Shri Sai Baba and Religious Harmony
Pooja and Koran
The building in which Baba resided was the ‘masjid’ of the Moslems; but it was styled ‘Dwaraka-Mayi’ by Baba himself and the Hindus. It contained the niche in the western wall called ‘millibar’ representing the Caaba of Mecca, to which all orthodox Muslims should turn at times of prayer, and also a perpetual lire, with its sacred ashes, a platform round the sacred tulasi for Pradakshina, and a garlanded portrait of Baba for pooja. Hindu scriptures were read there by day and the Koran by night. And at noon worship of Baba was carried on with Hindu hymns to the accompaniment of deafening music. Fully justified was Baba’s remark—”This is Brahmin’s mosque.”
But this strange, through not unprecedented, assimilation of the two religions into one was not achieved without the exercise of the vast powers, the intense love and watchful zeal of Sai Baba for many decades. And at times especially at the outset, there were occasion’s for friction. But under Baba’s care, actual friction was averted. These instances were very few – not more than 3 or 4 during a period of 3 or 4 decades, and they are the exceptions which prove the rule. We shall notice them very briefly.
Defies a Threat:
Painting Baba with sandal and worshiping him at the masque was the first and foremost cause of ‘dissatisfaction to Mussalmans. In fact, Baba himself disliked these and was long preventing their performance. But the loving heart of Sai could not long resist the persistent ardor of his Hindu ‘children’ and he finally yielded his reluctant assent. The Moslems of Shirdi, however, were not at first inclined to yield their assent. On the other hand, they invoked the aid of Sanga inner Kali and held a council of war at which it was resolved that further desertion of the mosque should be stopped by the use of force. They resolved to beat Mahlsapathy — this was probably in the nineties of the last century, when he was the only regular worshiper of Baba —incase he continued to paint and worship Baba at the mosque. When that feeble-bodied devotee learnt of the mischief that was brewing he stood outside the mosque and carried on his pooja of Baba. But Baba knew his own power, the weakness of the opposition and the vast advantages to the public of the development of his worship. He called Mahlsapathy into the unique and ordered him to go on with the usual painting and pooja. Defying terrorism to lift its head, if it dared. The Moulvi and others present were cowed down by the firmness of this Shirdi Wizard, and gave up all idea of molesting Mahlsapathy or any other worshipper.
Pathan’s Terrible Offer:
More than a decade after the above incident, when the worship of Baba had become general, marked and assertive, a few die-hards tried to stem this current, and stop the “desecration of the mosque and the transformati on of a Moslem fakir into a Hindu Idol”. One midnight, in 1915 when Baba was sleeping at the chaviidi along with R. A. Tarkhad, some other Hindus and a fierce Pathan. The last got up and telling Baba that the Hindus were “spoiling” and ruining him, begged permission to cut all the Hindu throats immediately. R. A. Tarkhad woke up and stood dead at the prospect of being murdered in cold blood. But Baba the watchful mother that he was came to the rescue. He took the entire responsibility for all the heterodox practices at the mosque on himself and declared that it was madness that spoilt the Hindus and that consequently his own throat might be cut if that was desired. As this elector the purity of Islam was not willing to go so far, the matter was dropped.
Punished on the Spot:
A little later, another Pathan who left Police service for a fakir’s life, stayed with Baba at Shirdi. His real first spent itself in shouting out the •’Kalam”, throughout the night in the proximity of Baba. The villagers who were asleep thus disturbed wished to drive him out. But Baba supported him, fed and maintained him there. This ”Rohilla” (as he was incorrectly named) though convinced by Baba’s vast powers and goodness, that Baba was nothing less than Paygamnbar (i.e., Prophet) fell at the same lime that Baba was striking at the root of Moslem orthodox traditions. This feeling gathered strength in a short time and one day this “Rohilla” decided to murder Baba and approached him from behind with a club. But the omniscience of Baba was equal to the occasion. He simply turned back and with a glance and a touch pinned the would—be—murderer to the ground whence he was unable to lift himself without other’s help. This was probably the last attempt at interference with the peaceful and united celebration of Baba’s worship at Shirdi.
When Baba passed away in October 1918, disputes arose as to the disposal of his mortal remains. Some Moslems were anxious to assert their right to this “Moslem” saint’s tomb, and to keep it under their own control. The majority of worshippers being Hindus resisted this demand. The ease with which the problem was solved showed how greatly Baba had toned down creed asperities at Shirdi. When the disputes were going on, and the corpse remained unburied, the customary Hindu worship was proceeding. The public authorities that came on the scene took a plebiscite, through mahazars which showed that the majority of devotees were in favor of respecting Baba’s own wish to be interred in a recent edifice of his Hindu devotee, G. M. Buty. The Moslems agreed, stipulating only that they should have free access to the tomb and mosque as usual. The inter absence of mutual violence on this occasion speaks volumes for the tolerance and co-operation so sedulously cultivated by Baba al Shirdi.
There are numerous saints all over the country, who have following among both the communities. Is it too much to hope that they also would develop the spirit of tolerance and amity as at Shirdi and render real Hindu-Muslim unity an accomplished fact?