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Diary from 31st January 2013: Visiting an Spiritual Elder

Face of light of a Buzurg
I came to Mymensingh (a city about 200km north of Capital Dhaka) as part of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) evaluation team who is supporting a number of programs in the Primary Education sector of Government of Bangladesh.

Mymensingh is an old city of the country and famous for having many educational institutes. Particularly noteworthy is Bangladesh Agriculture University with its large and beautiful campus. What is remarkable about Mymensingh is that every nook and corner here you will find an educational institute, be it a primary school, women only college, high school or university.

While roaming this city earlier I came across few posters on Religious events and gatherings. It is kind of my hobby to keep record of these religious posters by taking photograph of them, and the reason I do that is to get familiar with the names of the people involved in this program. In this world of full of worldly people, I find it meaningful to at least know who are the godly people in any particular area, and then as and when possible to pay them a visit or their programs.

These days all of us people are becoming extremely materialistic, running after money; betaking money and wealth as our god - we seek refuge in God from becoming such slaves of money while forgetting true nature of this passing world and the everlasting hereafter. There exists very few and even the rarest of people who are sincere seekers of God. I feel that those who still invest their time and effort in organizing these gatherings where God is remembered - perhaps among them some friends of God and true servants of God may be found. And with that hope I keep record of these posters where perhaps such names might be found. Behind this hobby a larger goal is to find the special friends of God of the time and places.

So the other day while praying maghrib salaat at a mosque in the city after a day's work, I came across a poster which was about an Islamic gathering event organized by some local business community and it had name of a number of speakers. On top of the name the title attracted my attention, which said, "Pir Kamel..." which means "A Spiritual Elder," literally means, “A Spiritual Elder who has attained completion.” Naturally I took photograph of the poster to keep the details with hope that perhaps later if time permit I might visit the event and listen to these people.

Meanwhile in a couple of days later our work finished in the city and my team planned to leave earlier the day when this event is schedule. So naturally yesterday, which was the last full day here, I decided to visit the main person mentioned in the poster. The poster had his designation as the Person in Charge of a local Madrassa and the name of the Madrassa was also given.

I asked around about the direction to this place and headed for it not fully knowing how the experience will turn out to be. The name of the place in Mymensingh is called Taltola, Momenshahi. As I reached the place, I asked for the direction of the Madrassa. It was a moderately large complex busy with many students. I asked someone about this man and I was informed that he is not in the Madrassa (oh no!) but his son was there. So I introduced myself to the son who asked me about myself, where I came from and how I knew about the Madrassa and particularly whether I know his father beforehand. I told him briefly that I came to Mymensingh for an official visit and came across his father's name in a poster and I wanted to attend the program but since my time is over, I instead decided to visit the person directly if it's possible.

Then the son who is the principle of the Madrassa gave me a tour of his institution, various department and how its operating. I saw all students busy in their education. I was eager to know its economic model, how it sustains since the students study there for free. I was told that there is a committee, which provides various grants and also zakat (poor tax) is collected which covers most of the cost. Also the community actively support at various projects such as building infrastructure etc.

Later he also provided a student of the madrassa who is to take me to his father, the spiritual elder I intended to visit. He at that moment was conducting a teaching class at a mosque on an island in the middle of a river. Name of this island is Chor Jailkhana. It was dark already and when we arrived at the river bank there was no ferryman to take us across. After a while a boat arrived and me and my companion crossed over to the island. It was fun adventure too. As we reached to the bank of the island and approached towards the center of it, from far we could hear that someone was speaking in the mosque, which was coming to us faintly over the loud speaker. My companion who is also familiar with the spiritual elder informed me that it was his voice. I could hear that after dispensing advice he was taking promise from them, repeatedly, urging them to adhere to advices and to goodness.

As we arrived at what was a small and modest village mosque, made of corrugated tin walls and shades. There were about fifty to seventy people who gathered and the spiritual elder was giving his discourse. We arrived almost towards the end of his speech. One statement that he was saying towards the end I remember when he said, “May God make us Taleb-e-Ilm (Seeker of Sacred Knowledge), may God make us Taleb-e-Deen (Seeker of Religious Path and Spirituality) and may God make us Taleb-e-Allah (Seeker of God Himself) and may we not halt our journey until we reach God.”

After he finished his discourse, it was time for night prayer, so he retired to a side room of the mosque where my companion took me to introduce him.

Upon hearing that I came to see him and to send him salaam, he was pleasantly surprised. He then requested me to stay after night prayer so that we could chat. Then after prayer he led us to a remembrance chanting (zikr), did kahatam yunus (a special remembrance) and invited people who wanted to take bayat with him. Bayat is the act of accepting a spiritual teacher in Sufi Path.

Three shawl (chador) was used, he held one ends of them and people intending to take bayat all held to the edges of the shawls. Then first he said what it means to give bayat. He said it most directly. He said, Bayat means selling one’s self. It is giving one’s self to a spiritual guide or elder who can prepare them to the Path of seeking God, following the Messenger in every matter.

I was very fortunate to see the bayat incident because it is very sacred. The history of Bayat in Islam goes back to the Prophet (s) himself who not only in the beginning of his mission, but also later gave bayat on different occasions. It is sometime called as giving allegiance or making promise, spiritual initiation etc. From the bayat I also came to know that he was giving bayat in Chishti-Qaderiyya tariqa, a combination of two leading Sufi Schools in the Sub-Continent.

During the bayat first he said what is Bayat and what it means for the persons taking the bayat. Then he led the group to recite after him few sacred statements such as first to seek forgiveness to Allah for all their past sins and making sincere repentance for past mistakes. Then they recited the testification of Divine Unity that there is but One God and also the testification of the Messengership of Prophet Muhammad. Then they also affirmed their faith in God, His Messengers and Divine Scriptures, His Angels, that both good and evil comes from God alone, that after death there is resurrection and awakening to afterlife and in the Hereafter (Kingdom of God).

After this and few other holy statements, the Spiritual Elder raised his hand and asked all to join in making supplication. He made some really beautiful and moving supplication, first in Arabic and then in Bangla. The things he asked in his supplication was the essence of religion and spirituality and if those supplications are granted, then a person need nothing else, neither in this world nor the other. So in a word, his supplication was wholesome, beautiful and complete.

After the bayat was complete, he turned towards the prayer niche and began his private prayer. He is a man of very advanced age, specially in Bangladeshi standard where life expectancy is traditionally not so high. He was wearing a long Islamic dress, which made his handsome features much regal. The dignity of a man was full resplendent despite his frail body and advanced age. He had a white turban on. His facing features were much sharper than usual which came to my attention. The face shone with sharpness of perception.

As he was praying privately, people present in the mosque were asked to sit in groups, five or six in each circle and food was presented. I also ate with them and again had a brief conversation with the spiritual elder. Finally it was time to leave and he was very kind to give me a lift near my hotel. As I had some intention to speak to him on few things, about his work and time was limited, at my departure I requested his permission to give him a call in a few days.

What was amazing was the fact that despite his frail body and advanced age and after attending one program from afternoon till night, he was again off to attend another meeting. May Allah bless such souls and increase their strength with Divine help. Such souls are true mujahid, one who strive in the Path of God with all their mind, heart and soul out of their sincere commitment, dedication, love and faith.

Name of this Pir is Abdur Rahman and he is also known as Hafizzi Hujur in the local area, Hafiz indicating that he knows the entire Qur’an by heart. He is the Mohtarim of the Jamia Arabia Makhzanul Ulum (also known as Taltola Madrassa), located at Taltola, Momenshahi, Mymensingh. The Pir is one of the buzurg and leading light in the Mymensingh area and it was an honor to be in his company even for some moments.

One my way back from Mymensingh as I was contemplating about last evening, and it came to me that if time did permit, knowing what I have seen about this elderly man’s dedication and work: this is what I would have said addressing the people of the mosque:

"The Messengers are God’s direct Khalifa (vicegerance) on earth. The Saints are direct Khalifa of the Messengers, and the person you have in this mosque tonight, indicating to the Pir Sahab, they are the Khalifa of the Saints, of the Awliyas. They are the life of our Deen.

Just as without our Beloved Rasul (s) we would be in dark, it is through him we learned to be civilized, learned to have proper relationships that hold our society together, our model manner is from him, we learned our religion and learned about our Lord from him (s), similarly the Awliya Saliheens (Righteous Saints) came from far away lands to plant the seed of faith in these lands which once were barbaric, uncivilized and filled with superstitions. We owe our life, our deen and our hereafter to these Awliyas who carried the Banner of Rasulullah (s).

And whom you have among you is a carrier of that banner, from the Awliyas to us. Without their tireless and dedicated work, whatever we have left, would not be with us. We must support these people, strengthen their hands and feet through any means we can. It is them who represent the Awliya and Rasul (s) in our time. As much as we pay respect to those who are gone, who are now in their holy graves, these living khalifas also deserves our attention and support and even more. Since the time we neglected these living teachers of deen among us specially the spiritual elders who have the best of experience, we have began crumbling as nations and majority of us have been suffering due to the removal of Baraka which comes through these people and through them raising their hands.

I had the good fortune of visiting some foreign lands, have had the opportunity to work or watch the way of dealing in many organizations and countries, and I can tell that no other system can actualize equality among people than Islam while meeting all the sensibility, mercy, compassion that human society needs. Socialist system aspire towards equality but it lacks the necessary sensitivity as well as honoring some essential need of human society and at times socialist system can be heartless and cruel. Many talks about justice, but most fail to do it with mercy, love and ensure true freedom. Only within the folds of Islam all differences are transcended when we stand in prayer, bow and sit in single rows, shoulder to shoulder, so it should also reflect in every other sphere of our life. Only within the folds of Islam do we sit and eat together without ever giving a second thought of who is who in terms of financial capacity, position in society or rank. You go to any office, they are always busy reserving special seat, special chair, special position for few and the rest are further and further divided. This division in humanity is a poison and a trick of the devil and we are buying it left and right by replacing Islamic values with all sorts of other ones. Every single man made system is faulty because they are based on discrimination and worldly profits and gains where as Islamic system is based on unity and orientation towards God and His Kingdom.

So let us all come to the folds of submission in more sincere ways and hold tight to the coat tails of such person one of which is present among you. Listen to their advice and cling to them for our Rasul (s) said, deen is nasiha, that is deen is dispensing good advice. When people asked towards what ya Rasul Allah? Our Beloved master replied towards Allah and His Messenger. And servants like Abdur Rahman Hafezzi Hujur are the lamps of the Deen and may Allah bless him and give him long life and increase Baraka in his work."

- Sadiq M. Alam
On the way back from Mymensingh

Note: Sorry I dont have any photos from the event, neither of Abdur Rahman Hafezzi Hujur because such people have given themselves us to God in such extent that they prefer not to focus on them (or anything else in that matter) except that the focus be on God alone. This itself comes from their annihilation (fana) and sustaining (baqa) in God. Within such circle one does not always have the permission or dont feel like taking out the camera.



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Technology of the Heart: Diary from 31st January 2013: Visiting an Spiritual Elder
Diary from 31st January 2013: Visiting an Spiritual Elder
Diary from 31st January 2013: Visiting an Spiritual Elder - from Sadiq M Alam, Chief Editor and Researcher, Technology of the Heart
Technology of the Heart
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