KARACHI: Upholding the tradition of peace that is considered characteristic of the ‘Land of Sufis’, Pakistan Peoples Party Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that we need the universal language of the mystic to unite us.
He was addressing as chief guest at the inauguration of the two-day 3rd International Sufi Conference at Beach Luxury Hotel on Friday. According to him, as the world is becoming increasingly polarised, we need the Sufi today more than we ever did before.
Scholars on Sufism from 12 countries have been invited to the conference to share their views on Sufism. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Food Minister and PPP Sindh President Nisar Ahmed Khuhro and Culture Minister Sardar Ali Shah among others also addressed the event.
Bilawal welcomed the foreign scholars and congratulated the chief minister, culture minister and their team on putting together the spectacular event.
Bilawal added that interfaith harmony, religious tolerance and inclusiveness are the terms that the progressives like to debate on when discussing the cure for what ails society today. However, he added, the Sufi thought encapsulated all these and more upon its inception many hundreds of years ago.
“Centuries ago, it was the Sufis that spread Islam across the Indus valley,” he said. “Through love and harmony, luminaries like Data sahib, Rehman Baba, Bulleh Shah and their contemporaries strove tirelessly out of sheer devotion to the Deity. And their devotion inspired millions to embrace Islam.”
He added that the first time we forcibly quell our inner Truth and conform to an extremist mindset, the first time we pray out of fear and not out of love and the first time we decide that our one voice of reason is not enough to fight the many unreasonable ones are the ones when we decide to lay down our weapons before the fight has even begun.
“For the Sufi, too, has his weapons – the weapons of truth, of love [and] of acceptance,” said Bilawal.
Quoting Rumi, he said ‘the wound is where the Light enters you’, adding that the very first step towards healing is acceptance. He went on to add that our society stands deeply wounded today and the wound continues to fester, unchecked and untreated, while most of us are too afraid to acknowledge the disease and expose the malaise and let the Light shine through it, allowing the healing to begin.
Talking about the province of Sindh, Bilawal said that it is known as the ‘Land of the Sufis’. He mentioned the names of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast and Shah Inayat. “We are destined to stand up for the Truth and only the Truth,” he said. “Even my mother, Mohatarma Benazir Bhutto Shaheed, raised the flag of truth and few were willing to support her but she continued in the proud tradition of the Sufi.”
He also mentioned that the recent attack on the shrine of Qalandar in Sehwan, saying that the attack shook us to the core. However, hours after the blast, the devotees decided that they will not fear and rang the famous bell – Nobat, on which dhamaal is performed – of the shrine. It is the bell that guides us from the dark abyss and challenges the extremist, he said. We must also become like those who rang the bell and challenge the extremist, added Bilawal.
“I believe with all my heart that the salvation of mankind lies in the hands of the Sufi – for it is only he who has the courage to say ‘I looked in temples, churches, and mosques. But I found the Divine within my heart’,” said the PPP chairperson. “So let’s all search within our hearts and let the journey begin.”
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Murad said that the Sindh province is considered the seat of learning and a cradle of peace and fraternity because people of different faiths, cultures, beliefs and languages live here under the shadow of Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, Sachal Sarmast, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and other Sufi saints. He added that this is the time when fanaticism has created unrest in all the societies and faiths and has jolted the entire world. However, he said, there is a dire need for Sufis to visit different societies and cultures for promotion of peace, tolerance and love through their practices and teachings.
Culture Minister Sardar said the conference will promote interfaith harmony and give out a message of peace to the public. He added that such conferences are necessary for the society so that violence is rejected.