Nasir-ul-Islam, the controversial son of state government-backed grand mufti (priest) Bashir-ud-Din, who issued a fatwa against four Christian pastors earlier this year, was nominated as the chief priest of Kashmir on Sunday.
“Mufti Azam (Grand priest) Mufti Bashir-u-Din has nominated his son and deputy mufti Nasir-ul-Islam as his successor for the coveted chair in the supreme court of Islamic Shariat,” said a family spokesman.
The nomination was made in presence of Ullamas (Islamic scholars) at the Imam Azam conference
held at the grand mufti’s Soura residence at Srinagar. The family claims that Islamic scholars, both from mainstream and separatists bent of mind, attended the conference.
Islam immediately after returning from Middle East state of Abu Dhabi last year --- where he dabbled with both business ventures and legal consultancy jobs --- landed in controversy in Kashmir for issuing a fatwa against four pastors in January 2012, accusing them of “forcibly” converting Kashmir youth. Islam barred the pastors’ entry into the valley.
After living abroad for several years, the 53-year-old Islam is ambitious to be part of Kashmir’s religo-political class and settle down in the valley. Otherwise clean shaven all his life, Islam has started growing beard to take over the hereditary office, which is recognised by the state government.
Islam’s wife Dr Neelofar Ali is a senior scientist with the Abu Dhabi government, while his two sons are studying abroad. Elder son has a graduation degree from Switzerland and masters from Canada. Younger too studies in Abu Dhabi.
Islam himself is a law graduate with masters in Arabic. He worked as a legal consultant with ministry of justice in Abu Dhabi. It was in 2000 that Islam was appointed as deputy mufti Azam of Jammu and Kashmir by his father.
Kashmir has a long history of having revered mufti clans, mainly for interpretation of Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s sayings.
But there is no history of Islamic Sharia courts in the state. “There is no history of having Chief Justice of Sharia Court in Kashmir. We only have the seat of mufti azam (grand priest) who would issue riwayat (religious backdrop of issues) and not fatwas,” said Saleem Beg, who heads Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage.
“The designation of chief justice is self conferred,” said Beg.