Need to revive centuries-old Langar system in Kashmir

Sikh community Langar (free kitchen) at Golden Temple, Amritsar
Muslim community of Malerkotla having food at the Sikh community’s Langar (free kitchen) at Golden Temple, Amritsar after donating 330 quintals of wheat for the Langar on July 10, 2020 | Photo: Twitter/Harjinder Singh Kukreja

Of Javid Parsa’s ‘Food for All’, I am greatly thankful to this young entrepreneur of J&K. Because his vision of motivating youth (particularly college and university students) gave me a new hope to understand things in a better way.

While visiting one of the Parsa’s branches, I took a sharp look at the outer board of the shop and found some catchy words written there: “Food for All”. Later, I got inside.

While taking a look at the menu card, I found they serve everything starting from below hundred rupees. This is affordable for every one of us.

At Parsa’s, I took a corner seat. While looking outside the window, I could see a small boy begging for food from everyone who passed through the road. Deeply distressed, I changed my seat and sat in the middle of the room. But, that sentimental scene was not going out of my mind. After a little wait, when the waiter came to serve me, I looked at him and asked: ‘Do you provide food to all?’ Seeing me surprisingly, he replied: ‘Of course, sir, we do. Is there any problem with anything?’ I said no and ended the conversation.

Searching for the answer to my question, I thought: Is there any provision in Islam to serve free food to the poor? After few minutes of thought process, I could recall a verse from the holy Quran [Surah Al-Insan]: “And they give food, out of love for Him, to the poor and the orphan and the captive…” [76:8]. Also, I recalled that Prophet Muhammad (SAW) insisted: “The best of you are those who feed others.”

How can Muslims forget the popular Hadis from Bukhari Shareef: “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (Sadaqah) for him.” Once I thought of Islam, a long list of Quranic verses and Hadiths started making things clear.

There is an old saying (proverb) in Punjabi, which is translated as “No one will die here because of hunger”. This is very true as we know the Sikh Gurdwaras provide free Langar and shelter to everyone. In Punjab, we do not see people dying for food and sleeping on roads. We don’t find this anywhere in the Sikh world.

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Throughout the world, every Gurdwara provides free Langar to people. Sikh religion is not too old. See the progress of Gurdwaras serving people. I suggest you visit Punjab. You can’t find any Sikh begging on roads for food. Leave the Sikhs aside, everyone, whether poor or rich, traveller or native, Muslim or Hindu, or any other religious community, doors of their Langar are open to all.

Long before Sikhs’ Langar was initiated by Muslims, Hindus, etc. Muslim saints (Sufis) were well aware of this system. They started Langar in their hospices (Khankahs). The Sikhs took lead and institutionalized this system. It became a permanent feature of the Sikh religion. To every Gurdwara, a community kitchen is attached to it.

Now check the progress of the Langar system in the Muslim world. It did not make any progress beyond Khankahs and Dargahs. Islam is a solution to every problem in this world. Whether to deal with poverty or to serve free food, etc, the need is to look forward and carry the mission of our forefathers in an organized way.

Quran and Hadis are full of references to give away food, wealth, etc. to the poor and needy. By following these commandments, we give food and money to people like always. But hunger is still there. Why? Keeping these things in mind, there is a need to carry this mission forward in a systematic way.

Instead of checking the hunger index, we must enhance the old institution, i.e. Langar System. Though Langar is not a new concept, it needs to be given a new shape and new direction. We should broaden its circle. It should not be limited to few Shrines, Masjids, Madrasas, Maktabas, etc. Every Masjid should be provided with a Langar system. If not this, then at least Jamia Masjid at every village should have this facility.

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In J&K, we have a centuries-old long tradition of serving people. We used to serve on every important occasion. Whether it be on Muharram, Ramzan, Eid, or Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi. To keep this tradition alive, we should take it to new heights. Let us not serve people on certain occasions. It must be on daily basis. That is why I support the opening of Langar at every Masjid. So that people can come, eat, and pray. In this way, they can get food and blessings from Almighty Allah.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) once said that Allah will say on the day of resurrection, “…O son of Adam, I asked you for food and you fed Me not. He will say: O Lord, and how should I feed You when You are the Lord of the worlds? He will say: Did you not know that My servant so-and-so asked you for food and you fed him not? Did you not know that had you fed him you would surely have found that (the reward for doing so) with Me?” [Muslim]

Never make a mistake by thinking that people of J&K are self-sufficient and can afford to feed their tummies twice a day. For those who think in this way, let me tell them there are two categories of poor people in J&K. One, who are not in a position to hide their sufferings and visit door to door for the collection of alms. Second, the people who can accept our riches behind curtains to save honour.

So let us arrange food and shelter for the needy to get a reward from the lord of the heavens in both worlds. By serving humanity, let us prove that we are a living nation that hides a kind feeling for destitute.

Editor's Note

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