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Published in the 1-15 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Spiritual outsourcing catching on

By MH Lakdawala

 

  • Amina Hamirani, appointed 45 year old Sabiha to fast for two months on behalf of her departed father for a paltry sum of Rs 3000 per month.

  • Abbas Baig visited an orphanage at Madanpura in South-central Mumbai, to engage the services of 10 orphans to offer Namaaz on his mother’s behalf who expired recently. The financial transaction for the service offered was Rs10000.

  • Taukir Baugwala has made arrangement for the recitation of the holy Quran every day at his timber shop by hiring the services of an Imam of near-by mosque. Which cost him merely Rs 300.

Business process outsourcing may be a new concept but spiritual outsourcing is as old as human society. Requests for spiritual service, which involve a fixed sum of money as fees, come even by e-mail, telephone or regular post. 

The most lucrative spiritual outsourcing is the services rendered for the NRI particularly from the gulf. Since Arabs are very strict as far as spirituality is concerned all the 
spiritual ceremonies related to departed souls are outsourced to relatives back home who in turn outsource to their 
acquaintance.

Spiritual outsourcing relates to the living and the dead, for some material consideration, forgiveness or requiem. It is popular in every society. The Roman Catholic Church in Kerala has been outsourcing various religious services to various parishes and churches in the state for years now. Churches and pilgrim centers in the United States and European countries are outsourcing hundreds of thousands of masses to parishes in Kerala, which has the largest number of churches in India.

"Religious services and prayers for the dead are being offshored from the United Kingdom to India because of a lack of priests," Amicus, UK's largest manufacturing, technical and skilled persons' union, recently said in a statement.

A random survey conducted by the Milli Gazette revealed that Spiritual outsourcing is popular for bestowing God’s blessing on departed soul, cure from diseases and material benefits.

Quddus Shah is quite popular for organizing spiritual sessions for departed souls. The unique service provided by him is the accumulation of advance recital of Quran available with him for nominal charges, so that if required the requisite quantity of the Quran be offered for the peace of the departed soul.
Zubair Hassan, a textile trader, opted for Quddus Shah for Quran recitation session for his elder brother who expired due to cardiac arrest. "I have very few relatives in Mumbai. I was not sure whether I would have enough crowd to complete even 30 Para of the Quran.One of my friend suggested Quddus Shah’s name as he had enough ready stock of recited Quran".

Whether it is a retail trader, wholesaler, professional or service provider, spiritual outsourcing is ubiquitous. Modern hair saloon at Bandra starts its daily routine with an Arabic teacher reciting the Quran. This routine is followed since last 13 years when it was established.

The greatest beneficiaries of spiritual outsourcing are the so-called spiritual healers who have mushroomed in the Muslim dominated localities. Hassan Bawa located at Mohammed Ali road; a Muslim majority area in South Mumbai is one of the popular spiritual healers who earns more than any professional.
Razia’s youngest daughter was suffering from bouts of depressions. She took her to Hassan Bawa who on the pretext of performing spiritual healing demanded 1000 on every visit from her. She spent 15,000 on Hassan Bawa but her daughter was not cured. Last month she expired because of Mitral valve failure. 

The explanation offered by the proponents of spiritual outsourcing is time and quantity. Abbas Ali a Hardware trader says that he would prefer to perform the spiritual act himself but lack of time and business responsibilities do not leave any option. "I would like to read Quran myself on behalf of my dead father. But a tight schedule does not permit me to do so. Next option is to spend money and get the act done", said he. 

Dr Farooque Patel claim’s he loves his mother. Every year he arranges a spiritual gathering in which Quran is recited on the death anniversary of his mother. "I can recite Quran but then I would like to offer a good quantity to my departed mother’s soul. That’s why I take the help of these Aalims who offer their services for a nominal cost", he said.

Another form of spiritual outsourcing is the gathering for the inauguration of any business or pre house warming ceremony. When a new premises is purchased a spiritual ceremony is organised for which contract is given to any of these professionals to perform the act as per the desire of the owner.

Mansoor Teli justifies the outsourcing of spiritual gatherings before the opening of his restaurant as he claims it keeps the premises free of Jinns. "I have heard that by performing spiritual ceremonies Jinns leave the premises," he said.
The most lucrative spiritual outsourcing is the services rendered for the NRI particularly from the gulf. Since Arabs are very strict as far as spirituality is concerned all the spiritual ceremonies related to departed souls are outsourced to relatives back home who in turn out source to their acquaintance.

An active member of an Islamic organisation said that the e-mail facility had caused a tremendous increase in the number of such requests in the last few years. A recitation of the Quran at the Minara Masjid in south Mumbai is being conducted. Intended benefits are dedicated to a departed soul in USA. At the end of the recitation; the professional recitors that conducted it will be richer by Rs 600.
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