Editor's Choice

Featured Post

"Let us build Pakistan" has moved.
30 November 2009

All archives and posts have been transferred to the new location, which is: http://criticalppp.com

We encourage you to visit our new site. Please don't leave your comments here because this site is obsolete. You may also like to update your RSS feeds or Google Friend Connect (Follow the Blog) to the new location. Thank you.


Friday, 6 March 2009

Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

Sufi Islam versus the Taliban's Wahhabi/Salafi and Deobandi Islam


Can Sufi Islam counter the Taleban?

Sufi devotees in Lahore
Some believe that Pakistan's mystic, non-violent Islam can be used as a defence against extremism (Photos: Kamil Dayan Khan)

By Barbara Plett
BBC News, Lahore

It's one o'clock in the morning and the night is pounding with hypnotic rhythms, the air thick with the smoke of incense, laced with dope.

I'm squeezed into a corner of the upper courtyard at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal in Lahore, famous for its Thursday night drumming sessions.

It's packed with young men, smoking, swaying to the music, and working themselves into a state of ecstasy.

This isn't how most Westerners imagine Pakistan, which has a reputation as a hotspot for Islamist extremism.

Devotional singing

But this popular form of Sufi Islam is far more widespread than the Taleban's version. It's a potent brew of mysticism, folklore and a dose of hedonism.

Inside the Sufi drumming session at the shrine of Baba Shah Jamal

Now some in the West have begun asking whether Pakistan's Sufism could be mobilised to counter militant Islamist ideology and influence.

Lahore would be the place to start: it's a city rich in Sufi tradition.

At the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh Hajveri, musicians and singers from across the country also gather weekly, to perform qawwali, or Islamic devotional singing.

Qawwali is seen as a key part of the journey to the divine, what Sufis call the continual remembrance of God.

"When you listen to other music, you will listen for a short time, but the qawwali goes straight inside," says Ali Raza, a fourth generation Sufi singer.

"Even if you can't understand the wording, you can feel the magic of the qawwali, this is spiritual music which directly touches your soul and mind as well."

But Sufism is more than music. At a house in an affluent suburb of Lahore a group of women gathers weekly to practise the Sufi disciplines of chanting and meditation, meant to clear the mind and open the heart to God.

One by one the devotees recount how the sessions have helped them deal with problems and achieve greater peace and happiness. This more orthodox Sufism isn't as widespread as the popular variety, but both are seen as native to South Asia.

'Love and harmony'

"Islam came to this part of the world through Sufism," says Ayeda Naqvi, a teacher of Islamic mysticism who's taking part in the chanting.

"It was Sufis who came and spread the religious message of love and harmony and beauty, there were no swords, it was very different from the sharp edged Islam of the Middle East.

"And you can't separate it from our culture, it's in our music, it's in our folklore, it's in our architecture. We are a Sufi country, and yet there's a struggle in Pakistan right now for the soul of Islam."

Sufi drummer
Sufism is a mixture of music, chanting and meditation

That struggle is between Sufism and hard-line Wahhabism, the strict form of Sunni Islam followed by members of the Taleban and al-Qaeda.

It has gained ground in the tribal north-west, encouraged initially in the 1980s by the US and Saudi Arabia to help recruit Islamist warriors to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

But it's alien to Pakistan's Sufi heartland in the Punjab and Sindh provinces, says Sardar Aseff Ali, a cabinet minister and a Sufi.

"Wahhabism is a tribal form of Islam coming from the desert sands of Saudi Arabia," he says. "This may be very attractive to the tribes in the frontier, but it will never find resonance in the established societies of Pakistan."

So could Pakistan's mystic, non-violent Islam be used as a defence against extremism?

An American think tank, the Rand Corporation, has advocated this, suggesting support for Sufism as an "open, intellectual interpretation of Islam".

There is ample proof that Sufism remains a living tradition.

In the warren of Lahore's back streets, a shrine is being built to a modern saint, Hafiz Iqbal, and his mentor, a mystic called Baba Hassan Din. They attract followers from all classes and walks of life.


The architect is Kamil Khan Mumtaz. He describes in loving detail his traditional construction techniques and the spiritual principles they symbolise.

Sufi gathering in Lahore
Huge crowds are attracted to Sufi gatherings

He shakes his head at stories of lovely old mosques and shrines pulled down and replaced by structures of concrete and glass at the orders of austere mullahs, and he's horrified at atrocities committed in the name of religion by militant Islamists.

But he doubts that Sufism can be marshalled to resist Wahhabi radicalism, a phenomenon that he insists has political, not religious, roots.

"The American think tanks should think again," he says. "What you see [in Islamic extremism] is a response to what has happened in the modern world.

"There is a frustration, an anger, a rage against invaders, occupiers. Muslims ask themselves, what happened?

"We once ruled the world and now we're enslaved. This is a power struggle, it is the oppressed who want to become the oppressors, this has nothing to do with Islam, and least of all to do with Sufism."

Sufi food distribution
Sufi people are often actively engaged in social welfare programmes
Ayeda Naqvi, on the other hand, believes Sufism could play a political role to strengthen a tolerant Islamic identity in Pakistan. But she warns of the dangers of Western support.

"I think if it's done it has to be done very quietly because a lot of people here are allergic to the West interfering," she says.

"So even if it's something good they're doing, they need to be discreet because you don't want Sufism to be labelled as a movement which is being pushed by the West to drown out the real puritanical Islam."

Back at the Shah Jamal shrine I couldn't feel further from puritanical Islam. The frenzied passion around me suggests that Pakistan's Sufi shrines won't be taken over by the Taleban any time soon.

But whether Sufism can be used to actively resist the spread of extremist Islam, or even whether it should be, is another question.



Sufi Rahman Baba's Shrine 'blown up by Taleban'

Suspected Taleban militants in north-west Pakistan have blown up the shrine of a 17th Century Sufi poet of the Pashtun language, police say.

Sufi gathering in Lahore

No casualties are reported but the poet Rahman Baba's grave has been destroyed and the shrine building badly damaged.

Rahman Baba is considered the most widely read poet in Pashto speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taleban had warned they would blow up the shrine if women continued to visit it and pay their respects.

Historic popularity

Literary experts say the poet's popularity is due to his message of tolerance coupled with a powerful expression of love for God in a Sufi way.

The BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says that his lasting appeal reflects the historic popularity of Sufism in South Asia.

But our correspondent says that his views are anathema to the Taleban, who represent a more purist form of Islam and are opposed to Sufism, preventing people from visiting shrines of Sufi saints in areas they control.

When the Taleban seized power in neighbouring Afghanistan in 1996, they locked Sufi shrines.

In Mohmand tribal region, the local Taleban captured the shrine of a revered freedom movement hero, Haji Sahib of Turangzai, and turned it into their headquarters.

Taleban leaders have said in the past that they are opposed to women visiting these shrines because they believe it promotes obscenity.

Residents of Hazarkhwani area on the eastern outskirts of Peshawar - where the shrine of Rahman Baba is located - say that local Taleban groups had warned that if the women continued to visit the shrine, they would blow it up.



Dark tides
Friday, March 06, 2009

The destruction of the shrine of Rahman Baba, the Pashtun mystic and poet who is widely regarded, indeed revered, across NWFP is yet another indicator of the advancing wave of intolerance and extremism that now engulfs us. Reports say that the shrine was blown up by militants using up to 40kg of explosive because it was frequented by women. There are reports that militants had warned that they would not tolerate women attending the shrine, and that they suspected them of involvement in immorality or 'illegal acts'. It is difficult to imagine precisely what immoral or illegal acts might have been performed by pious women - but not difficult to imagine the misogynist mindset of those who would banish women forever to a darkened room where their sole function is to cook and produce male children. The deal done in Swat is a Pandora's Box of troubles that now pour out everywhere. The validation of one set of extremist demands now gives them the green light to make other demands wherever they choose in the entire country where they wish their vrit to run. Let us be under no illusion here – the militants now ruling in NWFP have their sights set on ruling Pakistan. All of Pakistan. They wish their interpretation of Islam to be the one followed by all of our people, no matter what their Muslim denomination or their faith – which is why our religious minorities fear for their safety and their future.

Are we to see the great shrines of Uch Sharif similarly attacked? Are we prepared to see our cultural heritage destroyed before our very eyes? Remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan, those ancient structures in Afghanistan that had stood for over a thousand years? Remember their destruction, just a few short years ago? Or the Buddhist statues in Swat? Or the agitation for the destruction of Buddhist and Hindu rock carvings of great antiquity at Chilas? Are we to see the ruins of Mohenjo-Daro pulverized because they are from a time before Islam or our museums razed to the ground in an iconoclastic frenzy that will leave us bereft of our cultural past? How long will it be before bookshops are burning, following hard on the heels of music and video shops? Ours is a land which was a part of the cradle of civilization. Within what are now our borders were sown the seeds of human greatness and invention. We are the custodians of that heritage. We have a duty to ourselves and the rest of the world to protect it. A duty which, as of recent times, we might be said to be failing in.



Some relevant comments:

platinum786 said:

aah yes, the actions of our ever tolerant shariah loving "brothers", you know the ones who are our saviours from our infidel selves.

Doctor Death said:

Soon most of Pakistan will be celebrating the birthday of the prophet muhammed (S.A.W) the most sacred of all eids but I dread to think what will happen. How many bomb attacks and subsequent deaths. They have started with this shrine. Soon most of the sufi shrines in punjab and sindh will be attacked and they will try and decimate the shrines of Dr Iqbal and Muhammed Ali Jinnah just like their counterparts in Saudi Arabia who have destroyed janat-al-baqi.

I'm not a hardcore beralvi but a traditional sunni hanafi with a strong love for sufiism and its teaching of peace,tolerance and dialogue as practiced by the Prophet (May peace and blessings be upon him). My heart bleeds at what is going on in Pakistan. There is more to it than meets the eye.

Newbie said:

The really scary thing is many many Pakistanis silently support whats happening here

clutch said:

Another attempt to divide Muslims along so-called liberal and so-called fundamentalist lines!

Yes ... I agree the culprits might come across as dressed as Muslims... but rather these people are
a) RAW CIA agents
b) Unwitting accomplices of Enemies of Islam
c) are a small insignificant minority

killuminati said:

The government itself should ban women from entering graveyards and shrines, so that we don't have idiots like these taking the law in to their own hands.

Sufi said:

We need to nuke these b@$t@rd$. Let drop a low yield nuke, it'll take care of all the Taliban and Indian vermin..

Ababeel said:

Unless and until Pakistan take a holistic approach, acts like this will continue.

Pakistan has been fighting and dealing with internal terrorist element for good 8 years now. Whether we agree with various policies adopted in past 8 years is a different matter. Fact is we are focusing on our internal problems.

Problem we have is that we have not addressed external threats that are directly exacerbating this situation. Many of our intellectuals dont even acknowledge this threat exist. They live in a fairy tale lala land. Then we have those who acknowledge it but insist on ONLY focusing on our internal problems hoping things will magically turn around.

Its only when we address both internal and external threats that we will see result. We need to continue to solve our problems internally, and go after those external elements that are exacerbating this situation.

And if our government cant do that for National interest then they have no right on ruling Pakistan.

ZPak said:

Birthday of the prophet is not a sacred eid. There are only two Eid's in Islam. And where did you get the Bull$hit that the Saudis have nauzbillah destroyed Janat-ul-Baqi???

zainabia said:

Why should we made that thing HARAM at our own which was made Halal by Rasool Allah (saw) for his Ummah? (and that too for religious fanatics?)

Women are allowed to visit the graves and graveyards in Islam.

Aisha narrated that she asked the Apostle of Allah): Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (when I go to graveyard)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you.
Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 2127

So, better to educate these religious fanatics, ............. or to close their Madaris where they are brain washed for such terrorist attacks ...... otherwise kill them all as they are FITNA and Quran orders to kill the fitna till it is completely destroyed or show repentence.

There is no other way than this.

zainabia said:

QUOTE (ZPak @ Mar 5 2009, 07:13 PM) *
And where did you get the Bull$hit that the Saudis have nauzbillah destroyed Janat-ul-Baqi???

Dear Brother,

I am afraid it is very true that Saudies have destroyed Janat-ul-Baqi and many other sacred places. [This is their version of Islam that it is Shirk. I am not talking if they are right or wrong, but only bringing this fact in light that they have indeed did the destruction of sacred places]

Not only Janat-ul-Baqi, but also following places have been destructed by Saudi Authorities:

* The destruction of grave of Hadhrat Hawa (as) [Eve] in Jeddah.
* The destruction of grave of Prophet Elisha in Ewjawm city.
* The destruction of Janatul-Baqi, with graves of Imam Hassan (as), Imam Zainul Abidin (as), Imam Baqar (as) and Imam Jaffar-e-Sadiq (as). There are a lot of other companions of Rasool Allah (saw), who are buried here.
* 1925 AD Jannat al-Mu'alla, the sacred cemetery at Makkah was destroyed alongwith the house where the Holy Prophet (s) was born. Since then, this day is a day of mourning for all Muslims.
* The grave of Hazrat Abdullah, the father of the Prophet (s) in Madina
* The graves of the martyrs of Uhud (a)

Note: All these places existed during times of Sahaba, Tabaeen and later Muslim Generations but none destructed it ..... till last century.

Here is a partial list of other places, which were destructed by Saudi Authorities in name of Shirk.

* The house of sorrows (Bayt al-Ahzan) of Sayyida Fatima Zehra (a) in Madina, where she used to weep and mourn after the Prophet (SA).
* The Salman al-Farsi (RA)mosque in Madina
* The Raj'at ash-Shams mosque in Madina
* The complex ( mahhalla ) of Banu Hashim in Madina
* The house of Imam Ali (a) where Imam Hasan (a) and Imam Husayn (a) were born
* The house of Hazrat Hamza (RA), (the prince of martyrs).
* The house of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a) in Madina
* The house of the Prophet (s) in Madina, where he lived after migrating from Makkah


Most Important Question:

Did Rasool Allah (saw) ever destroyed any graves of Muslim or ordered the Sahaba to do so, so that no sign of his grave be left? No, certainly not. Contrary to this, look how Rasool Allah (saw) wanted to show the grave of Hadhrat Musa (as) to his companions.

Narrated Abu Huraira:
…Then Moses asked, "O my Lord! What will be then?" He said, "Death will be then." He said, "(Let it be) now." He asked Allah that He bring him near the Sacred Land at a distance of a stone's throw. Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) said , "Were I there I would show you the grave of Moses by the way near the red sand hill."
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 2, Book 23, Number 423

Please also note in above tradition that how Prophet Musa (as) is wishing to be buried in a Sacred Land, while Saudi Authorities say that it’s shirk.

Another Proof is the following practice of Sahaba:

Narrated Abu Burda: When I came to Medina. I met Abdullah bin Salam. He said, "Will you come to me so that I may serve you with sawiq (i.e. powdered barley) and dates , and let you enter a (blessed) house in which the Prophet entered?
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 159

This means had it been a Shirk, then Sahaba would have not done this practice (contrary to this, they would have destructed that Sacred House too in name of Shirk like Saudi Authorities do today)

PakSniper786 said:

The above post is just the tip of the ice-berg, the Saudi's also want to destroy the Prophets Tomb (where he rests in peace). There was an article released in 2008 where one of there Bedouin mullahs was saying they can't wait to see that day. Honestly, these Wahhabi are a threat to Ummah's security and need to be brought down.

zainabia said:

Yes, I also saw that Fatwa in Arabic Language by Saudi Mufties. Let me search for it.

In the mean time, please see the testimony of Hazrat Aisha, who confirms that all Sahaba considered the Rawdah of Rasool Allah (saw) as a Sanctuary (not as Shirk place which should be destroyed) and wished to get buried there.

Narrated Hisham's father:
'Aisha said to 'Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, "Bury me with my female companions (i.e. the wives of the Prophet) and do not bury me with the Prophet in the house, for I do not like to be regarded as sanctified (just for being buried there).'

Narrated Hisham's father: 'Umar sent a message to 'Aisha, saying, "Will you allow me to be buried with my two companions (the Prophet and Abu Bakr) ?" She said, "Yes, by Allah." though it was her habit that if a man from among the companions (of the Prophet ) sent her a message asking her to allow him to be buried there, she would say, "No, by Allah, I will never give permission to anyone to be buried with them."
Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 428

If any one Interested in the subject for research, he could begin it here as there are links to several external sites with complete details of destruction of Sacred Sites by Saudi Authorities.

Tombs at the Prophet's Mosque under threat
The Prophet's Mosque in Medina is where Mohammed, Abu Bakr and the Islamic Caliph Umar ibn Al Khattab are buried. A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Mosque." This sentiment was echoed in a speech by the late Muhammad ibn al Uthaymeen, one of Saudi Arabia's most prominent Wahhabi clerics: "We hope one day we'll be able to destroy the green dome of the Prophet Mohammed".[4]

Link to Complete Article on Wikipedia with important External Links

Now this is reason of big Anger and Tension against Saudi Authorities by those who don't follow their Ijtehaad, but follow the Ijtehaad of 4 Sunni Imams + Shias.


Actually, if Mazar of Sufi Poet is bombed by Religious Fanatics in Pakistan, then it is no Wonder. You could find out the real Problem from where the root lies of all this problem.

Therefore, there is no Military Solution to this Problem, but Ulama of Different Schools should sit with the Ulama of Saudia and discuss this Matter on Religious Bases. If we as Ummah able to solve this problem on the Table, then it will be much better than bringing any Military Solution.

Secondly, Media should tell the Religious Fanatics in Pakistan that every Schools of thought should be accepted and respected along with it's Aqaeed. There should be no use of Force in order to impose your version of Islam.

Also read:

Taliban attack the tomb of Rahman Baba in Peshawar...

Attack on Rehman Baba is attack on Pashtun identity

Aakar Patel: Let's sing Iqbal's Tarana-e-Hind-o-Pak to fight religous extremism in our society. Indo-Persian sufi heritage versus Taliban's sharia.

William Dalrymple on Rahman Baba tomb's attack: Wahhabi radicals are determined to destroy a gentler, kinder Islam

No comments:

Post a Comment

1. You are very welcome to comment, more so if you do not agree with the opinion expressed through this post.

2. If you wish to hide your identity, post with a pseudonym but don't select the 'anonymous' option.

3. Copying the text of your comment may save you the trouble of re-writing if there is an error in posting.