In the present atmosphere of disturbing communal propaganda, it needs to be remembered that Sufis ideals of love, peace and acceptance were primarily responsible for bringing people to the fold of Islam.
The Sufi Master of the thirteenth century Mohhiyuddin Ibne Arabi proclaimed that paradise was nothing but the Divine Form hidden in the mystics heart. “My heart has opened up in every form: it is a pasture for gazelles, a cloister for Christian monks, a temple for idols, the Kaaba of the pilgrim, the tables of the torah and the book of the Quran. I practice the religion of Love: in whatsoever directions its caravan advance, the religion of Love shall be my religion and my Faith.Ã¢â‚¬Â
The Indian Advaita became the Muslim Wahdat ul Wujood or the Unity of Being. Interfaith dialogues held at Baba FaridÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s khanqah at Ajodhan had the Sufis freely borrowing meditation techniques from Hindus mystics. Baba FaridÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s verses impacted Guru Nanak and are included in the holy texts of the Sikhs. It is believed that Asa-ki var, a morning hymn was composed by the Guru as response to a request by Shaikh Ibrahim, a disciple of Baba Farid. The Chisti Sufis Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, Hazrat Nizamuddin maintained tending to the needs of the helpless was the highest form of devotion. The Kashmir Sufis integrated Islamic and Hindu mystic traditions. Shaikh Nuruddin was influenced by the Shaivite mystic woman Lalla and called themselves Rishis.
The Sufi Bhakti movement of medieval India navigated by Hindu and Muslim mystics articulated a powerful vision of amity and co-existence challenging caste and community divisions. Poets like Mira, Tulsidas, Surdas, Jayasi, Dawood and Qutuban wrote in the language of the masses. Kabir left people wondering if he was a Hindu or a Muslim internalizing Indian spiritual tenets beyond the barriers of religion, creed and identity politics.
Guru Nanak was asked Ã¢â‚¬Å“What is superior, Islam or HindusimÃ¢â‚¬Â. The Guru replied, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Devoid of good deeds, none will find place in God’s court. Ã¢â‚¬Å“He is alone, O Nanak, knoweth the way, who earneth with the sweat of his brow, and shareth it with the othersÃ¢â‚¬Â
Kutbun composed Mrigavati, Manjhan wrote Madhumati and Malik Mohammad Jayesi wrote the classic Padmavat based on the bardic songs of Rajhastan. JayesiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s other Hindi works include Kanhavat, Kahranama, Pustinama and Holinama earning him the title of Muhaqqiq e Hind, The researcher of Indian Truth. Shaikh Qutban used Hindu terminology using the words Niranjan, Kartar, Vidhata, Pramesh, Ekonkar and Alakh for the Divine.
Mulla Dawood of Rae Bariely wrote Chandain, the first known Masnawi or epic poem in Hindi. He found more beauty in Chanadas brow than ArjunaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s eyebrows and wrote that men who prostrated themselves in front of Chanda found their sins washed away. Shaikh Taqiuddin a preacher of the time recited verses of Chandain from the pulpit of the mosque and maintained that the Dawoods Masnawi was Divine truth. Shaikh Abdul Qadoos of Gangoh overwhelmed by Chandain gave discourses on it with the same intensity as on other important Sufi manuals. He wrote Nath poetry under the name of Alakh and found ascetic exercises of the Nath Yogis identical to Sufi methods and wrote the quartain: Why this meaningless talk about the believer, The kafir, the obedient, the sinner, The rightly, the guided, the misdirected, the Muslim, the pious, the infidel, the fire worshipper? All are like beads in a rosaryÃ¢â‚¬Â
Bengali Hindus and Muslims came to share the same language and culture. Chaitanya, a Vaishnavite introduced Krishna Bhakti and believed virtuous deeds were more significant than devotion to Lord Krishna and Radha. The association of Sufism and Bhakti gave rise to Baul songs. The Hindu Bauls that sing in the tradition of Chaitanya believe that Bhirbhadra, their first guru received the Baul faith from a Muslim woman called Madhava Bibi. Syed Sultan of Chittagong wrote Vaishnaivte hymns in his Nabi Bangash Sultan and included Brhama, Vishnu, Shiva and Lord Krishna as prophets.
Namdev, Eknath, Tukaram and Ramdas strived to preach the Oneness of God remaining hostile to outwardly forms of worship. Vedantic thought is rampant in the teachings of mediaeval Gujrati Sufis like Shaikh Ganjul Alim, Syed Burhamuddin and Shaykh Wajibuddin Gujrati.
Miyan Mir laid the foundation of the Golden temple at Amritsar. Shah Kaleemullah of Delhi directed his deputies to instruct in local languages. Shah Abdul Azez of Delhi preached that Allah and Parmeshwar were the same. Mirza Mazhar Jan-e-Janan the seventeenth century Sufi of Delhi saw the Vedas as a revealed book.
Dara Shikoh a disciple of Mulla Shah translated the Upanishads into Persian. He once wrote to Shah Muhibbullah, a reputed mystic scholar of Allahabad enquiring whether discrimination between Hindu and Muslim subjects was permitted in matters of State. The Chishti Sufi replied in the negative affirming that Prophet Mohamad was Rahmat ul Alamin, a Mercy for all of creation and not for any particular community.
In a tumultuous world of religious and sectarian divides, the mystic message of attaining Divine Love through the love of mankind is more relevant than ever before.
Photograph: Tomb of Amir Khusrau by Mohib