The Sufi bond

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 October 2012 | Posted in , , ,

By Mehakdeep Grewal

Sufism is one of the common threads tying the cultures of India and Pakistan. Carrying forward this special bond are Pakistan’s classical musician brothers, Wahdat Rameez, a vocalist, and Husnain Javed, who plays the harmonium, who would be touring India this October.

As they get set to perform for Amritsar’s International Sufi Music Festival on October 20, being organised by the government of Punjab, Wahdat, 20, and Husnain, 26, inform that they would also be performing at Jalandhar’s Punjab Press Club and Lovely Professional University later. Having been touring India since 2005, the two have previously performed at Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Chandigarh, Ajmer and Amritsar, apart from some European and Middle Eastern countries.

Hailing from Pakpattan in Pakistan, a city known for its Sufi connection, Wahdat and Husnain say their inspiration in music came from their father. Wahdat shares, “My father, Dr Niaz, is the pivot of my musical career, for he was the one who taught me real music when I was a child. The concepts of sur and taal were given to us by him.” He adds that he had been trained in classical music under legendary musician Ustad Ghulam Hassan Shaggan, who belongs to the Gwalior gharana, and renowned musician Ustad Badar-ur-Zaman.

Having embarked upon a professional career from Sufi music, Wahdat says he is a passionate Sufi singer. “I prefer singing the tunes of legends such as Hazrat Baba Fareed, Shah Hussain, Baba Bulleh Shah and Hazrat Waris Shah,” shares he. Meanwhile, Javed adds, “My grooming in the world of music was done by my teacher, Toheed Ahmed, who holds a masters’ degree in music and who taught me to play the harmonium. It was Sufi music and ghazal singing that attracted us subsequently.”

Wahdat is presently enrolled in Punjab College in Lahore, and Javed is doing his PhD in business management from Punjab University, Lahore. On how Sufi music is perceived by people in Pakistan, Javed adds, “Till date, Sufi music is the most loved genre in Pakistan. It is defined as the music for the soul of Muslim mystics.”

The Sufi brothers are excited to be performing in India again. Wahdat quips, “Every time we have performed here, the response of the audiences has been overwhelming. They say music knows no boundaries, and so have we felt it every time we performed here.”

The brothers would soon be heard in an untitled Pakistani movie, and exclaimed their wish to collaborate with the Wadali Brothers in the future.

(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

First joint namaz in Assam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 November 2011 | Posted in , , , ,

Mixed reactions to prayers at Ajan Peer Dargah

By Wasim Rahman

Xaraguri Chapori (Sivasagar): Assam witnessed history being scripted when women offered asor (late afternoon namaz) along with men under a single imam at the mosque of Ajan Peer Dargah in Sivasagar district today.

Ten women and 40 men offered namaz at the dargah, which is located at the confluence of the Brahmaputra and the Dikhow, 35km southwest of Sivasagar town. The women offered namaz inside the mosque while the men stood under a shamiana outside the mosque.

The development assumes significance as this is the first time in the state that men and women have offered namaz together at the dargah of a saint who tried to infuse communal harmony about 400 years ago.

Ajan Peer, born Shah Miran but popularly known as Ajan Fakir, had come to Assam from Baghdad.

He had composed jikir and zari songs in folk form in Assamese to teach indigenous Muslims the tenets of Islam and create harmony among people.

Ajan Peer Dargah
Imam Maulana Kari Abdul Hamid, the imam of Station Chariali, Sivasagar, was especially invited to conduct the first joint namaz organised by the management committee of the dargah following a request by Governor J.B. Patnaik.

Wahida Islam, an associate professor of Amguri College, Sivasagar, who offered namaz at the dargah, told The Telegraph that it was a memorable experience. She thanked the governor for taking the initiative and hoped the other mosques would follow suit.

“In Islam there is no prohibition on women offering namaz at mosques with men but it has to be segregated like it is done during Haj in Mecca,” she said, adding that the step was positive but might take some time to be fully accepted.

Fazal Ali Hazarika, a lawyer of Sivasagar Bar, who was among the men who offered namaz, said it was a positive step but the matter should be discussed among the community leaders and then started at other mosques according to Shariat guidelines. He said under special circumstances, women were allowed to offer namaz jointly with men under the Shariat.

The governor said offering namaz at the dargah of the great saint was a wonderful experience for him. “I will always remember this,” Patnaik said.

He said he had consulted Islamic scholars and as religion does not bar women from offering namaz in mosques, he took the lead. His wife, Jayanti Patnaik, said she was glad to be part of the historic moment.

The prayers evoked a mixed response among leaders of the faith. Some said this was prevalent in the time of the Prophet, others said hijab was needed to maintain decency in such prayers while a few labelled such an arrangement a tamasha (gimmick).

Salman Khurshid, the Union minister for minority affairs, said, “This (joint namaz) happens in Mecca, too, during Haj. In certain mosques in Kerala, women offer namaz, separated from the men only by a screen. It is for the local communities to decide and no one can dictate terms to them. We should respect the local decision. In Islam, men and women are equal. We have to keep in mind the hijab (protection of decency) even when in prayer together.”

Alhaz Syed Maulana Ahmed Kabir, a sadar qazi (Islamic scholar) of Sivasagar, said women were neither prohibited nor discouraged from offering namaz jointly with men under the religion.

He said the development was positive and could be allowed in other mosques if all the procedures were followed with abru (proper dress code in accordance with Islam) and if a partition was arranged inside the campus of a mosque.

Nekibuddin Ahmed, a young radio jikir singer, said such practices should be followed if religious scholars allowed it after discussion.

However, the khadim (religious caretaker) of the dargah, Sheikh Jakir Rahman, said according to his knowledge, women should not offer namaz jointly with men under the leadership of one imam.

The president of the management committee of the dargah, Zakirul Hussain, said going by today’s historic namaz, the committee would consider constructing a room adjacent to the mosque for women devotees to offer prayers simultaneously with men.

Parveen Abidi, who heads the All-India Muslim Women’s Personal Law Board, said, “Islam allows no discrimination between men and women. The cultural reason women don’t offer namaz in mosques is that they work at home. During Haj and even during Id, in some mosques women offer namaz in the same courtyard as men with a separation.”

Hazrat Maulana Syed Nizamuddin, secretary general of the All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, said, “According to the Quran, it is not obligatory for a Muslim woman to offer namaz in a mosque. Women have to do many household chores and raise children, which makes it impractical for them to attend namaz in mosques. They can offer namaz there only if there is a special arrangement for them to stand behind the rest of the jamaat. It is impractical to make such special arrangements in every mosque. Those who do it usually do it for tamasha (show).”

Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Kichowchhwi, general secretary of All-India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (a confederation of Sufi sects), said, “Common worship is allowed only in Mecca, with a separation for women and men. Even if common namaz happens anywhere, it can only be allowed with a separation.”

Mufti Abul Qasim Nomani, vice-chancellor, Darul Uloom Deoband, said, “I cannot comment on this case as I do not know about it. It is the intent of the worshipper that matters. Anyhow, it is not a matter for the Press to debate.”

Anoowar Hussain, imam of Burah Jame Masjid, Guwahati, said, “Joint prayers were prevalent during the time of the Prophet as well. This finds mention in the Hadith (A holy book in Islam). With the passage of time, women were asked to offer namaz at home keeping in mind their safety. However, I would not like to comment on the prayer at Sivasagar today.”

[With additional reporting by Pheroze L. Vincent in New Delhi and Daulat Rahman in Guwahati]

(Courtesy: The Telegraph, Kolkata)

Sufism propounds love for entire nature: Madhya Pradesh Governor

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 19 November 2011 | Posted in , , , ,

40th International Conference on Sufism starts in Bhopal

By Pervez Bari

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Governor Mr. Ram Naresh Yadav has said that Sufism propounds love for entire nature by construing it as love for God. He said that it is also the gist of all the religions.

Governor Mr. Ram Naresh Yadav was delivering inaugural speech at the three-day 40th International Conference on Sufism which got underway at Bharat Bhavan here Friday. He said that at the spiritual level, Sufism is the voice of human being's inner self. The quest of soul to attain God and rituals undertaken to achieve this goal are the basis of Sufism. Its main principles include lofty spiritualism, peace of mind and soul, secularism and equality among human beings. Sufism does not encourage religious hypocrisy, casteism, racism etc. He said that due to Sufi philosophy, universalism casts a deep impact on human existence.

Earlier, the Governor inaugurated the conference by offering flower petals to water as per Sufi traditions. About 56 scholars from Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nepal are attending the international conference. The conference is being organised by the Foundation of SAARC Writers and Literature (FOSWAL), New Delhi, a SAARC Apex body in collaboration with Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs- Government of India, Arpana Cour, Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and Bharat Bhawan.

Murshed Cemal Nur Sargut of Turkey, who was the chief guest of the inaugural function, in a spirited address in her Turkish language, which was translated into English simultaneously by a colleague sentence by sentence, repeatedly stressed the love, compassion and mercifulness qualities of Allah Almighty which echoed in the auditorium as the assemblage listened to her in pin drop silence.

She said that the world becomes very beautiful place through the spiritual love. Everything starts with love and one who is in love with Allah will worship nothing else but Allah. Allah's real face can be seen only by getting rid of hatred and negative thoughts, she added emotionally.

“We should be able to forgive and love others then Allah will not leave us alone but shower His choicest blessings on us”, Cemal Nur said philosophically

She ended her address by appealing: “Let us unite and let us be one committed to spread the message of Allah of love, compassion, peace and tranquility to humanity at large which is reeling under hatred, violence, wickedness etc.”

Delivering the presidential address, Dr. Abid Hussain said that this is the age of hate, terrorism and separatism. People are opposing each other in the name of religion. The terrorism of politics with fundamentalism of religion has created a havoc in the world and the irony is that those who are witness to these aberrations in society join the fundamentalists, he averred.

Dr. Hussain Sufism seems to be the most appropriate solution to these problems during these testing times for mankind. He quoted late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, who believed in the ethics of morality.

He reiterated that Sufism was the song of the soul. He said Sufism is not religion but does not dismantle religion. It opens windows and shows that there is Oneness in multiplicity. He said Sufism is a way of thinking of poor and removal of inequality in society. We have to keep people united despite diversity like a bouquet of flowers of different colour and smell, he added.

"When the soul is dead, the music is dead inside. When the soul is alive, we open our hearts to all human beings”, he remarked.

Earlier, in her welcome address, organisation's president Mrs. Ajeet Cour threw light on the objectives of the conference. She said Sufism is a great philosophy of deep, infinite, feelings, but it is not religion. One can be a Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Christian, Jew, yet be a Sufi too, because Sufism is an exalted state of mind where love and peace resound like a soft melody, echoing and re-echoing in the depth of one’s soul, creating a new ideological state of mind overflowing with love. The message of Sufism transcends all boundaries, and not only goes across, but negates racism and religious fundamentalism."

Mrs. Cour said: “In this age of rat-race of self-gratification, of our thousands of never-appeased hungers for amassing wealth, of being surrounded by beautiful bodies and cars and posh bungalows and land much beyond our need, in the age of globalization and consumerism, the lyricism of Sufism brings us peace, because it takes us across to the nowhere land where peace and love and selflessness reign supreme.”

Continuing she said that it is only through love that we can reach the heights of self-evolvement and enlightenment. Love with the Creator of this Universe, and with the universe He has created, and with all the living beings which are ordained to share the bounties of this Universe: the planet earth and millions of planets in eternal rotation in infinite void, without any accidents; the days merging into nights, and nights giving to glorious, sun-drenched days, in an eternal cycle of merging and re-emerging, like the cycle of Death and Life.

“This is the Universe we human beings were placed in, to comprehend the meaning of Love and Compassion, not only with other human beings, but with all His Creations too!”, she opined.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Cour welcomed the guests by presenting shawls to them. One of attractions of the inaugural function was two dance performances by Baul dancer Ms Parvati Baul based on Bhakti music.

At the function, representatives of Dargah Shareef Ajmer tied a turban to the head of Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and honoured him by presenting a Chadar of Dargah.

Those also present at the conference included Dr. Madkour of Egypt, Dr. Karim Najafi of Iran, Dr. Ovezov Annaguly of Turkmenistan, Dr. Saleem Agha of Pakistan, Samant Ilangakoon of Sri Lanka, Prof. Abhi Subedi of Nepal and Syed Ahmad Chisti of Afghanistan amongst others. They were felicitated by the representatives of Ajmer Dargah Shareef who presented shawl and tied pink coloured turbans on their heads. Manmohan Singh Mitwa proposed a vote of thanks.

[Pervez Bari is a senior Journalist based at Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. He is associated with IndianMuslimObserver.com as Bureau Chief (Madhya Pradesh). He can be contacted at pervezbari@eth.net]

Keeping the inclusive faith

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 25 March 2011 | Posted in , , ,

By Sadia Dehlvi

Imam Al Sudais's India visit to lecture at the Deoband seminary is sending some sections of the Muslim community into overdrive. I received a card from the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) in Delhi to attend an address by 'His Holiness', Imam-e-Haram, Dr Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al Sudais, presently imam of the mosque in Mecca. The accompanying letter details the imam's achievements including his educational degrees in sharia law. In 2005, he received 'The Islamic Personality of the Year' award and stood nominated for the Dubai International Quran Award, which he accepted.

The 'His Holiness' came as a jolt, for no such prefixes have ever been added to Prophet Muhammad's name or that of his companions, who rank the highest in Muslim piety. As one devoted to Islam, i believe using the Quran to name an award belittles the sanctity of God's word and borders on blasphemy. Legitimising such an award by its acceptance seems a worse action. The early history of Islam contains no examples of spiritual or religious leaders accepting state or private awards. On the contrary, sharia and prophetic traditions frown upon those who seek or allow public adulation, for all righteous deeds are for God alone.

The Deoband leadership has requested that Al Sudais not be frisked during his visit to Parliament. Due respect must be accorded to the visiting imam, because he leads the prayers at the Kaabah. This reverence flows from 'where' the prayers are led and not because of 'who' the imam is. To quote Arshad Madani of the Jamiat-e-Ulama-e-Hind, "Sheikh Al Sudais is the highest religious leader of the Muslims". This is misleading because Al Sudais merely represents the highest-ranking sacred space. The worldwide Muslim majority does not subscribe to the radical Wahhabi ideology propagated by Saudi clerics.

This political, narrow, legalistic and literalist interpretation of Islam emerged from the desert wastelands of Najd in Saudi Arabia from among the followers of the Bedouin Abdul Wahhab, an 18th century self-claimed reformist. The trajectory of the Wahhabi movement is rooted in violence, legitimising jihad as an armed conflict to kill fellow Muslims in disagreement with their vision of Islam by declaring them kafirs, infidels. Related to the ruling family through matrimonial alliances, Abdul Wahhab's family continues to control the ministry of religion, quashing many reforms desired by the political leadership, particularly by the present moderate King Abdullah.

The Wahhabis, who call themselves 'Salafis', have a limited following in the subcontinent. It includes the Deoband seminary, Tablighi Jamaat, Ahle Hadith and the Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan. Together, they constitute not more than 15 to 20% of the total population. Unfortunately, the government and the public fall prey to media-driven stereotypes. The perceptions of these factions representing majority Muslim opinion are baseless. Muslims are not monolithic communities but adhere to varied interpretations of Islam. In India and Pakistan, the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat represented by the Barelvi creed has the largest following.

Saudi clerics, including Al Sudais, face international criticism for inciting passions against the Barelvis, Shias, other Muslim minorities and non-Muslims. The Saudi state outsources its Wahhabi ideology by spending billions of dollars in patronising the building and running of mosques, madrassas, journals and cleric training programmes. It remains the fountainhead of the extremism infiltrating Muslim communities, tearing their local cultures apart. The bombing of dargahs and Shia mosques in Pakistan is one such manifestation.

The Saudi state has robbed all Muslims in the world of their legitimate cultural, historical and spiritual legacy, both in the physical and spiritual realm. In 1925, despite global outrage, all mausoleums including those of the Prophet's family at Jannat-ul Maali and Jannat-ul Baqi, the sacred graveyards of Mecca and Medina, were demolished. Once reflecting Islamic glory and heritage, the bulldozed compounds are now typical Wahhabi burial grounds with rows of featureless unmarked graves. Several other historical sites continue to be obliterated.

Throughout history, Sufis and their disciples from different parts of the globe inhabited Mecca and Medina, the first centres of spiritual Islam. Now, the constant patrolling by the mutawwah, the religious police, ensures that pilgrims do not participate in collective spiritual gatherings. Forced to follow Wahhabi practices, devotees in Medina are not allowed to face the Prophet's chamber in supplication. Women face severe restrictions of time and space at the sacred mosques. It is decreed sinful and therefore criminal to write, read, sing or listen to 'naat', poetic praise, of the Prophet. Enforcements have washed away these traditions commonplace during Prophet Muhammad's life. Thirty-five among the Prophet's poet companions composed 'naat', Hassan ibn Thabit being his favourite.

The aims and objective of the IICC is to preserve and promote the composite and inclusive cultural traditions of Indian Muslims. Since its inception, the Centre has been trying to decode which cultural activities are sharia compliant and those that are not. Therefore, it is ironic and worrying that the IICC is one of the venues for the imam's address. I hope Al Sudais's discourse triggers a genuine and long overdue intra-faith dialogue amongst Indian Muslims as to what the rightful traditions of Islam are.

[Sadia Dehlvi is a commentator and an author.]

(Courtesy: The Times of India)

ANNOUNCEMENT: Workshop on Sufi literature and social responsibility Nov 20-21

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 19 September 2010 | Posted in ,

IMO News Service

New Delhi: Ektara India (www.ektara.org), a group of media and arts professionals based in Delhi, India, involved in many activities of culture, arts, research and peacemaking, has decided to hold a workshop on the issue of “Sufi Literature and Social Responsibility” on November 20-21, 2010 (Sat/Sunday) at New Delhi.

“In a time when listening to Sufi music and qawwali becomes more and more trendy, this workshop will try to analyze and appreciate Sufi music in the larger perspective of social relevance,” a press release issued by Ektara India said.

“Could Sufi music help people learn ways to coexist in today’s multicultural society? Does it have a social relevance in today’s life or is it just some meditative chanting that provides peace and tranquility to an individual in today’s stressful urban life? These are the few questions which the workshop will explore,” the press release said.

Several scholars, music practitioners and media professionals like Madan Gopal Singh, Atmaram, Yousuf Saeed, Dhruv Sangari and others are expected to participate in this intensive workshop.

The workshop is open for all who have an interest in Sufi poetry, music and Qawwali.

Ektara India would also present a certificate of participation to each participant. More information regarding registration for the workshop can be taken from the website of Ektara India www.ektara.org.

Indian Muslim News - SUFISM

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 01 November 2009 | Posted in ,

Sufism & India

By Chandrabhan Singh

I have been part of some debates recently wherein Indians (Intellectuals) keep on talking to me about the greatness of Sufis in India and their role in propagation of 'Peaceful Islam' in the Indic heartland. I am dumbfounded at this half knowledge and keep quiet, however it is time that I set the record straight. First and foremost, let me tell you that there is no difference between Christian missionaries and Sufis. The goals of both of them is same -'Conversion'.

Sufism is overrated. It used to be a wolf in sheep's clothing. Their role was similar to that of the Catholic missionaries and Protestant Evangelicals. One might think that these were doing God's work but these people used to be like early foot soldiers in colonial conquests. For European conquerors, many a times missionaries would go to "Heathen" lands in Africa, Latin America and Asia; scout it out and then on some pretext or the other in the form of "civilizing" the heathens, the European conquerors would come in. Sufi saints played a similar role in Islamic conquests much more than the Sunni or Shia Imams or Maulvis. Sufism is much more prominent in Central Asia (the Stans) and Kurdistan. It is no coincidence that the Indian Subcontinent used to have most of the Islamic Conquests from Afghanistan or Central Asia rather than Arabia or Iran. Even though the SW frontier in Pakistan (currently Baluchistan) was much more vulnerable than the NW frontier in Pakistan (currently Pakhtoonistan). The NW frontier was much more treacherous and mountainous rather than the plainy SW frontier. Many a brutal Central Asian conqueror like Tamerlane or Babar received their inspirations from Sufi saints. Even Aurangzeb had Sufi spiritual advisors. Sufi saints had a big role in instigating Islamic rulers to move against idolators.

If Sufism ceased to be a major threat then it is primarily because in the seventeenth and eighteenth century with the advent of modern weaponry, the cavalry's role started diminishing and the Central Asians lost their advantage of equestrian skills.

M. Nazim writes in his well-known monograph, The Life and Times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna: “The critics who accuse the Sultan of wanton bloodshed and reckless spoliation of Hindu temples forget that these so-called barbarities were committed in the course of legitimate warfare, when such acts are sanctioned by the practices of all the great conquerors of the world. Spoils captured from the defeated enemy have always been considered lawful property of the victorious army. In India, however, wealth was accumulated not only in the coffers of the kings, as in other countries, but also in the vaults of the temples, which were consecrated in the service of various deities. The consequence was that, while elsewhere the capture of the defeated monarch’s treasury usually gratified the conqueror’s lust for mammon, in India temples were also ransacked to secure the piles of gold and precious stones in them. The religious considerations rarely carry weight with a conqueror, and the Sultan does not appear to have been influenced by them in his schemes of conquest.” (emphasis added).

Nazim has a similar explanation for Hindu hostility to Islam. It is an essay in philosophy and sociology, as he understands them. He writes: “Some critics hold that a ‘burning hatred for Islam was created in the Hindu mind because Islam was presented in the guise of plundering armies.’ This view, however, is not convincing. The Hindus rejected Islam as their national religion because of the fundamental and irreconcilable differences between Islam and Hinduism. Islam with its definite articles of faith, could not appeal to the average Hindu to whom religion had never meant any specified set of doctrines. To regard an idol as a helpless piece of stone instead of a source of life and death, and to believe in one Omnipotent God instead of myriads of deities each one of which could be played against the other, was diametrically opposed to Hindu ways of thinking. To this fundamental difference was added the hostility of the Brahmin, whose keen eye must have foreseen that the propagation of democratic principles of Islam would undoubtedly bring about a social revolution and break-down of the caste system on which depended his own exclusive privileges. The Brahmins, therefore, as a class must have thrown the whole weight of their position against the spread of Islam. Besides this, hatred of change inherent in the Hindu mind would in any case have offered strong though passive resistance to the onward march of Islam.”

Shykh Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi was the most important disciple of Shykh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi, founder of the second most important sufi silsilã after the Chishtiyya, who died in Baghdad in 1235 AD. Ghaznavi had come and settled down in India where he passed away in 1234-35 AD. He served as Shykh-ul-Islãm in the reign of Shamsuddin Iltutmish (AD 1210-1236), and propounded the doctrine of Dîn Panãhî. Barani quotes the first principle of this doctrine as follows in his Tãrîkh-i-Fîruzshãhî. “The kings should protect the religion of Islam with sincere faith… And kings will not be able to perform the duty of protecting the Faith unless, for the sake of God and the Prophet’s creed, they overthrow and uproot kufr and kãfiri (infidelity), shirk (setting partners to God) and the worship of idols. But if the total uprooting of idolatry is not possible owing to the firm roots of kufr and the large number of kãfirs and mushriks (infidels and idolaters), the kings should at least strive to insult, disgrace, dishonour and defame the mushrik and idol-worshipping Hindus, who are the worst enemies of God and the Prophet. The symptom of the kings being the protectors of religion is this:- When they see a Hindu, their eyes grow red and they wish to bury him alive; they also desire to completely uproot the Brahmans, who are the leaders of kufr and shirk and owning to whom kufr and shirk are spread and the commandments of kufr are enforced… Owing to the fear and terror of the kings of Islam, not a single enemy of God and the Prophet can drink water that is sweet or stretch his legs on his bed and go to sleep in peace.”

Amir Khusru, the dearest disciple of Nizamuddin Awliya and supposed to be the pioneer of Secularism in India by India’s secularist historians, echoed the same opinion when he wrote as follows in his Khazãin-ul-Futûh also known as the Tãrîkh-i-Alãî: “The whole country by means of the sword of our holy warriors has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire. The land has been saturated by the waters of the sword, and the vapours of infidelism [Hinduism] have been dispersed. The strong men of Hind have been trodden under foot, and all are ready to pay tribute. Islam is triumphant, idolatry is subdued. Had not the law (of Hanifa) granted exemption from death by the payment of jiziya, the very name of Hind, root and branch, would have been extinguished.”

The Muslim monarchs, however, knew better. They did not live in a fool’s paradise like the mullahs and the sufis. The exponents of the “law” of Islam lived amidst leisure and luxury in towns protected by Islamic armies. They could very well afford to blow any amount of hot air about the “beauties” of their “religion”. The Muslim monarchs, on the other hand, had to live mostly on the battlefields, and could feel in their guts the power equations of a situation in which they had to wage a constant war against stiff Hindu resistance and repeated reassertion of Hindu independence. They had discovered very soon that Hindus hated Islam as a system of black barbarism, and would fight rather than submit to this criminal creed. Moreover, they needed the Hindus for doing work which the mullahs, or the sufis, or the swordsmen of Islam were neither equipped for nor inclined to do - agriculture, commerce, industry, book keeping scavenging, and so on. No wonder the Muslim monarchs fell for the Hanafi school of Islamic “law” as soon as it was expounded to them, not because they liked this school but simply because they had no other choice. They recognized the Hindus as zimmîs, imposed jizyah and other disabilities on them, and reduced them, wherever they could, to the status of hewers of wood and drawers of water.

The mullahs and the sufis howled at this “sacrilege”. Barani mourned: “Should the king consider the payment of a few tankas by way of jiziya as sufficient justification for their allowing all possible freedom to the infidels to observe and demonstrate all orders and detail of infidelity, to read the misleading literature of their faith, and to propagate their teachings, how could the true religion get the upper hand over other religions, and how could the emblems of Islam be held high? How will the true faith prevail if rulers allow the infidels to keep their temples, adorn their idols, and to make merry during their festivals with beating of drums and dhols, singing and dancing?”

But Barani (Sufi saint again) and his likes were being unfair to the Muslim monarchs who were trying their best to serve Islam, under the circumstances. They were also painting far too rosy a picture of the condition of Hindu society in areas where the Islamic state had secured a stranglehold. Of course, the Hindus were singing and dancing in those parts of their motherland where their Rajas had retained or regained independence. But in areas controlled by the Muslim monarchs, Hindus had been turned into dumb driven cattle, always at the mercy of the meanest Muslim. Barani himself writes: “Sultan Alauddin (Khalji) demanded from learned men rules and regulations, so that the Hindu could be ground down and property and possession, which are the cause of disaffection and rebellion, could not remain in his house.” One of these “learned men” was Qazi Mughisuddin. He advocated very stern measures and advised: “If the revenue collector spits into a Hindu’s mouth, the Hindu should open his mouth to receive it without hesitation.”

I am ready to give links to some of the E books mentioned here and other you will have to buy. Let's have this much needed debate for the good of 'Intellectuals' and progressive Indians. For me I have nothing against them as they cease to exist today (Thank the British for that).

This debate on Sufism's positive role must stop and they should be seen in the light they deserved to be seen - foot soldiers of Islam, trying to do an America( Iraq) in Indic lands, trying to win hearts and minds but still retaining eye on the objective - Conversion.

[The writer can be contacted at chandrabhan_singh1@yahoo.co.in]

Sufism – The Heart of Islam

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 July 2009 | Posted in ,

Name of the Book: Sufism – The Heart of Islam
Author: Sadia Dehlavi
Publisher: Harper Collins India
Pages: 400
Price: Rs. 695.00 (Hardback)

Reviewed By Raza Rumi

Getting a visa to India is a nightmare for ordinary mortals. My application was not very politely returned last month with technical objections. It was only when a letter from Harper Collins arrived that the High Commission rather efficaciously allowed me to enter enemy territory, that too with special instructions that cantonments were out of bounds. I guess the South Asian officialdoms have yet to discover that Google Earth has permanently altered the shape of boundaries and secrecy.

I had to plan this rushed sojourn to attend the launch ceremony of Sadia Dehlvi’s book that has now hit the Indian bookshops with a bang and will soon be found in Pakistan. Sufism – the Heart of Islam is the culmination of Sadia’s journey of self discovery, and to use Bulleh Shah’s metaphor, entree into the inner temples of the heart. This was no ordinary launch, as I have been a literary companion in this path that Sadia has taken – right from the conception of the book, its shifting hues and drafts, the magnificent illustrations and poetry translations, and of course its final shape.

I had almost given up the idea of being present at the launch in the face of visa hurdles. I think the gods intervened, or as I told Sadia our beloved saints – Khwaja Gharib Nawaz of Ajmer and Nizamuddin Auliya of Dilli – allowed it to happen. The launch brought together a host of other friends who have been involved in giving various stirs to this book-brew.

The launch took place at Hotel Le Meridian and was a major Delhi hungama, as the hall was packed with more guests than it could accommodate. The nonagenarian Khushwant Singh made it despite his formal goodbyes to social occasions, and so did many others who have been friends with Sadia.

The inimitable thumree singer Vidya Rao launched the ceremony with an ensemble of what is these days known as Sufi music. She presented a Na’at in poorabi ang that was a delightful piece, establishing intimacy with the last Prophet (pbuh) urging him for blessings. The folk idiom made it even more striking than the usual renditions of this genre one is used to in Pakistan. A Hindu woman offering salutations to Hazrat Mohammad (pbuh) was a rare sight by itself. My favourite hierarchy of Sufi love, sung so beautifully by Vidya, was:

Khwaja milay tau Ali milay
Ali milay tau Nabi milay
Nabi milay tau Khuda mila

Khushwant Singh had to leave early, so he made a speech that was full of his classic witticisms. Declaring that he was free of God in his mental landscape, he had started to believe in miracles and the biggest miracle was Sadia writing her book! Mushir ul Hasan, the keynote speaker praised the book and its central message that Sufism was embedded in Islamic thought. He was a little critical of the Naqshbandi school of Sufism that was orthodox in his opinion, and had a sectarian bias in its worldview.

Karthika V. K., Chief Editor, Harper Collins India was most pleased with the book and she was also quick to note Sadia’s devotion to this project and spoke of how absorbed in the book writing and production she had been for the last one year.

Sadia was beaming with things coming together. Even on this occasion she could not stop herself from cracking jokes about the writing process, and she also spoke of how scared she was of her mother’s wrath if anything went wrong. The author’s mother, Zeenat Dehlvi, has been the proverbial lighthouse in introducing her to the Sufi tariqa or the path. Using several translations of mystic verses Sadia projected a lively, intimate and personal understanding of Sufi principles and vision. Oroon Das, an eminently talented theatre actor ended the evening with renditions of a wide range of Sufi verse from the book – from Hafez and Rumi to Bulleh Shah, as well as more contemporary Sufi poets.

Sadia Dehlvi for some time was known in Delhi as a page three persona – attending parties and events, and pictured as a secular, brainy Muslim diva holding forth on various issues – until her journalistic career took a turn over the last few years as the ‘principal’ spokesperson for Indian Muslims. Her writings and television appearances have harped on some bold themes such as the need for Muslims to look into their own backyard, use a bit of rationality and above all reject the orthodox Wahabi streams that seem to have engulfed the Muslim imagination in the era of militant Islamism.

In this process of getting to know herself and her cultural heritage, her focus shifted to an exploration of Sufism and its various historical movements. In the subcontinent, the Muslim identity cannot be separated from Sufi moorings, given the monumental role that the travelling saints, dervishes and fakirs played in converting the native inhabitants of India. The Muslim ruling classes were interested in India’s wealth and the capture of its political power since the eleventh century. Therefore, the rulers, most of whom were men of Central Asian or Persian descent were unlikely candidates to be spreaders of Islam’s egalitarian message.

Thus the great mingling of mystical Islam and India’s local, folk traditions found a synthesis in the South Asian brand of Sufism. But this was an endeavour that remained within the intellectual and spiritual depth of core Islamic beliefs. The current erroneous observations of Sufism as a separate belief-system from ‘Islam’, therefore, is an uninformed view and betrays the lack of understanding of this drummed-up danger religion.

For instance the book mentions the Prophet Muhammad declaring in a Hadith Qudsi: ‘Heaven and earth cannot contain Me but the heart of my faithful servant contains Me.’ The mystic poet Fariduddin Attar illustrates the state of the lovers in this couplet translated by Annmarie Schimmel:

When you seek God, seek him in your hear
He is not in Jerusalem, nor in Mecca nor in Hajj

Sufism takes the reader in an engaging way, through the layers of Islamic beliefs, and explains how a three-fold structure comprising “sharia, the outer law; tareeqa the inward path; and haeeqa, the arrival at the reality of Allah” are the different facets of a universal worldview of the religion. The various stages of the Sufi path such as hal (intoxicated state) and maqaam (station) are also elaborated well for lay readers.

The most illuminating part of the book is the evolution of Sufi schools of thought and their key beliefs and approaches. While browsing through the text one marvels at centuries of synthesis in the Indian subcontinent, which explains why the dergahs remain such a focus of public attention and imagination.

What I especially like about this volume is its immediate connection with readers. For example Sadia writes in a chapter entitled Tariqa – the Way of the Sufi: “Growing up in an Irish convent boarding school, I regularly went to church, sang Christmas carols, baked Easter eggs and imbibed Christian values. During annual holidays a maulana, a religious teacher, came home to teach the Quran to all the children. He instilled the fear of God into us, with the result that fear remained the only emotion that the heart felt for the Creator. Somehow, this overwhelming fear kept me connected to Allah, despite often wanting to break away completely. Traversing the Sufi path changed my attitude, for it teaches that prayer rituals are worth little if not accompanied by love and sincerity.”

Whilst exploring the core of Sufi thought, the book traces the extraordinary lives of the early Sufis including the companions of the Prophet (pbuh), their sayings, and their emphasis on the purification of the heart. For modern readers, the larger narrative covers the period of early Islam to its current nemesis in the shape of militant ideologies. The book’s key argument is also contemporary: how Islamism is the undoing of a faith founded on the principles of love, peace and tolerance. The engaging style in which the book insightfully examines the complex relationship of Sufism with both Muslim and non-Muslim societies, should be instructive for readers outside South Asia as well.

Sadia’s book is a timely addition to the debates on Islam, Sufism and its accessibility and reader-friendliness. This is bound to attract a large number of readers.

Extract from the book

The most common response on hearing the title of my book has been: ‘But what has Sufism got to do with Islam?’ I realize that Islam is perceived as a faith with harsh laws, whereas Sufism represents wonderful poetry, dance, art and an appealing form of universal love. It is difficult for some Muslims and most non- Muslims to accept that Sufism is the spiritual current that flows through Islam. Sufi Masters are called ahl e dil, ‘people of the heart’. They teach that religion has no meaning unless warmed by emotions of love, and interpret Sufism as being the heart of Islam. However, I do understand that Sufism has come to mean something quite different in the language of the New Age. Disillusioned with religion and the problems associated with it in secular democratic societies, people tend to mix and match elements from various religious traditions that personally appeal to them…The Quran informs us that Islam is not something that began with the Prophet Muhammad some 1400 years ago, but with the creation of the universe in which Adam was the first Prophet. Sufism is the timeless art of awakening the higher consciousness through submission to the Divine Will. The Sufi doctrine goes far beyond history and is rooted in the primordial covenant all unborn souls made with their Creator. Many friends view my visits to dargahs, Sufi tombs, as senseless medieval superstition. Some orthodox Muslims even insist that Sufism is an innovation in Islam-a sinful practice that our ancestors picked up from Hindu idol-worshipping traditions. They reason that since most of our ancestors were Hindus, some of us are still using pagan methods like singing, to please the gods… I would also like to share the miracle of my son’s birth. The best of infertility specialists had categorically told me that due to various complications it appeared virtually impossible for me to have a child. I was 32 years old, with the biological clock ticking away. I wanted a child desperately, but the doctors were not hopeful. My mother reprimanded me for giving up hope and despairing of God’s grace. She advised me to go to the dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, popularly called Gharib Nawaz, Patron of the Poor. I travelled to Ajmer and pleaded for his blessings, vowing to come back for thanksgiving if my prayer was granted. In Delhi, I regularly visited the dargah of Hazrat Shah Farhad and lit candles for the granting of a child… My prayers were answered and a few months later there was an embryo kicking away in my womb, causing boundless joy. My son Arman Ali was born in Karachi through a Caesarean section, and while being wheeled away after the operation I faintly heard the doctor comment on the miracle birth. According to the Islamic calendar, Arman was born on the sixth of Rajab, a date that marks the annual Urs, death anniversary, of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz. The sixteen-year-old lad is a musically talented child, and this is a gift that I believe is from the Sufi Master… While researching the biographies and discourses of the Sufi Masters, I slowly began to understand traumatic experiences as both nourishing and necessary for those who truly seek to purify and liberate the mind, body and soul… I discovered that spiritual endeavours leading to states of ecstasy were usually rooted in grief. God, by His own admission to Moses, revealed that He lived in broken hearts. All Sufis believe that both affliction and bounties are the blessings of God. Something stirred my soul and I began to see myself as blessed rather than cursed by God. It changed my relationship with Him from one of animosity to one of friendship and love. I made a conscious, sustained effort to apply some basic principles of Sufism to my shattered life. I vowed to develop rida, resignation to the will of Allah; tawakkul, trust in Him; sabr, patience; and mohabba, love. I found that it soon provided me with the strength of a lioness and the flight of a falcon. I no more fear life or death, for I see life as an endurance of God’s will, and death as something that unifies us with the Creator. (Extract from Sufism: The Heart of Islam – by Sadia Dehlvi. Published HarperCollins India.)

[Sadia Dehlvi is a renowned Delhi based media person. She is a prominent face on prime time television debates dealing with the issues of Muslim communities. A well-known columnist and writer, Dehlvi is frequently published in frontline Urdu, Hindi and English newspapers and magazines. She has been the editor of Bano, a popular woman’s journal in the Urdu language with the Shama group of Publications. Dehlvi has produced and scripted a number of documentaries and television programs. For over thirty years Sadia Dehlvi has engaged in voicing concern on issues regarding heritage, culture, women and Muslim communities. The writer of book review Raza Rumi is a Pakistani blogger. Also writes at www.pakteahouse.wordpress.com and www.lahorenama.wordpress.com. His website is http://www.razarumi.com]

Indian Muslim News – ENTERTAINMENT

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 06 May 2009 | Posted in ,

Keeping tradition alive
By Joan Anderman
In these days of globalization, with world music a fixture in the mainstream, it's easy to imagine that we've heard it all. But odds are good you've never heard Sidi Goma, members of a tribal Sufi community of East African origin that resettled in India eight centuries ago. Sufisim is a mystical tradition that's scattered throughout the Muslim world and uses music and dance to enhance the act of worship; think of Turkey's whirling dervishes and the late Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The 12 members of Sidi Goma - four drummer/singers and eight dancers based in the Indian state of Gujarat - turn ritualistic calls to prayer and ancient dances of praise into exuberant, even ecstatic, performances.
They've been touring since 2002, but Sidi Goma appears in Boston for the first time on Saturday, at the Somerville Theatre. We corresponded via e-mail with Abdulhamid Sidi, the group's spokesman and one of its dancers, to talk about the group's rising international profile, getting close to God, and the benefits of cracking a coconut on your head.
Q. One of your goals in performing outside of your community is to raise consciousness about the discrimination Sidis face in India.
A. In India not many people know about the Sidi culture, and we don't get any official support. All this international recognition has helped us back home, because there is now more interest and we get booked for a lot more performances in India.
Q. Sidi Goma has been traveling the world for some years now. Has the group been influenced by Western culture?
A. Sometimes at festivals we get the chance to play with other musicians from different places, and it's always exciting to do that, but that does not mean we want to change anything. It is important to keep the tradition alive as we learned it from our grandfathers.
Q. You crack coconuts on your heads during performances. What is the symbolism of that act?
A. In our Sufi beliefs, music and dance brings you closer to God, and if you get close to God you get more strength and more power and you can do things you would not be able to do otherwise. So this is why we crack the coconuts. Sometimes in the village people walk on fire, or they break glass with their bodies - this is all to show how much strength you can get from being close to God.
Q. I've read that your shows are irreverent and funny. What place does humor have in sacred music?
A. It's not really so much about fun, it's about joy. Joy is important in the teachings of our saint Bhava Gor. The damal ceremony is about sharing joy, about making people happy, and we try to do the same in our performance.
(Courtesy: Boston.com)

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