First the honeymooners valley of Swat and now the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh in Lahore…… Pakistan is relentlessly erasing my childhood and youth memories one by one.

“They say if you go pray at the Darbar of Daata Ganj Baksh, you are endowed with endless money…….” She says wistfully. She is feeling the pinch of financial difficulties, I know.

The new Prime Minister has nationalized her private school, which she nurtured from one brick to an Ivy League reputation for stellar performance. As a result of the “nationalization” she has been reduced to a lowly paid Principal at what was her own school with no benefits, all assets have been taken away from her and “nationalized’

So I say, ” lets fly to Lahore and pray there” even as  I say that I am feeling uneasy as it is an unspoken phenomenon in our house that you pray to no one except Allah and we do not have any Pirs and have never prayed to any shrine or dead person no matter how respectable or pious.

“She smiles……..I have thought of it “ she says. But the expression on her face says “no” .

it is not the flight to Lahore that is withholding her from the act of asking Daata Ganj Baksh for the generosity of God through him,  but it is breaching the wide divide between the people who are spiritual but ask only God for favors and those who turn to the dead saints for worldly favors.

Time passes and soon I move to the States, she joins me and after one of her visits to Lahore, she has a landslide inheritance,and Allah Subhanawataala continues to shower her with his gnerosity till the day she dies.

She is replete with monetary security for all her living days so much so that she supports many with it spending most of it on others.

One day I ask her “Is this the result of your prayers?” She looks at me and does not answer. I will never know if this magical shower of affluence was truly via a saint or her destiny from God Himself.

I am in Lahore. We are going to the Badshahi mosque I have craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the “Daata Darbar” never for a minute having a second thought about the word “Data” and its true meaning. I see the people milling around, usually excruciatingly poor carrying their flowers and their prayer books. Old women, with ramrod straight backs, their dupattas covering their heads as if glued on, their hands wizened with age and hard work, their eyes still looking towards the Shrine with everlasting hope, asking Allah to change their kismet via the Saint.

I see laborers and the very malnourished people eating the Halwa Puris at the Thursday Langar, (guests free food kitchen) huge vats of orange halwa of the finest quality are being doled out generously fresh puris accompany. There is no shortchanging the sadaqa of the heart, not in the amounts and not in the reverence it is given and received.

Here is where the Muslims of the heart part company with the Muslims of the body.

Those without hope hang on to the saints and choose a shrine of a pious scholar saint to focus their prayers, never for a moment having a second thought that any of this may be seen as bidaah (innovation) in the eyes of their Salafi and Wahabi brothers.

The poor and starving look forward to the evening where for sure there is food at the Daata’s which will last them till the next evening.

The rich hurting with a loss of a child, or the inability to conceive provide the evening meals as a sadaqa, thus the shrine of Daata Ganj Bakhsh becomes the magnet for three kinds of people, the extreme poor, the extreme rich, and the extremely needy, irrespective of their economic status.

This is one place where the playing field is leveled, in asking God for ones needs to be filled. In this public place like the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh there is no shame or embarrassment to ask, as all those who come here have shed all pretense and are there because they are desperately needy. There has never been any question of being unsafe at the Data Darbar.

On one of my visits to Lahore when I wanted to see places that I had never been allowed to as a child, I asked my Aunt to take me to “the Data Darbar” she acquiesced with a warning “ No praying there” she said. “”Of course” I said overjoyed to be afforded the opportunity to go ther and, witness the culture.

I looked forward to the visit which turned out to be  quiet. It was early morning on our way to the village, so the night vigil worshipers had left and the mid morning worshipers had not yet arrived, the mosque was being washed with fragrant rose water and the place was being perfumed with incense. I stood in front of the golden door wanting to go inside, but not daring to ask. I left without feeling the spirituality of the place, as it was the meeting of times when perhaps even the angels were taking a break.

Back to the explosion in the mosque of the Data Ganj Baksh, killing many and injuring many more, considering it is one of the most busiest places in Lahore, perhaps even more people are hurt than what has been reported.

Why would any one throw a bomb in a Sunni mosque followed a few days later in a Shia mosque, followed in a few months in the Qadiani mosque and finally into the Shrine of one of the most respected scholar saints in Punjab, revered by the educated and the illiterate alike?

What comes to mind is someone wants a dispersal and division amongst the many expressions of faith in Pakistan and abroad. This succession of bombing houses of worship of different areas and sects is a surefire method of aligning one group of Muslims against the other.

These seemingly isolated hate crimes (unless seen from afar where the pattern is apparent as a cascade of planned events) arouse hatred in the hearts of one Muslim against another.

Who would do that? Who would gain from it? It is time to think deeply and seriously and analytically without getting emotional.

The shrine of Data Ganj Baksh is one of those icons in Lahore that one thinks of as permanent as the earth on which it resides.

I have become a silent witness to the erasure of my childhood and young adult memories of Pakistan.

One by one with each click of the setting of a bomb, one more memory is erased off the map of the homeland of my birth………..leaving me helpless, distraught, confused and resigned as I watch the redesigning of the Muslim world starting with my homeland, but not limited to it.

These would drive some of our muslim brothers crazy , but the question is……….. crazy enough to throw a bomb?


  1. Dear Asma aunty, your articles are always so gripping…have you written about your mother in the start?
    I can totally relate to the feeling of having bits of your childhood memories being blown up and the thought of having loved ones back home terrifies me.


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