From the enviable pen of Najiba Arif comes another mesmerizing book appropriately titled as ‘Raagni ki Khoj Mein’ [In Search of the Ditty]. In a world devasted by the pandemic and engulfed by despair, anxiety, and disappointment, this book is a timely effort to ignite the desire for spiritual satiation and satisfaction. Divided into eleven chapters, the work is beautifully cushioned by Muhammad Saleem ur Rehman’s preface and Baba Obaidullah Khan Durrani’s essay translated by the author as an homage to her spiritual guide. Going beyond the generic boundaries, the book envelops the traits and features of various forms of narrative input including, autobiography, travelogue, life sketch, fiction, and a spiritual treatise – thus making it a relatable and reader friendly experience.
The preface situates the readers before making them take a soul-searching journey with the author. Saleem ur Rehman, while being conscious of the difficulty in endeavouring to encompass the path of enlightenment trudged by the author, successfully and effectively highlights the profound impact spiritual realms of existence can have on one’s material domains of life. His succinct overview of the author’s spiritual journey, Baba Durrani’s guidance in absentia and its impact on the author’s life, prepares the reader to experience an honest and unembellished discourse on spirituality.
Although curtained from the naked eye, which is attuned to see the obvious and tangible only, the desire to know the unknown can be fulfilled with the help of a kamil murshid or an accomplished spiritual mentor. With a keen eye on the spiritual development, a mentor teases out the entangled threads of his followers’ existential confusions and questions. This is exemplified by an account of Baba Durrani’s meeting with Hazrat Wasif Ali Wasif during which the former shared with him the news of his impending death and requested the latter to look after his followers.
From being an agnostic to becoming a believer, from being a stranger to becoming a beloved, from being an empty vessel to becoming an enlightened soul, the spiritual journey is replete with several doubts, which can only be achieved by confronting the self, annihilating the false ego, and surrendering oneself to the guidelines provided by the mentor. Najiba Arif, although conscious of her intellectual rigidity, reliance on logicality, and egoistic bearing, relentlessly pursued her desire to burn under the transformative gaze of a mentor and surrender herself to the dictates of a guide which she ultimately found in the person of Baba Obaidullah Khan Durrani.
The narrative of the book is weaved around Baba Durrani’s personality characterized by perseverance, persistence, and consistent struggle. Born in 1907 in Madras in a small town, Baba Durrani’s lineage can be traced back to Ahmad Shah Abdaali, regarded as the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan. Various ascetics and mystics such as Maulana Tajuddin Nagpuri, Maulana Suleman Ashraf of Ali Garh, and Qalandar Abdus Salam of Delhi among many other influential minds, nourished his soul and directed him to his true calling which materialized when he founded Qadir Nagar on the top of a hill in Swat around 1963 on the advice of his mentor Baba Qadir Aulia.
Caught between the rationality of the palpable world and apparent illogicality of the spiritual domains of being, the search for the ultimate, which is termed as ‘Raagni’ or ‘ditty’ by the author, brought her to Qadar Nagar, an experience that provided an anchor to her restless soul and answers to many of her long pending questions. However, the journey she was made to take before finding her answers, was strewn with many coincidences and encounters which at times forced her to quit the struggle per se.
She could never have imagined how she would unknowingly become a part of a beatified conspiracy that took her first to Mumtaz Mufti and then to Qazi Ahmed Saeed through whom she was acquainted to Baba Durrani. Although she could not meet the latter in his life, he became a presence in absence, from an illusionary dream to a recognizable reality, that made her mind capable of knowing its own potentials. This is, in fact, what a spiritual mentor does – he shows us what we are capable of, how we can expand our souls to be one with the nature, and how we can dance to the beats of Raagni to harmonize ourselves with the universal soul.
Once a person attains ‘oneness’ with his surroundings, he develops an angst, a yearning to feel the pathos of humanity and offer his heart and soul to relieve its pain and suffering. Baba Durrani devoted himself to create a haven founded on the unified coexistence of all beings irrespective of caste, creed, race, gender, or culture. Resonating with the teachings of Hazart Inayat Khan, the founder of the Sufi Order in the West and the proponent of Universal Sufism, Baba Durrani’s selfless surrender is described by him eloquently in the following words – ‘Whatever is left of me, let me give it out to people’.
Adorned by Sajjad Haider aesthetically appealing hard bound cover, Najiba Arif’s work is a treat for all those whose spiritual growth and peace of mind has been curtailed by materialistic pursuits and rot of modern-day life.