My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Ajmer Sharif - Awakening of Sufism in South Asia
By Reema Abbasi
There are a few places in this world which hold a very special place in my heart. Three of them are precious because of their sanctity, because they connect me with someone who takes care of me and watches over me. The three places are Vaishnodevi Shrine, Jerusalem and Ajmer Sharif Dargah.
To find a beautiful book about Ajmer Sharif with amazing pictures and a lovely history of Sufism using the Dargah as the focal point was like receiving a treasured gift. It was as if I had been taken back to a place that I love to visit often. Suddenly I was introduced to new aspects of a much loved friend and it was as if he had been given a new face and I was discovering new facets about him!
Reema Abbasi is a young journalist who has won awards for her gender sensitive reporting. She has written a book on “Historic Temples in Pakistan: A call to conscience “ , a book that is so relevant during these troubled times. Her bio-data states that she has “maintained a rabid focus on the values of secularism “. Her book about Khwaja Moinuddun Chisti and his Dargah takes this focus many steps further as she tells us the history and beliefs and teaching of this amazing teacher.
First the visuals – the photographs – taken by Syed Salman Chisthy, Gaddi Nasheen and the Chishty Foundation among others, capture the sanctity of this place so beautifully. The crowds, the sanctum sanctorum, the ancient bylanes unfold before you as you turn each page. The titles given to the pictures such as ‘ dome shelters a resting soul’ , ‘hope hangs on fragile threads’ ‘ past the Door of Paradise into the sanctum’ make them seem even more relevant and enticing.
Reema Abbasi has written a book with love and devotion and I commend her not only on her ability to use words to present an amazing narrative but also to be able to entice her readers to enter a world occupied by one of the greatest mystics of this world.
“Like the mystic mesmerised by the image of a pattern on a snowflake, one moves in a trance through a valley of senses – every sight, a stamp on a captive soul. As classical Islamic mysticism blends with folk traditions and customs of ancient faiths, boundaries in humanity break down in tenderness. Some cling to him, others to hope “.
Follow her as she takes you to the Ehaata Noorani, into the Ehaata Astaana where he has been laid to rest in 1236 CE at the age of 95. Many people – kings and simple devotees added to this shrine as the first tomb was in wood, but today it is covered with marble and with a silver and mother-of -pearl canopy built by Emperor Jahangir. When Reema asked a Hindu lady as to what she finds here, her answer resonated with what all of us believe when we go there: .
“ You cannot see Allah. We don't know Eeshwar, but Gharib Nawaz knows God. He can take our prayers to Him. Can't you feel the power?”
What I truly loved about this book was that she traces Gharib Nawaz’s journey and thus shows us how Sufism was awakened and how it was and even today is, a gentle belief it is a “conduit of harmony and justice “ . Khwaja Sahib taught the world about how important it is to accept everyone and how to forgo the belief that our own religion is superior and that patriarchy is the only way to go.
I learnt so many new things about Khwaja Sahib and about this hallowed place – that it is the only memorial where prayers are ceaseless; that more than 65% of the visitors are non-Muslims; that over forty Sufi elders who accompanied Moinnuddin Chisti on his journey into Hindustan are interred in the veranda; that the qawwali which is unique to the Chisti Sufi Order was born and nurtured here.
Read the book if you have never been to Ajmer, and very soon you will find yourself at his doorstep asking for his blessings. Read the book if you are one of the believers in him and learn why along with you many believe in his blessings and in the power of a prayer offered there.
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