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Carnage at Qalandar: The Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle

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Audiences in their hundreds of thousands across the subcontinent will remember Reshma with her flashing eyes and haunting, gypsy voice singing “Dama dum mast qalandar”. Well, that’s the Dhamaal signature tune.

It was the punchline of this song which had become controversial when President Zia ul Haq set Pakistani Islam on a course of Arabisation in the 1980s in order to wrench it away from the syncretic Islam which hundreds of Sufi schools had established in India since the 13th century.

“If Iran imbibes Indian culture, it will still remain Iran, but if Pakistan retains Indian traditions, it will over time become India.” That was the General’s warped reasoning.

The suicide attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh, which killed nearly 100 devotees last week, is unlikely to dampen the spirit of Dhamaal, the ecstatic dance performed in the shrine’s courtyard at dusk every Thursday to the magical rhythm of drums. Nazir Akbarabadi has a brilliant poem on “haal” or trance. It describes perfectly the transcendent dance at Dhamaal. Terrorism is too feeble an instrument to kill the idea.

The punchline of the Mast Qalandar song is “Ali da pehla number” which means “Ali is first”. This, unfortunately, touches on the principal point of difference between Shias and Sunnis.

Shias believe that the Prophet’s son-in-law, Ali should have been the first inheritor of the Prophet’s worldly and spiritual responsibilities, the Caliphate. Sunnis accept what actually happened: the Prophet’s senior companion, Abu Bakr Siddiq became the first Caliph of Islam.

To avoid further controversies, the punchline was amended. It became “Ali dum dum de andar”, or Ali is in every breath.

The two sects cite different traditions to advance their claims. The Shias point to the episode of Ghadir Khumm. Returning from his last Haj, the Prophet stopped at an elevated spot in Ghadir, held Ali by the hand and announced to the congregation that they must respect Ali’s primacy after his death.

While creating Qawwali as a devotional form of music, Amir Khusro dressed up this episode as a compulsory Qaul or declaration of faith to be sung at the start of every Qawwali session. Google Qawwali and search “Mun Kunto Maula, Fahaza Ali Maula”, (Roughly translated it means: he who considers me his spiritual and temporal leader must accord the same status to Ali).

It is an open and shut case, claim the Shias. The prophet had publicly passed the baton to Ali.

Sunnis advance their claim differently: when the Prophet was fatally ill, he asked his companion Abu Bakr to lead the Friday prayers.

Why are Shia-Sunni differences being explained in the context of an attack on the Sindh Sufi shrine? Because in popular perception there is a lack of clarity on the Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle.

Sufi saints were all of Sunni origin as are the overwhelming majority of devotees at their shrines. There will also be a sizable number of Hindus and a sprinkling of others.

If most of those in attendance at shrines like Shahbaz Qalandar are Sunnis why would Jihadist Salafis, who are also Sunni, kill them so brutally? Islamic State claimed “credit” for the carnage in Sindh. The IS, let it be clarified, is an amalgam of Salafis, Muslim Brotherhood, offshoots of Al Qaeda, Jabhat al Nusra and dispossessed Baathists from Iraq now standing on a militant, Sunni platform because post-Saddam Baghdad is largely in Shia hands. In other words each component of IS may have different emphases but together they form a critical mass.

The harsh Salafi disapproval, even visceral hatred for Sufis, can be explained in broad terms: the Sufi incorporation of music, dance, local customs into their practice of Islam. Also, their acceptance of people of all faiths, castes, their general Catholicism, contrast sharply from the arid austerities of the Salafis. But this does not fully explain the intensity of their anger. This is focused on the personality of Ali who is the centerpiece of Sufi ritual.

Ali, as I have mentioned earlier, is the main point of contention between Shias and Sunnis. After the coming of the Ayatollahs in Iran, the Arab-Ajam, Saudi-Iranian antipathies began to determine the geo-politics of the Arab world.

At a recent lecture in Oslo, Henry Kissinger said it in so many words: the defining issue in the Arab world is not Palestinian homeland but the Shia-Sunni conflict.

If the West, Israel and Saudi Arabia are on the same page on what is increasingly being described as the central faultline in the Arab world, namely the Shia-Sunni divide, what does one make of the Sunni Salafi suicide bomber, sometimes wearing the IS cap, on a relentless spree of murder and mayhem? On whose side is the West? It must be added, in parenthesis, that no suicide bomber has ever been identified as a Shia. Mysteriously, this fact has never been highlighted by the western media, currently under severe pressure to arrest its plummeting credibility.

In the Indian subcontinent, the Shia, Sunni, Sufi triangle has its own dynamics. From the Delhi Sultanate right up to the last Mughal, rulers had Central Asian antecedents with a sprinkling of Persian, Shia elite in key positions.

This may have been one enabling factor for most the regional Muslim dynasties being Shia — Bahmani Sultanate, Sharqi, Berar, Bidar, Qutub Shahi, Adil Shahi, Awadh Nawabi, Najafi Nawabs of Bengal, Nawab of Murshidabad and Rampur.

All these came under the cultural influence of Iran which has an abiding respect for its Zoroastrian past. Shias of the subcontinent, like the Parsis, celebrate Navroz, the Persian New Year.

The catchment areas of these Kingdoms and Nawabis were fertile ground for Sufi schools to take root. In Awadh, Holi, Basant, Diwali, Krishna, Radha, Rama were incorporated into Sufi songs. Mohsin Kakorvi’s celebration of the Prophet’s birthday invokes Ganga, Jamuna and Krishna. Maulana Hasrat Mohani belonged to a school which respected Krishna as God’s messenger. His numerous poems on Radha and Krishna are high points of Sufi mysticism. All Urdu poets are of a Sufi bent. There is not a single line in the annals of Urdu poetry supportive of the hapless Mullah.

(Saeed Naqvi is a commentator on political and diplomatic affairs. The views expressed are personal. He can be reached on [email protected])

Lifestyle

Women prefer verified profiles in life partner search: Survey

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matrimonial marraige

New Delhi, April 19: A majority of women prefer to go for verified profiles when looking for a life partner on online matrimony platforms, according to a survey.

Shaadi.com conducted a survey to understand the need for safety while looking for a life partner.

When young singles were asked about “The first thing they look for in a profile, posted on a matchmaking/dating service”, 62 per cent of the respondents said photographs, 24 per cent of them said verified profiles, 10 per cent of them said basic details (name, age, location) and four per cent said hobbies.

Finding a life partner online is more widely accepted now than it was in the early 2000s. However, women continue to exercise more caution during the selection process as compared to men.

The survey highlighted that 91 per cent of the women respondents give high importance to verified profiles while looking for a partner, whereas for men this stands at a mere 40 per cent.

Verified profiles is not just an elimination factor but is becoming an important determinant to initiate conversations. When women were asked “What would increase their likelihood to reach out to profiles?”, 82 per cent of them said verified profiles. Other factors such as multiple photographs and family information were only 13 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

The online poll received over 7,400 responses (42 per cent of them were men and rest were women) from young Indian singles aged between 24 to 35.

Gourav Rakshit, CEO, Shaadi.com said: “Member security is our primary focus, and our security systems constantly evolve with changing user behaviour and trends. To that end, we have added Aadhaar to our existing profile verification programme.”

IANS

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India

How to buy gold during Akshaya Tritya

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Akshaya Tritiya Gold

New Delhi, April 16: Purchasing something as precious as gold is an investment in itself, so don’t forget to judge its purity and compare your discounts, especially during the occasion of Akshaya Tritiya which is considered as one of the most auspicious days to buy gold in India, suggest experts.

Prakshi Sharma, Creative Head and Designer, Prakshi Fine Jewellery, and Chitwn D Malhotra, Lead Designer and Founder at Dillano Luxurious Jewels Pvt Ltd, have listed the smart way to invest in gold.

* Check for purity: When buying gold jewellery, it is necessary to check for its purity as it determines its true worth. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is the authorised agency that hallmarks gold jewellery, and ascertains its purity. Every hallmarked jewellery will have a number attached to it, a BIS stamp, its karats, hallmarking year (represented alphabetically), jeweller’s identification mark, and the assay centre.

Before buying any gold jewellery remember to check the hallmark.

* Look for discounts on making charges. To celebrate the occasion and attract customers, several jewellery brands give huge discounts on making charges for a stipulated period. There are many such offers available, so make sure you check them all out.

* Compare the prices. Price of any piece of gold jewellery varies from one store to another. Before buying, take a quick survey of the prevalent market prices, consider the differing making charges and the discounts provided on them, and make an informed decision.

* Buying gold jewellery is generally considered a safe investment, but a prudent choice must be made on what to buy and what to avoid. It is advisable that you buy something that will give you optimum returns in the future.

* Opt for gold coins or biscuits instead. If you’re looking at buying gold purely as an investment, then opting for gold coins or biscuits might be a better idea.

* Avoiding stone jewellery. Studded ornaments are generally priced higher than a regular gold piece, and while precious stones do add to the beauty of jewellery, they lower the value of an ornament. They incur high making charges but when they are exchanged or sold, the stones are taken out to determine
the value of the gold.

Chances are high that you will get an exchange value only of the gold, even if the stone is precious.

IANS

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Fashion

Help your hair, make-up survive the sweaty summer

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MAKE UP

New Delhi, April 13: With summer comes melting makeup, smeared eyeliner, and super-sticky hair hence it is important to give proper hydration and relaxation to your skin and hair to be easy breezy as the temperature soars up.

Sushma Khan, National Creative Director-Makeup, Lakmé Salon and TIGI Educator Audrey D’Souza have listed the summer switch that must be made your regime to make your makeup last long and hair stay strong.

* For make-up

* Go light: Through the summer ‘less is more’ should be your mantra. The lesser the products you use, the lighter your skin will feel and make-up will not feel heavy. The summer is known to make your skin sweaty and layering more make-up on the face will add to it. Hence, it is highly recommended to use products with anti-bacterial properties.

Replace your foundation with a concealer to hide imperfections and feel light. Products with SPF of 30++ at least are a must. BB Creams are also a great option as it is an emulation of moisturizer and tinted foundation. Use more of light water-based products to make it feel light during summer, heat and sweating. Cut down your make up products to less than half and use the bare minimum.

* Multitask with your makeup: Invest in a product that does it all – for the lips, lids, and cheeks. It would cut down your routine to half and help keep your bag light. Simply choose from a range of summery bright or light lip and cheek tints as it will add a healthy glow with minimalistic colour.

* Switch to waterproof: Invest in waterproof eyeliners, mascaras and eye pencils. With the temperatures rising high, one tends to rub and wipe off the face regularly. This might, at times, end up in either smudging or fading. Choose between a highly or lightly pigmented waterproof eye products so that the look is as fresh as it was in the morning.

* For hair:

* Cocktail of products: Prepare your hair using a cocktail of smoothening and anti-frizz serums to smoothen your hair and get rid of any frizz at the same time.

* Shortcut to volume: Wash and condition your hair with a volumizing shampoo and conditioner to combat the limp and sticky hair. Prep your hair with volumizing lotion before the blow dry to give your hair volume for days. Brush backwards and say hello to 3x more volume!

* Beach waves for days: Boho-inspired beachy waves are the ultimate summer hair-do. Apply curling mousse on wet hair and scrunch it up in a bun. Use tongs to achieve the wavy look. You can also opt for dry shampoos to fight the stickiness on your third hair days. It also adds to the beachy texture.

IANS

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