Special Reports

The last voyage of a non-Muslim devotee of Imam Husain

Faizabad: The city of Faizabad was filled with an air of gloom and mourning on the death of Ishwar Chand Sharma, a great devotee of Hazrat Imam Husain, who used to come to Faizabad every year from his hometown Kaithal in Haryana for the past 28 years to participate in majalis and sing dirge on the occasion of Muharram and used to stay at Raath Haveli, a Shia locality. When he died on 8 January at Faizabad, thousands of men, women and children alongwith other mourning anjumans bid farewell to him in biting cold at the dead of night for his hometown Kaithal. He had great devotion for Imam Husain and had been regularly coming to Faizabad for taking part in Anjuman Masoomia’s majlises and singing doleful songs (Marsia). Even when this Anjuman held its majlis in cities, he used to accompany the Anjuman and his mersias were very much liked by one and all.

About 30 years ago a youngman from Haryana had come to Faizabad to join service in Bank of Baroda. He was gifted with a fine personality and melodious voice because of which he became very popular in the city and was invited by literary and cultural organisations, particularly Guldasta Production Society, for reciting ghazals and songs. Since he used to live in Raath Haveli, used to be invited for reciting mersias in majalis. When he began to recite mersias, his life also changed and he became such a great devotee of Imam Husain that he used to participate in all the majalis organised by Anjuman Maasoomia. When he was transferred from Faizabd to the bank’s branch in Haryana, even then he used to visit Faizabad to participate in Muharram’s majalis every year.

Once, as he was preparing to leave for Faizabad on the occasion of Muharram, his mother came and asked him: ‘Have you become a Muslim that you go every year to Faizabad on the occasion of Muharram? As long as you were posted in Faizabad, that was all right but now that you are posted here, there is no need for you to go there.’ he kept quiet and soon fell asleep but shortly thereafter the same night, his mother awakened him and said that if he wanted to go, he might very well go there. He told her that since she had forbidden him, he would not like to go there. But she insisted on him to go to Faizabad because as she was sleeping, she felt as if some woman was telling her that ‘now he has become mine so don’t stop him from going there.’ Thinking that this may be her hallucination, she ignored it and fell asleep but, the same woman kept visiting her in her dreams to tell her not to stop him. His mother said that the woman used to tell her in such a sad tone that she woke up and could not sleep, though she did not know that woman nor could she see her face. She again insisted on him to go to Faizabad. At this, Ishwar Chand Sharma left for Faizabad and thereafter began to go there every year. In addition to Muharram, he used to go there on Chehlum and on some other occasions also.

Sharma used to lead a simple life and was very kind-hearted and helpful to poor people without letting others know about his generosity and assistance to the needy people. Though he had been staying at Raath Haveli for 28 years, being a true Brahmin, he never took meat. He made his elder son Vikram Sharma also a devotee of Imam Husain and alongwith his father, Vikram too had started reciting mersia. Ishwar Chand was diabetic. This year when he went to Faizabad on 7 January, he had a massive heart attack the next day, i.e., 8 January, which proved fatal and he had eternal sleep in the same room of Raath Haveli where he used to stay for the past 28 years. A stranger who had become so close to the people of Faizabad that someone used to address him as ‘son’, someone as ‘brother’ and someone as ‘uncle’. More than a Hindu or a Muslim, he was identified as a Husaini. More than men and youth, it were the women who wept bitterly at his death. At dead of night in biting cold in the midst of wailings and dirge, people and anjumans of the city took his funeral to Ghanta Ghar Chowk of Faizabad. When the ambulance with his dead body started for Haryana, the youngmen were weeping as if someone of their own had departed. Some senior person said that Hindus and Muslims die every day but not such a vast crowd of mourners was ever seen. It may be the marvel of Imam Huasin’s personality that Ishwar Chand Sharma’s devotion to him made his position so exalted that those who bid him final good-bye were all Muslims. (Translated from Urdu)