SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUND today in stories of Islamic ‘sleeping cells’ in Kasmir and Kerala, of Imams calling for defiance of Covid-19 epidemic lockdown rules, clerics directing attack on health workers from masjid loudspeakers used for Azan and saying Mulims will not be hit by the pandemic – only Hindu kaafirs will be. There was even one who wished more Hindus die of the virus.
These are mavericks and, luckily, a minority. Hindu fringe grops like Ram Sena and Bajrang Dal are equally fanatic but, again luckily, ignored by people.Years ago I sought a Museum of National Integration to prove how both sides have sane people showing tolerance and admiration for the other side, It is, therefore, very relevant today.
Of those who rose above fanaticism was Bharat Ratna Ustaad Bismillah Khan, a devout Shia muslim brought up in a friendly Hindu environment and used to do riaz in a temple. He disclosed at several fora that he was blessed by Hindu Gods and Lord Krishna had favored him with his deedar (darshan), revealing to him secrets of a new ‘Raaga’.A few years back, the Ustad was travelling by train from Jamshedpur to Varanasi. He was travelling in third class in a coal-run passenger train. At an intermediate rural station, a young cowherd boy boarded the bogey in which Ustad was sitting. He was a dark and lean boy holding flute in his hands. Slowly the boy started playing his flute. The supreme quality of his music surprised the maestro, who did not know the ‘Raga’ the boy was playing. Bismillah Khan immediately recognized that the boy was Sri Krishna, the Supreme God Himself.The nectar in Nada-Brahma (Brahma in the form of music) flowing out of Krishna’s flute filled Ustad’s heart with ecstasy; and tears of joy started poring out of his eyes.
After the stunning performance,the Ustad called him and presented a coin, requesting him to play the tune again. Krishna did, repeating again and again until Bismiillah Khan’s wallet became empty. Young Krishna got down at the next railway station and vanished. In fact, the Ustad was on way to play in a music concert of Kumbh Mela (a holy Hindu gathering of many million devotees). In that concert, the Ustad presented the ‘Raga’ which he learned that day from Krishna. It was greatly appreciated by the audience who sought an encore many times. Music scholars around could not name the ‘Raga’ and they asked about it to Bismillah Khan. Ustad said the Raga is ‘Kanharira’. Next day’s newdpapers headlined the new ‘Raga’ invented by the Ustad. Having read it, Hariprasad Chaurasiya, the legendary Musician (Flautist), asked Bismillah Khan details about ‘Kanharira’ Raga, . The Ustad revealed the truth and sang Kanharira. Hariprasad Chaurasya, worlds top fluit player, burst into tears of joy. ‘Kanharira’ is a divine gem in Indian music, as it originated from the lips of Sri Krishna.The story was told by the Ustad to the Editor of Illustrated Weekly of India.
Bismillah Khan was born in a family of court musicians in the princely state of Bhojpur, now in Bihar. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate. Bismillah hated studies anf played marbles on the streets of Benaras. In the corridor of the house hecould hear his uncles playing the sehnai. Bismilla Khan’s uncle Ali Bux used to go to the Jadau Balaji (Vishnu) temple every morning to play the sehnai for the entire day for four rupees a month. After sessions, both walked to the temple where a room was reserved for him to practice for about five hours a day. Bismillah sat beside him, listening. Though hungry he did not disturb his uncle.
Bismilla often wondered why his uncle practiced in the temple when he could do it at home undisturbed. He asked his uncle one day and was told,”You will learn it one day.” They returned each day for lunch. That evening uncle Ali took Bismillah to the temple and, after the evening recital, to the room he practiced in for 18 years. Then he gave Bismillah permission to practice there, on one conditiin: ”In this temple, if you experience or see anything extraordinary, don’t tell any one.” Bismillah practised in the room for 4 to 6 hours a day, overtaken by the thirst to perfect his music. One day Bismillah, engrossed in his sehnai practice at 4 a.m. all alone, realised that someone was sitting next to him. It was none other than Bhagavan Balaji Himself!. Shocked and astonished, Bismillah Khan remained still . Balaji smiled and said, ”Play.” Khan was too shocked to do so.Then Balaji smiled and vanished. Later Bismillah Khan went to his Guru Ali anf narrated to him the experience. The uncle slapped him and said, ”Did I not tell you not to say anything to anyone?“ Ustad Bismillah Khan told this story on Doordarshan some 10 years ago. Bhagavan does not go by caste,or creed; ‘Bhakti’ is the only criterion.
My father used to tell me about another such case. Pt Ravi Shankar’s first wife Annapurna’s father Ustad ALauddin Kan known as Baba, was a Muslim but a devotee of Saraswati at a temple in Maihar, MP. When the king of neighboring kingdom of Rewa invited him to shift there as his asthana vidwan, he refused, saying he couldn’t leave Ma Saraswati. Ravi Shankar was a dancer in the troupe of his famous elder brother Uday Shankar, but after an accident he was told he could never dance again. He wanted to commit suicide.
Uday then brought him to Baba and asked him to save the boy. Baba taught him music, made him world’s greatest Sitar player and also gave his daughter who he named Annapurna, in marriage. A great singer who rejected a king’s offer sang for a postal audit party of my father as a member of the team knew classical music as his questions revealed. Don’t beleive fanatics on both sides. Remember the son of poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, as great a as Tagore, had a Sankrit name: Savyasachi.
Abrahamic Islam of Sunnis is NOT the only Islam. It also has Sufis, Babas and Bismillahs