By Shabbir Mir
GILGIT: In a radical move aimed at promoting sectarian harmony, a leading Shia cleric in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) has asked followers of different sects to offer prayers in each other’s mosques
“If they sit together, they will naturally interact with each other,” said Agha Rahatul Hussain while addressing a religious gathering in connection with Muharram.
Hussain, ranked among the top Shia clerics in Gilgit-Baltistan region, suggested an approach which has not been heard of before nor has it been endorsed by the clergy. “This can happen and should happen,” said Hussain who is said to be the first cleric to condone the act (offering prayers in mosques belong to other sects) which had become a religious taboo till recently. The proposal is considered a major stride towards promoting sectarian harmony in a region where sectarian strife reached such an intensity in 2011-12 that it led to the main Shia and Sunni mosques in the area being seized.
Hussain asked that when followers of various sects visit each other’s homes to offer condolences, why can’t they pray in one another’s places of worship. He added that besides prayers, people of different sects should visit each other’s mosques as a gesture of goodwill. He said the enemies of Islam can only be defeated if followers of different sects shun their differences in line with teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and the Creator.
The cleric threw light on the sacrifices rendered by Imam Hussain and his followers who had sacrificed their lives for the survival of Islam and asked Muslims to follow suit.
Earlier this week, Sunnis in Gilgit had volunteered to escort processions of Shia mourners during Muharram and provide them with security in a major sign of sectarian harmony.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2016.