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Islam and Politics ( 9 Feb 2021, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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The Politicisation Of Indian Sufism: What Has Created A Void Which Is Being Exploited By Radical Islamists?

New Age Islam Special Correspondent

10 February 2021


Ajmer Dargah


Syed Sarwar Chishti, one of the Khuddam (custodians) at Ajmer Dargah who earlier backed the PFI has announced a new organization called “Sufi Ittehad-e-Millat Tanzeem” in a press conference held at Hotel Riverview situated near the headquarters of Jama’at-e-Islami Hind in Abul Fazal Enclave in Jamia Nagar, Okhla, New Delhi.

The banner of the conference carried a couplet by Allama Iqbal which reads: Nikal Kar Khanqahon Se Adaa Kar Rasm-e-Shabbiri (Come out of the Sufi shrines and serve the purpose of Imam Hussain r.a.).

At the very outset, Syed Sarwar stated: Dargahon aur Khanqahon ke log jo khamosh hain, hum unke sakht khilaf hain. Humen to Constitution ke liye bolna chahiye…. (we are strictly against those Sufi custodians who are silent. We must speak out for the Constitution). The newly launched ‘Sufi Ittehad-e-Millat Tanzeem”, the press release states, is aimed to ‘dispel the wrong notion that Sufis and Shrines are supporting the agenda of the present government’.

In an oblique reference to All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council which recently met the National Security Advisor and announced its support to the government on counter-radicalisation, Syed Sarwar said:

“We want to make it clear that Sajjadanashins and Sufis are not ‘agent and supporters’ of the government and there may be some black ships among our ranks but we are not a supporter of any political or the government”.

The new Sufi outfit claims to have as many as 25 prominent Sajjadanashins from across the country who have reportedly participated in the launching event of the Tanzeem. But the launching event and its location and agenda reek of it being backed by the Jama’at-e-Islami and Popular Front of India which itself doesn’t believe in Sufism. In fact, Jama’at-e-Islami ideologues have levelled scathing criticism on Sufi beliefs and practices and have published books like “Wahdat-ul-Wajud: Ek Ghair Islami Nazariya” (Wahdatul Wajud is an un-Islamic doctrine).

The tone and tenor that Syed Sarwar and other speakers in the launching event have used also reinforce the above apprehension about the Tanzeeem. While they allege that a fake narrative of nationalism is being created to suppress minorities, Dalits, tribal and weaker sections of the society, they also spew venom against their own fellow Sufis who think otherwise or have different views. The people involved in organising this press conference and establishing this new Sufi outfit called “Sufi Ittehad-e-Millat” should also be asked whether they agree with Syed Sarwar Chishti’s support to the Popular Front of India.

Legal Advisor of the Tanzeem, Mahmood Paracha also spoke at the launching event. He said: “The ‘Manuvādi’ mentality only fears the Constitution which gives equality before law to every citizen of this country…..Sufis have taken a good step to save the constitution”. The Tanzeem’s aim is to “foster and promote communal harmony as it is under serious strains due to nefarious activities of the communal and fascist forces”, Mahmood Pracha said. He also alleged that the Delhi Police tried to scuttle the Press meet at the behest of other Sufis who are ‘siding with the government’ and have formed their organization All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC).

In this whole new development of the two warring factions of Sufi custodians and claimants of the true Sufism, there is something more interesting to note: Wahhabism under the grab of Neo-Sufism has made deep inroads in some of the prominent Indian Dargahs including the Ajmer Sharif, which has created new challenges for the security establishment of the country. Although these neo-Sufis have few followers, and are still not supported by the mainstream Sufi custodians, the way they are supporting radical Islamist organisations like the PFI and are manipulating the enabling environment for fanatic indoctrination is deplorably worrisome. Given the fragile situation in the country which makes it easy for the youth to get swayed by extremist preachers and radical ideologues, it is a distressing development, especially in the context of Sufism which has been constantly in decline in India.

Despite such a long and impactful journey, Indian Sufism and its essence has come down to a standstill losing its relevance each passing day. There are many key reasons for the decline or increasing irrelevance one can think of, however, a few important reasons can be highlighted, which may stimulate an intellectual debate and an honest introspection among those who identify themselves with Sufism in any way.

There is an increasing deficit of genuineness and integrity for the cause of Sufism and its true message—Wahdatul Wajud—that has created a void which is being exploited by radical Islamic organisations like the PFI and Jama’at-e-Islam at a gradual level. The other most important factor behind the decline in the spirit of Sufism in India is the Commercialisation which has resulted into the ‘Wahhabisation of Sufism’. This can be considered as the backbone of all evils in under the grab of Sufism today.

Over the years, increasing commercialisation within and in surrounding areas of Sufi Shrines have led to the significant decline in Sufism and made it more symbolic than a source of real peace and genuine pluralism. One can imagine of these shrines once extremely isolated and far away from the milling crowd so that meditation and spiritual living can be conducted in peace. Today, most of the shrines are little more than money spinning projects selling merchandise and occult services catering to illiterate or semi-literate patrons who have no genuine spiritual quest.

Last but not the least is the issue of encroachments in the lands of Sufi Shrines and Dargahs which are actually the Waqf properties. Most of the Dargahs today are surrounded by filthy encroachments encouraged by commercial interests of various stakeholders. This in a way has made the entry passages not only difficult but impossible to access without any purchase of merchandise. This must be looked in the contexts of life and teachings of Sufi Saints which were devoid of all these vested commercial interests.


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