When I was getting condolences after the funeral of my mother last week, I received a call from our family friend, Panju Ram, from India. He kept reciting sayings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) while trying to pacify my pain over the sad demise. As I was a little taken aback, he explained that he reads the Holy Quran on a daily basis. I was not surprised. When Ram used to live in Qadirpur, my native village, we never thought of him and others of his faith as different from us. We shared the same utensils and respected each other’s faith.
Sindh is the home of Sufism, where shrines of Sufi saints play a positive role in bringing about religious harmony. Udero Lal, near Tando Adam in Sindh, is a unique example. Hindus call the saint “Udero Lal” or “Jhulelal” while Muslim followers remember him as “Shaikh Tahir”. The beauty of the place is that the shrine, Hindu temple and mosque are all located at the same place, inside the boundary wall of one structure while expenses of the shrine are met by the Hindu community.
Baba Bankhati Maharaj temple in Sukkur is another such example. Located at the centre of the Indus River, is a place known as Sadhbelo, where Hindus believe Baba Bankhati Maharaj performed his prayers. “Both Hindus and Muslims visit this place, which is a symbol of harmony in the area,” said Sattar Zangejo, a citizen of Rohri.
Similarly, the shrine of Sufi Shah Inayat Shaheed of Jhok is a symbol of harmony, where not only Muslims but also non-Muslims visit regularly to pay their respects. A source of inspiration for all, Shah Inayat is remembered as the first social reformer of Sindh, thus attracting leftists to his cause as well.
In Hala, Saeen Menghraj is a living legend and contemporary symbol of religious harmony. Until recently, his ‘ashram’ attracted people from all religions and beliefs. “Though he is not running the ashram anymore due to his old age, his friends keep visiting him,” said Jan Khaskheli, a citizen of Hala. Saeen Menghraj has a medical store in the city as well, which is frequented by patients from all communities. The majority of them do not seek medical aid from doctors and instead seek Saeen Menghraj’s medicines and prayers.
While religious extremism has been slowly taking root in the province, the locals firmly believe the fundamentalists will not succeed in disturbing the religious harmony of Sindh, which nurtures under the shrines of Sufi saints.