Thursday, October 11, 2007

Ajmer dargah holds special place in many hearts

When Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf could not make it to Ajmer in 2001, as per his original itinerary in Agra (he flew off in a huff), the then Indian Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, said; “Ajmer wahi jaate hai, Khwaja jinhe bulaate hain (only those people, whom the Khwaja invites, are able to visit Ajmer).”

The dargah houses the tomb of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, Gharib Nawaz, the founder of the Chishtiya Sufi order in the region. Born in 1143 in Sistan in southern Iran, he came to India and preached Sufism. He died in Ajmer in 1236. The dargah gained tremendous prestige in the times of Akbar, chiefly as he used to walk barefoot from Agra to the shrine in Ajmer. The Chishtiya-Sufi order that the Khwaja founded started as a puritanical and pacifist one, that emphasised the ‘Oneness of God’ (Wahdat ul Wujud). But slowly, it came to symbolise a crucial and unique aspect of Islamic spiritual life and became the holiest spot for followers of the Chishtiya silsila — an order within the Islamic framework that is premised on what its followers term “universal human brotherhood”.

A shrine revered almost equally by both Hindus and Muslims, it has carved a unique place in popular Indian life, with a visit to the dargah being vital before undertaking auspicious tasks, asking for special things, as well as a place that virtually symbolises Indian syncretic life for centuries now.

Says renowned historian, Mohammed Amin: “There is pressure from some Hindu fundamentalist groups and Muslim fundamentalists respectively, asking followers not to go to such places which defy both the rigid Hindu and Muslim boundaries. Yet, Ajmer continues to attract lakhs of people of all faiths each year”.

The terror attack on the Sufi shrine of Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer on Thursday has prompted the Union Home Ministry to deploy Border Security Force personnel to secure the Dargah. The blast, which took place a little after 6 pm (IST), left two people dead and 17 others injured. It was reportedly caused by an explosive device placed under a tree inside the shrine.

IMO: On such bombings, we may well say of their perpetrators, as many already say of US behaviour in Iraq, "On their fruits may ye know them" (Matt 7:20).

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