Khatībul Īmān, Shēr-i Hindustān Syed Muzaffar Husain Sāhib Rizvi, Tāhir Jarwali

Khatībul Īmān, shēr-i Hindustān Syed Muzaffar Husain Sāhib Rizvi, Tāhir Jarwali, Barrister, was one of the most erudite and powerful orator (khatīb) and reciter of majālis (mourning sermons in remembrance of Imām Husain) in India. Hailing from Jarwal, he resided in Lucknow, first at Nasīr Manzil, Nakkhās, and then at Nāsirya Library in Shāstri Nagar. Saeedul Millat and Nasīrul Millat were his maternal uncles.

Having been educated as a lawyer, his oratory was argumentative, well layered and coherent. His choice of words, similes and expressions were spectacular and convincing. He in fact thought of himself as the ‘Advocate of the Ahlulbayt’ and took upon himself the task of exposing the falsehood of the enemies of the house of the prophet! Thus he was also much hated and reviled by those who oppose the superiority of Imām Ali, or believed in non-paucity of water at Karbala or those who denied the deliberate killing of infant Asghar by Hurmula.

To me he was ‘Tahir Bhai’. Being one of the important functionaries of the shrine of Qazi Nurullah Shustari at Agra, whose mutawalli was my father, I came frequently in his contact. I would meet him either at Agra, or in Lucknow or when he would visit us at Aligarh. His two daughters, Nasma (my contemporary) and Insiya, and four sons Meesam (my friend), Ammār, Shauzab and Ābis were like my own sisters and brothers. We would play and fight together.

He would frequently visit our house with his family and stay with us while at Aligarh. He would also sometimes come to recite Majālis. Many a times he was called by Raja Raza Ali Khan for an annual majlis held at his house. I especially remember an occasion when he was a University Guest. During those days, Allāma Kamūnpuri Sahib was the Head Department of Theology. Mr Qamar Abid Alavi (black coat in the picture) was the Secretary Ali Society (later he was elected as President AMU Students Union.

Tahir Bhai at the Old University Guest House: Abba with Tahir Bhai, Allama Kāmunpuri, Raja Kazim Ali Khan, Qamar Abid Alavi & others. I am sitting between Abba and Tahir Bhai

But soon after my father’s death in 1978, we somehow lost contact with the family. In 1987 Tāhir Bhai on a visit to Iran died and was buried within the precincts of the Revered Shrine of Imam Reza at Mashhad. We knew that he had been called by the Holy Imām in his protection.

Slowly and gradually we heard the disintegration of the family. Vested interests started sowing seeds of discord between the four brothers and soon they got separated from each other. Meesam, the eldest one recently expired. Ammar, I hear is now a turbaned ālim, the other two are also orators. I pray for their safety and well being. I am not in contact with any of them and don’t even know whether they remember me or not.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

There are times when one is transported back in time and suddenly memories from the past start engulfing you. You start recalling events which are never going to come back, but are probably forever embedded in your subconscience.

دل میں ایک درد اُٹھا اٰنکھوں میں اٰنسُو اٰئے

بیٹھے بیٹھے ھمیں کیا جانیئے کیا یاد اٰیا

[dil me ek dard uttha, aankhon me aansu aaye

baitthey baitthey hamein kya jaaniye kya yaad aaya!]

Sometimes these personal memories are trivial and their coming back surprises you as well, not only by their return but also their triviality and a realisation that regretably they now only survive in your dream.

As the winter chill gives way to spring and cool breeze try to beat the growing heat of the scorching sunrays, I am reminded of sleeping in an open courtyard (sahn) on cots woven tight by jute strings – charpai – covered over with spotless white bedsheats (chāndni), sparkling in the light glowing moonlight cooled by the light blowing summer breeze.

The effect of the cool breeze and the moonlight engulfing you from all the sides, is something to be experienced and can never be explained in words: it would have a calming effect on your tired nerves!

The charpai with its covering of a ‘durrie’ – a thin cotton bed-size spread, and the “chandni’ were in fact quite comfortable, the tight coir knit of the charpai providing the ‘spring’. The only issue was that the charpoi had to be “tightened” at least once a week to provide that spring; a loose charpoi, on the other hand, would result in your aching back!

Today we have neither the vast courtyards nor the charpais, nor the chāndni! They are all things of the past. Their absence has enslaved us to “doublebeds”, kingsize or queen size, and the AC’s, split or window or cube. My children do not even know how to enjoy an open star filled moonlit bathed fresh air sleep.