Saturday, 8 June 2013

Back Story | The Sufi Poet(ess) of Hazratbal

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

"I Knew You Would Come"
At the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar during my just completed Sufi Saints of Rajasthan & Kashmir Photo Expedition-Workshop , we came across a middle-aged woman devotee, clutching a well-thumbed Qur'an, praying and meditating in solitude. Her prayers became more audible as I approached her, and she seemed oblivious to being photographed. Her face was streaked with tears, as she was totally immersed in her devotion.

The Hazratbal shrine and mosque is on the western side of the Dal Lake, and is an important place of worship for Muslims. This shrine blends Mughal and Kashmiri architectural styles and dates back to the 17th century. It contains a relic, the Moi-e-Muqqadas, believed by many Muslims of Kashmir to be a hair of the Prophet Muhammad. This relic is shown to the general public on very special occasions, such as the recent observance of the Isra and Mi'raj; the ascension of Prophet Mohammed to Heaven.

Through our guide and interpreter, Nizar Malik, we learned she had traveled quite a distance from her village to pray at the shrine, and that she had been foretold of meeting us in a dream.

Unprompted, she launched into a plaintive and devotional song in Kashmiri...which, to my ears, sounds very similar to Turkish, sprinkled with some Portugese. In reality, Kashmiri has thousands of words Persian and Arabic due to the arrival of Islam in the region, however, it remains basically an Indo-Aryan language.

For more of my monochrome photographs from Srinagar, see Kashmir's Sufi Soul.

I was told her song is a devotional poem to the Prophet Muhammad, and how his light shone over El-Tor in Sinai, where Moses received the tablets from God.