LAHORE: “Loving the country and selflessly working for it is part of the Sufi message of love,” Minister for Environment and Population and Welfare Zakia Shahnawaz said on Saturday.
She was speaking at the opening session of Lahore Sufi Festival organised by the Lahore Arts Council in collaboration with Atlas Asset Management. Panel discussions and performances highlighting various aspects of Sufi thought were arranged on the opening day, attended by several prominent poets and writers.
“We have wasted 69 years of our existence. The situation would have been different had we loved our country and sent our children to schools. But it is never too late to change things,” Shahnawaz said.
She said the festival would help spread the message of peace and love. She urged the audience to practice what they had learnt. “There is no country like Pakistan. A few people have been led astray but we should not forget the message of love. The situation would be different the day we resolve to change things,” the minister said.
Others speakers discussed the impact of Sufism in the subcontinent. They talked about its influence on regional languages, culture and literature.
Writers Asghar Nadeem Syed and Sughara Sadaf spoke at the inaugural session. They discussed the concept of religion in Sufis’ view.
Sadaf said those who opposed sufism had a rigid concept about God. “A sufi has a more loving concept of God. The sufis accept all forms of worship,” she said.
She said the sufis identified themselves as common people. “They call themselves sinners in their poetry. The anti-sufi people, on the other hand, are keen on telling others about their sins.” She said the sufis encouraged the idea of doing good not for a reward but as a human duty.
Syed said the concept of tasawwuf was found in the subcontinent before the arrival of Islam. It was also found in the Bhakti movement and the seventh century poetry in Tamil Nadu, he said.
He said the sufis tried to end differences among people based on creed, class and caste. He said the sufis considered themselves part of the people which he said was clear from the language they used in their poetry. He said they wrote in the language of the area they were in because they wanted to teach people.
He said the sufis relied on metaphors while interacting with people. “They say that the world and everything in it belongs only to God,” Syed said.
Playwright Haseena Moin, politician Waleed Iqbal and Lahore Arts Council Executive Director Atta Muhammad Khan also spoke on the occasion.
Various theatre, dance and musical performances are part of the two-day festival.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2016.