Ten years ago, in september 2002, a bizarre incident happened at Ajmer, a town in the Indian western state of Rajasthan. A 37 year old man died by jumping into a large cauldron of boiling rice ( it can contain up to 3 tons of rice !) in the Moinuddin Chishti’s mausoleum complex. The man sacrificed his life to fulfil his father’s “mannat”( wish). He ( a farmer from Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state) wanted his son to jump into the cauldron to please the sufi saint Moinuddin Chishti. Indeed, Moinuddin Chishti is the most famous sufi master of the indian subcontinent. Every year, millions of pilgrims converge at his shrine locally called “dargah sharif”. They come either to fulfil their wishes or to pay homage to the saint.
According to historical facts, Moinuddin Chishti was born in Persia in 1141. He became a disciple of the sufi master Usman Harooni for several years. At the age of 52, he embarked upon a journey which brought him to Afghanistan and India. Once at Ajmer, he soon established himself as a spiritual leader and the number of his followers began to increase. He passed away in 1235. Through the centuries, his followers ranged from the common man to many high profile devotees like the Mughal emperors Akbar and Shah jahan who patronised sufism and built many edifices around the shrine.
Known for his tolerance, Moinuddin Chishti has become a symbol of modern India 800 years after his death. A majority of his XXI° century followers still include the common man but there are also a string of VIPs ( politicians, industrialists, Bollywood stars) who have staunch faith in his teachings. In a country divided by religious antagonisms, his message in favour of the needy has earned him a nickname, Gharib Nawaz, the protector of the poor, the saviour of the downtrodden. He is respected by many Indians whatever their religion. Although worship at saint’s tombs is condemned by orthodox Islam, his mausoleum attracts many worshippers from India and abroad. Be they common people, sufis or fakirs, they all converge towards a haven of peace which leaves hope that one day solidarity will be stronger than particularisms.
Below are some of Moinuddin Chishti reflections :
“O dear one !
The more you are engrossed in wordly affairs and with wordly men,
the more remote you are from Allah.
If you are as busy in your appointed task,
namely remembrance of Allah,
as you are in wordly affairs,
then so much the better for you.
The closer you come to the people of the world
the more detached you are from Allah.”
“Anyone who claims to be pious is in a prison house.”
“Be ever prepared for death.”
“Anyone who has love for Allah in his heart is not troubled by poverty, hunger or asceticism.”