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Book review: ‘Habiba Habba Khatoon’ by Ghulam Hassan Talib

Book review:  ‘Habiba Habba Khatoon’ by Ghulam Hassan Talib
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By: Rayees Ahmad Kumar

Ghlam Hassan Talib hailing from the Newa village of Pulwama district nestled amidst the picturesque and fruit producing landscape, is amongst the few noted litterateurs who’s literary journey spans over many decades.

Initially working as an educator, Mr Talib went on to embrace the esteemed Civil Services job by qualifying the prestigious state level Civil Services Exam where from he retired in 2002. He has authored a couple of books and presently the one which I am reviewing is “Habiba Habba Khatoon” published by Deenu Duniya Kitab Ghar, Newa Pulwama.

It is spread over 240 pages having a superbly designed cover and superior quality paper has been used in its compilation. Mr Talib has dedicated this masterpiece to his younger sister who met her Lord too early in her young age.

In it’s opening chapter titled ‘Kashiri Hindi Tawarikhuk Mukhtasar Jayizah’ (5-22), Talib says – A big chunk of Kashmiri Historians regard Kalhana’s Rajtarangni as the first historical account compiled by any historian, however in reality many historians have in past even much before Kalhana already written beautiful history books and Kalhana has got benefited from them as well.

Author of Nigaristani Kashmir is of the view that it was Pandit Ratnagar who first wrote Kashmir history titled ‘Rajtarangni’ based on opinions and orally heard people’s stories in 9th century AD while Kalhana’s Rajtarangni surfaced in 12th century AD.

According to Prof Abdul Qadir Sarwari former head of Urdu department Jammu Kashmir University, Kalhana’s Rajtarangni doesn’t mention the period of 35 Kings who have ruled here but Pir Hassan Shah Khoihami has very well mentioned it in his Tarikhi Hassan.

Sabir Afaqi in “Tarikh Kashmir Islami Uhad main” says- our centuries of political and historical period is found in many Sanskrit, Persian, Urdu and English language history books and in good number of travelogues but unfortunately authors instead of putting forward the factual reality have adopted a biased approach thus failing to lure future history learners.

Another historian Qazi Zahoorul Hassan has also rectified many mistakes of previous historians in his book Nigaristani Kashmir. Mohammad Din Fouq writes in Shababi Kashmir – the historical events of Kashmir in Sanskrit and Persian languages are in poetic form and it is quite displeasing to find historians adopting a lackadaisical approach while writing about history.

They haven’t even mentioned the birth dates of prominent rulers like Budshah and some saintly figures. Shak Bhatt’s Rajtarangni depicting the Kashmir history from 1517 to 1596 is also full of errors, Syed Ali’s Tarikhi Kashmir though written in Yousuf Shah Chak’s period, has completely neglected the ruling period of Chak Dynasty except a brief account about Yousuf Shah Chak and Hassan Bin Ali Kashmiri has also very briefly written about Yousuf Shah’s prostration before Mughal emperor Akbar.

In Hyder Malik’s Parisian book about Kashmir history, it is revealed that after the killing of Bengal’s governor Sher Afgan, Hyder Malik took his wife Mehrun Nisa in his custody who later on became wife of Mughal emperor Jahangir popularly known as Noor Jahan. Hyder Malik was a loyalist of Mughal emperors so he was given power to manage Kashmir Affairs.

He has started writing Tarikhi Kashmir in 1618 and completed it in 1621. Abul Fazal’s Akbar Nama and Aini Akbari are considered as major historical texts of Mughal period. However, Pir Hassan Shah Khoihami’s Tarikhi Hassan spread over four volumes is according to Mr Talib a masterpiece mentioning references of Kalhana’s Rajtarangni and other texts. In it’s 2nd chapter about History of Kashmiri language and literature (23-33), Mr Talib says – From last three years I have studied the literary works of scholars, researchers, poets and critics to get a final conclusion about Kashmir’s history of language and literature.

However, I have found two books worth mentioning one Abdul Ahad Azad’s ‘Kashmiri Zuban aur Shayiri’ and ‘Kashir zaban ti adbuk Tawarikhuk’ by Naji Munwar and Shafi Shouq. According to legendary author Amin Kamil – it is with regret to say that we haven’t yet written about the history of Kashmiri language and literature nor have anyone tried to make an effort.

Abdul Ahad Azad’s ‘Hayati Mehjoor’ mentions about ‘Sawanih Habba Khatoon’ being compiled by Mehjoor who was accompanied by Sheikh Abdullah to Delhi with the only intention of compiling the history of Kashmiri language and literature. Naji Munwar in his book ‘Pursaan’ is of the view that he since 1952 has been studying the poetry of all poets from Lala Ded to contemporary young poets and have reached to the conclusion that vibrant efforts are need of the hour to write about the history of Kashmiri language and literature.

In its 3rd chapter about Genealogy of Habba Khatoon (33-65), Mr Talib says – Naji Munwar and Shafi Shouq while commenting on some lyrics of poetess have revealed that her name was Habiba, married to Kamal of Srinagar at her her age and soon due to frequent ill-treatment of her mother and sister in-law the bond was broken through a divorce.

According to Mr Talib, suggesting name to a new born baby was the responsibility of village Muslim priest and it was popular among both male and female babies to give them the name Habba. In the later stage of their life males were called as Habibullah while females as Habbla Bano or Habbla Begum.

In case of royal, aristocratic, Syeds and other upper caste category Muslims whenever a child was born and named as Habba, in her later stages ‘Khatoon’ was attached to her Habba name. Khatoon means a respectable and honourable lady, so previously in Kashmir the ladies of Nambardar and Syed families would often be called as Khatoon Ded.

To evade an attack from Ali Shah Chak, Kishtwar Governor Bahadur Singh gifted his wife to Ali Chak who after marrying her named her Fatah Khatoon. It is to be noted that neither Yousuf Shah Chak nor Hazrat Masood Pampori rectified Habib’s name as Habba Khatoon, but reality is that it was a norm then to call Habba as Habba Khatoon or Habiba Begum or Habbla Begum born in a Syed Dynasty. From various authentic historical records and sources it is evident that Habiba aka Habba Khatoon was the daughter of Syed Bahar Shah who was the son of Syed Ruknudin of Newa Charath who himself was a son of Syed Fakhruddin of Newa Charath of Pulwama district. She was married to Kamaludin of Jamalta Srinagar who happened to be her maternal cousin.

Her mother Bibi Badiu-jamal had died during a delivery so she was raised up by Abdi Rather of Chandhar Pampore where she grew up to adulthood. Prof Fida Hasnain in his “The Muslim Kashmir” also makes a strong revelation about Habba Khatoon, whose original name was Habiba belonging to a Syed family and married to Kamaludin of Srinagar her cousin.

Recently some strong evidences have shown that Habba Khatoon was born at Newa village of Pulwama, her mother had died while delivering her and Abdi Rather of Chandhar brought her up. Mohd Din Fouq in “Khawateen Kashmir” writes- In villages there weren’t schools and no parent would dare to send his daughter for studies; however Abdi Rather sent Habiba to a preacher from whom she learnt Quran, Gulistan, Bostan etc. Since Abdi Rather belonged to a peasant family, it is opined that he was a mureed of Bahar Shah and obeyed his all orders without any hindrance.

So he took the responsibility of raising Habiba and when the people there found it difficult to bring Habiba on their tongues they temporarily called her Zooni. In the 4th chapter of the book “The coming of Sufi Saint to Kashmir and Syed Sultan Fakhruddin Newa”, Mr Talib says- The Islamic foundation of Kashmir was laid on the day Rinchan Shah sighted a God fearing and pious soul Syed Abdul Rehman Bulbul Shah on Jhelum banks and accepted Islam through him. Who renamed him Sultan Saddrudin. Then Jalaluddin Mukhdoom arrives here followed by Mir Syed Ali Hamadani the patron Saint of hundreds of his companions.

To spread the noble teachings among masses, two cousins Mir Syed Hussain Simnani and Syed Tajuddin Simnani of Mir Syed Ali Hamadani too have arrived here. From the references of Gulistani Kashmir, Shahi Hamdan Hayat Aur Karname by Prof Shamsuddin Ahmad, Waqaati Kashmir by Khwaja Mohd Azam Dedmari and Tazkira Awlia by Pir Hassan Shah Khoihami, it is crystal clear that Syed Sultan Fakhruddin and his brother Syed Fareedudin had accompanied Syed Ali Hamadani’s nephew Mir Syed Hyder Kubrawi to Kashmir during the reign of Sultan Sikander.

The mousoleum of Sultan Syed Fakhruddin is at Newa Charath Pargana while his brother Syed Fareedudin is at Jamalta Srinagar. Historians are of the view that Syed Qasim was a disciple and cousin of Sultan Syed Fakhruddin who’s last resting place is at Nowbugh. When the news about the arrival of Mir Mohammad Hamadani reached Sheikh Noordin Noorani, he yelled ‘The spiritual mentor and guide of Kashmiris has come. Chapter 5th(87-89) Habba Khatoon’s first Nikah- After going through authentic references, There can be no denying in the fact that Habiba or Habba Khatoon after being brought up by Abdi Rather was married in a Syed Family to Syed Kamaludin her meternal cousin. However, the nuptial didn’t last longer as she was having a poetic taste and singing her own composed poetry.

This didn’t go well to her in-laws and she was soon divorced. Chapter 6th (90-94) The Historical importance of Kakpora Village – Pargana Charath’s Kakpora Village had been historically much important due to its prime location on the banks of Jhelum. It was a crucial trade centre in view of its efficient water transport through boats. During Budshah’s period Kakpora Village was a hub of educational and musical activities.

During Yousuf Shah Chak’s period many buildings and rest houses for government guests were constructed at Kakpora. Once there had been a big war and everything turned into rouble and debris. Chapter 7th(95-100) Habba Khatoon’s 2nd marriage – In a research article Prof Bashar Bashir reiterates that it is beyond one’s understanding that a King like Yousuf Shah Chak would have lured an ordinary singing lady, instead he made her a queen only because of her well-off and affluent family background.

Another myth which has been making rounds in our historical landscape, that Habba Khatoon was dredging in Saffron fields of Pampore, when Yousuf Shah Chak sighted her, he lost his emotional control and felt in love with her, called her husband, gave him 50000 Dirham for a divorce and then married her. However in reality her poetic and singing traits weren’t welcomed by her in-laws developing strained relations which finally turned into a divorce.

According to Mohammad Din Fouq in Khawateen Kashmir, her age at the time of marriage was 18 while that of Yousuf Shah Chak was 28. They spent a prosperous life of 14 years together after which Yousuf Shah Chak passed away at 50 while Habba Khatoon lived upto 55.

According to Dr Sabir Afaqi and Qazi Zahoorul Hassan, Yousuf Shah Chak couldn’t tolerate the separation of his beloved. Chapter 8th(101-140) Kingship and the poetry of couple – Muhibul Hassan says in Kashmir Salatein ke Uhad main, Apart from being a civilized and pure hearted person, Yousuf Shah Chak was a poet, musician and a religious scholar. Mohammad Din Fouq writes in Tarikhi Budshahi, among Chak rulers Hussain Chak and Yousuf Shah Chak were prominent poets. Husamudin Rashidi is of the view in his book Tazkira Shourai Kashmir, Before the advent of Islam Sanskrit was the language of valley followed by Parisian.

The blended dialect of these languages have given birth to a new language called Kashmiri. He further says, In Parisian much has been written about Kashmir and if we sum up the entire poetries written about Kashmir in Parisian it would be equivalent to Sheikh Saidi’s entire poetry. Historian Khalil Marjanpori has penned many stories of Yousuf Shah Chak and Habba Khatoon in Tarikhi Kashmir, in one of these stories he says – once there was some altercation between the couple, Habba didn’t talk with Yousuf for some time, as a result he went to visit Tarsar Marsar lakes, he enjoyed the beauty and charm of the region but missed his spouse badly there.

Sultan Ali Chak and his son Yousuf Shah Chak were so attached to Baba Hyder Reshi of Anantnag and Sheikh Hamza Mukhdoom that they made regular visits to their shrines barefoot. Sultan Ali Chak began his reign from the premises of Srinagar’s grand mosque while addressing a big gathering there. Habba Khatoon’s popularity as a prominent poet is seeing no end as the rural women are continuously singing her lyrics during wedding and other functions.

She was an expert of music also. Her lyrics mainly reflect the agony and melancholies of women facing distressed environment at their in-laws home because she too was a victim of same. Prof Mashal Sultanpuri writes- After the invasion of valley by Mughals, when Habba Khatoon was left alone, she missed her husband badly as is evident in each of her poetic couplets. It is said that after her husband Yousuf Shah Chak was arrested, she embarrassed meditation by renouncing worldly affairs at Panthachowk.

Litterateurs agree that after Lala Ded and Sheikh Noordin Noorani, Habba Khatoon was the most celebrated poetess of valley followed by Arnimal. Chapter 9(141-164) Habba Khatoon’s Last resting place – Shayiri Kashmir Mehjoor writes in his dairy, today during a Tonga ride, i went to Sheikh Sahib with Dr Parmo’s book Shahmir To Shahjahan, while reaching Athwajan I showed the grave of Habba Khatoon to Sheikh Sahib and others. However when a team of JK cultural academy went to Bihar to erect a tombstone on the grave of Yousuf Shah Chak, it was learnt that Habba Khatoon too is buried there.

On 9th of April 1952, when Mehjoor passed away, Moulana Mohd Syed Masoodi’s couplet was engraved on the gravestone “Bane Habba Khatoon ke hamsaya Aaj, Ye marhoom magfoor Mehjoor hai.

Wahab Lone a poet from Pahalgam also certifies that Habba Khatoon’s grave is at Athwajan and she was heartily attached to Pandrethan and Panthachowk. Prof Ghulam Rasool Malik in his book Habba Khatoon- collected poems, writes that after the exile of Yousuf Shah Chak, Habba Khatoon remained as a sanyasi till her death when she was buried at Athwajan. GMD Sofi in his book Some Women of Kashmir, writes- when Yousuf Shah Chak was made to leave Kashmir by Akbar, Habba Khatoon forsook the world and became a hermit till her death and is believed to be buried at Panthachowk. It is believed that in 1664, Aurangzeb after a boat ride has offered Zahar prayer in the mosque built by Habba Khatoon and ordered it’s repairment after noticing it in dilapidated condition. Mohammad Din Fouq is of firm belief that Habba Khatoon has spent her last days at Panthachowk and is buried there in Mazari Shoura. Various research article and poetic couplets of Habba Khatoon reveal that she is buried in Athwajan’s Mazari Shoura alongside Mehjoor.

While concluding my brief commentary of the book, I am of the opinion that readers after going through it would rediscover Habba Khatoon. It is a highly researched piece. Her birthplace at Newa, her upbringing by Abdi Rather of Chanhaar after she lost her mother while delivering a baby girl, her first marriage with Syed Kamal of Srinagar then her divorce due to unfair treatment at her in-laws home and then her second marriage with Yousuf Shah Chak, their separation and their death are some of the striking elements of the book.

(The author is a columnist hailing from Qazigund south Kashmir)

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