Tag Archives: Sufism

971st Urs of Data Sahib

“The heart is the seat of knowledge and is more venerable than the Kaaba. Men are forever looking at the Kaaba but God looks towards the heart”; said Hazrat Usman Hajveri popularly known as Data Saheb of Lahore.

The shrine of Shaikh Ali Hajweri, Data Ganj Bakhsh, or Data Sahib is a landmark of sorts in the subcontinent. It has been a centre of inspiration since the eleventh century. He was both a scholar and a saint and author of the first treatise on Sufism in Persian language – Kashf al Mahjub (or “Unveiling the Veiled”). Originally from Ghazni, Afghanistan, Data Saheb spent a considerable portion of his life in Lahore. He loved it so much that settled there permanently.

After his reunion with the Creator in 1077 A.D, his shrine has attracted millions of people. It is still the busiest of places even after nearly ten centuries. Even the leader of Chistiya school of Sufism, Khawaja Moinuddin Chisti sought spiritual guidance at his shrine.

Wish I could have been there at the Urs (the death anniversary)-it is quite an event.

Raza Rumi

Some recent photos of Urs of Data Sahib.

Data Sahib4 Data Sahib5

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8th International Mystic Music Sufi Festival (22-25 April)

Sufi Music and Expression of Devotion from the Muslim World is one among a rare festival initiated in Pakistan by Rafi Peer Theatre Workshop. For programme check here

This festival celebrates the tradition of devotional expression through the performing arts in Muslim and other faith communities. In the past artists from Europe, the Middle East and South Asia-these are among the regions from which the performers in previous  festival have hailed. Whether from rural or urban areas, farmlands or great cities, mountains or valleys, they share a common yearning for union with the One.

The commencement of International Mystic Sufi Festival 2010 has a particular relevance.  Especially in these times with so many misconceptions have created a wide gap between the moderates and the conservatives’ minds. Continue reading

Baba Shah Jamal

Sufi devotees in Lahore
Some believe that Pakistan’s mystic, non-violent Islam can be used as a defence against extremism (Photos: Kamil Dayan Khan)

It’s one o’clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I’m squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions. Continue reading

East-West exchanges: Lahoris interact with a visiting author

Lahore Nama hosted a small discussion group Lorraine Adams yesterday. Miranda Husain, freelance journalist and a writer  – also an active participant at the event – reports below:

We are happy to humbly term our discussion group with Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist Loraine Adams a resounding success, with most of those gathered proudly showcasing their verbal animation skills!

Ms Adams may now be known to many as a critically acclaimed novelist. However, her extensive career in political and investigative journalism means that behind the creativity lies a woman with a solid understanding of US foreign policy, especially within the global war on terror context. Significantly, she believes that despite the recent regime change in Washington, Pakistan remains immensely vulnerable in the face of the world’s largest military machine.

And this really sums up the reason behind Ms Adams’ visit.

Viewing fiction as the best means of engaging the reader’s imagination – while continuously reiterating a shared humanity – Ms Adams has deliberately chosen to set her next novel in modern day Lahore. Thus she aims to use the reader-character relationship as a vehicle to debunk the many false or distorted stereotypes about this country and its people. Such efforts must not only be welcomed, but be seen for what they are: Ms Adams’ personal contribution to the discourse on Pakistan and its position on the world stage at this critical political juncture.

Refreshingly, Ms Adams is not bashful when it comes to recognising that she, as an American and also as a Pulitzer Prize winner, is taken seriously when engaging in such dialogue. Equally refreshingly, this does not stop her from trying to seek out the entire octave range of the Pakistani voice. For she does not believe in speaking for people, but in listening to them.

This is why she asked those gathered to fill in any gaps in her research approach. Thus the discussion leapt from the real or imagined Western media bias against Pakistan to insistent requests that she visit Old Lahore. Also touched upon were issues of class divisions at the national and provincial levels based, among other things, on language. However, the recurring theme appeared to be the heterogeneous nature of Pakistan and its multiple identities, even though these were, admittedly, restricted to the Muslim realm, with no real mention of minority group identities.

Nevertheless, the discussion’s fundamental success was this: what began as a Western-Eastern exchange of perspectives transformed into an exchange of ideas on a human level. And such exchanges must never be underestimated.

*****

Lahore Nama would like to thank Ayesha Nasir for the geneorus hospitality and a great venue for this event.

Images above are from here and here

Lahore’s oldest guide

Raza Rumi

The interior of Data Darbar

The grave of the saint

Outside the shrine,

The shrine at night

Perhaps the greatest of the experiences at Data Darbar is to find oneself connected to a stream of humanity, shoulder to shoulder, with a shared sense of spirituality that cuts across ethnicity, sect, ritual and even religion at times. Despite the mayhem, the serenity of the place is soothing

“To traverse distance is child’s play: henceforth pay visits by means of thought; it is not worth while to visit any person, and there is no virtue in bodily presence”

Last week, accompanying a visitor from the Mecca of Sufis, Delhi, I reconnected with the Data Darbar or the royal pavilion of the great saint of Lahore, Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri. This shrine is the oldest and perhaps the most vibrant cultural marker of the past one millennium in Lahore. The title of Ganj Bakhsh was bestowed by the saint of the saints Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti of Ajmere, whose ascendancy in the Chishtia Sufi order is recognised by all and sundry. Pilgrimage to Ajmere by itself is a matter of spiritual attainment for the majority of Muslims in the subcontinent. It is not difficult to imagine then what the stature of Lahore’s Data Darbar is in this esoteric yet real and lived Islam in South Asia. While Khwaja Moin ud din Chishti honoured the Lahori saint with the title “bestower of treasure,” ordinary folk on Lahore’s streets were more direct by naming the saint as Data, the one who facilitates the fulfilment of aspirations.

Living nearly 11 centuries ago, Syed Ali bin Usman Al Hajveri was not a Lahori but a resident of Lahore’s cultural step-cousin, Ghazni, until he arrived in India and wandered in northern India before settling in Lahore for the last 34 years of his life. This was the time when mystics from Central Asia, in their constant urge to discover new vistas of spiritual exploration, started to travel and settle in different parts of the Indian subcontinent. It remains a mystery as to why Data Ganj Bakhsh would have chosen Lahore as the final stop in his life long journey. Perhaps the secular interpretation could be that Lahore was an inevitable stop over for all the Central Asian and Turkic caravans and armies and provided the right kind of environment for a foreign mystic to amalgamate into. A little before Ganj Bakhsh’s arrival, Lahore had been resurrected from the earlier ravages of time by the Ghaznavid ruler Mahmood and his son Masood.

Lahore’s fame had also spread deep into the rugged, mountainous climes of Central Asia. Its old fortified city, the banks of a gushing river and the motley collection of artisans, masons, artists, poets and musicians were all too well known.

During the 34 years of his Lahore residence, Ali Hajveri became the most revered of dervishes whose inclusive and tolerant mystical path attracted the majority of its non-Muslim population. Let us not forget that the non-Muslim population was also a subject of a pernicious caste hierarchy where access to templar gods and clerical blessings was denied to a good number of the population. This was the beginning of a centuries’ long process of peaceful conversions. Islam’s egalitarianism and its larger message of equality before God was quite a magical idea for many, not to mention that the Sufi path did not require conversion per se. This is why Data Darbar has been a hub of inter-communal quests for spiritual attainment.

Other than that, Ali Hajveri’s important contribution to the corpus of documented mystical thought is the treatise that he authored and left for posterity. Known as Kashf- al- Mahjub, or “Unveiling of the Hidden,” it is a monumental document striking for its communicative tone and systematic way of discussing mysticism.

Through the dynasties that were to follow Mahmood Ghaznavi’s controversial military campaigns, the primacy of Ali Hajveri’s shrine continued. Its centrality to the evolution of Muslim rulers meant that the origins of Islam were paradoxically not rooted in the capture of power. Voluntary conversions at Sufi khanqahs and dergahs were a constant process. The Sultans of Delhi and the Moghuls were all enamoured by the mythical might of the saint, and while the imperial grandeur continued, the ordinary Lahoris had already renamed Lahore as “Data ki Nagri”- Data‘s city. Khawaja Moin ud din Chishti undertook 40 day long meditative exercises at this shrine before he moved to Ajmere to carry on the Sufi mission of spreading love, tolerance and harmony and of re-emphasising the indivisible equality of man. The Moghul prince and heir apparent Dara Shikoh, like his great-grandfather Akbar, was also a true devotee of Data Ganj Bakhsh.

The decline of the Moghul Empire did not impact the energy of the shrine. In fact, the formidable Punjabi leader, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, like his predecessors, invested in the upkeep and expansion of the shrine complex. The rulers dare not afford the wrath or displeasure of the saint, such has been the power of imagination. Therefore, it is but logical that Mian Shahbaz Sharif, during his first tenure as the chief minister of Punjab, initiated the mega project of Data Darbar‘s physical renewal, expansion and “beautification” in the late nineties. Continue reading