Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Haj in Pakistan

Haj in Pakistan

Most people on being told about two Haj places in Pakistan appear genuinely shocked.  How dare you think of giving your hard-earned foreign exchange to anyone but the Saudis!  Jokes aside, sociologists love the idea of religious services that benefit local economies. Your God, your religion, your holy places, your money—they should all stay together.

Haj at Shah Aqeeq
Back in 1992 when I heard of devotees from Jati, Sujawal, and other surrounding areas performing their Haj at Shah Aqeeq I got very interested in that spiritual center.  I was in Badin at that time; curious to learn about the religious beliefs of that group I made a visit to Shah Aqeeq.  When I reached the shrine I found it to be barricaded by the police; apparently there was a crackdown on ‘illegal’ activities being performed at the dargah.

Haj at Koh-e-Murad
Growing extremism in Pakistan has resulted in attacks on the Zikris, a Sunni-Muslim offshoot living in and around the town of Turbat in Balochistan.  The Zikris perform a haj-like pilgrimage at Koh-e-Murad.

And there is a good logic to keeping pilgrimage sites local: Haj, or any other pilgrimage for that matter, is about undertaking a long journey through which you go through physical exercise, you get to see new places, you act according to your religious beliefs, and you do all this with a large group of like-minded people.  If you have limited financial resources and you can achieve all these goals locally, why pay money to the airlines and to despots controlling religious sites in other countries?

Shah Aqeeq photo courtesy of http://wikimapia.org/
Koh-e-Murad photo courtesy of http://real-politique.blogspot.com/.

Hajj locations in Pakistan, Hajis, Hajjis, Kaaba, Kaba