The Myth of Communal Harmony of Sufism

Before winding up his visit of Iran, Narendra Modi expressed his love for Sufism again as he had done so in World Sufi Forum in March 2016. He went on to one step ahead this time when he said that the spirit of Sufism is reflected in the Indian concept of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’. He also added that Sufism has carried its message of true love, tolerance and acceptance to the entire mankind. In the world Sufi forum, he had called Sufism as the noor, light or hope. If someone reads his speech at World Sufi Forum and his speech in Iran today, s/he will tend to believe that Sufism is a peaceful cult of Islam which has worked in the direction of ensuring peace and harmony between the people. The next conclusion of this speech will be that Sufism doesn’t have to do much with Islam  and it is concerned with bringing the religions together to ensure harmony. However, both of these speeches show that either Modi is playing the card of political appeasement or he doesn’t know anything about Sufism.

Sufism which is originally known as Tasawwuf is theoretically the inner mystical dimension of Islam. The relationship between the Sufi tradition and traditional Islam has been a compatible one before the rise of neo-Sufis. The nature of Sufism is purely Islamic and it puts its highest order of faith in Muhammad and Shari’a. Sufism is intensification of Islam by looking inward and focusing more intensively on teaching of Muhammad. The distinction between Sufism and Islam was created by British Orientalist who made people believe that Sufism is different from Islam. Except the Naqshbandi order of Sufism, all the orders of Sufism trace their roots to Islamic prophet, Muhammad. The basic characteristics of the Sufi ascetics include ‘dhikr’ which is the practice of repeating the name of Allah to to show that they’re always in the state of remembering Allah. Sufi strives for ‘ihsan’ as detailed in Hadith  as ‘ihsan’ means perfection of worship.

Contrary to the popular perception about Sufism, Sufism is not even a sect of Islam rather it’s a part of Islamic teaching that deals with the purification of Islam. Tasawwuf is regarded as a practice which was always integral to the Orthodox Islam. Ibn Taymiyya, an Islamic scholar and theologian, had described Sufis as those who belong to the path of Sunna and represent it in their teaching and writings. Islamic scholars regard Sufism as being directly originated from Qur’an which is the strict imitation of the way of Muhammad. Mainstream scholars of Islam have defined Tasawwuf as inner dimension of Islam which is compatible with Islamic law and outer dimension of Islam. That’s why, it’s absolutely necessary to be a Muslim in order to be a Sufi. A person who doesn’t adhere to the teaching of Islam, can’t be a Sufi. The foundation of Sufism lies in the teachings and traditions of the Islam. Sufis claim that Sufism is one of the aspects of Islam which is similar to Shari’a, inseparable from Islam and an integral part of Islamic belief and practice. Sufis only differ from the popular Islam in their approach to God as they consider that the presence of divine can be embraced in this life rather than being close to God in paradise. However, they consider that it’s possible only if they’re in the primordial state of ‘fitra’ as described in Islam.

After exploring the Islamic roots of Sufism, it’s imperative to have a look at how Sufis regard Muhammad. Muhammad is the central figure in Sufism and he is regarded as al-Insan-al-Kami, the primary perfect man who exemplifies the morality of God. The intensity of reverence for Muhammad by Sufis can be estimated from the fact that Bayazid Bastami, a Persian sufi, refused to eat watermelon because he hadn’t found any proof of Muhammad eating watermelon. One of the most notable sufi, Rumi had said that the sufi is hanging on the Muhammad, like Abu Bakr. Sufis regard Muhammad as the most perfect being ever descended on earth, full of mercy and compassion, and he should be emulated in every dimension of life for a Sufi. The Sufi poet Saadi Shirazi said, ” He who chooses a path contrary to that of the Prophet, shall never reach the destination. O Saadi, do not think that one can treat that way of purity except in the wake of chosen one.” In similar fashion, Rumi attributes his self-control and abstinence from worldly desires as quality attained by him through guidance of Muhammad. The Sufis from Naqshbandi order claim that Prophet had referred Sufis and their followers as great shining stars among human beings who will spread the light on this earth.

In the assessment of Sufis so far, it’s evident that Sufism is completely compatible with Islamic doctrines which has nothing to do with either promoting harmony among people of other sect or kindling love in humanity. Even if we take a liberal approach towards Sufism, it can only indicate that Sufism professed for peace and love for the people only who had embraced Islam. It didn’t mean peace for the people outside the sphere of Islam which has been propagated among Indian masses as great spiritual tradition. This rhetoric has been repeated for multiple times by infantile Hindus and their leaders who have dhimmified themselves to an extent that there is no returning path from that point. If we examine the history of Sufis in India, we will be certain that Sufism has always acted as team B of Islam which helped mass scale conversion of Hindus into Islam. The popular Sufis of India such as Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Khwaja Qutubuddin, Sheikh Faridudin, Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya and many other Sufis came India with the Islamic army of invaders. They were the silent spectators of the atrocities committed on Hindus by the armies which they were accompanying. When the plundering and mass slaughtering used to slow down a bit, it was the job of Sufis to ensure the conversion of scared and traumatized Hindu masses by talking about mysticism and spirituality so that their goal of converting more and more people into Islam will be accomplished. The people in such deep state of despair often failed to comprehend that Sufis are the another aspect of invading Islamic armies. Amir Khusro, who is a noted poet and Sufi, had expressed great pleasure when Somnath Temple was desecrated. He has also written that the pleasure of seeing Brahmins getting sacrificed and the Hindu idols being tossed up the victorious Islamic kings was unparalleled.

The myth of Hindu-Muslim unity as well as Sufism promoting peace and harmony is a lie which needs to be refuted as popular belief about Sufism is positive in the views of ignorant Hindu masses. Sufism is different from the radical Islam but it essentially supplements Islam in increasing its wing by applying different approach. In the history, there have been few Sufis who have done certain works to ensure communal harmony but number of such Sufis are so meagre. The correct approach in dealing Sufism should be that we should examine Sufis individually and then trusting them, because Sufism derives its roots from the same Qur’an which gives the birth of radical Islam. Leaders like Narendra Modi should restrain himself from making such sweeping statement and making extremely unfortunate statements such as the idea of Sufism is reflected in vasudhaiva kutumbakam. Associating Sufism with any aspect of Vedic philosophy is a great disrespect to out Dharma and to the people who sacrificed themselves in order to uphold these virtues.

Published by Satish Verma

Read. Contemplate. Write.

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