Washington Lauds Gharib Nawaz

کالم نگار  |  Mowahid Hussain Shah
Washington Lauds Gharib Nawaz

In the greater Washington area, there was a packed gathering to extol the life and legacy of Khawaja Moinuddin Chishti, also known as Gharib Nawaz (benefactor of the poor). It was before a community cross-section of all ages and social classes, equally balanced between men and women.
There was passion to connect with Muslim heroes and heritage. I was asked to present the keynote talk, which was a special moment in that my entire family are devotees of the great saint, with many having made the pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif.
Amongst affluent American Muslims, there is an unwelcome pattern to court congressmen and to fund, fete, feed, and be photographed with US elites. Results now reveal that this approach has not worked.
800 years ago, Gharib Nawaz found this inclination repugnant. His was a life of self-renunciation. He rejected the blandishments and luxuries of elites and chose the path of giving comfort, relief, and solace to the depressed, needy, and the down-trodden. By doing so, he continues to be a living inspiration and a moral beacon.
The dervish ethic of simple living and lofty thinking remains relevant. Contrast this with the moment-to-moment priorities of luxury living and low thinking, which has been the bane of contemporary Muslim society worldwide.
On a pilgrimage to Ajmer Sharif, it was empowering to see how many non-Muslims had flocked there, and how the generous tradition of Gharib Nawaz was maintained by two huge degh of food cooked every day to ensure that the needy were adequately fed. A huge banner proclaims his revelatory poetic tribute to Imam Hussain, which has been immortalized through the ages.
Sometimes, it is useful to ponder who has endured in human imagination and whose legacy has lasted. Instructive is Hazrat Ali's counsel of 1400 years ago: "Knowledge will protect you, while you have to protect wealth." It aptly captures the insecure dilemma of the super-rich.
Time is the ultimate determinant of who is remembered and who is forgotten.
Vanished in the dust of history are the powerful and wealthy contemporaries of the dervish. The life of the dervish was the life of risk, sacrifice, and disruption of an unfair status quo. Their influence was a counterpoint to the crippling effects on the human spirit of the folly of seeking other than the Almighty to be one's Messiah and Raziq.
The American Muslim community's ample resources and size are not proportionately matched with self-confidence. Indeed, an over-cautious
mindset has, in effect, kept it on the backfoot. Feeding the already over-fed and giving money to the already rich is not the way forward.
The impact of the dervish has universal resonance. Its parameters are not circumscribed by territory, religious creed, or ethno-nationalism. Obama sent a chador to honor the Urs of Hazrat Moinuddin Chishti, and Amitabh Bachchan paid homage at his mazaar, on fulfillment of a mannat. Just now, Cambridge University has published a new book on Sufism ("The Cambridge Companion to Sufism," edited by Lloyd Ridgeon, 2015.)
Gharib Nawaz knew of the harm of hate. And he also understood the weapon that conquers is forgiveness and generosity.