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Muslim world's largest city

The Mango Pir shrine has a special enclosure for crocodiles where devotees come to feed them in the hope that if the crocodiles eat their offerings, prayers will be answered. Imtiaz Ahmad reports.

world Updated: Sep 25, 2010 01:07 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad

Every Thursday, the shrine of Hazrat Mango Pir is visited by hundreds of devotees from all over Sindh province and neighbouring Balochistan. The Mango Pir shrine has a special enclosure for crocodiles where devotees come to feed them in the hope that if the crocodiles eat their offerings, prayers will be answered.

People will come with their prayers and wishes to shrines all over Sindh, of which many are located in Karachi.

The shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi, on a hilltop in Clifton is where thousands gather. There is singing and dancing, qawwaalis and heavy consumption of intoxicants.

"I come here to release my tensions," says Muhammad Amir, who brings his family to say fateha at the shrine. "Ever since I started coming here, things have worked out for my family and for my business." Ghazi is known as the protector of Karachi. His shrine is cited as the reason why no storm has ever attacked the city.

Some expectations are unrealistic but when all people have is hope, then the only place willing to welcome them are the city's shrines. There is a shrine for a Baba who promises to cure diabetes. Another for a Pir who says he can make cancer disappear.

"People believe in this. It is their lifeline," says Salahuddin Qadri, a mujawwir at the Shrine of Hazrat Baba Shah Farid in Dalmia, a low-income locality of the city. Shrines are not just a place of prayer. They are also where street children and beggars converge for food as people make offerings to their saints.

However, this age old system under threat from more conservative Wahabi Muslims, who have started to issue threats against the practices at the shrines. The bombing earlier this year of the shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajwaeri, the Data Darbar in Lahore, has sent shockwaves across the country.

Policemen man the gates and there are metal detectors in place. But these are all cosmetic measures for a threat that is real. "We have started to receive threats to shut down the Mazar," says Ilyas Qureshi, of the Sunni Tehreek, a religious outfit that supports the

Barelvi school of thought, which is in favour of shrines.