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: 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: 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: 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: Villagers pray together in adjacent temple and mosque

Puja and Namaz simultenous in Kancheepuram 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)

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim takes care of both mandir and masjid

Muslim caretaker offers garland on Shivalinga
Muslim caretaker offers garland on Shivalinga

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.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Vandalized Toronto temple gets help from Muslim community

Vandals threw rocks at mandir to cause damage
Vandals threw rocks at mandir to cause damage

TORONTO: A group of Greater Toronto Area Muslims is raising $10,000 to help repair Kitchener’s Ram Dham Hindu temple after it was vandalized on Sunday. The online fundraiser was inspired by a highly successful campaign to raise money for Peterborough’s only mosque after it was set ablaze over the weekend, says Arshia Lakhani.

“As Muslims we are quickly realizing that these hate crimes are not just affecting our community; it is not just our mosques being burned, or our people being attacked. This extends to all visible minorities who are victims of hatred,” the group wrote on its gofundme page.

“This is a time to show that love and solidarity between communities speaks louder than hatred. Please show your support.” The temple was vandalized when someone sent five stones crashing through two of the building’s windows.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Salaam Shalom Shanti Peace in the UK

7 hills, 7 faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Judaism
7 hills, 7 faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, Jainism, Judaism

Balaji Temple in Tividale near Birmingham was founded to meet the social needs and the spiritual aspirations of a large number of Hindus in the UK, especially in the Midlands. At the time of its opening in 1999, this was the largest temple of its kind in the UK.

Parsis stand on Zoroastrianism hill in Balaji temple complex
Parsis stand on Zoroastrianism hill in Balaji temple complex

Today, the temple is being visited by people from all over the country and from abroad.

The temple complex includes seven Faith hills created to represent seven major faiths in the United Kingdom and India. Seven hills on the site are to show our respect to seven major faiths and to reflect the seven peaks of Shri Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh, India. “Unity is divinity” is the motto of the temple and relevant for interfaith work. Lord Buddha’s statue, carved by a local sculptor, was installed on one of the hills in May 2001. Faith hill representing Christianity bears a plaque with an inscription “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself.”  

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim family celebrates Navratri 30+ years

Zubeida & Mohmmad Tahir
Zubeida & Mohmmad Tahir

MUMBAI: Mohammed Tahir and his wife Zubeida, main organisers of a local Navratri festival, have been celebrating since 1983.

Tahir said that his wife had dreamt of the Goddess and the couple has since been setting up a makeshift temple every year dedicated to Goddess Durga. “Every year, the temple has a different setting. We have made replica of the Balaji, Vaishno Devi Temple in Jammu, Kedarnath and Badrinath,” said Tahir.

Zubeida said the temple was for everyone who believed that all religions taught different paths to reach the same God. “It is for everyone who believes in the unity of religions. We all celebrate it together, be it Hindu or Muslim. In fact people from various religions and regions come here,” said Zubeida.

Mohammad Tahir, 61, is a labour contractor and has been to Vaishnodevi temple 15 times. “I wanted to keep a Bhandara like that temple and asked the goddess for strength to replicate it in my area. People have been very helpful and have donated a lot of groceries. Over 700 people are fed here daily, after the evening Aarti. Till date, I’ve never had to ask for funds. They just come.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Ram Rahim Nagar, a town named for religious harmony

Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by 'outsiders'
Residents say they keep a 24-hour vigil during disturbances to prevent any mischief by ‘outsiders’

Ram-Rahim Nagar has a population of over 20,000, of which 60% are Muslims and the rest Hindus – a delicate demographic composition that has remained undisturbed for the past four decades despite major riots in 1969, 1985, 1992 and 2002. The slum stretches roughly half a kilometre in the densely populated textile suburb, and was originally known as Gulab Bhai no Tekro, or Maharaj na Tekra. It was inhabited mostly by migrant workers from Banaskantha in north Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

After the 1969 riots, the slum-dwellers decided to keep away anti-social elements and came together to form a welfare society called Ram-Rahim Nagar. The year was 1974, and the men behind this initiative were the late Ghazi Bhai and the late Kashi Maharaj. “They were security guards at a textile mill. They finalised the name — Ram-Rahim — as a tribute to the fact that a Hanuman temple and a dargah stood cheek-by-jowl at our slum. Nurturing mutual respect and communal harmony ever since has helped us withstand every communal riot that hit Ahmedabad,” says Kanhaiyalal Parmar, a resident.  “People here are not concerned with mandir-masjid because they know they will be the ultimate sufferers in the event of communal disturbances.”

Ram-Rahim Nagar has not experienced  riots ever since the Ram-Rahim Welfare Committee came into existence.   The committee comprises 21 members headed by a chairman, a post that   rotates between a Hindu and a Muslim every year. If the chairman is   a Hindu, his deputy is a Muslim, and vice-versa. Members are drawn equally   from the two communities.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslims make space for Ganpati parade, Hindus silent for Muslim prayers

Hindus hold Ganpati parade on left, Muslims perform namaz on right
Hindus hold Ganpati parade on left, Muslims perform namaz on right

MUMBAI: Unlike usual Ganpati processions, this Ganpati procession in Mumbai maintained silence until the Friday afternoon Namaaz concluded, while the Muslims reading Namaaz made way for the procession to pass conveniently.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Bihari Muslims donate land for world’s largest Hindu temple

PATNA: Muslims in Bihar, in a stellar demonstration of communal harmony, have donated land to help build the world’s largest Hindu temple which will have the capacity to seat a staggering 20,000 people. “Muslims have not only donated land, they have also provided land at a nominal rate for construction of the world’s largest Hindu temple. Without help of Muslims, it would have been difficult realise this dream project,” Acharya Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Patna-based cash-rich Mahavir Mandir Trust that is undertaking the ambitious project, told IANS.

Kunal said that more than three dozen Muslim families have their land in the middle of the proposed location of the temple and some Muslims families have land along the main road that connects to the project site.  “Some Muslims donated lands and others helped and supported us to purchase their land for the temple. If Muslims had not come forward, the temple project was sure to have got delayed…”

“The temple will be earthquake proof (since it) is near the Nepal border,” Kunal said. He said the Virat Ramayan Mandir will be taller than the world famous 12th century Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is 215 feet high. The complex will comprise 18 temples with high spires and its Shiv temple would have the largest Shivling in the world, another distinction.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Bhakti and Sufi traditions unite India and Pakistan

Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India
Sufi Muslim offering prayer in Rajasthan, India

The Sufi and Bhakti tradition in Pakistan and India are two such trends from within Islam and Hinduism respectively, that are focused more on the unity of humanity as a whole, overcoming sectarian divides.

The saints from these traditions had massive appeal among people of different religions and they were away from the centers of power, unlike the clergy. We have seen rich traditions of people like Kabir, Tukaram, Narsi Mehta, Shankar Dev, Lal Dedh, clearly from within the Hindu tradition, while Nizamuddin Auliya, Moinuddin Chishti, Tajuddin Baba Auliya Ajan Pir, Nooruddin Noorani (also known as Nund Rishi) coming from a clear Sufi tradition and Satya Pir, Ramdev Baba Pir, having a mixed lineage, where Bhakti and Sufi themselves are deeply intertwined.

Sant Guru Nanak did try a conscious mixing of the two major religions of India. He traveled up to Makkah to learn the wisdom of Islam and went to Kashi to unravel the spiritual moral aspects of Hinduism. His first follower was Mardan; and Miyan Mir was the one who was respectfully invited to lay the foundations of the Golden Temple of the holy Sikh Shrine. Guru Granth Sahib has an inclusive approach to religious wisdom. No wonder people referred to him as, ‘Baba Nanak Sant Fakir, Hindu ka Guru Musalman ka Pir’ (Saint Nanak is a saint for Hindus and a pir for Muslims).

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