The Prayer of the Dogs
A story from the early 20th century of how a pious old man made it rain during a drought
The event whose eyewitness account is given below took place in the early 20th century. Qazi Abdul Hakeem, a pious old man in his 80s, lived in the city of Jalalpur Jattan in district Gujrat, now in Pakistan. Merchants and traders visited him to seek his counsel in worldly and religious matters, and stayed at his house as guests.
The year 1912 saw a drought. The monsoon season came but it remained dry. People offered prayers for rainfall, but let alone rain, they saw not even a sliver of a cloud. While others suffered in the heat outdoors, Qazi Abdul Hakeem sat in his cool room, fanned by attendants.
One day he was sitting with his guests when a delegation of residents of his city and neighbouring towns entered, and its leader accused Qazi Abdul Hakeem of doing nothing, not even joining them in praying for rains. He said to them, “Why don’t you ask the dogs to pray instead?” The man who had accosted him left in anger at his reply, but two other men from the group approached Qazi Abdul Hakeem and requested him to ask the dogs himself since they were unfamiliar with their language. He replied: “You should have said so sooner. Return tomorrow morning, and you shall witness the dogs pray.”
Qazi Abdul Hakeem told his attendant to prepare a large quantity of halwa overnight, and to have the alley outside his house swept clean. Cauldrons were brought out to make the halwa. Raisins, almonds, coconut and other garnishing were made ready. Some witnessed the preparations with scepticism at the notion that dogs could pray. Others maintained that dogs being creatures of God, there was no doubt they could do so.
By the time it was morning, the halwa was ready, and Qazi Abdul Hakeem checked the preparations outdoors. People had started gathering in the alley by this time. They quietly greeted him and stood along the alley walls, others looked down from the rooftops to watch the spectacle. As men began bringing out the halwa, Qazi Abdul Hakeem ladled it out on small trays made of dhak tree leaves, and placed them in the alley. Then he counted them and said, “There are 122.”
No sooner than he uttered the words, the people on rooftops began shouting and pointing. Everyone looked and saw a stray dog, that was often seen in the alley, and lived on leftovers, enter the alley from its east entrance, leading countless dogs. Not one dog uttered a bark or growled at the crowd which thronged the sides of the alley, as they entered in packs of two and three. The people watched the spectacle in fear. They would have run away had Qazi Abdul Hakeem not gestured to them to remain quiet.
As the stray dog came up to Qazi Abdul Hakeem, he said: “Kaalu, you live amidst us. Regard that the Almighty is not sending the blessing of rains, and because of the sins of the humans, other creatures are also suffering. Ask your companions to eat the halwa together, and then pray to God to allow the clouds to rain on the parched earth.” As Qazi Abdul Hakeem stepped back to the entrance of his house, the dogs began eating the halwa, three dogs to a tray. No dog attacked another dog, or tried to snatch his share. The leader of the dogs did not eat himself, but walked among the group, surveying those eating. Before long, the dogs finished the halwa. Then the old man’s voice was heard, “Kaalu, now ask them to pray to God to soon show us His mercy.” The members of the delegation watched dumbfounded as the dogs lifted their heads to the sky and growled together in a terrible chorus that sent shivers down the spines of those watching. Thereafter, the dogs left the alley in a group as they had come, exiting the alley from its west entrance. The old man himself raised hands in prayers as tears fell from his eyes.
Within moments, those present heard a loud crack of thunder, and billowing rain clouds rose from the westerly direction, filling the sky. The spectators had not yet left the alley, and women and children had not come down from the rooftops, when a heavy downpour began. The delegation returned to Qazi Abdul Hakeem’s house, where they were also treated to the halwa. They expressed gratitude for his assistance, but refused to believe the evidence of their senses, and attributed the event to magic.
The poet Hafeez Jalandhari was staying as a guest at Qazi Abdul Hakeem’s house when the event detailed above happened. He was an eyewitness and wrote about it in the 1971 annual issue of the Sayyara Digest. It has been quoted from the anthology Hairat Kada (2015), edited by Rashid Ashraf.
Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, novelist and translator. He can be reached at www.mafarooqi.com and on Twitter at @microMAF.
This monthly column explores the curious world of the myths and folk tales of South Asia.