The closer you get to your sweet soul, the sweeter you become, said Jalauddin Rumi, the great Sufi poet and philosopher and spiritual guide of Iqbal, one of South Asia’s – and the world’s – greatest poets.
Contrary to the recent but widespread fiction, Islam took roots and spread in much of South Asia not at gunpoint. Rather, it was embraced by the masses who had been bowled over by the stark simplicity and honesty of Arab traders and the power of love and faith exemplified by saints and Sufis like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi and Abulhasan Hajvery of Lahore etc.
They might not have been greatest scholars of Islam but they promoted and demonstrated the liberating message of their faith and its teachings of love, peace, universal brotherhood and equality before God with their actions and conduct.
Saint Nizamuddin was so wildly loved and popular among all sections of society that he gave a huge complex to many contemporary Sultans and emperors who ruled their vast empire from Delhi.
Everyone these days talks about the wars that Muslim rulers like the Mughals – and various other dynasties — fought for power in the subcontinent. But the real war for hearts and minds was fought and won by others. Their power didn’t flow from their sword or the barrel of the gun.
Many Muslim emperors and rulers might have built grand, spectacular mosques, as a token of appreciation and gratitude to the Ruler above. But they did not exactly represent Islam nor fought their wars for the religion.
If they invaded and fought Hindu kingdoms and states, they were hardly driven by any missionary zeal. All said and done, theirs was essentially a battle for power. If anything, many Muslim rulers brought nothing but disgrace to their faith, leading to the accusation that its growth is indebted to the long and powerful swords of the Mughals, Khiljis and Lodhis. If South Asia is home to a huge chunk of the world’s Muslim population – nearly half of it – today, the credit should largely go to real men of God.
What kind of people target such men, and people who love and revere them? And in the end what are they trying to prove? Can there be a more heinous crime than targeting men who spent all their lives in the service of God and humanity? But then what can you expect from the lunatics who do not spare even God’s own abode and unsuspecting, innocent men, women and children praying there? And all this of course in the name of Islam and Allah, for crying out loud!
These fanatics and crazies are supposed to be our protectors and guardians and the defenders of our faith. And they are saving and protecting us from our enemies by killing us! With friends like these, who needs any enemies?
All Sufis did nothing but spread love, tolerance, kindness, generosity, acceptance and inclusion. Their doors remained always open to people of all persuasions – Hindus and Muslims, the rich and poor. They sent away no one and literally fed thousands.
In the words of Rumi again, the way of love differs from all others; lovers (of God) owe allegiance to no nation or sect (but the way of God).
That was the way of the Sufis. Their doors were open for everyone, feeding the hungry and sheltering the weak. Some of us may not agree with their interpretation of Islam or some of the practices their overzealous followers have introduced over the centuries. But this is not about Sufism or how it is being commercially exploited by some.
This is about the increasingly dangerous and absurd interpretation of the faith whose very name denotes and stands for peace. It is an appalling, disgraceful crime in itself to send brainwashed youth and even teenagers to target innocent, unsuspecting men, women and children gathered at places of worship and shrines of saints who preached nothing but love, tolerance and kindness.
But it is an even greater crime and ultimate calumny against our noble faith and everything it stands for and preaches when such shameful crimes and atrocities are inflicted in the name of Islam.
In fact, this is an affront to all religions and men of faith. Perhaps no other faith preaches peace and repeatedly warns against violence and injustice of all sorts and strife as Islam does. In fact, if Islam means acceptance or submission to the will of God, it also literally means peace. More important, this is a faith that preaches moderation, restraint and reason in everything we do, even in our devotion and prayers.
It warns us that taking one innocent life is akin to killing all humanity and saving one life is like saving mankind. The Quran constantly cautions us that Allah does not like transgressors and those who spread strife and chaos on His earth. We are warned that killing a fellow human being equals waging war against Allah and He promises them nothing but harshest punishment.
But we have been here before and heard and said it all, haven’t we? In fact, we keep repeating this stuff ad nauseam like parrots without anyone taking us seriously.
While we earnestly hold forth on the real teachings and message of Islam, a weary world looks away in disgust as the jackals in straitjackets continue to kill in our name and in the name of God.
We could go on waxing lyrical on the peaceful nature of the great faith and its liberating teachings but the world looks not at our scriptures but at our actions, or rather of those who claim to be Muslims and shed innocent blood with impunity.
How long will this go on? And who’s going to stop this endless dance of death? From mosques to madrassas and from mourning Shias to Ahmadi shrines, no one is safe. And this is not a problem exclusive to Pakistan. For whatever reason, the cancer of extremism is fast eating into the vitals of the whole of Muslim world. A lunatic fringe has hijacked our faith and claims to speak on our behalf and all that we can do is wring our hands in helpless despair.
In their long and eventful history, Muslims have never faced a greater challenge to their identity and existence. This sickness within is far more dangerous than any challenge or threat that we may be confronted from without.
Where are the Muslim voices of reason and sanity? Where are our leaders, our Ulema and intellectuals when we need them so badly?
They must come out in the open and do much more and speak out more often and more forcefully against this distortion of our faith and morbid celebration of death. They need to examine what is fueling this menace and what can be done to eliminate the sources of this ideology of hate.
Indeed, all of us, every one of us who is concerned about the spread of this scourge must raise their voice against this deliberate and dangerous distortion of a faith that came as a blessing to the whole of humanity. If their voices are not heard, they must shout from the rooftops but speak they must. There is no other way to stop this madness. This is no time to hide for the believers.