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Islam and Spiritualism ( 17 Jan 2012, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Sufism: Path To Peace And Tolerance

By Ahmad Shah Azami

January 18, 2012

This popular form of Islam is more widespread than the hardline and extremist version of Wahabiism, which is followed by today’s Taliban and al Qaeda

A theatre (stage drama) was organised in Peshawar by the Directorate of Culture, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from January 16 to January 18 to commemorate the great Pashto sufi poet, Rahman Baba. The theatre show aimed to give the message of love, peace and tolerance to the youth of the war-torn province, which is already widely debilitated by the extremists. The 17th century legendry mystic poet, Rahman Baba, is one of the most widely respected and read poets of Pashto. It would not be an exaggeration that all Pashtuns are familiar either with the name or poetry of Rahman Baba and have either listened to or read his poetry. It is said that his poetry addresses each and every member of society and everyone finds a relevant message for himself in it. His simple, sweet and heart-touching poetry has endeared Rahman Baba to all Pashtuns. He has always ignored materialism and has given the message of spiritualism and love to all human beings. Some Pashto poets call him the “poet of humanity” as his message is not only for a specific tribe, nation or society but for all human beings. His poetry has been translated into various languages, including English and Urdu. Following is a famous poem of Rahman Baba translated into English that has an inspiring message for humanity:

“Sow flowers so your surroundings become a garden,

Don’t sow thorns; for they will prick your feet,

If you shoot arrows at others,

Know that the same arrow will come back to hit you.

Don’t dig a well in another’s path,

In case you come to the wells edge,

You look at everyone with hungry eyes,

But you will be first to become mere dirt.

Humans are all one body,

Whoever tortures another, wounds himself.”

Sadly on March 5, 2009, militants set up remote control bombs and partially destroyed the shrine of Rahman Baba in Hazar Khawani, Peshawar. Later on, they bombed shrines of other famous sufis not only in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa but also in Punjab and Sindh. Prominent amongst them were the shrines of Data Ganj Bakhsh, Baba Farid and Abdullah Shah Ghazi. Despite all bombings and threats, a large number of people still visit sufi shrines and participate in sufi festivals that shows the love of the people towards the moderate form of Islam as sufis have played a great role to spread the message of love, peace and tolerance in the subcontinent and Central Asia using no swords at all. Their way of preaching and convincing was quite different from the sharp-edged Islam of the Middle East.

From day one, Sufism taught the lesson of peace, reconciliation and humanity and worked for the wellbeing of humanity across the world. Sufis always made it clear that peace can be spread in the world with love and brotherhood and bring close all the people of the world to one another. In this way, they can do away with their internal feuds, greed and conflicts.

Sufism has adopted the path of moderation from day one to attract man towards one’s real self and let one know about the purpose of his creation. This is their way against the feuds to bring all human beings into the chain of love, peace and tolerance.

Looking at the behaviour of the sufis, they kept themselves aloof from wars and taught others the lesson of peace and they can play the same role even today to show the peaceful form of Islam. They can show the world how the sufis kept society together with their message, and how the people having different views and following different religions were living in peace and coherence side by side.

Sufism has become an indispensable part of the culture, music, folklore and architecture of the subcontinent. The tolerant and moderate behaviour of Sufism has endeared its followers vastly to various social groups of the region. This popular form of Islam is more widespread than the hardline and extremist version of Wahabiism, which is followed by today’s Taliban and al Qaeda.

Sufi literature is widely read in the region. On the other hand, sufi shrines are not only holy spots but also cultural and social centres where people from various spheres of life assemble to seek spiritual satisfaction. Most of the people consider attacks on sufi shrines as an organised campaign against the tolerant, moderate and peaceful culture of the region.

Sufism is not addressing an individual, country or religion. Its message is universal, focusing on the whole of humanity. In short, it welcomes and embraces people from all sects and spheres of life. Let me finish with a poetic piece of the mystic poet of the 13th century Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi who says:

“Come, come whoever you are...

Wanderer, idolater or worshipper of fire...

Come even though you have broken your vows a thousand times,

Come and come yet again,

Ours is not a caravan of despair.”

The writer is a Prague-based journalist working with RFE/RL’s Pashto language service Radio Mashaal Prague. He tweets at

Source: Daily Time, Pakistan.