By Ayub Khan, MMNS
There is a well known Islamic belief that messengers of God were sent to each and every nation. â€œWe sent a messenger to every community, saying, â€˜Worship God and shun false gods.â€™ Among them were some God guided; misguidance took hold of others,â€ reads the thirty sixth verse of the sixteenth chapter of the Holy Qurâ€™an. In the light of such a clear verse it wouldnâ€™t be far fetched to say that the Indian sub-continent too had its fair share of Godâ€™s messengers. There is evidence to indicate that prophets have walked throughout its length and breadth. Hence, we find graves which are reportedly the final resting places of prophets, known and unknown, from Ayodhya in the north to Rameswaram in south. One such place not commonly known is located right in the heart of Punjab.
Baras is a small village of two thousand in Fatehgarh Saheb district. It is situated at a distance of seventeen kilometers from the famous town of Sirhind. On the edge of the village is a large hillock which appears to have been witness to several human settlements down the ages. At an elevation of about fifty feet at its centre are thirteen graves, each one at least nine to twelve feet in length, which reportedly belong to prophets. This claim would have been rejected but for its confirmation by many stalwarts of Islamic orthodoxy like Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi and Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi.
â€œRauzatul Qayyumiah,â€ the biography of sixteenth century revivalist Shaikh Ahmed Sirhindi, states that the Shaikh once prayed here and after a long meditation session informed his disciples that through spiritual illumination he has determined the place to be the final resting place of prophets. He reportedly even said that he even met and spoke with them. Similarly, in one of his famous collection of letters he writes to his son confirming Baras being the final resting place of prophets and that he has seen waves of light emanating from it and reaching the skies.
According to the book â€œGulshan-e-Auliya-e-Kiraam,â€ authored by Dr.Abdul Reman Ahsanpuri , Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanwi also confirmed the above assertions. He reportedly confided to his disciple Haji Muhammad Hussain Bassinawasi that after meditating at this place he was able to meet the souls of the prophets who are thirteen in number. There was reportedly a father and son pair among them whose names were Ibrahim and Hazar respectively. However, there are conflicting reports about the actual number of graves belonging to the prophets. Dr.Ahsanpuri asserts that the correct number is three.
Leading Islamic luminaries who have visited the site include Maulana Iftekharul Hasan Kandhalvi, Maulana Muhammad Yusuf Hasan Kandhalvi and Maulana Shaikh Zakaria. A more recent famous visitor to the place was Maulana Isa Mansoori, chairman of UK based World Islamic Forum.
Until 1947 the gravesite was well maintained by the local Muslims. But after the massacre and migration of Muslims it fell into neglect. The refugees from Pakistan, who were allotted lands in the area, at first used the place for cattle grazing but soon began revering thinking it to be the gravesite of Pirs. Despite the reverence huge mounds of waste and cow dung accumulated around the hillock making it inaccessible.
It was not until 1994 that the prophetic gravesite was renovated through the efforts of Dr.Haji Nizamuddin Kothalvi, an orthopedic surgeon from Maler Kotla. Through the approval of the village panchayat he acquired land surrounding the graves and built a secure boundary wall and accessible pathway. While paving the stairs a well was discovered. At first it was decided that it be utilized for its water but the plan was abandoned after elderly local residents narrated tragic events of 1947. Several Muslim women had reportedly jumped in the well to save their honor after their men were massacred. A beautiful water foundation now stands at its site. At the summit of the hillock a Masjid was constructed where five times daily prayers are held. A Madrasa with qualified teachers also functions from the mosque.
An unusual peacefulness and calm pervades throughout Baras. Contemplating here tells you the silent story of fortunes and losses of long forgotten communities and the men who came to guide them. For the discerning observer it delivers another lesson: that Islam is not a foreign religion in India. Despite the claims of the fanatics Islam is as Indian a religion as any other.