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Guru Arjan’s friend Mian Mir laid Golden Temple’s foundation stone and offered namaz

Jahangir called Mian Mir 'rich in poverty and independent of mind' in his autobiography. But the Mughal earned the pir's ire by torturing Guru Arjan.

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If there was a symbol of religious unity for modern-day India and Pakistan, it would be the mausoleum of the venerated Sufi mystic Hazrat Mian Mir in Lahore Cantonment. Every year, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs from across the subcontinent throng the mazaar to pay respects. When Pakistani journalist Taimur Shamil asked an Indian Sikh devotee why they had come there, he was told that to them, Mian Mir was “as divine as the saints of Sikhism”.

Therein perhaps lies the legacy of Hazrat Mir — a saint of the masses, venerated across religions and beyond borders.

Friendship with Guru Arjan

A proponent of peace and tolerance, Mian Mir is famously regarded as a friend of Guru Arjan Dev, the first of the two Sikh gurus who were martyred and the spiritual guide of Dara Shikoh, the son of the fifth Mughal emperor Shah Jahan.

According to many Islamic and Sikh religious texts, Hazrat Mian Mir was called upon by Guru Arjan Dev to lay the foundation stone of the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar, now known as the Golden Temple. Mian Mir is among the most venerated mystics in the Sikh religious tradition and the only known individual to have laid the foundation stone of a holy place for another religion.

Born on 11th August in Sindh, Mir Mohammed Muayyinul Islam or Mian Mir arrived in Lahore at the age of 25 in 1575. He started living in Begampura after being initiated into Sufism by Sheikh Khizr Qadiri. He belonged to the Qadiri order of Sufism and was the founder of the Mian Khail.

A recluse, Mian Mir did not like social interactions and gatherings. Despite attracting a large crowd of believers, he migrated to Sirhind in Punjab to live a secluded life. He later returned to Lahore where he would often visit Guru Ram Das, the fourth Sikh guru, to listen to his spiritual discourses. That was where he met Guru Arjan, the fifth Sikh guru, and forged a lifelong friendship with him, the echoes of which reverberate across both religions to this day. The friendship grew at a time when Sikhism as a religion was just beginning to grow in the subcontinent.

According to legend, Guru Ram Das had bought a plot of land in Amritsar and forecast that a shrine would be built there by ‘the most pious man of the time’. After his demise, Guru Arjan called upon Mian Mir to lay the first brick since he considered the pir the ideal fit. A mosque has been made in the place where Mian Mir offered namaz after laying the brick of the temple.

In 1606, when Jahangir imprisoned and tortured Guru Arjan for blessing the emperor’s rebellious son, Khusrau, Mian Mir wanted to intervene, but the guru didn’t allow him to. After Guru Arjan died, Mian Mir raised slogans to mourn his death and never again received Jahangir or his gifts.

Mian Mir was also instrumental in freeing 14-year-old Guru Hargobind Saheb Ji when he was captured by Jahangir. The guru is said to have provided refuge to many members of Mian Mir’s family under Aurangzeb’s rule.

Also read: Aurobindo inspired Bengali patriot Khudiram Bose to shake British Raj foundations

Influence on Mughal emperors

Jahangir is said to have been greatly influenced by Mian Mir. Popular folklore mentions that the latter once turned down Jahangir and refused to meet him when the emperor arrived with his retinue to pay him a visit. Slighted, he asked the dervish why sentinels were posted at the door of a faqir. Mian Mir gave a witty response, saying that no selfish man could enter the gates. When a silver coin was offered to him, he asked the follower to give it to Jahangir since he was the poorest among them, who, after having such a huge kingdom, had come to ask for more since he wanted to conquer the Deccan kingdom.

Jahangir held Mian Mir in high regard and his son, Shah Jahan, followed suit. He is also mentioned in Jahangir’s autobiography, Tuzk-e-Jahangiri as “rich in poverty and independent of mind.”

Yet, the saint’s biggest influence was on Shah Jahan’s eldest son Dara Shikoh who considered Mian to be his spiritual guide and addressed him as ‘Mianjeo’. He wrote a biography titled Sakinatul Auliya, dedicated to the life and works of the saint. His work is known to be the only contemporary biography of Mian Mir. Dara even read the funeral oration at the time of the pir’s death.

According to both British and local historians, after Mian Mir’s death in 1635, Dara Shikoh gave orders for a mausoleum to be built with red stones. After he was later executed under Aurangzeb’s orders, the latter had the red stones removed and used in the Badshahi Mosque, Lahore, instead.

It was the Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, a regular pilgrim to the tomb, who renovated it and used to attend a fair that was held there annually. The fair, to date, takes place during urs (death anniversary) of the pir and is looked after by the Waqf Department, Pakistan.

Nearly four centuries after his death, Hazrat Mian Mir is still revered across all faiths and is remembered as an iconic Sufi saint who joined two religions and cultures together.  Mian Mir used to say, “Karni Parvan Kya Hindu Kya Musalman? (In the path to God, there is no Hindu or Muslim)”, as quoted by Makhdoom Syed Chan Pir Qadri, the custodian (sajjada nashin) of the shrine (dargah) of Hazrat Mian Mir Sahib in Lahore

(Edited by Humra Laeeq)

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