Hindu or Muslim, they are flocking to Ajmer Sufi shrine (Letter from Ajmer)

June 25th, 2009 - 10:34 am ICT by IANS  

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed
Ajmer, June 25 (IANS) Pilgrims, both Hindu and Muslim, are thronging the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti at Ajmer for his 797th annual Urs or death anniversary, which is not treated as a sad occasion but a celebration of the soul’s union with god.

About 250,000 to 300,000 pilgrims visit Ajmer during the Urs, which this year begins Thursday and will go on till June 30. The dargah (shrine) of the saint, who was popularly known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz by his devotees from both communities, symbolises a touching synthesis of the hopes and prayers of various faiths and communities.

Revered for his simple teachings, ecumenical approach and eclectic philosophy, the saint believed that no spiritual exercise, penitence or prayer had greater value than bringing succour to distressed hearts and helping the needy. He directed all his efforts towards alleviation of human misery, and his mission was to provide consolation and emotional security to seekers, to help diffuse tension, and bring inner peace and tranquillity within everyone’s reach.

“Develop a river-like generosity, a sun-like bounty and an earth-like hospitality,” Chishti exhorted, stressing one’s life could have divine significance only if one firmly rejected all material attractions.

Real happiness, according to him, lay not in accumulating money but in giving and spending it on others, helping those in need and never hurting the feelings of anyone, which was one of the two ways of exhibiting devotion - the other being prayers, fasting and the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Sheikh Moinuddin Chishti believed in pacifism and non-violence, contending violence created more problems than it solved. In forgiveness, large-heartedness and tolerance lay the supreme talisman of man’s happiness.

He advised his disciples to be good to their enemies too and often recited Persian verses to support his philosophy: “He who is not my friend, may God be his friend/ And he who bears ill-will against me, may his joys increase. He who puts thorns in my way on account of enmity/ May every flower that blossoms in the garden of his life be without thorns.”

“Forgive a person who has committed a wrong and thus eliminate your anger. Forgiveness and not retribution is the way to happiness in society,” he said.

Chishti of the Chishtiya order followed in the tradition of great Sufi leaders who came to India, beginning with Sheikh Ali-bin-Usmani, popularly known as Data Ganj Bakhsh. Chishti had a number of prominent followers including Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki of Ush (Turkmenistan), Sheikh Fariduddin Ganj Shakar of Multan, Sultan-ul-Mashaikh Hazrat Nizamuddin Mehboob-e-Ilahi of Badaun, Sheikh Naseeruddin Chiragh Dehlvi, Sheikh Sirajuddin Usman, Shah Burhanuddin Gharib and Syed Mohammed Gesu Daraz.

Chishti believed Islam meant submission to God and submission to God meant serving the creation of God without prejudice. He also stressed self-control and self-criticism as the best methods of reducing tension in society. When wronged, he would consider it a divine reprimand for something that had gone wrong.

He said, “If a man finds fault with me or accuses me of wrongdoing, I should first search my own heart and see whether that fault is in me. If it is, I should not be ashamed at being apprised of it by someone else. If I do not have that fault with me, I should be grateful to God that I have been protected and I should not find fault in others.”

A tradition about him says that he observed day-long fasts and kept vigils at night for the whole of his life. His daily meal at the iftar (breaking of fast) was also a meagre amount.

Chishti was a true mystic and stood for everlasting values. That is why even today his shrine draws thousands of pilgrims of all faiths.

(The author can be contacted at firozbakhtahmed07@gmail.com)

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