Books and Documents

Islam and Spiritualism

SARMAD HAD, ON one occasion, predicted that Dara Shikoh would inherit the empire. But after the bloody war of succession, it was Aurangzeb who captured the throne. The new emperor not only eliminated his rival siblings but actively pursued the partisans of his brother. … This was the background when Aurangzeb deputed his chief justice, Mulla Qawi to prepare the ground to punish Sarmad. Accordingly, inquiries were made and Sarmad was summoned to appear before the royal court. Apart from nudity, Sarmad was Shikoh with denying the night journey [mairaj] of the Holy Prophet, on account of what he had said in the following couplet:

The mullah says that Ahmad went to the heavens

Sarmad says that the heavens were inside Ahmad! -- Arif Mohammed Khan

Sufi traditions powerful expression of people's Islam in our subcontinent

This dargah, representing years of Sufi traditions, which is open to everyone regardless of caste, creed, faith, age, or gender, twenty-four hours a day, not only posed a powerful challenge to the Hindu orthodoxy of the time, but also to the Muslim orthodoxy represented by the ulema (orthodox Islamic clerics). While the dominant Hindu practices emphasized caste hierarchies and exclusion, the dargah of the saint was the refuge of the most lowly, humble, and oppressed people of the land. While the Muslim priestocracy preached the supremacy of Islam, the religion of the conquerors, the Chistis demonstrated their love and acceptance of people of all faiths.

The Chistis, unlike many other Sufi traditions or orders, always kept a healthy distance from the power politics of the court. They practiced extreme poverty and simplicity. Their fondness for music soon endeared them to the masses. Like the shrine of any Hindu saint, the dargah of the Sufis became a centre not only of the worship of the pir or guru, but also a place of healing, refuge, and wish fulfilment. No wonder, people of all faiths, Hindus and Muslims alike, flock to these shrines even today.....

Once inside, we seemed to have entered a medieval world. Men, women, and children in all kinds of attire hurried about here and there. There was a long line of people trying to get inside the shrine to pay their respects at the saint's tomb. We too were ushered into the rather full, even sticky chamber....

Sufi traditions of peace and coexistence are indeed very powerful as an expression of people's Islam in our subcontinent, but unfortunately the ruling clergy has never given them either recognition or validity.

It was interesting that Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf and his Begum were unable to visit this dargah of Garib Nawaz during their first visit to India . ''How could they,'' someone said, ''the Khwaja did not call him because he did not come with peace in his heart.''  -- Makarand P

Raza Rumi discusses a new book on Sufism by Sadia Dehlvi

The most illuminating part of the book is the evolution of Sufi schools of thought and their key beliefs and approaches. While browsing through the text one marvels at centuries of synthesis in the Indian subcontinent, which explains why the dergahs remain such a focus of public attention and imagination.


What I especially like about this volume is its immediate connection with readers.


For example Sadia writes in a chapter entitled Tariqa – the Way of the Sufi: "Growing up in an Irish convent boarding school, I regularly went to church, sang Christmas carols, baked Easter eggs and imbibed Christian values. During annual holidays a maulana, a religious teacher, came home to teach the Quran to all the children. He instilled the fear of God into us, with the result that fear remained the only emotion that the heart felt for the Creator. Somehow, this overwhelming fear kept me connected to Allah, despite often wanting to break away completely.

"Traversing the Sufi path changed my attitude, for it teaches that prayer rituals are worth little if not accompanied by love and sincerity."


In the last few years of his life, Prophet Muhammad spent a lot of time with his companions teaching them ways of achieving exalted ranks with God. One day Hanzalah al Usaydi, a companion, confessed to Abu Bakr that he felt divided between contradictory feelings. While in the Prophet’s presence he had the ability to see paradise and hell, but away from the Messenger he felt overpowered by worldly affairs. Hanzalah felt he might be counted among the hypocrites of Islam.

Abu Bakr confided to having similar thoughts and both decided to seek answers from the Prophet on their spiritual states.

Hearing their doubts, Muhammad replied, ‘By He who holds my soul in his hands, if you were able to remain in the state in which you were in my company, and remember God permanently, the angels would shake your hands in the bed and along the path you walk. Hanzalah, there is a time for this and there is a time for that.’  Sufis describe Hanzalah’s state as haal and maqaam, the spiritual state where God commands the angels to greet His friends -- Sadia Dehlvi


Sufi women in the Naqshbandi path have matters related to marriage placed entirely in their hands. From the Naqshbandi perspective, final approval of a potential husband is a matter that two people in the world have the right to consider: the mother and her bride-to-be daughter. If the mother likes the groom, and her daughter is helplessly in love with him, then the wedding is greenlighted regardless of the father’s opinion, or the tribe’s. The father, naturally, has to accept the decision his wife and daughter make, and if he doesn’t, they can go for it anyway.... I cannot help but wonder why Arab women would import Western-made theories on feminism when they had this to bank on! -- Ruba Saqr

Dr Fatima Hussain said the current intellectual propensity was to debunk religion on the pretext that it had been a cause of bloodshed throughout history and served to divide, rather than unite people. “My personal opinion, as a student of comparative religion, is quite different since all religions of the world took birth with a noble intent,” she said, adding, it is only when they became pedantic and were increasingly institutionalised to sanctify political and economic designs considered repressive and hence abominable.

She said many Sufis were highly sceptical of such practices, charging them with not having any essential links with Islam. Sometimes, individuals described themselves as Sufis but not as Muslims, responding to the universality of ecstatic mystical experience and the particularity of Sufi routes to that experience, she added.

Sufism has been defined in many ways. Some see it as God's annihilating the individual's ego, will, and self-centeredness and then reviving him spiritually with the lights of His Essence so that he may live according to His will. Others view it as a continuous striving to cleanse one's self of all that is bad or evil in order to acquire virtue. Junayd al-Baghdadi, a famous Sufi master, defines Sufism as a method of recollecting "self-annihilation in God" and "permanence or subsistence with God." Shibli summarizes it as always being together with God or in His presence, so that no worldly or other-worldly aim is even entertained. Abu Muhammad Jarir describes it as resisting the temptations of the carnal self and bad qualities and acquiring laudable moral qualities. There are some who describe Sufism as seeing behind the "outer" or surface appearance of things and events and interpreting whatever happens in the world in relation to God. This means that a person regards every act of God as a window to "see" Him, lives his life as a continuous effort to view or "see" Him with a profound, spiritual "seeing" indescribable in physical terms, and with a profound awareness of being continually overseen by Him. All of these definitions can be summarized as follows: Sufism is the path followed by an individual who is seeking to free himself or herself from human vices and weaknesses in order to acquire angelic qualities and conduct pleasing to God. -- M. Fethullah Gülen

‘Inserting Allah into your song does not make it Sufi’ by Amrita Chaudhary

Stressed Gazans turn to meditation after war

The great Apostle of Allah by Muhammad Embeay

Beat recession with meditation & yoga By M P Bhattathiri

Arabic Thought in the Illiberal Age by Christopher Parker

Allah is my God. Who is yours?  By Endy M. Bayuni

What Do Our Inter-Religious Conflicts Teach Us?
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
What Do Our Inter-Religious Conflicts Teach Us?
Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam

Discovering Patterns of Unity in diversity leads to Intellectual as well as Spiritual growth

We squander a large part of our national energy, that could  have been  expended  more  fruitfully in pursuit  of  more  worthwhile goals,   in   inter-religious  conflicts. This is not a   new development, not for India, not for the world at large.  Humanity has been involved in conflicts of this nature since ancient times. But why do such conflicts take place at all, if religions, all religions, teach us to believe in the oneness of the universe, brotherhood of man and so on? This is perhaps  because we  have  made  our  religions a part of  our  egos,  indeed  our negative  egos. This is a tragedy. For all religions teach us to go beyond our egos. Try to kill your egos, or suppress them, but do transcend them -- is the universal religious message.

It  is  time  we  in  India, both  Hindus  and  Muslims,  try  to understand  our religions and follow them rather than just  fight over  one  religion’s  superiority over another.  We Muslims, in particular, suffer from an unwarranted superiority complex that keeps us from coming to terms with other religious communities. -- SULTAN SHAHIN, Editor, New Age Islam

Special feature on the 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution

The thing that can be mentioned explicitly and reckoned to be the important and pivotal aspect of the Islamic Revolution is its spiritual dimension. Recognition of the Revolution of the Imam is not possible except from this perspective. In the same way that the personality of Imam Khomeini is a multifaceted and complete one, and he cannot be remembered simply as a leader of a political and social revolution, rather the focus should also be on his spiritual dimension, spiritual nature, expertise and religious leadership as well, the Imam’s revolution cannot be viewed except from this perspective. Thus the foremost feature of the Imam and the Islamic Revolution of Iran must be deemed to be spiritualism. ---- The Institute for Compilation and Publication of Imam Khomeini’s Works (International Affairs Department)

The concept of taskhîr in the Qur'ân refers to the easily observable fact that nature, in both its cosmic and biospheric dimensions, has been constrained by Allah to render service and benefit unto humankind. In modern cosmological terms, taskhîr refers to the high degree of fine-tuning of the design-parameters of the universe for the support of life on earth, and ultimately, conscious and intelligent human life. Through taskhîr, the perfection of Allah's wisdom (hikmah) is manifested in the phenomenal world, and His Grace (fadl) realized for humanity. The service rendered to mankind by the Divine subjugation of nature is ultimately not only physical and material in nature, but also intellectual, moral and metaphysical in its significance: that humanity would be brought to recognize, acknowledge and glorify their Creator, and thus to realize fully the enduring transcendent meaning of their fleeting, phenomenal life on earth. Axiologically, this means that Islamic science is less utilitarian than intellecto-moral, and hence, the "outer" utilitarian dimension of science is to be subsumed under, and guided by, its "inner" intellecto-moral dimension, and not vice-versa.---- Adi Setia

Come for my concert, messaged my friend Vidya Shah, an acclaimed classical singer whose rendering of bhakti and Sufi songs demonstrates the syncretic nature of Indian culture, how Hindus and Muslims can discover the convergence of their spiritual traditions in devotional music. Winter is when Delhi’s music world comes alive. Vidya sang on the first day of a two-day festival last month in Delhi called Bajat Anhad Naad. Listening to her I was reminded of the truth in poet T.S. Eliot’s words: ‘You are the music while the music lasts.’ Her one song that left a deep imprint on me proclaims a bigger truth: “Koti Brahmands (crores of universes) get created in a second, get destroyed in a second. It’s all Hari’s leela.” -- Sudheendra Kulkarni


The believers in Islamic mysticism embrace a personal approach to their faith and a different outlook on how to run their country’s government. In the desert swelter of southern Pakistan, the scent of rose­water mixed with a waft of hashish smoke. Drummers pounded away as celebrants swathed in red pushed a camel bedecked with garlands, tinsel and multihued scarfs through the heaving crowd. A man skirted past, grinning and dancing, his face glistening like the golden dome of a shrine nearby. "Mast Qalandar!" he cried. "The ecstasy of Qalandar!" By Nicholas Schmidle

Also: Iqbal, Jinnah And The Lost Glory Of The Muslims Of India

By Kaleem Kawaja

''Report in a way that invites readers to take a look at why such things continue to happen and that they have their roots in anger, fear, hate and wrong perceptions. Prevent anger from becoming a collective energy. The only antidote for anger and violence is compassion. Terrorists are also victims, who create other victims of misunderstanding. 'Every reader has seeds of fear, anger, violence and despair, and also seeds of hope, compassion, love and forgiveness,'' said Thich Nhat Hahn, affectionately called Thay. As journalists, you must not water the wrong seeds. The stories should touch the seeds of hope. As journalists, you have the job of selectively watering the right seeds. You must attempt to tell the truth and yet not water the seeds of hate. It's not what's in the story, but how you tell it that's important,” exhorted Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, Guest editor for The Times of India edition on October 2, 2008. This 82 years old monk is credited with a big role in turning American public opinion against the war in Vietnam — for which Martin Luther King Jr had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967. And so, his words are not to be dismissed lightly.

The concept of fana or annihilation of ego is at the very heart of Sufi theosophy. Among all species, a human being has the potential of evolving to the highest level of consciousness and becoming a siddha or saint, one who has attained spiritual perfection through sadhana. According to S H Nasr: "To become a saint in Islam is to realise all the possibilities of the human state, to become the universal man. The mystic quest is none other than the realisation of this state, which is also union with God, for the universal man is the mirror in which are reflected all the divine names and qualities." Reflections on Sufi spiritualism by ANUP TANEJA

Upon deliberating what has been expounded further by Allah (s.w.t.) in Verses 53: 2 to 7 of the Qur'an, it is known to us with certainty that the Prophet was taken to the highest part of Horizon, near the Lote-tree and not to Jerusalem. Often, it is argued that King Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem was also a MOSQUE. The Verse Number 95 of Sura Al-e-Imran (3) REJECTS that argument. The verse 3: 59 reveals "Undoubtedly, the first House for the worship of Allah ever built for mankind is the one at Bakka (Makkah), a blessed site and guidance for all the worlds."


Allah says in the Holy Quran: “O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it has been prescribed for those who were before you that you may learn self-restraint. Fasting for a fixed number of days… The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’ân was revealed, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and the criterion. So whoever witnesses the month should fast it. And whoever is sick or upon a journey should fast the same number of days (later on). Allah wishes ease for you and he does not wish hardship upon you. He wants that you should complete the period and that you should exalt Allah for that to which he has guided you that perhaps you may be thankful.” [Sûrah al-Baqarah: 183-185]


Kabir is a harbinger, a herald of the future. He is like the first flower that announces the spring. Kabir does not belong to any religion. All religions belong to him. No particular religion defines him. He is beauty, he is poetry, he is a great orchestra. Kabir was illiterate. He was a poor weaver, yet he was recognised as a man of God. Otherwise it was a monopoly of kings and princes and rich people: OSHO, Excerpted from ‘The Revolution’


Ottawa-based Harsha V Dehejia is a physician, a professor of Indian Studies at Carleton University, and the author of several scholarly books. His latest book, 'The Festival of Krishna', traces the 1,000-year history of Krishna poetry and painting and touches upon the under-current of Vaishnavism that sustained it. He spoke to Harsh Kabra:


In `Mindful Knitting', Tara Jon Manning writes, "The smallest action can send out a breath of fresh air to everyone we encounter. The world lightens up a little. As each person feels that little bit of relief, that little encounter with basic goodness and compassion, the world begins to lighten up a lot.", writes MARGUERITE THEOPHIL

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