By Ghulam Rasool
Dehlvi, New Age Islam
03 March 2017
In his recent
thought-provoking commentary, the reasons that Haroon Khalid has cited for the
rising fear of ISIS from the Sufi shrines like Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, ring true.
He writes that, “there is perhaps no other shrine in the country that captures
the essence of religious syncretism like the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. In
his courtyard, it feels as if the riots of Partition never happened, as if
Sindhi Hindus were never forced to abandon their land, as if Christian
settlements in Punjab had never been burned after alleged cases of blasphemy.
The courtyard of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar represents a different world, a world
that once existed but has slowly disappeared outside its confines. That’s why
this courtyard represents such a threat. It defies all narratives, of exclusive
nationalism and religious identities. It maybe just a few thousand people but a
powerful narrative. The attack is not on the shrine but on this worldview which
does not divide humanity into simplistic separate categories”.
confirms the impressions of many close observers of the sorry state of cultural
affairs in Pakistan. But unfortunately, the writer conveniently skipped an
ambiguous, clear and candid exposition of the genesis that feeds into the
religious violence in Pakistan. It would have been more to the point if he had
tried to identify the root-cause stemming from a religio-fascist philosophy
wreaking the cultural destruction in the entire Islamic history. Not only now,
but for ages, it has been targeting the emblems of pluralism and syncretism—the
Sufi shrines like that of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, a 13th-century Muslim mystic
and poet who founded his Sufi order (Silsila) in Sindh.
It is a common
knowledge in history that Sufi mystics were choked to death in almost every age
of Islam and in every Muslim country. Pakistan is not an isolated phenomenon.
Sufis in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iraq and in various parts of the African Muslim
region were persecuted for their alleged ‘deviation’ (Inhiraf) from the
‘puritan’ Islamic beliefs. For instance, in Iraq, the brutal killing of the
Persian Sufi mystic and poet, Mansur Hallaj in 922 was justified for his
stating "anal Haqq" (I am the truth)—the allegorical and esoteric words
that he spelled out in a spiritual state of Fana (salvation). The theological
jurists of Baghdad considered this Muslim mystic as a heretic deserving of
death penalty. Another Persian Sufi
mystic Ayn al-Qudat Hamadani was executed in 1131 by the mullahs of Suljuks. In
1191, the prominent Sufi luminary Shahab-ud-Deen Suhrawardi, the founder of a
new Sufi order, was executed by the then Muslim ruler in Syria. In 1417, one of
the greatest Sufi masters of Azerbaijan was skinned alive in Syria itself. In 1718,
Sufi Shah Ïnayatullah, who was also an eminent social reformist in Sindh, was
executed by the Mughal Emperor Yar Muhammad Kalhoro. Deplorably, this nefarious
spade of religious violence rocked the history of the Indian subcontinent also.
In India, while Firoz Shah Tughlaq punished the mystic Masood Bakk by a painful
death in 1390, Aurangzeb Alamgeer beheaded the Persian Sufi saint of his time,
Sarmad Kashani, popularly called “Sarmad Shaheed” (martyr). He had travelled
from Persia to find an abode of peace in India in the 17th century.
In most cases, it was
the politically well-established theologians and Islamic jurists who sentenced
the Sufis to death on the charges (Fatwas) that considered their writings or
utterances as heretical. On account of their non-conformist views like the
notion of Wahdatul Wajud (unity of existence), these Sufis were declared
apostates (Murtad). And this was an out-and-out theological justification to
slain the Sufis and vandalize their shrines. Today, the same holds true for the
extremist narrative underpinned by Pakistan’s Salafi-Wahhabi preachers who
instigate the youth to join the radical Islamist outfits like ISIS and
Tahrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Pakistan’s close observers believe it is purely an ideological battle, rather
than politically motivated slugfest. They aver that extremists are destroying
the diverse cultural fabric of the society by terrorizing the mystical strain
of Islam—Sufism. For it runs as an effective antidote to the hate-driven Islamist
narrative in Pakistan. Thus, the nature of the war on Sufi culture and
tradition is more ideological than political. It is not difficult to sense this
ideological motive. The reason why the Sufi devotes have been targeted in the
bloodthirsty suicide bombing of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine is patently
clear. The mystically-inclined, spiritual and inclusivist Sufi traditions in
the country practically rebut the exclusivity of the ‘puritanical Islam'.
Last year, a popular
Sufi singer (Qawwal) in Pakistan, Amjad Sabri was assassinated by the Talibani
religious goons in Karachi. But the TTP which claimed the responsibility for
the Sufi singer’s killing was not alone in its justification of the religious
terror. Many religious chieftains of the Pakistani society viewed it as an
assassination of the ‘Mushrik’ and Bid’ati’ (deviant from Islam). For Qawwali
and Sufi music are frowned upon as ‘un-Islamic’ by the Pakistani Islamist
groups ideologically inspired by Wahhabism. Therefore, the brutal killing of
the innocent Sufi Qawwal went unchallenged. The clerics in Pakistan who accused
Sabri of heresy did not regret his death. Neither did they mourn the latest
terror attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. While ‘politically
correct’ condemnations galore from all hues of Muslim sects including the
Wahhabis, there remain those who conveniently put the blame on the terror
victims for participating in Dhamal, the “deviant” Sufi dance. Such bigoted and
untenable accusations reveal that sectarianism is a profound ideological
problem in the society of Pakistan.
Going by the media
reports, the attack on Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine was perpetrated by the ISIS
which claimed the responsibility for the attack via its affiliated news agency
Amaq. Earlier, the Islamic State targeted the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Shah
Noorani were more than 100 people were injured in a similar suicide blast.
Thus, ISIS' animosity towards the Sufi practitioners is not difficult to see.
It appears that after the crackdown on the ISIS self-imposed caliphate in
Mousal, Raqqa and other parts of West Asia, the global jihadist empire is
switching over to South Asian Muslim countries where the terror outfits like
the Taliban, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the ilk already exist to
help murder the Sufi devotees.
By slaying Sufis and
bombing their shrines, terrorists actually seek to ‘purify’ Islam in a bid to
retrieve the ‘purity’ of the ‘Salaf’ (the Muslim predecessors). But in reality,
these ‘puritanical’ Islamists are far removed from the Islam mystically
experienced by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). His traditions set a classic example of
how people of different faiths could peacefully coexist as one nation (Ummah).
In his state of Madina, all religious communities lived by an alliance of
shared values known as “Mithaq-e-Madina”, the constitution of Medina which had
the immutable clauses of religious pluralism, universal brotherhood and
peaceful coexistence. But a blatant strike on the egalitarian messages of the
Prophet’s tradition is on the rampage in Pakistan and other Muslim countries.
All terror outfits— Daesh or ISIS, Al-Qaida, Al-Shabab, Tahrik-e-Taliban
Pakistan (TTP) and Boko Haram— brazenly breach the foundations of Prophet’s
mystical Islam enunciated in Mithaq-e-Madina.
Let alone Muslims, all
non-Muslims living in Madina of the Prophet’s times were accorded full
protection of life, religious freed and democratic rights. A clause in
Misaq-e-Madina was stipulated in these words of Prophet (Hadith): “I shall
dispute with any Muslim who oppresses anyone from among the non-Muslims, or
infringes on his right, or puts a responsibility on him which is beyond his
capacity or takes something from him against his will." (Reported by Abu
The recently attacked
Sufi shrine in Pakistan, Dargah Lal Shahbaz Qalandar is equally venerated and
visited by Pakistan’s Sufi-oriented Muslim majority and the Hindu minority.
Inevitably, not only Muslim devotees, but even a considerable number of
non-Muslims were killed in the suicide blast.
Regrettably, it is quite
ironic to see the Prophetic ideals being brazenly violated by the puritanical
Islamists in Pakistan, given the state was created in the name of
Nizam-e-Mustafa (the Prophetic system of governance)with its constitution
loudly being claimed to follow the model of Misaq-e-Madina.
A www.newageislam.com regular columnist, Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is a
scholar of classical Arabic and Islamic Sciences, cultural analyst and
researcher in Media and Communication Studies at Centre for Culture, Media
& Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia
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