Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Sufism and Sufi Practices in Pakistan: A Case Study of 'Notan Wali Sarkar'(1917-1994)

Academic journal article South Asian Studies

Sufism and Sufi Practices in Pakistan: A Case Study of 'Notan Wali Sarkar'(1917-1994)

Article excerpt

Introduction

Literature is agog with stories about the life, thoughts and practices of several Syeds and Qalandars but not many words have been spent on the life of Mian Abdul Rashid Panipati, popularly known as 'Notan Wali Sarkar'. A man of simple tastes and great spirituality, Mian Abdul Rashid is considered by his followers as one of the greatest Qalandars. This paper delves into the life of the mystic who is known little beyond Sargodha, Pakistan, and has even been cold-shouldered by historians.

Call it divine design or sheer coincidence, Mian Abdul Rashid was born in Panipat (India), the land of Qalandars, (Eaton, 2003) and finally settled in the city of Sargodha which is known for its mystics, pirs, Syeds, and most importantly, for the Gaddis of Pir of Sial Sharif and Pir Karam Ali Shah. Even two decades after his death (he was killed by his nephew), Sargodha still resonates with the tales of Mian Sahib who was always dressed in dhoti, kurta; the man who loved the betel leaf, tea and smoke from the hookah (water pipe) after every meal, a routine that he stuck to until the last breath. He had very simple food habits and would often be found meditating by fire or cleaning the enclosure with water. He always advised his visitors to recite the holy Quran, stay clean, and observe fasting. He had no material lust apart from his very basic needs. Instead, he spent a very simple life as all his temporal needs were met by the visitors whom he asked for alms. His followers gave him all the money they could spare in the belief that the money somehow would be returned to them many times over in the future. Even those who met Mian Sahib the first time were impressed by his austere lifestyle, profound thoughts, interesting practices and spiritual acumen. However, there was more to Mian Sahib than the life of an ascetic.

To his followers, he was a Qalandar who committed acts under the influence of 'other-worldly' forces which apparently were unacceptable even according to the Shariat. Often, when an absolutely unknown disciple began journey from any place in Pakistan, to visit him in Sargodha for blessings, Mian Sahib would talk about that disciple several times much before he actually stepped into the 'dargah'. Mian Sahib knew the desires of his disciples even before they expressed them. To a visitor he seemed to be totally self-absorbed and his ordinary raiment enhanced that effect. His disciples believed that during his life, and even after death, people like Mian Abdul Rashid "are 'friends of Allah' about whom Allah has said that when they leave worldly desires, they get quite close to Him and in that case their hands, eyes and ears become those of Allah. They can touch and feel everything and hear from a distance and they can see any hidden thing." Mian Sahib had a large following in Pakistan and in other countries as well.

The present author is not in a position to decide the place of Mian Sahib and to judge whether he was a Qalandar or not in the Sufi Order but multiple features of his personality, as has been narrated, speak for themselves. More importantly, his followers, including the sajadanashin (successor) of Data Sahib of Lahore, Mian Ijaz, believe that Mian Abdul Rashid was a Qalandar. Therefore, his eminent position in the Sufi order calls for a better understanding of his life, teachings and practices, as he could be considered one of the contemporary torchbearers of Sufism in Pakistan. Sadly enough only one book and a couple of articles have been written on his life and practices. In (Nicholson, 1921, Reprint 1967) case of Mian Sahib, the Sufi literature, mainly the Malfuzat and Tazkiras, have not been properly utilized. In fact, Sufi literature offers a rich collection of historical data for an analysis of social and mental structure, and power and process (Aquil, 2007). According to Khaliq Ahmad Nizam, "Reconstruction of a medieval mystic is by no means an easy job because facts and fictions and genuine and spurious, get so mixed up in hagiological accounts. …

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