I am ardent admirer of Sufism and I went whirling like a dervish to ‘Charbagh’ the moment I saw that there was a session on Khawaja Muinidddin Chisty or Gareeb Nawaz (the helper of the poor). The panel had Sadia Dehlvi in conversation with Syed Salman Chishty, Imtiaz Ali and Reema Abbasi on the subject ‘Khawaja Gharib Nawaz: A message of love.’ Sufism is often called the moderate form of Islam but the hallmark of Sufism is the idea of inclusivism. It is no wonder then that thousands of people irrespective of their faith pay obeisance at the Dargah of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz.
Sadia Dehlvi, the author of several books on Sufism, is a devotee of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer and Hazard Nizamuddin Auliya. Known for criticizing radical interpretations of Islam, she calls for a pluralistic understanding of the rereligio and said “sufism is the soul of Islam”.
Syed Salman Chishty, the Gaddi-Nashin (hereditary custodians) of the 11th century Sufi shrine of Hazrat Khawaja Moinuddin Hassan Chishty said
Sufism is love- sublime and pure. It cannot be limited by geography, religion or language. He further said that not only the physical and material needs but “our thoughts are also taken care of by Khwaja ji”the moment we step into the premises of the dargah. It was heartening to know that since the Dargah is dear to people of all faiths nothing but vegetarian meal is cooked and served in there. (sic.). It gave goose pimples to think that I was listening to a direct descendant of Garib Nawaz.😇
Reema Abbasi, a writer from Karachi who has written a book on the ‘Temples in Pakistan’ said that the dargah of Ajmer Sharif was second only to Mecca for her (sic) She had been visiting the dargah for past six years. Namita Gokhale, the director of ‘ZEEJLF’ called her one of “the purest soul”. Later Namita also unveiled Reema’s new book ‘Awakening of Sufism in South Asia’. The book focuses on Khwaja’s legacy of religious tolerance and acceptance and its relevance in our times.
The whole tent reverberated with a loud applause as Imtiaaz Ali, said he was most inept to be on the stage amongst the experts on Sufism but he spoke like a man who had naturally imbibed spirit of Sufism without delving into the texts. He said that the dargah and the message of Khwaja Garib Nawaz cannot be limited to a particular religion. His religion is love and love is all inclusive. He posed a very pertinent question,”Why did a 52 year old Khwaja ji traverse treacherous mountains to enter Hindustan. It was the smell of love, the fragrance of religious pluralism, a hallmark of this land that brought him to Hindustan.” He quoted the quawwali “Kun faya kun” from his film Rockstar which means ‘Even when there was nothing, there was God. Imtiyaaz said the same thoughts are echoed in the Rigveda(sic)
Somebody asked him what he understood by love and is there unconditional love. His answer took the crowd by storm when he said he would have failed if this was an exam question. However he enthralled the audience when he said Sufi love is to fuse your identity in the lover, “where Radha becomes Krishna and Krishna becomes Radha.” This left lots of young girls swooning and a whole crowd in a tizzy.
Syed Salman Chishty agreed with Imtiyaaz and said that it was the fragrance of Hind that brought Baba to the blessed land of Hindustan.” He made a subtle reference to the growing levels of intolerance “India is the door of hope and needs to maintain its essence which is pluralism.
He delighted the listeners with a quote from the 13th Century Sufi Master poet Hazrat Jami, which is inscribed on the Dargah gate- “This is the center of Lovers – who ever comes here incomplete! Finds themselves Complete.” I must confess that I wanted to quote Hazrat Jami exactly the way Salman Chishty had quoted it but there were a few missing links; thanks to social media, these links were duly filled in by Salman bhai himself when I sought help from him via twitter.
He also sent a picture of the door along with the quote.
There was a discordant note when someone from the audience asked for Sadia’s opinion on Tasleema Nasreen, which she gracefully denied to offer.
Before the start of the session, I had tweeted “waiting to soak in divinity” and I was not disappointed as I came out drenched in divinity.