by Sajjad Shaukat
At this critical juncture when Pakistan has continuously been facing target killings, attacks on places of worship, bomb blasts and burning of houses due to growing menace of religious extremism, sectarian and ethnic divisions, needs to spread the values of Sufism among the people.
Basically, Sufis love Allah and therefore, love of humanity is the genesis of their doctrine. Sufis like Muhiyeddin Ibn Arabi who promoted the school of Wahdat al-Wujud, demolished all walls of separation between one faith and another by making love of all human beings as the base of their religion. In this regard, Ibn Arabi said that love is his religion and his Sharia.
They teach the message of tolerance, equality, and respect for other religions, faiths, sects and hence can help in countering the growing threat of extremism.
Sufism does not believe in divisive messages; they prefer unity and cohesion among human beings without any discrimination of caste, faith, colour and sect. They find God in the heart of man, and winning hearts and minds of the people offer benefits to all sectarian and ethnic entities of Pakistan.
In terms of Sufis’ concept, one can note that love not only leads to tolerance but also eliminates all movements based on extremism and exclusive truth. One who loves all humanity always adopts an inclusive approach and feels that truth cannot be the monopoly of some exclusive group.
Devotion to the values of Sufism is essential to those who believe in humanity and want to build human civilisation on the basis of love, not hatred. Adherence to these thoughts is also necessary to all the persons of Pakistan who seek to get rid of subversive activities, conducted by the religious extremism in the country.
Sufi poetry is inspiring with an appeal to all segments of the society. Sufis use local metaphors which are understandable by the common people. They live within the community they belong and solve the problems faced by general masses, regardless of their ethnic origin, creed and religion.
In this respect, followers of Sufism are far more democratic with their universal and pluralist approach. According to their idea, “if the truth is not an exclusive monopoly, no community can be privileged as possessor of the truth.”
In fact, the social contract of Pakistan and its cultural foundations blended with the large heartedness of Sufism are dexterously flexible and deftly persuasive to accommodate the dissenting thoughts and opposing beliefs. And a majority of the people in the country is imbibed by Islamic teachings as inspired by the Sufi Saints who are loved, cherished and followed as symbols of Islamic philosophy, having an appeal for tolerance and respect for religious beliefs of other communities.
The main quest of Sufism is to obtain inner and concealed meanings of Holy Quran and to make a perfect man, emulating the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). They believe in unity of God and acknowledge by preaching that a source of all knowledge is Allah. God Almighty Allah created human beings and only He knows the secrets of diversified systems of faith followed by men. In this context, the main strength of Sufis is readiness to engage in dialogue and maintain unconditional esteem of others. They approach the opposing faiths without any fear of getting conversion, with an urge to learn and understand the rationale of that belief system including faith, thus adopting the different paths of reaching God. They also believe that God is not found in some particular religious place or where one places God, but God lives in the heart of man. Therefore, a person can find out God regardless of his religion, caste or ethnic identity. So, inward struggle is the most important quest of Sufis who treat other religious communities kindly and generously.
Again, by taking origin from the concept of love for all human beings, Sufism is based on a deep spiritual approach and on looking into one’s inner self. Spirituality is therefore far more inclusive. In this regard, Maulana Rumi, when asked what his identity was, he replied “love” as love is inclusive of all identities. We must respect the dignity and integrity of the one we love and that is possible only when we concede full freedom to that person. Otherwise, where there is a sense of possession we deny freedom to that person. But love cannot be genuine unless it is pure and purged of all traces of selfishness and personal desires.
Unlike the prejudice, fanaticism, religious bigotry and chauvinism, found in puritans, adherents of Sufism are also liberal, broadminded and moderate. Notably, Sufism is against any other competing faith as Pakistani culture has the potential to promote the Islamic values by taking the roots from Sufism.
It is of particular attention that Pakistan is an ideological country which was created on the basis of Islamic principles and spiritual values to enable the people of the country to live their lives as per their faith, religious commitment, cultural norms and socio-political values. The founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, openly advocated the importance of idealism, human equality and fair play in Islam. He asserted that Non-Muslims including Hindus, Christians and Parsis are all Pakistanis. They will enjoy the same rights and privileges like all other citizen and will play their rightful part in the affairs of Pakistan. While, the constitution of Pakistan also provides complete religious freedom, security and civil rights to all people irrespective of their creed, caste, religion and ethnic origin.
But it is our misfortune that at present, Pakistan faces a deteriorated situation due to extremism, terrorism, sectarian divide, corruption, exploitation, target killings, forced abductions and extortions which appears to be overriding clauses of the constitution and underlined characteristics of Pakistani social order. Some people think that a Messiah who may re-orientate Pakistani society onto a podium of peace, tolerance and principles of mutual co-existence can save the country from these precarious phenomena.
Today, people of the country require the values of Sufis who also curb undue materialistic desire, anger and greed, and are accommodative to the opposing thoughts and beliefs in wake of the present state of affairs in Pakistan. Besides, Sufism projects the values of justice as historical evidence proves that Sufi Saints in the past had been pleading forgiveness for the guilty and justice for the innocent from rulers of the time. Moreover, Sufis also offer guidance to the rulers on Islamic values and good governance.
However, cultural revival of Sufism and adherence to their values in Pakistan would be very useful in rectifying the people, fighting the menace of extremism in any form, and strengthening the nation, which is also divided on the basis of tribes and provinces. For this purpose, our politicians, religious scholars, intellectuals and especially media must project the principles of Sufism in order to get rid of the ongoing multi-faceted crises which Pakistan is facing in religious, political and social terms.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power