The dargah inhabits a relevant social location to the people who visit it and an ambiguous cultural location outside of Islamic orthodoxy. So what is the religious and cultural location of the Mastan Baba Dargah? Sufi dargahs in India inherit status directly from people who, for example, believe in their healing powers, rather than in the conventionally perceived paradigm of separate religious traditions and loyalties. Iftikar-ji said that many Muslims and Hindus come, though Sufis are more rare. “While seen as distinctly Muslim spaces, such shrines (and the pirs from whom they derive their importance) are viewed as repositories of power that transcend the boundaries of religious affiliation.”
But where does the dargah reside within Islam itself? In “Call to Amma’s Courtyard,” Joyce Flueckiger creates the term “vernacular Islam” as a category of rituals and practices performed in tandem with but outside the “standard,” universal tenets of Islam, but which are still considered to “be Islamic by those who practice them” (2). She writes that orthodox and often outsider critiques of Sufism often call it heretic and “an infiltration of Hindu practice and ideology into Muslim communities” (12). Iftikar-ji said the division between Hindu and Muslim is blown up the media, but doesn’t reflect real life. Pnina Werbner and Helene Basu offer a possible reason, that “substantive flows between persons, and between persons and places, are morally incorporative, thus underlining the power of ritual to create ethical spaces with counter the alienation and enstrangement produced by modernity” (Werbner and Basu, 7).
The pursuit of ethos challenges us to “widen our understanding of text and textuality so that we can recognize that the world of material and oral practice also provide “texts” that function as vibrant forms of moral guidance” (Prasad, 21). Through such an understanding, it becomes seen that the spiritual network of the dargah is rich and varied. Many traditions move through and around the spiritual construct of the dargah. Right next to a devoted Baba maintaining and re-adorning the samadhi are construction contractors cutting steel rods and carrying electric saws, keeping the past and future active in the present. The dargah keeps alive streams of both “vernacular” and “standard” Islamic practice and beliefs. In between these forces, Syed Iftikar is an embodiment of the dargah persevering in its story through various coexisting temporal and religious influences—past and present, Islam and Hinduism—and staying resilient to an identity that makes a unique mark in the spiritual and social landscapes of Hyderabad through the past, present and years to come.