'We Are Ready To Talk To Shinde About...' Mumbai Sufi Leaders Amid Dispute Over Haji Malang Shrine

'We Are Ready To Talk To Shinde About...' Mumbai Sufi Leaders Amid Dispute Over Haji Malang Shrine

"We are ready to talk to Shinde about this. There are historical records that say that this is a dargah," Haji Arafat Shaikh of the Sufi Islamic Board.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Friday, January 05, 2024, 08:46 AM IST
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Sufi Leaders Ready For Discussion Amid Dispute Over Haji Malang Shrine, Emphasize Harmony in Devotees' Worship Practices | Facebook

Reacting to statements by Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde for the 'liberation' of the disputed Haji Malang shrine near Kalyan, Sufi leaders in Mumbai said that they are ready for a discussion to resolve the matter. They said that worshippers from both faiths are already worshipping at the shrine without any restrictions or distinction, and the practice should continue.

"There was no dispute about its religious status"

Sohail Khandwani, trustee of the two main Sufi shrines in Mumbai, the Haji Ali and Mahim's Makhdum Shah dargahs, said that the dispute over the Haji Malang shrine is being heard by the courts. "So the matter is sub-judice.  I do not know what the Chief Minister's compulsions were when he brought up the issue," said Khandwani who added that as far as the devotees, both Hindus and Muslims, at the shrine are concerned, there was no dispute about its religious status. 

Picture from the Facebook page of the shrine

Picture from the Facebook page of the shrine |

"Every Asthana (dargah), whether Hindu or Muslim, is called 'Sufi Sant' and every Asthana is like a 'Sufi Bhavan'. Sufis preach humanity. I used to go to Haji Malang and the centre of the shrine is the tomb. Muslims are known to revere tombs of holy men. So there is no doubt it is the tomb of a Muslim holy man. At the Mahim fair Catholics sing carols but everybody accepts that the Mahim shrine is the tomb of Makhdum Baba."

The decades old dispute

The Haji Malang shrine,  located on a hill range south of Kalyan, has been the focus of a decades-old dispute, with one section of devotees claiming that the tomb is that of a holy man who arrived from the Arabian peninsula, and others claiming it is the Samadhi of saint Machindranath from the Nath Sampraday, a part of the Bhakti religious movement. The followers of Hazrat Abdur Rehman Malang Shah believe that the holy man who traveled from the middle-east was welcomed by local Hindu kings who built a tomb when he passed away. Ironically, the Sufi and Bhakti traditions have influenced each other, with common icons like Sant Kabir who lived in the 14th century.

Haji Arafat Shaikh, a BJP leader explained that the word 'Malang' is used in Urdu to describe holy people who lived an ascetic life after renouncing materialism. "Everyone knows the hill as Malanggad. People should respect the tradition. It is a dargah and the place should get the respect it deserves," said Shaikh who added that the shrine has been observing a composite style of worship.

"Hindus have been offering Aarti while Muslims offer Chadar. Eknath Shinde himself has offered Aarti at the shrine. We do not recognise the devotees as Hindu or Muslim," said Shaikh. "We are ready to talk to Shinde about this. There are historical records that say that this is a dargah."

Khandwani said that the Haji Malang shrine is managed by a trust that has descendants of the Hindu family (Ketkars) who helped build the shrine, and also Muslims. "I know both the Muslim and Hindu trustees and they are devotees of the Mahim shrine too," said Khandwani.

The shrine 

Believed to be the tomb of Hazrat Abdur Rahman Malang, a 12th century holy man who traveled to India from the middle-east. There are many other dargahs in the vicinity. It is a practice among Sufis to chose a burial site close to that of their teacher.

The dargah, located near Kakyan, has syncretic traditions, with both Hindu and Muslim rituals. Chief Minister Eknath Shinde recently said that he was aware of local public opinion which wanted to 'liberate' the shrine.

The dispute is decades-old and had last flared up in the 1980s when Shinde's political mentor Anand Dighe held sway in the region. An annual Urs is held at the shrine to mark the death anniversary of the saint. This year, it is scheduled on February 20.

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