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Sufi travel accounts:
The 'urs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti

In October this year (according to the Islamic calendar the main activities will be from the 1st up to and including the 6th of Rajab; the most important day being the 6th of Rajab) the ‘urs of Mo’inuddin Chishti will be celebrated.

I have attended it 3 times, the first time arrived on the day before the ‘urs when I could see a flag procession taking place. Depending on the visibility of the moon the date thereof can be established.. It is a rather colourful occasion, especially because of the qalandariyya dervishes who participate.

At the dargah complex where Mo’inuddin Chishti is buried there is a sama’ khaneh (an auditorium for sufi music). This will start a day later than the flag procession. It always starts with Qur’anic recitations to be followed by several hours of qawwali music. As you have to sit according to a certain decorum it was in the beginning very painful for me to sit for so long a stretch on the floor. My shaykh, however, said to me that pain belongs to it, so that is that. The participants belong of course mainly to the Chishtiyya order and the event is presided by the head of that order. At the end again some verses of the Qur’an are recited as well as the silsila (list of succession of the shaykhs) of the Chishti order.

In Ajmer in Rajasthan, India, the population of the town is doubled because of the enormous crowd of visitors. On the second night the qawwali is better, takes a longer time and there are also qawwals participating from neighbouring towns. The day thereafter again the music is better, lasts again longer (I am speaking of 4-5 hours!) and more minstrels come from further away. The closing ceremony takes place during daytime on the 6th and participation to the ‘urs means to participate in this ceremony.

Every order not only attends the activities near the shrine of Mo’inuddin Chishti, but organises its own as well. You can attend all kinds of symposiums of poets where people recite their poetry in front of an audience of connoisseurs that shows its appreciation every now and then. The poor get free meals from enormous pots, because of the langar-principle (free kitchen).

As people in India cannot get enough of a 6 days feast, there are many extra events after the conclusion of the ‘urs. A rather special one is the ‘mehfil-e-rendan’ where you can hear female singers! This may take place in the evening.

In Sufism the moment of death is seen as more important than the moment of birth. This is the same with those Christians who consider Easter more important than Christmas. You may remember that the activities on this list started with attention to death, not in a stifling sense but as an opportunity to get closer to the Beloved. Birthdays are not neglected however, as on the 13th of Rajab the birthday of ‘Ali, the nephew of the prophet wil be celebrated.

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