By Shambhu Boro
November 21, 2016
“The Hindus recreated the ancient love and devotion of ancient heritage for building a harmonious relationship with the invader Muslims. In Assam, both Hindu and Muslims tried to integrate Vaishnavism and Sufism, whereas in Bengal some Muslims dreamt to amalgamate the culture of both the religions. The question of conflict between the Hindus and the Muslims during the medieval period is not true. The Vaishnavite culture seldom mentioned Islam as a religion, but they considered it as a class like Brahmin or Kayastha.”
This was observed by noted poet and litterateur Professor M Kamaluddin Ahmed of Department of Assamese, Gauhati University, while taking part in an oration programme organised by Tezpur University recently at its Council Hall.
Delivering his lecture on ‘Srimanta Sankaradeva and Asomiya Musalman’, he further stated that liberal and broadminded Sufis never tried to convert people of other religions forcefully. As a reformer saint, Sankaradeva also never forced the Saktas to follow his ideology.
He thought that the best way of reforming the religious life of people was not to attack what was evil, but to present in front of them what was good. Sufism could attract the people of the lower castes. Similarly, the new Vaishnavism of Sankaradeva could influence the common people of Assam, he said.
Talking about how the Assamese Muslims’ contribution towards the good cause of the greater Assamese nation was influenced by Sankaradeva’s liberalism, Professor Ahmed in his discourse mentioned that the ‘guru’ is one who gives birth in the heart of his pupils the spark of ‘Virah’. Sankaradeva also mentioned the importance of a ‘guru’ in the first chapter of his book Bhakti Ratnakar.
“There is a critical contact between the ‘Param Brahma’ mentioned in Sankaradeva’s Vaishnavism and Islam as both the terms reflect a complex meaning and relationship between both the religions,” he said adding that in the Sufi literature ‘Virah’ had an important place.
The ‘Virah’ between the devotees and the God focused through the separation of lovers. Similarly, Sankaradeva too mentioned about ‘Virah’ in his Bargeets. The interaction between Islam and Vaishnavism (Bhakti) in Assam helped the growth of a deeper sense of mutual respect and tolerance in the minds of their adherents.
Sankaradeva was taken as ‘guru’ by several noted Muslims. The impact of this harmonious relation between Islam and Vaishnava Bhakti pervaded all aspects of moral, social, art and material culture of the people.
The Zikir and Zaris were composed by Muslim Pirs and Auliya, but several of them have also exalted the glory of Sankaradeva and Madhavadeva and Bhakti, and such relationship between Hindus and Muslims in Assam led to the germination of deep-rooted secular, liberal and tolerant outlook and attitude towards the society.
When the whole country had faced communal violence, Assam remained peaceful. When communal bitterness was increasing in the mainland, Hindus and Muslims could assemble in the courtyard of a Naamghar or a mosque to express their disapproval of any hostility among the people in Assam, he said.
Even today, Zikr produces similar devotion to Sankaradeva as well as to Islam and reminds the people of their unity. The finest example of cultural miscegenation in this north-eastern corner of India could become possible due to the remarkable spirit of toleration, understanding and accommodation which still persist despite being under tremendous stress, the professor added.
Giving a picture of the social bonding among Hindus and Muslims, he also said that in the rural Assamese society, social activities like marriage in both the communities of Hindu and Muslim bear the same Assamese tradition.
The oration programme was conducted by Chair Professor of Sankaradeva Chair, Professor Ranjit Kumar Deva Goswami and graced by a host of dignitaries of the university.