Sufism: a perfect antidote to extremism

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Abdul Rasool Syed
ISLAM, the religion of peace, moderation and tolerance has, unfortunately, been hijacked by some so-called Muslims with narrow understanding of the true spirit of Islam who believe that those who cherish any ideology adverse to their self-concocted version deserve to be obliterated. Consequently, what we see today is the surge of intolerance and extremism that keep on manifesting sometimes in terms of Hazara Genocide, sometimes in shape of issuing blasphemy edicts against those who don’t sign up to any peculiar ideology and sometimes in killing of a teacher by his student alleging his mentor of promoting anti-Islamic activities. All these events suggest vividly that intolerance and extremism have enveloped our society to the core.
Islam, on the contrary, is the embodiment of tolerance and patience and utterly repudiates extremism and intolerance. The quranic injunction in this regard is quite clear. It says: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion.” (Quran 109: 6).  We can’t force others to accept our point of view and religion or faith. As In Holy Quran Allah Almighty says: “There is no compulsion in religion…” (Quran 2:256). To add, once Holy Prophet (PBUH) was asked “What is Eemaan (belief/faith)?” He (SAW) replied: “Eemaan (faith) is patience and tolerance.” Realistically speaking, the ideology of Islam close to the version as preached and underscored in Quran and Hadis is the ideology promoted by the Sufi order of Islam. We, therefore, can counter the extremist ideologies by extensively propagating the teachings of Sufism.
Sufism is based on the concepts of non-interference, acceptance of the differences as well as plurality. The Arabic word tasamuh means roughly forbearance and indulgence; this corresponds to the Turkish word musamaha, for which the Sufi poet Yunus Emre also used the expression hos goermek (‘accept everything’). In Persian, alongside tasamuh the less positive term (‘to resign oneself’, ‘to put up with’) is used. In religious contexts, in the Su? tradition of South Asia and also Afghanistan, scholars favour the North Indian term rawadari (derived from Persian rawa — ‘permitted’, ‘tolerated’); for ‘letting things happen’; in this sense Pakistani and Indian Sufis often use the expression: apna ‘aqida chodo nahin, dusre ka chedo nahin — ‘Keep your faith and do not interfere with those of others’. This wise saying in Urdu is based on the Qur’anic verse “To you your religion and to me mine”. Sufis believe in love for humanity and prefer Haqooqul Ibbad (the rights of People) to Haqooq-ullah (the rights of Allah) for they contend that if one wishes to please Allah, the sublime, he must please his creatures. It is vividly reflected in their literature. The mystics through their penmanship have always furthered the very concept of love, humility and humanity and have rejected the very notion of antipathy, arrogance and extremism. Let me quote here few renowned Sufis who played instrumental role in presenting the true image of Islam through their literal work as well as courteous code of conduct and thereby attracted even the non-Muslims to embrace the true faith not through coercion but through the course of love and affection.
A celebrated sufi, Ba Ba Farid once addressed to a visitor with following remarkable lines “Don’t give me scissors! Give me a needle! I sew together! I don’t cut apart! (Nizami I976, p 89) Another noted Sufi, Ibn-e Arbi distinctly warned against religious exclusiveness. In this vein, he writes: Do not attach yourself to any particular creed so exclusively that you disbelieve all the rest; otherwise you will lose much good, nay, you will fail to recognize the real truth of the matter. God, the omnipresent and omnipotent, is not limited by any one creed, for he says, “wheresoever’s you turn, there is the face of Allah”. Jalal-udin Rumi, arguably the greatest and best-known Sufi master and poet gave the following message of love to humanity through his Quatrain: Come! Come! It doesn’t matter what you are, A kafir, an idol- or a ?re-worshipper. Come! Our caravan is not a place of despair! Come! Even if you have broken your vows a hundred times, come yet again!
To conclude, Su?s with their spiritually deepened language of love oppose the language of the antagonism of ‘closed’ theocratic world views as well as the discourse of religious hardliners which generates intolerance. Their tolerance of religious differences and their ‘live-and-let- live’ cultural diversity which comes from the philosophical concept of tawhid — the ‘oneness of the Divine’ — bear testimony to an ‘open’, holistic world view. This view is entirely oriented toward God, refrains from interfering in the religious views and concerns of those of other faiths and welcomes the togetherness of all in sacred places. Realizing the gravity of situation that our country is undergoing today in terms of extremism, intolerance and sectarianism, we should, therefore, highlight the importance of Sufism and spread its teachings in every nook and corner of the country. Media, academia, rightly guided religious luminaries and enlightened civil society should come forward and forge synergy to defeat the extremist narrative by presenting Sufism as a counter narrative. The Prime minister’s initiative to establish a university namely “AL-QADIR” for promotion and dissemination of Sufi teachings is a pronounced step forward in this direction that needs encouragement and heart-felt appreciation.
— The writer, an Advcate, based in Quetta Balochistan.