Moment of Mourning
ON THE SPIRITUAL LANDSCAPE OF KASHMIR THE MAJESTIC SHRINE OF DASTGEER SAHAB (RA) REPRESENTED AN IDEA OF LIFE
On the morning of 25th June when 86 year old Ghulam Jeelani heard that Dastgeer Sahab shrine was in flames he was shocked out of his wits.” For an hour I could not make sense what had happened”, says Jeelani, with heavy voice and moist eyes. Ailing and bed ridden he could imagine what was being lost in the fire. His association with the shrine runs into six decades and he has been among the privileged few who could enter the Hujrai Khaas (sanctum sanatorium) of the shrine. Like Jeelani the news was equally painful for a whole lot of people who are spiritually connected with the shrine.
On the spiritual landscape of Kashmir the majestic shrine of Dastgeer sahab represented an idea of life. Constructed in 1182 hijri during the Afghan rule by Syed Ghulam ud Din Azad, the shrine assumed great significance when Holy Relics – Nama Shareef (written by Hazrat Ali Murtaza) and Moe-e-Muqadas – were brought by his brother Syed Sakhi Shah Fazl.
The first renovation and extension of the shrine was started during the rule of Maharaja Ranbir Singh by Khawaja Sonaullah sahib, a highly rich merchant of the Valley at that time.
For onlookers the magnificent architecture of the shrine with its extensive wood work inspired awe and respect. Seven big arched windows allowed enough light on four tall deodar pillars adorned with extensive carvings, and between these refined pillars hung a Belgian chandelier in stately calmness.
“The land on which the shrine stands actually belonged to Ghulam Qadir Chhauoo from Kalashpora who gave it to Syed Ghulam ud Din Azad for the construction” says Abdul Rashid Banday, who has had a long association with the shrine and has done some research on the history of the shrine.
According to historian Prof. Ishaq Khan, “The place was actually the abode of Mir Nazuk Qadri, a disciple of Dawood Khawki (RA) of Suharawardy order. Mir Nazuk Qadri was initiated into Qadri order by a prominent Sufi Mir Syed Ismail Shami. The place was frequented by cross section of people who would visit the saint. The nazro o niyaz (gifts) brought by people was distributed among the poor and that way it was the site of social work as well. But it became highly reverential space when during Afghan governor Abdullah Khan’s reign, in 1806 some merchants from Kandhar brought with them holy relic of Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani to the place”.
Revered across the Muslin world and even among the non-Muslims Syed Abdul Qadir Jeelani’s had a huge influence in the spread of Islam and he earned the title of Gaus e Azam and as such coming of his relic to Kashmir (his spiritual presence) imbued the shrine with a new spiritual significance, although he has never visited Kashmir in person and was not buried in the shrine.
“Syed Abdul Qadri Jeelani fundamentally represented a certain vision of Islam and spirituality in Kashmir and as such one would like to say that the destruction of this shrine is the loss for the Islam in Kashmir and also for Kashmir in general.” Says Abir Bazaz, a US based Kashmiri scholar.
“It was always a centre for people not only to turn to God but also to connect with each other and connect with their history, to connect with the spiritual history of Islam”
GK Columnist Zahid Ghulam Mohammad says, “For all these 300 years Dastgeer sahab has had a huge influence on every aspect of our society. When a labourer pulls a weight he invokes the great Saint for help crying out: Ya Peer Dastgeer. Similarly, every groom in the city would first visit the shrine before heading for his bride’s house.”
According to him, the shrine has not only been significant socially, but it has also a very important place in our political history. Citing an example Zahid points out how the shrine became a centre point for the Naruch Paltan (Trident Brigade), an armed group who rose against the Dogra autocracy in 1931. “The Naruch Paltan was led by Saint Syed Mirak Shah Kashani, who wielded a sword riding on horseback. The Paltan carrying agricultural tools as weapons had a show down against the Maharaja in September 1931. Later the place became the centre of political activity with all leaders delivering speeches from the shrine”
Speaking in the similar vein Abir Bazaz says, “We must also remember that it was also a centre not only for our spiritual struggle but also for our political struggle. We cannot forget the Khanyar massacre, many people have lost their lives around this shrine, praying and dreaming of a new different Kashmir.”
Asserting that it is not merely a loss of a 300 year old heritage structure Abir avers, “This loss cannot be seen as an accident. This lost is in the continuity with the history of loss in Kashmir and as such it is a very serious loss. This is also a time for us to reflect what we are losing every day.”
Inside the shrine are buried the three brothers Syed Ghulam ud Din Azad, Shah Badshah Khan and Syed Sakhi Shah Fazl. Apart from Nama Shareef and Moi-e-Muqadas the shrine also housed Khulai Mubarak (the cap of Dastgeer Sahab).
“It is a monumental loss for our nation. We have lost for ever a national heritage that represented us, that represented our cultural and socio-historical ethos” says poet Zareef Ahmad Zareef.
When I heard about the fire incident Shamima’s image immediately cropped up in my mind. I saw the lady last year inside the shrine wailing and crying. When I asked what the matter with her was, she replied: “I have lost my only son and now I come here to relieve my pain”. At this moment I think about those hundreds and thousands like Shamima, for whom it was the place not only to pay their obeisance but one that gave them hope.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 25 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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