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Koh-e-Murad, Turbat, Balochistan, Pakistan - March 2008 | by SaffyH
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Koh-e-Murad, Turbat, Balochistan, Pakistan - March 2008

Koh-e-Murad (Persian: كوه مراد ) is a shrine, which is located in Turbat, Baluchistan. This is a sacred place for Zikris where they offered prayers for a long time. Zikris think that the founder of their religion, Syed Muhammad Janpuri (1443 - 1505 CE), The Imam E Aakhiruzamaa.n, visited this place.


The members of Zikri sect gather here at the night of 27th Ramadan for ziarat (literally 'a visit' in Arabic: زيارة) of this shrine.


The Zikri (Arabic: ذكرى) faith is an offshoot of Islam concentrated in Makran, Balochistan (Pakistan and Iran). The name Zikri comes from the Arabic word dhikr (pronounced "Zikr" in South Asia). The word is commonly used to describe Sufi worship.


They are generally regarded as heretical by mainstream Muslims. Zikris, like mainstream Muslims, are religiously obligated to pray five times daily. However, the content of their prayers, which they call Zikr, differs from the orthodox practice of Salah. Although Mahdavi, the direct followers of Syed Mohammad Jaunpuri offer prayers according to the Sunnah and follow Sunnah which was practised and stressed by the saint. Syed Mohammed Jaunpuri would strictly adhere to the Sunnah of Prophet and accordingly the commandments in the Qur'an. The Mahdavis perform Hajj and even Umrah.


The Zikris, however, do not perform the standard Islamic Hajj, but instead make pilgrimage (ziyarat) to a shrine called Koh-e-Murad (Mountain of Desire), in Persian). The shrine is located in the city of Turbat in Balochistan. They do ziyarat on the 27th night of Ramadan.


Most Zikris live in Baluchistan, where they are the majority religious group in the district of Gwadar. There are also large groups of Zikris in the Pakistani city of Karachi, the Pakistani province of Sindh, and in Iran. Many of the other smaller groups live in Karachi and Makran, although the Zikris, for example, are predominantly in south-western Baluchistan where their spiritual center, Koh-i-Murad, is located. However, they are becoming less visible, fearing that they will also be designated a ‘minority’, against their will.


The Zikris of Balochistan – a predominantly Baloch ethnic group in Makran and the adjoining areas – fear they will suffer the fate of the Ahmadis, as there are demands from certain groups for their designation as a non-Muslim minority. The Zikris are an under-researched community. However, many Baloch nationalist leaders and writers have expressed solidarity with the Zikris, considering them the ‘archetypal Baloch’.


Zikris believe in Syed Muhammad Jaunpuri (1443-1504), "but i as a Zekri my self say that we and all other Zekri believe in the 12th imam, Imam Mehdi the Akhir u Zaman" and we really believe that he has came into this world as our Shia brothers say in their books and some of the muslims belives in" But many don't, as the promised mehdi who emphasized on the purity and formalism in Islam. The faith stresses on abstinence, seclusion, contentment and invocation of divine names, or Zikir-i-Khatir.


Zikirs participate in their annual congregation at Turbat, at the end of the Ramzan (ramadan), every year. Some scholars consider this annual rite in Koh-i-Murad near Turbat, as the surviving remnant of daira system. It is, according to Zikirs, in no way a substitute for the Muslim annual pilgrimage to Kaaba, as their detractors claim.


Most Zikris are poor peasants or nomads who enjoy coming to Koh-i-Murad as others elsewhere enjoy visiting shrines. The number of Zikris is not known since they identify themselves as Muslims. It is estimated that there are several million living in Pakistan, India and Iran. (The Zikri community is deemed as a member of the 4 million-strong Mahdawis in India.) In addition, there are huge Zikri communities in Karachi, Las Bela and Quetta. There are more Zikri Baloch in Karachi than anywhere else, but many have recently migrated for economic reasons, while staying in touch with their native Makran.


The cultural and commercial significance of the Zikri festivals is considerable. Zikri intellectuals challenge Sunnis’ and others’ claims regarding their faith. However, their religious leaders – Malais – believe that the Zikri prayer is ‘a bit different than the others’. Some locals do not consider them to be heretically different from other Muslim orders and finds similarities with many other doctrinal interpretations. Their zikr khanas – they have few places of worship, unlike the growing number of mosques across Makran – are like mosques but do not have pulpits pointing towards Mecca. Instead, there are stones and mats on which they sit and do the zikr. However, on a visit to the prayer places at Koh-i-Murad, a few copies of the Qur’an were found on the shelves. The Sunni/Namazi Muslims, belonging to the JUI and JI have attacked Zikris for being a ‘heretic sect’, and campaigns have been mounted to stop Zikris from congregating at Koh-i-Murad. Recently, police protection has been provided to Zikri visitors. To many observers, the emphasis on reconversion or designation as a non-Muslim minority is linked with the growing accent on Islam in Pakistan since Zia and since Khomeini in neighboring Iran.


Zikris had traditionally been victimized in Iran and in Afghani Balochistan, and the recent emphasis on Sunni and scripturalist Islam encouraged the JUI to make inroads into Baloch regions. There are demands for Zikris to be declared a non-Muslim minority. The Zikri status remains unchanged but they are scared and thus find solidarity with a secular version of Baloch ethnicity. NGOs, including the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP), and local activists are creating a greater awareness of the Zikri predicament and aim to forestall a majoritarian backlash against this scattered and impoverished community.

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Taken on March 11, 2008