nadia masood

Haji Ali Dargah: A 500-year-old Tomb

Located on an islet off the coast of Worli in the southern part of the city is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Mumbai:  the Haji Ali dargah.  The structure below consists of a mosque and a tomb, built some 500 years ago.

Shirk is rampant, unfortunately.  It is a common belief among people that if one prays at this durgah, his/her wishes are fulfilled.  On Thursdays and Fridays the shrine is visited by thousands of people,  irrespective of faith and religion to get the “blessings” of Haji Ali.

We didn’t go into the dargah.  The place where I took the picture above is as far as we went.  At the entrance along the main road (next to a police station), was a security check.  We passed through a metal detector and had our bags checked.

Past the security personnel, we found ourselves surrounded by men and women selling flowers and green/red blankets (for offerings in the dargah), copies of Qur’an, tasbih beads, perfumes, sun glasses, key chains, religious books, and cassettes/DVDs of songs on Haji Ali (which, frankly speaking, sounded very filmy and ridiculous).

There were also a couple of men who offered to write our names on a grain of rice.  And of course, there were also beggars.

Who is Haji Ali?

His name is Ali Shah Bukhari, a rich Muslim merchant from the ancient Persian Empire (now Uzbekistan), who gave up all his worldly possessions before making a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He traveled around the world in the early 1400s,  eventually settling in Mumbai where had this mosque built.

Some legends about the man:

# 1: That he drowned in the sea and his devotees built a tomb at the spot where he died.

# 2: That he once saw a poor woman crying on the road, holding an empty vessel. He asked her what the problem was. She sobbed that that her husband would thrash her since she had stumbled and accidentally spilled the oil she was carrying. He asked her to take him to the spot where she lost the oil. There, he jabbed a finger into the soil and the oil gushed out. The overjoyed woman filled up the vessel and went home. Later, he had a recurring – and disturbing – dream that he had injured Mother Earth by his act. Full of remorse, he soon fell ill and directed his followers to cast the coffin carrying his body into the Arabian Sea.

# 3: That he died on his pilgrimage to Mecca and his body was put in a casket. The casket is said to have floated back to Bombay, stopping near the rock bed on the sea here. The place where his casket was found later served as the venue of his dargah (tomb), built by his devotees.



“Verily, Allah forgives not (the sin of) setting up partners (in worship) with Him, but He forgives whom He wills, sins other than that, and whoever sets up partners in worship with Allah, has indeed strayed far away”  [al-Nisa’ 4:116]


  1. Dargahs are a scene to remember. Another is ‘mazar’. People literally worship the saint, not the Creator. It’s quite pathetic what people with little knowledge do and think they are being religious.

    Very sad indeed. When I tried explaining to some of the mazar-going people whom I personally know about why they shouldn’t, they tell me, “You’ve lost touch of Islam by living with the Arabs.”

    1. Very Sad to hear that but you are taking things wrong without understanding, nobody from any Sect of ISLAM worship except ALLAH, yes they consider this saints and Pir as Zariya which is bit doubtful topic of ISLAM… Though we know ALLAH is QADIR but still he has put all of us dependent on one or another things in this world, we believe that ALLAH has given that support for example Air, Water, Food and all other things from Nature, also for Birth we are using zariya of our Parents, parents has some rights on our life also and if we want we can ask from our parents many thing also ALLAH mentions in Glorious QURAN that if you any problem go to the EXPERT like DOCTORS for illness, TEACHERs for education, PARENTS for GUIDANCE etc. so my fellow friends be open to understand everything as HIKMA and HIDAYAT is with ALLAH so ask for it rather then blocking it….

  2. Masha Allah Nadia you’ve written the exact Ayah 🙂

    Yeah it’s really unfortunate that so many ppl are devoted to it :(. May Allah guide them to the right path Ameen. It’s also a way of income for the care takers, Astagfirullah. I heard even the big actors and actresses visit it so it’s more publicized :S lol

    Ameen to your dua. Oh yes, I’ve heard about the film shootings as well!

    1. Dear Masood , Asslam u allaikum, your statement is really good but i recommend that its not only you but most of us pass such judgement without reading all the scriptures- QURAAN, Sahi Bukhari, Sahi Muslim, Abu Dawood, Tirmeedhi Sharif and all related Hadees books… Please read and forward us with knowledge…

  3. Nice picture above and historic details, but sad that bowing and prostrating has become common at mazar and dargah’s :-(. Sad to know that Quran was being sold there but they dont read whats mentioned inside… 🙁

    Yes, that’s even sadder: a lot of people buy the Qur’an just for the sake of having a personal copy 🙁

  4. Your travel posts are so informative and fascinating, I love reading them. Last time I just left a short comment but I’ve been reading your blog for a month now and I love it!

    I forget who it was that pointed me here saying that you write really well.

    Wow, thank you so much for the compliment, ‘liya! I’m hooked to reading your travels posts too, lol

    Oh, that was Haleem 🙂

  5. What’s this writing name on grain of rice thing?

    We have a few of these mazars in Bangladesh. There’s even the famous Kumir Mazar (Crocodile Mazaar) where there is supposedly some croc blessed by some fakir…. you have to shake your head at.

    It’s just one of those artsy souvenir stuff (like spelling out your name in bottle filled with sand, in the UAE). Here in Mumbai, this guy will write your name on a grain of rice. That’s is 🙂

    Kumir Mazar! That’s even more ridiculous.

  6. Thats the saddening dilemma of muslim world that they ever go for shrines and prostrates there instead of making a direct relationship to Allah…
    it’s ofcourse Shirk bid’da…Allah may forgive us all…we are Ummat e Muhammad SWS and Allah may not get into anger to put us all to face a big ADHAB from his side… Ameen

    Ameen to your dua, Sis.

  7. hey.. i dunno much ’bout this religion stuff….
    but would like to ask that if anybody feels connected to the supreme being even by doing all these “Shirks” and eventually transforms into a good human-being then what is wrong with it ??

    1. Anonymous, the fact that Allah strictly prohibits shirk is enough for us Muslims to stay away from such acts. That is what makes it wrong. It is prohibited by Allah in the Qur’an.

      Let’s talk about Muslims who commit shirk – prostrating and supplicating at someone’s grave – and become very good human beings. I’m sure they will be highly respected in the society, and will set good examples in the eyes of men.

      But what about God? Has he not forbidden the acts of shirk? So by doing the acts mentioned above, these Muslims are clearly disobeying Allah’s orders. What good will that do for the salvation of these Muslims? Will the people of the society, who once looked up to these good Muslims, be able to save him or her from the punishment in the hereafter? No.

      Being a true believer of Islam requires for a person to follow a certain set of rules and regulations. And one of those rules clearly states that shirk must be avoided at all costs.

    2. wrong thing wid dis is dat wat ever he does is a waste ov time n wil b punished i hope u had read da ayah which iz mentiond above

  8. I would like to add more comments to the reply of Nadia to Anonymous:

    He/She never becomes a good human being by associating someone who was himself depends on the lord the actual creator of Human, Heaven and Earth. Shirk is a big thing to think about it just take an example if your child behaves well in the society but he also associates someone else as a father beside you and says he is the one who actually fulfill my needs not you..will you agree and convince with him/her? Even though you are the one who is looking for his/her bread and butter?.

  9. Thankyou ma’am for the reply.

    (Masood) Sir, I would like to ask a similar question as posed by you, that:

    Q. // if your child behaves well in the society but he also associates someone else as a “teacher” beside you and says he is the one who actually fulfill my “knowledge/learning” needs not you..will you agree and convince with him/her? Even though you are the one who is looking for his/her bread and butter? //

  10. Anonymous..You sound tricky here…lol

    Just take a look at your first comment which states ” if anybody feels connected to the supreme being even by doing all these “Shirks”

    Now the most ruthless word in your comment is the term “Shirk” which only used to associate with the Almighty who is the Supreme

    “He is Allah, (the) One.
    “The Self-Sufficient Master, Whom all creatures need, He neither eats nor drinks.
    “He begets not, nor was He begotten;
    “And there is none co-equal or comparable unto Him.”

    and your comment justifying the one who is going against the attributes of Almighty.

    I used the term “Father” to make you understand the uniqueness and no one can share this position.

    You made a senseless point here again without understanding my concept behind using the term “Father” and started comparing a Father with a Teacher. As far as learning is concerned, there is nothing wrong in learning but there is a difference between acquiring a knowledge and associating with the Almighty.

    First you need to understand the importance of Almighty then you will have the ability to understand the concept.

  11. (Masood) Sir,
    Thanks for replying.

    ‘am not being tricky..rather i feel you are being tricky that you took one statement from my comment above (which suited you for answering the way you want); whereby i’ve used the same word which is mentioned in the above post, and you left the very first statement of mine which states //hey.. i dunno much ’bout this religion stuff….//
    okay leave it.. its not a big issue till ‘am able to understand what you want to convey
    (*Please don’t consider that I am having any malicious intent or wrong feelings*)

    By my comment i just wanted to convey that for me, a person having a good heart and good character is important rather than trying to find out that whether he/she is praying to one god or multitude of gods or doesn’t prays at all.

    Thankyou for your replies and for understanding.

  12. Anonymous:

    It’s Great that you understood my point.

    I would like to make it clear that Allah Almighty never disregards any good deed, be it from a believer or a disbeliever; He gives good reward for it. But the point here is, as a believer does good deeds, he does so with certain belief that he will be rewarded in the Hereafter; i.e. whatever he does, it’s for the sake of Allah, and he will get its reward in the Hereafter. However, there are people who are good and benevolent by nature, and many of them love their brothers and sisters in humanity, despite that they are not believers.

    Explaining the type of reward granted to such people:

    There is surely a reward in this world for people who, despite lacking iman (belief), contribute to the progress of mankind, are good by nature, giving charity…etc. But the criterion for getting reward in the Hereafter is belief. This is based on the Hadith, in which the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, states: “Allah never disregards a good deed of a believer; he reward him for it in this world and in the Hereafter. As for a disbeliever, he is rewarded for the good deeds in this world so that when he is in the Afterlife, no more reward will be there for him.”.

    Shedding more light on this issue:

    “ In terms of the reward of the Hereafter, it is totally agreed upon that a disbeliever receives no reward in the Hereafter nor does a believer who offers good deeds out of showing off. However, when talking about the reward of this world, the case is different in the sense that every one is paid for his deeds whether bad or good. Thus, a disbeliever receives reward for the good deeds he offers in this world as Allah says in the Quran:Chapter Hud Verser 15-16

    Those who desire the life of the Present and its glitter, to them We shall pay (the price of) their deeds therein, without diminution.

    They are those for whom there is nothing in the Hereafter but the Fire: vain are the designs they frame therein, and of no effect are the deeds that they do!

  13. Thankyou Sir for your explanation.
    I never wanted to reply you back and hence wanted to end the discussion, but your comment made me to put forward my stance.

    “I believe if you are doing something good or if you are “trying” to be good just for the sake of getting something in return from anyone, be it the almighty, then i feel you are not doing any good but you are doing a Business”

    If I’ll do any good for anybody, i will never expect anything in return for it. And if i expect something in return (as u mentioned a better afterlife) then it becomes trade-off and it ceases to become my good-deed.

    Thankyou for understanding.

  14. Anonymous:

    There you are…Doing good deeds to show off will only gives the benefit here. It is better to give it secretly rather than openly, so that their intention is entirely to gain the pleasure of Almighty and not to gain the admiration of people.

    The people who really don’t expect anything in return then it’s Allah’s grace who actually read the hearts and intentions that you are not expecting anything from him or from the world and gives you an additional benefit in the hereafter with or without one’s intention. This is the point you should need to understand.

    The Faith plays an important role here behind every action. Expecting a reward only from the Almighty doesn’t make a person a mean, to make him happy with our kind deeds whether it may be a minute thing to do. Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said:
    Even a smile is a charity.

    Islam says live like a traveler in this world and do good deeds to have a successful life in the hereafter. We all have been sent here for test, the test of belief. So if whosoever does a good deed having intention to get a reward from the Almighty, who has given the opportunity for the good deeds to do, makes the Almighty Allah happy even you don’t intend to expect a reward from him. You know when Muslim does anything good he says “Alhumdulillah” (Thanking Allah) because he has given him/her the opportunity…that’s the faith.

    Hope you got my point now:-)

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