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ARIF M. KHAN
FAITH & BIGOTRY

Arif Mohammed Khan is a former Union Cabinet minister.

Hazrat Nizamuddin believed in truth of religions

Chahal Roza is the biography of the great Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (1238-1325). It was penned by Raja Hardev, a scion of the Maratha royal family of Devgarh and an ardent devotee of the saint. The book not only gives the life account of Hazrat Nizamuddin but highlights his instructions and teachings to strengthen the bonds of harmony and unity among Indians. At the dargah of Hazrat Nizamuddin, paramount importance — rather than ritual significance — was given to feeding the hungry. The Shaikh used to say, "Dervishhood consists of three elements: first every visitor should be greeted with peace (salam); then he should be served food; then only should one engage in storytelling or spiritual conversation." About food arrangements, Raja Hardev says, "The langar (refectory) was kept spotlessly clean. People were served food in separate plates. Once, some travellers objected to the provision of separate plates, describing it as a departure from the Muslim custom of eating from the same platter. An assistant of the Shaikh explained that the rule of the refectory is that when we have Hindu guests then food is served in separate plates only."

The book gives another interesting account of a meeting between the saint and his devoted disciple Amir Khusro. On appearing before Hazrat Nizamuddin, Khusro lowered his forehead to the ground and the saint welcomed him warmly. After the courtesies were over, Khusro recited his poetry and the session lasted for more than an hour. After the recital, Hazrat Nizamuddin said, "I have told you to write poetry in Hindi also, so as to popularise the language among Muslims. A common language helps remove the feeling of estrangement and can bring the communities closer." Khusro replied, "I have already started writing poetry in Hindi as desired by you" and recited some of his Hindi couplets that greatly amused the saint.

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Hazrat Nizamuddin not only promoted Hindi as lingua franca for India, but equally emphasised the importance of better understanding and appreciation of various religious traditions, customs and history.

Rajkumar Hardev further says that one night Hazrat Nizamuddin summoned him, Amir Khusro and seven other disciples to his dargah. "He entrusted to us a project to evolve a common language that can be used both by Hindus and Muslims for social and commercial transactions. He specifically addressed Amir Khusro and Khwaja Syed Mohammad to whom he said he had assigned the task earlier. Amir Khusro informed Hazrat Nizamuddin that he was working on a book for school children under the title of Khaliq Bari, and read out some portions of the book. Hazrat Nizamuddin appreciated the work and instructed Khusro to write songs in simple Hindi that ordinary people can sing and enjoy." Hazrat Nizamuddin observed that "now many Hindi words have become part of the Persian and Turkish languages and many people have started using Hindi in their homes and markets. But there are some others who dislike the use of Hindi words. Let these people understand that it is in their own interest and in the interest of the government to learn and promote the use of Hindi as it will help to establish better communication with the local people."

Hazrat Nizamuddin not only promoted Hindi as lingua franca for India, but equally emphasised the importance of better understanding and appreciation of various religious traditions, customs and history to build social amity and harmony. Rajkumar Hardev says that during his first audience with the saint, he was assigned the company of Khwaja Syed Mohammed and Hazrat Nizamuddin had told them both, "You will explain to each other the tenets, customs and life stories of the revered personalities of your respective religions."

Another interesting anecdote shows that all that Hazrat Nizamuddin did to promote harmony and amity was rooted in his strong belief in the essential truth of all religious traditions. One morning, sitting with Amir Khusro on the bank of Yamuna, the saint, looking at the Hindu devotees bathing and worshipping in the river, said,"Har qaum raast raahay, deenay wa qibla gaahay (Every people are on a right religion and have an orientation they turn to in their prayer)."

Khusro in turn looked at the cap of the saint which he used to wear in a slightly slanted style and said, "Man qibla raast kardam, bar tarf kaj kulaahay (I have perfected my qibla in the direction of this slanted cap)."

 
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