A trip to Karachi is incomplete without visiting the seaside. It is the only waterway that links Pakistan to the outside world. The experience of visiting the sea brightens the spirits of the young and old alike. The water fountain and a plethora of vendors serving local delights along the seaside are sure to tempt even the most frugal of crowds. As you meander along the shore, you come across two points of interest so close together, yet, worlds apart. One is a symbol of modern indulgence; the much recognized golden arch, which belongs to possibly the most famous fast food franchise, McDonalds. The other is a historical monument, a place to seek serenity; the mausoleum of Syed Abdullah Shah Ghazi.
Born in Medina in the year 720, Syed Abdullah Shah Ghazi is dubbed a sufi saint who claims direct lineage from the Prophet Mohammad (pbuh). As the myth goes, the mazar is said to have protected the city of Karachi from natural disasters despite it having a climate ripe for tropical storms. The shrine is amongst the most revered places in Pakistan, attracting throngs of visitors from all over the country.
One can easily see the two extremes amongst people paying respect to the shrine. People visit the place to indulge in its aura, pay homage to the shrine and purchase merchandise on the steps of mazar. Then, there are those that choose to seek divine intervention by the ‘tawasul’ of a holy place like the shrine, in hopes of having their wishes granted.
Despite the different beliefs, there is no denying the trance like effect the shrine has on everyone that visits. It is a spiritual journey that begins with having to put your shoes away and starting the trek up the long stairway leading to the Shah Ghazi’s resting place. Many decorate the grave with flowers and make donations for the upkeep of the place.
The dates, 20-22 Dhu al- Hijjah, mark the urs of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. As is the case each year, the shrine is expecting a large turnout of devotees seeking spiritual cleansing.
Quiet sadly, the place has also attracted those who put very little value on the life of human beings. The crowds pulled by the ursare a welcome target for terrorists seeking to cause maximum carnage. On October 7th 2010, many visitors witnessed a dark day in the history of the shrine. According to news reports, two suicide bomb attacks left around 10 dead and scores wounded.
Incidents such as these reveal the twisted psyche of these terrorists. Their objective is nothing but to cause destruction in the name of religion, without giving care to who is affected. As many of us prepare to pay our respects to Abdullah Shah Ghazi, let us also remember those that lost their lives in search of spirituality.