SlNDHI SOCIETY is an integral part of the great Indian society. And
Sindhi culture is an integral part of the great Indian culture. And yet,
because of local factors, it has a flavour of its own. The people are
eclectic: not very profound, but very practical. As a wit put it: ``The
Sindhi rule of the thumb is to do whatever is convenient and profitable.''
Their varied experience over the ages has given them a certain flexibility
that makes for survival, even if not for glory. Added to the profundities
of their ancestral faith, they have faced waves of foreigners and they
themselves have travelled far and wide for trade. This has made them easy
citizens of the world. All fanaticism becomes foreign to their nature. As
H.T. Lambrick, ICS, has observed: ``There is something in the air of Sindh
which blurs the frontiers of ordinarily opposed creeds.''
When Islam came to India, it had staged the usual scene of murder, loot
and rape. However, before long, the mischief had been contained. The new
Muslims adorned their graves with the old lingas and yonis and offered
them incense and flowers. ``The day of wedlock,'' they said, ``is more
important than a thousand years of roza and namaz.'' They dispensed with
the Arab practice of female circumcision. They even moderated the harsh
Muslim law. For example, they decided that saying 'Talaq, Talaq'' twice
together would be counted as one and not two. Even the Arabs visiting
Sindh --- which is about all the Hind that they knew --- were so Sindhized
that, on return home, they were told: ``O returner from Hind, renew thy
faith.'' The Sammas and the Soomras, who were native chiefs, ruled for 500
years. Even when converted, they remained more Sindhi than Muslim. No
wonder Capt. Hamilton, who visited Sindh in the eighteenth century,
recorded that until a century earlier, the Hindu population had been ten
times the Muslim population. Today Sindhi intellectuals like G.M. Syed
reject the ``Arab Chhaap Islam''; they would obviously like to have the
``Sindhi-Chhaap Islam'' that very much prevailed until the late Mughal
Ironically enough, this pro-Hindu situation changed during the Mughal
period. Akbar initiated the policy of religious toleration. He gave more
and more top jobs to the Hindus. This antagonized many Muslims, who now
lost their monopoly of top jobs. Those who thus got left out, joined hands
with the fanatical mullahs. It was this unholy alliance that helped
Aurangzeb prevail over Dara. And so even while Akbar's policy brought the
Hindus into their own, the Muslim reaction to that policy strengthened the
forces of fanaticism and launched a wave of mass conversions It was
obviously this tidal wave that overwhelmed Sindh and converted it into a
Muslim-majority province full thousand years after the Arab invasion. Al-Ghazali,
the fanatic, who had attacked the liberal al-Farabi and Ibn Sina in the
eleventh century, and who had abjured reason and divorced religion from
science, now prevailed in the Muslim courts with a vengeance.
The exponent of this new policy in Sindh was Mohammed Hashim Thattwi.
His fatwa was duly issued as a firman of the Kalhora ruler Ghulam Shah. It
read: ``Let all functionaries of the state note that they have to make all
efforts to implement the religious directives issued from time to time by
Janab Makhdoom Mohammed Hashim. They should forbid the (Shia practice of)
mourning and Tazias during Moharram. Women should he stopped from visiting
gardens and graveyards. People should be prevented from mourning for the
dead. Animals should not be painted. Hindus should be forbidden from
wearing 'choti' or `dhoti', or sitting in their shops with bare knees.
Muslims should be told not to keep.moustache --- and not to grow their
beard long. The beard should not exceed the size of a fist. Hindus should
not be allowed to play Holi or sing with sarod, shehnai, drum or bugle.
Hindus should also be stopped from bowing to the idols or to the river.
Government staff must enforce the above orders strictly. Violation of any
of these orders must be visited with deterrent punishment so that nobody
dares indulge in these practices. In addition, people should be told to
observe roza, namaz and other religious practices. Let there be no failure
in the implementation of the above rules. Shaban 2, 1072 H.''
The liberal religious policy of Abar, followed by fanaticism like this,
led to the Hindus getting more jobs; but it also led to more and more
Hindus at lower levels getting converted under official pressure. And thus
one could see the two opposing developments at the same time. Gidumal and
many other Amils became ministers in the court of Sindh. They were allowed
to dress like Muslim aristocracy, charged no taxes, and addressed as ``Dewan''.
But Hindus could neither keep an idol nor ring a bell, in what passed for
their ``mandirs''. From Thursday evening till Saturday morning, they kept
indoors --- for fear of some Muslim saying they had heard them say
``Allah'' or''Mohammed'' on the holy day of Friday and that, therefore,
they were now deemed Muslims. The Hindus would not touch any Arabic book
--- for fear it might turn out to be the Koran, whose touch would make
them Muslim in the eyes of fanatics. British visitors such as Richard
Burton noted that the Hindus would never use the word rasso or rassi, for
rope --- for fear somebody might say that they had uttered the word ``rasul''
(prophet); they would always call it ``nori''. A Sindhi prince gave his
watch to an Englishman for repair in Bombay, with instruction that it
should not be touched by any idol-worshipper. This Englishman was
presented with a sword with the Persian inscription: ``I am light of
weight, but l am heavy on the enemy. Warriors have used me to slaughter
one lakh Hindus.'' Even a veteran statesman like Gidumal, who had served
the state with distinction, like a Cardinal Wolsey, was murdered in the
open court when his daughter Draupadi ended her life rather than agree to
marry a Muslim prince.
British observers, therefore, wondered why the Hindus stayed on in a
place like that. Dr. James Burton wrote: ``It is really difficult to
conceive how many Hindus should have continued to reside in the country;
and the fact can only be accounted for by that attachment which man shares
with the vegetable, to 'the soil in which he is reared.''
That was one side of the picture. Another side was what E. B. Eastwick
noted: ``When we arrived in Shikarpur and Hyderabad we found Hindu
merchants as wealthy, almost as numerous, as in the most prosperous towns
under our own government.'' He added: ``As we entered Karachi, we met
pilgrims returning from Hinglaj...lt is the farthest western limit to
which Indian polytheism extends.''
Hamilton reported in 1699 the celebration of Holi in Sindh from morning
till evening. ``In this mad feast people of all ages and sexes dance
through the streets to pipes, drums and cymbals.''
Eastwick even saw a remarkable sight of Diwali, on 5 November 1839,
four years before the British conquest of Sindh. He noted: ``The Diwali
happening to fall on this day, the whole river was bright with lamps. The
scene was really enchanting. The mosques and ruined tombs, illumined by
myriads of lights, and the broad current sweeping by them in all sombre
majesty --- the palm-groves and the island fortress of Bakhar in
mid-stream, made up a wondrous picture. Ever and anon some votary would
offer up his prayers to Lakshmi and launch a tiny craft bearing a cluster
of lamps into the water.''
Here were Sindhi Muslims celebrating Diwali along with the Hindus.
Obviously the Sindhis had evolved a Sindhi version of Islam. A certain
good humoured co-existence prevailed. When Mir Sarfaraz Khan made fun of
Gidumal's short stature, the latter retorted in Persian: ``Manhood is
tested in war; the thumb, though small, is more important than the
Once the poet-saint Shah Abdul Latif teased his Hindu friend Madan with
the question: ``How will you Kafirs fare on the day of judgement?'' (``Hashar
vela hissab mein, kafir kanda keina?'') Madan did not reply at the time.
Later, when they reached a ferry point, the boat had just started off.
Madan took out extra money and showed it to the boatman, who stopped to
pick them up. Madan now turned to Shah and answered his earlier query
thus: ``Those who have an open hand will cross over ahead of all others.''
(``Hath jineen jo heean, se pahrein pattan paar pya.'')
Most of the Sindhi Hindus had always been there. When Mohammed Bin
Qasim sacked Aror, the capital of Sindh, many of them migrated north to
the Punjab. They are still known as Aroras. For the rest, the Hindus
shifted to Multan, Jaisalmir, and Kutch for safety --- and many of them
came back when conditions improved. A good number of them returned during
Mughal-Kalhora period. And so we have Miss Vimla Sindhi, a Punjabi lady,
who assists Mrs. Indira Gandhi. And we had a Sindhi ICS man called K. L.
Punjabi. The Advanis came from Multan, the Malkanis, Thadhanis and
Ramchandanis from Jaisalmir; the Kripalanis from far-away Prayag, and the
Bhagchandanis all the way from Ayodhya. They are all known -after their
great ancestor, a dozen generations earlier. The only exception are the
Shahanis, who are so called after Shah Baharo, a chieftain of Larkana. He
was so popular that his relations, friends and even employees called
themselves ``Shahani''. The Bhag-naris were late arrivals in Shikarpur
from Baluchistan. Contrary to popular impression, the Amils and the
Bhaibunds come from the same group of families. Those who took to service
became known as Amils (for `amal', to execute) and those who took to
business became Bhai-bandhus (Bhaibunds).
A sociological study by Bherumal Mehrchand shows that the Mukhis, the
Nagranis, the Sagranis, the Jethmalanis, the Lakhanis, the Lullas, the
Mattas, and the Chabrias are cousins. So, too, are the Advanis, the
Sitlanis, the Sadhwanis and the Shamdasanis. The Chandiramanis, the
Bhambhanis, the Karnanis and the Kripalanis are all ``Chugh''. The
Thadhanis, the Raisinghanis, and the Gehanis are all ``Khangar''. The
Chainanis, the Hingoranis, and the Jhangianis are ``Pahuja'' . The
Keswanis, the Ambwanis, the Mulchandanis, and the Bhagwananis are ``Kukreja''.
The Ajwanis, the Bhavnanis, the Gidwanis, and the Jagtianis are kin. And
so are the Mirchandanis, the Mahtanis, the Moorjanis, the Sadaranganis and
the Makhijas. The Balwanis, the Malkanis, the Ramchandanis, and the
Ramrakhianis are all ``Darari''.
The Sindhi Muslim society is more varied than the Hindu society. The
ancient mass is Koli and Santhal. And so we still have some Munda words in
Sindh. For the same reason many Sindhis still have the vigesimal system of
counting by twenties. When a Sindhi boy plays gilli-danda, he does not
count ``hik-ba- tay'', Sindhi for ``one-two-three''; he counts by the
South Indian numerals --- ``vikat, laine, moon, naar `!
Then came the Jats and the Medes. Later still, the Arabs, the Turks,
and the Afghans. Today the Syeds are the religious leaders. The Sheikhs
are upper-caste converts. The Sammats represent the Samma and Soomra
Rajputs. There are more Baluchis in Sindh than in all Baluchistan --- just
as there are more Gurkhas in India than in Nepal. And then there are the
commoners --- Maru and Sanghar, Panhwar, Malah, Mangta, Sodha, Dhati,
Gandra, Rebra, Kaachi, Kohyara, Muhana, Oda, Makrani, Shidi (Abyssinian).
We even have the ``Lunds'' in Matli --- a very funny tribe --- who are
believed to be third-century Hun settlers. All of them are conscious of
their caste. When Richard Burton asked an ``Ashraf'' who were the other
high castes, he was told: ``We are one; Syeds are another; half of Fateh
Ali's family: the rest are all riff-raff''!
A significant factor in Hindu survival in Sindh during the Muslim
period, in reasonably good shape, was the rise of Sikhism in the Punjab.
Sanatan Dharma having gone moribund under prolonged Muslim rule, Sikhism
came as a fresh breeze in the stale Sindhi atmosphere. The fact that the
two provinces were neighbours, their people, kin and their languages
allied, made Sikhism tick very well in Sindh. lt is believed that Guru
Nanak Dev had visited Shikarpur in his wide-ranging travels. One Kanayalal
of Sindh joined Guru Govind Singh, who made it his duty to serve water to
the wounded on the battle-field. Kanayalal gave water not only to the
Hindu wounded but also to thc Muslim wounded. Some Sikhs thought it wrong
to revive enemy soldiers. They took Kanayalal to the Guru, who appre-
ciated his action and asked him to go and preach Sikh Dharma in Sindh. He
came to be known as ``Khat Waro Bao'' (Khaat wala Bawa) because he gave
his sermon while sitting on a cot.
When Bhai Dayal Singh grew old in the service of the Guru's army, he
was given a sword, a kirpan, a chakra, and a spear to go and infuse some
courage in the Sindhis.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh sent one Manik Singh with a copy of Guru Granth
Saheb on elephant-back to be installed in Hyderabad. The Mirs gave land
for the purpose and the well-known Akal Bhoonga was built there. When the
Gurdwara used drums and bugles, the Muslims were scandalised. They
objected to music before a mosque, which stood next door. At first the
Mirs asked the Akal Bhoonga to shift from there. But realizing that it
might displease the mighty Lahore Durbar, they let it remain --- and,
instead, converted the old mosque into one ``for women only''. Of course
no woman ever went to offer namaz there. It remained locked.
Guru Nanak's two sons Baba Lakhmichand and Baba Srichand, gave rise to
the Jagiasu and Udasi schools of preachers. They also established many
temples. Chief of them was Bawa Gurpat Saheb, the twelfth-generation
descendant of Guru Nanak. He played a notable role in Sindhi society. No
wonder the Sindhis are very familiar with Sikh scriptures. Today even
important Sindhi Muslim leaders such as G.M. Syed feel that the teachings
of Guru Nanak would be good for all Sindhis and Punjabis.
British rule ended the preferential treatment of Muslims under Muslim
rule, and held the scales of justice even between the Hindus and the
Muslims. Given equal opportunities, the Hindus forged far ahead of the
Muslims, because of their traditional interest in education and business.
Soon they dominated the services, the professions, trade and industry. The
Muslim was confined to land and crafts. So much so that when partition
took place and refugees arrived in Sindh, they wondered how Pakistan could
be established in Sindh. They said: ``There are more Muslims in Lucknow
and Patna than in Hyderabad and Karachi in Sindh.''
The Sindhis had always traded with foreign lands. Their slogan was:
``Service is lowly; agriculture is noble; but trade alone is profitable.''
Thousands of years ago they had traded with, and even settled down in,
eastern Mediterranean, as Phoenicians. Shah Latif has a whole lovely ``Sur
Samundi'' on the annual trading expeditions to Lanka, Java and China. The
opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 gave a tremendous impetus to this trade.
Beginning with Sindhi arts and crafts --- hence the name ``Sindh- worki''
for them --- they soon ranged all the way from textiles to curios to
When the British took over, the Hindus did not hold any land. The
British gave land to the retiring officers, most of them Hindu. The
wealthy began to buy lands at market price. The improvident Muslim
landlords began to mortgage lands to the Hindu money-lenders, who
gradually acquired the same on default. In one century of British rule,
the Hindus had come to, acquire about 40 per cent of the land. Another 20
per cent was believed to have been mortgaged to them. Some Muslim League
leaders --- particularly Sir Abdullah Haroon --- made this into a big
issue. Here was a gentleman who started life as a cycle-repair assistant
on four annas a day, and ended up as a crore-pati, who grudged 30 per cent
of the population .(Hindus) owning 40 per cent of the land! He could never
see the initial iniquity of the Hindus (30 per cent of the population)
holding zero land under the Muslim rule. However, many other Muslim
leaders noted that the peasants were happier with the Hindu zamindars than
with the Muslim zamindars. They also noted that many Muslim zamindars did
not want education to spread --- for fear the next generation of educated
tenants might ask for more rights.
The real reasons for this shift of land-ownership were two: the Hindus
who had been starved of land for centuries, felt the natural human urge
for land --- and now they went in for it. Secondly, the impecunious Muslim
habits stood in sharp contrast with Hindu prudence. A Muslim tended to
spend beyond his means; a Hindu tended to save and invest. A popular
saying was that when a Hindu had money, he would buy or build more and
more houses (Jaye Mathan Jaye); when a Muslim had money, he would marry
more and more wives ( Joye Mathan Joye).
And Muslim backwardness in the field of business is traditional. Both
the Mughlas and the British recognized the Hindu superiority in trade. As
the ``Mirza Namah'' of Aziz Ahmed advis- ed the Muslim aristocracy in the
sixteenth century: ``If he needs to borrow money, he should borrow it from
a Hindu Mahajan, whom he should prefer to a Muslim Mughal merchant, e-en
though the latter lends money free of interest. He should totally avoid
purchasing from the shop of a Mughal, as it means paying four times the
cost of the thing purchased and suffering great loss, and in the end it
means listening to fourfold harangues of these merchants in the
market-place. On the other hand, a Hindu is content even if he reduces the
interest, considers the little he gets as plenty and is thankful for it.''
Robert Clive had the same experience. He wrote: ``These fat expensive
Moormen (Muslims) spend Government's revenue in luxury and assuagements.
Indeed in my opinion none but Gentoos (Gentiles, that is Hindus) ought to
be renters of counters who always spend less than their income and can,
when called upon, make good any deficiency in the revenues.''
Some leaders did try to mend the Muslim matters. G.M. Syed told them
not to overspend on wedding ceremonies. He advised them to reduce the size
of salwar and patko (turban) from 20 yards to 3-4 yards. He even begged of
them not to bathe just once a year. As president of the Sindh Provincial
Muslim League he conducted a regular campaign for the Muslims to take to
trade. But all this takes a long time. As Maulana Abul Kalam Azad put it,
``lt takes a whole generation even to learn how to wear a shoe properly.''
Pir Husamuddin Rashdi ridiculed the extremes of puritanism and
profligacy in Muslim society. On the one hand they observed such strict
purdah that even a pregnant woman was not allowed into the zenana --- for
fear she might be carrying a male child, who might cast a glance on the
secluded beauties. On the other hand, one could see any number of them
twirl their moustache with one hand and feel their private parts with the
other hand, on seeing a winsome lady.
The major responsibility for the backwardness of Muslim society lay
with the mullahs. Too many of them were as ignorant as they were
fanatical. Knowing nothing about religion, they often divided over
non-issues. One would pronounce the hooka un-Islamic, another would
declare snuff Islamic. They would argue endlessly whether red or black
would be Islamic for dyeing a greying beard. Others would discuss whether
hands should be folded or separated at namaz time --- and if folded,
should they be held above the navel or,below it. Professor Hotchand
Gurbuxani had edited an excellent edition of Shah's works. To this day it
is recognized as a classic. But Maulana Nizamani rejected it --- on the
ground that no Hindu (polytheist) could possibly enter the spirit of a
monotheistic Muslim poet!
It was this stupidity and ignorance of many mullahs that roused Shah
and Sachal, the two greatest poets of Sindh, to denounce them in no
uncertain terms. Said Shah: ``Don't call the mullahs: they are stooges.
They would barter pearls for a pot of flesh. . . With open eyes they would
dive in a sea of sand.'' (Sujani Allah, tubbi dinaoon dhoor mein.)
Sachal had only one solution for the unreasonable mullahs. ``Beat the
mullah on his head'' (``Kutt mian ji thorh''). G.M. Syed now has suggested
a legal ban on mullahs issuing fatwas, doing communal propaganda, or
taking part in politics.
The progress of the Hindus during the British rule was dramatic. To
begin with, the upper castes of Brahmins, Banias and Kayasthas had
remained Hindu, only landlords, peasants, artisans, soldiers had become
Muslim. So the earlier caste differentiation was now compounded by creedal
differentiation. With modernization, the caste-community difference was
reinforced by class differentiation. The fact that the ``higher''
caste-class Hindu was also urban, only further heightened the difference
--- and widened the gulf. This irked many Muslims. Leaving aside the
mullahs, who were congenitally anti-Hindu, even Khuhro once said: ``Today
Muslim women are washing. dishes in Hindu homes. I look for the day when
Hindu women will be washing dishes in Muslim homes.'' But G.M. Syed, after
his experience in the Muslim League --- which made him sadder but wiser
said: ``Why blame the Hindus for Muslim backwardness? Every morning when
the Hindu child takes his bath and goes to school, the unwashed Muslim
child is seen playing marbles in the dirty by-lane.'' Syed once even
suggested that all government jobs should be given only to the Amils; he
found them so good.
While Premier Allah Bux was positively nationalist, even Premier Sir
Ghulam Hussian Hidayatullah was non-communal. He was the son of Duhlanomal
of Shikarpur, who had married Hur Bibi, a Pathan girl. The two wanted to
live in peace, but the shortsighted Hindu society would not let them.
They, therefore, shifted to the holy peace of Hardwar. After some time,
however, the pull of the home-town brought them back to Shikarpur, But
once again the Hindu society would not let them live in peace. Duhlanomal,
therefore, became Muslim --- to escape the Hindu taunts.
Although Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto made himself infamous as Dewan of
Junagadh in 1947, when that state acceded to Pakistan, he had never been
communal in Sindh. Indeed the communalists thought him so much pro-Hindu
that they used to say he must have been fathered by a Hindu. While this
statement seems malicious, Sir Bhutto's wife, who bore him ``Zulfy'', was
certainly Hindu. She was Lakhan Bai before she became Khurshid. Poet
Sheikh Ayaz's mother was Dadan Bai, a Hindu lady of Shikarpur.
Hindus and Muslims, Shias and Sunnis, lived in peace. Outside of the
Sukkur district, communal violence was almost unknown. The Sindhi Muslims
heard the fighting slogan ``Nara-i- Taqdir', `Allah-o-Akbar' only after
the Khilafat movement The slogan at t he Battle of Miani in 1843 was not
``Allah-o-Akbar'' but the Baluchi ``Marsaan, Marsaan, Sindh na dhesaan''
(``We will die but we will not surrender Sindh''). Fighting was considered
bad. There was a saying: ``Give a threat, make some noise. If even then
the other fellow does not run away, then better you run away!'' The
typical Sindhi response to tyranny will not be violence but Bhoondo or
Bujo, accompanied by the choicest epithets.
Contrary to orthodox Sunni directives, the Shias and the Sunnis in
Sindh jointly mourned the martyrdom of Hassan and Hussain and took out
Tazias, inspired by the Rath of Puri Jagannath. These Tazias were huge
affairs which were not immersed or buried, but moth-balled- and renovated
every year. The Hindus offered coconuts and ``patashas'' at the Tazias.
Moharram was something of a spectacle to which the Hindus and Muslims
looked forward, as we do now to Republic Day tableau.
Typical of this harmoniously philosophical attitude of life was one Ram
Dularay at Keamari, the harbour of Karachi. He was so good at setting
bones that even Col. Johnson, the civil surgeon of Karachi, took his son
to him, when the boy fractured three bones. Ram Dularay charged no fees
and attended to the rich and the poor alike in strict order. When
Johnson's son recovered in two months, the surprised doctor offered him a
150 rupees job in the hospital. But Ram Dularay preferred to stay on as a
harbour chowkidar on 30 rupees a month.
One day Pir Ali Mohammed Rashdi took Rai Bahadur Hotchand of Nawabshah
to Ram Dularay for his bone-setting. When Rai Bahadur's turn came, Ram
Dularay set his fractured bones, recognized Rashdi, then a rabid Muslim
Leaguer. Ram Dularay turned to him and said: ``My son, you will be happy
if you remember that life is like a piece of paper in a stream. It can
only melt away. If not today, then tomorrow.'' Obviously Rashdi felt
touched by it and so he has mentioned it in his memoirs.
Thanks to the storm that shook all India, Sindh had become part of
Pakistan. Most of the Hindus left the province. But it is a matter of
satisfaction that by and large there were no hard feelings. Many Sindhi
refugees brought ``Sindhu-jal'' and/ or some earth, as sacred mementos.
Pir Husamuddin Rashdi, noted Sindhi journalist, wrote recently: ``In fact
it was the Hindus who had built Sindh. They adorned it. They brought to it
wealth from the four corners of the earth. They built great houses. Today
we cannot even maintain them.'' He added: ``The real masters of Sindh were
the Hindus. They had the education, the jobs, the trade, the land.'' He
thinks that the Hindus made the mistake of not acting as helpful elder
brother to the Muslims. He could be right; maybe the Hindus should have
done more for the Muslims. However, the schools, the colleges the
hospitals, and other institutions set up by the Hindus were open to the
Muslims. On the other hand, the rich Muslim zamindars never did anything
for anybody, Hindu or Muslim.
G.M. Syed has three complaints against the Sindhi Hindus: they always
thought in all-lndia terms; they inserted many Sanskrit words in Sindhi;
and they called the Sindhi Muslims derisively as ``Jhat'' (corrupt form of
Syed is at once right --- and wrong. All Sindhis thought in all- India
terms, whether the terms were Hindu or Muslim. It is true some second-line
Hindu writers did insert some Sanskrit words in Sindhi. But adding two per
cent more Sanskrit to a language that was already seventy per cent
Sanskrit, was hardly a sin; on the other hand many frant-rank Muslim
writers loaded Sindhi with more Persian and Arabic words than our sweet
language could bear. As for using the word ``Jhat'' for all Sindhi Muslims
--- including Sir Ghulam Hussain! --- it was certainly unfortunate. But it
was the casual habit of centuries, which did not mean offense. Funnily
enough, it was the Baluchis --- themselves very illiterate --- who first
dubbed all Sindhi Muslims, as ``Jhat'', meaning illiterate. And even a
Hindu child, poor at studies, would be told: ``Are you a Jhat?''
It will thus be seen that inspite of the wide educational and economic
gulf between the Hindu and the Muslim segments of Sindhi society, there
was no bitterness in their relations. The Muslims had transformed old gods
into new Pirs. Many Hindus visited Muslim durgahs which, in turn, had
adopted Hindu-style morning and evening drum-beats. The common Muslims
were known as Kando (thorn) Kauro (bitter one) Mitho (sweet one), Bacho
(saved), Waryo (returned), Soomar (monday), Ambo (mango) --- and not by
those Arab names. The Muslims continued with the same good old talismans
as are to be found in Mooanjo-daro.
Births were celebrated. Like the Hindu ``mundan'' (shaving of head)
they had ``Akiko''. At about age eight, when the Hindu normally had his ``Janeo,''
(sacred thread ceremony), the Muslim boy was circumcised and given a
saffron-coloured lungi to wear. Wedding songs were similar --- and in
chaste Sindhi. The Hindu bridegroom proved his manhood by breaking a
coconut; the Muslim bridegroom did so by breaking an earthen pot. Like the
Hindu couple, the Muslim couple also touched foreheads. In both
communities the couple exchanged fistfuls of sesame seeds back and forth
seven times, for amity and an abundant brood. The Muslims believed that
marriages solemnised before dawn --- ``bhej-bhini'' --- as per ancient
custom, were more successful. The ceremonial wedding articles were known
to both the Hindus and the Muslims as ``Deva''. They had the same
post-wedding feast of the two families in ``Satavaro''. As Tarikh-e-Tahiri
moaned long ago: ``Each month has several Ids for them.'' Even the first
Monday and the first Friday of each month were turned into festivals,
complete with fairs and feasts.
Normally the Sindhi Muslims did not eat beef; nor the Sindhi Hindus,
pork. When the Rashdi brothers of Sukkur were short of money which was
very often --- they got their meals from the langar (community kitchen) of
Sadhbela, the leading Hindu temple in Sindh. The menu, they write,
consisted of ``Daal, Poori, Halwa, Khichri, Aachar, Papad, Basar (onion)
and Kanah Prasad.''
Important as these external unities were, even more important was the
unity of their philosophy The Hindu and the dominant Muslim views of life
were the same. The Hindu saw God in everything, everywhere. And so did the
great Sufi poet-saints of Sindh. They were all ``Wujudis'' who saw no
difference between the Creator and His creation and not ``Shahudis'', who
distinguished between God and his creation --- and between `god and god'
and `man and man'.
In the words of Annemarie Schimmel: ``In Sindh, the borders between
Hinduism and Islam were not hermetically closed. A classical example of
this close connection is `Sur Ramkali' in Shah Abdul Latif's `Risalo', a
poem in which this mystic praises the wandering yogis in terms taken from
Quran and Hadith. Sachal Sarmast and his followers have not hesitated to
sing the essential Unity of Being that manifests itself now in Abu Hanifa,
now in Hanuman, now in the Vedas, now in the Quran.''
The Islamic ``la ilah ilallah'', (which literally means there is no God
but Allah) was re-interpreted by poet Shah Abdul Karim thus: ``One who
takes the seller, the buyer and the wares to be one and the same, will
know its meaning.'' ``This world,'' said Shah Latif, ``is a mansion with a
million doors and windows; whichever way you look, you will see God.''
No wonder the Hindu-Muslim relations were not half as bad in Sindh as
in many other provinces. To this day, the Sindhi Hindus remember Sindh
with misty eyes -and the Sindhi Muslims remember the Sindhi Hindus in
lndia with fond affection. Says Pir Husamuddin of Sukkur with anguish:
``That Sukkur is gone. Those Sakhroos are gone too. Our compatriots are
gone. Their place has been taken by strangers.'' Says Sheikh Ayaz of
Poesy is a river
On whose banks today
I have seen
Saraswati and Mahakali;
The two together
Were drinking moonlight;
They have come together
After long ages,
No doubt today will be born
A great Maha Kavi.
The great poet has no doubt been born. It is the youth of Sindh. And
its poetry is ``Jye Sindh!'' ``Jai Sindhu Desh!''