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'Rab is also Ram'



'Rab is also Ram'

Most people think Islam came to India as an invading force. That there were such invasions is an undeniable part of history. But few people know that the first Muslims had come much earlier, and were welcome here. Some came as traders, others as refugees. In fact, Arab literature is full or references to India — Indian weaponry, textiles, and spices. There was a lot of interaction, and travel between Indians and Arabs. The Prophet Mohammed had even named his first daughter Hind. Within 30 years of the Prophet’s death, there were small Indian settlements near Mecca and Medina. One such colony was called Arz–ul–Hind. Indian arts, philosophy, even mathematics — which in Arabic is called hindusa since it originated in India — were part of the Arab world. At the time of the Islamic invasions, the Sufis, true followers of the Prophet, kept themselves aloof from the rulers and their courts. They knew that the ways of rulership and the path of Islam did not match. The religion of rulers is the power of their throne. The ruler does not worship God, only his own throne. Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya followed this practice of aloofness so strictly that Badshah Jalaluddin Khilji decided to don a disguise to meet him. But the Hazrat’s follower Amir Khusrau warned the Hazrat of Khilji’s impending visit, and Hazrat Nizamuddin left Delhi on that day. He said: “There are two doors in my house. If the Badshah enters from one, I will leave from the other.” But for the ordinary people, those doors were open day and night.

Feroz–bin–Tughlak went one day to meet Hazrat Chiragh–e–Delhi without notice. The Hazrat had a rule that he was never to be disturbed while he was at prayers or meditation. His two young nephews Syed Zainuddin and Syed Kamaluddin would receive visitors. When Feroz–bin–Tughlak came, it so happened that neither of the two boys was present. Since no one would dare disturb the hazrat, the Badshah was forced to wait. A tattered rug was spread for him, which he disdained to sit on. Then it started raining. The Badshah left in a huff, saying: “Who says I’m the Badshah around here! He is the Badshah, whom no one even dares to inform that the Badshah has arrived.”

The rulers had many Sufis killed. During the reign of the cruel despot Mohammed Tughlak, terrible atrocities were performed on Hazrat Chirag–e–Delhi. They even pierced his neck and threaded a rope through it to drag him to the court when he refused to answer the Badshah’s summons. They wanted to forcibly take Hazrat Chirag–e–Delhi to Sind were the Badshah was dying, but the king died before they reached Sind. When we talk of the mystic tradition of the Sufis, two words come to mind. These are khanqah and dargah. The khanqah is the place where the living Pir or Fakir resides and worships. When he passes away, the place becomes a dargah.Khanqah means a place of worship. Of course, a mosque is also a place of worship, but the rules governing conduct in a mosque and khanqah are quite different. For instance, a person who has consumed alcohol can never enter a mosque. In a khanqah, too, it is not desirable for a person to enter in a state of intoxication. But in a khanqah it is taken for granted that a devotee has come out of love for Allah, through a relationship of love with the followers of Allah. The doors of the khanqah are always open to all — good and bad — in the hope of turning the bad into good — through love.

(Transcribed from The Sufi Way, a six part television serial by film–maker Gopal Sharman and theatre activist wife, Jalabala Vaidya)

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Last updated: March 25, 2000.