Kashmir’s head priest Mirwaiz Umar Farooq took to Facebook to stream his sermons live this Ramzan, to preserve and popularise wazkhani (the traditional delivery of sermons) and retain the centrality of Srinagar’s Jamia Masjid.
The online sermon became necessary because violent protests were deterring devotees from attending prayers at the mosque.
The Mirwaiz, who is also the Hurriyat chairman, first went live with his sermon on Ramzan’s last Friday and Shab-e-Qadar, where a night-long wazkhani is held at the 14th century Masjid.
The mosque can accommodate a large gathering, and normally the devout listen to the Mirwaiz even sitting outside the mosque. Instead, Friday’s sermon was downloaded by many in the country and abroad.
The response has encouraged the Mirwaiz, since the webcast got 9,000 instant views, mainly from Kashmiris living in the U.S., the U.K. and Saudi Arabia. He now plans to stream Eid prayers live.
“With services like 4G, live streaming of waz (the sermon) for the first time has helped Kashmiris abroad to connect and relate to it. I received feedback from people living as far away as Iceland. They wrote very emotionally,” the Mirwaiz told The Hindu.
Wazkhani is not a monologue. “A few shrines continue to do wazkhani in a traditional manner. Kashmiri sermons are a dialogue, and people are part of it. Shruk [the verses] of Sheikh-ul-Alam and the Persian verses of poets Abdul ar-Rahman Jami and Rumi are recited by people.
“ It’s a collective way to explore spirituality and seek forgiveness,” he said. The decision, he said, was also aimed at reaching out to home-bound women devotees.
“I cannot reach the mosque given the normal crowd, but this time I could follow the speech without effort,” said Ms. Shahida Mir of Kanipora.
Acknowledging the dip in attendance in the wake of frequent stone-pelting outside Jamia Masjid, the Mirwaiz said, “Live-streaming is also an attempt to underline the centrality of this mosque as a seat of learning and spirituality, besides being the centre of resistance.”