No place like home: inventive [homesick] Pakistanis

The popularity of Internet as a medium and the personal space it provides to the diaspora is evident from the growing number of Urdu related websites outside Pakistan.

I receive regular emails introducing new online sources of news and views related to Pakistan, Urdu and Islam. I am listing a few below.

First, is the Iqbal Academy based in Europe. That Iqbal is being seriously debated or even considered relevant and that too abroad is quite encouraging.

The website states:

Iqbal Study Group was formed by young Muslim students of various universities in Copenhagen. They sought our patronage, to which we agreed. Since then we have been helping them to know Iqbal as much as possible and attending their each and every session. During the month of November 2005 two historic events were organized by us, in which The Director Iqbal Academy Pakistan personally participated. His report in Urdu published in Pakistan and Denmark.

Iqbal Academy Scandinavia was formed in 2002 and formally inaugurated on 30th, August, 2003.

There is another news-site Inqelaab, that is based in Italy. Inqelaab brings together news from Pakistan as well as Europe (on Pakistanis there).

And news from the Gujrat district in the centre of Punjab province are carried by Gujratlink. Given that most of the Pakistanis in Norway are from a particular sub-district of Gujrat, this is not surprising. There is surely a readership, I suspect a thriving one.

Mr Chohan from Greece publishes a news-site called the Ujala. This site covers news from Pakistan, local (Greece-related) events relevant for Pakistanis and also reports from the diaspora in Austria.

Finally the London based Al-Qamar, edited by a well known writer Safdar Hamdani. On this site, Safdar Hamdani writes a column on various issues and I trust has a wide readership on the Internet.

Not bad…

P.S. Totally unrelated, but the readers might like to visit this link to a Lucknow based Urdu e-newspaper called Lashkar. This information appeared on the same email list…..

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Delhi- ‘the threshold of Sufis’

by Sadia Dehlvi

I Love Delhi, for it is the city of my birth and it is my prayer that I may die here, that my mortal remains should mingle with the earth in whose bosom my ancestors lie. More importantly, Delhi is the ground where my beloved Sufis walked upon and chose as their final resting place. While the sultans of Delhi were writing the political destiny of most of India, the Sufi scholars were engrossed in keeping the flame of spiritual enlightenment burning in their khanqahs. These ‘auliya’ or ‘friends of God’ taught that true worship is service to humanity, regardless of religion, race and region.

Baghdad was the centre of Sufis in the ninth century. The 13th century saw the Mongols in Central Asia making Islam the victim of their barbarism. Thousands of people were massacred; mosques burnt and learning centres were destroyed. Among those who escaped were innumerous Sufis and a large number of them made Delhi their home. thus became the centre of Islamic studies and mysticism by the end of the 13th century. Both historians and citizens began to refer to Delhi as Hazrat-e-Dilli,  Dilli Sharif, Dar-ul-Auliya, Baghdad-e-Hind and Khurd-e-Mecca or the little Mecca. Prayers to bless the city and its people are found in the prayer books of these Sufis. Amir Khusrau wrote:

Delhi, the refuge of faith and equity
Delhi is the garden of paradise
May its prosperity be long lived
If Mecca happens to learn about this garden
It may circumambulate around Hindustan.

The landscape of Delhi is dotted with sultans’ tombs but no one lights even a candle in their memory. At the Sufi shrines, lamps are lit, holy scriptures are recited, poor are fed and prayers of a thousand pilgrims answered. During the political upheavals, people of Delhi were constantly reassured by the Sufis at the khanqahs to which they had constant access.

The first Sufi centre in Delhi was established around the year 1221 AD by Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki who was the khalifa or spiritual leader designated to Delhi by Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti or Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer.  It is believed that the city of Delhi cannot be destroyed as long as Khwaja Qutub’s shrine exists, for heavenly blessings are showered on the city. Gharib Nawaz taught that the highest form of devotion   to God was, ‘to develop river-like generosity, sun-like bounty and earth-like hospitality.’ Sultan Iltutmish was an ardent devotee of  Khwaja Qutub and built the Qutub Minar in Delhi to perpetuate his memory.

Khwaja Bakhtiar Kaki’s chief disciple was Baba Farid, the first Sufi poet of Punjab whose shrine is in Pakpattan (Pakistan). Baba Farid’s khalifa was Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya who dominated the spiritual landscape for nearly 60 years. He survived three dynasties of seven Delhi sultans without ever visiting a durbar. Hazrat Nizamuddin preached that ‘bringing happiness to the human heart was the essence of religion’ and often said, “On the day of Resurrection amongst those who will be favoured most by God are the ones who have tended to a broken heart.” His successor, Hazrat Nasiruddin Mahmood, who came to be known as Chiragh Dilli, furthered the teachings of the Chistiya Sufi order.

The Sufis of Delhi had a significant role in the religious and cultural history of South Asia. They were great patrons of art, literature and language. They considered languages as modes of communication to bring people closer. It was at Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s khanqah in Delhi that his disciple and famed poet Hazrat Amir Khusrau excelled. Khusrau took great pride in  writing verses in regional languages. The beginnings of the tradition of Sufiana Qawwali is attributed to him, for adapting Arab and Turkish musical instruments and enriching the traditions of Indian classical music. His poems and odes are still sung today.

Delhi has been traditionally known as ‘Bais khwaja ki chaukhat’, the threshold of 22 Sufis although the important shrines of the city far exceed this number.

There was a healthy exchange of ideas between the Sufis and the Hindu yogis in an atmosphere of goodwill. The Sufis borrowed meditation and concentration techniques from the yogis and never hesitated to benefit from the spiritual experiences of mystics belonging to other communities. The Sufi empire in Delhi represents the religious tolerance that Indian society strives for and cherishes. Sufi shrines thus stand witness to our multi cultural identity with people from various faiths continuing to seek solace and blessings at the threshold of these exalted Divines.

Published in the Hindustan Times Delhi Edition on January 26, 2007

Credit for the image above right

Published in: on January 31, 2007 at 10:11 am  Comments (10)