Just a few weeks ago I was moved to hear an ex Indian Chief Election Commissioner say to Najam Sethi:
“Hamara Makkah Medina to aap ke paas hai.”
(Our Mecca and Madina are with you).
After retirement he had come to visit the holy places of Sikh in Pakistan, the Nankana Sahib and other holy shrines in Pakistan.
Now we hear our President Zardari is going to pay a private visit to the Dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti,( RA) at Ajmer on April 8, 2012. This Dargah is an important Holy place for those revering Sufi saints. It is a shrine where 12,000 devotees from all faiths and sects visit each day.
It is a destination that was held in high esteem by the most secular of all Mughal kings, Emperor Akbar. It is said that once Akbar, passing by a village near his capital Agra, heard some minstrels chanting ditties about the glories and virtues of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti “May his grave be hallowed, who sleeps in Ajmer.”
He expressed his desire to visit the shrine of this great man whose songs were being sung. From then on, he made it a routine to visit the shrine every year.
Not only did he visit to ask for prayers, he even paid visit of thanks to the Dargah for his important military victories.
The most moving expression of his devotion was the journey of this great Mughal King, when he walked bare foot from Agra to Ajmer (346 kms) just to express his gratitude on the birth of his son, who later became Jehangir. He had named him Salim after another sufi saint who was enshrined in Fatehpur Sikri.
Knowing Akbar as not only a great King whose kingdom extended from Kandahar in the west to Bay of Bengal in the East, his most revered quality was his extreme tolerance and acceptance of other religions. He eyed and treated all his subjects which included Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Muslims with an ‘equal tolerance’ policy. Not only did Akbar have Man Singh as his Chief Military Commander, but his Finance Minister was Raja Todar Mal.
With this historical background in perspective, and the fact that the lines across culture and history of India and Pakistan cannot be divided as clearly as the lines that have been drawn across the political border, we can only hope that in his private visit to the Dargah, President Zardari will not only pray for himself, but also for the peace and amity between various ethnic groups and sects that have taken against each other from Karachi to Gilgit in Pakistan.
We also hope and beg to Mr President to please also pray for peace and cooperation between India and Pakistan, and for the greater good of the whole subcontinent. With the unofficial news of business agreements being talked between the two neighbours, one can rejoice with hope that these prayers will be listened at the Dargah soon, and the region where a billion and a half humanity resides, shall see its potential better put to use through trust and trade, rather than through hatred and hindrance.
I am sure as a courtesy, Mr President, during the private lunch with Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh, will suggests to him to pay a visit to his ‘Makkah Medina’ in Pakistan.
How I also wish that they both also think and discuss that the ordinary people too, on both sides, not just hold great reverence to these holy places, but also have burning desires in their hearts to visit with ease, their friends and kin living across the border.
How I wish a day comes when even an ordinary citizen from either side, is able to decide like Mr President, that he needs to make a private visit across the border at the coming weekend, and there he goes with his plans without having to bother about visa, or police inquiry.
These may just be my dreams today, but don’t dreams come true too?