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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

Gift green plants, orange gujiya on Holi

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Holi

New Delhi, Feb 24: Going for a Holi party? Add colours to your gifting options like a green plant, a gold coin or orange sweets like gujiya, suggest experts.

Sunil Gupta, Founder at exportersIndia.com, and Vishwavijay Singh, Co-Founder at salebhai.com, have listed a few colourful options:

* Green: As the colour green signifies peace and harmony, how about gifting a potted plant or terrarium as a gift? Plants make a perfect gift for various occasions as gifting your loved ones with plants spreads positive energy and improves the quality of air in a home.

Image result for GIFTING GREEN PLANTS

* Yellow: In India, gifting gold jewellery and idols is considered auspicious for celebratory occasions. The colour yellow signifies piousness and gifting something as precious as gold in an earring or a gold coin has an intrinsic value.

Image result for gifting gold EARRING

Image result for gifting gold coin

* Orange: Every festival or occasion is incomplete without sweets. Gifting sweets has always been the benchmark of Indian tradition, especially during festivals. Therefore, this Holi, gift your loved ones with sweets and savouries like malpuas, gujiyas, motichoor ladoos and more.

Gujiya

* Blue: As the colour blue signifies calm, gift your friend or a family member a travel gift card. Gift a travel experience which can last for a day, a week or more.

* Red: The colour red reflects love and fertility. Look for gifts such as red-coloured clothes or attractive home decor pieces like candle holders, canvas painting, and flowers that can change the overall look and feel of a home.

IANS

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Lifestyle

Use potato slices to treat puffy eyes

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Potato on eyes

New Delhi, Feb 21: Waking up with puffy eyes is rather common and it is easy to treat them. Drink sufficient water and use refrigerated slices of potatoes to get rid of the puffiness, suggest experts.

Bubbles Singh, Founder at Just B Au Naturel and Ragini Mehra, Founder at Beauty Source, have listed simple ways to treat your problem:

* The easiest way to get rid of puffy eyes is to drink water. When the body is well hydrated, there is less chance of water retention that can cause your under-eye area and other parts of your body to swell.

Water also helps flush toxins out of the body.

* Iced compresses like chilled green or black tea bags can help soothe puffy and irritated eyes. They contain anti-irritant properties that help reduce swelling around your eyes. You could even try splashing your face and eyes with ice cold water.

* Slices of refrigerated potato or cucumber work as a fantastic natural remedy to get rid of under eye puffiness.

The enzymes and the astringent properties in these vegetables help reduce inflammation and help tighten the skin. This remedy will also help get rid of wrinkles and dark circles around your eyes.

* A mask made of egg whites helps in tightening the area around the eyes, as egg whites are a nourishing natural skin care treatment, reducing puffiness of the eyes.

* Puffiness of the eyes can be caused by seasonal or inherited allergies. Allergies prompts us to rub our eyes more, leading to further puffiness. Visit a doctor and get yourself checked in case of any such.

* Use natural products that help reduce dryness, reduce puffiness and hydrate your skin like an eye serum or aloe vera based eye creams which can also cool down the eye area.

These products do not harm the eyes, repair and replenish the skin around the eyes, ensuring that you see a difference in the brightness and texture under your eyes when you get up in the morning.

IANS

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Lifestyle

Choco lava cake hot favourite among lovebirds

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Choco lava cake

New Delhi, Feb 19: Lovebirds indulged in some sugary goodness, including choco lava cake, on Valentine’s Day, reveals a survey.

According to findings derived from Swiggy’s order analysis for Valentine’s Day on February 14 and eight Wednesdays before that, love-struck Indians stuck to their favourites, the most shareable pizza and fries, as their order increased sharply by 55 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Choco lava cake saw an increase of 73 per cent. There were four times more donuts orders and red velvet items were also ordered 3.5 times more, read a statement.

The 2018 Valentine’s Day food trends are on the basis of Swiggy’s order analysis of the cities of Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi/NCR, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Pune, Ahmedabad, Chandigarh and Jaipur.

“Despite the usual excitement around making Valentine’s Day special, an increasing number of urbanites made the choice to spend it at home with their loved ones.

“Deterred by urban challenges like long working hours, traffic, planning and reservation and parking, many couples opted to have their Valentine’s dates over great food, in the privacy of their homes,” said Srivats TS, Vice President, Marketing at Swiggy.

IANS

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