The narrative of Islamic spirituality in India: by Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Asian Age

Indian Sufi philosopher of the Mughal period and the eldest son of Shah Jahan, Dara Shikoh was immensely inspired by mysticism of Islam and Hinduism. He wrote in his spiritual treatise Majma’ al-Bahrain (Mingling of the Two Oceans):

“I was impressed with a longing to behold the Gnostic doctrines of every sect and to hear their lofty expressions of monotheism and had cast my eyes upon many theological books and had been a follower thereof for many years, my passion for beholding the divine unity which is a boundless ocean, increased every moment”

The “two oceans” referred to in Dara Shikoh’s book implies: Bhaktimat and Sufism. Heavily based on the spiritual Islamic discourses and the Upanishadic texts, this Sufi treatise stimulated an intellectual interest in the mystical aspects of Islam and Hinduism and the esoteric interplay between the two traditions.

Remarkably, Dara rendered 52 Upanishads into Persian language and substantiated the absolute transcendental unity inferring from both the Qur’an and Vedic scriptures. Thus, a monistic harmony between Islam and Hinduism was perceived in the 16th century India. However, this notion of spiritual synergy did not go down well with the orthodox Islamic clergy who declared the Sufi philosopher a heretic and eventually issued the decree for his death in 1659.

The Sufi narrative of Islamic spirituality in India is in much harmony with the letter and spirit of Bhaktimat. While the Sufi poet Bulle Shah composed: “God is mixed in every heart”, the Bhakti tradition goes like this: “Into the bosom of the one great sea, Flow streams that come from hills on every side.”

Sufis came to India from different lands and cultures, but were united by a spiritual symbiosis —  Rishi-Sufi tradition. They spoke different languages, but at the same time, they blended together in an India culture of harmony. Here are a few glaring instances of this syncretism in Indian mystical precepts:

The abiding belief in Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (the World is one family), has got beautiful resonance in the Sufi belief: Al-Khlaq A’yalullah (the Mankind is one family of God), which is reported as the Prophetic tradition (hadith).

Similarly, the Sufi concept of wisal-e-ilahi (union with the divine) is no different from what is preached as advaita(non-dualism) in the Vendanta philosophy. Both faiths exhort their followers to stay conscious of their inner self (nafs or atman), while at the same time realising the whole being of the divine (ilah or brahmana). While Muslims seek to attain nijat-e-abadi during Namaz or Salat, Hindu followers tend to achieve the very eternal salvation through yoga or meditation.

Delhi’s famous Sufi saint — Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia (r.a) — conceived and promulgated the notion of sulh-e-kul (reconciliation with all). He advanced the harmonious values of the Indian culture with his focus on khidmat-e-khalq — service to mankind. He stated: “Almighty holds dear those who love Him for the sake of human beings, and those who love human beings for the sake of Almighty.”

Hazrat Nizamuddin’s closest disciple, Amir Khusrau would also assert his mentor’s philosophy of Sulh-e-Kul in his Persian poetry:

Kafir-e-ishqam musalmani mura darkaar neest;
Har rag-e man taar gashta hajat-e zunnaar neest.

I am a pagan and a worshipper of love: I do not need the creed (of Muslims); Every vein of mine has become taunt like a wire, I do not need the (Hindu) girdle).


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