Justice Markandey Kutju-
Justice Markandey Katju is a former Judge, Supreme Court of India, and former Chairman, Press Council of India. The views expressed are his own.
When I was Chief Justice of Madras High Court ( 2004-2005 ) I regularly visited the Dargah of a Sufi saint, Hazrat Syed Musa Shah Qadri on Mount Road in Chennai.
Although I am an atheist, I respect all religions. I am particularly fond of dargahs, which are shrines built on graves of sufi saints, and I go there often.
Ordinarily, Hindus do not go to mosques, and Muslims do not go to Hindu temples. But both go to dargahs, and often the number of Hindus who go there is more than the number of Muslims ( though the management is done by Muslims ). So dargahs unite our people, and I love whatever unites us.
Some extremist Wahabi type Muslims are opposed to dargahs because they believe it is worship of graves ( when Islam permits only worship of Allah ). But the truth is no one worships graves of the Sufi saints. People only pay respect to these saints, as they preached the message of tolerance, love for all, and compassion for those who were suffering.
I have been to many dargahs e.g. Ajmer dargah, Nizamuddin Aulia dargah in Delhi, Dewa Sharif near Lucknow, dargah at Fatehpur Sikri, Kaliyar Sharif dargah ( near Roorkee ), Husain Tekri near Jaora in MP, etc
In the Ajmer dargah, only vegetarian food is served, out of respect for the Hindu devotees, many of whom are vegetarians.
In dargahs, the death anniversary of the Sufi saint is not mourned but celebrated every year with qawwali ( a form of spiritual music ) in a festival called urs, because it is believed the saint was united with God on that day.
At the Chennai dargah I used to be welcomed by an old gentleman with white hair known as ‘Maulvi saheb’, and after laying a ‘chaadar’ on the grave of the saint, I would distribute some food items to poor people.
I was told that when people in Chennai came to know that the Chief Justice was regularly visiting the dargah, the number of visitors increased significantly.
All this was of course in 2004-2005 when I was the Chief Justice, and I do not know how things are now. I would be obliged if any reader of this post conveys my greetings and regards to the management of the dargah.