Gani Ansari (in yellow) with best friend and groom Ram Narayan
NEPAL: I am Muslim and a journalist. But my Nepalese “blood brother”, or “mit” as it is known in our language, is a Hindu. Our friendship is known as a Miteri friendship – a special friendship decided by our grandmothers over 24 years ago as part of a unique Nepali tradition. These friendships were arranged as a way of transcending regional, religious or social differences.
My mit, Ram Narayan, and I were both five years old when our Miteri relationship was solemnised. Our grandmothers thought we looked alike and had agreed that Miteri relations between us would be a good idea.
We had to sit together and eat the same sweets from the same plate. It is believed that doing so makes the friendship long-lasting.
Examples of peace and harmony continue to exist all over the country in small gestures. It is these simple acts, prompted by generosity and large-heartedness which keeps our country from splintering violently. Check out some of these acts in the past, which will simply touch your heart.
MUMBAI: Mumbai-based Ilyaz Shaikh, 27, and his 24-year-old wife Noor Jahan were on their way to the Sion Hospital at dawn on Thursday, 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, an embroidery worker. Ganpati is another name used for the Hindu god, Ganesh.
PESHAWAR: Muslims, Christians and Sikhs joined Hindus in a rare Diwali celebrations in Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The event was organised by All Pakistan Hindu Rights Movement Chairman Haroon Sarab Diyal at the premises of ancient Gor Khattree monument here on Saturday night.
Diyal said the “objective of holding this unique gathering was to give a message to the outer world that mutual co-existence does exist in Pakistan where every one is free to live his life in accordance with his wishes and religious norms.” He said Hindu community has decided to organise Seerat- un-Nabi conference in Peshawar on the occasion of the Prophet’s birthday next month.
MOOM: Nazim “Raja” Khan toiled over the construction of a Shiva temple in a Punjab village, a thought nagged at him. There he was, a Muslim, building a Hindu temple. Yet there was no mosque nearby where he could worship. “We had no place where we could offer namaz (prayers),” says the 40-year-old. “It wasn’t nice for our relatives when they visited.”
Earlier this year, he approached the temple administrators and told them: “You Hindus will soon have your new temple. And you already have an older one. But we Muslims have no place to worship, nor money to buy land. Would you give us a small area of your land?”A week later, he had an answer. The temple management had decided to hand over nearly 900 sq ft (83 sq m) of vacant land next to their temple.
Purshottam Lal, an ayurvedic medicine practitioner who sits on the temple management panel, explains: “It was a very genuine demand. It was unfair that while we all share our joys and sorrows together, [the Muslims] didn’t have a mosque.”
The Sikh community is contributing funds for the mosque, which shares its wall with their gurdwara, making for a rare example of communal harmony between the three religions in a land where minorities often complain about victimisation.
NEPALGUNJ: In the spirit of “communal harmony” and interreligious dialogue, hundreds of Muslims have joined Hindu believers to celebrate the feast of Dashain. The feast is underway now in Nepal, and is one of the most important observances for local Hindu tradition, connected to the worship of the goddess Durga. In Nepalgunj, a town in the western part of the country, the occasion has special significance thanks to the presence of Muslim leaders and faithful who have exchanged gifts, embraces, and good wishes with the Hindus.
LUCKNOW: Sahaduddin (Sameer) Ahmed and his friend Abdul Kalim observed fast on the first day of Navratri.
“If Hindus and Muslims start celebrating festivals together, there will never be a Dadri. If I keep rozas, I also observe fast on Navratri. In my village, Hindu festivals Holi and Diwali begins from our house. On every Bada Mangal, I organize bhandharas,” said Sameer, whose grandfather Bashir Ahmed and PVC Hamid were brothers. The two families live next door in Ghazipur.
“Dadi always says that no religion talks ill of other religion. Until and unless we start respecting each other (Hindu and Muslims), outsiders will draw advantage. It’s high time that we get united,” says Sameer.
Kalim, a second year BA (Hons) student at LU, said: “Hindu-Muslim unity in our country was exemplary to the West. Unfortunately, religion is being used to divide communities and societies. We will continue to spread communal harmony in our own ways,” said Kalim
For Diwali, Sameer is already read. “I will visit people who cannot afford to light a ‘diya’ in their house because of any reason. If I make few Hindu families smile, I will feel live in peace,” said Sameer.
DALLAS: Urvi Dalal, who is Hindu, and her husband Nadeem Walji, who is Ismaili, were visiting from Manhattan, New York. Urvi and Nadeem said they decided to spend their Imamat Day in Dallas to celebrate with family and friends. One of their friends, Kamini Mamdani is also Hindu and married to an Ismaili, Malik.
Urvi shared, “It’s so nice to celebrate as a family and for the kids to be with their grandparents. Their grandparents remember when he (Mawlana Hazar Imam) became Imam and now when they look back at today they’ll remember sharing the day with their grandchildren.”
I felt a sense of camaraderie as I connected with interfaith families that day. Many were excited to be celebrating with family and friends. It was evident that the common thread which bonded interfaith families was their love for family and humanity.
Though Sikhism is a distinct religion separate from Hinduism and Islam, we are sharing this story in the spirit of communal harmony
Kuldeep Singh Saini, a mechatronics engineer developed the app Ramadan 2016 which helps keep a track of the direction of prayer, iftar (meal after sunset), sehri (pre-dawn meal), prayer timings, and has been downloaded more than 500,000 times.
Kuldeep, 27, was always intrigued by how the workers at his father’s garage diligently observed the various religious customs during the Holy Month of Ramadan, and had always wanted to make it easier for them to do the same. Armed with basic coding knowledge and a fair experience in app development, he started working on a Ramadan App in 2015. He started by researching religious practices by talking to the workers in his father’s garage. It took him two months to finish work on the UI and UX, while the actual coding took him another two months.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.