Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Interesting 'religious findings' in South India

*************************** n the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. ************************** Reflections ************************** "I have only created Jinns and Men, that they may serve Me." (Zariyat 51:56) **************************** 1. Being doubtful at a 'darga' (dargah) ******************************* While sightseeing in Mangalore, Karnataka State in South India recently, I asked our tour guide cum driver to stop at any masjid to enable us to perform our 'jamak' (combined) 'zuhur' (mid-day) and 'asar' (late afternoon) prayers. But our guide offered to take us to one of the largest and famous masjids amongst Muslims not only in Mangalore or Karnataka but in the whole of South India. ************************************* After a 'rough ride' for about an hour, we reached a large masjid complex - the guide told us that the complex held a 'darga' of one of the famous 'Muslim saints' in South India. Later on, after being given a booklet, I got to know it was the darga of Seyyid Muhammad Shareeful Madani. ******************************* In the booklet it was mentioned: "The history says that the saint came to Ullal (near Mangalore) around 500 years ago from the holy city of Madeena (Madinah) in Saudi Arabia by floating across the sea on a piece of Chadar or Musalla. He camped at a small mosque (masjid) in Melangadi area, which is the present Juma Masjid for Ullal, Permannur, Someshwara, Munnur, Kotekar, and Jeppinamogaru villages." ***************************** Well, what actually is a darga? I too was not sure. After searching for the word in several dictionaries but in vain, I found one dictionary as having the word 'dargah' which gave the meaning as 'the tomb or shrine of a Muslim saint'; the origin of the word was from Urdu and Persian. And on further reading, I found out that the Malays called it 'keramat'. ***************************** Wikipedia notes that a dargah (Persian: درگاه‎ dargâh or درگه dargah) is a Sufi Islamic shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure, often a Sufi saint or dervish. Local Muslims may visit a shrine as a form of pilgrimage known as ziyarat. Dargahs are often associated with Sufi meeting rooms and hostels, called khanqah or hospices. They usually include a mosque, meeting rooms, Islamic religious schools (madrassas), residences for a teacher or caretaker, hospitals, and other buildings for community purposes. ****************************** This description fit what I saw at darga Seyyid Muhammad Shareeful Madani. After performing my solat (prayer) at the main prayer hall, I went to a crowded area where congregators were seen making their 'du'a' (saying their supplications) at the shrine of the Sheikh. Some were seen rubbing their hands and clothes to metal railings at the grave. **************************** Near the grave, there were a few donation boxes. I was doubtful; thinking fast whether to drop or not a note or two in the boxes. It was because I was in doubt; whether my donation would be chanelled to promote 'activities' at the darga which I 'doubted'. Finally I did drop a note, praying to Allah SWT that I did the right thing. ************************** Later on, while reading the booklet; I came across something that said: "the income derived from the darga is spent for the development activities of the area, which are socially, economically backward." Among the many activities noted were; supplying free books to poor students irrespective of caste and creed, giving financial assistance to poor girls for their marriages and giving scholarships to deserving students for their higher education.” ************************************* Perhaps I was 'wrong and cruel' in having a 'bad thought' while at the large religious complex of Seyyid Muhammad Shareeful Madani; to which I prayed to Allah SWT for forgiveness on me who was without or with only a little knowledge on the subject of 'Sufism' including 'ziyarat' (visiting) the graves of 'saints'. *************************** Of course, ziyarat to graves is allowed, in fact a 'sunnah' of our Prophet, Muhammad s.a.w. who in a 'hadith' mentioned: "I asked you (at first) not to perform ziyarat. But now I'm asking you to perform ziyarat, because verily ziyarat makes you think of the Hereafter." (Sahih Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmizi, Ibn Maaja, Abu Daud and Nasaee Shaif) ******************************* But what about those special rituals such as praying and making offerings that were being performed at the graves; mostly of 'saints' which in India are called 'brelwi'? It was said that in India it was common for some Muslims to offer prayers at tombs of respected people and saints. Once I had asked a good Muslim friend who had relatives and previously travelled to India on the subject; he claimed that ‘brelwi’ was against the teaching of Islam. ************************* A Malaysian Indian Muslim once told me that the practice of 'brelwi' was too strong in India and those who were against it were accused of not having respect for ulamas. He was afraid that their practices were straying away from the true teaching of Islam; but moving in the direction of Hinduism. ***************************** In South Asia, dargahs are often the site of festivals (milad) held in honor of the deceased saint at the date of his Urs, which is a day dedicated to the saint which usually falls on the saint's death anniversary. The shrine is illuminated with candles or strings of electric lights at this time. Among famous dargas are Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki's dargah in Mehrauli, Delhi, Dargah of Moinuddin Chishti, Ajmer; Nizamuddin Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya and adjoining Jamaat Khana Masjid, Delhi and Tomb of Salim Chisti, at Fatehpur Sikri, near Agra. ************************** Perhaps this report on the activities at a darga would help enlighten us on whether they are in line with the teachings of Islam or not. I prayed to Allah that He show me and readers His straight path (Ihdina sirata al moustaqim) as what we read at least 17 times in our 'solat' (prayers). ************************* It is reported that the Urs Fair in Ajmer (Rajasthan’s famous lakeside city) that honours the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, brings lakhs of devotees across all religions to the Dargah Sharif in the faithful and religious reminiscence of the saint. *************************** The Urs is held in Ajmer every year to commemorate the death of Khawaja, whose mortal deeds earned him the title of Gharib Nawaz (protector of the poor), and whose memorial at Dargah Sharif where his remains lie buried is now a pilgrimage shrine for Muslim devotees all over the world. *************************** The holy Urs fair is a six-day long festival beginning with Rajab, the seventh month of the Islamic calendar. With the sighting of the moon, the Holy Tomb of the Khawaja opens up to the festive homage that sees pilgrims and devotees seeking blessings at the shrine and indulging in ‘tabbaruk’ (offerings of hallowed food) among other specialties that continue through days and nights alike. ***************************** The holy saint is said to have traversed from Persia to the sub-continent with the vision of building the Chistia order fakirs in this part of the world. For the altruistic services he extended to the poor and the downtrodden through his life that spanned a 100 years, he has gone in history as the Gharib Nawaz, to be worshipped for centuries to come at his tomb. ************************** The successor representative of the Chistis, or the Sajjada Nashin, traditionally hoists a white flag at the dargah to mark the commencement of the Urs Fair in the sixth lunar month (Rabiulakhir). As the month comes to an end, the Jannati Darwaza (symbolizing a gateway to heaven) is thrown open to devotees, who as per tradition cross the gate seven times in the belief that their abode in heaven is assured. The Sajjada Nashin also performed the ‘ghuzal’ the holy ritual of anointing the tomb with rose water and sandalwood paste and enveloping it in a sheet of silk. ************************* Among the host of such rituals is the tide of rich offerings (nazrana) that devotees bestow at the shrine – essence of rose and jasmine flowers, ‘chaddars’ (blankets) perfumes, sandalwood paste, ‘ghilaph’ and ‘neema’. The ‘qawwali mehfils’ that shape up in the ‘mehfilkhanas’ are quite the popular rituals at the fair, and hundreds of men and women immerse themselves in the glorious hymns of the saint which then culminate in a mass prayer in memory of Khwaja Chisti. - Info from an Indian magazine, Go Getter/June 2011. ***************************** 2. Casteist 'made snana' sparks protest ******************************* During my journey to Manipal, I met and talked to a Malaysian Hindu family who were heading to 'some religious spots' in Karnataka including in Mangalore and Udupi. In fact the name Mangalore derives from the local Hindu deity Mangaladevi while Udupi is notable for the Krishna Matha temple. ******************************* While I was in South India, one topic that was debated in the Indian press was about the caste ritual 'made snana' where it is believed that the saliva of upper castes is healing. This practice was said to be performed at the Kukke Subramanya temple in Dakshina Kannada district where devotees would roll their bodies over leftover food of the upper castes. ****************************** Many groups and parties had gatherings to oppose the practice; among them was Karnataka State Backward Classes Awareness Forum with its president K S Shivaram who had launched an agitation against the ritual four years ago and urged Karnataka's Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to either pass the proposed anti-superstition law or issue an ordinance prohibiting the practice. ****************************** The protestors were clear in their support for the anti-superstition bill and called it a necessity to clean out the discriminatory, exploitative practices of religion in Karnataka state. ***************************** Even Karnataka's Minister for Social Welfare, H Anjaneya appealed to the people to shun such ritual saying it was inhuman and foolish. "I do not know how to call those people who participated in the ritual - fools or intelligent people. They should realise that rolling over the leftover food of others will further infect their skin and not cure them of skin diseases as is believed." ****************************** The Minister said such blind belief could not be eradicated just by legislation. "There should be awareness among the people that in this age of technological and medical advances, rolling over leftover food eaten by others will only give them infections," he was quoted saying by The Hindu on December 8th. ***************************** Janata Dal (United) State unit president M P Nadagouda said 'made snana' was an inhuman practice and it belittled the dignity of a human being. He condemned the Karnataka State government's inaction in banning the 'made snana' ritual, asking Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to resign if he failed to promulgate fast an ordinance to that effect.

No comments: