The Afghan rose, saddler in the bazaar Tashkourgan occasionally interrupts his work to breathe a rose with infinite delicacy. The old craftsman then seems to escape from this world.
Mahmad Niyaz, May 1967. Roland and Sabrina Michaud.
this is like a piercing soul, i feel breathless !! May he be in peace.
The sufi opens his hands to the universe
and gives away each instant, free.
Unlike someone who begs on the street for money to survive,
a dervish begs to give you his life.
He Who created the seven heavens in layers. You will not find any discrepancy in the creation of the All-Merciful. Look again-do you see any gaps? Then look again and again. Your sight will return to you dazzled and exhausted!
“… Know that not everyone is suited to be your friend. The Prophet (sallallahu `alayhi wa sallam) said, “A person is upon the Deen of his friend, so let each of you look to whom you befriend.” (Abu Dawud, 4833)
One must consider a number of characteristics (when choosing a friend):
He must be intelligent and sound of mind (astute) and generous among the people and he should not be an immoral person or an innovator or someone who desires and covets this world.
As for astuteness, then that is the capital. As ‘Ali (radhi’Allahu `anhu) said:
“Do not accompany the ignorant,
Beware of him, beware of him!
For how many of an ignorant one has destroyed,
A forbearing one when he goes to him.
A person is only weighed against another,
When he sides and walks with him.
And for everything there are indeed,
Similarities and a comparison.
Just like there is between two hearts,
A sign and an indication, when they do meet.”
So how will the matter be (for you) when the foolish ends up harming you although he intends to benefit you! For this reason, the poet said:
“I feel safe from an enemy who’s endowed with sound intellect ,
But I fear a friend who has been seized with mental illness.
For soundness of mind is of one type; I know its ways
But insanity manifests itself in so many numerous ways.”
For this reason, it is said: ‘Severing ties with the foolish means to draw closer to Allah, the Most High.’ Likewise, there is no good in the companionship of an immoral person because the one who fears Allah will never persist in a major sin, but as for him who does not fear Allah, then nobody is safe from the havoc he causes.
“… And do not obey one whose heart We have made heedless of Our remembrance and who follows his desire and whose affair is ever [in] neglect.” (al-Kahf: 28)
Taken from Imam al-Ghazali’s ”Mukhtasar Ihya ‘Ulum al-Din”
I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you….
I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.
But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.
You can stay that way
And even bloom!
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter.
Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure,
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.
You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
Whenever you say God’s name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!
O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions’ beautiful laughter
And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.
Now, sweet one,
Cast all your votes for Dancing!
The garden is breathing out the air of Paradise today,
Toward me, a friend with a sweet nature, and this wine.
It’s all right for the beggar to brag that he is a King today.
His royal tent is a shadow thrown by a cloud; his throne room is a sown field….
This meadow is composing a tale of a spring day in May;
The serious man lets the future go and accepts the cash now.
Do you really believe your enemy will be faithful to you?
The candle the hermit lights goes out in the worldly church.
Make your soul strong then by feeding it the secret wine.
When we have turned to dust, this rotten world will press our dust into bricks.
My life is a black book. But don’t rebuke me too much.
No person can ever read the words written on his own forehead.
When Hafez’s coffin comes by, it’ll be all right to follow behind.
Although he is a captive of sin, he is on his way to the Garden.
When the Metcalfe Line was drawn between India and Pakistan,
the Muslims of Malerkotla chose to remain in India, but not a
drop of blood was shed, no woman desecrated, no homes pillaged.
The city that sits close to Ludhiana remained an anomaly in the
season of hatred and hostility, an incongruity then.
and they would attribute this peace to
Baba Hazrat Shaikh Saduddin Sadr-e-Jahan, The Presiding Pir.
A marauding tiger can morph into a pot of gold and a fiefdom. On that one odd occasion. At least Bayazid Khan, the founder of the Malerkotla state, would vouch for that. He saved the life of Emperor Aurangzeb from a prowling tiger and the beholden Emperor recognized him as an independent ruler and granted him the right to construct a fort. It is from the fort that Malerkotla gets its name.
However, it borrows its fame for having remained unsullied in the bloodbath that followed India’s partition in 1947. When the Metcalfe Line was drawn between India and Pakistan, the Muslims of Malerkotla chose to remain in India, but not a drop of blood was shed, no woman desecrated, no homes pillaged. The city that sits close to Ludhiana remained an anomaly in the season of hatred and hostility, an incongruity then. Ask anyone and they would attribute this peace to Baba Hazrat Shaikh Saduddin Sadr-e-Jahan, the presiding pir.
Born in Afghanistan, the noted Sufi saint moved to Malerkotla in 1488 and was granted 12 parganas, 56 servants and cash as dowry when he took the daughter of Mughal ruler Bahlol Lodi as his betrothed. The small town inhabited mainly by Rajputs was then known as Mohalla Bhongsi. The stories of Hazrat Shaikh’s erudition and piety spread far and wide and gradually Malerkotla became the seat of Sufism in India.
Nearly 500 years after the death of Hazrat Shaikh, peace and harmony remain the reigning virtues in this town whose people are mainly into farming. Though the Muslims make for 65 percent of the population, yet the camaraderie between the Sikhs, the Sherwani Pathans and the Hindus spills on the streets every day.
The winding streets of Malerkotla take you to the mosque that is discernible from a distance. The dargah is up the stairs that abuts the mosque, no car reaches there, you can only walk to the dargah. The stairs are unkempt and a mendicant sits at the end of the stairs. Three young girls, their heads covered and their gait elegant walk ahead of me, I follow them and walk through really narrow cobbled path lined with houses on both sides. At the end of the mohalla, there is the dargah, a neem tree standing like a sentry at its arched door.
Says Khalifa Riyaaz Khan, the 23rd descendant of Hazrat Sheikh, “I was seven when partition happened. I remember that Hindus had locked their doors and some had taken their families away, but nobody laid an evil eye on their women or property. It was because of Baba Hazrat Sheikh’s blessings,” he iterates like everyone else in Malerkotla.
Khalifa Khan, who has in his heirloom the 500-year old “poshak” of Baba Hazrat Shaikh,
would have you believe that the stone wall that marks the periphery of the dargah was not built by human hands, god was the mason. In its 500 years the wall has withstood rain, storm, thunder, yet remains unscathed.
While Khalifa Khan attributes the peace of 1947 to divinity, Fida Hussain, 82, owes it to Nawab Iftikhar Khan, the last ruler of Malerkotla. He would know for he was the ADC to the Nawab then and recalls how he mustered the estate’s private army and police for the safety of the citizens of Malerkotla.
Sitting in the crumbling Mubarak Manzil amidst the musty smell of gloom, ruin and remnants of an ornate past, Begum Munavvar Mehrunissa narrates the story of Sher Khan, her husband’s ancestor, who had pleaded to the Mughal ruler to spare the young sons of Guru Gobind Singh. The grateful Guru gave Khan his sword, the prestigious relic still in the Begum’s custody. The Guru had also blessed Malerkotla, hence the peace, she insists.
The reasons of royalty are always disparate from the masses. Mohammed Yusuf, 80, who describes himself “as a class three flunked buffalo trader and the father of a pehelwan” does not look for reasons, he just knows that peace is a reality in his town. “I have travelled a lot for buffalo trading but there is no place in this world like Malerkotla, there is no Idgah as beautiful as the one in Malerkotla,” he adds.
As I drove around the narrow streets, I bumped into a little kid, with a steel glass in one hand and waving vigorously with the other. I ignored him twice but when I saw him the third time, I stopped, not for my curiosity, but for his diligence.
It was Azim, who along with his friends have been quenching the thirst of travellers for some months now. When their village turned dry and there were no rains they decided to do something about it. They pooled money, bought milk, mixed it in four tubs of water and served water, hoping for the rains. They do it everyday.
“Would you stop doing this if it rains?” I ask Azim.
“No, no. It is not just for the rains, I do it because it a good thing to do, it is religion for me,” he says heartily.
As my car drove north towards Amritsar I could see blacks clouds gathering and soon there was a rumble. I had left Malerkotla miles behind but I do hope it rained for Azim and his friends. The little children were not seeking concessions from divinity, in their generosity I saw the dignity of humanity and the piety of the innocent.
From the godliness of the dervish to the virtuousness of Azim, there is something about Malerkotla. It is not barely about communal harmony, if you don’t see the holiness of the human spirit here, you perhaps won’t see it anywhere.
Published in Discover India magazine, August 2004.
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