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“Religious Spaces for Women”: Workshop held to discuss art, poetry and social ills in Kashmir

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Srinagar: Today, people from different walks of life participated in a workshop on Deliberate Art and Religious Spaces for Women in the Kashmir Valley.

The session took place on the closing day of a week-long exhibition “Mashq e Arba’een” to commemorate the 40-day mourning period of Ashura.

Syeeda Zehra, researcher and organizer of ‘majalis’ for women at Muharram, said women have always and will continue to take the lead in organizing religious functions.

“Women always organized majalis separately during Muharram in Kashmir. In the past, majalis were limited to sermons and the recitation of eulogies. Now it starts with the recitation of Quran followed by a series of hadiths and then poetry is also recited in women’s majalis. In the current context, the gatherings that are held should continue to encourage the participation of women,” she said during the session organized by Educational Renewal through Arts and Aesthetics (EdRAAK) at Mahatta Studios.

“In the majalis, we also talk about social evils and other problems facing the community. God willing, these majalis will continue and women will continue to occupy religious spaces,” she added.

Saba Riyaz, an art enthusiast and PhD student in statistics from the University of Kashmir, said she was inspired by Zaynab bint Ali (AS) while fighting for greater participation of women in religious and other aspects of life .

“Our source of inspiration is Syeeda Zaynab (AS) who started the tradition of Azadari. She kept Karbala alive in humanity through her speech after Karbala tragedy. She is the best example for 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 university, in our centers and mosques,” she said.

“More opportunities and positions for women should be created to take on leadership roles to help our communities grow in all positive areas. We need to be confident in ourselves, and events like this are a source of our grooming. We must not underestimate our strength even in the most difficult times!

EdRAAK founder Dr. Ilyas Rizvi said that Shia women have already started to play a prominent role in religious and other events.

“Shia women, in general, have always played a prominent role in the ‘Azadari’ tradition. Imam Bargah Zadibal was the first Imam Bargah where Zanana Majalis started where a Zakira recites Kashmir Marsiya from the same way than the men. While the women of the older generation are busy in the Marsiya Khwani, the new generation is experimenting with a new genre of poetry, nouha khwani, art, calligraphy, etc.” he declares.

He said the week-long ‘Mashq e Arba’een’ also saw the active participation of women.

“During the Arba’een Heritage Walk, women actively participated and we also featured works by women artists and calligraphers in the exhibition. We concluded the exhibition with a session with a group of women. They talked about art, spaces for women in Kashmir…especially in religious spaces,” Rizvi said.

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