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Shah seeks Sufi path to peaceful Kashmir

Shah seeks Sufi path to peaceful Kashmir

<strong>IN Bureau:</strong> Amidst all the coronavirus updates and breaking news, an important meeting almost went unnoticed Sunday. The representatives from Sufi shrine of Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajasthan meeting Home Minister Amit Shah was a positive development, a path-breaking move for many.

As Syed Naseruddin Chishty, chairman of the All India Sufi Sajjadanashin Council (AISSC), revealed later, the delegation went to meet Shah to discuss “the revival” of Sufi culture in Jammu and Kashmir. “Kashmiris used to follow Sufism, but gradually the extremists stopped the people and the youth. Kashmir has a rich tradition of revered Sufi dargahs, such as the famous Hazratbal Dargah in Srinagar. We are working to revive and promote Sufism in Kashmir,” Chishty told the media.

He added: “Kashmir has nearly 60-70 Sufi shrines that are 500 years old. Many shrines were desecrated. We are in touch with the clerics there, and the government has promised that a policy will be announced soon.”

The meeting is a result of Shah taking personal interest in the revival of Sufism in Kashmir.

“Jammu and Kashmir used to be the epicentre of Sufi culture. Where did the Sufis disappear? Who forced them out? Why didn’t anyone raise a voice?… Weren’t they part of Kashmiriyat? Sufis were attacked, they were targeted… They were the ones who spoke about Hindu-Muslim unity, about India,” Shah had said in July last year during a discussion in Rajya Sabha on President’s rule in the state.

So, what exactly is Sufism? And, more importantly, how does it help in reducing extremism?

According to Britannica.com, Sufism is “a mystical Islamic belief and practice in which Muslims seek to find the truth of divine love and knowledge through direct personal experience of God.”

Alix Philippon, a lecturer in sociology-anthropology at the Institute of Political Studies at Sciences Po Aix-en-Provence in France, has centred her main research and teaching interest is Sufi Islam, particularly politics and authority in contemporary Sufism. “Since the beginning of the global war on terror, Saudi-inspired Wahhabism has been scrutinized worldwide for being synonymous with “hatred” and “intolerance.” Conversely, Sufism has come to be seen as a gentle, “moderate” alternative and a tool of counter-terrorism policies in many Muslim-majority countries—and beyond,” wrote Philippon in an article titled ‘Positive branding and soft power: The promotion of Sufism in the war on terror’ on the website of The Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, DC.

Tremendous amount of study—from the Americas to Asia and Australia—has been done on the subject.

Arshad Munir, an independent researcher, did his bit in his research paper, The Role of Sufism in Reducing Terrorism &amp; Extremism (A study of the Teachings of Khawaja Ghulam Fareed and Bullahy Shah). “The determination of the mystic (Sufi) is to the effort towards unity. The main purpose of Sufi is to bring humanity, separated as it is into so many different units, closer together in the deeper understanding of life. Their mission is to bring about brotherhood among races, nations and faiths and to respect one another’s faith, scripture and teacher. Sufi is to confer sympathy on these lives, to impart love, compassion and kind-heartedness on all creations. Pakistan, who came into being in the name of Islam unfortunately, have linked with terrorism. It is a disgrace that in the contemporary day Pakistan, mullahism and the recent cancer of Talibanization are gradually eating into what had kept us integral as a society,” Munir writes in the summary of his research work.

Experts agree that bringing back people to Sufi shrines in Kashmir Munir—many of which have been damaged over the years in mysterious fires—may help curb extremism.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too has spoken highly of Sufism in the past. “Just as it once came to India, today Sufism from India has spread across the world. Sufism becomes the face of Islam in India even as it remains deeply rooted in the holy Quran and holy Hadith. And it reminds us when we think of the 99 names of Allah, none stands for force and violence,” he had said while inaugurating the first World Sufi Forum in New Delhi in 2016.

Sufism returning to Kashmir, regarded as the heaven on earth, may not end extremism overnight but will certainly help in shaping the future of a state which is seeing normalcy after decades of violence..