A faqir has no religion – there is only Haq and love, says Sain Zuhour
His expression rarely changes. His face is gaunt and wrinkled; he seems lost in another world; his eyes are sunken, but look right into you.
“God did not create religions to divide Hindus, Muslims and Christians. Sufis only believe in God; nothing else matters.”
This is the belief of a faqir – Sain Zuhour.
At age seven, Zuhour saw a hand beckoning him to a shrine. That dream came to him every night. The image stayed with him all day. It was 1944.
The young boy told his father, a farmer in Sahiwal, Pakistan, of the dreams and visions. Soon, they were on the road — father, Zuhour and his brother, to look for the shrine. They traveled through the land, but Zuhour wasn’t satisfied. The shrines he had visited were not the one in his dreams. After a three-year search, they arrived in Uchch, in Bhawalpur. They came upon a shrine — Zuhour wouldn’t go home. He had found his pir too — Niaz Hussain Shah, a descendant of the great eighteenth century Sufi poet, Baba Bulleh Shah.
For three months, Zuhour served Niaz Hussain, doing chores in the shrine. Niaz Hussain asked the 10-year-old boy to go to Baba Bulleh Shah’s shrine in Kasur. His father and brother went home to tend to their farm in Sahiwal; the boy stayed back at the shrine, not knowing where he would shelter, who would give him food, or who would tend to him if he fell ill.
The insecurity of a child away from home, away from his mother and father with no comforting roof over his head was not something that made Zuhour diffident. He didn’t know insecurity because he was secure — Zuhour was always in the presence of his Maker. “A faqir knows no fear,” Sain Zuhour, now 81 says.
“I would stay in the shrine the whole day lost in prayer. I didn’t know morning and evening. I would fall asleep and when I would wake up, there would be some food in front of me. Someone would leave something for me. When you are so young, God looks after you. He looks after you when you need Him. What God would give, I would eat. Human beings don’t provide. There would be food served at the shrine. I would go there also. I don’t know how many years I spent at Baba Bulleh Shah’s shrine. All I remember is that I would pray the whole night, chanting: ‘Ya Allah, Ya Murshed’. I didn’t care for this life then and nor do I care for it now. I have had no material yearning. I go into prayer at midnight, I don’t know what takes over me, but I stay all night in awe — out of love for God,” says Sain Zuhour.
He returned home to his parents when he was around 18 and spent two years in Sahiwal. The only way to cure him of his ailment, people said, would be to get him married. But who would marry a faqir? “I didn’t want to get married, but my murshed came to me and said that I should. But I must never let the girl go hungry.”
Wazira Bibi, a woman who would spend most of her time in prayer, agreed to marry Zuhour. But he was never tamed. The ailment could not be cured. Zuhour would leave his house and five children — three sons and two daughters — for days on end, travelling from one Sufi shrine to another, singing God’s praise.
“At first it seemed that he didn’t care for us. He would stay in shrines and we had to make do with whatever little there was at home. Those days were not easy. I would have to work on the farm with my uncle and sell the produce. We used that money to buy food. Village folk would instigate us — they would say: ‘Your father is just a faqir. He doesn’t care for the family.’ But we would keep quiet,” says Zuhour’s eldest son, Riyasat.
It’s been seventy-four years since the hand waved him to a shrine. Seventy-four years have been spent in Ishq or Divine Love. He hasn’t cared for food or shelter. He would go into a retreat in isolation for forty days, or what Sufis call chillah. He wouldn’t see or speak to anyone. Forty days and forty nights he would spend in remembering his Maker.
But if you ask Sain Zuhour what he does the whole day, he will tell you that he doesn’t know morning from night. All he knows is that he lives in the love of his Maker and he drowns in that love every second of the day. There is just one thought — it is He — the only truth or Haq; the ultimate truth.
“Even now I don’t know what he does the whole night. He locks himself in a room and we don’t see him until the morning. He is a very frugal man. When he emerges from his nightlong vigil, he eats some black gram. Around mid-day he has homemade bread and milk; and at night some bread and gravy. He rarely touches meat, if he does, it can only be grilled. He will not touch food that has ghee,” says Riyasat.
Sain Zuhour still goes to Baba Bulleh Shah’s shrine every week. He also makes it a point to go to the tombs of Moinuddin Chishti, Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Baba Farid, Nizamuddin Auliya and Bu Ali Shah Qalandar. “These are resting places of saints. If your soul is pure and you are lost in Ishq, you will feel their presence,” says Zuhour.
But you wonder. A man in this day and age has devoted himself to the Maker. What religion does he profess? He must know a thing or two about religion. Seventy-four years of penance must have taught him something. He, surely, would know the path to the Divine and the many requirements. “Hindus, Christians, Muslims … all religions are one. There is Allah and that’s the only Truth. Haq. A faqir has no religion.”
If a faqir has no religion, what does he follow?
“Only Ishq matters. Nothing else. God gave birth to each and every being on this planet. We owe it to Him to stay on the right path, to have humanity. We have to love one another and be there for one another. That is my religion.”
You have to remind Sain Zuhour that there are divisions between religions. There is terrorism in the name of religion. Thousands have been massacred and dismembered all in the name of God. And, it exists in our everyday life: religious discrimination, religious hate and religious fanaticism.
“The world needs humanity. We need peace. We need someone to share our pain and sorrow. Why did Hindus, Muslims and Christians flock to Moinuddin Chishti, Qutbuddin Kaki, Baba Farid and Nizamuddin Auliya? It is because they hurt no one’s sentiments. Everyone was equal in their eyes. Religion did not matter. Humanity did.”
Bulleh Shah’s Aik Alif is this faqir’s soul.
You’ve read voraciously to become knowledgeable
But you never examine yourself
You make a beeline to your mosques and temples
But you never journey to your soul
You fight Satan daily
But you do not rid yourself of ego
Bulleh Shah you try grabbing what is in the sky
But you do not grasp what’s within you
Stop this oh friend
Stop hunting for this knowledge oh friend
All you need to know is the Alif letter
Stop oh friend
Stop hunting for this knowledge friend
God is All, God is One.
Follow Meher Murshed on twitter: (https://twitter.com/@mehermurshed)
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