Woman’s access to Dargah –Shrines to tolerance


Mohammed Wajihuddin | November 10, 2012, Times Crest

Some Mumbai dargahs have banned the entry of women devotees into the sanctum. When the Sufi saints lying buried there didn’t discriminate between men and women, why should religious busybodies, ask liberal activists.

Covered with green chadars and rose petals, the shrines of Sufi saints are usually enveloped in a fragrant haze. And if you happen to be at there at the right time, you can catch Sama, the session of devotional music dedicated to the inclusive, tolerant character of the saints. In the durbars of the saints young and old, rich and poor, men and women are treated equally;discrimination is the antithesis of the Sufi cult.

This air of easy egalitarianism took a beating last week. Mumbai’s leading Sufi shrines, including the iconic Haji Ali and the Makhdoom Mahimi, have banned the entry of women devotees from entering the sanctum of the shrines. Leading the protest against this move are members of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) which, through a survey done in September this year, found that seven out of 20 dargahs in Mumbai prevent women from going closer to astana (graves of the saints).

While dargah committees cite Shariat to justify their action, scholars and activists call it an insult to the Sufi tradition which is based on a moderate variant of Islam. “We are not antiwomen. We are just accepting what many senior clerics have been demanding for long, ” says Sohail Khandwani, managing trustee of Mahim dargah and one of the trustees of Haji Ali. “Dargahs are basically premises which house graves of the saints and Shariat prevents women from visiting graves. ”

Many scholars are aghast at this gross “misreading” and “misinterpretation” of the Shariat. “The Quran doesn’t say anything about visiting of graves. They call it Shariat rule just because the Prophet is believed to have asked women not to visit graves. The authenticity of this tradition is doubtful and in this case we must follow the Quran which is silent on it, ” explains Islamic scholar Asghar Ali Engineer.

Other scholars cite instances from early history of Islam when women did visit graves. “The Prophet’s daughter Hazrat Fatima visited her father’s grave. Do the dargah committees want to tell us that daughters should not visit graves of their parents, ” asks Ali. He adds that there is anyway a difference between grave of an ordinary person and that of a Sufi saint. “Sufis are sacred souls. People visit mausoleums of saints not to worship, but to pay homage to the Waliallahs, friends of Allah, ” says Ali. BMMA activist Noorjahan Safia Niaz says earlier women would touch the shrines at Haji Ali, the new rule would obviously put an end to that proximity.

However, Dr Syed Liyaqat Hussain Moini, scholar of Sufism and a khadim gaddi nashin (direct descendant ) of famous Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, says Sufism doesn’t discriminate against human beings on the basis of caste, creed or gender. “At Ajmer, both men and women have visited the sanctum for centuries, ” says Moini.

Spiritual tourism is booming and many dargahs in India see a large number of celebrity devotees. Will the ban stem this flow? Moini says it will. “How will it help if women are banned? It will only discourage members of other communities from visiting dargahs. Unlike mosques, dargahs are purely secular spaces and this feature of the Sufi shrines will be affected if women are banned, ” he adds.

Dargahs are a magnet for those seeking relief from distress and grief. Devotees seek the “intercession” of the saints in their destiny. “Women dealing with emotional troubles often find solace at dargahs. This ban will seem to them like a divine rejection, ” says Mumbai-based senior Hindi commentator Feroz Ashraf.

The government is refusing to step into the debate. In Mumbai when activists of BMMA requested minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan to intervene, he refused calling it a purely “religious” issue. “Only muftis and clerics can decide on this, ” he says.

Urdu poet-lyricist Nida Fazli quotes a famous incident from the life of Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuudin Aulia (incidentally women are banned from entering sanctum of Nizamuddin too). One day the saint’s disciple, Amir Khusrau, found his master watching Hindus devotees offering libation to the sun on the banks of the river Yamuna in Delhi. “What do you think of sun worship?” asks Khusrau. “Every follower has his own Kaaba and that is the right path, ” replies the saint.

“Such was the tolerance of a Sufi who was a devout Muslim as well as a great human being. Those who want to restrict women’s access to the dargahs are fanatics who are shattering the tolerant image of the saints, ” says Fazli.

 

#Invitation – Artistes travel across #Gujarat- Oct 29- Nov8 #mustshare


 

AJWADI WATEY

VIVIDHTA KA JASHN

AN ARTISTS KARWAN TRAVELS ACROSS GUJARAT

October 29- November 8, 2012

 

MALLIKA SARABHAI TO FLAG OFF ARTISTS CARAVAN ON OCTOBER 29, 2012 AT 3PM AT SABARMATI ASHRAM, AHMADABAD

 

CITY DATE Time Address
FLAG OFF:Ahmadabad 29/10/2012 3.00PM Sabarmati Ashram, Ahmadabad
Surat 30/10/2012 8.00PM Ishwar Farm,In Union Park Street, Ghoddod-Bhatar Road, Opp. Krushi Farm, Surat.
Ankleshwar 31/10/2012 7.30PM GIDC Town Hall, Ankleshwar
Ahmadabad 1/11/2012 7.00PM Darpana Academy, Usmanpura, Ahmadabad
Anand

Anand

02/11/2012

FRIDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Anand
Mehsana 04/11/2012 8.00pm Samarpan Chawlk, Near Lake ,Mehsana- 384001
Rajkot 06/11/2012 9.30pm Hemu Gadhvi Hall, Tagor Road,Rajkot.
Bhuj

Bhuj

08/11/2012

THRSDAY

8.00pm Town Hall, Bhuj

 

Cultures, civilizations grow and develop because they constantly take from each other. Civilizations borrow from others and give to others. And it is in this process of give and take that each civilization, each country, each nation constantly reinvents itself. It defines and redefines itself. The idea is not to purge what we consider alien but to recognize that it is impossible to say what is ours and what is not. What we need to do is to see what is relevant, living and robust in our culture as it exists today, to accept what will enrich our lives and help us to improve as human beings and to reject and discard all that is likely to sustain prejudice and malice towards other human beings.

 

The search for the meaning of culture is a continuous process in the historical evolution of all societies. The dynamism of Indian culture is derived from its diversity, which molded the cultural practices of the people.

Anhad as part of its campaign Bole Gujarat is celebrating this diversity.

 

The programme’s objective is to contribute in creating a conducive environment for safeguarding cultural diversity, to promote and design ways of ensuring access to culture to all and to create platforms for artists to promote peace, diversity and pluralism. The programme also aims at strengthening the capacities of professional and rural  artists and youth at large to contribute towards a diverse and composite cultural atmosphere in Gujarat.

 

An Artist Caravan (musicians, dancers, poets, writers, designers, filmmaker etc will travel across seven small and large towns of Gujarat and perform in seven cities: Surat, Ankleshwar, Ahmadabad, Anand, Mehsana, Rajkot and Bhuj between October 30 and November 8, 2012.

 

Performing artists include: Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group, Avni Sethi- a classical dancer from Ahmadabad, Odyssey Rock band from Surat, Sufi singer- Dhruv Sangari from Delhi and Namrata Pamnani –a Kathak dancer of international repute. A number of video spots and celebrity interviews will be screened during these concerts.

 

The programme called ‘Us Subah Ki Khatir’- Ajwadi Watey- hopes to spread the message of peace, communal harmony and non-violence through the artistic expression and celebrate the intermingling of different streams of cultural expression.

 

The artists will stop on the way to interact with local villagers in a number of villages on November 3, 5 and 7, 2012.

 

Information on Performing Artists

 

Dhruv Sangari

 

Dhruv Sangari began training in Hindustani classical music at the age of 7 under Smt. Shahana Bannerjee and Tabla with Pt. B.S. Ramanna. Later, he developed an interest in Sufism and Sufi music,and began learning Qawwali under Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami of the Delhi-Qawwalbachhe Gharana. He was also given training and guidance by the legendary Qawwali and Classical maestro late Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khansaheb.

 

Dhruv has a masters degree in Hindustani Classical music from the University of Delhi and has been performing professionally since 2001 with his Sufi music troupe ‘Rooh’. His repertoire includes Persio- Arabic poetry, Punjabi-Hindvi Sufi poetry and Urdu Poetry from the works of famed poets and saints such as Amir Khusrau, Sant Kabir, Baba Farid , Bulleshah, Meerabai,  Hafez,  Rumi ,  Jami,   Baba Nanak, Sant Tulsidas

 

In addition to stage concerts at major festivals and international collaborations with artistes in more than 15 countries including China, India, Morocco, Turkey, Italy, Germany, France, U.K. and Spain; he has recorded for a number of private albums, film and solo projects like Jet-Lag (Phat-Phish Records, Mumbai, India.) and Rooh e Sufi.

 

Dhruv has taught and performed Sufi music in several universities, museums and cultural institutions such as Colby College, Maine, University of Boston, Massachusetts, University of York, UK; Nehru Center, London, UK; House of World Cultures, Berlin, Germany; Stadt Theatre, Freiburg-Breigsau, Germany; Louvre Museum, Paris, France; Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC, Society for Ethical Cultures, New York, US Library of Congress; Washington DC, Embassy of India, Washington DC, and Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC etc.

 

Avni Sethi

 

Avni  Sethi is an interdisciplinary artist who works with multiple mediums. Her work extends from choreographing large ballets or performing small solos to creating sound installations in parks to creating new forms of organisms in a lab to devising performance pedagogy for schools.

Her focus has primarily been on exploring the politics and poetry of humanity through her artistic practice. She is presently curating a museum of conflict in Ahmedabad.

 

Siddi Goma Tribal Dance Group

 

The Siddis of Gujarat are a tribal Sufi community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago and made Gujarat their home. They carried with them their exceptionally rich musical tradition and kept it alive and flourishing through the generations, unknown to the rest of the world.

 

A traditional occupation of African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat has been to perform sacred music and dance as wandering faqirs, singing songs to their black Sufi saint, Bava Gor.

 

Sidi Goma perform in a group of twelve: four lead musicians (drummers and singers) and eight dancers. While the music gradually gets more rapid and excited, the dances unfold with constantly evolving individual and small-group acts of animal imitations, climaxing in a coconut-breaking feat.

 

The exuberant energy and joy Sidi Goma brings to the stage is captivating and powerful, their unique African-Indian heritage a fascinating discovery, and every performance an exhilarating experience!

 

NAMRATA PAMNANI

 

Born in 1980, Namrata Pamnani began her training in Kathak with Guru Smt. Bharti Gupta with later specialization under Pt. Jaikishan Maharaj at the National Institute of Dance, Kathak Kendra, in New Delhi. A graduate in Economics from Delhi University, Namrata decided to take up her passion as a profession. She has also taken formal training in Hindustani classical music and holds a diploma from Prayag Sangeet Samiti; she is also learning the nuances of dhrupad singing from the Gundecha brothers.

Namrata believes that dance is a form of self purification.

 

Some of her major overseas performances have been at the Lincoln Centre in New York, the International Kathak Festival in Chicago, the Avignon Festival in France, and at venues in Switzerland, Estonia, Finland, South Korea, Shanghai, Los Angeles, Moscow, Sri Lanka and Germany.

 

Within India she has been featured at the Kathak Mahotsava (Baroda), Konark Festival, Pt. Lacchu

Maharaj Utsav, Kalakshetra Festival, Natya Vriksha Festival, Taj Mahotsava and Kathak Yatra by Sangeet

Natak Academy. Namrata has been a member of the renowned Kathak Kendra Repertory, New Delhi where she had the opportunity of working under some of the best gurus.

 

Odyssey Rock Band

 

Sometime in 2009, in the historical city of Surat, Odyssey was formed with the aim of creating independent, original music. Hailing from the diamond city draped in textile, Odyssey is a rock band with a unique touch to it. Five guys, each having more than a decade of stage experience, combine to create music that is not restricted to any specific genre. Each band member is a vital piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Odyssey. The band strives to put Surat, a city more known for its trade and cuisine (not to forget its trademark slang!), on the global music scene.

 

ENTRY TO PERFORMANCES IS FREE AND DOES NOT REQUIRE ANY INVITATION ON FIRST COME FIRST SERVE BASIS.

 

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