Rumi said, “Lose your soul in God’s love… I swear there is no other way.”
He held my hand and brought me out of a quagmire that was taking me down the drain. That was the most significant thing I can attribute to the chained Fakir (saint). My grandfather once told me that keep searching around for fakirs (saints) in your life; they come and go in such furtiveness that you don’t realize how important they have been and how they can resolve your personal/psychological obscurities. I had dark days in my life and I am not proud of them, but some people were oozing out positive rays during the dark days and for me, these people are lanterns on the gloomy path.
One of them was the Fakir (saint). He was a middle-aged man, slender, and physically frail and he was a toothless person. His entire body was covered in chains which he used to wear to mark his association with the greatest Sufi Saint Laal Shahbaz Qalander. A faction of Sufis believes that one could cleanse the soul and achieve the attributes of self-control and mysticism by keeping your body shackled. Fakir was one of them.
I was in Khanewal, a city near Multan i.e. the city of the saints, where I stayed for some months. Let’s go back in time, it was the month of April when my dad told me about moving to another city because he left the job in Rawalpindi and got a new attractive position in a multi-national firm in Khanewal. The job was lucrative but for us, the family members, moving to Khanewal was a very difficult thing. Khanewal was a less developed area and we weren’t used to it. The lavish life of a metropolitan city spoiled us and we were unsure regarding our survival in Khanewal. For our dad’s sake, we decided to move to Khanewal. Upon reaching there, the first thing I noticed that the city was a sparrow fart town (as Al Pacino said in Scent of a Woman). You can cover the entire city in 10 minutes on a bike and I did that almost every day during the first week of my stay there, as I had no friend and relative in the scruffy city. Life had come to a halt and there were not too many opportunities or recreational activities in that miserably backward city. I went to buy the UPS device from a local shop and there I made my first and only best friend Ali. He was the shop owner and one thing we had common was our sect; we were Shias. Ali’s shop became my go-to place every day. As the sun sets, I would hop on my bike and spend the entire evening there chatting and smoking with him. During my days in Khanewal, my life was all about the slogan ‘sex drugs and rock n roll’.
One day I was at his shop when I saw a feeble and pale guy covered in chains and I can hear the mountain of chains creating an eerie sound as he walked in the shop. He came and sat next to me and the first thing he uttered was a direct order for me. In a smoke burnt voice, he ordered me to fetch some sweets from the nearby shop and that was quite odd for me. I got up and fulfilled his desire. Before any formal introduction, I heard him telling Ali about me that he knows I am a Syed (from the bloodline of the Prophet) and I can see Satan smiling behind him (perhaps he was referring to the dark side I was experiencing).
It became a routine for some days that he would come and chat with me about various things that involved sociology, psychology, philosophy, and religion. he was an ex-soldier who was thrown out owing to a fight with his fellow soldiers. one day some Wahabi soldiers abused him and he beat them black and blue. the next day they abducted him and pulled all of his teeth out while asking me to call Imam Ali for help (Shias call Imam Ali for help during tough times considering him the ultimate savior). the fakir replied to his enemies that I don’t need to call Imam Ali for help as he can see imam standing next to him. He told me the entire incident and believes that after this incident the doors (mystic powers) were opened for him.
Coming back to the topic, he would take out his scrapbook and draw patterns on it to decipher Quranic codes. I was amazed and shocked as he was not the type of saint I was expecting. I saw many of them throughout my life and all of them were frauds who used to pilfer money from people using fake mystic tricks and rituals. None of them was a thinker and logician, but fakir was a very different person. He had a vast amount of knowledge; despite being in chains he was clean and sober wearing a dark black Arabian gown with combed hairs; he looked as if he was a theorist. He was fluent in English and often delighted me with Sinatra’s Strangers in the Night.
He was just a normal well-educated person for me until one day when I was about to leave Ali’s shop, he shouted at me telling me to take the other route while driving back home, he precisely said, “You will die if you behaved inattentively and rejected my command.” I was a reckless guy ready to infringe anything positive in my life so I ignored his rant and drove back home using the same route he asked me to avoid. I was near my house when suddenly out of nowhere a tractor-trolley rammed into my bike. I felt a sudden push as someone pushed me aside from the raging vehicle and I fell on the grassy patch nearby the road. I wasn’t hurt but I was in a state of shock. I drove back to the shop and he was still there with a mysterious smile on his face. He said, “I told you but you are a devil. Had I not been there you would have died today.” I shouted, “But you weren’t there, I saw no one.” He replied, “Son! You are too naïve to understand this right now. Go home; nothing will hurt you as long as I am with you.” Everything changed after that. Fakir would now tell me about the secrets of mysticism. I have so many things to narrate as he helped me on many occasions. One day it was noon, the weather was scorching hot when I resorted to sleeping in a nearby Christian cemetery which was very serene and well-furnished. I didn’t notice that it carelessly slept there till dark. I woke up to the sound of rattling sound of chains and I saw fakir standing over my head, he held my hand in anger and started dragging me out of the cemetery. He yelled, “Have you lost your mind, can’t you see the evils hanging over your head, how many times will I have to save you from them if you continue to be so irresponsible and ignorant.”
It is also pertinent to mention here that the house where we were staying was haunted. The entire residential block used to avoid the house and witnessed many tenants running out at midnight owing to severe paranormal activities. I too started feeling mysterious happenings in my house which I will tell you, folks, some other time. Fakir told me about the activities and said that the house is very dangerous if you take it lightly. He gave me some verses from the Quran and asked me to recite them for protection. The house was later exorcised by my father after some months (the Syed clan can traditionally perform exorcism). For six months, I stayed with him and felt mysterious happenings around him. One day he asked me to visit his house. Outside his shabby cave-like house he told me this is our last meeting and I will never meet him again. He gave me a weird lecture about the future and how things will change in my life and then I came back home with a heavy heart. my dad was at the gate waiting for me as he told me that we were going back to Rawalpindi because he decided to take the job again which he had left some months ago. The next morning the packing started and we left the city. I went to see my friend Ali after some months and he told me that nobody saw the fakir again; he was gone into thin air like a ghost. People knew little about him but everyone believed he was a mystic wandering in the city helping the innocent people.
It was very strange for me that how some people strangers come into your life and change everything. Some affect your life and some hit your psychology. We never realize that these people had some purpose in our lives and we don’t give them the value that they deserve. I would say we should welcome those people with open arms and cherish the memories we have with them. Fakir was free from chains now and I felt that my soul was in shackles. I can see the eerie sound of these chains restraining my soul from the evils around me. He taught me that he chains do no always restrain you; at times they are to protect you from the evils and wrongdoings.