A dargah, a Hindu caretaker and hundreds of believers

By Azera Rahman, IANS,

Dikom (Assam) : Seventy- two-year-old Khedan Prasad Singh has just arisen after an elaborate puja in his tiny home here. He prepares to offer namaaz soon after at the Sufi shrine in his courtyard that is thronged by people every day. A devout Hindu who offers his namaaz five times a day and religiously keeps his fasts during the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramzan, Singh’s is a 40-year-old tale that does more than amaze people.

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It also inspires a feeling of communal harmony.

“I was 32 at that time, a humble tailor who stayed with my parents in this very house. We had always been religious and devotees of Lord Shiva,” said Singh, whose ancestors hail from the Ballya district in eastern Uttar Pradesh.

“Then one day ‘peer saheb’ appeared in my dream, telling me he was Hazrat Syed Inayatullah and wanted me to keep our courtyard clean and not dump any garbage in it. This happened consecutively. I didn’t know what to make of it; so I started cleaning the area, lit an incense stick and offered puja there every day,” Singh told IANS.

According to Singh, neighbours started noticing this over a period of time and when they heard about his dream, they started offering prayers there as well.

“My dreams didn’t stop there. Baba (saint) kept appearing in my dream and over a period of time I could feel his presence around. He taught me all I know about Islam today, the prayers, the rituals, my knowledge of Arabic…I didn’t learn all this from any scholar,” he claimed.

With his humble earnings, Singh constructed a shrine for Hazrat Syed Inayatullah Peer Saheb in his courtyard. The mazaar, close to the lush tea gardens, is now visited by hundreds of people of all religions and all faiths.

A mazaar, also called dargah, is the shrine of a Muslim saint or a Sufi saint.

“Baba always says that I should pray in accordance with my wish. I have always remained a devout Hindu and have a small temple with a Shiva linga in my home. But that doesn’t stop me from following the Islamic way of life as honestly as I can as well,” Singh added, explaining his parallel lives.

Ajay Agarwal, a businessman from a nearby town, was at the mazaar along with his son. Taking off their shoes, the father-son duo went in and offered prayers.

“We have great faith in the Peer Baba mazaar. Whether it’s any illness, any problem or before starting any new project, a visit here is mandatory – somehow, we find peace here and things start becoming better,” Agarwal said.

Similarly, Shamima Ahmed, a homemaker, said: “There’s a great sense of relief and peace that washes over you when you come here. An honest prayer is always answered.”

People come to Singh for home remedies for illnesses as well. He also organises Urs, a religious congregation on the death anniversary of the saint, every year in November.

“When I visit my ancestral home in Uttar Pradesh, they call me ‘maulvi’ sahib (a Muslim priest)!” he chuckles.

As far as Singh’s family goes, they all respect his way of life and have adopted the same in theirs as well. Every evening after offering her puja in the temple, his wife lights incense sticks in the mazaar and prays there too – “the Hindu way”, Singh smiles.

“The most important thing to remember is that you should have a pure heart. Whether it’s this religion or that, they all preach the same thing,” Singh told IANS.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at [email protected])