Monday, August 20, 2007

SHIITES AND SHIAISM, Shi'aism, Shia, Shias, Shî'ah, sheee, shi ...

The Origins of the Sunni/Shia split in Islam
by Hussein Abdulwaheed Amin, Editor of

The Shia shahadah (declaration of faith) states:

"There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the Messenger of Alláh, Alí is the Friend of Alláh. The Successor of the Messenger of Alláh And his first Caliph."

If you are already familiar with standard Sunni beliefs, you will immediately notice the addition to the shahadah regarding Imam Ali (ra), cousin of the Prophet (pbuh), husband of his daughter Fatima, father of Hassan and Hussein and the second person ever to embrace Islam. The term Shia or Shi'ite derives from a shortening of Shiat Ali or partisans of Ali.

Ali is the central figure at the origin of the Shia / Sunni split which occurred in the decades immediately following the death of the Prophet in 632. Sunnis regard Ali as the fourth and last of the "rightly guided caliphs" (successors to Mohammed (pbuh) as leader of the Muslims) following on from Abu Bakr 632-634, Umar 634-644 and Uthman 644-656. Shias feel that Ali should have been the first caliph and that the caliphate should pass down only to direct descendants of Mohammed (pbuh) via Ali and Fatima, They often refer to themselves as ahl al bayt or "people of the house" [of the prophet].

When Uthman was murdered while at prayer, Ali finally succeeded to the caliphate. Ali was, however, opposed by Aisha, wife of the Prophet (pbuh) and daughter of Abu Bakr, who accused him of being lax in bringing Uthman's killers to justice. After Ali's army defeated Aisha's forces at the Battle of the Camel in 656, she apologized to Ali and was allowed to return to her home in Madinah where she withdrew from public life.

However, Ali was not able to overcome the forces of Mu'awiya Ummayad, Uthman's cousin and governor of Damascus, who also refused to recognize him until Uthman's killers had been apprehended. At the Battle of Suffin Mu'awiya's soldiers stuck verses of the Quran onto the ends of their spears with the result that Ali's pious supporters refused to fight them. Ali was forced to seek a compromise with Mu'awiya, but this so shocked some of his die-hard supporters who regarded it as a betrayal that he was struck down by one of his own men in 661.

Mu'awiya declared himself caliph. Ali's elder son Hassan accepted a pension in return for not pursuing his claim to the caliphate. He died within a year, allegedly poisoned. Ali's younger son Hussein agreed to put his claim to the caliphate on hold until Mu'awiya's death. However, when Mu'awiya finally died in 680, his son Yazid usurped the caliphate. Hussein led an army against Yazid but, hopelessly outnumbered, he and his men were slaughtered at the Battle of Karbala (in modern day Iraq). Hussein's infant son, Ali, survived so the line continued. Yazid formed the hereditary Ummayad dynasty. The division between the Shia and what came to be known as the Sunni was set.

An opportunity for Muslim unity arose in the 750's CE. In 750 except for a few who managed to flee to Spain, almost the entire Ummayad aristocracy was wiped out following the Battle of Zab in Egypt in a revolt led by Abu Al Abbass al-Saffah and aided by considerable Shia support. It was envisaged that the Shia spiritual leader Jafar As-Siddiq, great-grandson of Hussein be installed as Caliph. But when Abbass died in 754, this arrangement had not yet been finalised and Abbas' son Al Mansur murdered Jafar, seized the caliphate for himself and founded the Baghdad-based Abbassid dynasty which prevailed until the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258.

Theological Differences and Attempts at promoting Unity
The line of Mohammed (pbuh) through Ali and Hussein became extinct in 873CE when the last Shia Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who had no brothers disappeared within days of inheriting the title at the age of four. The Shias refused, however, to accept that he had died, preferring to believe that he was merely "hidden" and would return. When after several centuries this failed to happen, spiritual power passed to the ulema, a council of twelve scholars who elected a supreme Imam. The best known modern example of the Shia supreme Imam is the late Ayyatollah Khomeni, whose portrait hangs in many Shia homes. The Shia Imam has come to be imbued with Pope-like infallibility and the Shia religious hierarchy is not dissimilar in structure and religious power to that of the Catholic Church within Christianity. Sunni Islam, in contrast, more closely resembles the myriad independent churches of American Protestantism. Sunnis do not have a formal clergy, just scholars and jurists, who may offer non-binding opinions. Shias believe that their supreme Imam is a fully spiritual guide, inheriting some of Muhammad's inspiration ("light") . Their imams are believed to be inerrant interpreters of law and tradition. Shia theology is distinguished by its glorification of Ali. In Shia Islam there is a strong theme of martyrdom and suffering, focusing on deaths of Ali and, particularly, Hussein plus other important figures in the Shia succession. Shi`ism attracted other dissenting groups, especially representatives of older non-Arab (Mawali) civilizations (Persian, Indian, etc.) that felt they had not been treated fairly by the Arab Muslims.

Sunnis and Shias agree on the core fundamentals of Islam - the Five Pillars - and recognize each others as Muslims. In 1959 Sheikh Mahmood Shaltoot, Head of the School of Theology at Al Azhar university in Cairo, the most august seat of learning of Sunni Islam and the oldest university in the world, issued a fatwa (ruling) recognizing the legitimacy of the Jafari School of Law to which most Shias belong. As a point of interest, the Jafari School is named after its founder Imam Jafaf Sidiq who was a direct descendent through two different lines of the Sunni Caliph Abu Bakr. And Al Azhar University, though now Sunni, was actually founded by the Shia Fatimid dynasty in 969CE.

However, there remain significant differences between the two forms of Islam and these are what tend to be emphasized. Many Sunni's would contend that Shias seem to take the fundamentals of Islam very much for granted, shunting them into the background and dwelling on the martyrdoms of Ali and Hussein. This is best illustrated at Ashura when each evening over a period of ten days the Shias commemorate the Battle of Karbala, with a wailing Imam whipping the congregation up into a frenzy of tears and chest beating. It is alleged that instead of missionary work to non-Muslims, the Shia harbor a deep-seated disdain towards Sunni Islam and prefer to devote their attention to winning over other Muslims to their group. There is ongoing violent strife between Sunnis and Shias in Pakistan. On the other hand, in recent years there has been signification co-operation between the two groups in the Lebanon. And some of the most dynamic developments in Islam today are taking place in Shia-dominated Iran.

Practical Differences
On a practical daily level, Shias have a different call to prayer, they perform wudu and salat differently including placing the forehead onto a piece of hardened clay from Karbala, not directly onto the prayer mat when prostrating. They also tend to combine prayers, sometimes worshipping three times per day instead of five. The Shias also have some different ahadith and prefer those narrated by Ali and Fatima to those related by other companions of the Prophet (pbuh). Because of her opposition to Ali, those narrated by Aisha count among the least favored. Shia Islam also permits muttah - fixed-term temporary marriage - which is now banned by the Sunnis. Muttah was originally permitted at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and is now being promoted in Iran by an unlikely alliance of conservative clerics and feminists, the latter group seeking to downplay the obsession with female virginity which is prevalent in both forms of Islam, pointing out that only one of the Prophet's thirteen wives was a virgin when he married them.

Shias Today
Iran is overwhelmingly Shia - 89%. Shias also form a majority of the population in Yemen and Azerbaijan, Bahrain and 60% of the population of Iraq. There are also sizeable Shia communities along the east coast of Saudi Arabia and in the Lebanon. The well known guerilla organization Hizbollah, which forced the Israelis out of southern Lebanon in 2000, is Shia. Worldwide, Shias constitute ten to fifteen percent of the overall Muslim population.

Within Shia Islam there are different sects. Most Shias are "Twelvers", i.e. they recognize the 12 Imams. There are also Sevener and Fiver Shias who don't recognize the later Imams.


Please find below a commentary from a Shia encyclopaedia concerning Sheikh Shaltoot's fatwa plus the English translation of the fatwa itself. Both were originally posted on the One Ummah site where the original Arabic version of the fatwa is also available.

At the very bottom of this page, you will find what I understand to be a complete statement of Shia beliefs.

©2001 Islam For Today dot com


Al-Azhar Verdict on the Shia

What follows is the Fatwa (religious verdict/ruling) of one of the Sunni world's most revered scholars, Sheikh Mahmood Shaltoot with regard to the Shia. Shaikh Shaltoot was the head of the renowned al-Azhar Theological school in Egypt, one of the main centers of Sunni scholarship in the world. It should be of interest to know that a few decades ago, a group of Sunni and Shia scholars formed a center at al-Azhar by the name of "Dar al-Taqreeb al-Madhahib al-Islamiyyah" which translates into "Center for bringing together the various Islamic schools of thought". The aim of the effort, as the name of the center indicates, was to bridge the gap between the various schools of thought, and bring about a mutual respect, understanding and appreciation of each school's contributions to the development of Islamic Jurisprudence, among the scholars of the different schools, so that they may in turn guide their followers toward the ultimate goal of unity, and of clinging to one rope, as the well-known Quranic verse, "Hold fast to the Rope of Allah and do not diverge" clearly demands of Muslims.

This massive effort finally bore its major fruit when Sheikh Shaltoot made the declaration whose translation is appended below. It should be made unequivocally clear as well, that al-Azhar's official position, vis a vis the propriety of following any of the Madhaahib (schools of law), including the Shi'ite Imami school, has remained unchanged since Shaikh Shaltoot's declaration.

For the readership's reference the phrase "al-Shia al-Imamiyyah al-Ithna 'Ashariyyah" means the Twelver Imami Shi'ite School of thought which comprises the overwhelming majority of Shi'ites today. The phrase "Twelver Shi'ites" is used interchangeably with "Ja'fari Shi'ites" and "Imami Shi'ites" in various literature. They are merely different names for the same school of thought.

"al-Shia al-Zaidiyyah" are a minority among the Shi'ites, concentrated mainly in Yemen located in the Eastern part of Arabian peninsula. For a more detailed description of the Zaidis vs. the Twelver Shi'ites, please refer to the book, "Shi'ite Islam" written by the great Shi'ite scholar, Allamah Tabataba'i, and translated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, and published by the State University of New York Press (SUNY).

And as for Shaikh Shaltoot's declaration ...

Fatwa (ruling) of Shaikh Mahmood Shaltoot

Head Office of al-Azhar University:

IN THE NAME OF ALLAH, THE BENEFICENT, THE MERCIFUL Text of the Verdict (Fatwa) Issued by His Excellency Shaikh al-Akbar Mahmood Shaltoot, Head of the al-Azhar University, on Permissibility of Following "al-Shia al-Imamiyyah" School of Thought

His Excellency was asked:

Some believe that, for a Muslim to have religiously correct worship and dealing, it is necessary to follow one of the four known schools of thought, whereas, "al-Shia al-Imamiyyah" school of thought is not one of them nor "al-Shia al-Zaidiyyah." Do your Excellency agree with this opinion, and prohibit following "al-Shia al-Imamiyyah al-Ithna Ashariyyah" school of thought, for example?

His Excellency replied:

1) Islam does not require a Muslim to follow a particular Madh'hab (school of thought). Rather, we say: every Muslim has the right to follow one of the schools of thought which has been correctly narrated and its verdicts have been compiled in its books. And, everyone who is following such Madhahib [schools of thought] can transfer to another school, and there shall be no crime on him for doing so.

2) The Ja'fari school of thought, which is also known as "al-Shia al- Imamiyyah al-Ithna Ashariyyah" (i.e., The Twelver Imami Shi'ites) is a school of thought that is religiously correct to follow in worship as are other Sunni schools of thought. Muslims must know this, and ought to refrain from unjust prejudice to any particular school of thought, since the religion of Allah and His Divine Law (Shari'ah) was never restricted to a particular school of thought. Their jurists (Mujtahidoon) are accepted by Almighty Allah, and it is permissible to the "non-Mujtahid" to follow them and to accord with their teaching whether in worship (Ibadaat) or transactions (Mu'amilaat).

Signed, Mahmood Shaltoot.

The above Fatwa was announced on July 6, 1959 from the Head of al-Azhar University, and was subsequently published in many publications in the Middle East which include, but are not limited to:

al-Sha'ab newspaper (Egypt), issue of July 7, 1959. al-Kifah newspaper (Lebanon), issue of July 8, 1959.

The above segment can also be found in the book "Inquiries about Islam", by Muhammad Jawad Chirri, Director of the Islamic Center of America, 1986 Detroit, Michigan.


Compiled by Ilyás Islám

La iláha il Alláh, Muhammadan Rasúl Alláh, Alíyun Walí-Alláh, Wasíyu Rasulillah, wa Khalífa tuhu bila fasl. There is no god but Alláh, Muhammad is the Messenger of Alláh, 'Alí is the Friend of Alláh. The Successor of the Messenger of Alláh And his first Caliph.

1) Tawhíd (The Oneness of Alláh)
2) 'Adl (Divine Justice)
3) Nubuwwah (The Prophethood)
4) Imámah (The Imamate)
5) Qiyámah (The Day of Judgement)

1) Salat (Prayer)
2) Sawm (Fasting)
3) Zakát (Poor-due of 2.5%)
4) Hajj (Pilgrimage to Makkah)
5) Khums (The Charity of 20%)
6) Jihad (To Struggle in the Path of Alláh)
7) Amr bil ma'ruf (To Promote the Good)
8) Nahy 'an al-munkar (To Forbid the Wrong)
9) Tawalla (Loving the Prophet's Family)
10) Tabarra (Shunning the Enemies of the Prophet's Family)

THE PROPHETS OF ALLÁH (mentioned in the Holy Qur'án)
1) Adam
2)Idrís (Idrees)
3) Núh (Noah)
4) Húd
5) Sálih
6) Ibráhím (Abraham)
7) Ismá'íl (Ishmael)
8) Isháq (Isaac)
9) Lút (Lot)
10) Ya'qúb (Jacob)
11) Yúsuf (Joseph)
12) Shu'aib
13)Ayúb (Job)
14) Músa (Moses)
15) Hárún (Aaron)
16) Dhu l-kifl (Ezzekiel)
17) Dawúd (David)
18) Sulaimán
19) Ilyás (Elijah)
20) al-Yasa' (Elisha)
21) Yúnus (Jonas)
22) Zakaríya (Zakariyah)
23) Yahyá (John the Baptist)
24) 'Ísa (Jesus)
25) Muhammad

In a famous hadith (prophetic tradition), the number of prophets given was 124 000. May the blessings of Alláh be upon them all. Prophethood ended with Muhammad (peace be upon him and his progeny). Then, Alláh deputed Imams to guide us.

1) Núh
2) Ibráhím
3) Músa
4) 'Ísa
5) Muhammad

1) Sahífa (scroll revealed to Nuh)
2) Sahífa (scroll revealed to Ibráhím)
3) Taurat (the book revealed to Músa)
4) Zabúr (the psalms revealed to Dawúd)
5) Injíl (the gospel revealed to 'Isa)
6) Qur'án (the Koran revealed to Muhammad)

Muhammad, Fátima al-Zahra, 'Alí, Hasan, Husayn

Muhammad, Fátima al-Zahra and the Twelve Imams


Name Title Year of birth and death
1) Imam 'Alí ibn Abu Talib al-Murtadha (The Satisfied One) 600–661
2) Imam Hasan ibn Ali al-Mujtabah (The Chosen One) 625–669
3) Imam Husayn ibn Ali Sayyid al-Shuhudah (The Lord of the Martyrs) 626–680
4) Imam 'Alí ibn Husayn Zayn al-Ábidín (The Jewel of the Believers) 658–713
5) Imam Muhammad al-Báqir (The Spreader of Knowledge) 676–743
6) Imam Ja'far al-Sádiq (The Truthful One) 703–765
7) Imam Músa al-Kazim (The Patient One) 745–799
8) Imam 'Alí al-Ridhá (The Accepted One) 765–818
9) Imam Muhammad al-Taqí (The Pious One) 810–835
10) Imam 'Alí al-Naqí (The Pure One) 827–868
11) Imam Hasan al-Askarí (The One with an Army) 846–874
12) Imam Muhammad al-Mahdí (The Rightly-Guided One) 868—

The Twelth Imam is still alive. He is in a state of occultation. He will reappear at a moment determined by Alláh. He is the Awaited One who will spread justice throughout the world.

I bear witness that there is no god but Alláh and that Muhammad, peace be upon him, is His servant and Messenger, and that 'Alí, the Commander of the Faithful, and the Chief of the Deputies of Alláh, is the Imam whose obedience has been made incumbent by Alláh on all people; and that Hasan and Husayn, 'Alí ibn al-Husayn, Muhammad ibn 'Alí, Ja'far ibn Muhammad, Musa ibn Ja'far, 'Alí ibn Musa, Muhammad ibn 'Alí, 'Alí ibn Muhammad, Hasan ibn 'Alí, and the Living One, the Mahdí (the blessings of Alláh be upon them all), all the Imams of the believers and the Proofs of Alláh for the whole of creation are my Imams, the rightly-guiding and the pious. I bear witness that: Alláh is my God, Muhammad is my Prophet, Islam is my religion, the Qur'án is my scripture, the Ka'aba is my qibla, 'Alí ibn Abú Tálib is my Imam, Hasan ibn 'Alí is my Imam, Husayn, the Martyr of Karbala, son of 'Alí, is my Imam, 'Alí Zayn al-'Ábadín is my Imam, Muhammad al-Báqir is my Imam, Ja'far al-Sádiq is my Imam, Musa al-Kádhim is my Imam, 'Alí al-Ridhá is my Imam, Muhammad al-Taqí is my Imam, 'Alí al-Naqí is my Imam, Hasan al-Askarí is my Imam, and al-Huja al-Muntazar is my Imam. They, upon whom be peace, are my Imáms, Masters and Intercessors before Alláh. I love them, all of them, and shun their enemies in this life and the next.

I bear witness that: Alláh, the Almighty, the Exalted, is the best Lord; that Muhammad, the blessings of Alláh be upon him and his Family, is the best Prophet; and that the Commander of the Faithful, 'Alí ibn Abú Tálib, and his offspring, are the best Imams; and that the message Muhammad brought from Alláh is true, death is true, the questioning in the grave by Munkar and Nakír is true, the Resurrection of the dead is true, the appearance before Alláh is true, the Bridge (al-sirát) is true, the Divine Scales are true, the dissemination of the book of one's deeds at Doomsday is true, paradise is true, and hell is true; and that there is no doubt about the coming of the inevitable Hour of Reckoning; and that the rising of the dead from their graves is true.

1) Qadím: Alláh is eternal. He has neither a beginning nor an end.
2) Qadir: Alláh is omnipotent. He has power over all things.
3) 'Alim: Alláh is omniscient. He is all-knowing.
4) Hai: Alláh is living. He is alive and will remain alive forever
5) Muríd: Alláh has his own discretion is all affairs. He does not do anything out of compulsion.
6) Mudrik: Alláh is all-perceiving. He is all-hearing, all-seeing, and is omnipresent. Alláh sees and hears everything though he has neither eyes nor ears.
7) Mutakalim: Alláh is the Lord of the Worlds. He can create speech in anything: the burning bush for Musa and the curtain of light for Muhammad.
8) Sadiq: Alláh is truthful. His words and promises are true.

1) Sharík: Alláh has no partners.
2) Murakab: Alláh is neither made, nor composed, of any material.
3) Makán: Alláh is not confined to any place and has no body.
4) Hulúl: Alláh does not incarnate into anything or anybody.
5) Mahale hawadith: Alláh is not subject to changes. Alláh cannot change.
6) Marí: Alláh is not visible. He has not been seen, is not seen, and will never be seen, because he has no form or body.
7) Ihtiyaj: Alláh is not dependant. Alláh is not deficient, so he does not have any needs.
8) Sifate zayed: Alláh does not have added qualifications. The attributes of Alláh are not separate from His being.



The centuries old Shia Sunni differences are the major obstacle to Muslim unity (Shia Sunni unity). The enemies of Islam to their benefit have always fanned these differences. Unfortunately, some so-called Muslim scholars on their payroll have also played a key role in keeping these differences alive.

Although I was born into a Sayyid Sunni family, I did not know of many differences while growing up as a child. Our families always respected Imam Hussain (peace be upon him) and his parents and participated in ceremonies marking the anniversary of his martyrdom (the 10th day of the month of Muharram which is called Ashura) by reciting the first chapter of the Holy Qur'an (al-Fatihah) and other chapters and verses of the Holy Quran and fasted on the ninth and tenth days of that month.

Now when I give lectures on Islam to non-Muslims, one of the questions they always ask me is if I am Shia or Sunni. I ask them if they know the difference. They have no knowledge, other than what has been given to them by the media. So they say Shias are the ones who are the bad guys, the militant version of Islam, and cause all the trouble in the Middle East these days.

These non-Muslim American audiences of mine are surprised to learn that some of the known tyrants like Saddam Hussain and troublemakers like the PLO and Hamas are all Sunni's, just as they are surprised to learn that Tariq Aziz (Former Iraq's Foreign Minister) was Christian and not a Muslim.

This is what I say to them about Shiite. "If Ali ibn Abu Talib (cousin of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)) was a Shia, then I am a Shia. If he was a Sunni, then I am a Sunni [i.e., a follower of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)]." In Islam there are five recognized schools of Divine Law: 1) Hanafi; 2) Shafi; 3) Maliki; 4) Hambali and 5) Jafari.

The first four are called Sunni, and the fifth one, who in addition to following sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also follows those of Ali ibn Abu Talib and consider him as the rightful successor of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), are called Shia. The first four have many major theological differences among themselves and according to a Christian friend of mine, "The only time Sunni's are united is when they are fighting Shias." Shiism started as a political movement (Shia means follower or partisan) to help Ali ibn Abu Talib become successor of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Around every successful popular figure, there are some admirers whose own future interests rest with the rise of their leader. Thus in Indiana, we have "Friends of Lugar Club", who are hoping that some day Senator Richard Lugar will become a US President. Nationally, we now have a "Hillary Rodham Clinton Fan Club" with 4,000 members! Thus, there were the Followers of Ali ibn Abu Talib Club, which later on became a political movement. During the initial battles with unbelievers, Ali ibn Abu Talib, the Sword of Islam, was in the forefront and defeated and killed many of their leaders whose children and grandchildren, even when they became Muslims, always remembered who killed their father (animosity).

Ali ibn Abu Talib was raised by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a child so he knew Islam very well. Thus, when Ali ibn Abu Talib became a judge, his judgments were based on strict Islamic principles, much to the disappointment of many who expected him to be lenient to the rich and powerful. Ali ibn Abu Talib was so well respected and trusted by both Caliph Abu Bakr and Umar, that in difficult cases they asked his opinion.

Nevertheless, I tell my non-Muslim audience that both Shia and Sunni have many things in common. They both believe in One God (Allah), follow the same Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the last Prophet, offer five daily prescribed prayers, perform the prescribed fast in the month of Ramadan, go to Makkah for the Hajj pilgrimage, read the same book of Allah, Holy Qur'an, and pay the poor-due (Zakat).

However, my answers can only satisfy my uninformed non-Muslim audience. The Sunni brothers, misguided by western propaganda, who are ready to embrace non-Muslims (especially the white ones), in the pretext of invitation to Islam, will not do so for Shia. They are ignorant Sunni's. Our job as a missionary should be to invite both groups to the true Islam and not chase them out. There is a movement in the Sunni world to have Shias labeled as disbelievers. I have been told that Shaykh Bin Baz of Saudi Arabia has declared an edict that the meat of the People of Book (Jews and Christians) is permissible for Sunni Muslims to eat but not the meat slaughtered by Shias.

There are scholars on both sides, like Imam Khomeini and Shaykh Shaltut of al-Azhar who have done their best to minimize these differences and bring unity, but it is not working due to the misinformation prevailing in the common masses of Sunnis about Shiism. Thus I am listing their misconceptions of Shia belief and practices. For answers, I have consulted two Shia scholars in America. Dr. A. S. Hashim of Washington and Imam Muhammad Ali Elahi of Detroit.

Professor Seyyed Hossein Nasr wrote to me "to ignore and not waste time in responding to such wrong allegations." He also mentioned that "a great deal of money and effort is being spent in the last few years to fan the fire of hatred between Shia and Sunni in the Persian Gulf region with obvious political and economical fruits for powers to-be." However, in the interest of Islamic unity, I must deal with the questions rather than shun them. Please note that Imam Jafar as Sadiq (peace be upon him), founder of the Shia school of law, was the teacher of Imam Abu-Hanifa (peace be upon him).

Misconception #1: Shias have a different Holy Qur'an. They add another 10 chapters to the original Holy Qur'an.
Response: Not true. I have checked many times Holy Qur'an kept in Shia homes and mosques. I still find it the same as the original Holy Qur'an. More recently, I took care of an Iranian lady patient hospitalized here. I saw a copy of the Holy Qur'an by her side. I borrowed it from her and browsed through cover-to-cover. In Arabic it was the same as our Holy Qur'an. Of course, since I did not know the Persian language, I can't say much about the translation. It is a sin to even say that the Holy Qur'an can be changed or added to by Shia when Almighty God protects it.
Misconception #2: Some Shia considers Ali ibn Abu Talib as God.
Response: Not true. It is disbelief to even think of such a thing. During the time of Ali ibn Abu Talib, some pagan groups called Gholat did consider Ali ibn Abu Talib as Lord. When he found out, they were burned to death.
Misconception #3: Shias have different declarations of faith and they add to the call to prescribed prayer.
Response: The declaration to become a Muslim, as administered to non-Muslims, is the same. Some Shia add to themselves, "Ali ibn Abu Talib is a friend of God or Ali ibn Abu Talib is a spiritual leader of God," after the call to prescribed prayer, but not as part of the call to prescribed prayer.
Misconception #4: Shias do not perform Sunnah prayers. Sunnah prayers are non-obligatory prayers performed by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Response: Shias do perform non-obligatory prayers, 36 cycles per day in total, but call it Nawafil and not Sunnah.
Misconception #5: Some Shia believes the Angel Gabriel made a mistake and prophet hood was meant for Ali ibn Abu Talib and not Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Response: Not true. No Shia thinks of such false claims. "Only demented minds think of such questions."
Misconception #6: Shias slander and ridicule the first three caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman) and Prophet Muhammad's wife, Ayesha.
Response: Shia considers the first three caliphs as companions and administrators, but not spiritual leaders (Imams). Imam Jafar as Sadiq (peace be upon him), whose mother and grandmother came from the line of Abu Bakr, said of Abu Bakr, "He gave me birth twice." Ayesha is respected by Shias as the "Mother of Believers," as Ali ibn Abu Talib respected her when he sent her back from Basra to Madinah after the Battle of the Camel. If some Shia do slander the three caliphs and Ayesha, they do it out of ignorance and should ask God's forgiveness. (As we have witnessed how Imam Khomeini, The Shia bravely declared death of Salman Rushdie - The author of Satanic Verses who abused the wife of Prophet Ayesha and Shia Leader declared blasphemy, just for his Fatwa the whole western countries became against Iran. See how much price did Shia pay to defend Ayesha - while Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE etc. etc. as the Sunni government were silent they did not defend Ayesha. Now who loves Ayesha?)
Misconception # 7: Shias combine all five prayers into one prayer in the evening.
Response: Not true. In Shia mosques, whether in Iran or the USA, all five daily prayers are performed. Shia do combine noon and afternoon and evening and night, but Shia scholars recommend performing them separately. Such combinations may not be ideal, but better than not praying at all. How can a Sunni who does not pray at all be better than a Shia who combines prayers?
Misconception # 8: Shias do not pay zakat (poor-due).
Response: Not true. They not only pay 2.5% left over from savings as zakat, but also an additional 20% as Khums or general charity. However, they prefer to pay directly to the needy rather than corrupt Sunni government.
Misconception #9: Shias practice temporary marriages (Mutah).
Response: Temporary marriages (Mutah) was allowed during the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and he himself practiced it. Ibn Zubayr was born out of the temporary marriage. Later on Caliph Umar prohibited it due to social reasons as the Islamic world was rapidly expanding. Shias discourage Mutah but do not consider it prohibited. Some do abuse this. As a temporary privilege during travel, it is better than adultery.
Misconception #10: They consider Imams infallible and above the Prophets.
Response: Not true. All prophets are born Prophet but as mentioned in the Holy Qur'an about Abraham that after passing the test, a prophet becomes a leader (Imam). Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the Prophet (Nabi), Messenger (Rasul) and leader (Imam). Imams are carriers of the message of Islam. Shias consider Ali ibn Abu Talib only as an Imam and not prophet.
With the little knowledge I have, I tried to do my best as a Sunni in defending my Shia brothers in Islam with the hope and prayer to God Almighty that He will "instill love in the heart of the believers" and bring us closer to each other so that we jointly can fight our common enemy, Satan and his followers.

May God forgive my mistakes in this article and this book (Amin).

"Knowledge is better than wealth because it protects you while you have to guard wealth. It decreases if you keep on spending it but the more you make use of knowledge, the more it increases. What you get through wealth disappears as soon as wealth disappears but what you achieve through knowledge will remain even after you."

Dr. Shahid Athar M.D. is Clinical Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Endocrinology, Indiana University School of Medicine Indianapolis, Indiana, and a writer on Islam.

Indians love bashing Indians ..Dogpile of Hate

I was reading the stuff on the recent Orkut search, Shiv Sena , on dogpile, I had time to kill, so I read a few of them,I was shocked and stunned at the aftermath of the cybercafe bashing, one gentleman seems to have been the cause of ruffling the feathers of die hard Shiv Sena, grassroot cyberfire fighting nerds, so they have all ganged up against this NRI blogger, but to hit him hard they broke a few Muslim imaginary skulls unskillfully.
We get upset when somebody alludes to the integrity or character assasinates our leaders,but if we see on introspection, we as individuals, as collective mobocracy have more hate within us than Hate communities.
We are full of venom, waiting with clench fists to hit , smash faces, atleast the guys who use the net as a tool, possibly educated net savvy, have much more hate, more for a particular community hating words.It hurts not just as a Muslim but as a thorough bred born Indian.
I always believe the country of our birth is the country of our destiny.
Religion and the country are two sides of a coin, no religion is worth its salt if it places the country on a lower rung.This is not my field of blogging, but what I have to say can be read without me trying to sound wounded..I am against Hate of all kinds for any ethnicity or humanity.My religion and my country taught me that through what was imparted as upbringing by my parents.
I write about all religion, I was shocked India Blogs does not have a category for people who blog on Interfaith, so I had to write a Professional Blogger which I am not.. I need no votes that I am on search engines people see my pictures read me , is enough for me.
The trouble is most of the times it is Indians who do not like Indians.
Indians love bashing Indians .Dogpile of Hate.
I saw how I scared the other crabs in a bottle at Sulekha Blogs when I posted 600 blogs in six days.They blocked me saying my language was fuck oriented..Lol
I write about Hijdas , without denting or bruising my sexual orientation, but if given a magnanimous choice I would rather be a Hjda than a dogpile of shit hating Man.
The countrys law , order is everyones problem it affects all of us, hate progroms affect all of us, when Maratha leaders are denigrated it affects us all, as we are proud mee Mumbaikars.
But online Orkut is a mighty Google money generating giant, they should see that haters are not promoted, lets have more Gandhigiri on the cybernet...More Love communities.
For me a blogger 20 months old the Internet , I have given more to Google Search free than a pendant to my own wife.
I get scared when web sites ask me to upgrade, fuck we keep your readers entertained , you should be giving us free upgrades not the other way around.. sometimes you got to bend keep the Internet Junta happy beaming smiling from cheek to cheek.
It was only Buzznet that gave me free extra uploads..Thank You Steve Haldane wherever you are ..Buzznet refugee..Ha Ha

Happy Birthday Lea D' Ipernity

bollywoods most wanted photographerno1
a denizen of Mumbai city
on cyberspace at Flickr 9600 files away
wishes you a very happy birthday
French princess Lea D' Ipernity
roses roses all the way from here to eternity
your life a heaven on earth
god made you very pretty
so that you could share your happiness
with those around you in a camelot
called Ipernity.
a caring sharing
beneath the layers of our photos
a single Humanity..
No color no creed no caste
evevry one on parity
no fear no terrorism
no Pride or Vanity
Do unto others as you would want others to do unto you
A Voice of Sanity
Peace Hope Justice Equality .

Poem Hunter Critics Please Unlearn to Comment

photo courtesy google images
Earlier picture removed..
Some evil hearted poets
Some mediaeval minded poets
A force spent
Mischief love to ferment
Others love to torment
Create sensation
Draw attention at any event
Living life enduring pain
Giving pain to others
My advice please re –invent
For the sake of posterity repent
Don’t mock other people’s poetry
Or his words written his way
Try to misrepresent
Be human, be humane
If and when you comment
He writes whether you read him or not
He won’t ever relent
Each time you try to cause a dent
He too has come a long way
The sufferings bitter and sweet he underwent
No poet at Poem Hunter is God sent
Dichotomy of a poetic thought orient and occident
Poetry is meant
To heal with words goodwill peace
Harmony augment
Not to cause hatred and poetic descent
Learn to read poetry before you write
Through your thoughts
Through your constructive critical
Appraisal his thoughts supplement
Unnecessarily don’t throw your
Excess baggage your weight
Pompous piss ass poets
Poets in name good humans
You certainly don’t represent
If you see the picture for this poem
You will laugh all the way to the bank
This poem I dedicate unlearning poetry
unlearning commenting to stalwarts
David Hazell Ryan Yoonus Collins Tai
Mendros Indira and a Warrior called Ted Sheridan

Multicolored Hate Revisited

photo courtesy

LONDON: A Sikh teenager's hair was forcibly hacked off by a gang of white youths in a suburb of the Scottish capital Edinburgh, in one of the most high-profile and vicious racist attacks in the country.

Sources close to the Scottish Executive, the devolved government, told TOI on Thursday, 48 hours after the attack that "we are very concerned but it is right that the police should investigate the incident".

The attack is understood to have occurred on Tuesday night, when a gang of white teenagers pinned the Sikh boy to the ground, ripped off his turban and proceeded to cut off his hair in a public park in the Edinburgh suburb of Leith.

Cutting the hair
forcibly of a young
15 year old boy
a Sikh
shows Scottish lionhearted
Church western upbringing
racial assaulting
so to speak ..
blessed are those
who mug the multi colored meek
Biblical blasphemy
myopic malcontent
of a god who is white
also slaps the black cheek
religious symbols
that the west browbeats
the hijab the turban the chequered scarf
something that hits them hard
on the face of their economic defeats
hypocritical double standard and cold feet..

I d rather live in India than get my ass
kicked in western world I repeat…
I d rather die a free and proud man in India than
live as an alien mugged for life in demonic
self respect damaging Scottish retreat..
fuck your dollar pounds deutch mark
I am happy with a Gandhi on my Indian rupee

an american muse the inspirational heart of my poetry

Booby trapped escapade

photo courtesy

Weapons of mass destruction
Are words insulting words
Hate words racist words
Against a fellow poet as tirade
Shows American desperate housewife
In a bitter shade..her domestic unhappiness
on my multi colored ass laid
this morning with bazookas she did raid
but a pedestrian poets posterior
could not invade
piece of shit she thought
to degrade
why me Marshy Maid ?
a blocked reminder and no trade
pick on the Hispanic that is your maid
the poor lady still unpaid
learn to read poetry before you
call a pail a spade
for once think twice before
you feed a stranger your hate homemade
in return receive words as fusillade
find some other stupid dimwit poet
to plan your next crusade ..
simply use your brains as a hand grenade
and I am laughing now at a thought inlaid
booby trapped escapade

Two Kinds Of Islam ( Digg It )

I came across an article while surfing the net I have added the title to my body post.
The writer is Makrand Paranjape.I hope he will forgive me , but his title is more apt, I was going to put a questioning title “What kind of Islam?”
I will give you the link , as copying it here would tantamount to plagiarism.
Journalists dont like me anyway.
Lady Journalist to be more specific.


I remember a few years back , I used to be literally bullied by a neo Tabbliqi on 33 rd road Linking Road, the Musafirkhana of Bandra West .He would always taunt me , regarding my saffron clothes, the usual spiel that these guys love giving,these holier than thou Islamists , these guardian angels of a New Order of Islam..The Pristine Islam as propogated by the Wahabbi school of Thought.I have nothing against it , I stick to what I got on my parental plate I was born into Shiasm.
One day this guy got nasty , he had seen me going to Patwardhan Park in my shorts ,my wife in her hijab, he met the following day , his usual banter, than he said Yaar Firozebhai , you should dress properly when you walk with your wife , I lost my cool, told him in front of everyone if my wife does not have a problem why should you, was I walking with your wife.He shut up quick and fast.
What I want to tell you by this stray incident , the new approach is more on how you look Islamic externally.Internally you can be the most corrupt Muslim does not matter, as a show window you should refect yourself in the best possible way even in a hypocritical borrowed light.I remmer at the Bandra Shia mosque during a happy feat I was posed a similar question by an elderly Khoja gentleman.. I moved away from Mosques completely.
The only exception being the Moghul Masjid at Bhendi Bazar.
Anyway , my personal experience are my own, I believe do what you feel you have to do.
Stop being a moral Muslim culture police. unnecessarily be a little tolerant not hot headed without proper reasoning,we have them in all sects , some call them head bashers or hardliners.
I also feel that those who look at Muslims with skulls and goatees with mistrust should stop it, one can have all the necessary external perquisite of an Islamic person still be connected to the mainstream through our nationality as Indians.
A man who is a terrorist , terrorist are not as dumb as we are made to believe.A terrorist who places bombs in a train would definitely not wear Miya clothes but clothes of a normal train travelling executive , that is why the sleepers get caught the Brains are still million light years away.
I say all this as I shot the Mumbai serial train blasts, I saw the mayhem , the irrespective of our caste or creed we are all targets to Terrorism, I call it Yazidiyat,, that has always been there unpunished since Time immemorial, all the senior clergy , the heads of state kept their mouths shut.
We dont have to read History to know all this, the morning papers headlines, breaking news is more than enough..Misguided Martyrdom..Hate for Humanity .. that is all that it boils down too.
There are two types of Islam, one that wants Peace Brotherhood, the other Islam wants the return of the Ummayads, there is the third Islam, that just watches all this bloodshed , the killings of one Muslim sect by another sect , keeps silently quiet.. this is the Islam that hurts all of us , call us moderates liberal , whatever , but we are Muslims by Birth.. by our Kalma , by the sanctity of our Mothers womb.

I am not going to give this link to DIGG IT , the erstwhile members of Dgg It have asked my URL to be blocked this is sheer multi racial cybernetic Hate,,,I am supposed to be a positive spam.
I thought that happened only at Bloggerspot , or Sulekha Blogs , well I can add Digg It.. too
Often beaten by such news .


May 4th, 2007

My Tryst With The Holy Spirit

My earlier shop was at Baba Nagar very close to the St Peters Church Bandra , I had just been bitten by the photography bug, so I would visit this august Church, shoot pictures, try out my new lens and filters, so the Holy Spirit had me in the Fishermans nest, I shot church pictures differently, of course all this would have not been possible with the explicit permission of the Jesuit priests the bulwark of this Church.
Fr Juan the Spanish priest who is a Pukka Mumbaikar , Fr Gerard the young music loving priest , perhaps I can call him the metrosexual priest , he is net savvy , a cool dude in short, no fire and brimstone evangelist.
Adjacent to the St Peters Church is the St Stanislaus School the learning ground of my earlier days of Photography, thanks to the ex Principal Fr Lawrie Serrao , who allowed me to shoot pictures.
Photography is not only about shooting pictures, you need role models, my role model was the silent statue of Jesus Christ who beckoned me, I never tired shooting him, I have thousands of pictures of this statue shot in different seasons , different light, the rains , Jesus drenched to his marble bones, but still holding fast to the words on the pedestal.. I the Ressurection I am Life..I would hide behind the statue shoot faces of people in earnest parayer, I would shoot burials , as there is a small cemetery plot in front of the Churc, I would shoot Holy Communions , Baptism, dressed as a Shia Pandit.
Yes the Church it was ,that made me a good photographer, shooting the Holy Spirit requires spiritual aptitude a modicum of composite respect..
Having been bought up in the Holy Name Parish Colaba as a kid , the imagery of the church became more dimensional pictorially..
I shot the Xmas Midnight mass, the Easter Mass, I really did not need to go hunting for pictures they were always there in my backyard.
I would be invited for the Feast of St Ignatius Loyilla..every year.. they stopped calling me since the time I wrote a poetic diatribe on the Pope XVI, on his remarks on Islam, medievalism, Manuel II Paleologus.
I mean when you quote the Holy Prophet , you take the words of someone who has the same Piety like him, not words of a two penny ruler who has now been canonized by this Pope for life.

All this is over, we have to learn to walk ahead, I believe firmly instead of scratching old wounds man especiall the calibre of the Pope should lead from the front , heal..converting bad into good is more important than just proseylitizing to add numbers to the dwindling box office called church attendance.
Passion of Jesus Christ should reflect from the silver screen of hearts not as Islam or Jew bashing.
But today you have missionaries that have defrauded the name of Christ made millions.. yes Christ sells..Brazil is only a tip of an iceberg in click fraud of Christian souls.

One thing is clear that whatever achievement or success as a Photo Blogger it would have not been possible without the Holy Spirit that I shot at St Peters Church Bandra.
Any way before I start sounding like a Missionary .My poems were of a pain felt at that time so there is no motive to hurt any religious sentiments of the Catholics.
I am what I am because of my parentage and largely because of my convent backed earlier education at Holy Name High School Colaba.
My kindergarten years were at the Private European School a Baptist educational trust.
My closest Catholic friend kind of a spirtual godfather is Fr Stephan Nazareth of RC Church.
How can I forget Mr Clarence Gomes whose Bandra Samachar Press Card I carry as my lucky talisman.

Something on the Life of St Ignatius Loyola.

Early Life of St. Ignatius

Inigo de Loyola was born in 1491 in Azpeitia in the Basque province of Guipuzcoa in northern Spain. He was the youngest of thirteen children. At the age of sixteen years he was sent to serve as a page to Juan Velazquez, the treasurer of the kingdom of Castile. As a member of the Velazquez household, he was frequently at court and developed a taste for all it presented, especially the ladies. He was much addicted to gambling, very contentious, and not above engaging in swordplay on occasion. In fact in a dispute between the Loyolas and another family, Ignatius and his brother plus some relatives ambushed at night some clerics who were members of the other family. Ignatius had to flee the town. When finally brought to justice he claimed clerical immunity using the defense that he had received the tonsure as a boy, and was therefore exempt from civil prosecution. The defense was specious because Ignatius had for years gone about in the dress of a fighting man, wearing a coat of mail and breastplate, and carrying a sword and other sorts of arms–certainly not the garb normally worn by a cleric. The case dragged on for weeks, but the Loyolas were apparently powerful. Probably through the influence of higher-ups, the case against Ignatius was dropped.

Eventually he found himself at the age of 30 in May of 1521 as an officer defending the fortress of the town of Pamplona against the French, who claimed the territory as their own against Spain. The Spaniards were terribly outnumbered and the commander of the Spanish forces wanted to surrender, but Ignatius convinced him to fight on for the honor of Spain, if not for victory. During the battle a cannon ball struck Ignatius, wounding one leg and breaking the other. Because they admired his courage, the French soldiers carried him back to recuperate at his home, the castle of Loyola, rather than to prison.

His leg was set but did not heal, so it was necessary to break it again and reset it, all without anesthesia. Ignatius grew worse and was finally told by the doctors that he should prepare for death.

On the feast of Saints Peter and Paul (29 June) he took an unexpected turn for the better. The leg healed, but when it did the bone protruded below the knee and one leg was shorter than the other. This was unacceptable to Ignatius, who considered it a fate worse than death not to be able to wear the long, tight-fitting boots and hose of the courtier. Therefore he ordered the doctors to saw off the offending knob of bone and lengthen the leg by systematic stretching. Again, all of this was done without anesthesia. Unfortunately, this was not a successful procedure. All his life he walked with a limp because one leg was shorter than the other.

Conversion of St. Ignatius

During the long weeks of his recuperation, he was extremely bored and asked for some romance novels to pass the time. Luckily there were none in the castle of Loyola, but there was a copy of the life of Christ and a book on the saints. Desperate, Ignatius began to read them. The more he read, the more he considered the exploits of the saints worth imitating. However, at the same time he continued to have daydreams of fame and glory, along with fantasies of winning the love of a certain noble lady of the court, the identity of whom we never have discovered but who seems to have been of royal blood. He noticed, however, that after reading and thinking of the saints and Christ he was at peace and satisfied. Yet when he finished his long daydreams of his noble lady, he would feel restless and unsatisfied. Not only was this experience the beginning of his conversion, it was also the beginning of spiritual discernment, or discernment of spirits, which is associated with Ignatius and described in his Spiritual Exercises.

The Exercises recognize that not only the intellect but also the emotions and feelings can help us come to a knowledge of the action of the Spirit in our lives. Eventually, completely converted from his old desires and plans of romance and worldly conquests, and recovered from his wounds enough to travel, he left the castle in March of 1522.

He had decided that he wanted to go to Jerusalem to live where our Lord had spent his life on earth. As a first step he began his journey to Barcelona. Though he had been converted completely from his old ways, he was still seriously lacking in the true spirit of charity and Christian understanding, as illustrated by an encounter he had with a Moor on the way. The Moor and he came together on the road, both riding mules, and they began to debate religious matters. The Moor claimed that the Blessed Virgin was not a virgin in her life after Christ was born. Ignatius took this to be such an insult that he was in a dilemma as to what to do. They came to a fork in the road, and Ignatius decided that he would let circumstances direct his course of action. The Moor went down one fork. Ignatius let the reins of his mule drop. If his mule followed the Moor, he would kill him. If the mule took the other fork he would let the Moor live. Fortunately for the Moor, Ignatius’ mule was more charitable than its rider and took the opposite fork from the Moor.

He proceeded to the Benedictine shrine of Our Lady of Montserrat, made a general confession, and knelt all night in vigil before Our Lady’s altar, following the rites of chivalry. He left his sword and knife at the altar, went out and gave away all his fine clothes to a poor man, and dressed himself in rough clothes and sandals and a staff.

The Experience at Manresa

He continued towards Barcelona but stopped along the river Cardoner at a town called Manresa. He stayed in a cave outside the town, intending to linger only a few days, but he remained for ten months. He spent hours each day in prayer and also worked in a hospice. It was while here that the ideas for what are now known as the Spiritual Exercises began to take shape. It was also on the banks of this river that he had a vision which is regarded as the most significant in his life. The vision was more of an enlightenment, about which he later said that he learned more on that one occasion than he did the rest of his life. Ignatius never revealed exactly what the vision was, but it seems to have been an encounter with God as He really is so that all creation was seen in a new light and acquired a new meaning and relevance, an experience that enabled Ignatius to find God in all things. This grace, finding God in all things, is one of the central characteristics of Jesuit spirituality.

Ignatius himself never wrote in the rules of the Jesuits that there should be any fixed times for prayer. Actually, by finding God in all things, all times are times of prayer. He did not, of course, exclude formal prayer, but he differed from the other founders regarding the imposition of definite times or duration of prayer. One of the reasons some opposed the formation of the Society of Jesus was that Ignatius proposed doing away with the chanting of the Divine Office in choir. This was a radical departure from custom, because until this time, every religious order was held to the recitation of the office in common. For Ignatius, such recitation meant that the type of activity envisioned for the Society would be hindered. Some time after the death of Ignatius, a later Pope was so upset about this that he imposed the recitation of the Office in common on the Jesuits. Fortunately, the next Pope was more understanding and allowed the Jesuits to return to their former practice.

It was also during this period at Manresa, still lacking in true wisdom concerning holiness, that he undertook many extreme penances, trying to outdo those he had read of in the lives of the saints. It is possible that some of these penances, especially his fasting, ruined his stomach, which troubled him the rest of his life. He had not yet learned moderation and true spirituality. This is probably why the congregation he later founded did not have any prescribed or set penances, as other orders had.

He finally arrived at Barcelona, took a boat to Italy, and ended up in Rome where he met Pope Adrian VI and requested permission to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Once he arrived at the Holy Land he wanted to remain, but was told by the Franciscan superior who had authority over Catholics there that the situation was too dangerous. (Remember, the Turks were the rulers of the Holy Land.) The superior ordered Ignatius to leave. Ignatius refused but when threatened with excommunication, he obediently departed.

The Return to School

By now he was 33 years old and determined to study for the priesthood. However, he was ignorant of Latin, a necessary preliminary to university studies in those days. So he started back to school studying Latin grammar with young boys in a school in Barcelona. There he begged for his food and shelter. After two years he moved on to the University of Alcala. There his zeal got him into trouble, a problem that continued throughout his life. He would gather students and adults to explain the Gospels to them and teach them how to pray. His efforts attracted the attention of the Inquisition and he was thrown into jail for 42 days. When he was released he was told to avoid teaching others. The Spanish Inquisition was a bit paranoid and anyone not ordained was suspect (as well as many who were ordained).

Because he could not live without helping souls, Ignatius moved on to the University of Salamanca. There, within two weeks, the Dominicans had thrown him back into prison again. Though they could find no heresy in what he taught, he was told that he could only teach children and then only simple religious truths. Once more he took to the road, this time for Paris.

At the University of Paris he began school again, studying Latin grammar and literature, philosophy, and theology. He would spend a couple of months each summer begging in Flanders for the money he would need to support himself in his studies for the rest of the year. It was also in Paris that he began sharing a room with Francis Xavier and Peter Faber. He greatly influenced a few other fellow students (Xavier was the hardest nut to crack, interested as he was mainly in worldly success and honors), directing them all at one time or another for thirty days in what we now call the Spiritual Exercises. Eventually six of them plus Ignatius decided to take vows of chastity and poverty and to go to the Holy Land. If going to the Holy Land became impossible, they would then go to Rome and place themselves at the disposal of the Pope for whatever he would want them to do. They did not think of doing this as a religious order or congregation, but as individual priests. For a year they waited, however no ship was able to take them to the Holy Land because of the conflict between the Christians and Muslims. While waiting they spent some time working in hospitals and teaching catechism in various cities of northern Italy. It was during this time that Ignatius was ordained a priest, but he did not say Mass for another year. It is thought that he wanted to say his first Mass in Jerusalem in the land where Jesus himself had lived.

The Company of Jesus

Ignatius, along with two of his companions, Peter Faber and James Lainez, decided to go to Rome and place themselves at the disposal ofthe Pope. It was a few miles outside the city that Ignatius had the second most significant of his mystical experiences. At a chapel at La Storta where they had stopped to pray, God the Father told Ignatius, “I will be favorable to you in Rome” and that he would place him (Ignatius) with His Son. Ignatius did not know what his experience meant, for it could mean persecution as well as success since Jesus experienced both. But he felt very comforted since, as St. Paul wrote, to be with Jesus even in persecution was success. When they met with the Pope, he very happily put them to work teaching scripture and theology and preaching. It was here on Christmas morning, 1538, that Ignatius celebrated his first Mass at the church of St. Mary Major in the Chapel of the Manger. It was thought that this chapel had the actual manger from Bethlehem, so, if Ignatius was not going to be able to say his first Mass at Jesus’ birthplace in the Holy Land, then this would be the best substitute.

During the following Lent (1539), Ignatius asked all of his companions to come to Rome to discuss their future. They had never thought of founding a religious order, but now that going to Jerusalem was out, they had to think about their future–whether they would spend it together. After many weeks of prayer and discussion, with the Pope’s approval, in which they would vow obedience to a superior general who would hold office for life. They would place themselves at the disposal of the Holy Father to travel wherever he should wish to send them for whatever duties. A vow to this effect was added to the ordinary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Formal approval of this new order was given by Pope Paul III the following year on September 27, 1540. Since they had referred to themselves as the Company of Jesus (in Latin Societatis Jesu), in English their order became known as the Society of Jesus. Ignatius was elected on the first ballot of the group to be superior, but he begged them to reconsider, pray and vote again a few days later. The second ballot came out as the first, unanimous for Ignatius, except for his own vote. He was still reluctant to accept, but his Franciscan confessor told him it was God’s will, so he acquiesced. On the Friday of Easter week, April 22, 1541, at the Church of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls, the friends pronounced their vows in the newly formed Order.

The Last Years

Ignatius, whose love it was to be actively involved in teaching catechism to children, directing adults in the Spiritual Exercises, and working among the poor and in hospitals, would for the most part sacrifice his love for the next fifteen years–until his death–and work out of two small rooms, his bedroom and next to it his office, directing this new society throughout the world. He would spend years composing the Constitutions of the Society and would write thousands of letters to all corners of the globe to his fellow Jesuits dealing with the affairs of the Society and to lay men and women directing them in the spiritual life. From his tiny quarters in Rome he would live to see in his lifetime the Society of Jesus grow from eight to a thousand members, with colleges and houses all over Europe and as far away as Brazil and Japan. Some of the orignial companions were to become the Pope’s theologians at the Council of Trent, an event which played an important role in the Catholic Counter Reformation.

At first Ignatius wrote his own letters, but as the Society grew in numbers and spread over the world, it became impossible to communicate with everyone and still run the new order. Therefore a secretary, Fr. Polanco, was appointed in 1547 to help him in his correspondence. We know that Ignatius wrote almost 7,000 letters during his lifetime, the vasty majority of them after he became the Superior General of the Jesuits. Ignatius considered the correspondence between members of the Jesuits one of the most important elements in fostering unity. Separation of Jesuits throughout the world was one of the greatest dangers of growth, apostolate and unity of the Society. He not only wrote, therefore, to all the houses of the Order, but he also required the various superiors throughout the world to write to Rome regularly, informing him of what was happening. This information could be passed on to the houses of the Society everywhere.

In his letters to members of the Society, he treated each one as an individual. He was overly kind and gentle with those who gave him the most problems. On the other hand, with those who were the holiest and humblest, he seemed at times to be too harsh, obviously becaue he knew they were able to take his corrections without rancor, knowing that Ignatius loved them and was looking only to their greater spiritual good. Fr. James Lainez, one of Ignatius’ original companions, was the provincial in northern Italy. He had done a couple of things that put Ignatius on the spot, including making commitments that Ignatius could not fulfill. In addition, Lainez had expressed his disagreement to others about a change of personnel which Ignatius had made.

Ignatius wrote to Lainez through his secretary Polanco:
He, (Ignatius) has told me to write to you and tell you to attend to your own office, which if you do well, you will be doing more than a little. You are not to trouble yourself in giving your view of his affairs, as he does not want anything of the kind from you unless he asks for it, and much less now than before you took office, since your administration of your own province has not done much to increase your credit in his eyes. Examine your mistakes in the presence of God our Lord, and for three days take some time for prayer to this end.
So much for saints being all sugar and spice.

It was to Lainez’ credit that he took this severe reproof with humility and grace, asking to be assigned several harsh penances, such as being removed from office and being assigned the meanest job possible in the Society. Ignatius never even referred to the incident again, leaving Lainez to carry on as before. Lainez was to succeed Ignatius as the second Superior General of the Jesuits.

A superior of somewhat less humility than Lainez could not see the importance of writing to Rome of all the happenings in his house. With tact and kindness, so as not to hurt the superior’s feelings, but perhaps with a touch of sarcasm, Ignatius wrote:
It will not be a matter of surprise to you to learn that reproofs are sometimes sent out from Rome…If I have to dwell at some length on them, do not lay blame on your own desserts alone, but also on the concept that has been formed here of your fortitude, in the sense that you are a man to whom can be said whatever needs saying…you did well to observe obedience in the matter of writing every week…What you should have done was to try to find someone, once the letters were written, to carry and deliver them.

While zealous to bring people to God and to help them spiritually, Ignatius still remained a person of practicality and common sense. A Jesuit had complained of having trouble with overly pious people who monopolized his time for no good reason. Through Polanco, Ignatius instructed him on how to deal charitably with such people without giving offense.
Our father (Ignatius) made another remark as to how to free oneself from one whom there was no hope of helping. He suggests talking to him rather pointedly of hell, judgment and such things. In that case he would not return, or, if he did, the chances are that he would feel himself touched in our Lord.

There was a bishop who had great animosity to the Society. He refused to have this new Order in his diocese, and he excommunicated anyone who made the Spiritual Exercises. He was known as Bishop “Cilicio” by the Jesuits (that is, “the hairshirt bishop”). Ignatius told the Jesuits who were worried about his attitude to relax. “Bishop Cilicio is an old man. The Society is young. We can wait.”

The Jesuits and Schools

Perhaps the work of the Society of Jesus begun by Ignatius that is best known is that of education, yet it is interesting that he had no intention of including teaching among the Jesuits’ work at the beginning. As already mentioned, the purpose of the first members was to be at the disposal of the Pope to go where they would be most needed. Before 1548 Ignatius had opened schools in Italy, Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany, and India, but they were intended primarily for the education of the new young Jesuit recruits. Ten such colleges within six years indicated the rapid growth of the Jesuits. But in 1548 at the request of the magistrates of Messina in Sicily, Ignatius sent five men to open a school for lay as well as Jesuit students. It soon became clear by requests from rulers, bishops and cities for schools that this work was truly one of the most effective ways to correct ignorance and corruption among the clergy and faithful, to stem the decline of the Church in the face of the Reformation, and to fulfill the motto of the Society of Jesus, “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam,” -to the greater glory of God.

Ignatius expressed this in a letter to Fr. Araoz:
The more universal the good is, the more it is divine. Therefore preference ought to be given to those persons and places which, through their own improvement, become a cause which can spread the good accomplished to many others who are under their influence or take guidance from them…For the same reason, too, preference ought to be shown to the aid which is given to…universities, which are generally attended by numerous persons who by being aided themselves can become laborers for the help of others.

This was in keeping with one of Ignatius’ first principles in choosing apostolates: all other things being equal, choose those apostolates that will influence those who have the most influence on others. Maybe the best expression of this idea was in a letter he wrote about the founding of colleges in December of 1551:
From among those who are now merely students, in time some will depart to play diverse roles–one to preach and carry on the care of souls, another to government of the land and the administration of justice, and others to other callings. Finally, since young boys become grown men, their good education in life and doctrine will be beneficial to many others, with the fruit expanding more widely every day.
From then on, Ignatius helped establish Jesuit schools and universities all over Europe and the world.

Ignatius As A Man

It is probably true that the picture of Ignatius that most people have is that of a soldier: stern, iron-willed, practical, showing little emotion–not a very attractive or warm personality. Yet if this picture is exact, it is hard to see how he could have had such a strong influence on those who knew him. Luis Goncalves de Camara, one of his closest associates, wrote,
He (Ignatius) was always rather inclined toward love; moreover, he seemed all love, and because of that was universally loved by all. There was no one in the Society who did not have great love for him and did not consider himself much loved by him.

He sometimes cried so much at Mass that he could not go on, nor even talk for some time, and he was afraid that his gift of tears might cause him to lose his eyesight. Goncalves de Camara said, “When he did not weep three times during Mass, he considered himself deprived of consolation.” We regard a number of saints as great mystics but never think of Ignatius as one of them. We have recounted a few of the many visions and mystical experiences in his life. His holiness, however, did not consist in such, but in the great love that directed his life to do everything A.M.D.G., for the greater glory of God.

Last Illness

Ever since his student days in Paris, Ignatius had suffered from stomach ailments and they became increasingly troublesome in Rome. In the summer of 1556 his health grew worse, but his physician thought he would survive this summer as he had done others. Ignatius, however, thought that the end was near. On the afternoon of July 30th he asked Polanco to go and get the Pope’s blessing for him, suggesting by this to Polanco that he was dying. Polanco, however, trusted the physician more than Ignatius and told him that he had a lot of letters to write and mail that day. He would go for the Pope’s blessing the next day. Though Ignatius indicated that he would prefer Polanco go that afternoon, he did not insist. Shortly after midnight Ignatius took a turn for the worse. Polanco rushed off to the Vatican to get the papal blessing, but it was too late. The former worldly courtier and soldier who had turned his gaze to another court and a different type of battle had rendered his soul into the hands of God. Ignatius was beatified on July 27, 1609 and canonized by Pope Gregory XV on March 12, 1622 together with St. Francis Xavier. Ignatius’ feast day is celebrated by the universal church and the Jesuits on July 31, the day he died.

Fr. O’Neal wrote this brief account of the life of St. Ignatius on the occasion of the Ignatian Year in order to better acquaint the lay teachers, staff and students of Jesuit High in New Orleans with the founder of the order which has conducted that school for more than 140 years. We are grateful to him for permission to reprint it.

Above right is an early version of the seal of the Society of Jesus, recently uncovered on a wall in Rome in what was St. Ignatius’s office by Fr. Tom Lucas, S.J. In the center are the three letters “IHS” which are the first three letters of the name Jesus in Greek. Around the perimeter is the Latin phrase taken from the vulgate: “… and His name was called Jesus.” (Luke 2:21) This is the last line of the gospel reading used on January 1st, the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the Giving of the Name of Jesus, which is the titular feast of the Society of Jesus, formerly the Feast of the Circumcision.

Further Reading

Forget your mistakes, but remember what they taught you

St Peters Church Bandra web site


A Pope Apologises

The Worlds Worst Unimpressive Pope

May 4th, 2007

Live Like Ali Die Like Hussain

Date: 03/05/2006 Time: 11:35 PM Live Like Ali Die Like Hussain
This is the true Shia belief two stalwarts father and son..Hazrat Ali was the father cousin of The Holy Prophet married to his only daughter Janabe Syeda or Bibi Fatima Zohra… Hassan and Hussain were their male children.

Assassination of Ali
Abdur Rahman b Muljam al Sarimi, the designated assassin of Ali, reached Kufa well before the appointed date. Here he fell in love with a Kharijite girl Qataum by name. According to chronicles she was an outstanding beauty. She had a face as beautiful as the moon, and her flowing jet black tresses were most captivating. Her father and brother had been killed in the Battle of Nahrawan, and she was fired with the desire to avenge their death. She agreed to marry Abdur Rahman if he could present to her the head of Ali as her dower. As he was already committed to the assassination of Ali he readily accepted the condition laid down by his beloved. At the instance of Qataum, two more Kharijites joined with Abdur Rahman in the conspiracy to assassinate Ali. One of them was Werdan, who was related to Qataum. The other was Shaubib b Bijrah who belonged to the tribe of Anjah.

On the Friday morning of the seventeenth day of the month of Ramadan, the three conspirators went to the main mosque of Kufa just before the break of dawn. Here they took up their position in the narrow passage leading to the prayer hall. A little later Ali came, the mosque when it was still dark and there was no one else in the mosque. When Ali stood to pray, Werdan struck at Ali, but missed his mark. Then Abdur Rahman struck Ali on the forehead with this poisoned sword which penetrated on the brain through the scar of an old wound. Thereafter the assassins fled from the mosque.

When the faithful assembled in the mosque for prayers they found Ali lying wounded on the prayer mat. A hunt for the assassins was made. Werdan resisted being taken captive and was killed. Abdur Rahman was apprehended and taken into custody. The third conspirator escaped from Kufa. Abdur Rahman confessed his guilt. He said that he had struck his blow at Ali in the name of God for he considered that in seeking power, Ali had sinned and was guilty of killing thousands of innocent people. Ali cursed Abdur Rahman for his misguided views. He, however, instructed his men that the assassin should be kept in custody and should not be subjected to any hardship. He observed that if he recovered from the wound, he would himself decide what punishment should be awarded to him. If he died the assassin was to lose his life. He was, however, to be killed in one stroke, and was neither to be mutilated nor made to suffer languishing death.

The wounds of Ali proved to be fatal. No antidote could be found to counter affect the poison that had penetrated into the body of Ali. The condition of Ali steadily deteriorated and he breathed his last on the 24th of January 661 C.E. From God he came and to God he returned.

Death of Imam Hussain
Al-Husayn ibn ‘Ali Sayyidu’sh-Shuhada
(Peace be Upon him)

Name: al-Husayn.
Title: Sayyidu’sh-Shuhada’.
Agnomen: Abu ‘Abdillah.
Father’ s name: ‘Ali Amir al-Mu’minin.
Mother’s name:Fatimah (Daughter of the Holy Prophet).
Birth: In Medina on Thursday, 3rd Sha’ban 4 AH.
Death: Martyred in Karbala’ (Iraq) at the age of 57, on Friday, 10th Muharram 61 AH and buried there.

In the House of the Holy Prophet, which presented the best image of both the worlds - the heaven and the earth- a child who benefited humanity as if he was a Divine Impression reflecting the earth, was born on one of the nights of the month of Sha’ban. His father was Imam ‘Ali, the best model of kindness towards his friends and the bravest against the enemies of Islam, and his mother was Hadrat Fatimah, the only daughter and child of the Holy Prophet, who had as universally acknowledged, inherited the qualities of her father. Imam Husayn, is the third Apostolic Imam. When the good news of his birth reached the Holy Prophet, he came to his daughter’s house, took the newly-born child in his arms, recited adhan and iqamah in his right and left ears respectively, and on the 7th day of his birth, after performing the rites of ‘aqlqah, named him al-Husayn, in compliance with Allah’s command. ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas relates: “On the very day when Imam Husayn was born, Allah ordered angel Gabriel to descend and congratulate the Holy Prophet on His Behalf and on his own.
While descending, Gabriel passed over an island where the angel Futrus had been banished due to his delay in executing a commission assigned by Allah. He was deprived of his wings and expelled to the island where he remained for several years praying and worshipping Allah and asking for His forgiveness. “When the angel Futrus saw Gabriel, he called out, ‘ Where are you going, O Gabriel?’ To this he replied, ‘ Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad is born, and for this very reason Allah has commanded me to convey His congratulations to His Apostle.’ Thereupon, the angel said, ‘ Can you carry me also along with you? May Muhammad recommend my case to Allah.’ Gabriel took the angel along with him, came to the Holy Prophet, offered congratulations to him on behalf of Allah and himself and referred the case of the angel to him.
The Holy Prophet said to Gabriel, ‘Ask the angel to touch the body of the newly-born child and return to his place in Heaven.’ On doing this, the angle re-obtained his wings instantly and praising the Holy Prophet and his newly- born grandson, ascended towards the Heaven. Hasan and Husayn, the two sons of the Holy Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib and Hadrat Fatimah, our Lady of Light, were respected and revered as the ‘Leaders of the Youths of Paradise’ as stated by the Holy Prophet. The Holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be Upon him and his progeny, had openly prophesied that the faith of Islam would be rescued by his second grandson Husayn, when Yazid, son of Mu’awiayh, would endeavour to destroy it. Yazid was known for his devilish character and brutish conduct. He was known as the most licentious of men. The people having known and understood the character of Yazid, formed a covenant by which Mu’awiyah could not appoint Yazid as his successor. This undertaking was given by Mu’awiyah to Imam Hasan from whom Mu`awiyah had snatched power. Mu’awiyah violated this undertaking and nominated Yazid who succeeded his father. Immediately as he came to power, Yazid began acting in full accordance with his known character. He started interfering in the fundamentals of the faith and practiced every vice and wickedness freely with the highest degree of impunity and yet held himself out as the successor of the Holy Prophet, demanding allegiance to himself as the leading guide of the faith.
Paying allegiance to Yazid was nothing short of acknowledging the devil as Cod. If a divine personality like the holy Imam Husayn had agreed to his authority, it would be actually recommending the devil to humanity in place of Cod. Yazid demanded allegiance from the Holy Imam Husayn, who could have never agreed to it at any cost. The people fearing death and destruction at the hands of the tyrant had yielded to him out of fear. Imam Husayn said that come what- ever may, he would never yield to the devil in place of God and undo what his grandfather, the Holy Prophet had established. The refusal of the Holy Imam to pay allegiance to this fiend, marked the start of the persecution of the Holy Imam. As a result he had retired to Medina where he led a secluded life. Even here he was not allowed to live in peace, and was forced to seek refuge in Mecca where also he was badly harassed, and Yazid plotted to murder him in the very precincts of the great sanctuary of Ka’bah.
In order to safeguard the great sanctuary, Imam Husayn decided to leave Mecca for Kufah just a day before tile haj (pilgrimage). When asked the reason for the mysterious departure from Mecca foregoing the pilgrim- age which was only the next day Imam Husayn said that he would perform this year’s pilgrimage at Karbala’, Offering the sacrifice not of any animals, but of his kith and kin and some faithful friends. He enumerated the names of his kith and kin who would lay down their lives with him in the great sacrifice at Karbala’. The people of Kufah getting tired of the tyrannic and satanic rule of Yazid, had written innumerable letters and sent emissaries to Imam Husayn to come over and give them guidance in faith. Although Imam
Husayn knew the ultimate end of the invitations, he as the divinely chosen Imam could not refuse to give the guidance sought for. When the Holy Imam with his entourage had reached karbala’, his horse mysteriously stopped and would not move any further. Upon this the holy Imam declared: “This is the land, the land of sufferings and tortures.” He alighted from his horse, and ordered his followers to encamp there saying: Here shall we be martyred and our children be killed. Here shall our tents be burned and our family arrested. This is the land about which my grandfather the Holy Prophet had foretold, and his prophecy will certainly be fulfilled.”
On the 7th of Muharram water supply to the lmam’s carnp was cut and the torture of thirst and hunger started. the holy Imam’s camp consisted of ladies, innocent children including babies and some male members of the Holy prophet’s family; along with a small band of some faithful friends of Imam Husayn who had chosen to die with the Holy Imam, fighting against the devil for the cause of Allah.
* * *
The Day of ‘Ashura (10th of Muharram):
At dawn the Imam glanced over the army of Yazid and saw ‘Umar ibn Sa’d ordering his forces to march to- wards him. He gathered his followers and addressed them thus: “Allah has, this day, permitted us to be engaged in a Holy War and He shall reward us for our martyrdom. So prepare yourselves to fight against the enemies of Islam with patience and resistance. O sons of the noble and self-respecting persons, be patient ! heath is nothing but a bridge which you must cross after facing trials and tribulations so as to reach Heaven and its joys. Which of you do not like to go from this prison (world) to the lofty palaces (Paradise ) ? ” Having heard the Imam’s address, all his companions were overwhelmed and cried out, “O our Master! We are ail ready to defend you and your Ahlu ‘I-hayt, and to sacrifice our lives for the cause of Islam.” Imam Husayn sent out from his camp one after an- other to fight and sacrifice their lives in the way of the Lord. Lastly, when all his men and children had laid down their lives, Imam Husayn brought his six-month old baby son ‘Ali al-Asghar, and offering him on his own hands, demanded some water for the baby, dying of thirst. The thirst of the baby was quenched by a deadly poisoned arrow from the brute’s forces, which pinned the baby’s neck to the arm of the helpless father. At last when the six-month old baby also was killed, Imam Husayn addressed Allah: “O Lord! Thy Husayn has offered in Thy way whatever Thou hath blessed him with. Bless Thy Husayn, O Lord! with the acceptance of this sacrifice.
Everything Husayn could do till now was through Thy help and by Thy Grace.” Lastly, Imam Husayn came into the field and was killed, the details of which merciless slaughter are heart rending. The forces of Yazid having killed Imam Husayn, cut and severed his head from his body and raised it on a lance. The severed head of the Holy Imam began glorifying Allah from the point of the lance saying, ‘Allahu Akbar’. “All glory be to Allah Who is the Greatest!” After the wholesale, merciless and most brutal slaughter of the Holy Imam with his faithful band, the help- less ladies and children along with the ailing son of Imam Husayn, Imam ‘Ali Zaynu ‘l-’Abidin, were taken captives

The picture is of a distribution of tea and bread to the azreens gathered to celeberate Ashura at Mazgaon at Rehmatabad Shia cemetry

May 4th, 2007

Interfaith Islam and the Shia Pandit

was at the Dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia Delhi , the day I arrived at Delhi to celebrate Chehlum 2007, my first one in the city, the capital of India.
I left my relative Ashraf Abidis house as there was a ladies Majlis , taking my camera I arrived at the Dargah, a phone call to Peersaab Fakhru Miya of Hujra No 6 Ajmer Sharif, got me the required help from the Khadims of the Delhi Dargah Sharif.
I have posted the pictures shot on my Nikon D70, the negatives too I shot for safety on my F100..I prefer negatives , they add to the spitiual colors of Islam.
While surfing I came across this article by Dr Hyder Reza Zabeth that I am copying here, it is worth reading to understand the Indian Muslim syndrome of Faith.. The Hussaini Brahmin is thought provoking, as a matter of fact many a times I have been called a Shia Pandit because of my homesite that looks very saffronised.. I dont take it as an insult,I would rather be called a Shia Pandit tham be called a Jehadi, or a fundamentalist .I respect composite cultures.
I dont mind being called a Hindu, it is a matter of pride for me , Hinduism is not my religion but a composite cultural inheritance that I have recieved as my birthright , I am thankful that God chose me to be born in Hindustan.No other place would have suited my tempestuous temperament, poetic pitfalls, pictorial philandering, so to speak.
At the Dargah of Nizamuddin Aulia I was at Peace with myself..for me I felt was back in Ajmer Sharif,,I know one thing you are what you are , pretending that you are something that you are not does not help, the Naga Sadhus call me a Shia Sadhu..but I guess all this adds to one premise I am human..not boxed as a Word Press Category or a Technorati Tag.
I am happy that I joined Digg it…My hospitality as a photo blogger is all that I offer with malice to none..Words Pressed as flowers of wisdom drying in old ancient books of yore..

Islam, the Harbinger for Interfaith Understanding in South Asia
courtesy of article
Dr. Hyder Reza Zabeth
Research Scholar
Islamic History Department
Islamic Research Foundation
Holy Shrine of Imam Reza (A.S.)
Mashhad, Iran
After the arrival of Islam in South Asia it gradually won over a large indigenous population to its fold. Due to this joining ranks a large indigenous population which brought along previous religious orientations into the faith upon conversion. Thus, Islam in South Asia has retained some typically indigenous taste. Islam since its emergence in South Asia was always the harbinger for interfaith understanding in this region.
The focus of this article is on religious system typical of the Muslim communities in South Asia bringing about interfaith understanding and harmony. The Islamic religious traditions rightly responded to different cultural situations and contexts in the course of its journey from its Arabian heartland to distant parts of the world. Islam was always an important structural basis of social identity and articulation of Muslims in a religiously and culturally diverse situation encountered in South Asia.
In performing the rituals and celebrating the festivals, the Muslims seek to assert their distinct religious identity and come together as members of a unified Muslim Ummah, but at the same time the typical indigenous elements assimilated in the Islamic traditions, the Muslim rituals and festivals in South Asia have always resulted in the interfaith understanding in this region. Some of the elements assimilated in the Islamic traditions according to the accepted standards of Islamic faith and theology may be regarded as heterodox.
Certainly Islam is a basis of identity articulation for the Muslims in the plural cultural situation existing in South Asia. Islam provides the individual Muslim with a plan for life from the daily ritual of worship, through the annual cycle of ceremonies, to the ritual observance of life cycle. The Muslims in South Asia, as indeed the Muslims elsewhere in the Islamic world, believe in and fully adhere to the cardinal pillars of Islamic faith.
The observance of Muharram and Urs ceremonies in South Asia by Muslims and non-Muslims alike according to beliefs have always bolstered social cohesion, touching upon the question of cultural syncreticism and allowing a greater degree of pluralism. Thus, Islam was always the Harbinger for Interfaith Understanding in South Asia.

Islam and Interfaith Understanding
Religion is playing an increasingly important role in the world today, and so it is crucial that people belonging to different faiths should understand each other. Mutual misunderstandings need to be removed and every religion should be studied in its proper perspective. While there is still room for discussions on religion in a comparative perspective, the focus should be on trying to explore those common factors in the various religions and, on that basis, efforts can be made for people to co-operate with each other. If people from different faiths closely interact, it is likely that they will come to appreciate the good points that the others have and may become aware of their own shortcomings leading to a consensus.
Moreover, their differences may narrow down in the process. Islam wholly supports this sort of dialogue. Islam believes that it is the truth, and that the basic message of the Holy Quran is essentially the same as that revealed to all the other prophets of God that appeared in the world before the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). The revelations to the other prophets, as scholarship in the field has also proved, have been modified or corrupted over time, and it is only the Holy Quran that is still preserved intact. Whatever good there is in the other scriptures may be a remnant of the original revelations that survived the process of tampering around with and we must respect that.
Islam is a universal religion, since it has been taught by all the prophets, the last of whom was the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). It is universal in another sense in that it says that all human beings are children of Adam and Eve, and there is no question of discrimination on the basis of caste or race. There is no concept of a chosen race or caste in Islam.

Islam in South Asia
Today there are more than a half a billion Muslims living in the Indo-Pak subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh). This amounts to one-third of the total Muslim population of the world. Muslims form more than twenty percent of the Indian population.
Islam spread from the West throughout South Asia, from the early eighth century, to become the second largest religion in Indo-Pak sub-continent. India’s nearly 21 percent population with nearly 210 million Muslims comprises the second largest population of Muslims after Indonesia. In Pakistan 150 million Muslims, Bangladesh with 135 million Muslims, Sri Lanka with 15 percent of its population as Muslims, in Nepal with 10 percent Muslim population, Maldives with 100 percent Muslim population make Islam as the second largest religion in South Asia after Hinduism.

Commemoration of Muharram in India by non-Muslims
The observance of Muharram ceremonies in South Asia in general and India in particular have attracted the deep reverence and devotion for the performance of its rituals and customs by the Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Thus, the observance of Muharram ceremonies has introduced Islam as the harbinger for interfaith understanding in South Asia.
Imam Husain’s great sacrifice is commemorated by Muslims everywhere in the world, but it is observed with great emotional intensity in Indo-Pak sub-continent. What is particularly striking about the observances of the month of Muharram in India is the prominent participation of Hindus in these rituals. This has been a feature of Hinduism for centuries in large parts of India, and continues even today. In towns and villages all over the country, Hindus join Muslims in lamenting the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, by sponsoring or taking part in lamentation rituals and tazia (replica of the mausoleum of Imam Husain in Karbala) processions.
The commemoration of Imam Husain’s sacrifice every year creates the most dramatic impact in South Asia. The majority of the population in India is non-Muslim. It is curious to see these non-Muslims participating in the many colorful and devotional ceremonies during the month of Muharram. Also, it has affected the rich and the poor alike.
In India the non-Muslims like Hindus, Sikhs, Jains and Christians observe Muharram ceremonies with great devotion. Varanasi, the holiest city of Hinduism in India and the city of famous ghats and Vedic saints, has a mixed tradition of commemorating Muharram where some Hindu families participate in the procession. This also happens in Lucknow, Allahabad, Kanpur, Hyderabad, Kolkatta, Mumbai, Chennai, Amroha, Indore, Nagpur, Jaipur, Bhopal and other major cities and towns. I have personally observed during my stay in India that large groups of Hindus in these cities participate in the majlis (mourning congregations); they also take part with enthusiasm in making the taziyas (replicas of the Imam Husain’s mausoleum in Karbala).
Varanasi’s Shivala Mohalla boasts of the most artistic taziya, and a replica of Zuljinah, Imam Hussein’s brave horse which is given milk in a traditional ritual in many cities in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
The Hindu rulers of Vijayanagar in Deccan (southern India) built wonderful Imambaras during the 16th and 17th centuries. They even wore the black garments of mourning during the first 10 days of the month of Muharram. Muharram processions during the 18th and 19th centuries were taken out by the Hindus in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra with rath (Hindu chariots) shaped tazias.
The Maratha ruling kingdoms like the Scindias of Gwalior, the Holkars of Indore, the Geakwads of Baroda and the Bhonsle of Kolhapur and Pune till now observe Muharram rituals with great devotion.
During their dynastic rules they strived to create interfaith understanding between Muslims and Hindus by observing Muharram ceremonies. The most famous of them all was the Rajah of Gwalior, a state in central India. The Rajah used to go barefoot with the procession every year on the day of Ashura, holding a replica of Imam Husain’s mausoleum.
Among the Hindus of Lucknow, the former capital city of the Nawabs of Awadh, the Muharram ceremonies are greatly revered by the Hindus. In Lucknow a large number of Hindus participate in the ‘azadari’ processions of the Shia Muslims. Many Hindus fast with Muslims on this day, while others distribute sherbet (sweet juices) and iced milk to those participating in the Muharram processions.
Some of the Hindus in Lucknow walk on a carpet of red hot embers with the chants of Ya Hussain called Aag ka Maatam, a unique way of mourning during Muharram in this city of nawabs. Muharram, presents an unparalleled example of Hindu-Muslim unity in this historical city.
There are several ‘anjumans’ (religious organizations) in Lucknow run by Hindus which take out ‘azadari’ processions and organize ‘majlis’ (mourning sessions where heart-rending tales of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom are narrated) throughout Muharram.
Lucknow also boasts of several Hindu ‘imambaras’ (mausoleums). One such is the ‘Kishnu Khalifa ka Imambara’ in Bashiratganj locality in the old city area. The Imambara, established in 1880, is famous for its Hindu ‘azadars’ (devotees) who observe Muharram with all the religiosity of the Muslims. A large number of Hindus, including their children, perform ‘aag ka maatam’ here. ‘Anjuman-e-Hind-e-Abbasia’ and ‘Anjuman Haaye Sakeena’ are the other organizations known for Hindus observing all the mourning rites associated with Muharram in large numbers.
In Lucknow, seat of the Shia nawabs of Awadh, prominent Hindu noblemen like Raja Tikait Rai and Raja Bilas Rai built Imambaras to house alams, the standards representing the Karbala event.
The non-Muslim tribal Lambadi community in Andhra Pradesh has their own genre of Muharram lamentation songs in Telugu. Among certain Hindu castes in Rajasthan, the Karbala battle is recounted by staging plays in which the death of Imam Husain is enacted, after which the women of the village come out in a procession, crying and cursing Yazid for his cruelty. In large parts of north India, Hindus believe that if barren women slip under an alam moving in a procession they will be blessed with a child.

Cultural and Social Effects of Muharram Ceremonies
For example the following news item was published recently on the internet during the Muharram ceremonies this year:
The Sharma Hindu families have been taking out the Tazia procession on Muharram for more than 120 years in some districts of Madhya Pradesh. The ritual began in 1882 when the Raikwar family of the Vidisha town began preparing and taking out Tazias on the ninth day of Muharram. Since then, the Raikwar’s Tazia leads the procession of mourners on Muharram, and moves ahead of the long line of replicas of Imam Husain’s tomb and flags along the streets. Like several Muslim families across the globe, the Raikwar family members, too, set aside their daily chores to grieve for the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, Imam Husain (A.S.), and his 72 companions who were brutally killed on the banks of the river Euphrates in Karbala (Iraq) in 61 A.H.
“Husain is everybody’s hero, the embodiment of virtues of piety, courage and self-sacrifice. He did not seek power. “He represented the authentic voice of Islam and, for that reason, boldly challenged the un-Islamic practices of the Umayyad ruler, Yazid,” a member of the Raikwar family said. They also march, as they do year after year, through the lanes and by-lanes in fervent lamentation chanting, “Ya-Husain, Ya-Husain”, rhythmically beating their chests, self-flagellating, carrying replicas of Imam Husain’s tomb.
“Husain laid down his life but did not compromise with a bloody-minded tyrant,” says the head of the Mishra family of Sehore, another Madhya Pradesh town where a Hindu family takes out the Tazia procession. “The practice is over 100 years old for our family. We have also secured a place for `Bade Baba Sahib’ in our house where hundreds of Hindus and Muslims visit during Muharram to seek Imam Husain’s intercession to cure the diseased, avert calamities and even procure children,” says Dinesh Chandra Mishra, present head of the family. “Every age brings forth a new Yazid, but resistance to tyranny, as is illustrated by Husain’s legendary example, is incumbent upon every man of faith”, he says.
“The Hindu”, one of the largest selling English daily in India reported in its 31 January, 2007 issue that a large number of Hindus participated in the `Tazia’ procession along with Muslims at Pulimankulam in Tamil Nadu state. The procession was led by V. Nayaz Ahmed Bijili and H. Habeebur Rahman Bijili, hereditary trustees of the Athangarai Pallivasal Dargah. Hindus from Sokkalingapuram, Urumankulam, Tiruvamabalapuram and Avudayalpuram, marched towards the `chavadi’, where the `Panjas’ were installed, and offered prayers.
Three persons, two of them non-Muslims, took part in a firewalk held in the early hours. Syed Ache Miyan, hereditary Mujaver, led the rite in which Veerabahu Asari (55 years old) of Sokkalingapuram and Arumugam Yadav (28 years old) of Pulimankulam participated. Mr. Veerabahu has been taking part in the firewalks for the past 25 years. Last year, about 10 persons participated two of them Muslims.
The Hindus, who take part in the firewalk adhere strictly to fasting as do the Muslims. Many of them also read the Tamil version of Shahadat naama, which depicts the tale of the martyrdom of Imam Husain in the war of Karbala.
Hindus of these villages vie with the Muslims in making arrangements for the Muharram. They fell trees on their farms to prepare wood for the firewalk. A group of Hindu volunteers stayed around the `alaawa’ (the fire pit) throughout the night.
According to the residents of Pulimankulam, Hindus and Muslims have been observing Muharram jointly for the past many decades.
There is a Brahmin tribe by the name of Mohiyals in Kashmir who take part in Muharram observance with great devotion and fervor. They believe that their ancestors fought with Imam Husayn (A.S.) at Karbala and later, avenged Imam Husayn’s killing by fighting the Umayyads. They believe that they traveled back to India over the centuries via Afghanistan.
“The Hindu”, English daily published from Chennai and many other cities in India also reported in its 31 January, 2007 issue that hundreds of Hindus joined Muslims in observing Muharram in an Orissa village, ending a 25-year-old conflict over the ownership of a burial ground.
Hindus and Muslims in Peteipur village had clashed many times over 1.75 acres of land that the former wanted for a cremation ground. The Muslims wanted the plot for a Muslim graveyard, said a district police official.
“But this year we decided to end the conflict,” Naresh Acharya, the village leader and a Hindu, told The Hindu.
According to Acharya, more then a hundred villagers participated in the procession on 10th Muharram to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
“We joined the Muslims and observed Muharram by participating in their tazia (replicas of Imam Hussain’s tomb) procession. We do not have any dispute now,” Acharya said.
Education Minister of Orissa state, Bishnu Das, who belongs to the region, and Lok Sabha member Brahamananda Panda also joined the function, he said.
The local administration has also identified and demarcated land for use by both communities as cremation grounds and ‘kabristan’(cemetery) following a court order on the petitions filed by both communities, he said.
Peteipur village in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, 70 km from Bhubaneswar, has a population of 2,000, including 1,200 Muslims of whom 800 are Shias.
The anti-Muslim riots broke out on February-March, 2002 in Gujrat state, But after this anti-Muslim riots in the next years’ month of Muharram “Tazia” processions were taken out in the cities, towns and villages of Gujrat state by the Muslims with the cooperation of Hindus. Many Hindu families generously contributed in cash for setting up the Tazias.
The tenth day of the month of Muharram (Ashura) is a national holiday in India.
This sacrifice is remembered everywhere in the world, but nowhere is it observed as in India for it has merged seamlessly into the Indian milieu.

Husaini Brahmin Sect
Perhaps the most interesting case of Hindu veneration of Imam Husain is to be found among the small Husaini Brahmin sect, located mostly in Punjab state in India, also known as Dutts.
Unlike other Brahmin clans, the Husaini Brahmins have had a long martial tradition, which they trace back to the event of Karbala. They believe that an ancestor named Rahab traveled all the way from Punjab to Arabia and there developed close relations with Imam Husain. In the battle of Karbala, Rahab fought in the army of the Imam Husain against Yazid. His sons, too, joined him, and most of them were killed. Imam Husain, seeing Rahab’s love for him, bestowed upon him the title of sultan or king, and told him to go back to India. It is because of this close bond between their ancestor Rahab and Imam Husain that the Husaini Brahmins got their name.
After Rahab and those of his sons who survived the battle of Karbala reached India, they settled down in the western Punjab and gradually a community grew around them. This sect, the Husaini Brahmins, practiced a blend of Islamic and Hindu practices, because of which they were commonly known as ‘half Hindu, half Muslim’.
But there is also another version of how the Dutts of Punjab came to be known as Husaini Brahmins. One of the wives of Imam Husain, the Persian princess Shahr Banu, was the sister of Chandra Lekha or Mehr Banu, the wife of an Indian king called Chandragupta. When it became clear that Yazid was adamant on wiping out Imam Husain, the Imam’s son Ali ibn Hussain rushed off a letter to Chandragupta asking him for help against Yazid. When Chandragupta received the letter, he dispatched a large army to Iraq to assist the Imam. By the time they arrived, however, the Imam had been martyred. In the town of Kufa, in present-day Iraq, they met with one Mukhtar Saqaffi, a disciple of the Imam, who arranged for them to stay in a special part of the town, which even today is known by the name of Dair-i-Hindiya or ‘the Indian quarter’.
Some Dutt Brahmins, under the leadership of one Bhurya Dutt, got together with Mukhtar Saqaffi to avenge the death of the Imam. They stayed behind in Kufa, while the rest returned to India. Here they built up a community of their own, calling themselves Husaini Brahmins, and although they did not convert to Islam they kept alive the memory of their links with Imam Husain.
The Husaini Brahmins believe that Krishna had foretold the event of the Imam’s death at Karbala in the Bhagwad Gita. According to them, the Kalanki Purana, the last of eighteen Puranas, as well as the Atharva Veda, the fourth Veda, refer to Imam Hussain as the divine incarnation or avatar of the Kali Yug, the present age. They hold Imam Ali, Imam Hussain’s father, and son-in-law and cousin of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, in particular reverence, referring to him with the honorific title of Om Murti.

Muharram during the Qutb Shahi Period
The Qutb Shahs who ruled most parts of Deccan from 1510 till 1687 A.D. were Shias and therefore Muharram was of great importance to them. They celebrated it with great enthusiasm and devotion. Fortunately we have accounts of Muharram ceremonies of Abdullah Qutb Shah’s period, recorded by Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed in Hadiqat-us-Salatin.
The Muslims and non-Muslims throughout the Golconda Empire raised Alams during the Muharram days, in accordance with the orders of the Sultan in their Dewan Khanas. Every such Ashur Khana was paid for the expenditures by the imperial treasury. It were due to this that all the people were kept busy in mourning during the Muharram days throughout the empire. It has become a custom that the people, poor and needy, used to sit in Ashur Khanas silently praying throughout the night of Ashura. As a reward for this they got their wishes fulfilled. (1)
The Qutb Shahs not only patronized the Marsiya writing, but themselves wrote Marsiyas. Even in this, they followed their religious policy and allowed the people of different sects, to participate in it. We find as many as twenty one poets, during the Qutb Shahi period, who wrote Marsiyas. They were not all Shias but the list contains many Sunni poets also. Some of them belonged to Silsila-e-Qadria.(2)
The Marsiyas were purely religious in nature. They were written to fulfill the religious duty and to identify oneself with the martyrs of Karbala. Therefore, they express deep devotion and sorrow of the poet. Beside this, the marsiyas are a valuable source of information too. They describe the ceremonies of Muharram, the articles used in them, the costumes worn, the jewelry used.(3)
The Dakhni poets have described Muharraum in pure Indian setting. This goes to show the process of Indianization of the ceremonies connected with the Muslim festivals, aimed and practiced by the Qutb Shahs.(4)
The Marsiyas of Muhammad Quli also have a similar setting. He has mentioned Indian flowers, vegetables and birds in his Marsiyas. The Marsiyas were written in the Dakhni language which was spoken by the people, though, the literary language of the Ulama and nobles of the court, was Persian.
The environment in which the events were described was Dakhni, the articles, costumes, jewelry etc., mentioned in them were also Dakhni.
This goes to confirm the view that the Qutb Shahs universalized the traditions and customs around the religious ceremonies, to help the people of their kingdom to participate in them irrespective of their religion, cast or creed. (5)
Hindus in the Qutb Shahi kingdom too participated in it; not only in the cities and towns but also in the villages. We have details of Azadari in a few Qutb Shahi villages and the Marsiyas written by the Telugu poets. But the celebrations were not limited to just these villages. Muharram was celebrated in almost all the villages of the Qutb Shahi Empire, with the same spirit of piety and enthusiasm. According to the accounts that have come down to us as a legacy, the Hindus of Gugodu village observed Muharram every year. It was the only occasion on which the people of all castes were allowed to participate and the caste differences so rigid among them were forgotten. They called it Deen Govind. They even practiced the ceremony of becoming Fakir.
On the fifth night, a procession was taken out which was called Panje ka Pittar in which every one living in the village actively participated. The babies born during this period in the village were named as Faqir Appa, Husain Rao etc. (6)
Another village called Solapur in Rai Durg Taluq gained prominence as a famous Telugu poet Ramanna of the village wrote number of poems describing and eulogizing Muharram. In one such poem he writes.
Padda la pandu ga rawe
Peer la pandu ga rawe
(Come, the festival of the great man) (7)
The people of the Solapur village, even abstained from eating meat during the Muharram days. (8)
Surapalli village was yet another village which attracted a number of people during the Muharram days. Balaiah a poet of the village wrote poems during these days and recited them every day to a large audience. One of the poem written by Balaiah starts with these lines Allah ke namanu anara,
devata la devama vachurao (Recite in the name of Allah, Devata will bless you).(9)
It is interesting to note that even the women of the villages wrote poems to pay their homage to the martyrs of Karbala. Three women, who were prominent among them were, Imam Aka, Vanoor Bee, and Gateema. Vanoor Bee in one of her poems gave us the reasons for her devotion. She writes if you speak truth Bibi Fatima will bless.
There are even Telugu folk songs written to pay homage to the martyrs of Karbala. (10)
The devotion to any movement or philosophy does need a cultural background, a sort of education, ability to understand the finer values, the Qutb Shah’i Kingdom undoubtedly had these qualities in the cities, towns and villages. Therefore devotion to the martyrs of Karbala became an integral part of their socio-religious life.
The extent to which the Qutb Shahs were successful in universalizing the Azadari and converting Karbala into a symbol for devotion to truth and piety can be assessed by the fact that even the tribes living in remote parts of the Kingdom participated in it with complete devotion and faith, of course, the way in which they performed the ceremony differed from tribe to tribe, depending on their cultural background. They recited songs written in their languages describing the tragedy of Karbala.
It was customary for the Pardies to begin their Azadari, as soon as the moon of Muharram was sighted.(11)
The Pardies usually conducted their Majlis in a large hut. After the Majlis, they offered Fateha over the fruits.
Gound was yet another tribe, among whom Azadari was performed. They too had their songs, which they sang during the Majlis. The Lambadies were greater in number than the other tribes, they too celebrated Muharram. (12)
Muharram thus was a festival of the people belonging to the cross-section of the society; it was celebrated by all in their own ways, according to their cultural back grounds and traditions. The Qutb Shahs did not try to impose any restriction over the diversified ways of its celebration. They did not force the people to abide by the rules laid down for it in their religion. Instead they universalized the social customs associated with it. They knew that neither the non-Muslims could be brought into the mosque and invited to participate in the prayers, nor the Muslims could participate in the prayers inside the temple. It was Ashur Khanas in which people could be brought together and allowed to participate in the ceremonies according to their own ways. The Alams in the Ashur Khanas were made sacred not only to the Muslims but to all the people of all the religions. It was because of this that the non-Muslims, who did not believe in Islam, also paid their homage to the Alams and adorned them.
The celebrations of Muharram founded by the Qutb Shahs and established in every part of their kingdom have became a tradition of the people, and still exist to this day as it used to be during the Qutb Shahi period. There is hardly any city, town, village of Andhra Pradesh, where the Alams are not installed. Muharram still is held as a pious ceremony not only by Muslims but also by Hindus all over the state. (13)
Professor Sadiq Naqvi and Professor V.Kishan Rao from the department of history in the Osmania University, Hyderabad, India have explained in detail in their book “The Muharram Ceremonies among the Non-Muslims of Andhra Pradesh” about the observance of Muharrum ceremonies by Hindus in the Andhra Pradesh state in southern India. (14)

Universalization of Muharram Ceremonies in India
The Imambara is an Indian institution more popular with the Shias who assemble here during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic Calendar. Unlike a mosque, there is no set pattern for an Imambara. Its style, architecture and unity vary with local cultural influence. In south India, for instance, it is called an Ashurkhana.
Shias in particular perform Matam (beating their chest), recite Marsiyas. Processions are taken out with Tazias (huge bamboo structures decorated with paper and tinsel representing Imam Husian’s mausoleum) and Alams (replicas of the ensign of Imam Husian, during the battle of Karbala). Taimurlane is believed to be the founder of the Tazia ceremony. As a devotion to Imam Hussian, he erected the first Tazia and carried it on his military pursuits. Gradually the Mughal emperors perfected and promoted this art.

The Imambara
The pivotal point for the Muharram activities is the Imambara. In India Imambaras or Ashurkhanas are more prominent in places patronized by the Shias. The earliest kingdom to declare Shiaism as state religion in Indo-Pak sub-continent was the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, followed by the Qutb Shahis of Golconda. The Awadh rulers of Lucknow and some of the Nawabs of Bengal were devoted Shias who observed Muharram with due sanctity.
Alams during the Qutb Shahi rule were made out of gold and silver with jewels studded in them. As they symbolized the martyrs of Karbala, upon them be peace, royal privileges like armed escorts, Naqqar Khana and Chattr were accorded to them.

Numerous Ashurkhanas dotted the Deccani Kingdoms of Adil Shah and Qutb Shah. One of the best preserved is the Badshahi Ashurkhana, not far from Hyderabad’s world-famous monument Charminar. It was erected soon after the completion of Charminar in 1592. This Ashurkhana has an impressive height and is noted for its profusion of Persian tiles. Once it boasted of 14 gold Alams and 10,000 lamps that spoke of the grandeur of the Sultan.
During the Asaf Jahi period which lasted in Deccan till 1948 efforts were made to revive the glory by introducing new Alams and European lamps. (15)
Most of the Ashurkhanas of Hyderabad are gifted with proud historic Alams or some piece of memorabilia. Koh-e-Moula Ali on the hillocks of Hyderabad is reputed for its Nishan (hand impression of Hazrat Ali); others have preserved the historic swords, fragments of the armour cap, etc. One such proud possession is Hazrat Fatima’s, chaddor. The box in which this relic is kept bears the seal of several emperors. Bibi Ka Alam contains a piece of wood on which the funerary bath of Hazrat Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Muhammad was performed. (16)
Awadh was another Shia kingdom with Lucknow as the capital where numerous Imambaras were built by different nawabs. There hardly used to be any mohalla in Lucknow that did not boast of a couple of Imambaras. The three best known Imambaras of the city - the Asafi or Bara Imambara in the old city, the Chota Imambara in Hussainabad and the Shah Najaf Imambara near Hazratganj - are famous for their architectural beauty and European chandeliers.

Sibtainabad Imambara in Calcutta
The last of the Awadh Nawabs, Wajid Ali Shah, was laid to rest within the Sibtainabad Imambara built in 1864 in Calcutta. The imposing gateway with double mermaids - the emblem of the royal family - lies across the busy road. The building evokes memories of happier times when flowering plants and fountains almost recreated a mini Lucknow.

Imambara at Hooghly
Not far from Calcutta is Hooghly where Haji Muhammad Muhsin Isfahani’s Imambara is a landmark. Hundreds of European chandeliers reflecting on the Italian marble speak for themselves. The inside walls of the Imambara are profusely worked upon with inscriptions from the Holy Quran. The sundial and the mighty clock from Black & Murray, London, have tall tales to tell. One has to climb to see the three enormous iron bells of the clock together with a room full of machinery. The spacious courtyard, gilded doors, water tanks with goldfish add to the beauty of the scenic Imambara. The backyard wall of this building is inscribed with the fairly long will (dated 1806 A.D) of Haji Muhammad Muhsin Isfahani who dedicated this grand Imambara, besides schools and hospitals, for the needy.

The World’s Biggest Imambara
Murshidabad, along the Bangladesh border, houses the world’s biggest Imambara rebuilt in 1848 at a cost 600,000 Rupees in those times. The new building was erected when the old one caught fire during a party organized for the Europeans. The Imambara in it’s hey days stocked hundreds of Alams and other relics, besides chandeliers, lamps, girandoles and other means of illumination. When the relationship between the nawab and the English took a bitter turn, the women in Murshidabad melted their jewellery to create the new Alams.

Muharram in Bangladesh
Muharram had been observed since the 10th century in Bengal. A large procession is brought out from the Husaini Dalan Imambara in Dhaka on 10th Muharram in memory of the tragic martyrdom of Imam Husain (A.S.) on this day at Karbala in Iraq. Muharram ceremonies are also held elsewhere in the country.
Husaini Dalan in Dhaka is a big two-storied building which was constructed by Mir Murad in 1642 particularly for the observance of Muharram.
Muharram processions were common in Bengal in the 18th century. Horses and elephants were also used in the processions. Processions nowadays are much smaller. In Dhaka, the procession begins at Husaini Dalan and, after winding its way through the streets, terminates at a place designated Karbala on the banks of the Dhanmandi Lake. The replica of Zuljinah, the horse of Imam Husain (A.S.) and the flags in the procession show a symbolic presence of Imam Husain (A.S.). Also latikhela (stick fights) are organized to remind of the battle between the troops of Imam Husain (A.S.) and Yazid.
The tenth day of the month of Muharram (Ashura) is a national holiday in Bangladesh.

Muharram in Nepal
On the tenth day of Muharram, the Tazia, also called Daha are taken around town in procession with mourners beating their chests and shouting ‘Ya Husain, Ya Husain’ in the Muslims dominated areas in Nepal. In the evening, the Tazias are buried. In these ceremonies Muslims and Hindus participate enthusiastically.
Muslims are a minority in Nepal, and comprise between eight and ten percent of the population. They live in almost every Tarai district, but Nepal has more Muslims than some of the smaller west Asian sultanates such as Bahrain or Qatar.

Urdu Marsiay and Nohay
Urdu marsiay and nohay, or elegies, have not only rendered to the Urdu language literary and poetic beauty, but also a medium of religious, cultural, and intellectual expression. Although some Urdu marsiay and nohay deal with topics other than the seventh-century battle of Karbala, most of them have focused on the events that paved the path to this battle and the agonizing aftermath of this event.(17)
There are many Hindu poets in India who have composed Urdu marsiay and nohay in the praise of Imam Husain (A.S.).
Muharram ceremonies in India serve to unite the Muslims in India as well as bring the non-Muslims closer to them. The local customs and traditions concerning Muharram in rural areas of India have created for rural Muslims the psychological stability and security. Muharram rituals in India have played a vital role in the very survival of Islam, especially in the various far-flung rural communities of this vast sub-continent.
The Taziya, Alams and Mehndi attract the attention and devotion of Hindus and are very popular among them. They visit the Taziyas for darshan (homage) and make mannats (vows) and give offerings. In India the Muslims and Hindus are united in seeking solutions through the Taziyas. Apart from the Taziyas, the Muharram ceremonies always increase inter-communal interaction. Muharram affords an excellent opportunity for mass participation and collective performance of rituals on joint basis by Muslims and Hindus.

Sufi Saints Contribution in the Cause of Interfaith Understanding
In the Indo-Pak sub-continent Islam was spread, upheld and revitalized by the Sufi saints. The people who loved these men often built beautiful structures around their tombs (dargah), sometimes with an adjoining mosque. These darbars are dargahs as they are called became places of homage and reverence by the Muslims and Hindus.
Sufism was primarily introduced in India for spread of Islam and the Sufi saints tombs emerged as a place of pilgrimage for spread of Islam.(18)
The numerous Sufi religious establishments in India were the major means of spreading Islam and adapting it to indigenous cultural tradition. Of the various Sufi orders, Muslims of India prominently follow Chistiyya, Naqshbandiyya, Qadiriyya and Suhrawardiyya orders.
For centuries the Hindus accepted Sufi shrines as symbol of communal harmony. A large number of them offer prayers at the tombs of the Sufi saints.
The Sufi saints wrote in local language or even dialect and hence were much closer to the people. Popularity of these Sufi saints in the Indo-Pak sub-continent is indeed tremendous.
The famous Sufi saints who contributed greatly in propagating the message of Islam in the Indo-Pak sub-continent were Baba Farid (died in 643 A.H.) in Pakpattan, Nizamuddin Aulia (died in 724 A.H.) in Delhi , Khwaja Bande Nawaz Gesudaraz (died in 826 A.H.) in Gulbarga,, Shaykh Ahmad Abdal in Rudauli, Bakhtiyar Kaki (died in 634 A.H.), Nasiruddin famous as Chirag Dehli (died in 769 A.H.), Shaykh Sirajuddin (died in 759 A.H.), Ashraf Jahangir Semnani (died in 808 A.H.), Shaykh Saleem Chishti, Syed Ali Hamadani famous as Shah-e-Hamdan (died in 786 A.H.), Ahmad Yahya Maneri (died in 773 A.H.), Muhammad Ghouse Gwaliori (died in 971 A.H.), Nur Qutb Alam, Baba Adam Shaheed, Shah Jalal Sufi, Khan Jahan Ali, Badr al-Din Shah, Shah Maqdoom in Bengal, Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, Syed Ali Hujwairi in Lahore, Shaykh Zakaria, Shah Shams Sabzwari, Shah Ali Mardan and Shah Yusuf Gardezi in Multan,
Khwaja Moinuddin Hasan Chishti, who brought the Chishtiyya order to India and he is considered as the most outstanding Sufi saint in the Indo-Pak sub-continent and famous as Sultan i-Hind.
The Dargah Sharif of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, is one of the most holy places for Muslims. The Dargah is equally holy for Hindus and other religion followers. Khwaja was also called as Gharib Nawaj, which means the protector of the poor. The shrine is equally prayed by Hindus. People have faith that any wish asked with pure heart will be fulfilled by Khwaja.
The ‘urs is a yearly celebration of the death date of a Sufi saint. About 16 days after Id-ul-fitr, many Muslims and some non-Muslims in and around Delhi take part in another festive occasion they call the Satrahvin Sharif - literally Holy Seventeenth. This is the Urs or death anniversary of Hazrat Amir Khusrau, the favourite companion of 12th century Sufi saint Nizamuddin Aulia. Thousands of people throng the twin Dargah (tomb) and offer their nazrana (of flowers, chadurs and sweets), say the fatehas (oblation), tie threads of mannat (vow) on the tomb’s jali, or just sit there listening to ecstatic qawwalis. There is also Charaghan (illumination with lamps) inside the tomb, and outside, everyone makes merry in a colorful fete, which goes on for three to four days. (19)
There are hundreds of Sufi saints in Indo-Pak subcontinent whose tombs become center of such occasions at least once every year, yet the legend of Amir Khusrau and Nizamuddin Aulia is something special in the history of Indian Sufism. Amir Khusrau, according to the popular belief, was a steadfast Sufi and the most favorite disciple of Nizamuddin Aulia.
For last seven centuries, every year the Urs of both saints is celebrated with a gap of exactly six months – Nizamuddin Aulia’a Urs too being called the Satrahvin Sharif. (20)
Ahmad Riza Khan (1856-1921), the leader of the twentieth-century Barelwi movement, was a scholar of Islamic law and a Sufi saint in British India. His vision of what it meant to be a good Muslim was built on devotion to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). The Barelwi movement continues to attract a large following both in South Asia and wherever South Asian Muslims have migrated.
The Urs of Syed Salar Masud or Ghazi Miyan in Bahraich which took place on the first Sunday in the month of Jeth (May/June) hundred of thousands of Muslims and Hindus participate in it. The Mir Datar Dargah at Unava, about hundred kilometers north of Ahmadabad, near the district town of Mehsana in Gujrat state also attract thousands of Hindu pilgrims.
Some dargahs maintain public kitchens which distribute free food (langar) to the poor and to the travelers. The langar is also the essential feature of the annual urs celebration

The Rich Tradition of Syncretism in India
In most part of south India, the Muslims and non-Muslims cannot be distinguished by the dress or language. But the Muslims preserve their Islamic identity by observing the Islamic rituals and customs. In the era of Islamic practices they are the staunch practicing Muslims but Islam is the basis of inter-faith understanding in these regions. Muslims and non-Muslims have always lived in peace in these southern states. The Indian Union Muslim League in Kerala state have played a very crucial role the state politics since the independence of India in 1947.
India has a long and rich tradition of syncretism or the fusion of different forms of beliefs and practices. Religions liberally borrowed each others rituals, customs and to some extent beliefs. In India, even Islam with their strict monotheism was not immune to this trend.
The Shrine of Ayappa in the Sabari Mala Mountains of Kerala attracts thirty million devotees each year. Ayappa reportedly had a Muslim disciple called Wavar who led an army of warriors and defeated Ayappa’s enemies. There still exists a mosque called Wavar Masjid at the foot of the hill where pilgrims seek the blessings from a “maulvi” before embarking on the uphill trek.
Arguably, the most popular cult in India is that of the Sai Baba of Shirdi. His portraits and popular saying, Sab Ka Malik Aik (Everyone’s lord is one), are ubiquitous among the Hindus in India, gracing everything from plush offices to auto-rickshaws.
His clothing, actions and many popular sayings and actions definitely point that he was a Muslim. He wore the dress of Muslim fakir, held ‘fatiha’ ceremony every Thursday and lived and died in a mosque in Shirdi.’ During his life he was simply known as a Muslim fakir.
Haji Baba Ratan of Bhatinda in Punjab is greatly revered. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs all claim him to be their own despite his strong Muslim connections.
Hindu ladies still line up at the doors of several mosques in India and ask the Muslim men leaving after the prayers to blow on their children. (21)

Even though the observance of Muharram and Urs ceremonies in South Asia by Muslims and non-Muslims alike according to beliefs have always bolstered social cohesion, touching upon the question of cultural syncreticism and allowing a greater degree of interfaith understanding. But the Muslims in the Indo-Pak sub-continent have always strictly adhered to the basic principles of Islam and have maintained the purity of Islamic beliefs and practices and have prevented it being infused with ideas that are regarded as secular by them.
1- Mirza Nizamuddin Ahmed; Hadiqat us-Salatin, p.59
2- Muhammad Chirag Ali; Udu Marsiye Ka Irtiqa, Hyderabad, 1973, p. 159
3- Dr. Sadiq Naqvi, Muslim Religious Institutions and their Role under the Qutb Shahs, Hyderabad, 1993, p 211
4- Ibid, p 212
5- Ibid, p 212
6- T. Donappa; Jana Pada Kala Sampada, Vishakapatnam, 1975, p. 129
7- Ibid, p. 130
8- Ibid, p. 131
9- Ibid, p. 140
10- Rama Raju; Muharram Folk Songs in Telugu, Hyderabad, p. 57
11-Nadeem A, Husain and Tribes, Alwaiz, Khames Aal-Aba Number, October, 1983, p. 71
12-Ibid, pp. 72-75
13- Dr. Sadiq Naqvi, Muslim Religious Institutions and their Role under the Qutb Shahs, Hyderabad, 1993, p 212
14- “The Muharram Ceremonies among the Non-Muslims of Andhra Pradesh. Hyderabad, 2004,
15- Nigam, Mohanlal; Indian Ashur Khanas”, Red Sand, New Delhi, 1984, pp.118-120
16- Muslim Religious Institutions and their Role under the Qutb Shahs, pp.169-175
17- Rashida Moosavi; Deccan Mee Marsiya Aur Azadari , Hyderabad, p.57
18- Sayyed Athar Abbas Rizvi, History of Sufism in India, Volume 2, 1992, Page 178
19- Imtiaz Ahmad, Rituals and Religion among Muslims in India, New Delhi, 1984, pp, 174-176
20- Ibid, pp, 191-193
21- Ibid, pp, pp, 91-92

May 3rd, 2007