The Dawn of His Day

Ya Nabi Salaam Alaika
Ya Rasool Salaam Alaika
Ya Habib Salaam Alaika
Salwatullah Alaika

On this Milad un Nabi, God on the day of the birth of Your Beloved, more than any other day answer our prayers because they have nowhere else to turn to.

Light the candles of our hope, for no one else will.

Bless us with happiness and joy from your boundless treasures.

Shine Your light, for its dark in the world we live in.

And warmth, because cold surrounds us. We are frozen.

For the love of Muhammad (SallaluAlaihiWassalam).

Please.

Ya Nabi Salaam Alaika
Ya Rasool Salaam Alaika
Ya Habib Salaam Alaika
Salwatullah Alaika

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It Makes Perfect Sense

I greatly admire people who can properly word their prayers. People who beseech God with proper words of prayers asking Him not just forgiveness but for other material and immaterial things as well.

In the grand mosque located where the mohalla ends, the Imam who used to be was very good with words. I think most imams in Kashmir are. They have a set of items which they all ask in congregational prayers. Forgiveness. Honour. Livelihood. Health. Cure. Suitors. Children. There are prayers for Kashmir, especially in times of turmoil and curfew. There are prayers for Palestine and Muslims around the world. The imam would close his eyes and sit partially facing the gathering as he repeated the same prayer everyday.

It made perfect sense. These things are universal. Everybody could do with living a healthy life with honour and dignity.

Then there is a little pause as the people in the congregation consider a small prayer, just for themselves. But some prayers are not easy to speak out. On nights like the last, Shab Qadr, one feels especially tongue tied of what to ask God for. Is there a picking order? How does one vent out the contradictions and conflict of the heart?

Or we dont. For God already knows. He knows the hope of the heart and its answer. We only need to say Amen. An Amen content in the knowledge that God knows and understands our condition, and that we have no gift for words. He, being the Provider and the Pathmaker, shall make a way for the unsaid prayer to reach Him.

Image Credit: Sajad Rafeeq

Thank God For Little Pleasures – XX

Strangers. Everywhere.
The gathering was singing “Ya Nabi Salaam Alaika” in a large chorus. Together, like one person with a large voice.
When the prayers finished people wrapped their arms around friends, relatives, people they knew. No one said anything to the stranger, the alien, the faraway wayfarer. He waited for someone to hug him too. But no one came and he went away.
No one hugs a stranger even on Eid.
He got his shoes polished. And walked away.
***
“I’ve decided. You and I are going to this coffee shop before we go for dinner.” the youthful voice of his colleague was telling the stranger. Usually he is an annoying brat, but today he was uncharacteristically friendly.
“Uhm. Are you sure?”
“Yes.”
The brat was a young person, with no care in the world. The stranger had known him from work and kept his distance initially. He had had a string of phone calls, but no one had actually called him. The stranger was a gust of wind, with no origin.
He looked at his shoes. They were still neatly polished.
***
The coffee shop the brat had chosen was a long distant away. The stranger tried to keep up with the brat’s antics. He realised as a traveller he had to play along. The Cheshire Cat’s wisdom played along too. “If you don’t know where you want to go, then it doesn’t matter which path you take”.
He followed the brat to the coffee house. By the time they reached, it was late evening. The wind was cool and murky with the city’s pollution. A few dusty plants in over sized pots waited for them at the side of the road. People were going up and down the pavement. A merry looking group was celebrating inside the glass walls of the coffee shop. A demure maiden was nodding to her lover on another table. A man with pointy eye-brows was talking on the phone. A few waiters were shuffling on their toes. 
They ordered coffee. The brat asked the stranger where he came from? What did he do? How did they celebrate Eid in his place?
The stranger smiled. He told of his home, his friends, his food.
An hour passed.
When they left, the stranger paid the bill. The money felt light, useless and abundant.
He looked at his shoes. A layer of dust had covered his neatly polished shoes.
The dinner place was a famous restaurant. The brat was a vegetarian. The stranger felt sorry for him.
 
“Shouldn’t you order something mutton, not chicken? Feels more like Eid, I suppose.” the brat suggested.
 
“What will you have?” the stranger wanted to know. Alien in the city, he didn’t know that vegetarians avoid places with a common kitchen for veg and non-veg.
 
“I’ll see. You go first.”
 
The stranger ordered. The meal was good. It felt like Eid. A strange, lonely Eid. An Eid held together by long distant phone calls and wistful greetings.
 
The young brat had an ice cream. The only thing he decided he could have.
 
The stranger hadn’t had anyone to accompany him for dinner in months. He realised he hadn’t had dinner in months.
 
It felt like Eid.

 

 
***
 
He looked down at his shoes. They had gathered dust. 

Beyond the Paint on Wood

It took me a while to realise that I had parked my car next to the shrine of Dastgeer Saheb. The old, imposing structure with its absence has left the square looking very incomplete. Empty. Sad, in the fact, that a monument erected out of love and reverence has vacated the space to chaos and, being in Kashmir, some more politics.


Nothing much is visible of the work going on inside the steel walls. I watched a workman wearing a yellow helmet working on the rubble. Tearing away what had burnt off. An old arched window which was partly burnt stood on its old frame. It still had its freshly painted white on the top of the arch. Below that everything was burnt.  I could see someone shovel at the rubble. A board creaked, cranked and fell down. With a thud. A cloud of dust rose in the sky, and was lost. Ancient dust from an ancient shrine. A piece of history, thus went into thin air.


Who shall take care of the dust? Who shall piece together what was lost in the fire?


The building in green and white topped with a green spire was a magnet of believers.In the emotion charged atmosphere, the shrine was aglow with overflowing sentiments of want and contentment, desire and fulfillment, grief and relief. On the days of the Urs of Ghaus-ul-Azam the shrine used to be jam packed.


On one such evening, I was exiting the main hall of the aasthaan, when a woman in an abaya tugged at me.  As on every Urs, the hall was packed with the devotees. The women used to sit in the lower half of the hall, below the step. The menfolk near the windows. From the road, you could often see some old men sitting in the wooden window frames with prayer beads. She had been sitting in the rows, and  praying. With tears in her eyes, she pointed towards a nearby stack of booklets. I stepped aside thinking that she may like to get one herself, but she didn’t move and kept pointing. So I picked one up and gave it to her. As tears rolled down her cheeks, she took my hand, kissed it and pressed it to her forehead. I kept looking on, and with a thousand prayers and blessings she took the book from my hand.



Such was the place. People came empty handed, with hearts full of hope. Broken hearts needing some faith to repair them. People came looking for that faith. Faith is a  thread that binds us to things unseen. From Dastgeer Saheb the threads ran to Prophet Muhammad (SallalhuAlaihiWaSallam). The threads are very much still there.

What the fire burnt was paint and wood.


I would have said, and so many memories with it. But memories dont burn actually. They remain etched. Much like faith.


(Appeared on Kashmir Dispatch)

Eid on Twitter

Eid Mubarak, reader.

This is a collection of Eid Mubarak (and Eid related tweets, mainly) tweets from the world over. Some of these people I know, some I don’t. Some I follow on Twitter, some I don’t. Obviously, I am not endorsing these people or their other tweets. In case, your tweet is here and you don’t want it to be, you can always tell me so, and I will remove it.

And finally,

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A Glow of Faith

Today the news came in at breakfast that the shrine of Hazrat Ghous-ul-Azam has caught fire. Immediately I checked Facebook and Twitter to confirm, because that is the fastest any news travels. And it was true.

The green and white building with large ornate windows was burning. Flames erupting from its wooden jalis and consuming it. Not in bits, but whole. The extremely beautiful inner prayer halls of the aasthan with its carpeted floor. Papier-mache walls. The chandeliers. The wood work. The tiered roof. The small wooden steps.  All turning down to ash.

The shrine in Kashmir was erected many years after the saint had left for heavenly abode. But for his followers in this valley of ours, it was a meeting point. A melting point. Here they came in flocks, everyday. Men, women and children. Weeping and wailing. Telling their Dastgeer of all their pains. And their Dastgeer listened. They prayed, and he prayed along with them. He prayed for them.


The prayers were answered.

The ancient mosque where the sacred relics were stored can now be seen in 3D through the lens of two travellers to Kashmir here and here.

Photo from contemporarynomad.com

We remember the saint and his shrine. It’s etched in our memory and our hearts. For even when the four walls have been torn down by fire, faith keeps the lamps alive in Srinagar. We are not letting go, and so is he. That’s the promise of the peer. A Sufi points you towards the Almighty. Takes you closer to the Holy Prophet (Peace be upon him). And elevates your stature spiritually. Ghaus-ul-Azam is our waseelah to God.

Dastgeer Saheb never visted Kashmir. But just like other parts of the world, the peer has his mureeds here too. The candle emits the shine, it is not shined upon. The case of candle and the moth as is the general proverb in Urdu. The moths are attracted to the light, the light not to them. 11th of Rabi-us-Saani is commemorated with reverence just as in other parts of the world. There devotees sit from one end of the road to another (because the shrine was not large enough to accommodate everyone) and pray to the Almighty, just as the peer has taught them to.

And so even when the fire ravaged the building and burnt the knotted threads there, we knew that our bond with Dastgeer Saheb is just the same as it was, even if not stronger.

Allama Iqbal