If you have any misgiving about the religion in question, I would suggest you to once visit a mosque as a layperson and experience the healing touch that the place offers.
IN January 2017, I was not in great shape as my career had not taken any specific direction. I had completed my graduation in physics, but suddenly I started pursuing a law degree (LLB). Due to my semi-rural lower-middle-class background, I was under tremendous social and financial pressure to find employment and earn at the earliest so that I could at least, pay my own bills.
Practicing law, my current profession, was never on my priority list as it would have a very long gestation period and offered very small remunerations in the initial years. On the other hand, family problems seemed to have no end. There were serious health issues and associated consequences. Last, but not least, was the jolt I received from a girl who I really liked. She straightaway declined my proposal. Consequently, I was heartbroken as the hope of a better life was ebbing like sunlight at dusk.
At this juncture, when two of my friends asked me to accompany them to Agra, I, with almost nothing else to do, readily accepted the offer. At Agra, after visiting the Taj, we went to Fatehpur Sikri where the famous Buland Darwaza led us to a compound with a mosque and the dargah of the hermit, Saleem Chisti, built by Mughal emperor Akbar. After visiting the dargah, we sat in the compound for a while. Soon, there was a call for prayer from the mosque. Tired by the day-long journey, my friends chose to rest in the compound, but I, for no specific reason or motive, at an impulse went inside the mosque alone and sat on the floor uncovered by the mattress.
As I closed my eyes for a while, thoughts of everything that was not working out for me made me cry. I prayed to God to deliver me out of the mess. At that very moment, I felt at peace, no longer burdened though still worried about things. As I opened my eyes, I saw an old man with a long white beard standing right in front of me. He affectionately kept his hand on my head, moved it through my hair, and as I stood up, he hugged me warmly. He politely asked my name. His graceful smile didn’t diminish after knowing my Hindu identity.
He was the imam of the mosque who introduced me to the assembly of worshippers as “malik ka nek banda (an honest servant of God)”. Everyone out there hugged me and shook hands with me like I was their family member or an old friend. When I told Imam Saab that I am a law student, his eyes brightened up. He said, “You would always act in a just manner”. He told me to follow whatever excites me and pray whenever I feel burdened. He told me that act of praying always gives hope and new direction. I left that place with a smile and peace.
After almost five-and-a-half years, when I recall the incident, I feel humbled and grateful for that moment that kindled a ray of hope in me. The place where I was enlightened happened to be a mosque is no coincidence. However, of late, when I hear all kinds of things about the mosques, I get upset. How could we divide people in the name of a place of worship while the light of the God illuminates everyone indiscriminately irrespective of his/her religious orientation?
A few weeks ago, during a demolition drive in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area, the entrance of a local mosque was knocked down by a bulldozer. So upsetting was the scene that it instantly generated sectarian passions apart from hurting the religious sentiments of Muslims. In Maharashtra, passions were deliberately raked up over the use of loudspeakers in the call for prayer. Disputes over historical mosques are being raised time and again. These manufactured contentions over places of worship will eventually end up in courts burdening the judiciary with prolonged litigations. The ensuing heated debates over the places of worship might render the ‘abodes of heeling’ a misplaced concept.
I hereby make an earnest appeal to all those who indulge in all the aforesaid negative activities to refrain from these if they want the sublime concepts of religion and spirituality to survive. If you have any misgiving about the religion in question, I would suggest you once visit a mosque as a layperson and experience the healing touch that the place offers. Before you hurl another stone at a house of worship, know a bit more about its spiritual, if not religious, significance.
Amit Dwivedi is an advocate based in Delhi. The biographical piece is based on an experience during his college days.