New Age Islam
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Islamic Society ( 1 May 2017, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Sufism Is the Very Kernel of Islam

By Sumit Paul

Feb 21, 2017

The recent bombing by an IS supporter of the renowned Sufi shrine Sehwan Sharif in Pakistan, killing 72 innocent people and injuring 150, is a sign that Sufi Islam is increasingly at the receiving end of religious fundamentalism. The rigid and puritanical Sunni Islam never approved of Sufism because the former finds the latter to be closer to Vedantic and Upanishadic thought (refer to John Baldock's 'Essence of Rumi'). But to quote the English scholar of Arabic and Quranic studies, Hamilton Gibb, “Thanks to Sufism, Islam is still alive.”

The so-called heretics and apostates -- Murtad and Munkir-e-Zaat in Arabic -- perpetuated the pristine essence of Islam and Upanishadic teachings of Hinduism. Sufism is where the most sublime manifestation of Islam finds its foothold.

‘Mee Namaz-O-Masjid Un-Al-Ustawaar/ Nee Shua'ast  Roza Yaghzaar / Dil-Makeen Aiqane-Khuda / Unsiyat Al-Munzir Har Soo Kahzaar’.

(I've gone beyond Namaz, / Five-time Islamic prayers, and mosque / I don't even give importance to Roza, Islamic fast / My heart is a home to God / I just know how to spread love in all directions).

Hakim Sanai's Pahalavi quatrain illustrates Sufiana love.

(Contrary to the general view that Central Asian mystics like Rumi, Hafiz Shirazi, Attar, Sanai, Khaqani, Jami among others wrote in Persian, they penned their mystic verses either in archaic Persian, Pahalavi, or in Dari, the Afghan variant of Persian). The completely non-ritualistic Sufism has been at loggerheads with organised Islam right from its inception 1,400 years ago in the Arab peninsula.

Persian mystic Mansoor-Al-Hallaj was excoriated in the 10th century for his Upanishadic proclamation: ‘An-al-Haq’ – similar to the Sanskrit ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ (I am God/ the Absolute / Infinite Reality). Even Jalaluddin Rumi unwittingly invited the ire of fundamentalists of his time and his putative master Attar was called a 'Zahmeen' (Persian for a rabid atheist and enemy of God)!

'All are in my embrace /Regardless of country, religion and race' said Hafiz Shirazi nearly a millennium ago. Sufism doesn't prescribe a fixed pattern of worship. It's not even rigidly and unyieldingly monotheistic, the fundamental parameter of being a Muslim. Many Sufis never went for Haj (Islamic pilgrimage). Fariduddin Attar, the first atheistic Sufi, wrote, 'Polytheists, monotheists, atheists, fire and idol worshippers, all are in my fold / The only condition is to have a heart of gold'.

Though Sufis belonged to an inexorably rigid monotheistic religion, Islam, like the other two desert Semitic faiths, namely Christianity and Judaism, Islamic Sufism borrowed heavily from Eastern religions like Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Sufis were moved by Upanishadic exuberance and expansiveness. They were also influenced by early monotheistic Hinduism. When Jami says that 'Choon nist viqarat / Toha bin zikarat ' -- Don't fight / All could be right – one is reminded of the Syadvaada or Anekantvaada (pluralism) of Jainism.

When Khaqani says, 'Tareefat atavim', Buddha's 'Compassion is the key' comes to mind. This syncretism of Sufism is its kernel and herein lies its universal appeal which hard core Islam finds to be incongruous with its illiberal interpretation of Islam and Quranic teachings. It's time, that the message of Sufism got disseminated everywhere and fundamentalists understood the universality of Sufi teachings and their all-encompassing love.

Just because early Hinduism cast a positive shadow over Sufism, the latter must not be on the radar of Islamic fundamentalism. To quote Rabindranath Tagore,   “The world needs a mystic's universal and inclusive love, not the exclusive love of a faithful.”