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.
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.
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“
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
DEHRIYAWAN: A village in Uttar Pradesh’s Faizabad district has one temple and mosque located adjacent to each other. And, the villagers visit them together. Hindu and Muslim villagers participate in each other’s festivals and have never allowed communal strife elsewhere to affect them. The village mosque and temple enable both communities to mingle prior to or after their prayers. Brijesh Yadav, a student, said that most of the residents pray at both the temple and the mosque, and even celebrate each other’s festivals. “As you can see that the temple and the mosque have been constructed side by side. Nobody gets into an argument here. We celebrate their festivals, they celebrate ours. Whenever we want, we worship in our temple as well as mosque. We have been studying since childhood that there is only one God and we all are his children. So as this temple and mosque show that there is no distance between them, likewise there should be no distance between all of us. The biggest example is shown here in Dehriyawan,” said Yadav. “We do not differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim. In all festivals, marriages we visit each other. Any conflict between some other temple and mosque does not affect the harmony here in Dehriyawan,” said Mohammad Haji Waseem, a local resident. The mosque was constructed in 1970 and the temple was built soon after. By Amit (ANI)
INDORE: Mohammed Zahir is the caretaker of Lord Shiva temple in Khandwa, Indore. He takes care of the temple with the same enthusiasm as for the Dargah round the year. From dawn to dusk he takes care of the temple, from cleaning the periphery of the temple to the core of it, that is, the ‘Lingam’. Religions have never been an obstacle to his services. He believes that Allah, God, Bhagwan all are one, but our way of thinking makes them different.
There is no Hindu Pandit to offer any prayer or to do the rituals, he alone helps tourists offering their prayers and garlands that they bring for the temple. He also offers his services to the Dargah 100 meter away, which also comes under ASI. He takes care of both the places equally and thinks that it will help him teach equality and harmony to his five children.
JAUNPUR: A Muslim youth in Uttar Pradesh has now translated Hindu prayer Hanuman Chalisa into Urdu after noted Urdu poet Anwar Jalalpuri came out with his rendition of Shrimad Bhagwad Gita.
“I have translated Hanuman Chalisa in ‘musaddas’ style which comprises six lines. Like a ‘chuapai’ has four lines, ‘musaddas’ has three ‘shers’ and six lines,” Abid Alvi, who carried out the translation, said.
The youth, who hails from Jaunpur, said he was planning more such works, including translation of Shiv Chalisa prayer, as he felt that it will help people from the two communities to understand each other’s culture and beliefs.
ACCRA: Ghana’s population of 23 million includes 12,500 Hindus, of which 10,000, like their Swami Ghanananda Saraswati, are indigenous Africans. The African Hindu Monastery (AHM) is now Ghana’s largest centre of Hindu worship.
The AHM’s non-exclusionist attitude is apparent from the picture of Jesus alongside the Hindu gods on the main mantelpiece, as well as images of spiritual leaders from other religions. The monastery’s members also believe that the Supreme God is known by other names, such as Yahweh and Allah.
There is even one Muslim among the devotees. Jamer Baroudy says he was born into the Islamic faith but his mother introduced him to Hinduism when he was eight years old. Mr Baroudy says: “I am aware that Islam prohibits idol worshipping but then God doesn’t make any distinction. I visit this temple because I find solace here.”
The AHM is not just accommodating of multiple religious traditions but also open to people of all races, classes and communities. Indian worshippers are not only members of the dominant Sindhi community, but also recent immigrants: managers and contract labour alike. But most worshippers are Africans, again from different professions and backgrounds. When I asked a disciple about the group’s opinion of the caste system, he pointed out that there is no society in the world that does not break its people up into the privileged and the unprivileged, be it through profession, ancestry or race. Ghanaian Hindus like him, however, are clear that people have an equal right to education, the means to a good life and most importantly, religion.
MUMBAI: The NGO, Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, gave out scholarships amounting to INR5 million to students from Class VI to graduation level as well as engineering and medical students from various schools and colleges in Mumbai.
Since the NGO’s establishment, it has always worked towards the betterment of the society, by providing any sort of help, that too without any form of religious discrimination. People belonging to any of the communities are free to seek help from the organisation.
According to the press release, the scholarships were given to 400 students of which 50 were Hindus. The cheques were handed over in the presence of Maulana Mustaqueem Azmi, state president of Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra, Gulzar Azmi, president of its legal aid cell, Maulana Halimullah Qasmi, secretary and Congress MLA Amin Patel.
“This is not the first time that we have extended scholarships, we have given it earlier too and would continue to do so,” the release quoted Gulzar Azmi as saying, while speaking at the function organised to hand over scholarships.