I, Zaira Ashraf Khan D/O Muhammad Ashraf Khan born and brought up in Kashmir hail from the district Srinagar. On the occasion of award of my Ph.D degree, would like to reflect on the journey that I have treaded. The beautiful and blessed journey that it has been; to reflect on the evolution over all these years of my life—very much predestined by the Almighty; the journey that landed me in the discipline of Islamic Studies.
I had my Schooling from Saudi Arabian International Institute of Pakistani Section, Saudi Arabia (till year 1998) and later from Tiny Harts Rajbagh Kashmir (till 2005). My quest for quality education got me into Mallinson Girls School, Srinagar (2006-2007).
With Medical Subjects as my Majors and Mathematics as a fifth subject, I completed my 2. For some reasons, I have been always very choosy about the streams I would like to opt for and its only after trying out so many things we finally get what suits you best. We evolve with time, recognize our interests and draft our aims.
I realised that medicine was not for me and robotics and engineering is something that never rejuvenated me. So in search of a different stream, I cracked the entrance for Business Administration (2008). I learned a lot during these years of my graduation and the practical side of the discipline was more alluring for me.
The year 2010, final year of my College, when we all were preparing for M.A.T, I was inclined towards Arabic Language and Textual Study of the Quran. It was so captivating. I would dedicate my time in the online Arabic Classes but had to give my studies its due. I was dwindling between the two beloved disciplines of my life. I qualified M.A.T with 97 percent marks/ points.
Here I was getting offers and scholarships from universities of India and there my quest to learn more about Islam was burning me inside. Less did I know that we have a P.G Programme offered by University of Kashmir. I had never heard of it before.
Miraculously, I got introduced to it through my classmate in Arabic Classes. And it was just a month before the onset of the season for admissions. Those nights and days are worth cherishing when I silently studied without letting even my family know about what was I trying for.
With this course, I could envision myself living the dream of dedicating my entire time to discover more about Islam and to synchronize all my future aims and struggles with the cause. With this Prophetic vision, I sat in the examination and got 17th Rank. It was one of the best days of my life but quite shocking and disheartening for others as well. For they considered it to be one of my many “immature decisions”.
But I only knew what I was doing—following my conscience. I could only feel the peace inside. About the MBA? I deliberately dropped the entrance examination at KU. I wanted to be sure about the decision that I had taken. And here I was in the year 2011 in the Shah-e-Hamadan Institute of Islamic Studies hoping to start my journey in the Religious Sciences.
Less did I know that, being a social science subject, Islamic Studies has a lot more to offer: History of Islamic Civilisation, Religious Sciences, Comparative Religions, Muslim Philosophy, Gender Studies, Modern Trends, Middle Eastern Studies, Social Sciences, Islamic Psychology, Oriental Studies, Languages (Arabic, Persian) etc.
It was no less than a jackpot to have so many disciplines of Social Sciences under one banner. This boosted my intellectual trajectory and catered to my spiritual void. It connected me to the Divine texts and made me critically analyse the socio-cultural conventional structure from the same lense.
Simultaneously, I was enrolled in Ma’had-ul-Lugah al Arabiyyah in the year 2011 and had the honour of learning from the renowned teachers of the valley, including Prof. Abdur Rahman War Sahab, Prof. Muzaffar Nadwi Sahab, Qamarul Hasan Qasmi Sahab, Mufti Ibraheem Sahab. With their immense love and dedication, they made me stand where I am today. Allah helped me with these wonderful opportunities and I have had never been so engrossed as I was during my time at Ma’had (the seven years of my life 2011-2017).
I was lucky to have cracked JRF during my PG so in the year 2014 I got enrolled for the Ph.D programme. After many deliberations, the topic that I found needs most devotion of my efforts was the Seerah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his contribution in empowering Women. The work (completed on 28th March 2019) that aimed to reflect on the Prophetic Life and the gradual transition of Muslim women towards more emancipation and a critical analysis of the Western Feminist Movement
Alhamdulillah! My PhD Degree is in my hands now. The dreams, the sweat, the prayers, the tears that I have given to it. Today I feel like standing at the pedestal of Hassan bin Thabit (R.A) and representing my Prophet.
I have been equally blessed to be selected in Higher Education Department in 2016 and have been rendering my services since then in constructing the knowledge structure.
The journey is yet to evolve with time, hopefully with more constructive contributions in academia and on the ground as well in bringing the best out of the youth of our times; in elevating their intellectual and spiritual vistas and to provide them space of independent thinking and learning; and to recognize their potentials and give their best.
Author is Assistant Professor/Head, Department of Islamic Studies at Government College for Women, M.A Road, Srinagar. Views expressed are personal