It was a rainy night. It was raining hard and I felt as if it was raining inside my heart, just like the rain outside in the town. I was hurting a little but had no remedy for it except walking up to the Dera and express my feelings to the Baba. In fact, my dear friend, who was a fiction writer and a columnist, gave me harsh treatment in his recent columns. And when a columnist chases someone down, the other person might not have forum like newspaper for the rebuttal. In which case, he glumly sits back at his place. I had been served with the same treatment after a barrage of three / four serious attacks by him.
To vent my grief, I went to Dera and said to Baba Jee,” I am grieved and this thing has pained me a lot. This person, who is, ostensibly, my friend, shows warmth on meeting and we support each other on issues at tea house, and people would not even fathom that he could do this to me, then what is all this?”
He said, “Son, you did not understand him. Now listen to this carefully as this will give a little insight of the matter. There were two Sufis (Saints). The elder sufi was seasoned and the younger sufi was under training. The elder sufi took along the younger sufi and wondered in streets and bazaars. Hitchhiking like this, they reached a jungle, as I have mentioned earlier, it had rained hard, jungle was soaking and there were scattered heaps of wood in the jungle. Leaves and branches were aplenty. The elder sufi noticed that amid heaps of branches and leaves, a snake had buckled up and was lying there semi-conscious. He was injured due to heat of fire but then rain healed him to life. Sufi felt pity on him and picked him up. Younger sufi said, “Sir, what are you doing? Snake is a pest, it should not be picked up like this.” He said, “No, poor thing is helpless, injured, injury stricken and is Allah’s creature. We should nurse him.” He took the snake in his hand and started walking. They continued talking and went places. When cold wind touched the snake, he swayed and gained consciousness. Having gained consciousness, he regained his strength. Having gained strength, he bit the elder sufi. Having been bitten, he placed the snake next to the roots of strong tree, with great affection and love, because now the snake had reached a safe place. From here he could slowly revive himself. He will go wherever he might wish to go. Trainee sufi said,” See sir, I told you it’s a pest and might bite you, then why were you taking him along? You are a wise man, deputed to train me.” He replied, “He has not bitten me but that is his way of returning favours. Snakes pay gratitude like this.” “The one who writes against you, he only knows to thank this way, don’t be bothered.”
I was heavy hearted but then I began to feel feather light. So ladies and gentlemen, these Deras( Hujra, Bhetak, Autaq) or Khanqahs are meant for this purpose that burden you could not carry, take it to them and these Babas will ease you off by making you understand the riddles of life. Imagine if there was a Dera in this modern world where a psychiatrist practices but does not charge any fee. He might not have that bench on which they lay you down for analysis but a simple floor mat where you sit and talk face to face. Such Deras, Baithaks are called Zavia in Tunis (Algeria) in North Africa. Some are called “Ribat” but Zavia is a common term there. Amazingly, though Zavia is a common word in North Africa, but in times of Andalusia, there were no Zavias in the land of Andalusia. There were Ribat in Tunis, Algeria. There Sufis will sit and offer a place to travelers and visitors to hang around, avail lodging and food. People would sit there for a while. Aggrieved, would state their grievances, get relief through dialogue. Just like the kind of services psychologists provide, we are following suit and named this program Zavia. In this context, I am a little embarrassed admitting that this forum is not a real Zavia. Though it’s more like a true copy, yet the spirit remains the same. The endeavour would be that such things are discussed here and the burden on your heart which has not been relieved through other programs, columns and books, is somehow eased off.
Whenever, you will visit a Dera, you would have gone there with pre-determined mindset in your subconscious to test that person (The Baba) sitting there. You often return from there saying that there was nothing. Because we gauge with self defined parameters of our perceptions. But when you go with real urge, like with an ardent desire to pass the exam, only then, you will find pearls in those unassuming settings. Though it would cause serious discomfort if you decide to go to interior Sindh, go to desert of Tharparkar or Rohi, still you will find some sagacity, which is only found in meeting such people and not found in books.
So, I was submitting that the Zavia, despite the fact that its not a real Zavia but we will try and maintain its spirit and character like the real one.
Oh the spirit reminds me that an impersonator came to the court of Aurangzeb Alamgir and said,” Notwithstanding the fact you don’t admire the music and festivity, singing and playing but I am an artist, and Your Highness, I have entered your court as an artist and I am an impersonator. My name is Kundan the Impersonator. I will change my guise in a way, O Respected Emperor, that you, who is proud of his knowledge, can be tricked without knowing.”
Aurangzeb Alamgir said,” This appears to be a waste of time, I even consider hunting a useless activity and whatever you have brought to me, I don’t associate any importance to it.”
He said,” Your Majesty, self evident needs no proof, you are a great king and keep no match in wisdom, I will impersonate and I dare you to recognize me.”
Then the king said ,”Agreed .”
He said,” Your Highness, you are the king of the time, if you recognize me I will be indebted to you. But if you could not recognize me in my adopted guise, then I shall receive five hundred rupees from you.” Obviously, in those times five hundred must be a big thing. The Emperor said,” Ok agreed, five hundred is nothing for me, you go now.” So he left after fixing the wager and began thinking on reaching home that he had boasted a bid, now which guise he might adopt to deceive the King. So he went about exploring and investigating probable options to win the bet. He found out that Aurangzeb Alamgir used to attack the Marathas and Brahman kingdoms in South India. People told him that Aurangzeb will attack again a year after the current year. This was told to him by the historians who assured him of the correctness of information. So he took a foot journey from his present location to the Kingdom of Brahmans. There he disguised into a saint, grew beard, dressed in green and wore saintly beads around his neck and immersed himself in remembrance of Allah in such a way that for a long time, people came from distances and were mesmerized by him. Locals were charmed in to the love of Baba Pir. People began flocking and offered gratifications, like the way it is a norm at ours. His name was heard in far off places but he maintained extremely focused on his work, just like our saints.
After a year, when Aurangzeb Alamgir’s Army camped in South India, the King was unsettled in his heart. He attacked the leader of Marhatas who had taken up strong defenses at a fort and Aurangzeb’s army failed to break the defenses. It was disturbing and there was a strong feeling that his army might have to return without success, which would have not been a good omen for his throne. Thereupon, people told him to pay visit to a Saint, a Wali Ullah who lived under a tree, discuss the matter with him and seek his prayer of approval before attacking the enemy. The Emperor was already caught in a quandary, so he went running to the Saint, offered salam and stated his problem. The Saint said,” We are poor people and what do we have to do with such things”. The King said,” No, these are difficult times for Islamic World (just as we make excuses in such situations), you should help us. I want to attack this fort tomorrow”. The Saint said,” Don’t attack tomorrow, attack day after, after Zohar Prayers”. Orangzeb said, ”Ok, I will”. So, he attacked after Zohar with such ferocity and fervor that the fort fell. The conquered were subjugated. The Emperor went straight to the Saint after subduing the leader of Marhatas. Although, Aurangzeb earned his living by making caps and writing Quran, yet he wore an enormous green turban laden with emerald and jewels. He removed the turban and stood in front of the Saint saying, “Your Highness, it was possible only because of you”.
He said,” No, whatever happened, Allah has made it possible”. The Emperor wished to reward the Saint. The Saint said,” No, we are poor people”. The Emperor awarded him amnesty for seven generations and two big towns of the size of Okara and Pattoki.
He said,” These things are of no use for us, we are poor people, thank you”. Aurangzeb insisted a lot, but he did not agree and the king had to return without paying reward for the service of this saint. On his return to the palace, the Emperor desired to issue a directive. As he was issuing the directive, Kundan the impersonator appeared in his court in his saintly attire and beads around his neck. The Emperor said,” Sir, why have you taken the pain to come here? You should have ordered me to pay you the visit”. Kundan said,” No, O’ great Emperor! Now it was my duty to visit your court. So, your highness, I am Kundan the impersonator. Kindly pay my wager of five hundred rupees”.
He said,” Is it you?” Kundan acknowledged it was him who fixed a wager with him year and a half ago.
Aurangzeb said,” I do not have any issue with paying you five hundred rupees. I want to know that when I granted you and your seven generations, amnesty and land equaling two towns, that you and your descendents could live anywhere in my kingdom as they pleased. Why did you refuse to accept the offer? In comparison, the amount of five hundred rupees is nothing”.
He said,” Your highness, I had to guard the image and honour of those whom I was impersonating. They were the truthful. We are liars. I could not be dishonest after guising like the truthful”.So ladies and gentlemen, I was saying that even though our sitting is not the real Zavia and no doubt, it is an impersonation. Please pray that these sittings help remove some ambiguities, solve some problems, resolve some issues and untie some knots which, otherwise, were not being worked out.