By Amjad Nazeer
Taliban’s brand of regimental Wahabyist Islam is actually attacking religious diversity and peaceful coexistence – a centuries old tradition of the land – is now shirk to them. Unable to impose their narrowest-prejudiced doctrine, they employ fear to scare away devotees from well visited Shrines.
Seven days and nights of devotional dance and music with ecstatic manifestations of divine love and corporal pleasure go on and on there. Plenty of food and opportunities for self-replenishment emancipate every visitor from day to day drudgery and mundane problems. Ordinary amusement and loftier state of spirituality work there together. This is what the enemies of love, pleasure and spiritual aggrandizement hate and blow up every now and then here and there.
Suicidal blasts at the castle-like shrine of Syyed Ahmad Sakhi Sarwar was a personal shock to me for all my boyhood, I would visit the shrine almost every year. Come spring and the caravans would be ready to go. Hearing the news of a suicidal attack killing dozens of the zaireen a couple of weeks ago, I felt myself maimed and crippled in the pool of blood with half a nation dead or injured around me. I am sure millions of devotees feel the same when Abdullah Shah Ghazi, Data Ganj Bux or Rehman Baba is attacked. At least five shrines were attacked in 2010 alone; such is the state of terrorist madness and frenzy.
Sufi Shrines, the sacred temples of music and poetry are the soul of South Asian Islam with a prime distinction of Pakistan. Storming them is to rip apart the jugular streak of Pakistan’s popular culture. Taliban’s brand of regimental Wahabyist Islam is actually attacking religious diversity and peaceful coexistence – a centuries old tradition of the land – is now shirk to them. Unable to impose their narrowest-prejudiced doctrine, they employ fear to scare away devotees from well visited Shrines.
Not confined to Taliban, power-hungry religious elites, failing to understand the higher ethics of Sufia, also declare every act of compassion and empathy as kufror shirk. Their aim is to uphold an exclusivist hard-line puritan form of Islam, for it serves their financial and political ends better. Perched on television screens this is what most of them keep conveying for hours and hours. Many of whom have their blessings from establishment. Eloquent in style and deceptive in language, they have little to say more than often. Better put in Nietzsche’s words, “they (read priests and maulvis) muddy the water, to make it seem deeper”.
Their brand of Islam, the fact is, is quite contrary to the teachings of love, peace and humanity conveyed to people from Baba Fareed to Khuaja Fareed – a stream of thought eight-hundred years old. So much so, that Hindus, Muslims and Jews have been sharing their shrines in the subcontinent. Bulhe Sha refuses to identify himself save in congregation with the followers of every other faith. Under the circumstance, liberating Islam from the manacles of power-driven mullahs is a must, if we want to retrieve peace in Pakistan. Resisting establishment and orthodox version of Islam was one of the missions of Sufia all through history.
Tracing its’ origin from Holy Quran and the life and practices of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) Sufi saints endorse multiple means of communion with God. Others contend, labelling it as shirk and bidda’at - an unorthodox innovation. Whatever theological quandaries, one thing is sure that Sufis, opposed to the proponents of hard-line Islam, spread the word of humanity and wisdom without an iota of political motives in their minds. Where did they go, their charismatic personalities enchanted the hearts and wits of people more than the divisive clergy. Unity of faith, humanity and purity of soul was their message they carried out from Baghdad to Multan and Istanbul to Jakarta. Nowhere did they succumb to the wrath and fury of Sultans or to the influence of courtier mullahs.
In the present day Pakistan, most of the eminent ulema, except Tahir-ul-Qadri, deny the space for Sufi Islam in Pakistan. To Ahmed Javed, it is tantamount to insult our profound traditions. Maulana Maudoodi and Dr. Israr Ahmed term it bidda’at. Untraceable it is to Javed Ghamdi, from the sacred sources of Islam. Even Ashfaq Ahmed, Mumtaz Mufit and Qudratullah Shahab, popularly known as modern Sufis, are at times observed (with immense regard to their fame and incredible art of storytelling) stifling true message of Sufism following state-driven agenda.
Despite eulogizing Jalal-u-din Rumi as his peer-o-murshid Iqbal too has his reservations about Sufism, though he acknowledges them holding intuitive knowledge and access to certain realities and truth. In his ‘Reconstruction...’, he does recognize tassuwaf occupying the best of our minds, but remains critical of its passive and impractical dimensions. I personally think that sulh-e-kul (peace with all) is very much a Sufi activism; much required a force for the polarised polity of Pakistan today. Its’ historical influence and public appeal cannot be denied, for unlike mainstream ulema and militant organizations, it brings people closer irrespective of their caste, creed and classes.
Sufis expose mullahs’ hypocrisies and greed for power in the most artful manners. “If you fail to find salvation in here, so will you in the afterlife too, for salvation lies in a true life of love and peace” tells Kabeer to mullahs and pundits. “Worthless are mullahs, in the words of Khuaja Fareed, for they know nothing about the ways of God”. In his famous Kafi ‘Parh parh ilm hazar kitaban’ Bulha exposes mullah’s ignorance, who “keeps rubbing his head against masques, but fails to look into his own heart; he fights with devil but fails to defeat his ego; keeps soaring to the skies but fails to look into his own heart”. At another place he places even, “dogs as superior to mullahs who too keep waking in the nights like him, for they are sincere in their love to their master”. “Mullah is like a torch bearer, he further says, “giving light to others, himself living in darkness”.
Wahdat-al-wajood (unity of existence) is the heart of Sufi teachings. “Tell me not, who is God” says Kabeer, for He is the breath of my breaths”. To Rumi, parting from God is original cause of man’s sufferings, that he explains with the metaphor of ‘flute and bamboo’ in the prelude to his Masnavi. Junaid Baghdadi and Rabia Basri define Sufism as man’s ‘selfless devotion to God’ and to Ibn-ul Arbi, ‘tassauwaf is the code of heart’. “Why bow and bow in the mosques and trudge to Makka, if God lives there then who lives everywhere”, questions Das Kabeer. Rab (God) resides neither in Teerath nor in Makka for He lives in human heart,”asserts Bulha and boldly declares:
“Bhatt namazan, chikar rozey, kalmey phiri sayahi; Bulhe Shah rab andron milya, bhulli phirey lookai”
“I regard not the outside and the words, I regard inside and the state of hearts, I look at the heart if it be humble....Because the heart is the substance and the words are but accident,” (Rumi).
“What you seek is seeking you,” (Rumi).
“Listen riffraff!...Do you want to be all...Then go, go and become nothing”. (Al-Iraqi)
“The source of my suffering and loneliness is deep in my heart, this is disease no tabeeb can cure, only union with the friend (the God) can (Rabia Basri).
Everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart (Rabia Basri).
“Go and fall in love, if you want to find God, tells Jami in the words of a Sufi. “Behold my friend, warns Kabeer, there are few who find the ways of God for his are the variant ways to appear”. Lifting off from the confines of one’s menial self, Sufi strives for union with the almighty Allah, often through jazb-o-halool i.e. absorbing in the soul of their spiritual master – the murshid.
Wailing the separation and yearning to become again one with God is the fulcrum of Baba Freed’s poetry. Corporal hijr-o-wisal, milap-o-firaq even nuptial merriments are beloved imageries of all Sufi poets. Theirs is the art where, extra-ordinary becomes ordinary and ordinary attains extra-ordinary. Images and allegories of artisans, peasants and chores of housewives are employed to reveal divine mysteries, something un-imaginable in Urdu poetry. To Sachal Sarmast, Bulha Shah and Shah Hussain looking at mheboob’s face is more spiritual than visiting Kaba. The worldly love of Laila-Majnoon, Sassi-Punhun and Heer-Ranjha are favourite metaphors of divine love to Shah Lateef and says Khauja Fareed:
“Loakan akhya majnoon koon tedi laila rang di kali; Majonon ey jawab dita, tausakoon akh naheen dekhan wali;
Chittey harf Quran dey atey syahi rang di kali; Ghulam faridda jithan dil arr wanjey o gorey hovey ya kali”. (Khuaja Fareed).
Most importantly Sufis place women and femininity, expelled from orthodox Islam, at the heart of their creed. Garbed in the robes of a natch girl, Bulha shah feels honoured to please his crossed murshid. Besides embracing all faiths and fallen men, Sufis embrace heterosexuals and transsexuals too with equal dignity and grace. The pretty looks of a Hindu boy infatuating Shah Hussain’s divine poetry, is known to all. Blessed is every human soul, they profess. Differentiating devout from the sinful is but the God’s vocation. Even an atheist could be as much spiritual as a theist.
Sufis believe in universal worship as God is unity in diversity and diversity in Unity. In the proverbial Sufi sayings: “Searching for God with reason or logic, as our learned ulema try to do, is like searching the Sun with a lamp”. They believe, “the knowledge of God never ends and ‘the path’ looses its significance with the arrival of destination. Hence, Fighting over the path is foolish”. “If man is completely present where he is and what he does, does with sincerity, God Himself finds Him”. “Man’s heart holds God as our eyes hold the sky”. “Every man dies but not everyman truly lives”. “One needs to be hard on oneself but easy on others”. So on and so forth.
Music draws Sufis to the divine. Harmonies of tabala and tanboora set their souls off to the rhythms of universe; whirls and verses are but the vehicle for a divine flight. Winds and waters, silence and sounds are no less than captivating rhymes played on the orchestra of nature. Listening to the rhythmic strikes of metal workers Rumi would pass into trance right in the marketplace. His beloved was a goldsmith, the one who persuaded him to compose his Masnavi - the crown of mysticism. Verity of classical rags, tabla and most importantly qawwali was invented by Amir Khusro in love of his murshid Nizamuddin Aulya. Rag Multani was invented by Baha-u-ddine Zakrya Multani.
A shepherded of Balochistan singing hymns to God was asked, where did he learn it from? “From the streams and mountains of Balochistan, from God Himself”, he replied. Faqirs meet God through the tunes of Iktara, Shehnai and Sarangi. Mast Tawwakli wrote all his poetry in the mountains of Kohlu, never touching the woman of his dreams, for she was just a metaphor of his divine love.
The fountainheads of spirituality that shrines are, also serve as social-and-economic complexes, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless through sustained charity. Sufism surviving through Sufi shrines holds the power to drive Taliban back. Attacking Sufi shrines is to attack the soul of Pakistan.