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Islamic Society (03 Mar 2017 NewAgeIslam.Com)

From Mansur Hallaj to Sarmad Shaheed to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Much of Our History Witnessed Sufis’ Bloodshed: The Reason?

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam

03 March 2017

In his recent thought-provoking commentary, the reasons that Haroon Khalid has cited for the rising fear of ISIS from the Sufi shrines like Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, ring true. He writes that, “there is perhaps no other shrine in the country that captures the essence of religious syncretism like the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. In his courtyard, it feels as if the riots of Partition never happened, as if Sindhi Hindus were never forced to abandon their land, as if Christian settlements in Punjab had never been burned after alleged cases of blasphemy. The courtyard of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents a different world, a world that once existed but has slowly disappeared outside its confines. That’s why this courtyard represents such a threat. It defies all narratives, of exclusive nationalism and religious identities. It maybe just a few thousand people but a powerful narrative. The attack is not on the shrine but on this worldview which does not divide humanity into simplistic separate categories”.


This reflection confirms the impressions of many close observers of the sorry state of cultural affairs in Pakistan. But unfortunately, the writer conveniently skipped an ambiguous, clear and candid exposition of the genesis that feeds into the religious violence in Pakistan. It would have been more to the point if he had tried to identify the root-cause stemming from a religio-fascist philosophy wreaking the cultural destruction in the entire Islamic history. Not only now, but for ages, it has been targeting the emblems of pluralism and syncretism—the Sufi shrines like that of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th-century Muslim mystic and poet who founded his Sufi order (Silsila) in Sindh.

It is a common knowledge in history that Sufi mystics were choked to death in almost every age of Islam and in every Muslim country. Pakistan is not an isolated phenomenon. Sufis in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and in various parts of the African Muslim region were persecuted for their alleged ‘deviation’ (Inhiraf) from the ‘puritan’ Islamic beliefs. For instance, in Iraq, the brutal killing of the Persian Sufi mystic and poet, Mansur Hallaj in 922 was justified for his stating "anal Haqq" (I am the truth)—the allegorical and esoteric words that he spelled out in a spiritual state of Fana (salvation). The theological jurists of Baghdad considered this Muslim mystic as a heretic deserving of death penalty.  Another Persian Sufi mystic Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani was executed in 1131 by the mullahs of Suljuks. In 1191, the prominent Sufi luminary Shahab-ud-Deen Suhrawardi, the founder of a new Sufi order, was executed by the then Muslim ruler in Syria. In 1417, one of the greatest Sufi masters of Azerbaijan was skinned alive in Syria itself. In 1718, Sufi Shah Ïnayatullah, who was also an eminent social reformist in Sindh, was executed by the Mughal Emperor Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. Deplorably, this nefarious spade of religious violence rocked the history of the Indian subcontinent also. In India, while Firoz Shah Tughlaq punished the mystic Masood Bakk by a painful death in 1390, Aurangzeb Alamgeer beheaded the Persian Sufi saint of his time, Sarmad Kashani, popularly called “Sarmad Shaheed” (martyr). He had travelled from Persia to find an abode of peace in India in the 17th century.

In most cases, it was the politically well-established theologians and Islamic jurists who sentenced the Sufis to death on the charges (Fatwas) that considered their writings or utterances as heretical. On account of their non-conformist views like the notion of Wahdatul Wajud (unity of existence), these Sufis were declared apostates (Murtad). And this was an out-and-out theological justification to slain the Sufis and vandalize their shrines. Today, the same holds true for the extremist narrative underpinned by Pakistan’s Salafi-Wahhabi preachers who instigate the youth to join the radical Islamist outfits like ISIS and Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Significantly, Pakistan’s close observers believe it is purely an ideological battle, rather than politically motivated slugfest. They aver that extremists are destroying the diverse cultural fabric of the society by terrorizing the mystical strain of Islam—Sufism. For it runs as an effective antidote to the hate-driven Islamist narrative in Pakistan. Thus, the nature of the war on Sufi culture and tradition is more ideological than political. It is not difficult to sense this ideological motive. The reason why the Sufi devotes have been targeted in the bloodthirsty suicide bombing of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine is patently clear. The mystically-inclined, spiritual and inclusivist Sufi traditions in the country practically rebut the exclusivity of the ‘puritanical Islam'.

Last year, a popular Sufi singer (Qawwal) in Pakistan, Amjad Sabri was assassinated by the Talibani religious goons in Karachi. But the TTP which claimed the responsibility for the Sufi singer’s killing was not alone in its justification of the religious terror. Many religious chieftains of the Pakistani society viewed it as an assassination of the ‘Mushrik’ and Bid’ati’ (deviant from Islam). For Qawwali and Sufi music are frowned upon as ‘un-Islamic’ by the Pakistani Islamist groups ideologically inspired by Wahhabism. Therefore, the brutal killing of the innocent Sufi Qawwal went unchallenged. The clerics in Pakistan who accused Sabri of heresy did not regret his death. Neither did they mourn the latest terror attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. While ‘politically correct’ condemnations galore from all hues of Muslim sects including the Wahhabis, there remain those who conveniently put the blame on the terror victims for participating in Dhamal, the “deviant” Sufi dance. Such bigoted and untenable accusations reveal that sectarianism is a profound ideological problem in the society of Pakistan.

Going by the media reports, the attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine was perpetrated by the ISIS which claimed the responsibility for the attack via its affiliated news agency Amaq. Earlier, the Islamic State targeted the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Shah Noorani were more than 100 people were injured in a similar suicide blast. Thus, ISIS' animosity towards the Sufi practitioners is not difficult to see. It appears that after the crackdown on the ISIS self-imposed caliphate in Mousal, Raqqa and other parts of West Asia, the global jihadist empire is switching over to South Asian Muslim countries where the terror outfits like the Taliban, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the ilk already exist to help murder the Sufi devotees.

By slaying Sufis and bombing their shrines, terrorists actually seek to ‘purify’ Islam in a bid to retrieve the ‘purity’ of the ‘Salaf’ (the Muslim predecessors). But in reality, these ‘puritanical’ Islamists are far removed from the Islam mystically experienced by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). His traditions set a classic example of how people of different faiths could peacefully coexist as one nation (Ummah). In his state of Madina, all religious communities lived by an alliance of shared values known as “Mithaq-e-Madina”, the constitution of Medina which had the immutable clauses of religious pluralism, universal brotherhood and peaceful coexistence. But a blatant strike on the egalitarian messages of the Prophet’s tradition is on the rampage in Pakistan and other Muslim countries. All terror outfits— Daesh or ISIS, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab, Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Boko Haram— brazenly breach the foundations of Prophet’s mystical Islam enunciated in Mithaq-e-Madina.

Let alone Muslims, all non-Muslims living in Madina of the Prophet’s times were accorded full protection of life, religious freed and democratic rights. A clause in Misaq-e-Madina was stipulated in these words of Prophet (Hadith): “I shall dispute with any Muslim who oppresses anyone from among the non-Muslims, or infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his capacity or takes something from him against his will." (Reported by Abu Dawood)

The recently attacked Sufi shrine in Pakistan, Dargah Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is equally venerated and visited by Pakistan’s Sufi-oriented Muslim majority and the Hindu minority. Inevitably, not only Muslim devotees, but even a considerable number of non-Muslims were killed in the suicide blast.

Regrettably, it is quite ironic to see the Prophetic ideals being brazenly violated by the puritanical Islamists in Pakistan, given the state was created in the name of Nizam-e-Mustafa (the Prophetic system of governance)with its constitution loudly being claimed to follow the model of Misaq-e-Madina.

A www.newageislam.com  regular columnist, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic Sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islamic-society/ghulam-rasool-dehlvi,-new-age-islam/from-mansur-hallaj-to-sarmad-shaheed-to-lal-shahbaz-qalandar,-much-of-our-history-witnessed-sufis’-bloodshed--the-reason?/d/110272

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  • Naseer Saheb, now what will you say? WIill you please condemn the detention of Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah's Nazim Ali Nizami, and his brother in Pakistan?

    For a decade in Pakistan, many Sufi lovers in Pakistan have been systematically targeted and killed. Pir Rakhel Shah of Fatehpur was attacked. This was followed by a litany of such incidents at Data Darbar in Lahore, Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi, Baba Farid’s dargah in Pakpattan, Sakhi Sarwar in Dera Ghazi Khan, Dargah Ghulam Shah Ghazi in Maari, Baba Nangay Shah's shrine in capital Islamabad and Shah Norani shrine in Khuzdar besides the killing of Sufi singer Amjad Sabri.
    Pakistan admits detaining Indian clerics over suspected movement, India rubbishes claims of 'unauthorised visit'.

    By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi - 3/18/2017 2:04:51 AM

  • Of course Hats Off can talk through his hat. In fact that is about the only thing that he can do!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/17/2017 12:56:55 PM

  • if allah can speak to the sky and earth, why cannot i speak through my hat?
    By hats off! - 3/17/2017 7:34:38 AM

  • Hats Off, 

    You are speaking through your hat now! You say "we are talking about islam being accepted willingly or unwillingly".  The Quran makes no reference to people accepting Islam willingly or unwillingly! When you said “the Holy Qur'an uses the phrase "willingly or unwillingly", which in itself is proof that it is inconsistent”, I was under the impression that you are aware of the verse where the Quran uses this expression. It is clear that you are not and were shooting in the dark or mixing up things. The following is the relevant verse very much connected with physics and the creation of the universe.

     (41:11) Moreover He comprehended in His design the sky, and it had been (as) smoke: He said to it and to the earth: "Come ye together, willingly or unwillingly." They said: "We do come (together), in willing obedience."

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/15/2017 2:23:06 AM

  • Analogizing religion with physics is the pastime of the unthinking!

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/14/2017 1:49:11 PM

  • gravity is a false analogy. for example, gravity is quantifiable and the theory of gravitation is capable of being falsified by experiments. islam is not. no experiment can be designed that will either falsify or confirm "islam". and neither is "islam" capable of being described by mathematical equations. gravty is.

    swimming and or falling off of cliffs is another false analogy. they have absolutely nothing in common with religion to allow its use for analogy. except perhaps for homosexuals in ISIS territory.

    we are talking about islam being accepted willingly or unwillingly.

    if we are talking of islam as a religion that will be followed "willingly or unwillingly", the "unwilling" aspect is totally inconsistent with "to you be your religion and to me my religion".

    does islam fall in the same category as "laws of nature"? absolutely not.

    it falls into the category of a man-made system of beliefs and practices gratuitously attributed to god and god has never bothered to either confirm or deny it to those who have followed it "unwillingly". but perhaps he has bothered to confirm it to those who follow it "willingly" - we do not know.

    of course to those that follow it willingly there are no issues.

    By hats off! - 3/14/2017 6:45:43 AM

  • Hats Off says: "but the Holy Qur'an uses the phrase "willingly or unwillingly", which in itself is proof that it is inconsistent)"

    Can anyone or anything defy gravity? The answer is no. All things therefore obey the laws of nature and there is no will involved in it. When we dive into water for a swim, we willingly use the laws of nature for our enjoyment but if we are pushed off from a cliff and fall to our death or grievous injury, it is unwilling submission to the laws of nature.

    "Moral behaviour" is willing behaviour. We choose how to behave. Only humans are capable of it.

    Instinctive or even learned behaviour which has become as predictable and automatic as instinctive behaviour, has less to do with will. Animal behaviour including much of human behaviour falls in this category.

    What is inconsistent? That part of our behaviour is instinctive and an automatic response to stimuli and part of it based on reasoning and exercise of our will?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/14/2017 12:16:18 AM

  • Hats Off,

    All your arguments are what are called straw man arguments and logically fallacious.

    "A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on giving the impression of refuting an opponent's argument, while refuting an argument that was not advanced by that opponent. One who engages in this fallacy is said to be "attacking a straw man".
    The typical straw man argument creates the illusion of having completely refuted or defeated an opponent's proposition through the covert replacement of it with a different proposition (i.e. "stand up a straw man") and the subsequent refutation of that false argument ("knock down a straw man") instead of the opponent's proposition."

    The often used key words in the Quran are defined by the Quran itself and the meaning that clearly emerges from the Quranic verses has been brought out by me in my articles. Any logically sound disagreement has to be with the help of the Quranic verses alone to show that a different meaning from what I have derived emerges or that a different meaning when given to the word does not end up in contradictions. Take the example of the word kafir. It does not require a genius to understand and accept that when the word is used in the Quran even for the Muslims and for prophet Moses also, and never for all the polytheists or Christians or Jews, it cannot mean disbeliever and certainly not those who are not the followers of Muhammad (pbuh). If one were to give a single meaning to the word as it appears in the Quran, the closest is an "ingrate rebel". The rebellion could be against one's own parents or benefactors (as it applied to Moses) or the accepted norms of civil society (as it applied to those polytheists who violated the status of sanctuary that Mecca/Kaba enjoyed in that society and drove the Muslims out or attacked and killed them). A believer/Muslim is a kafir if he rebels against God, His commands and His laws. You therefore have prophet Yaqub admonishing his sons about adopting wrong behaviour and becoming one among the kafir or the Quran after every verse of guidance warning that the kafirin shall be severely punished. In these verses it simply means that straying after having been guided is kufr and those who willfully stray are the kafirin who will be severely punished. The Quran therefore uses this word more often for the believers who stray rather than for the "non-believers". For the "non-believers", the Quran always refers to the kafaru among them making it clear that not all of them are kafaru. The kufr is also made clear such as religious persecution in its various forms practiced by the polytheists on the Muslims.

    The meaning of kafir to mean all those who are not the followers of Muhammad (pbuh) as it emerged over the centuries in Islamic theology has also been discussed in my article. I do not deny what kafir means in Islamic theology today which is what the dictionary will say, but I have pointed out with clear evidence that this is not the meaning of the word in the Quran.

    Looking at every religion and its development/ transformation over the centuries, it is not surprising that Islamic theology has deviated from the Quran and since it is the scholars who contribute to the deviations, their works are at variance with what I write. Now you can follow the Mullahs like the uneducated masses or consider seriously what I have said and support it. Your objective however, is to malign Islam and since what I write makes it difficult for you to attack Islam, you conveniently fall back on the Mullahs because that suits your agenda to malign Islam. 

    Your arguments about the instinctive pro-social behaviour of animals and of their limited capacity for learned behaviour, has been discussed in my articles to distinguish it from the "moral" behaviour of humans. 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2017 11:59:30 PM

  • let me try one more time.

    "faith" and "belief" are beyond the scope of logic. essentially beliefs, by definition are defined as assertions that are held to be true without either proof or evidence. "god", "divinity", "miracles" and "word of god" fall into this category. the word "creator" on the other hand does not fall into this category.

    and all attempts that are made to prove points of faith and belief through logic and the scientific method, are fundamentally flawed and fallacious because they are based on premises which cannot be proved. because if they are "true", they need not be "believed", as they are proved.

    so all of your "arguments" are invalid and hence un-maintainable in any debate.

    examples are:
    your attempts at proving "divinity" of scriptures through null hypothesis. (divinity cannot be defined. neither is it falsifiable.)

    attempting to discredit dictionary meanings of words (kafir) used in any given text. (dictionaries are the sole arbitrators in case of meanings of words in question)

    your attempts to prove that morals are derived from religious scriptures.
    (moral behavior has been well documented among animals. it is widely held that animals do not have a religion or scriptures. but the Holy Qur'an uses the phrase "willingly or unwillingly", which in itself is proof that it is inconsistent)

    By hats off! - 3/13/2017 7:07:49 AM

  • The logical validity of an argument is a function of its internal consistency, not the truth value of its premises. An argument can therefore be logically infallible even if based on a false premise. The error in such a situation is not a logical fallacy but is weak on the facts considered.

    In an argument, therefore, one can either show the premise on which the conclusion is based to be not true on facts (factual error) or show that the conclusion drawn does not necessarily follow from the premise. This would be the case when the facts considered are either insufficient or irrelevant to the conclusion drawn even if the facts considered are deemed to be true.

     An argument can be found fault with on facts or logic or both. One would very simply say “Your argument is based on false premises” or “The conclusions that you have drawn do not necessarily follow from your premises” or “Your argument is false on its premises and the conclusion that you have drawn is logically invalid even if the premises on which you have based it were true”.

    I am afraid that even the revised statement "logical fallacies can be pointed out to defeat faulty syllogism" is meaningless. A logical fallacy is simply the drawing of illogical conclusions (even when the premises are considered true).  A false syllogism on the other hand maybe logically infallible but based on a false premise. It is based on a falsehood. Logic is a very precise subject and it is best to avoid muddle headed thinking while discussing the subject.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/13/2017 12:18:37 AM

  • yes. a completely meaningless and stupid sentence by me.

    "logical fallacies can be pointed out to defeat faulty syllogism"

    i don't know how i let that slip.

    my bad!

    By hats off! - 3/12/2017 5:30:31 AM

  • Hats Off says "logical fallacies can be brought in defense of syllogisms"

    A completely meaningless sentence! What else can be expected from an empty headed Hats Off ? 

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/11/2017 10:17:31 PM

  • mr. naseer ahmed has repeatedly been proven wrong.

    he simply does not accept the arabic dictionary and would write his own. even then he thinks that that just because he will not accept the result of a debate's outcome, he is right.

    its tortoises all the way down.

    by that definition polytheism, idol worship, sun worship and dung beetle worship are also right. they win by not accepting any result of a debate. his position is exactly the same.

    not because they have been disproven, but because they do not accept the outcome of a debate. logical fallacies can be brought in defense of syllogisms. but he persists in using them to support his "faith" or "belief" which by definition do not require an argument at all. but he still manufactures them. beliefs are beliefs are beliefs. no proof needed.

    in other words, faith and belief are beyond logical arguments. but unless he misuses the principles of logic, his "argument" for his faith or belief can never be supported - but they need not be supported - as they are his "beliefs".

    writing articles is not proof of anything except that he has written them. but that they have been largely ignored is proof of "something". probably their being irrelevant or indefensible.

    fanboys of james joyce's "ulysses" have claimed that even if all texts in this world except ulysses were to disappear they can all be reconstructed or inferred from the text of ulysses. this assertion can never be proved. but that does not stop them just as arguments of mr. nasser ahmed can never be proved.

    his argument is similar. no proof but repeated assertions.

    especially since he confounds logic with faith. his market reaserach in search of a god has been proved wrong. just as his definition of kafir. just as his "morality-from-religion" has been proved wrong. but to one who will not accept proofs, logic is immaterial. he need not bother with logic.

    but to him, refusal of defeat is victory. you cannot argue with that. 

    By hats off! - 3/11/2017 7:01:51 AM

  • When Hats Off asks a question whom does he expect to respond? al-tabari? ibn ishaq? al-jalalayn? al-misri?
    The proof of what I say is in my articles and comments where I have covered every subject according to the Quran without resorting to anything outside of the Quran.
    Have al-tabari, ibn ishaq, al-jalalayn, al-misri done that? No, they haven't. They all belong to the post Ahadith school and depend on the ahadith to interpret the Quran.
    To argue that somebody must be right because he is widely accepted as an authority and to consider someone wrong because he is not considered an authority is logically fallacious especially when someone has written extensively on the subject and has not been proved to be wrong inspite of taking positions that are strikingly different from those who are considered to be an authority.
    To take Hats Off rhetoric to its logical conclusion, who is he to question the Quran on anything or to assert his own view of it?

    By Naseer Ahmed - 3/10/2017 1:51:12 AM

  • Hats Off,

    Does waging a war of hate against progressive Muslims make you a "big boy"? Isn't your insinuation that a religion must have all questions resolved somewhat dumb?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 3/9/2017 12:45:14 PM

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