'Sufis first bring people closer to their hearts, then to humanity'

Panelists discuss the essence of sufism in session 'Shrines and Sufi Legacy' on KLF's second day


Photo Athar Khan/mudaser Kazi February 11, 2018
Photo: Athar Khan/ Express

KARACHI: Baba Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, being a Sufi in nature broke the barriers among religions by putting the writings of Baba Farid in Guru Granth Sahib. Later, during the time of the fifth guru, the foundation stone of the Golden Temple was laid by a Muslim sufi saint, Mian Mir, said a writer on Sikhism, Amardeep Singh, who had come from Singapore to attend the ninth Karachi Literature Festival (KLF).

"Being a human first is the true essence of sufism. The philosophy of Vedanta and Sikhism is common to that of Sufism," he said during a talk on the second day of the KLF in a session titled, 'Shrines and Sufi Legacy'.

He quoted Baba Guru Nanak, questioning why we call women 'low' when they give birth to kings. Singh stated, "There is nothing inferior or superior in men and women."

Another panelist and academician, Ghazala Rahman Rafiq, said that the role of sufi poets was to unite people. "The sufis first bring people closer to their hearts and then to humanity," she reiterated.

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An anthropologist and moderator of the session, Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro, said that he has documented more than two dozen syncretic sufi shrines where both Hindus and Muslims have similar influences on each other.

According to him, before the Ghaznavid rule in Sindh, the state religion of Sindh was Isma'ilism and they converted the mainly Soomro population to Sunnis.

Jurgen Wasim Frembgen was of the view that most of the sufi saints did not emphasise on religion and were beyond the mundane differences among people. Hence, they turned their spaces into paradises.

"We need to protect shared spaces, such as the shrines of sufi mystics which bring people with different religious thoughts closer," the German scholar remarked. Commenting on sufi dhamal, he said that it helps lose one's ego and in losing the connection with this mundane world.

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Frembgen said, "Sufis believed in mohabbat sab kay liye aur nafrat kisi se nahi [love for everyone and hatred for none]."

While commenting on a question by Kalhoro that sufism was not an antidote to counter terrorism or spread tolerance, which was stated by writer Ayesha Siddiqa a few days ago during the International Literature Festival, Frembgen said that sufi Islam has no lobby. He said that conservative Islam has given no chance to sufi Islam on a larger scale to play a positive role.

Rafiq, not agreeing with Siddiqa's view, said that sufism is about being human and only sufism in its true essence can be an antidote to counter terrorism.

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