Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Humanisn Through Sufism

Imtiyaz values sufism for refurbishing body and soul

(Mr. Imtiyaz Ahmad Aafreen, 26, was born in Kanir Chadura, Badgam. He completed his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Zoohama, and graduted from the Amar Singh College, Srinaar. He has received the following degrees: M.A.(English), M.Phil and B.Ed from the Universiy of Kashmir. He teaches English at the Government Higher Secondary School Surasyar.H as received several inter-college awardfs in various debate seminars and essay competiions. His interests are literature, Sufism and oter spiritua philosophies, and ejoys writing poetr and exploring nature. He wites under the pen name, Mir Imtiyaz Aafreen.)

Bonding Spirit With the Matter

Nor East, nor West my home, nor Samarkand,
Nor Isfahan nor Delhi; in ecstasy,
God-filled, I roam, speaking what truth I
See -
Not a fool priest, nor yet of this age’s fry.
Blood warm, gaze keen, right-following,
In fetters free, prosperous in penury

Allama Iqbal

Sufism or ‘Tasawuf’ is the esoteric school of Islam and it is generally understood to be the inner, mystical dimension of Islam and it has often been called, “The Creed of Love”. All Sufis, irrespective of the external appearance of their schools of thought, have made this theme of love a matter of essential concern. The analogy of human love as a reflection of real truth, so often expressed in Sufi poetry, has left outstanding influences upon the diverse cultures through the ages.

A perfect Sufi is the practical manifestation of the hadith in which the prophet of Islam (SAW) says, “The whole creation is Allah’s family and He loves that person most who is most good to His family.” When Rumi says, “Wherever you are, whatever your condition is, always try to be a lover”, he is not speaking of love as an end in itself but as a means through which one can attain the mystical companionship of the Eternal Beloved. In the words of Khwaja Moin-Ud-Din Chishti (RA), “One can not be called a Sufi unless he possess three qualities i.e., the generosity like the oceans, the compassion of the sun and the humility of the earth.” The heart of a Sufi is not only filled with the selfless love of God but his love encompasses the whole creation of the Divine Beloved. The Sufis involve themselves in extensive meditations and dedicate their lives for the restoration of peace and harmony in the society not because of any rigid sense of duty, but out of love. A famous Sufi scholar says, “Love conquers all, conquer the heart of everyone around you as the Sufi law of life requires, kindness to the young, generosity to the poor, good counsel to friends, forbearance with enemies, indifference to fools and respect to the learned.”

Sufis respect the sentiments of all the religious communities as they do not adhere to the dogmatic conceptions. According to them, God is not involved in any controversy because divinity is a matter of personal experience and the love of the Creator must lead to the love of the creation. Through the analogy of ‘The Elephant in the Dark’ Rumi suggests that the Absolute Reality is veiled and all the logical speculations about it lead to chaos and confusion, a Sufi tries to lift these veils through the process of self-purification and never indulges in dogmatic discussions.

The Sufi ideology of love effaces the myriad discriminations made on the bases of cast, creed and color and looks forward for the establishment of peace and harmony in the human society, that is why the great Sufi teachers like Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani (RA), Mir Syed Ali Hamadani (RA), Sheikh-ul-Aalam (RA) were not only great spiritual heads but social activists and reformers of their times as well. According to Sufis, the worship of God transcends the fear of hell-fire and the desire of the joys of paradise, in the words of Rabia Basria (RA), “True devotion is for the love of God, not to desire heaven nor to fear hell.” A Sufi strives to pull down the wall, brick by brick, between his existence and the Divine Reality. In Sufism, love is the effacement of the lover’s attributes because a lover has to adopt the attributes of the Eternal Beloved. Hence a Sufi toils hard to color himself with the diverse colors of the Eternal Beloved which are manifested in nature. The lover has to go through the mystical state of self-annihilation (fana) in which the lover effaces his desires and ambitions and surrenders his will before the Divine Beloved.

True love is a process of self-effacement. It does not demand anything but bears the travails of the perilous path of self-realization. True love is selfless and it does not look for the results. A lover has nothing to do with death and life, success and failure, acceptance and rejection, pleasure and pain, he only desires to adorn his soul with the memories of the Beloved. Thus, Sufism demands an extra-ordinary love of the Creator and this love broadens the mental horizons of a Sufi to such an extent that he considers all the creation as the manifestation of the Divine Truth, this is often called ‘wahdat-ul-wajud’ i.e., Unity of Being.

The present age can rightly be described as the age of the predominance of Western philosophical thought and learning. The Western ideas about the nature of man and the universe are strongly upheld all around the world. Over the past hundred and fifty or two hundred years, European philosophers developed a number of schools of thought about the nature of man and human life, but one central attitude that persisted all through these variegated philosophical theories, and went on gaining momentum was the disregard for ideational and transcendental concepts. Concrete fact and physical phenomena became the core and object of human inquiry and philosophical quest. God, soul, and the Hereafter gradually disappeared from the spectrum of thought, yielding place respectively to discussions about the nature of the physical universe, matter, and human terrestrial existence. This led to a strong spree of loss of faith and spiritual bankruptcy (lamented by T S Eliot in his masterpiece The Wasteland). This purely Materialistic ideology brought about the spiritual breakdown of the modern man and Skepticism prevailed throughout the Western world.

Due to these problems the West has shown a keen desire to benefit from the ‘wisdom of the East’. Allama Iqbal while quoting Heine in the Preface to Payam-i-Mashriq rightly says, “…the West, disgusted with its weak and cold spirituality, seeks warmth from the East’s breast” and T S Eliot also presents the same idea by concluding The Wasteland with the references to the Eastern scriptures and suggests that only ‘the wisdom of the East’ can bring spring to the Western spiritually barren wasteland.

The recent popularity of Sufism in the Western intellectual elite suggests that Sufism is going to play a great role in uniting the broken threads of humanity. Sufism has already taken the position of acting as a foil against the anti-spiritual philosophies like Darwinism, Utilitarianism, Materialism and Logical Positivism and it is not only helping the non-Muslims of the West to regain their faith but also in clarifying their misconceptions about Islam. Sufi mysticism has long exercised a fascination upon the Western world, and especially its Orientalist scholars. Figures like Rumi, Al Ghazali and Ibn Arabi have become household names in the United States, where Sufism is perceived as quietist and less political. The Islamic Institute in Mannheim, Germany, which works towards the integration of Europe and Muslims, see Sufism as particularly suited for inter-religious dialogue and intercultural harmonization in democratic and pluralist societies; it has described Sufism as a symbol of tolerance and humanism – un-dogmatic, flexible and non-violent. The International Association of Sufism (IAS), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization of the United Nations that brings together scholars, educators, translators, and artists interested in the discipline of Sufism, is playing an important role in the promotion of peace and harmony in the Western society. When Islam is misinterpreted as a religion of terrorists, Islamic Sufism is offering a new spiritual and peaceful facet of Islam to the West.

Sufism has attracted the Western literary figures such as Goethe, Raynold Nicholson, A J Arberry, Dr Martin Lings, Doris Lessing (Nobel Laureate 2007) and Robert Graves etc they have effectively introduced the wisdom of the Sufis to the West. Nicholson translated some seminal books on Sufism like Kashf-al-Mahjub and The Mathnavi of Maulana Rumi, Robert Graves wrote the Introduction to The Sufis, a masterpiece by Idries Shah, and Doris Lessing made Sufi ideologies the subject matter of her literary works. The famous British Orientalist Dr Martin Lings made a comparative study of Islam and other religions. He studied Islamic Sufism in detail and was fascinated by it. Finally he went on to accept Islam and in the words of Zakarya Hashim, “He reached Allah by the ladder of Sufism”.

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