The holy relics of Prophet Mohammed
On the occasion of Id, KRN Swamy lists a few of the Prophet’s relics, especially His beard hair, which was brought to India during the Mughal period.
Idol worship was strictly opposed by Prophet Mohammed. He even forbade the making of his own statues or images. Thus Islam had set its face against preserving relics associated with its founder.
However since the 14th century, the devout started to seek God’s blessings through Tabarruk (deriving blessing from something once owned or touched by a holy person) and Athar (the relics). Ashraf Ali al-Tahanawi, the Deobandi scholar, has even written a treatise entitled Nayl al-shifa bi-nal al-mustafa (the attainment of cure through the sandals of the elect one).
Quite a number of Prophet’s relics, had come to India, especially Tabarruk of the Prophet’s beard hair, during 1300 AD to 1707 AD when there were many powerful and affluent Muslim sovereigns like the Mughals.
The most famous of these relics is the one at Hazratbal Mosque in Kashmir. The trustee of Prophet’s Shrine in Mecca, Syed Abdullah is said to have carried with him the holy relic, and stayed in the court of the Sultan of Bijapur. In AD 1692, after the Mughals captured Bijapur, the descendants of Syed Abdullah found it difficult to maintain the worship due to the Relic and a Kashmiri noble by name Khwaja Nur ud din Aswari acquired it from them.
On his way to Kashmir, he was arrested by Emperor Aurangazeb, who wanted to keep the relic in the famous Darga at Ajmer. It is said, that the Prophet appeared to the Emperor in a dream and directed him to have the Relic restored to the Kashmiri noble. The relic was kept in Khankah Naqshab Sahib near Srinagar and later enshrined in the Hazratbal Mosque.
On Sept 11, 1857, when the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah found, that the British would capture his palace, he secretly left the mansion carrying with him his most valuable treasures - two beard hairs of the Prophet, the sandal used by the founder of Islam and a deer skin in which portions of the Quran, as dictated by the Prophet himself, had been inscribed in his own august presence. These are today kept at the Jama Masjid at Delhi. At the Mecca Masjid, next to Charminar in Hyderabad. There are more such relics in Bareilly (Uttar Pradesh), and the Hazratbal Mosque in Vijayawads in Andhra Pradesh.
The footprints of the Prophet, known as Khadam/ Quadam Rasul - are also to be found in a number of Indian Islamic shrines. In the Barabati Fort at Cuttack-Orissa, we have a Quadam-I-Rasool which is sacred, both for Hindus and Muslims. It is believed that the shrine here also contains some other holy relics of the Prophet Muhammad. Similarly near Murshidabad in West Bengal, the capital of the ancient nawabs of Bengal, there is a Muslim sanctum with an embedded “Khadam Rasul.”
A few miles away from the city of Chennai, on a hillock near the Pallavaram stone quarries, there is a mosque, inside which is kept a shirt or jubba of the Prophet. This is known as the Mosque of the Holy Jubba. The Mughals fearing British capture following the First War of Independence (Sepoy Mutiny) decided to entrust the holy relic to the Nawabs of Carnatic.
This relic is kept in a sealed sandalwood casket and is packed with neem leaves to preserve it from fungus that affect cotton and is displayed to the devotees once a year, on the Prophet’s Birthday and the festival is known as the “Festival of the Jubba.”
Thus spread over from Kashmir to Chennai, these priceless relics of the Prophet have become part of India’s religious heritage.
However it is not the same story in the neighbouring Pakistan. Some of the Holy treasures of the Prophet unfortunately were stolen in 2002. These included a a pair of slippers once worn by Prophet Muhammed and stolen from the 17th century Badshahi mosque in Lahore. The theft sparked demonstrations, over what a State Minister called “the worst ever incident in our history.”
Pakistan also is home for the other Prophetic relics including a green turban and two other pairs of shoes, and a strand of sacred beard hair of the Prophet.The slippers have not been recovered, although one rumour alleges, they were sold to the Sultan of Brunei.”
In other parts of the Islamic world there are holy relics, surfacing during religious commotions. In 1996, Taliban leader Mullah Omar appeared on a rooftop in Afghanistan, wearing a cloak, that once belonged to the Prophet. This had not been removed from its shrine in Kandahar, for over 60 years.
In the famous Topkapi Palace of Istanbul, there is a grand hall known as the Prophet’s Relics Chamber, housing the swords, Qurans used by the Founder of Islam.