December 10, 2005

Christ in Kashmir

Christ in Kashmir

By Masror Hausen

Very few people know Kashmir hosts the most sacred sites of the Christian faith including the tomb of Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him). Hazrat Mariam (May Peace be upon Her) is believed to be buried in Murree highlighting the religious and historical significance of this region.
There are more than 21 historical documents that bear witness to the existence of Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) in Kashmir. For example the Bhavishyat Mahapurana (Volume 9: Verses 17-32) contains an account of Issa-Massih (Jesus the Messiah). It describes Christ's arrival in the Kashmir region and his encounter with King Shalivahana, who ruled the area (39-50 AD), and who entertained Christ as a guest for some time.
The Quran provides the evidence in Surah Al Mominoon, thus:
“And mention Mariam (May Peace be upon Her) in the Book when she drew aside from her family to an eastern place.” [Surah 19  Marium, Ayah 16]
“And we made the Son of Mariam (May Peace be upon Her) and his mother a sign, and we gave them shelter on a lofty ground having meadows and springs” [Surah: 23 Al-Mominoon (The Believers) Ayah 50] 
The Surah does not point to any of the landscape of Middle East, and the mention of ‘lofty ground’ with ‘meadows and springs’ may perhaps be a reference to the lofty vales of Kashmir and Murree.

It is not possible to disprove that Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) travelled to Kashmir. The current information documenting Christ’s life is restricted to the Bible and the work of Western theologians who have an obvious interest in maintaining that Christ was crucified in Jerusalem. The orthodox Church considers such references to Christ’s life as heresy.

The alleged tomb in Kashmir is referred to by some as "Hazrat Issa Sahib" or "Tomb of the Lord Jesus". Ancient records acknowledge the existence of the tomb as long ago as 112AD. The Grand Mufti, himself has confirmed that Hazrat Issa Sahib is indeed the tomb of Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him).

Proponents of this idea say that Kashmir was selected as a sanctuary by Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) to escape the wrath of the Roman dictators and the Jewish clergy in the Middle East. Some Kashmiris themselves believe that their ancestry goes back to one of the lost ten tribes of Bene Israel. Young brides in some areas of Kashmir still wear a garland bearing the Star of David on their weddings as a custom.
A Russian scholar and Orientalist, Nicolai Notovich, was the first to suggest that Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) may have travelled to Kashmir. In 1887, Notovich, arrived in Kashmir during one of his several journeys. At the Zoji-la pass, Notovich was a guest in a Buddhist monastery, where a monk told him of a saint called "Issa". Notovich was stunned by the remarkable parallels of Issa's teachings and martyrdom with that of Christ's life, teachings and crucifixion.
Historians believe that Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) travelled through Turkey and Persia for about 16 years finally arriving with Hazrat Mariam (May Peace be upon Her) in Kashmir. He spent many years in Kashmir, teaching to an appreciative population, who venerated him as a great prophet, reformer and saint. He died approximately at the age of 78 and was buried in a tomb in Kashmir itself.

Hazrat Mariam (May Peace be upon Her) is believed to have died enroute in Murree. Her grave at Pindi Point is still revered as “Mai Mari da Asthan” or the “Resting place of Lady Mari”. Before 1857, when the British colonialists arrived, the place was known as “Mari”, the name was changed thereafter to “Murree”. The tomb of Hazrat Yousaf (May Peace be upon Him) is also said to be in the vicinity of Murree.

Hazrat Musa (May Peace be upon Him), Hazrat Suleman (May Peace be upon Him) and Hazrat Noah (May Peace be upon Him) are other prophets of God who may have come to Kashmir and lived the rest of their lives in the place rightly known as “Paradise on Earth.”

There are ancient stories in Persia cited by Muslim scholars such as Imam Abu Jafar Muhammed and Agha Mustafa of a saint called "Yuza Asaf" ("Leader of the Healed"), whose behaviour, miracles and teachings are remarkably similar to that of Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him). A Kashmiri historical document confirms that Issa was in fact also known as Yuzu Asaf.

The evidence of Hazrat Issa (May Peace be upon Him) passing through Afghanistan and Pakistan is derived from the fact that two plains in Eastern Afghanistan near Gazni and Jalalabad bear the name of Yuza Asaf. In the Acts of Thomas, it is stated that St Thomas and Hazrat Issa (May Peace be Upon Him) attended the Court of King Gundafor of Taxila, in about 47AD.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and media strategist.)

Welcome to the Republic of Kashmir

By Masror Hausen

That the city to replace Muzaffarad is going to be named New Muzaffarabad is beyond any doubt unless people insist on calling it Musharrafville of course to honour his wise leadership! What will New Muzaffarabad look like, will it reflect the egalitarian concept of urban planning; will it have the modern look to attract the likes of Bill Gates. What about the highways and motorways connecting it to all cities in Pakistan and India to attract tourists? Let’s take a peek, if you will, into the future and see how, if all goes well, tourists in 2015 would describe New Muzaffarabad.

As we hop on a tourist bus in Islamabad, we are told by a polite Kashmiri hostess that we will need to get our passports stamped at the border between Kashmir and Pakistan. We make sure that we have our passports with us. The bus skims on a silky motorway cutting through the lush green mountains around Murree and in less than an hour we are at the border which reads: “Welcome to the Republic of Kashmir.”

Our bus stops in the parking lot and we get off to get our passports stamped. A female immigration officer behind the counter stamps the passports and we get back to the bus. As it enters the large gate on the other side of the border one is reminded by a monument to remember all those men, women and children who died in an earthquake ten years ago.
In about 15 minutes, we drive on the Domel Bridge a marvel reflecting the post-modern architecture. As we cross the bridge, we enter New Muzaffarabad. Latest model vehicles on the well-marked roads speak of the wealth generated over a decade.

New Muzaffarabad, the second-largest city of the Republic of Kashmir, is known for its neat and clean haciendas built in such a way that they encourage strong neighbourly relations where people of all income levels live together and interact on a personal and classless level. All civic amenities are located close at hand so that residents don’t need to drive for running errands. It is a resident-friendly, community-oriented city with the most modern architecture.

Although Srinagar is known for its cultural and iconoclastic attraction, New Muzaffarabad is among the five planned cities in the world including Islamabad, Changigarh, Brasilia and Canberra. It was built literally on the ashes of the old city. The rubble left behind by the 2005 earthquake could not be moved thus over a period of time it turned into a mound. People who lost their dear ones in the earthquake still visit the “Zalzala Pahari” every Thursday to offer prayers. The government of Kashmir has erected a monument to remember all those who died in the earthquake.

Winding through the main bazaar we reach our double-storey hotel which we are told is “QR” or “Quake Resistant.” A modern five-star hotel with all the latest facilities offers serene panoramic views from the foyer and as we go to our room on the first floor, the window opens into the Nelum Valley. Set in a leafy location, the hotel has the honour of receiving the madam president of the United States and the prime Minister of Israel among other celebrities of the world.

Bill and Melinda Gates have a sprawling estate overlooking river Jhelum. Since the decline of the US economy and the divisive social unrest in the European Union, Bill virtually moved his billion dollar Microsoft Corporation to Kashmir which offered a strategic location to market his latest product to the world’s largest economies. Since China rose to become an economic superpower, New Muzaffarabad was the favourite choice for Gates leaving behind the ailing United States and the blazing European Union that once offered the most lucrative markets.

Harry Potter Stadium is a futuristic project funded by a Pakistani business group. Once complete it will offer a unique game where players wearing jet suits will play with a hovering ball. Although the project has scored some success, but the project managers are not satisfied and believe it might take another couple of years to fine tune.

The next morning we took off to the Formula One race track to watch the regional four-lapper. Shahzore of Iran won. This track has a unique feature for professional xbox gamers. The race is transferred live to xbox, the playstation, (at a minor rental!) and gamers can race their own cars on their TV screens in the actual race taking place in the stadium.

New Muzaffarabad is the economic engine of the Republic of Kashmir. Microsoft and other IT companies and Israeli traders have contributed to the development of this devastated, land-locked country. Tourism accounts for the second largest income. The democratic and egalitarian values and the peaceful nature of the Kashmiris attracted the economic giants to invest here.

A world class museum in New Muzaffarabad houses holographic replicas of the alleged tomb of Jesus Christ in Hazrat Bal whichis on the outskirts of Srinagar, by the way. The most popular section in the museum, Earthquake Kids, takes one on a virtual journey to the past. Beginning with the live video of the 2005 earthquake, it chronicles the lives of 50 orphans who exhibited extraordinary leadership traits.

The Musharraf International airport is located in between Srinagar and New Muzaffarabad. Linked with all major air-routes it transports thousands of foreign tourists in and out of Kashmir. No wonder a stroll through the bazaars offer a multicultural look. The University of New Muzaffarabad we are told is at the cutting edge of solar energy technology.
(The author is a freelance journalist and media strategist.)