The saint and the weather

August 24, 2019


KARACHI: The not-so-thick ashen grey clouds dominated by the sun that tries to belie their existence sometimes say more than what they’re meant to say. This means they don’t just signal occasional rainfall or sweltering heat: their arrival on the horizon is suggestive of a mood, a mood devotees of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi carry with them when they climb up the stairs to the shrine, a mood of reverence and the willingness to receive blessings of the Sufi, come what may. Some of them feel gloomy inside, like the clouds, and others, bright as a button. The common thread: their unreserved devotion to the saint.

After all, it’s the annual urs of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi that began on Thursday and concludes on Saturday. (It takes place every year for three days from the 20th of Zilhaj to the 22nd.) This year is no different. There have been countless men, women and children who have visited the mazar, offered fateha and prayed for their well-being and the well-being of those who are dear to them.

Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s three-day urs ends today

The beefed-up security, however, is a bit of a concern. One knows that there is threat from extremist quarters to the shrine, so one understands the presence of a large contingent of law-enforcement personnel. But there is another factor at play here: VIP movement.

On Thursday afternoon, for example, a renowned political figure came to the shrine. Obviously, it called for a mad rush for selfies and media attention. Now this, in a manner of speaking, undermines the importance of the urs. Perhaps one can’t fault them; perhaps they (politicians) too are genuine followers of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi. That said, at the end of the day, shrines are open-for-all venues, and tight security measures make life for the common man a little difficult.

Back to the urs: people kept coming to the shrine in droves from morning to night on Thursday. The langars were there, as usual, because the moment one entered the spacious compound of the mazar, those manning the biryani stalls on the right side beseeched people to have free food.

After all, it’s all about the people. One of them is Syed Irshad, a sixty-something, thin figure, who sat on the floor in front of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s gravesite (which was constantly surrounded by devotees who kept pouring in endlessly). “I’m jobless for the last 15 days. I ran a medical store for 55 years. Not anymore. I come here to seek Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s blessings.”

Irshad claims he has read the Ghazi’s family tree. The saint is Allah’s wali, which is why he has tremendous respect for him.

Fatima, a housewife, firmly believes in walis. She enthuses she believes in every wali, and that the Ghazi is Allah’s friend. She also says her wishes have often come true by visiting the shrine.

The above-mentioned two individuals, in a way, signify the two moods of weather in the month of August in Karachi. They (Irshad and Fatima) may appear different in nature, but at the shrine, they have come with a singular purpose: to show their devotion to the saint who makes them feel sheltered, rain or shine.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2019