Sufism United Humanity: Glimpses from the Indian History

By Muhammad Unais, Word for Peace

One week ago, an incident made me think of writing this piece. That was my Muslim friends narration about his experience of encountering a Christian teacher who taught him in his upper primary school. At the end of his school life, he had joined in a theological seminary where he also learnt modern education. After that, he never tried to get in touch with the teachers he had. This Christian teacher named Seline, whom he met accidentally, was a teacher who could influence him very much in his school days. While he encountered her, she enquired about his education and career. When she asked why he didnt come to meet her earlier, he replied that he had felt an inferiority complex being a religious student. But, she was quite embarrassed by hearing this replay. She wondered as to how he could think so! She said with pleasure that her son had gone to Ajmer and Nizamudheen to visit the Sufi saints of Ajmer and Nizamudeen respectively and that they realise that we all are brothers of a single humanity.

After this experience, I began to ask myself why and how a Christian would visit great Muslim saints, and what do they get from those spiritual masters? The answers are satisfactory. Sufism and Sufis have done much to unite the humanity and to give shelter to the needy thousands irrespective of caste and religion. Since my childhood days, I have witnessed such visits of believers in other religions to the Sufi shrines (Dargahs) in my locality.

In India, Sufism is a well-rooted religious institution that revived the dignified life of Islam back from the deformation of the epicurean sultans. From its beginning onwards, Sufism has made Islamic community interconnected with the Hindus and other faith traditions in the world. As per the injunctions of Manusmriti, the Dalit wasnt able to touch the higher caste Hindus. So the majority of Dalit was flown to the merciful Sufi shrines that were stations of peace and homage. This has even led to the major conversions of lower caste people to Islam. This Sufi tradition had given them due respect and human dignity among the people.

Khwaja Mueenudin Chisti who came to India to spread the Sufi messages of Islam, opted Ajmer region which was the capital of Rajput kingdom. It is to be understood that the Rajputkingdom was fighting against Muslim rulers. But they didnt disturb Khwaja in his preaching of Islam. Many of the people who were not permitted to enter even temple, took shelter in Sufi tabernacle of Khwaja. The noble character of Sufis which encompassed love and compassion consoled the minds of poor people. Their speeches were not rhetoric. They practiced the equality and tolerance which were encouraged by Islam, in their lifetime. Sufi dargahs were hailed as practical centre for this quintessential goodness.

The Aligarh Muslim Universitys professor K.A. Nizami says, When the swords of Ghori were used for battles in India, the Sufis were teaching the Muslims and Hindus the lesson of love and equality. When the sultans subscribed to the Persian culture, while speaking to lower class members with disgrace, the rich and poor people had the same food in Sufi hospices. The later history tells us that, even the Brahmins who were interested in Sufi thoughts began to enlarge their beard and read Rumis Masnevi and others.

In India, there were sultans who destroyed the temples and looted the wealth of temples by giving religious logic for their imperialistic greed. This tendency of sultans was protested by Sufis. The effort of Sultan Sikandar Lodi was opposed by Sheikhh Miyan Aljudani. Sheikhh Shahabudin told to Muhammad Bin Tuglak who had decided to name himself as Adil that, this name is not suitable to the one who causes violence and injustice. You should stay with peace to all communities; you should let everybody entertain equality in social life, and you should open the doors of your monastery to all communities. These were the words of Sheikhh Nizamudin Chisti to his followers too. The Sufi hospices were shelters to whosoever was in need of them.

Bairam Khan and Kumbha Dev who were defeated in a riot against Muhammad Shah Bahmani, found shelter in the hospice of Sheikhh Zainudin Davoodi. Sheikh gave all supports to them and prayed for them. Sufis sustained the heritage of Islam, its value, and its theories of equality and brother hood. Even some Hindus loved the Sufis more than their counterparts named Gurus. Sheikh Sultan Ahmed had a lot of adherents from Hindus. They called him as Lucky Dada. For Hindus, Mansa Basha Suhravardi was Rajabharathi andKhwaja kisar was Zindapeer.

The Hindus, who became victim of aggression of Kalhora King, were placed under the shelter of Sheikh Shah Inayath. Two children were supposedly born to a Hindu believer named Malooji by the blessings of Shah Sherif. And he named his children Sharifji and Shaji, of which Shajis son is well-known ruler Chathrapathi Shivaji. The main theme of Sufism was a call for Thouheed based life. Sufis taught that, the Thouheed is practically shown with tolerance, equality and brotherhood. Khwaja Mueenudin Chisthi told that the Thouheed is not only a belief, but also, it is protecting the oppressed people, helping the destitute and bringing up of appetite. According to Prof. H.A.R. Gibb, Sufism made an intellectual revolution in community. This revolution made a cultural and social vigour in society.

For the harmonious tradition of religion, we need to observe carefully how Muslims live and had lived in the past. They stayed with others tolerantly and harmoniously. This Sufi tendency of inter-religious harmony and living with diversity was inherited from the prophet PBUH himself and his followers. Asia, where the Sufi saints spread the message of Islam. The Sufi saints played a significant role in continuing this plural culture of Islam in many lands across the world. The merciful tradition of Sufis was inherited from the life of prophet who conquered the land of infidels, who had expelled him and his followers although they were also the natives, and proclaimed: you are free, so you are permitted to go.

The same case also happened in Kerala. Zainuddhin Makhdoom, a great Sufi saint came to Kerala in 16th century AD and stayed tolerantly with Hindu kings. Sheikhh Makhdoom even stood with Hindu King against the Portuguese colonialist oppression. And the Muslims even prayed for the Hindu Kings who permitted the Muslims to perform and practice their own religion in his kingdom.

The author is a Kerala-based writer. He is pursuing an undergraduate course in Islamic studies at Madeenathunnoor College, Calicut.

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