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Sindhi Society and Culture

Sindhi Society and Culture

 

 

 


      Sindhi
      Society and Culture


      

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
      times.


      

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
      fingers.''


      

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
      diamonds.


      

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
      Jat).


      

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
      Sindh:


      

 


      

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!''

 

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