By K.N. Pandita
Two important events have taken place in the last week in New Delhi. Both are of much significance to us in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. One is the World Sufi Conference, and the second is the meeting of BJP National Executive. While the former event has larger impact word-wide, the latter mostly confines to national politics with a very brief reference to India’s policy towards her immediate neighbours. We will leave it for the time being.
In my opinion, the World Sufi Conference was a timely event of far greater impact than what we may ordinarily think of. India is the right place where this conference was held and Prime Minister Modi has done honour to the nation by leading a pursuit for universal peace.
The closing years of the past century witnessed the rise of Islamic religious extremism in various parts of the world in general but in the Islamic world in particular.
Historians have tried to pinpoint the reasons for widespread commotion in the Islamic world at this point of time in their history. Their narrative is that the “loot” of hydrocarbon wealth of the Gulf States – all Muslims – and its political ramifications have drawn Islamic youth and clerics into the vortex of anti-American clash. Therefore this conflict is essentially economic and not religious.
However, Islamists, whose religion gives importance to the ideology of protest as an instrument of political dissent, perceived solidarity of the ummah in the teachings of Islamic fraternity standing at the core of Islamic social conduct.
To Islamic ideologues, the US appeared as the first obstruction in the path of Islamic world’s supremacy. However, for two reasons, Islamic world was not in a position to expel the US from the Gulf. One was that the Islamists were not militarily a united force capable of combating the US. Secondly, the US has made deep inroads into the politics of these States with the Saudi monarchy in the lead.
Therefore, the militant Islam decided to adopt “other tactics” in a conflict with the US. Proxy war, internal subversion, stray attacks on strategic installations, unleashing of disinformation campaigns, ideology of denial, media subversion, philosophy of victimization, invocation of human rights etc. are all manifestations of “other tactics”.
This has been going on for last two decades and half. Elements countering Islamic resurgence movement with the tacit intention of maligning Muslims as a whole generalize them as terrorists, subversives, and anti-human, barbaric and so forth and so on. In this war of accusations and counter accusations, Muslims began to be taken as a community without human face.
Unfortunately, contemporary Muslim world could not throw up leadership of unique vision and world view capable of rebuilding the damaged profile and presenting the human face of Islam. Mutual rivalries and home born dissensions played havoc with the entire Muslim world.
In this background, the greatest and most desirable role to break the jinx has come in the shape of the World Sufi Conference held in New Delhi on the behest of the Government of India. The Sufi movement, initially appearing in Arabia and then stoutly taken over by medieval Iran, is the foremost movement in the history of Islam that successfully strove to harmonize cut and dried cults, ideologies and dogmas with the essentials that, according to the holy book, made human beings “the best of creation”.
Much has been written on Sufism, its roots, sources and its impact. There is copious literature at our disposal about institutionalizing of Sufism as a social movement in the Islamic world from Turkey and Egypt to Middle East and then south and southeast-ward to the Middle East, South Asia and as far as Indonesia and Malaysia. Everywhere Sufism adapted to local environs, giving and taking, and converting large swaths of humanity to its fold.
The significance of Delhi World Sufi Conference is that it is an attempt by the deeply humanistic elements among the Muslims all over the world to retrieve the humanistic profile of Islam and bring it in line with the enriched human culture of fraternity among mankind. Sufis have always been the messengers of peace and reconciliation, which, in itself, is the highest of philosophies known to mankind ever since the creation of the universe.
India and Iran are two most outstanding countries in the world that have given Sufism its pristine glory and sheen and made it popular among the vast masses of people living on the globe. Gautam, Nanak and Chishti in India, Sanai, Attar and Rumi in Iran have, through their thought and teachings, contributed to the spiritual emancipation of mankind. The common thread running through the plethora of their teachings is that the paths may be many but the destination is one. The crux of Sufi teaching is that of self-realization.
Though Iran has passed into the hands of theocracy for last three decades for whatever reasons, yet the soul of Iran will never run insipid so as to distance from the teachings of her great thinkers. How beautifully Maulana of Rum put it:
- marde hajji hamrahe haji talab/ khwah Hind-o khwah Chin-o khwah Arab
mangar andar booy-o andar rang-o/ bingar andar azm-o dar ahang-e o
- (if you are headed for pilgrimage (to Mecca), go and seek the company of a pilgrim irrespective of his nationality – an Indian, Chinese or Arab. Don’t look into his colour and his caste, look into his urge and his commitment to the cause).
By calling the World Sufi Conference, India has rendered invaluable service to mankind in its search for universal peace. The messages that have emanated from the participants of this conference will reverberate for long. It has come at a time when mankind is standing on the crossroad of its destiny. In an age in which confusion and contradiction have made human kind almost helpless and paralyzed, the message of Sufis, the great benefactors of mankind, will infuse new spirit and new hope in us. This is what we call India’s world vision. India is the right place from where the message of universal peace should have come out.
Of course, there are elements within Islamic orthodoxy that castigate Sufism as a negative and pacifist movement. They do not see eye to eye with its universalism. Some of the great Sufis suffered martyrdom – Mansur ibn Hallaj is an example. But then even the Christ had to go to the cross and Gandhi had to fall to the bullets.