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God’s Other Children

God loves all people, regardless of their religion or caste. Anyone may participate in lifting the stone, regardless of their background. When we lift the stone, we are to remember God’s love for all.

Gods Other Children Book Cover 

From God’s Other Children: Personal Encounters with Faith, Love, and Holiness in Sacred India. Copyright © 2013 by Bradley Malkovsky. Reprinted with permission from HarperOne, a division of HarperCollinsPublishers.

 

It is difficult to sift fact from fiction in regard to the life of Qamar Ali Darvesh. One hears a number of purported facts not included on the plaque outside the shrine that describes his life. If true, they help answer a number of questions. It is said, for example, that unlike other family members, the young boy was very pious and even studied under a Sufi teacher from the age of six. From early on he was known for both his compassion and his ability to heal others. He died at eighteen, but no cause is given, as far as I have been able to find out. On his deathbed the young saint instructed that a large stone be placed near his shrine after his death and that the stone should only be lifted by eleven men using only their index finger and only when invoking the saint’s name. Qamar Ali Darvesh did not explain why the number eleven was important or why only one finger was to be used. More important than anything else was the spiritual message. By the lifting of the stone under such unusual circumstances people should know that nothing is greater than the power that comes from God. And everyone should know that God loves all people, regardless of their religion or caste. Anyone may participate in lifting the stone, regardless of their background. When we lift the stone, we are to remember God’s love for all.

I want very much to believe this version of the story.

Although I had observed the lifting of the stone several times over the years, I had never tried doing it myself until January 2011, when I brought a group of American students with me from my university back in the United States. The day we arrived in Shivapur it was late morning, and the large crowds had not yet gathered. Above us large fox bats hung upside down from the trees, like heavy fruit. We watched as a circle of men raised the stone high above their heads, before it plummeted back to earth. One of our students, Stephen, stepped into the circle with ten Muslim men, who had encouraged him to take part. But the eleven men could not lift the stone higher than a few inches. Stephen immediately recognized what had happened: he had forgotten to recite the words. So he rejoined the circle, this time with me by his side. And yet the stone fell back to earth again after barely rising above the ground. This time it fell in my direction, landing at my feet. I was perplexed by this, especially since I was confident that the stone would be lifted. But then I remembered that I had made exactly the same mistake as had Stephen only moments before: in concentrating on the stone, I had forgotten to recite the words. The oldest man among the Muslims noticed what I had done and said to me firmly in broken English, “One breath for all words. No stopping.” In other words, take a deep breath and don’t forget to call out to the saint.

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