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Relics of our former selves

india Updated: Apr 24, 2009 23:30 IST
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About four years ago, I happened to read My Life and Times (Allied Publishers, 1992), the political memoir of the former J&K minister Syed Mir Qasim. In that very interesting book, I found the fascinating tale of ‘Hazrat Bal’ that’s believed to be a strand of the hair of the Prophet of Islam.

It comes to mind now as we wait for the third phase of the General Election, 2009 and wonder what will befall our country next. And as the Taliban steadily make inroads into Pakistan almost up to our doorstep, it seems terribly important to keep our perspective on how sentiment can be used to distort or influence the course of events.

Back then, Mir Qasim wrote poignantly, “When religious and political issues get mixed up, the results could be horrendous. It is therefore suggested, particularly by nationalists, to keep religion out of politics. Unfortunately, political parties with no programmes to solve the people’s problems, try to keep themselves afloat by overtly or covertly resorting to communalism. Even the so-called secular parties do so on the quiet, if not openly.”

It seems the Moe-e-Muqaddas (Holy Relic) was mysteriously stolen on the night after Christmas 1963, leading to civil frenzy. Just as mysteriously, it was found restored in its official home, the Hazrat Bal mosque in Srinagar, on January 4. It had to be verified by eminent authorities before its re-installation. Mir Qasim clearly thought it was a political ruse, either by insiders or backed by Pakistan, which meanwhile frothed hysterically for “jihad” against India.

As ever, in incidents of ‘zulm’ (oppression) from medieval times, the dark shadow of Aurangzeb is found lurking like a bad djinn.

As Mir Qasim tells it, the Relic was brought to Bijapur in the Deccan by one Syed Abdullah of Madinah in 1635. He said he was a direct descendant of the Prophet. When Syed Abdullah died, his son, Syed Hamid, inherited the Relic.

Later he passed it on to a Kashmiri businessman, Noor-ud-Din. Aurangzeb deprived Noor-ud-Din of the Relic and sent it to Dargah Sahib at Ajmer. “Noor-ud-Din,” writes Mir Qasim, “was rewarded with a lifelong jail term in Lahore for possessing the Relic.”

Later, when realising his mistake, Aurangzeb decided to let the Relic go to Kashmir, Noor-ud-Din had already died in prison, a heartbroken man. The Holy Relic reached Shopian in Kashmir along with the exhumed body of Noor-ud-Din in 1670. Noor-ud-Din’s descendants, called Nishan Deh, alone have the right to exhibit the Relic on select occasions.

Such stories make you rue how the spirit of the original association, the person or reason behind why anything becomes sacred, is distorted and misused as a tool of self-empowerment by the wicked few. The Prophet is held up as a man of peace by those who love him, yet his name is misused for murder. Sri Rama is held up as a ‘Maryada

Purshottam’ (Ideal Man) by those who love him, yet he too is used as a trigger for mob feeling and killing the helpless. As for Jesus, what a long and dirty Western history of greed and broken promises in the Name of ‘their’ Lord.

Whatever befalls India, we’d like to keep the Moe-e-Muqaddas for our own sentiments, as part of the varied culture of our land. It would be a pity if the Taliban burnt Hazrat Bal, like Chrar-e-Sharief got burnt, just because those people think we’re in the ‘wrong’ to value it.