Haji Waris of Dewa Sharif

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(On the occasion of URS Celebrations of Haji Waris Ali Shah – on 11th Oct. 2014 at Dewa Sharis)

Haji Syed Waris Ali Shah, popularly known as Haji Saheb, was a great Sufi, distinguished for piety, learning and simplicity. He identified service of God with the service of man. For him spiritual life was nothing but service of humanity.

As a matter of fact Sufis of India in general and Haji Sahib in particular appreciated and believed in the multi-racial, multi-religious and multilingual pattern of Indian society. Dissensions, discords and conflicts between people were not liked by him. He believed in virtues of repentance, abstinence, renunciation, forgiveness and trust in God.

At the age of fifteen, Haji Sahib gave away all his property and valuables to his relatives and proceeded for Haj. He performed Haj ten times in the course of his travels of twelve years to many cities of Asia and Europe including Saudi Arabia, Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, Persia, Turkey, Russia and Germany.

From the date of his very first Haj, he adopted the Ehram (unstitched two cloth pieces attire for male Hajis) as his permanent dress, and retained it throughout his life. Subsequently, he abandoned wearing the head-dress and the shoes.

During the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid 1 of Turkey Haji Sahib visited Constantinople (Qustuntunya). Sultan was so impressed by sight of the holy man (Haji Saheb) that he along with of thousands of Turkish men and women became his disciples. Even in Berlin, Prince Bismarck welcomed Haji Sahib with great regard and respect. He received similar respect during his visit to Russia where a young lady became his disciple and rejected the life of fun and pleasures. At least three times, Haji Sahib performed the journey for Haj on foot, crossing the hills of Afghanistan in naked feet.

Haji Saheb's asceticism led him to adopt a life of complete celibacy. Always absorbed in contemplations, he talked briefly but showed great knowledge of Divine Love and wisdom. He slept on the floor throughout his life, without using a pillow. Haji Saheb taught the fundamental aspect of unity of God, which in his opinion showed unity in diversity of religions.

Some of the sayings of Haji Saheb for the cause of universal love and humanism are as follows: "God is the friend for all who render services to his creatures without any ulterior motive or selfish end"; "Love is the step to reach the highest truth. Angels were given partial love and human beings full love"; "Land and wealth are the source of worldly wrangles;" "A True person is one who distributes his wealth to rightful (Haqdar) while a sinner is the one who takes advantage of others (rightful) property"; "Each step to Mosque fetches a reward (Sawab)"; "Never speak ill of anybody's faith"; "Ego separates a disciple from his guide"; "God likes humility and repentance"; "Fear of God and humility are essential ingredients of all prayers", and "Prayer is the food of the soul".

Indians found the Sufi ideas very similar to those of Vedanta philosophy and, therefore, many Hindus were greatly attracted by the ideas of social equality and fraternity of Sufism and this led to a cultural synthesis in Indian Society.

It must be remembered that for "Sufis, all people are the children of God on earth and any social discrimination is a negation of the true spirit of faith".

Well known historian and Islamic Scholar Prof. K.A. Nizami, former Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, defines the philosophy of Sufism in the following words:

"God extends his bounties to all - the pious and the sinner, the believer and the non-believer, the high and the low. When the sun rises, it gives light and warmth to all living beings; when it rains, all benefit from the showers; the earth keeps its bosom open for all”.

Haji Saheb and many other Sufis in India have played the big role of uniting people of all faiths. They lived in the midst of the lower strata of society belonging to all sections of Society (Hindus and Muslims in particular) and identified themselves with the problems and perplexities of the people. They preached peace and asked people to return hatred with love, violence with affection.

Haji Waris Ali Shah passed away for his heavenly abode on April 7th, 1905 at Dewa Sharif, District Barabanki (U.P.). He was buried at the spot where he died. A grand monument was erected at the same place by his devoted followers which included both Hindus and Muslims. The Mausoleum (Dargah) is still a monument of communal harmony and reminds the message of universal brotherhood preached by the Great Saint. This Message is still relevant and is the need of the hour.

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