Sirhind (Fatehgarh Sahib): The three-day ‘urs’ of Sufi saint Shaykh Ahmad al-Faruqi al-Sirhindi (Mujadid Alif Saani) is just four days away but there in uncertainty whether a jatha of pilgrims from Pakistan will be able to attend the annual congregation to mark the death anniversary of the saint.
Mujadid Sahib was a prominent member of the Naqshbandi order and a significant number of its followers live in Pakistan. For last over seven decades, around 200 devotees from Pakistan along with thousands of devotees from various parts of India attend the ‘urs’ every year.
The organisers of the three-day event, which will start on October 26 and end on October 28, said there is uncertainty whether devotees from Pakistan will attend the event.
The focus of both India and Pakistan at the moment is on opening of the Kartarpur corridor but there are no details about the visit of any Pakistani jatha. This year, there is speculation that Pakistani pilgrims will opt out because of tension between the two countries over abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Pakistani jathas only visit the ‘urs’ at Sirhind Sharief in Punjab and outside the state they visit for the ‘urs’ at Ajmer Sharief, Nizamuddin Aulia shrine and Bareilly Sharief, according to Punjab Naib Shahi Imam, Muhammad Usman Ludhianvi.
“Last year, we got around 150 devotees from Pakistan for the ‘urs’ apart from pilgrims from Bangladesh and Afghanistan. However, this year we don’t have any information whether they (the Pakistani pilgrims) will attend the event. We do know that many devotees had applied for the draw of lots called by the Pakistan government about six months ago for people wishing to attend the ‘urs’. There is uncertainty whether the ones selected in the draw of lots have even applied for visas and if they have, whether they will get Indian nod to attend the ‘urs’,” Syed Muhammad Sadiq Raza, Sajada-Nasheen (custodian) of the shrine, who is main organizer of the event, said.
In absence of any news, the organisers have made all the arrangements for the visitors from the neighbouring country. “Even as we don’t have any information whether the devotees from Pakistan will come or not, we have made necessary arrangements for them and other guests,” Raza said.
“During the annual congregation, we hold prayers where apart from other prayers for relatives, family members and near and dear ones, we also organize special prayers for peace in the world,” he added.
Syed Saifullah, a member of the family which manages the ‘urs,’ said normally they would get intimation from central agencies about the visit of the Pakistani pilgrims much ahead of the ‘urs.’
There were a few instances in the last over 70 years when the Pakistani jathas did not visit Punjab because of tension between the two countries, the shrine’s custodian said.
The Pakistani jatha normally gets a week-long visa for the ‘urs’ — the pilgrims stay at the shrine for five days and need two days to travel. The devotees also visit Bras village, around 18 km from Sirhind, which is believed to have many graves of prophets.
“Normally every year, devotees from there would come for ‘urs’ and would come here for a day. We would host them for lunch and organize langar (community kitchen). We don’t have any information whether they will come this year or not. However, devotees from various parts of country are expected to come here during the ‘urs;’ at Sirhind,” said Qazi Muhammad Tayyib, who looks after the daily affairs at Ziarat-e-Ambia at Bras village.
Fatehgarh Sahib deputy commissioner Parshant Kumar Goyal told TOI that there is no information whether the Pakistani jatha will attend the annual event. However, the district has made all the necessary arrangements. As all foreigners attending the ‘urs’ are cleared at the level of the ministry of external affairs and ministry of home affairs, the district administration gets information after they are sent a list of devotees.