Mission Delhi – Maria Wali, Mehediyan Qabristan Graveyard
One of the one percent in 13 million.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
She is 21 and set to make history. Maria Wali, an English Honours student in Delhi University and a “trained dialysis technician”, will become the first woman mutawalli, a custodian, of the Jamia Rahimia Dargah Hazrat Imam Shah Waliullah Mohaddis Dehlvi, a madrasa in Central Delhi.
“My responsibilities shall include the (Islamic) seminary’s day to day administration… I’ll be like a caretaker… but you I have already done a bit of that when I would help Papa,” she says standing on the roof of her home, which is just next to the madrasa.
Ms Wali’s father, Wali Muhammed, passed away early this month following a prolonged illness. He was buried in Mehediyan Qabristan—this family home is in the same cemetery. “My grandfather had founded the madrasa. He was known as Sher-e-Mewat. He chose Papa to follow him and Papa chose me…”
Ms Wali is the third of five daughters. Since her mother is in purdah and wouldn’t talk to an outsider, her eldest sister, Ayesha, explains to The Delhi Walla that “My father had nominated Maria as his successor because he loved her very much… he loved all of us, too, but we two older sisters are already married and don’t live here.”
In many ways, Ms Wali is like any college student next door. She frequently breaks into giggles, she reads suspense stories and she loves hanging out with friends.\
On the title soon to be conferred to her, the young woman confesses, “I’m aware it’s a very important occasion but I don’t think I’m unique.”
Her dastarbandi, the formal ceremony to anoint her as mutawalli, is to take place on the coming Sunday in the madrasa. Her male cousin, 23-year-old Abdul Ali, will share the honour with her.
Incidentally, the madarsa only accepts male students.
[This is the 158th portrait of Mission Delhi project]
The girl who will be mutawalli
1a. (family house)
3. (with cousin Abdul Ali)
4. (Wali Muhammed’s grave)
5. (with aunt)