By Aijaz Zaka Syed
14th Mar 2017
The way of love differs from all others;
lovers (of God) owe allegiance to no nation or sect but the way of their
beloved, said Jalaluddin Rumi, the great Sufi philosopher and poet.
Contrary to the widespread fiction, Islam
spread in much of South Asia not at the point of the sword. Rather, it was
embraced by people bowled over by the stark simplicity and honesty of Arab
traders and the love and tolerance exemplified by saints and Sufis like Khwaja
Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer, Delhi’s Nizamuddin Auliya and Lahore’s Abulhasan
They might not have been greatest scholars
but they exemplified their faith in its simplicity and in its teachings of
love, brotherhood and equality of men with their actions and conduct. Saint
Nizamuddin was so wildly popular among all sections of society that he gave a
huge complex to contemporary Sultans who ruled their vast empire from Delhi.
War for Hearts, Minds
Everyone these days talks about the wars
that the Mughals and various other Muslim dynasties fought for power in the
subcontinent. However, the real war for hearts and minds was fought and won by
others and their power didn’t flow from their sword.
Many Muslim rulers might have built grand
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.
Indeed, many of them brought nothing but disgrace to their faith. So if South
Asia is home to a huge chunk of the world’s Muslim population today – nearly
half of it – the credit largely goes to those Sufis and saints.
What kinds of people target such holy 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? All Sufis did nothing but spread
love, kindness, acceptance and inclusion. Their doors remained open to people
of all persuasions – Hindus and Muslims, the rich and poor. They sent no one
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
interpretation of the faith whose very name denotes peace. It is an appalling,
disgraceful crime in itself to send brainwashed youth and even children to
target unsuspecting men, women and children inside mosques, churches and
shrines of saints who offered nothing but love and mercy.
But it is an even greater crime and
ultimate calumny against our faith and everything it stands for when such
shameful crimes and atrocities are inflicted in its name.
Indeed, this is an affront to all religions
and men of faith. Perhaps no other faith celebrates peace and repeatedly warns
against violence and strife as Islam. Why it literally means peace. This is a
faith that preaches moderation, restraint and reason in all spheres, 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 the whole of
mankind. The Quran cautions us that Allah does not like transgressors. We are
warned that killing a fellow human being equals waging war against Allah and He
promises them nothing but the harshest punishment.
But, 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 madrasas 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.
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 they
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
They must come forward and speak out more
often and more forcefully against this distortion of our faith and morbid
celebration of death. They must put their heads together to examine what is
really fuelling this menace and what needs to be done to eliminate the sources
of this ideology of hate.
Indeed, all of us, everyone 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.
Aijaz Zaka Syed is an award-winning journalist.