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A Man With A Mission
By Yoginder Sikand
|Fifty-five-years old Abdur Rahman Kondoo is a man with a mission. A practising advocate at the Kashmir High Court and a writer of sorts, Kondoo is the director of the Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Research Centre [JKIRC] in Srinagar. Set up in 1996 with meagre personal resources, the JKIRC, a registered voluntary organisation, now boasts of one of the best-stocked libraries in all of Kashmir. Kondoo dreams of his institute emerging as an apex research and documentation centre for the study of Islam in the state. That might take a while yet, but Kondoo’s enthusiasm is unflagging.
The idea of setting up of the JKIRC emerged in the aftermath of the destruction of several of Kashmir’s largest libraries, including those housed at the Madinat-ul Ulum (Hazratbal, Srinagar) and the Islamiya College, Srinagar, in the continuing violence that has rocked Kashmir for more than a decade now. Concerned that Kashmir’s rich literary heritage was now seriously at stake, Kondoo decided that urgent steps needed to be taken to collect and house the many surviving manuscripts and books that many families have inherited over the generations, but which, for lack of proper care, were being gradually lost to posterity. He began by approaching his relatives and friends for any old manuscripts that the might have. Today, several hundred old Persian and Arabic manuscripts, mostly related to Islamic philosophy, jurisprudence, Tafseer, Hadith, Seerah, Sufism and Kashmiri history are housed at the JKIRC. Kondoo has even obtained, at his own expense, copies of rare Islamic and Kashmiri manuscripts from the India Office Library (London), and various libraries in India, such as the Nadwatul Ulama (Lucknow), The Khuda Baksh Library (Patna), Dar-ul Ulum (Deoband), Asfia Library (Hyderabad), etc., so that local researchers can make use of them. So far, Kondoo has collected over thirty thousand books, and several hundred manuscripts, which are housed in various rooms in his house in downtown Srinagar. Kondoo handles the running of the Centre himself, including dusting and sorting the books, cataloguing new additions and maintaining correspondence with research institutes elsewhere, requesting them to help out by sending him any books they might have to spare. Research scholars, students and teachers at the local university and colleges as well as the general public are free to consult the library, one of the few such private initiative of note in Srinagar. The centre has now started its own publishing programme, and it has brought out six books so far, all in Urdu. These include the Urdu translation of Deedamari’s classic Farsi treatise on the history of Kashmir, some of the speeches of the well-known Kashmiri Islamic scholar, Maulana Anwar Shah Kashmiri, and a book refuting the claims of the Ahmadis that Jesus died and was buried in Kashmir.Kondoo has ambitious plans for the JKIRC in the years to come. He envisions it as a modern institute for the dissemination of a more holistic understanding of Islam and as an agency for social reform in accordance with Islamic teachings. For this, a Dar-ul Ifta and a Dar-ul Qaza are planned. Kondoo is also moving towards expanding the work of the centre by organising conferences and seminars and by enlarging its publishing programme, focussing particularly on the translation of old Arabic and Persian manuscripts into Urdu. It is also contemplating launching an Islamic journal of its own. Plans are afoot to acquire a plot of land to set up a proper library, residential halls for scholars and a bookshop. The centre will also, Kondoo says, seek to provide scholarships to needy students and to victims of violence in the region.Shortage of funds is Kondoo’s biggest hurdle, this being a largely one-man effort. He may be contacted at Jammu and Kashmir Islamic Research Institute Kokerbagh, P.O.Nowshahra, Srinagar-190011, Kashmir