This art project is a cultural analysis of religious belief of the general public. It is based on the overall assumption that people have some belief in the mysticism of Sufi’s and either follow or relate to shrine culture. The subjects of the project are the people who visit the private places (shrines) and the general passerby on the road. Trees, grown within the boundary wall of the private place, which can be seen from the road and the silver cloth strips which are used to tie to the tree are also the part of the project.
The word sufi is from Arabic word suf which means the rough quality woolen robe which was worn by our Prophet Hazrat Muhammad (S.A.W.) and his companions. The Sufis were distinguishable from their fellows by wearing a habit of coarse woollen cloth, which is symbolic to their renunciation of worldly values and their abhorrence for physical comforts. Sufi saints are believed to be the friends of Allah, who are interested in spiritualism. They dedicate themselves to the quest of their creator and they surrender themselves to His will. Sufism creates interest amongst people because of the mysticism, as there are many miracles associated with them. Further, besides miracles the general belief is that these Sufis being closer to Allah will be a means of fulfilling their duas and worldly desires quickly as well as bring good luck in this world.
There is not much known about the secrets of their knowledge as they tend to constrain within themselves. There are many great names in world of Sufism like Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Data Ganj Buksh, Shah Shams Tabrez, Baha ud din Zakria and many more.
The shrine culture of Indo-Pak has its own traditions and mysticism which are being followed for centuries. It had become one of the centers for the diffusion of composite culture of Muslim and Hinduism. The long association of Hindus with shrines can be seen from the practices at the shrines by the devotees. For example, putting red and yellow threads around the hand or neck of a devotee, the cracking of coconuts at the door steps of Mizar, tying a thread at a shrine as a mannat, are all symbolic emerging of composite culture.
Many people believe in Zayrate and Pirs. Besides offering Fatiha at Mizar devotees spread decorative flower charddar at grave of the Pir, light candles (diyas) and incense (agar Bari). The belief here is that by doing these rituals they are cleansing the place for the saint and doing so will help in fulfilling their wishes quickly. In South Asia Sufi saints played an important role in spreading the teachings of Islam. People of various religious backgrounds visited them, witnessed their karamats (miracles) as well as fairness in their daily dealings and embraced Islam as a result. Sufism is flexible in its approach, thus allowing people to practice it according to their social and professional life.
A large number of Hindus were also the devotees of shrines. In Hindu culture many trees acquired social and religious sanctity. At some shrines people would tie threads on tree to get their wishes fulfilled and prayers answered. This became the tradition of shrine culture with the passage of time and people who believe in Sufism, a mystical form of Islam also started to tie ribbons or threads to the gates, walls, grills, or trees of shrines to get their desires fulfilled.
This project is inspired by the Shrine culture. Shrines are the public places where anybody can visit. Often Shrines gain their status overtime, sometimes over centuries and mostly after the death of the saint (Sufi).
I selected a tree which does not belong to a public place, it is grown in the boundary wall of the private place, and is a fruit bearing tree, which is presently loaded with seasonal fruit. I tied small pieces of cloth to the branches of the tree without any such religious intension to see the reaction of a common man. The cloth pieces which I used are the piping strips, which are silver in colour. Silver is a colour which is mystically considered to improve speech and bring eloquence. It is also purported to attract, enhance and store the energies.
Although, this tree is grown within the boundary wall of a house but it can be seen from the outside as well as while passing by on the road. While doing this project passerby were attracted towards the act of working on the tree and were curious to know why the shining strings were attached to it.
People were curious that why this tree in particular got special treatment. One person asked for a “kalam” (a branch of the tree) as he thought the fruit of this tree is very sweet and is of good quality.
A passerby also asked whether this tree has some kind of disease and I am doing some ritual to cure. Since shiny silver cloth strings are used for tying, at the night when the road lights were on and the lights of passing cars from road fall on the strips it shine as though there are small dia’s (light) glooming.
I find although place of the project is private and the tree is a fruit bearing tree but people still seemed to relate it with the ritual and with shrine culture. In today’s world most of us are busy with the worldly chores and we think we do not have time to pray to Allah Subhanatalla. We try to find short cuts and ways where our wishes could be fulfilled and our prayers could be answered without much hard work on our own parts. Simple, small acts such as this remind us all to take a step back every once in a while and remember our Lord. It is the little things that show us that we always have enough time to pray to Allah Subhana