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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Hindu Muslim Unity: The Story of AR Rahman

AR Rahman
AR Rahman

When AS Dileep Kumar decided to shed the faith he was born into and adopt a new one, the reasons were several.

“Sometime before we started on our journey on the path of Sufism, we went to an astrologer to show him my younger sister’s horoscope because my mother wanted to get her married. This was around the same time when I was keen to change my name and have a new identity. The astrologer looked at me and said, ‘This chap is very interesting.” He suggested the names: “Abdul Rahman” and “Abdul Rahim” and said that either name would be good for me. I instantly loved the name “Rahman.” It was a Hindu astrologer who gave me my Muslim name.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu pilgrimage in Pakistan

Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan
Hindu pilgrims, Pakistan

Every year, my grandparents used to take us to Uncle Devraj’s house in Karachi where together we celebrated the annual full moon sighting, known as Diwali. Devraj was Hindu, and my grandfather was Muslim, but they both spoke Sindhi and shared familial roots. Theirs was not a unique story. Unlike in Punjab, where partition brought bloodshed on an unprecedented scale, the Sindh province to the south saw little or no communal violence. The Hindus of Sindh largely stayed behind. Muslim and Hindu families shared bonds that reached back generations; a sense of respect for community prevailed. My grandfather even had his own collection of Hindu icons in his study. Perhaps I’d taken the Durga from Devraj’s house thinking it would be equally at home with him.

Those memories, long forgotten, came flooding back when I decided to make a trip to the Hinglaj—a Hindu holy site located half a day’s journey from Karachi. The Hinglaj temple is located in a cave in the Hingol mountains. It is where the goddess Sati’s head (one of the forms of Durga) is said to have fallen from the sky after her body was cut into 51 pieces by Vishnu. “The Hinglaj is to us as the Ka’abah is to you,” said my local Hindu guide, Danesh Kumar, referring to the shrine in Mecca toward which all Muslims direct their daily prayers.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan’s Sufis, Jains, and Sadhus

Traveling Malang
Traveling Malang

The tomb of the Sufi saint Daud Bandagi Kirmani is a typical Mughal construction with an octagonal base and a round bulbous white dome. The shrine is covered by a protective wall and there are several other graves in this courtyard, some of his descendants and others of rich people from the city who paid or vied to be buried close to the saint, hoping to achieve salvation through their proximity.

The shrine is located in the centre of this city of Shergarh, a historical city located about 100 kilometers south of Lahore. The city as well is protected by a fort like wall. Whereas such walls of larger cities in India were razed down by the British after 1857, they remained untouched in smaller cities. The entire city was celebrating the annual 3 day celebration of the urs of the saint. All streets and roads in here had been converted into a makeshift bazaar. Smell of freshly prepared samosa lingered in the air. Some were selling eatables to those who did not want to partake in the langaar at the shrine. Most of the shops were selling religious paraphernalia – sacred threads, bangles, rings with special stones, items one is likely to encounter outside major Hindu temples. In fact to an unacquainted visitor this might as well be the threshold of a Hindu temple. The only difference would be the posters. All the posters here represented iconic Muslim saints like Daud Bandagi, Baba Farid, and Shahbaz Qalandar, while posters outside Hindu temples sell Hindu images. Women, men, children, old and young, all throng to the shrine for these festivities.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Sufi Saint and Hindu incarnation revered in Pakistan

Zinda Pir shrine, 1926
Zinda Pir shrine, 1926

I was intrigued by the mention of Jhulelal, a quintessential Sindhi Ishta Devta in this Sufi Dhammal. But that is what Sufism, especially Sindh’s Sufism, is all about: synergy and secularism. I have heard of Sufi shrines in Sindh which are frequented, nay crowded, by Muslims, Hindus and even Nanakpathis, during Urs.

An innocent riddle about a local fish, and I was about to find out that Jhulelal, that benign old man with a white flowing beard, has a lot to do with it. Jhulelal is found far and wide in Pakistan, as Azhar Lashri tells me: “The thing that fascinates me about Jhulelal is the inscription of his name on buses, trucks, vans and taxis, He is everywhere. This is a very ubiquitous phenomenon in Pakistan.”

Jhulelal is not a regular Hindu/Sindhi/Sufi/Islamic deity. For one, Jhulelal or Daryalal is known and worshipped in many forms, across religious sects. Although there are several tales of Jhulelal known across Sindh and the global Sindhi diaspora, there is a complex synergy between Jhulelal, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar of Shehwan, Shaikh Tahir of Uderolal and Khwaja Khijr, worshipped at different times by different groups. The link that connects these deities and saints is singular: The Indus River. Jhulelal is a part of the Daryapanthi or Daryahi sect which worships the Indus, a form of river or water worship which may have its origins dating back to the ancient Mohenjo-daro civilisation.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim performs Hindu friend’s last rites

CHHATTISGARH: Breaking all religious barriers Razzak, despite being a follower of Islam, performed Hindu rites for his deceased friend, Santosh Singh. Singh who belonged to Harda area and was living with his family in Baitul, was suffering from critical health condition to which he succumbed on 20 September. He is survived by his wife Chhaya and their eight-year-old daughter.

Unable to arrange money to perform proper religious rites for her deceased husband, Santosh’s wife was helpless. At this time, Santosh’s friend for years Razzak came forward and took the responsibility of carrying out all the religious rites and to cremate the body of his deceased friend. Razzak, despite being a Muslim, never let religion come in the way of his friendship. He performed all the rites as per Hindu tradition and cremated Santosh’s body.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani Muslims protect Hindus celebrating Holi

Muslim children playing Hindu Holi
Muslim children playing Hindu Holi

KARACHI: Pakistani students formed a human shield around the Holi celebrations at the Swami Narayan Temple so that Hindus could celebrate their festival with abandon.

Hindus, who make up almost 2% of Pakistan’s population of around 180 million, are the largest minority in the country. Most of them live in the country’s Sindh and Punjab provinces.

The National Student’s Federation (NSF) carried out this exercise to show their solidarity with Pakistani Hindus, to promote the protection of religious minorities, and advocate interfaith coexistence.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu devotees deliver Muslim mother’s baby in temple

baby son of Noor Jahan and Ilyaz Shaikh

WADALA: Mumbai-based Ilyaz Shaikh, 27, and his 24-year-old wife Noor Jahan were on their way to the Sion Hospital when Noor Jahan went into labor. According to a report in the Mid Day, the taxi driver asked them to get out when he heard Noor Jahan screaming in pain, as he did not want her to have the baby in his vehicle.

“We were so worried. My wife was close to delivering the baby and all we could see was a Ganpati mandir. As soon as we got down outside the temple, some women, who were sitting in the verandah of the mandir, rushed to help us. We didn’t even have to ask,” Ilyaz said.

The women in the Ganpati temple who had gathered to pray early in the morning, prepared a make-shift delivery room with saris and bedsheets borrowed from nearby homes, for Noor Jahan who was in the throws of labor by then.

“I was tense when I was close to delivering in the middle of the road. But when I saw that there was a temple, I realied that God himself is watching over us. What could be better than giving birth in front of Lord Ganpati,” Noor Jahaan said. The couple, happy that their son was born safe and sound, decided to name him Ganesh.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: 5 ways yoga is a basic practice for Muslims

comparing Muslim prayer to Yoga
comparing Muslim prayer to Yoga

Salat, or prayer, should be performed very consciously and deliberately, both physically and spiritually. There is a lot of discussion on the spiritual significance of Salat. The physical significance, however, is often overlooked.

Once during Sujood (prostration), I couldn’t help but become distracted and wondered, ‘Wait, this is just like a Yoga pose…’ I was never committed to yoga, but I was familiar with its benefits and always said I’d do it more often. Without a doubt, my favorite position was Balasana, or the child’s pose. It’s almost identical to Sujood. I started drawing parallels between yoga and other positions of Salat. To my surprise, all of them were covered in beginner level yoga! Here you’ll find Salat positions along with their most similar yoga positions and their health benefits

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