The year was 1992. I was preparing for bachelor degree final Punjab University exams with a class fellow of mine. We used to sit and study together in the central library of Quaid-e-Azam University to carry on with our preparations. Cricket world cup was also going on in Australia where a young Pakistani team led by the legendary all-rounder Imran Khan was showing a great deal of resilience against other experienced and mature international teams.
I had heard of presence of a living saint in the green lush outskirts of the University campus, located close to the Margalla foothills from the Shahdrah side, which could be seen from the window of the library. I did not have before seen a living saint, so naturally I was curious as to how a saint would interact with ordinary folks like us. One day somehow, while I was peaking outside the window thought why not to locate and visit the saint. My class fellow was equally eager to experience the same.
We did not know the exact location but we asked the village people who guided us to a place attributed to the saint. While on our way we met Afzal Chacha (chacha means uncle used for elderly people out of respect) a guy who was in fifties and had a noble beard. Afzal Chacha still owns a small hut (tuck shop or kiosk) at the University campus. Later it was revealed that he was also a disciple of the saint we were looking for. There was a remarkable piety on his face. He pointed in a direction and told us that he had just seen the saint over there. We headed in the same direction and reached a place which looked as if it was abandoned by the saint, so we returned back to Afzal Chacha to complain about it. He informed us that the place we reached was indeed abandoned by the saint and now we had to penetrate the forest a little more in the same direction to reach the new ‘Aastana Aaliya’ (Exalted place where saints sit or worship) – by that time we did not know the so called Saint’s name.
So we returned back knowing that we did not have to travel much. After a while we reached a place close to a densely green hill where there was apparently some sort of construction work going on – looked like a mosque due to its orientation, later confirmed. Just opposite to the mosque there was a single room mud-house. In front of the mud-house there was a resting place perhaps for the visitors and in the veranda there was a guy sitting with a typical ‘namazi’ cap (worn primarily during prayers by Pakistani Muslims). The guy was wearing dark grey shalwar kameez with buckles on the shoulder (just like the Police uniform shirt) and his area of face where beard grows was covered with a scarf printed with paisleys. Also he had glasses on with a thick black frame, just like people used to have in those days. I thought he was a security guard or so. I asked him if he can tell us the whereabouts of the Peer (saint) Sahib. He informed us in his low child-like voice that he did not know the whereabouts of any ‘Peer Sahib’. I got utterly disappointed, however, the guy advised us to sit and wait but we decided to return back.
On our way back again we met Afzal Chacha who in our opinion by then had twice misguided us. We were dead sure he was kidding with us. We told him that there was a security guard at the ‘Aastana Aaliya’ who told us that there is no Peer Sahib lives there. Afzal Chacha asked us about his appearance. When we described him the appearance he smiled and told us that we just had met the ‘Peer Sahib’. How quickly our expressions changed from that of angry complainants to embarrassed but thankful youths.
We quickly returned to the place where we met Peer Sahib and apologized to him of our ignorance. A mystical smile came to his face. We sat in front of him as if we were his true disciples. I was a bit proud thinking since I belonged to a noble family so Peer Sahib would acknowledge that. But I did not get any special treatment – gesture or greetings etc., which I innocently used to think I was entitled to back then (it was later when I introduced a cousin of mine and requested him to take him as his disciple that he informed me that my forefathers are giants and he cannot take my cousin as disciple out of respect for them – good for my pride). Peer Sahib advised us to offer prayers regularly and we, I and my class fellow, also shown interest for participation in the construction work of the mosque in our humble capacity – we had seen the movie ‘The Message’ in which holy prophet himself participates in construction of the first ever mosque of Islam in Medina which was spiritually quiet moving.
Tabarik Shah Sahib seemed to be ok with us. He gave us both a ‘Taweez’ (amulet) each. I refused to accept the Taweez but he insisted I should keep it. I asked him what the Taweez was about; he informed me that it was to make people treat me better wherever I go.
While returning back to the central library we laughed at the Taweez as they were photocopied. I
remarked that the photocopy machines have spoiled even the saints. When first world technology reaches the third world it is grossly misused in so many ways. His name was written on the Taweez ‘Syed Tabarik Hussain’- a unique and a beautiful name, a clue that he belonged to an educated family. The meeting went just in a normal manner, however, the most appealing event was when Syed Tabarik Hussain himself cooked ‘Chapatis’ (bread) in ‘Tandoor’ (a cylindrical clay oven used in rural areas for cooking and baking) for us and other visitors. The food was quite acceptable.
Meeting Syed Tabarik Hussain became a normal feature afterwards. Whenever we used to get some spare time we used to visit the Aastana Aaliya. He used to give us insights into religious matters. A villager told us that one day a lion came roaring down from the wilderness of the mountain and entered the village. Tabarik Shah Sahib all of a sudden appeared from somewhere and went straight to the lion without any sort of fear. In front of the villagers, while pretending it was a cat shoved the lion to disappear back in the jungle. He used to always hold afterwards that it was not a lion rather a harmless cat. According to the holy Quran:
Verily on the Friends of Allah (Subhan Tallah) there is no fear nor shall they grieve [10:62]
One day a poor villager family whose son was missing for quite a while came to Shah Sahib for help. Tabarik Shah informed them that their child was kidnapped by some people and put under bonded labor. He informed them to go to a place in Kohat with a decent amount of ransom money to rescue their child. The parents followed the instructions and soon returned back successfully with their kid.
Another day I and my class fellow were sitting in the ‘Hujra’ (Shah Sahib’s room). A contingent from some place (do not remember from where) came to see Shah Sahib. When they sat down the disciples of Shah Sahib gave them water to drink. When they requested Shah Sahib to pray for them, he snubbed them so badly saying he would not pray for people who steal from dead bodies. The people just covered their faces with shame. I looked into the eyes of my class fellow which were also full of fear. Shah Sahib never before did that sort of a thing to anyone. He used to be polite and caring to all the people. Except for one day
when an innocent village boy was stopped by Shah Sahib to enter his Hujra saying he cannot give Taweez for love marriage. The young boy was so innocent that he begged Shah Sahib to pray for him while the people inside the Hujra were smiling on his simplicity and cuteness.
One day someone offered a box of sweats to Shah Sahib. He directed one of his disciples to present the sweats to us and other guests and went outside to do something. I took a little piece of ‘Burfi’ (kind of sweat). The others ate the whole box of sweats as if they were eating for the last time. My class fellow ate more assuming this way financial situation of his household will improve manifold. The village guys ate the sweats as if there was something deeply mystical about the offering. When Shah Sahib returned back he was really upset at his disciples telling them that they would have saved some sweats for the other disciple who was sent by Shah Sahib for some work away from Aastana Aaliya. I really felt ashamed that day but somehow did not tell Shah Sahib it was not my greed due to which the sweats vanished in thin air. But I remember what Shah Sahib said that day that one should take extra care of the guy who is not around in his absence.
Once I asked Shah Sahib about the future of Pakistan. He closed his eyes for a while and when he opened them he informed us that in the first decade of the millennium outsiders will intervene into our domestic matters. ‘Baharle Aa Jawange’ (outsiders will come in)
he remarked which made us feel extremely uncomfortable. ‘Baharle’ is a term used for wild boars. He was in a way referring to take over of the country in synthetic manner by foreign elements. We were young boys with limited knowledge. We thought India would wage a war on us, and we were slightly worried even though we had full confidence over our security forces. Syed Tabarik Shah Sahib portrayed a very gloomy picture saying it would be a total chaos. Today his prophesies are ringing true one by one. How right he was about the fate of the country years back.
He used to advise us to visit ‘Bari Sarkar’ (the shrine of revered saint Bari). I asked him once to explain the cosmological hierarchy of the Sufis. I could not comprehend his explanations much. Today I recall he told us about Ghaus, Qutub, Majzoub, Qalandar, and Buzurg etc. When I asked him if Bari Sarkar was a Ghaus or a Qutub, he used to remark that Bari Sarkar is an ocean. It is not possible to label him to a particular station. It is also difficult to ascertain superiority among the mystiques. There were a handful of Qalandars in the history of Islamic mysticism. Majzoub are also rarely found. Ghaus & Qutub are the most exalted states. Shah Sahib informed us that areas are allocated to Sufi’s to carry-out assigned tasks. It is said that a true Sufi would acknowledge if you recite ‘Darood’ (There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the prophet of Allah) in your heart. Shah Sahib used to say that the entire world agrees that there is one god; and as such there is no difference of opinion. It sounded as if he was saying that what makes a man special is when he says Muhammad is the prophet of Allah. In theology there are three major religions i.e., Judaism, Christianity & Islam – Islam being the latest code. Why do not people embrace the latest code when particularly there is a general trend to crave for novelty?
One day we visited the Aastana Aaliya and observed many ‘Tasbih Daana’ (Prayer Beads) scattered at the front door of the Hujra. The front wall of the Hujra was demolished. Shah Sahib was sitting there having his head down and in deep thought. He informed that the forest department’s representative made police raid Shah Sahib’s place. The forest management official
first came to Shah Sahib in deep respect but somehow Shah Sahib advised him to shun the practice of stealing wood from the forest. So the guy decided to teach Shah Sahib a lesson. We collected all the beads and ensured Shah Sahib that we were with him at that time of trouble. I returned back home and informed my father who also visited Shah Sahib and ensured him that he should not feel he was alone.
Soon thereafter we heard that Shah Sahib abandoned the ‘Aastana Aaliya’. We could not see Shah Sahib afterwards. One day I saw one of his disciples at the village. I asked him about Shah Sahib, he informed me that Syedna Tabarik Hussain Shah Sahib was offering prayers on 27th of Ramazan (almost a decade and a half has passed since then) when during ‘Sajda’ (Prostration) his soul broke the shackles of his body for union with the ultimate truth. The word ‘Urs’ is used to convey the same phenomenon – union of souls with the ultimate truth.
In 1992 Pakistani cricket team won the world cup. It was a great year in the sports history of the country, and Imran Khan visited the University campus shortly after, but I and my class fellow recollect the year because of all together a different reason.