This is a good story of pluralism, i.e., respecting the otherness of others and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each one of us. This a common scene in India, sadly a few Hindus and Muslims are corrupted and have become intolerant towards each other. Thank God, they are still a few and we have to work in preventing that poison from spreading. Mike Ghouse
Beauty as seen in a sufi shrine.
One humid Saturday afternoon I was at the dargah of sufi saint Sarmad Shahid. It is in Old Delhi, just outside Jama Masjid’s gate no. 3.
The red-walled shrine was empty, save a few pilgrims. There was a man, with a beard and a skull cap, praying in front of Sarmad’s tomb. Just then a young woman appeared in a sari and stood by his side. With the sindoor spread length-wise on the parting of her hair, and a black-beaded mangalsutra wound round her neck, it was clear that she was a Hindu.
The woman had a few agarbattis in her hands. The sari’s pallu was drawn modestly over her head. Her eyes were closed, her lips were moving, and so were the agarbattis in a never-ending circle, just the way Hindus do in their temples.
I do not know what the lady was murmuring to her saint. I’m not even certain if she was familiar with the ethos of Islam, but the sight was beautiful. Here was a Hindu woman, standing beside a Muslim man; both making their own personal prayers. Both had their eyes closed. Neither minded the other’s presence. Neither felt ‘impure’.
We Delhiwallas are just amazing people.
These two were from different religions, different backgrounds, but for a short time, they came together in a place of spirituality and, rather unintentionally, stirred up a joint communion.
It does not matter if the shrine belonged to a sufi saint, or a Hindu god, or a Sikhu guru. It does not matter if they were not in the pursuit of spirituality, but merely petitioning for personal favors. What matters is that together they showed all that is beautiful in our city, and in our religions.
While there is no argument that all faiths have caused conflicts, cruelties and communal riots, the same religions have, at times, brought out the best from their followers. That is why that Saturday afternoon I thought of Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations and laughed.