Love, the only Truth

Over the last fifty years, Hyderabad has witnessed large–scale violence. Although deliberately engineered by political parties and vested interests in mot cases, they have been sought to be projected as ‘Hindu–Muslim riots’. Hyderabad is home to numerous Sufi dargahs, where people of all faith traditions come together to worship collectively. Such indigenous shared cultural and spiritual resources need to be further researched and promoted. In what follows, 74–year old Ranoji, from a Hindu Rangrez family, a resident of Hyderabad, speaks to Yoginder Sikand about his long association with a famous Qadri Sufi dargah of the city.

My name is Ranoji, I am 74–years–old. I belong to the Marathi Rangrez caste. Our ancestral profession is dying cloth. Although I know that art, I used to work as a tailor. I was born and have lived all my life in Hyderabad.

I am a poor man and have not even been to school. Yet, I have always been in search of a guru. My first guru was a swami from my own caste. Then, I became a disciple of a Brahmin and after that of the head of a Lingayat math. I have been coming to this dargah for almost forty years now. Nowadays, I spend the whole day here helping visitors. At night I sleep at the foot of the tomb of the late pir, who was my guru. All my four gurus taught me the same wisdom (gyan). Only the forms (roop) and language (bhasha) were different.

Some people ask me, "You were born in a Hindu family, then why do you live in a dargah and eat and sleep with Muslims?" But I tell them that just as the sun shines on everybody and the winds blow across every one’s fields, so also the same God has created and looks after every human being. The third eye of Shivji is the same as what Muslims call the nazar–i–nur (the eye of light), in whose sight there is no Muslim or Hindu or anything like that.

I never used to go to dargahs before. Once, when I was around forty and was working in a tailoring shop, the pir of this dargah, who passed away three years ago, came to the shop. He spoke to the seth (owner) of the shop and said that someone had told him that Ranoji makes good caps. My seth was a very short–tempered person. He told the pir sahib, ‘Caps? Who makes them nowadays?’ The pir sahib then turned to leave, but I entered the room and said to him, "Sahib, were you looking for the seth of the shop or for Ranoji?" He looked at me and said, "I was asking for Ranoji, my son". Then I told him, "Sahib, I am the Ranoji you are looking for. Tell me, of what service can I be to you?"

The pir sahib told me that he wanted me to make a cap for him. I drew various designs for him, but he kept saying, "No, no, not this one". Then I folded my hands and said, "Forgive me sahib, I am an uneducated man, but can I ask you a question?" He said, "Certainly, by all means". I said, "Sahib, please tell me, where did you get the idea of making this special sort of cap, whose design is so difficult for me to draw?" He replied that he had recently gone on the haj to Mecca Sharif, and there he was told in a dream that he should make a cap of a particular design for him to wear.

My pir was a devout Muslim, but he never asked me or any of his other Hindu disciples to become Muslim. He used to say if you realise yourself you will realise God. He used to tell me that all the Sufis had only one teaching: love (ishq). Love not only for God but also for all of His creatures.

I was so astonished on hearing that! Well, after that we managed, together, to design the cap he wanted. I asked him what colour he wanted it to be and he said the blue of the throat of a peacock (mor ki kanthi). So, I made the mor ki kanthi colour cap and he was very pleased.

That is how I first came in touch with the pir sahib and the dargah. Oh, that was so many years ago! After that I used to go sometimes to thedargah to meet the pir sahib, especially when I was not well or had somepersonal or family problem and he would pray for me.

One evening, I went to the dargah to meet the pir sahib. He had gone to another dargah for urs, so I waited for him to return. He returned at two in the morning after the qawwali was over. I thought he was tired, so I did not want to disturb him. I just sat on a bench in the porch of the dargah.

In the morning, I suddenly awoke to find people running here and there, shouting loudly. I asked them what the matter was. Somebody told me that the pir sahib had had a heart attack and he had been rushed to the hospital. When I heard this I went running to the hospital. The guard at the door told me I couldn’t enter because the pir sahib had been prohibited from speaking to anyone. So, I stood outside the door, crying. Just then the pir sahib told the nurse, ‘My disciple (chela) is outside, tell him to come in’. She tried to reason with him, saying that the doctors had given strict orders that he should not speak to anyone. But he would not listen and insisted that I be let in. So, the nurse relented and allowed me to come inside the chamber.

When I entered, the pir sahib sat up in his bed and embraced me. I helped him to the toilet and then changed his clothes for him. The nurse brought him some soup, but he refused to eat. His wife and daughter were there. They, too, tried to convince him to eat but he wouldn’t listen. Finally, I took some bread, soaked it in the soup and said, "Sahib, please eat, for my sake". He agreed and I fed him with my own hands. After finishing his food, he looked around and asked me if anyone else had come to see him. There was no one else apart from his family and me. He asked his daughter to give him a notebook and a pencil. He wrote my name on a piece of paper and gave it to me. I think what he wanted to say was that I was the only one who had come to him in his hour of need. This world is really selfish, brother, what can I tell you?

The pir sahib remained in the hospital for several weeks till he recovered. Every evening, after finishing my work in the shop, I would go to the hospital to be with him. That is how I became so close to him and he accepted me as his chela.

One day, when the qawwals were singing at the dargah, the pir sahib took me in front of the main grave and said a dua, praying to God for me. At that time I was keeping the fast (vrat) of Narsimha Dev and so had grown my hair long. After that I said to him, "Sahib, can you please show me a place here where I can recite the name of God (ishvar ke nam ka jap karna)?" He took me to the main chamber of the dargah, where the graves of the founder of this dargah and his wife are located. He pointed to the gap between the two graves and said, "Sit here and do your meditation".

He let me pray in whatever way I wanted to. He used to say that the Sufis believe that though different people use different names for God, it’s all the same thing. In my zikr I generally recite the kalima, ‘lailaha ilallaha, muhammadur rasul allah’ (‘There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is His Prophet’).You know, that is the same as Ram nam satya hai (‘Ram’s name is the Truth’) or Om namah Shivaye.

My pir was a devout Muslim, but he never asked me or any of his other Hindu disciples to become Muslim. He used to say if you realise yourself you will realise God. He used to tell me that all the Sufis had only one teaching: love (ishq). Love not only for God but also for all of His creatures.

My pir would treat me like his own son. He would hug me and say, "Ranoji is my very life" (Ranoji meri jaan hai). He would tell me, "Son, this world is a toy which lasts only for a few days. The real life, which shall never end, comes only after death". He would constantly think of death. In fact, he dug his own grave eighteen years before his death. He told me that I must be present at his burial.

The pir sahib passed away three– years–ago. We do not believe that pirs die. Their spirits continue to guide us. That is why I spend all my time in the dargah at my pir’s feet. I am a poor illiterate man, I have never been to school. But, my pir was a spiritual university by all by himself.

You know, my brother, all this talk about Hindu–Musalman is really wrong. Love alone is true religion (saccha dharm).

Mandir dhoya masjid dhoya

mal mal ke ang dhoya

dil ka mayl na dhoya

tu kya paya?

(You cleaned the temple, you cleaned the mosque

You scrubbed all the parts of your body clean

But if you didn’t remove the dirt in your heart,

Then, what have you achieved?)

Archived from Communalism Combat, July 1999, Year 6  No. 51, Ethos



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