Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus & Sikhs repair mosque

NATHOWAL: Sikh and Hindu community members from helping Muslims repair an old mosque and even have a second storey constructed. In fact, the non-Muslims are bearing more than 65% of the expenses.

Nathowal has a population of around 7, 000 of which around 500 are Muslims. Around 50 members are those of Hindus.

Says Mansa Khan, a contractor and president of Jamia Masjid at Nathowal, “All three communities lived in peace here even before Partition. During Partition, 10 to 12 families migrated to Pakistan but 50 families stayed back as our Sikh brothers didn’t allow them to leave. Today, our relations are only stronger.”
“During our festivals we get utensils from mosque. Also, we celebrate festivals of all communities in including Diwali, Dusshera, Rakhi, Eid and Gurupurab,” says Gurpreet Singh, a youngster from the village.
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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim youth perform Hindu rites

Khalil Pawne, Fahad Dabir, Nawaz Dabir, Rahil Dabir, Shaban Khan, Maqsood Khan, Farooque Khan, Mohammad Kasam Shaikh in funeral procession
Khalil Pawne, Fahad Dabir, Nawaz Dabir, Rahil Dabir, Shaban Khan, Maqsood Khan, Farooque Khan, Mohammad Kasam Shaikh in funeral procession

THANE: Putting humanity over religion, a group of Muslim youths from Mumbra set an example when they carried out the funeral rites of a 65-year-old neighbour, Waman Kadam, who died on Sunday night in his Almas Colony tenement. Kadam was employed as a building watchman.

When Kadam’s two sons, who are from his first wife, and relatives were reluctant to come over at night to help the ailing widow, Vitava, in her hour of need, she requested the youths to help her cremate him. Khalil Pawne, Fahad Dabir, Nawaz Dabir, Rahil Dabir, Shaban Khan, Maqsood Khan, Farooque Khan, Mohammad Kasam Shaikh promptly set out to look for a pundit to conduct the funeral rituals and even got a death certificate from a doctor.

“My husband would never have thought that his last journey would be with so much honour. There were 40-odd Muslim youths in the funeral procession. We have known them since they were knee high; now, they turned out to be sensitive and responsible adults,” said Vitava.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Kashmiri wedding draws interfaith crowds

Neha Raina. ─ Photo by Vikar SyedThe ongoing uprising in Kashmir has relaxed only minutely, but festivity engulfs Loswani village. At least a thousand people — both Muslims and Sikhs — started arriving at the bride’s house early on the wedding day.

“We did not invite anyone, they came on their own,” says Nisha’s aunt. “They stayed here for the whole day, but didn’t eat anything.”

The bride’s sister Neha has many Muslim friends, both male and female, at her college in Pulwama town. “Each one of them worked very hard for the wedding,” she says. Her female friend smiles and hugs her. “She was wearing a sari, everyone thought she was a Pandit lady,” says Neha.

“But even then, many people came and we had a very good time.” She speaks frankly about the monetary support that people offered for Nisha’s wedding, some as much as Rs200,000: “They said she is our daughter as much as she is yours.”

Young girls do the bride’s make-up, men decorate the house and women — Muslims outnumbering the Pandits — perform wanwun, or traditional folk songs.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Sufi group sing of Islam and Hinduism to American audiences

NEW YORK CITY: The Manganiyar Seduction begins in almost complete darkness — light bulbs faintly illuminate 36 human-sized rectangular boxes on a large four-tier set.  Then the sound of a khamacha, an Indian stringed instrument, breaks the silence. Slowly, lights come up on one of the boxes to reveal the musician sitting cross-legged, dressed in white with an orange turban.

“They have the Muslim saints and they worship Allah,” Abel says. “And then they also have their … Hindu goddesses. And they sing to both,” he says. “Like, there would not be any difference if they were to sing a Sufi Islam mystic song or if they were to sing a Hindu mystic song. It would be with the equal amount of devotion.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: How Indus River cultures shaped Sufism

Bulleh Shah, Sufi poet and philosopher
Bulleh Shah, Sufi poet and philosopher

The Indus is one of the oldest and longest rivers in Asia. Though it originated in the Tibetan Plateau in China, much of it flows across Pakistan. Various religions and cultures have thrived here: Animism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam. Each of these religions were indigenised.

Historically, the strand of Sufism which emerged on the banks of Indus (especially in Punjab and all the way across Sindh), consciously eschewed religious orthodoxy and, at times, even rebelled against it.

The poetry and music that emerged from Sufi circles along the river is therefore largely a result of the theological, political and social tensions between Sufis and the orthodox ulema and clerics.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim girls chant Sanskrit hymns

Muslim students reading Sanskrit
Muslim students reading Sanskrit

GOMOH: It’s a language traditionally associated with sacred Hindu texts. But about 100 Muslim girls in two Jharkhand schools have shattered the stereotype about Sanskrit, choosing the classical language over Urdu and Persian, saying it is much easier to learn and score good marks in. Dozens of these girls in customary headscarves chanting Sanskrit hymns from the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagwad Gita is a common sight at the schools in Gomoh, a sleepy hamlet in Jharkhand.

So, do the parents object? “No, not at all,” said Shalu Nisha, who is preparing for her class X examinations at the Government Girls High School. “In fact, they insisted that I take up Sanskrit instead of Urdu for my matriculation,” she added.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Imam performs and fasts for Durga puja

Shahid Ali performs Durga puja
Shahid Ali performs Durga puja

KOLKATA: Shahid Ali is a Muslim priest who will perform the rituals at a Durga Puja this year. But that’s not the only reason we’re writing about him. Like the deity he will worship, Shahid and the humble locality he stays in, are a symbol of the victory of good over evil, of humanity over divisive faith and of the secular mind over zealous theocrats.

Balwant Singh, a member of the puja committee, says: “Shahid fasts for all four days and performs puja according to Hindu shastras

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Ganesh celebrations that take place in mosques

Ganesh Chaturthi festival, immersion in ocean
Ganesh Chaturthi festival, immersion in ocean

KOLHAPUR: Setting a unique example of communal amity, Hindus and Muslims gathered at mosques in Kolhapur region on the occasion of Ganesha festival on Friday. Ganesha statues are placed inside mosques and devotees from both the communities participate in the festivity with great fervour. On Friday, Muslim devotees said the Ganesh deity was installed in at least half-a-dozen mosques in the region during the 10-day-long festival. Later, members of the both the communities take part in the immersion of the idol. ”

In Siro Taluka village in Kolhapur we have the idol of lord Ganesha placed inside the mosque. For the past 50-60 years we have been performing this ritual here. We have such idols in six to seven mosques. Hindu and Muslims take part in the immersion of the idol together. This way we are trying to spread this message of amity among the people of the whole country to live together in peace,” said Mansoor Sheikh, a Muslim devotee.

“See, for the past 40-50 years we have been celebrating the festivals of Hindu and Muslims like Muharram (a Muslim festival), Ganpati, Navratri ( Hindu festivals) together with religious amity. We celebrate all these festivals together with brotherhood and love. No violence occurs here and we celebrate every festival with great fervor and zeal,” said Mahesh Janvekar, a Hindu devotee. At the end of the 10-day-long festival, the idols of Lord Ganesha are taken in grand processions and immersed in water bodies such as wells, ponds, rivers and the sea. Ganesha Chaturthi is the most important festival in Maharashtra, and it is also celebrated with devotion in other states of southern India like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Krishna’s birthday celebrated at Narhar Dargah

Muslim family carries son playing Hindu avatar Krishna
Muslim family carries son playing Hindu avatar Krishna

JAIPUR:  Not many people know but Narhar Dargah, also known as Sharif Hazrat Hajib Shakarbar Dargah has been celebrating Janmashtami for the past 300-400 years.

“Its very hard to say the exact time and reason from when this festival is celebrated in the dargah but this marks an important event for national and communal unity. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs stay together and organiZe the event.” says dargah secretary Usman Ali Pathan.

“Thousands of Hindus come here and offer coconuts and flowers to the shrine and stay together. The idea behind organiZing this festival is to increase the love and unity among different religions in the country,” added Pathan. Devotees visiting the Dargah are surprised by such an event and the way it is smoothly organised and run from almost 400 years.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Meo Muslims combine Islamic & Hindu customs

DELHI: Just outside the city boundaries begins the large pocket where the Meo Muslims live. These Muslims profess Islam but follow a fascinating composite culture that accommodates many Hindu customs. They trace their origins to Hindu figures such as Rama, Krishna and Arjuna and celebrate many Hindu festivals like Diwali, Dussehra and Holi.

And the Meos are no obscure tiny sect; they are a 400,000- strong community found in the region known as Mewat, which is spread across the border areas of the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. In Uttar Pradesh, they are found in the Chhata tehsil while in Haryana, the Meos occupy the Nuh and Ferozepur tehsils of Gurgaon district. But the area where the Meos dominate and have been able to preserve their unique culture is the Alwar district of Rajasthan, just a two-hour drive from Delhi.

The Meos are famous across the Mewat belt for their narration of folk epics and ballads. Their oral tradition is a rich source for studying and understanding the community’s history. Among the epics and ballads sung by the Meos, which are derived from Hindu lore, the most popular is the Pandun ka kada, the Mewati version of the Mahabharata.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslims undertaker performs last rites for Kashmir Hindus

Hindu cremation grounds
Hindu cremation grounds

SRINAGAR: Under the majestic chinar in a cremation ground, Mohammad Yasin Dar, 55, has lit a bonfire to stay warm on a nippy February morning. He has spent a larger part of his days at the place for 10 years.  A devout Muslim, he has embarked on an unusual mission—to perform last rites of the dead of Kashmir’s minuscule Hindu population.

“Earlier, it was a pathetic situation here. There was no one to cremate bodies of Hindus as everyone was afraid. Cops would ferry the dead in dingy vans and lit the pyre in a callous manner,” said Dar. “I had a dream in which a Hindu goddess commanded me to restore her temple in the cremation ground. As I had no means, I told the management to do it else I would not stay here,” quipped Dar.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindus distribute sweets on Eid

 Collecting grains from donors and distributes them to needy families
Collecting grains from donors and distributes them to needy families

VARANASI: This Eid will bring extra sweetness with love and compassion for Razia, Najma, Khushboo and many others, as the sewain they will prepare to celebrate the festival has come from their Hindu sisters and brothers.

About 300 poor Muslim families of the locality were given food items for Eid celebration. The Anaj Bank, run by women’s NGO Vishal Bharat Sansthan, collected food grains and other edibles from its account holders for free distribution among poor families.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu pilgrims led by Muslim guide

During a trip to India my mother made a pilgrimage with her cousin to the city of Shirdi, home to the shrine of Shirdi Sai Baba, a holy figure revered by both Hindus and Muslims. As she would later tell us, their voyage to the city was nearly derailed by bad weather (the summer monsoons in Maharashtra) and an unwillingness by most taxi drivers to make the 1.5 hour drive from the train station to the holy site. That is, until a bidi-smoking Muslim taxi driver pulled up in a barely functioning old Fiat taxi, got out and welcomed my mother, her cousin, and a family friend who also joined in the journey, into his car.

The taxi driver not only took them to Shirdi, but volunteered to drive them around Shirdi, and then take them to other Hindu temples in the surrounding area. For the two days they were in the city, he would pick them up promptly at their hotel and take them wherever they needed to go. All the while, he chain-smoked his bidis and told my mother and her traveling companions the stories behind Hindu religious shrines.

When she returned from Shirdi, she recounted in near disbelief of how the taxi driver saved their pilgrimage and made sure they were safe from sun up to past sun down.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Teen Muslim saves Hindu classmate from kidnappers

hero Nazia who saved a 6 year old Hindu girl from being kidnapped
hero Nazia who saved a 6 year old Hindu girl from being kidnapped

AGRA: 15-year-old Nazia was on Tuesday awarded the Rani Laxmibai bravery award by chief minister, Akhilesh Yadav, for saving a 6-year-old Hindu girl from kidnappers.

It was the afternoon on August 7, when Nazia, a student of Saghir Fatima Mohammadia Girls Inter College, was returning home when she heard cries for help from a young girl, who was being forcibly pulled on a motorcycle by two youths. Unmindful of her own safety, Nazia rushed to the girl’s help and held her hand and managed to pull her away from the kidnappers, who then fled the spot.

It was only after she had rescued the girl, Dimpy, Nazia learnt that she was her junior from school. Today, when tension prevails between the two communities, Dimpy’s parents treat Nazia as their own daughter and are indebted to her for saving their child from the clutches of the kidnappers.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: a Sufi and Sikh spread a message of love

Mian Mir shrine, Lahore
Mian Mir shrine, Lahore

LAHORE: During recent travels, I happened upon the shrine of renowned Sufi saint Hazrat Mian Mir of the Qadariyyah Sufi order in Lahore.

The goal of human life, according to Sufis, is to realise the divinity within; irrespective of cast, creed and religion. Harminder Sahib, in this sense, is more of a cultural hub for the people of Punjab; it is a place where self-actualisation is promoted. It is also marked as a Gurdawar — literally meaning Lord’s door or the door of the Guru.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Dogs, Sufis, and Devotional Practices

PATTOKI: “That is an interesting shrine,” said Iqbal Qaiser, as he pointed towards the minaret rising from the middle of Pattoki. I later found out that the shrine was but a small part of a huge complex. The grave of the saint around which this shrine was raised was located in one corner of the courtyard. “The shrine belongs to Peer Abbas. He is popularly known as Kutiyan wali sarkar (the master of dogs)” The wali here signifies female. Almost all Sufis are referred to as females in iconography. This is in relation with God who is represented as a male figure. In Sufi poetry, a devotee, or a Sufi, presents himself as Heer, the legendary Punjabi folk lover, to Ranjha, the protagonist of the legend and a symbol of divinity in the Sufi tradition. This Sufi tradition also borrows from the Bhakhti tradition of Hinduism, in which Radha is represented as an ideal devotee approaching her God, Krishna, the male figure.

There are of course direct comparisons between Peer Abbas’s idiosyncratic association with dogs and Shaivism. For example, Lord Shiva, in his terrifying form, ugra, is accompanied by a pack of dogs, while he is depicted as mendicant ascetic. In Tantrism, Shiva, in the incarnation of Bhairava, is depicted either with the face of a dog or has a dog as his vehicle. In Bhairav temples all over India, devotees offer prayers to the statues of dogs or living dogs. Dogs wander inside and outside the temple of Kalbhairav in Varanasi, and are garlanded by worshippers. Others present them with food offerings as a form of worship.

In the Sufi tradition, death anniversary of a saint is celebrated with much pomp and fair as opposed to birthdays. The celebration is known asurs. This is because it is believed that after his death the Sufi becomes one with the divine existence, a concept similar to Monoism of Hinduism. This union is represented as a marriage ceremony where the divine is understood to be the husband (Krishna or Ranjha) while the bride (Radha or Heer) is the Sufi.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hi Langar, Goodbye World Hunger

Interfaith Langar
Interfaith Langar

LUDHIANA: A Hindu priest, P D Shukla, in saffron robes and a rudraksh mala in hand, was going around the mosque premises, asking people if they have had a proper meal. So was Manpreet Singh, a church pastor, as some Sikhs served food in the mosque’s verandah. The food was prepared in the community kitchen (langar) on the rooftop of the mosque. Close to 400 people — madrasa children, some Sikhs and labourers, too — were served food.

“Hi Langar, Goodbye World Hunger,” read the banner at the entrance of the mosque, put up by Sikh Press Association (SPA) and Basics of Sikhi, who chose the mosque as the venue to celebrate International Langar Week. We want to spread the message of communal harmony as well as give a call to fight world hunger, said the representatives of the four communities.

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