By Mousumi Roy
28 Sep, 2011
The Moi-e-Muqqadas or the sacred hair of Prophet Muhammad is enshrined at the Hazratbal mosque in Srinagar; unsurprisingly, this has been drawing visitors despite it having seen quite a bit of unrest over the years on account of political turmoil.
I was in the capital city of Jammu & Kashmir recently on a work-related trip. However, my stay in Srinagar turned out to be rewarding in more ways than one. I found myself enjoying the sanctity of the famed Hazratbal shrine there although it was not part of my itinerary. The complex is cared for by the Nishaandehs, the descendants of the Banday family, and this is where Inayat Begum, the daughter of Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai, was married in 1700 CE. As I stood, framed by the doorway arches, I could sense the turmoil the family must have gone through at that time - especially after Emperor Aurangzeb took umbrage upon learning that the Khwaja had purchased the Prophet's hair from Syed Hamid, a nobleman in Bijapur whose roots were from Medina.
Sitting in the conference room, my colleagues and I were brainstorming as to how we could provide better housing and urban infrastructure solutions for the average Kashmiri here. During one such five-hour session, I looked out of the window and saw the clouds in the sky. They were shaped like a fist with one finger pointing towards the ground. I smiled. Was it my imagination? Or was it a sign? Did something beckon me there?
Once the meeting had been wrapped up, I put on my running shoes and began my trek towards the place where the cloud had pointed. "Maybe," I thought, "I would encounter a prized ice cream stand."
After a 40-minute brisk walk, I saw the shrine for the first time. I had no idea what the building stood for and asked a bystander. He replied in chaste Dogri. I could catch only one word, "Hazratbal."
I had read about Hazratbal when it burst into the news in April 1993. There had been a standoff between separatists holed inside the shrine and the Indian Army positioned in trenches outside.
The Prophet's Relic
I sat down on an outcrop of stone, admiring the calligraphy on the cream-coloured walls of the mosque. The strand of hair entombed inside had travelled all the way from Medina to Kashmir via Bijapur. I was destined to pay respects to the Holy Prophet's hair in Srinagar after a business meeting and that, too, all by myself. There was no one to come between me and my maker. I could feel goose pimples on my arms!
They say God's ways are mysterious; therefore, you just need to observe and follow the way shown to you without commenting on it or questioning it. It seemed to be happening to me here.
The Prophet Isaiah's (Jesus Christ) remains had raised a lot of controversy and friction in Europe following his resurrection and "disappearance" or merging with godhead. Books such as Geoffrey Chaucer's Nun's Priest's Tale mention a friar peddling the remains of the Messiah. Robin Hood's Friar Tuck also has similar references to this.
Emperor Aurangzeb had imprisoned the person who brought the hair of Prophet Muhammad and seized the hair from him. Later, the orthodox emperor was reported to have experienced a turnaround of feelings and he returned the hair to Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai's daughter. What prompted him to do so could be the realisation that despite being an emperor, he was but human; he could not carry his power and riches beyond this world. He might have decided that the family would legitimately care for it.
After taking off my shoes, I entered the complex to find the shrine preserved perfectly from the time it had been built. It was not crowded at all and that helped me to connect with God quietly. A good part of the complex was under renovation and repair; devotees had to take care not to slip on the wet mortar.
Happy and content at my unscheduled pilgrimage, I marveled at how I was brought here by an Unseen Power to experience Hazratbal, a good 500 kilometers away from what I call home. I went back, far richer from this wonderful experience.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi