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Saints and demons
Dr.Akmal Hussain
Newspaper:The Express Tribune
Dated: Saturday, 6 November 2010

The attack on the shrine of Sufi Baba Farid on October 25, 2010 indicates a systematic attack on Sufi shrines by Taliban terrorist groups, being the fifth in a series of suicide bombings since 2007. These attacks have ranged across four regions, from the shrine of Bari Imam in Islamabad in January 2007, that of Rehman Baba in Peshawar in January 2009, Data Darbar in Lahore in July this year and Abdul Ghazi Shaheed in Karachi earlier in October. It is clear that the Taliban feel threatened by the religious perspective of the Sufis. The ideology of hate, intolerance, and violence that characterizes the Taliban is directly counterposed to the Sufi religious perspective of love, tolerance and peace through which they spread the religion of Islam across Central and South Asia.
As Abu Bakr Sirajuddin (Martin Lings), the great Sufi Shaikh and Scholar of our time, points out, the word religion containing the letters lig refers to a ligament with God. It can be argued that this ligament is constituted by the experience of love in the relationship between an individual human being and God. Martin Lings has also pointed out that the heart is the means of experiencing the transcendent. This is why in the Sufi tradition the experience of Oneness involves a journey to the heart. Shah Hussain, the great Punjabi Sufi poet indicates this journey of achieving Oneness with God, through love, as abnegation of the self, in the lines:

“You are the woof and you the warp,
You are in every pore,
Says Shah Hussain Faqir,
I am not, all is you”.

The great Sufi saints of the land that today constitutes Pakistan brought to the humble peasantry the message that humility before God is the starting point of the journey to the heart where the ligament with God is constituted in adoration of Him. Thus, says Shah Hussain:
“Paawain ga deedar Sahab da,
Hor bi neevan ho”.  
[To reach Him, bow deeper still]


For vast strata of the dispossessed peasantry, to be a Muslim was to nurture love, a sense of beauty and truth in the context of the relationship with society as well as with nature. These perennial features of human consciousness were cultivated amongst the poor people, by the great Sufi saints, and became part of their forms of cultural and social existence. With the rise of the modern world in this region, and the systemic competition for material possessions, assertion of the ego and greed as the emblems of success, led to the marginalization of the great intellectual tradition of the Sufi saints in the social life of people. As Najam Hussain Syed, the contemporary Sufi poet writes: “Far on the banks of memory falls the shadow of Ranjha”. In the discourse of modernity the message of love and the pursuit of beauty became what he calls the “unsaid”. He writes: “On the slopes of silence beat the drums of the unsaid”.

The Taliban must be aware of the sensibility of love, tolerance and human solidarity that underlie the life of the poor masses, and the rhythms of their folk culture. This sensibility is clearly a threat to the ideology of egotism, hate and violence that the Taliban propound. That is why the shrines of the Sufi saints which signify the transcendent consciousness of love are being systematically attacked by those who practice the politics of hate.  

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