By Hazrat Syed Ashraf
March 16, 2016
Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer Sharif established the Chishti Sufi order in the subcontinent and famously said, “Develop river like generosity, sun like bounty and earth like hospitality.” He defined Sufism as a path to maintaining moral excellence, which must be observed towards all creatures in the interest of peace and wellbeing of mankind. This is the message that continues to motivate Indian Sufi communities.
Islam in India spread through the Sufi message of brotherhood, equality and peace. Contrary to popular perceptions, the majority of Indian Muslims are followers of Sufi traditions. These are the silent majority of peace-loving Muslims.
In the early 14th century, during the life of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the great Chishti Sufi Master, Delhi became one of the most important centres of Islamic learning in the world. Radical ideologies have historically been unknown on Indian soil where the Islamic discourse was shaped by the khanqahs (hospices) of the Sufis, dominating the Indian landscape from Kashmir to southern India.
Unfortunately, much has changed in the last few decades, with Islamic theology being distorted to spread extreme radical ideologies through various networks. The reason for hosting the World Sufi Forum (WSF) has risen from the urgent need to counter these radical ideologies. It is the first time that traditional Sufis from various dargahs (Sufi shrine) in India are coming together with national and international Sufis and scholars of Sufism.
Radical outfits such as the ISIS can be defeated not just militarily, but by countering this diseased ideology through counter narratives of Sufism, which contains the essence of classical Islamic teachings.
Terrorism has devastated many countries including Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. India continues to be a victim of terror attacks, and there is genuine fear of Indian youth being misled into becoming part of international terror networks. The Internet is being used to lure innocent young people into radicalisation by poisoning their minds with hatred of the other.
Sufism with its message of universal love has the capacity to change minds and hearts. The history of Sufism in India, and the continuing traditions have something to offer the world. People of all faiths, creed, class and backgrounds visit dargahs. This represents Sufism's true universal message of brotherhood. Traditions at dargahs in India tell the story of the country's composite culture, where many of the customs are indigenous and local in nature.
The WSF is an initiative in presenting the Indian model of Islamic pluralism to the world. It is an effort to bring about awareness of the true peaceful message of Islam that allows for diversity in devotional expressions. The WSF is hosting over 200 Sufis and Sufi scholars, that will be discuss issues facing Muslim communities, with a special focus on how we can together steer away our young people from becoming victims of terrorist propaganda and recruitment.
All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, (AIUMB), the organisers of the WSF, have for many years been engaged in addressing various problems facing Indian Muslims. We are committed to establishing quality educational institutions and easy access to welfare schemes for the minorities by the government. The AIUMB aims to ensure proper representation of Sufi organisations in government bodies like the Waqf Board etc. that have been formed to look after the interests of Indian Muslim communities.
Unfortunately, before the formation of the AIUMB, there has been no umbrella body that includes caretakers and custodians of the dargahs to safeguard the interests of the majority of Indian Muslims, who are devotees of Sufis. On the contrary, bodies that usually claim to speak for Indian Muslims and more known for issuing fatwas with an alarming frequency, actually represent a minority of Indian Muslims.
One has to just visit the famous dargahs like that of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, or other known dargahs in any part of India to realise to which school of thought the majority of Indian Muslims believe in. We are hopeful that we succeed in our endeavours to bring about positive changes and discover new ways of contributing to nation building.
(The World Sufi Forum is being organised by the AIUMB from March 17-20 in New Delhi, India)
Source: The Daily Times, Pakistan
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