SUFISM : THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE HEART
The Sufi movement and the Bhakti movement saw rise during the medieval period in India. Both the movements brought a new form of religious expression in Muslims and Hindus. The Sufis were mystics who believed in liberalism in Islam. They stressed on a society based on universal love. They didn’t give any importance to caste and believed that all human being’s are equal. The Sufi saints played an important role in bringing the Muslims and Hindus together. They used local language to make religion accessible and meaningful to the common people. They were against the vulgar display of wealth in public life. The Sufis gave prominence to free thought and liberal ideas. They turned to meditation in order to achieve religious contentment. Similar to the Bhakti saints, the Sufis also interpreted religion as ‘love of god’ and service of humanity. Due to their belief in the concept of unity of being, Sufis could establish an ideological relationship with Hindu thought.There are fourteen silsilahs of the Sufis as mentioned by Abul Fazl while writing the Ain-i-Akbari . These silsilahs were divided into two types, Ba shara and Be shara. Ba shara were the orders that followed the Islamic Sharia Law and its directives like namaz and roza. Prime amongst these were the Chishti, Suhrawardi, Firdawsi, Qadiri and Naqshbandi silsilahs. The Be shara silsilahs were having no compulsion to follow the Sharia. The Qalandars are associated to this group.The term sufi is an Arabic word generally suggesting to a man who believes in the path of devotion and dedication to god. The scholars are divided on the origin of the term. Some scholars are of the view that the term sufi has been derived from a Greek word sophia that means wisdom. Their view is not justifiable for, there has no term like sufi in the Greek language. Most scholars have accepted that the term sufi has been derived from the Arabic word suffah which means the terrace. It has a reference to the companions of the prophet who dwelt on the terrace of Madina mosque of the prophet. The Sufis were having no social and political responsibilities. This derivation is believed to be the most reasonable.Sufism is believed to have begun from the very inception of Islam. Mohammad, even before the attainment of his prophet hood, lived a life of an asceticism, purity and devotion which is the basis of mysticism. After his declaration of prophet hood, he was the right man to comprehend the esoteric form of Islam which again is the core sprit of Sufism. After the death of prophet, his descendents continued the traditions and led a life of devotion and obedience to God and emphasised on the esoteric form of Islam.The Sufism came in India in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. In the early days, the main centres of the Sufis were in Multan and Punjab. The Sufis had spread to Deccan, Bengal, Bihar and the Kashmir in thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Sufism had already taken on a definite form before its arrival to India. Its moral principles, teachings and orders, system of fasting, prayers and practice of living in khanqahs had already been fixed. The Sufis came to India on their own will through Afghanistan. They became popular due to their emphasis upon devotional love, service to humanity and a pure life. This helped them to earn a place of honour in Indian society.The sufis travelled with an aim of preaching Islam to the native people of the conquered lands without using any force or coercive measures. They were welcomed in India and all other countries. To accomplish their mission, they interacted with the residents of that country and they learnt the local language for this purpose. The sufis also came in contact with the mystics of different religions. Many sufis had come to India along with the armies of Muslim invaders. The Sufis found the Indian soil suitable for the accomplishment of their mission. They developed contacts with the local people after their arrival in India. To have meaningful conversation with the natives of the area for their work, they learnt their language. They also studied the literature of different languages. Sanskrit literature deeply affected their thought. Many sufis had learnt and practiced the eight fold path of yoga.The Rishi order of Sufis has the most dominant influence on the Kashmiri Muslims in terms of Kashmiriyat. The other Sufi orders like the Kubravi, Naqshbandi, Suharwardi and Quadri arrived in Kashmir from Persia, Central and North India, Central Asia, however, the Rishi order evolved indigenously in the valley itself in the fifteenth century. The term ‘Rishi‘ has a clear roots from Sanskrit and Indian traditions.The Rishi order of Sufis differ from other Sufi orders in its way of life and philosophy. Many writers of this period have been greatly attracted to the unique way of life and philosophy of the Rishi order of Sufis. Abul Fazl, an important chronicler of this period writes that the most respected class of people in Kashmir are the Rishis. They are true in their worship and they do not condemn men belonging to different faiths and religion.The Kashmiri Muslims of Rishi‘s order have ascetic and unworldly life thus have a close similarity to the lifestyle of the Hindu Rishis and Munis and Buddhist and Jain monks.A foremost Rishis, Sheikh Nooruddin wrote on the conflicts between Hindus and Muslims during the reign of Sultan Sikandar :-“We belong to the same parents. Then why this difference? Let Hindus and Muslims (together) Worship God alone. We came to this world like partners. We should have shared our joys and sorrows together.”One great disagreement between the Hindus and the Muslims is the question of idol worship. Many a sufi and Rishi, however, unhesitantly expressed their love of idols of gods and goddesses. Idol worship is even considered part of the phenomenon of mystical love. Sheikh Yaqub sufi of the Kubravi order, asserts repeatedly that his faith is the love of idols.The broad minded sufis and conservative Muslims have never shared a cordial relationship, however, whereas the sufis were on the margins of society in many other places, in Kashmir they were having the dominant influence. This is something that makes the Kashmiri Muslim society different from other Muslim societies.It was seventy five years ago when accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India happened. The most remarkable fact of that time in our history was that, the Kashmir’s Muslims stayed secular in their gravest trial. It was never mean thing forthem to to hear horrible stories of communal carnage of millions of Hindus and Muslims and remain unaffected unlike their brethren in Mirpur and Poonch. Kashmiri Muslims welcomed Indian troops, seventy five years ago and helped them in their fight against Pakistani Muslim tribal intruders.Kashmir remained in the grip of militants and separatists for years. A Muslim majority region was seeking freedom from a Hindu majority country. This created an impression of rampant communalism in the state. Not paying attention to the misdeeds of isolated groups, funded from abroad, the people remained secular. This is demonstrated by the fact that ordinary Kashmiri Muslims are even today eagerly waiting the return of their Pundit brothers and sisters who had left the valley due to militancy. Kashmiri Muslims have been taking care of the homes of their migrated Hindu brothers and sisters for years in the hope of their return to valley. The demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya led to demolition of many Hindu Temples in Bangladesh and Pakistan but Hindu Temples of Kashmir remained safe from the effects of Islamic frenzy.From where does this commitment to secularism and a composite Hindu Muslim culture emanate? What is the reason of this deep connection with India? Why Kashmiri Muslim gives so importance to Kashmiriyat? The answer lies in the Kashmiri Muslims philosophy of life and his spiritual beliefs. It is the deep rooted impact of Sufi and Rishi visions of Islam that have helped him to follow co existence and universal brotherhood.It is extremely disheartening to see people with such mystical traditions living in such hostile and raging times. This is no place to give judgements on the rights and wrongs of the clashing points of view. But it is painful to see Kashmir living permanently in the grip of ignorance, mistakenly call fundamentalism. Indeed I am optimistic to see Kashmir’s sufis and Rishis again leading India to a higher level of spiritual development.