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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Rediscovering Sain Mirchu of Rawalpindi

In the words of Abdul Sattar Edhi, "Humanity is above religion", we must learn to serve humans to the best of our abilities to ease their journey of soul. Now that I was able to discover the worldly remains of Sain Mirchu, I will certainly look for Sain Mira as well, these two played a key role in shaping my spiritual outlook, 'May their souls rest in peace'.

Sain Mirchu was a wandering Dervish of Rawalpindi in the fifties and early sixties. He operated around Bagh Sardaran and Banni area of the town not too far from the pristine clean Nullah Lai of that era.

The Bagh was a private garden of the rich Sikh community that lived around it at the far end of the famous Raja Bazar. He was revered and taken care off by the local community.

Sain Mirchu: Impatience with the decadence of the city 

Over the years he become violent, perhaps he grew impatient with the people after  the complexion of the city changed when the capital was moved there by the first usurper. Could see through the dirt (Do Numberi) that started to accumulate around him.

He lived and roamed in  the streets, intermingled with the people but one day he disappeared. The Sufi’s use the term ‘Ruhposh’ for this disappearance. His place was then taken by a milder Sain Mira who was accommodated in the open courtyard of a house in the same area.

On my last trip to Islamabad, I rediscovered Sain Mirchu as I was driving towards the Airport. My eyes caught a sign that read, ‘Mazar of Sain Mirchu’. I asked the driver to turn towards it as it was the first time after the sixties that I had heard/read about him. The Sufi  traditions of Rawalpindi are different from Lahore.

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The Sain’s of Rawalpindi

Whlie Ali Usman Al- Hajveri also known as Hazrat Data Gunj Buksh is the Patron Saint of Lahore, Hazrat Bari Imam Sarkar has that status for Rawalpindi/ Islamabad area. While Data Sahib was a scholar, his book Kashf ul Mahjoob is considered to be one of the most outstanding books ever written about the realm of metaphysics, the Sain’s of Rawalpindi were more of Dervish who roamed around the area.

The Mazar is impressive, they have ‘Qawali’ every Thursday together with a daily ‘Langar’ (food distribution). I inquired how did Sain Mirchu land in this part of the outskirts of the city as he had disappeared from the Banni area.

The stories differ some revealed that because of his violence he was shifted outside the town in the forest area away from the population where he lived in isolation and then perished to be be buried here, while others believe that he himself decided to move away as he was unhappy with his changed surroundings. In either case it was a long awaited reunion, as a student of Sufism I was thrilled to stand at his shrine and offer fate-ha for his soul.

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Personal experience with the Sain’s 

My late mother because of her Persian roots had strong Sufi leanings. Most Thursdays we visited the Shrine of Data Sahib which was not far from where we lived. While Sundays are holy for the Christians, Saturdays for the Jews and Fridays for the Muslims as they are required to offer Juma prayers, the Sufi’s revere Thursdays ( Jumairat ) which is celebrated in a big way with ‘Qawali’ or ‘Mehfi-e-Samma’ as it is called.

Whenever we visited Rawalpindi, she would visit Sain Mirchu and after him Sain Mira, I usually accompanied her. She knew how to behave with them, gave them respect and never pushed for answers, it was more of a consultation. As a child I was not very comfortable with Sain Mirchu but Sain Mira was friendly.

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Sain Mirchu and Sain Mira 

In Sufi circles the name ‘Farid’ carries a lot of weight age. On hearing my name they would usually ask me to sit near them in the front row. In these circles, I proved to be an asset for my mother so she usually took me along.

Last I met Sain Mira was in 1974-75 time frame but my memories with him are fresh as ever. Like Sain Mirchu he too had a soft fuse for worldly nonsense but was not violent. Once we went to see him for a farewell visit before returning to Lahore, he kept saying your train has left.

My mother insisted that we were to leave that afternoon by Tezgam and had bought the tickets as well but he insisted that the train had left. We came back finished our packing but my father was delayed with the court hearing and our departure was called off. Dr Khalifa Abdul Hakim my mothers uncle and a great scholar of Sufism also visited Sain Mira on his way to Murree for his summer break.

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Disciples of Maulana Jalal ud Din Rumi

While he considered himself to be at the theoretical end of Sufism, he thought that Sain was on the practical side. Both Dr Hakim and Allama Iqbal were disciples of the Maulana Jalal ud Din Rumi the 13th century mystic poet from Konya, who was overcome by the spirituality of Shamas Tabriz a ‘Wandering Dervish’ whom he came across while engrossed in his usual studies.

After the very first meeting Rumi was so overwhelmed that he wrote, “He captivated me but liberated my soul.” For the scholar it was a new dimension that he could not attain through years of reading and writing. Rumi became his disciple and blindly followed his ‘Murshid’ (Spiritual Guide).

On one of his meetings with Sain Mira, Dr Hakim took his old friend Mian Najamuddin Khan who was inspiring to be the first local Director General  Survey of Pakistan replacing the British whose term of service was coming to an end. Khan Sahib wanted Sain to pray for his promotion to replace the incumbent.

Sain refused and repeatedly asked what were the faults of the DG ( used the term Gunah, Kusur ), khan Sahib insisted that he was a foreigner and a Christian but Mira was not impressed and refused to go along. Khan Sahib had to wait for a few more years before getting the prestigious position. Such purity of thought and action comes with spirituality which Sufism preaches.

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There is a Persian tradition of consulting Dewan-e-Hafiz. Khawaja Shams-ud-Din Muhammad Hafiz was a 14th century poet who lived in Shiraz. A ‘Falnama’ ( It is a consultation, in which a question is asked, followed by Fate ha for his soul ) is used, in most cases relevant guidance is found in his poetry. Iranians believe that the ‘Dewan’ has a sixth dimension and should be consulted for important decisions in life.

Both my mother and her Sufi Uncle often consulted Hafiz through the ‘ Falnama ‘. In one of the family gatherings in the late fifties, Hafiz was asked about the liberation of Kashmir as Dr Hakim wanted to return to his roots.

He advised Dr Sahib to pray for his long life, suddenly the mood of the party became somber, I do not think it will happen in my life time he remarked. A few years later he passed away with his dream unfulfilled.

There was a time when spirituality prevailed in the land of the pure before material pursuits took control of our lives, we must return to our roots. No ‘Faqir’ or Dervish has ever given up his ‘Faqiri’ to become a Monarch or a ruler, it has always been the other way around. My friend Shahid Jalal who recently passed away revealed in his interview that he became a Chartered Accountant to cover his financial needs only, once they were covered he started to paint on full time basis to please his soul.

Maulana Rumi who is considered to be the father of Modern Sufism struck this balance between material and spiritual pursuits. Allama Iqbal practiced law a few days a week to meet his worldly needs while he could pursue higher goals in life. Dr Hakim taught at Usmania University Hyderabad Deccan, from where he retired to head the Institute of Islamic Culture in Lahore where he started his intellectual innings.

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Life is just a journey of the soul

Sufi’s believe that life is just a journey of the soul which has to return to its creator. While I have always been fascinated by the Dervish and their spiritually rich lives but I still believe that one must try to make a better world.

In the words of Abdul Sattar Edhi, “Humanity is above religion”, we must learn to serve humans to the best of our abilities to ease their journey of soul. Now that I was able to discover the worldly remains of Sain Mirchu, I will certainly look for Sain Mira as well, these two played a key role in shaping my spiritual outlook, ‘May their souls rest in peace’.

The writer is Ex-Chairman Pakistan Science Foundation; email: fmaliks@hotmail.comThe views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.