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Call for adopting Sufi teachings to check growing radicalisation

Call for adopting Sufi teachings to check growing radicalisation

KARACHI: With ever-increasing discontent surrounding mankind, there exists a need to reacquaint ourselves with the teaching of harmony by the Sufis.

This was the main thrust of the 2nd International Sufi Conference held at the National Museum of Pakistan on Saturday, where scholars from within and outside the country gathered to debate the various teachings of Sufism which need to be adopted into popular discourse to check growing radicalisation.

In his inaugural speech, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani said: “Sufis never teach, they only make arrows to show the path of eternal truth.”

During a time, both past and present, when the feudal despotic hierarchy and the religious hierarchy coexisted for their mutual benefit and for exploiting, oppressing and suppressing the people and the love of God, “Sufism became an expression of revolt against these forces. It taught equality, tolerance, love, coexistence, respect for human beings and finding the oneness of your soul with God.”

Adviser to the chief minister on culture Sharmila Farooqi spoke about the initiative taken in 2013 to hold an international Sufi conference to promote the cause of Sufism and encourage discourse. She recalled the first conference that was held in 2014 and expressed her optimism that such ventures would contribute positively towards Pakistani society.

CEO of Dawn Group of Newspapers Hameed Haroon highlighted several instances in the history of the country where the orthodoxy had seeped into realm of politics, one of which took place during the time of Gen Ziaul Haq. “I will recall a symbolic action that took place when the famed Sufi diva Abida Parveen was singing Bulleh Shah at the Lahore Al-Hamra when she was asked to stop singing and the musical concert was terminated.” He labelled this as symptomatic of what would prove to be a “continuing prejudice in the government of Pakistan against the Sufis. Although, in the realm of democracy, cosmetic changes have been made,” he added.

Haq Mojood

The first discussion at the conference took up the theme of Haq Mojood. A series of video clippings were shown at the start highlighting the basic tenants of Sufism.

Pakistani folklorist and social scientist Uxi Mufti, who has a PhD in philosophy and his dissertation has recently been published in book form, spoke about the Sufi concept of Allah that he believes in the most scientific to date. “There is a need for every generation to reconceptualise what is God,” he said. The modern age, where scientific revolution, pluralism and secularism are overtly present, is compelling a large number of people to become atheists, he said. However, in this modern age, God still remains relevant. “For this to be possible, the concept of God must concurrently explain discoveries of modern science, it must integrate with new researches, with multiverse and as well as with findings of new physics.”

Anthropologist Rosemary James, also the managing director of an arts centre in London, discussed how language brings people together, as well as divides them. For her, Haq Majood is a very holistic concept that God is present everywhere and in different ways. “He is present in different ways in which He has made Himself known to His creation and this concept entails the experience of beauty which comes from the outside world into our inner world.”

Me Raqsam

The second session of the day was on the theme of Me Raqsam and panellists included Prof Marcia K. Hermansen, Delphine Ortis and Sindhi writer Amar Jaleel. But it was Abida Parveen and film-maker Muzaffar Ali who were the stars and their banter and recitation of Sufi verses kept the audience enthralled.

Jaleel referred to Sachal Sarmast as a Puritan Sufi who attributed all religious authorities to have misled the people away from the truth. No power in the world should be allowed to monopolise God, the Creator, he said. Each person is different and his way to connect to God will vary; as people exist in multitudes and God is one therefore no one is in a position to dictate what makes God happy or angry.

On Sunday, the conference will be held from 10.30am to 4.30pm.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2016

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