thought process.

Students of the madarsa run by Dr. Mubeena (Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)

After pursuing Bachelor’s degree in Islamic Studies, Education, Political Science and Philosophy from Islamia College, Sopore. After that, I completed my B.Ed, Masters degree and Research from University of Kashmir (KU). During my Research in Kashmir University, I had specialised in Islamic Law, Jurisprudence (Fiqh) and Orientalism.
Besides all this, I had learned Islamic Sciences from Hazrat Mufti Muzaffar Hussain Qasimi Sahab, Head Mufti, Darul-ul-Uloom Sopore.

When did the idea of setting up your own institute for women come to your mind and why?

As a scholar, my research on Kashmiri Society and its social evils had made me realise that I must play an active part in mitigating the crisis. The very idea motivated me to quit lectureship in a B.Ed college in Kupwara and started Jamia Islamia Mahdul Muslimat under the aegis of Mahdul Muslimat Educational Trust in 2002, from a rented building in Sopore and took us eight years to purchase a land and built a proper girls-only seminary-cum-skill school there.

The objective was to inculcate education with Islamic integration and impart skills among women. We started another branch in Baghat area of Srinagar city and recently, opened another campus at Sumbal-Hajin area of Bandipora district.

What do you teach to your students?

Jamia Islamia Mahdul Muslimat is a seminary-style girls only institute where besides teaching of religious text we impart worldly education also. But main thrust is on religious scriptures like Quranic exegesis, science of Hadith, Jurisprudence and History.
We also teach languages viz, Arabic, English, Urdu and train them in the field of Computers, Cutting & Designing skills to help them become competent and self-reliant.

Tell us about this institute and your journey with it?

We empower our students through education and skills, which boosts their confidence to face different realities of life. I believe that training a girl on these parameters was not possible by mere religious sermons, debates, seminars, etc.

We had to upgrade our religious syllabus on modern lines to make our girl students relevant to the contemporary society. We believe in natural upbringing of students, especially girl. We understand it well that apart from education and shelter, orphans also need motherly love and care. While we try to provide that, we also counsel and guide them regarding their future. This is what our Institute Jamia Islamia Mahdul Muslimat provides.

Dr. Mubeena with some of the women ( Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircle.net)

In 2013, we called a meet of women from different walks of the life-around 100 of them-in Sopore where we decided to have some welfare initiatives among women. And as a result, in March 2014, we floated “Ansar-un-Nissa”, a women welfare body which provides a helping hand to the needy, would-be brides, widows, orphans, and also establishes vocational training centres.

What challenges do you face during your activism in a society that can be patriarchal?

When it comes to a woman who observes Hijab, challenges are tremendous. Women now-a-days is sandwiched between two extremes – Religious and Western. A man is called qawwam in Quran, which means head / protector / sustainers of the family but this status has been misused by some by enslaving women.
I was opposed by so-called Moulvis for starting girls only seminary style institute (Madrassa) as it was in their mind how come a female run a Madrassa. But Alhamdulillah, now their perception has changed as we are successfully running three branches now.

The need of the hour is to have a very balanced approach where woman and man both would take care of their roles and responsibilities. Men and Women are equal, but not similar.

Reportedly, you were associated with Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM) of Aasiya Andrabi and later on due to some differences you left from the organisation. What were the differences?

Yes, I was associated with the organisation till 2004. Later on the differences grew with the organization for it being more into political spectrum. I left the organization as I wanted to do activism on academic parameters and started academic activism among women folk.

Do you think there are need for more Muslim women scholars in Kashmir?

Obviously, yes. In the rest of the Muslim world, we have good number of women Islamic Scholars but in Kashmir we are lacking them. We need more and more women scholars in Kashmir in order to educate common women-folk.

You must be knowing that in Ottomans Empire, 40% of contribution to Bait-al-Mal (House of money) was by the women and the oldest degree-granting university in the world i.e., Al-Qarawiyyin University was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, a women.

Women have been the pioneers of the education from the beginning of the Muslim society which is evident from the fact that a great major of Ahadiths (sayings of the Prophet, saws) are quoted by none other than his wife, Hazart Ayesha Siddiqa (r.a).
You have conducted various religious gatherings in different parts of the valley.

What draws you to that endeavour?

There are many issues related to women where she needs to be educated in right perspective. People often gossip about four wives, but no one thinks about having four daughters. Even a mother’s face turn pale now-a-days on the birth of a girl child.

The experiences which I gained after travelling throughout the Valley and beyond it for conduct of various religious gatherings are quite astonishing and still prevalent in this century. Most of the daughters and sisters are being debarred from the property / inheritance while Islam and Islamic law have given them a Right to Inheritance. Remarriage, Widow Marriage is still considered something evil in this Kashmir.

Daughters, Sisters, Wives are being forced to work outside for earnings and height of the things are that now-a-days it is difficult for an unemployed girl to get a suitable match as most mothers prefer to have employed daughter-in-law.

The hadiths of the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) about raising girls are beautiful and amazing. Girl children come with great rewards and blessings. If you offer care, love, support and education to your girl child, Paradise awaits you.

A gathering of women to listen to Dr. Mubeena (Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)

At a time when baby girls were deemed a source of shame, even buried alive, the Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) came to rectify this grave wrong. The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said: If anyone has a female child, and does not bury her alive, or slight her, or prefer his male children to her, Allah will bring him into Paradise. (Ahmad). On one other occasion, The Prophet (peace and blessing be upon him) said, “Whoever supports two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Day of Resurrection (close to each other) like this –The Messenger of Allah (peace and blessing be upon him) joined his fingers to illustrate closeness.” (Muslim)

These are just examples of how Islam cared for the girl children. The care mentioned in these hadiths and others is comprehensive. It covers the girls’ physical, emotional and mental needs. Such is the care and affection that our daughters deserve. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commands us to be loving, patient and supportive parents.

You were recently listed as one among the most influential 500 personalities in the Muslim world. Do you have any comments on your selection?

I came to know through my husband about it and I believe that real action and delight comes from helping your people grow. But yes, if your welfare activism is being recognised in any way, it does boost you.

Do you have any personal Muslim women heroes you would like to mention?

Not Hero, but inspiration. Maryam Jameela is one in this regard. She was brought up in a modern society but did not get getting influenced by it. On the contrary, she was able to influence and inspire people with her thought. Yvonne Ridley is other one.

Do you have any messages for young Kashmiri Women?

As Muslims, they should believe that their rights, duties and status are justified. They don’t need any westerner or any ragtag activist to tell them their rights as a woman. Those who are rallying behind it are knowingly and unknowingly attempting to overlook the dignified status and rights given to women by their religion.

Islam invites you to a mission based on obedience to Allah and Islam addresses person’s spirit, emotions, belief, etc. West is dragging women from homes, only to fulfil economic and materialistic objectives. It’s intended to commercialize things but Islam gives dignity and status while addressing the soul.

There are some jobs in the field of Education and Health and other suitable fields, where women have a primary role. However, in choosing any job, your home should be your preference. Your family should not suffer at the cost of earning. People in Kashmir nowadays prefer earnings over other things which need to be discouraged.

Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an …..“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward” (Al-Ahzab 33:35)

Dr. Mubeena Ramza with her students at the convocation in Srinnagar (Photo: Auqib Javeed/ TwoCircles.net)