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The barbarians have attacked another shrine – no respite for Karachi

Karachi’s famous shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi was attacked a while ago. Over 60 people are injured and 12 are dead. After Lahore’s Data Darbar attacks, this is a trend that is gaining an ugly momentum. We condemn this act and mourn the deaths of innocent people who were visiting to perhaps allay their stress and seek some peace from the place. Shrines are not just religious – these are public spaces and also cultural markers. What a shame that terrorists are trying to destroy our culture and turning us into a bunch of afraid people living in a fractured and violent society.

Thursdays are special for shrine-goers. And this is what suits the terrorists’ agenda. This is not the first time that such a heinous tragedy has occurred. We are living amid barbarians who have no tolerance for people with inclusive and plural Sufi thought. Karachi has suffered such an attack for the first time. Reports of the city having turned into a hub of Al-Qaeda and faith-based militants are all too well known. A new phase of terror may have bgun for the city that has already been suffering ethnic, sectarian and other forms of violence. This does not augur well for the port city, its centrality to our economy, trade and prospects.

The majority of Pakistani (and South Asian) Muslims follow the Barelvi school of thought which has historically been inclusive, and with few exceptions non-violent. In pre-1947 subcontinent such a local variant could easily co-exist with other religions and faiths.The tradition continued until the rise of petrodollars enabled many Sunni-ideological states to invest heavy money into the propagation of a particular brand of Islam that is exclusive and in many ways anti-minorities and anti-women. Hence the unprecedented growth of madrassas in Pakistan during the 1980s (which coincided with the Afghan jihad project). […]

October 7th, 2010|Personal, Religion, Sufism, terrorism|6 Comments

Shah Hussain, Madhu Lal and the festival of lights

Lahore is celebrating Mela Chiraghan – the death anniversary of the elusive saint Shah Hussain who is also known as Madhu Lal Shah for his life long association with a Hindu disciple called Madhu Lal. Each year in spring the festival of lights is attended by thousands of people.

Lighting of lamps is a metaphor for killing the inner darkness that we live with. By invoking spiritual light through love and self-knowledge, we can overcome ourselves and attain the mystical state of union with the beloved.

Madhu Lal’s syncretic shrine represents the long-gone era of spirituality rising above religious identities and rituals. Here is a kaafi poem with translation on this blog. A few lines :

They alone know what is love and longing,
Who have it in their lives.
Like digging a well in dry land,
With no cart to carry away the sand. […]

March 29th, 2009|Arts & Culture, Lahore, Sufi poetry, Sufism|5 Comments