Tag Archives: pakistan

Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan’s Muslims celebrate Diwali


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.

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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: 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: 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: 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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Hindu Muslim Unity: real life Bajrangi Bhaijaan story

KARACHI:  An Indian woman stuck in Pakistan since she accidentally crossed over as a child has drawn attention as a real life example of “Bajrangi Bhaijaan,” the film starring Salman Khan that has made waves in both countries. Geeta was nine when she crossed into Pakistani territory. Personnel of the Punjab Rangers took her to a social welfare organisation, the Edhi Foundation, in Lahore. She soon moved to a home in Karachi.

After spending some time at an Edhi Centre in Lahore, the girl was shifted to a Karachi shelter where Bilquis Edhi, a philanthropist known as ‘The Mother of Pakistan’, named her ‘Geeta’ and became quite attached to the girl. The shelter home’s staff have created a separate praying room for her, adorning it with colourful posters of Hindu deities.

“She is a devout Hindu and has even put up colourful posters of Hindu deities, and an earthen lamp on the table,” Human rights activist and ex-minister Ansar Burney told PTI.

“This is the Ganesh that I got for her from Nepal,” Faisal said pointing toward one of the figurines.

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Additional Link: Facebook page on Geeta’s case

Hindu Muslim Unity: Where Hindus fast on Ramadan & Muslims ban cow slaughter

Mithi, rural town in Pakistan

MITHI: A small town where both Hindus and Muslims have lived together since the creation of Pakistan enjoys cooperation and harmony.

“I am a Hindu from Sindh, but throughout my life I have lived with Muslims and this is why during Ramazan, we fast along with them; and when it is Muharram, us Hindu boys lead the procession because this is the culture which Sufism has given us” one Hindu resident said

It is a town where Muslims, out of respect for Hindus, do not slaughter cows; and where Hindus, out of respect for Muslim rites, have never organised any marriage ceremonies or celebrations during the month of Muharram. Not only that, the Hindus of Mithi also happily participate in providing food and drinks for Muslims during Ramazan, and both groups exchange sweets on Eid and Diwali. The crime rate in Mithi is at two per cent and never has anyone witnessed any incident of religious intolerance.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Female Sufi mausoleum receives interfaith support

Women gathered at Mai Sahiba shrine

Women gathered at Mai Sahiba shrine

Thousands of Sufi shrines, big and small, dot the landscape in rural Pakistan. Each shrine has its own history and associated legends. But the shrine that stands against the dusty green hillocks in Dhoke Sahi Village is unique, both in terms of its past and present. Like other shrines, thousands of devotees have come to celebrate the saint’s union with his beloved God. But what is unusual is that the saint, for whom these devotees have gathered, is a woman.

This mausoleum is called home by women abandoned by their families. These women have dedicated their days to the service of Mai Sahiba. The older caretakers at the shrine guide women in both spiritual and worldly matters. On most days, women share their family troubles and receive prayers and blessings from Mai Hameeda and Mai Rashida, the caretakers.

This shrine, like others, receives millions of rupees in donations each year, which are spent on its upkeep and to finance the langar that feeds visitors. “Once, we received a letter and a donation of a few hundred thousand rupees from India. A Hindu man who had been her devotee before partition left the money with his son and asked to have it sent here for a well to be dug. Since we already had a well and an electric motor with it, we used it to install a biogas plant,” said Rashida.

The Sufi path involves going through specific stages under the guidance of a spiritual master. Mai Sahiba went through these stages over a course of many years under the guidance of Hazrat Babu Ghulam Sarwar in Lahore and eventually returned to the village to give religious education to people in the village. She also used her position as a figure of religious authority to help women with domestic issues. “It was usual for her to call a woman’s husband and lecture him on mistreating his wife. No one dared to disobey Mai Sahiba”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan welcomes Hindu pilgrims from India

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

Indian Hindu pilgrim visits Katas Raj in Pakistan

As many as 85 Hindu pilgrims from various states of India came to Katas Raj, their holy site, on Wednesday evening and left for India on Friday. They were welcomed by District Coordination Officer (DCO) Asif Bilal Lodhi, Assistant Commissioner Choa Saidan Shah Samina Saif Niazi and other officials concerned in two receptions.

Speaking in one of the receptions Chairman Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) Saddiqul Farooq assured the Indian pilgrims that they would always be welcomed in Pakistan with warmth and affection. He stressed the need of interfaith harmony. “We should respect every religion. If we respect humanity our problems will solve,” he maintained. He urged the pilgrims to take the message of love and peace to their country.

Shiv Partab Bajaj the leader of the pilgrims while speaking on the occasion thanked the Pakistan government for making tremendous arrangements for the pilgrims. “The love and respect which you people gave us can never be forgotten,” he said. He added that when he came first time at Katas Raj in 1982 the temples were in pathetic condition , but now the holy site had been renovated.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani rickshaws promote peace

rickshaws in Lahore, Pakistan promote messages of tolerance

LAHORE: What started off as a humble attempt to provide a counter narrative to extremism and hate speech has turned into a campaign reaching out to hundreds of people through advertisements promoting social and religious coexistence using rickshaws.

The campaign is run by the Institute of Peace and Secular Studies (IPSS) – a society working for tolerance, equality and peaceful coexistence. It has spread the message through 2,400 flexes pasted on rickshaws across the city. The flexes were designed for free thanks to volunteers. Discounts were available for printing.

“Our message is not radical. We use mild language and promote peaceful co-existence citing Islamic traditions and sayings of the Quaid-i-Azam,” says Diep, member of IPSS.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani Muslim family protects lone Hindu temple

Hindu temple in Pakistan

Hindu temple in Pakistan

JOHI: Sikandar Chandio’s Muslim family ‘protects’ the only temple in Johi, a town in which no Hindu family resides. A Hindu man handed over the charge of the temple to his grandfather, Jamaluddin.

“My grandfather didn’t purchase it,” he admitted. “The Hindu man gave the possession to him through a verbal agreement. I was born in this temple, so were my children. We all are watchmen of this building,” Chandio said.

“We are staying on a hope that someone will come and we’ll hand over the temple’s possession,” he said. “We believe this is sacred for somebody, which is why we guard it. But it is not an easy task to protect it or to resist a certain mentality.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Hindu & Muslim activists share 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

Malala & Kailash, winners of Nobel Peace Prize

Malala & Kailash, winners of Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO: An Indo-Pak, Hindu-Muslim combination of Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai today shared the Nobel Peace Prize honours for 2014 for their work on promoting child rights in the troubled sub-continent.

Yousafzai spoke with Satyarthi by phone Friday, and they agreed to work together to advocate that every child is able to go to school. She said they also decided to try to build a stronger relationship between their countries, which are longtime rivals.

“The Nobel Committee regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism. Many other individuals and institutions in the international community have also contributed. It has been calculated that there are 168 million child labourers around the world today. In 2000 the figure was 78 million higher. The world has come closer to the goal of eliminating child labour.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistan’s ancient temples draw interfaith crowds

Hinglaj Devi pilgrimage shrine in Pakistani caves

Hinglaj Devi pilgrimage shrine in Pakistani caves

PAKISTAN: Reema Abbasi’s just-released compendium of Pakistan’s historic temples, is full of such stories where belief, minority identity, secular faith, bigotry and extremism criss-cross all the time. These are mostly ancient Shiva and Shakti temples: some date back 1,500 years and others, a few centuries. But like all shrines, they’re not just stone and sculpture, their lives are deeply intertwined with society and politics. 

There are over 70 lakh Hindus in Pakistan, mostly in the borderland deserts of the south and in Sindh. The numbers are dwindling (last year 500 fled in the face of extremist threat). But these ancient temples – over 40 of them – are places of worship for them and for pilgrims from India and elsewhere too. Contrary to what most tend to believe, they are also much loved shrines for many Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan. In Thatta, Sindh, recent efforts by land-grabbers to swallow temples was opposed by not just the Hindus but also Muslims and Christians.

“I am proud of this solidarity – people didn’t wait for the government to take the step. When the establishment saw the public response it stepped in to protect the temple,” points out Abbasi.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistani Muslims honor Hindu pilgrimage site

holy dip before entering pilgrimage site

KARACHI: It is approximately 250 km (155 miles) from Karachi, Pakistan’s most populated city. Moreover, it is near the peak of one of the mountains of the Makran Coastal Range. And from the Indus Delta River and the Arabian Sea, it is 120 km. The area of Hinglaj Mata Temple is located in the rugged mountains, and its journey is extremely tiring.

The pilgrimage of Hinglaj Mata Temple is also famous among the local Muslims, particularly the Zikri Balochs (predominantly an ethnic Baloch group originating from Iran). They call it “Nani Ki Haj.’

“The Baloch and Hindus have been living just like brothers for centuries. We even attend each other funerals. And it is manifest to everyone that the Baloch and Hindus are facing alike problems. They are not complainants about the Baloch people. They, if you ask, call themselves Baloch and they are Balochs,” said Asif Magsi, who is a resident in Lasbella District of Balochistan.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Kicking off New Year with bhajans and qawwalis

KARACHI: A night full of bhajans, sufi songs and qawwalis is what the Karachi-based Hindu NGO Pakistan Hindu Seva Welfare Trust (PHSWT) has planned for the New Year eve while carrying forward the message of peace, promoting interfaith harmony and dialogue for a peaceful coexistence.

Such functions in Pakistan would help create awareness about Hindu community and provided cooperative, constructive and positive interaction between different communities, he said. “That’s what we aim through our bhajan and qawwali night on New Year.”

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Madho Lal Hussain of Lahore: Beyond Hindu and Muslim

Madho Lal Hussain

by Yoginder Sikand from Pakistan Christian Post, Oct. 31, 2005

`Shah Hussain! Shahadat Paye O Jo Maran Mitran De Age (Shah Hussain! He [alone] attains martyrdom who dies at the feet of his beloved)

Sufism has had a long and rich history in the Indian sub-continent. It is perhaps in Punjab, more than in any other part of this vast land, that Sufism has struck the deepest roots, producing many great exponents and exercising a pervasive influence on the minds of the common people. To this very day, the innumerable Sufis of this region are held in the highest esteem by millions of Muslims, Sikhs, Dalits and Hindus of the province and beyond.

Shah Hussain is one such mystic who is still fondly remembered by millions of ordinary Punjabis four centuries after his death. He was born in Lahore in 1539 A.D. into a family of the Dhatha Rajput tribe. This tribe had recently converted to Islam, hence the epithet “Shah” attached to his name. Even as a child Hussain showed a marked preference for red clothes, which explains why he was also called Lal (Persian for “red”) Hussain. Hussain`s strong mystical inclinations were apparent very early in his life. In childhood itself he managed to memorize the entire Qur`an under the guidance of his teacher, Shaikh Abu Bakr. Then, at the age of ten he was initiated into the Oadiriyah Sufi order by the renowned saint Bahlul Shah Daryai of Chiniot. For the next twenty-six years he lived under the strict supervision of his Pir (spiritual master), faithfully following all the rites and practices of orthodox Islam, and leading a life of great austerity.

ImageRenunciation Sufi Muslim Devotee at the Mela Charagan (Lamp Festival) Celebration of Madho Lal Hussain

At the age of thirty-six an incident occurred that was to completely change Hussain`s life. One day while at a madrasa studying a tafsir (commentary) on the Our`an under the tutelage of Shaikh Sadullah of Lahore, he came across the Qur`anic verse: “The life of this world is nothing but a game and a sport.” He asked the Shaikh to explain the verse and was told that it meant that the world should be shunned. Hussain refused to accept this interpretation and asserted, instead, that the words of the verse must be taken literally. He told his teacher that, in accordance with his understanding of this verse, he would spend the rest of his life in enjoyment. It was during this period of his life that Hussain met Madho, a Brahmin lad. The two men became so closely associated that in the popular mind the saint is most commonly known as Madho Lal Hussain, as if the two had been fused into one. The intensely close relationship that blossomed between them has been the subject of much speculation and controversy, starting in their very lifetime. John Subhan, an expert on Indian Sufism, writes that their contemporaries saw this intimate connection between a Hindu boy and a Muslim faqir of “questionable character” as “a disgrace”, though he himself sees this

Lovers of Madho Lal Hussain Circling Sacred Fire

“irresistible attraction” between the two men in terms of “fervent love”.  Like wise, the Punjabi historian Shafi Aquil speaks of the relationship between Madho and Hussayn as one of “boundless love” and for this employs language generally used to describe male-female relationships. Thus, he writes, “Shah Hussayn was in love with Madho and Madho himself, too, desired him” (Madho se Shah Hussayn ko pyar tho aur khud Madho bhi unko chahte the). He goes on to add that, “Under no condition could Shah Hussayn bear to be separated from Madho”.

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Muslim guards Hindu cremation ground

Baloch is a unique Muslim who serves as caretaker of a Hindu cremation ground and graveyard, depicting harmonious coexistence in Pakistan.  He passionately cleans and maintains statues lying in small temples inside the premises. He also lights up lamps inside the temple, an important religious rite.

“It’s pleasure to serve the alive and the dead,” he says, adding, “Islam teaches me co-existence and peace.”

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Hindu Muslim Unity: Pakistanis pray together against floods

Pakistan's longest river Indus

Pakistan’s longest river Indus

In a demonstration of communal harmony, Muslims recited the Quran while the minority Hindus chanted hymns from the Bhagvad Gita. They gathered on the banks of river Indus near Shahdad Kot town of Pakistan’s Sindh province amid the misery of the country’s worst disastrous floods.

Sindh Food Minister Nadir Magsi visited the area and also joined the prayers. He said that such gatherings were necessary to give strength to the common people.

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