Sufi is a Safi in his perfected stage
He is above Time, above space
He is above sect and above prejudice
He sees his friend, GOD in everything
The perfect Sufi seeks only one thing. He sees only one thing. He has only one friend and one occupation – GOD.
Love is the religion of a Sufi. He has love for everyone. To him a Momin, the believer and a Kafir, the infidel – are the same.
Except for the infinite nothing exists for him.
He has not other wish except the wish of his beloved. Anything that happens to him or to anyone else is God-send, and therefore, welcome.
Origin of the word Sufi is believed to have its connection with the word Safu (pure or clean). While some others believe that it is derived from the Arabic word ‘Suf’ meaning wool. Because the ancient pious men of Iran and Iraq used to practice austerity by clothing themselves in rough or crude wool (The holy text – “My daily bread is hunger, my badge is fear, my raiment is wool . . . .”)
But the word Sophia in Greek language means wisdom. Religious faiths, thoughts, concepts and doctrines do influence each other even if the founders of faiths are not contemporaries or even if they belong to distant countries. Persia, the birthplace of Sufism, was open to the influence of various types of religious thoughts. Greek Neo – Platonism, Indian Buddhism, Zoroastrian or Magian worship and Nestorian Christianity all went to from Sufism. Arabs conquered Persia in the seventh century and spread Islam there. Hence we call Sufism as the mysticism of Islam. But no religious movement can come into being or develop without having contact with other established faiths or denominations which are bound to leave their impress upon the new creation of thought and emotion. Before the spread of Islam, there was a much older and more complex civilization in Persia. The Parsis of India are a living proof of the above fact. Many of the elements of that older civilization undoubtedly persisted in the thought-process among the wise men of future eras.
The word Magia bears the testimony to the above fact. Among the Hindus the use of Bhang is prevalent among devotees of Lord Shiva. The Aryans used to have Somaras. Christians also wine sacramentally. And the ancient Zoroastrian religion made use of intoxicating liquor Haayuma in its sacrificial rites.
While the orthodox Muhammadanism forbids the use of wine, the Sufis allow its use because wine has the property of loosening the unconscious forces within ourselves. In certain states of drunkenness man experiences something bordering on ecstasy. Hence from early times intoxicants have been used to produce artificially a state of religious ecstasy and Sufis encourage the use of wine in the first stage of the initiation.
Sufism is an esoteric doctrine transmitted by word of mouth, and sometimes without even a spoken or written word, by an authorized teacher to a disciple, and from disciple to another disciple, in confidence. These secret instructions are acted upon by a disciple with perfect faith in the teacher. The disciple gives a report of his condition and experience, in confidence to his teacher and receives another set of instructions most suitable to his state.
It is only the writings of the Sufi teachers, who speak from writing the tradition, that allow an outsider a glimpse of the inner beauty of Sufism. One of the greatest scholars of all times was Al-Ghazzali. He lived in the later eleventh and early twelfth centuries. He wrote his famous work, ‘The Revival of the Sciences of Religion’ in Arabic with an abridged form ‘The Alchemy of Happiness’ in Persian. These works were followed by the other writings and poetry by such Sufi teachers as Abdul-Karim Al-Jili, Ibn Arabi, Suhrawardi, the famous Chishti saints, Hafiz, Sadi, Rumi and so many other Sufi poets.
At the same time there was an immense upsurge of open Sufi activity under the auspices of different Sufi orders in all parts of the Islamic world. Each Sufi order constituted a focal point of activity, from which Sufi teachings were carried to the mass of the population by the representatives of the head of the order. The Sufi organisations constituted the social cement of the society in which they lived. Because of the strength of this social cement, Islamic civilization was able to not only withstand the many political upheavals of this period, but also acted as a civilizing influence on the powers that were responsible for these upheavals.
Adapted from the book ‘Sindhis – Scattered Treasure’ by Popati Hiranandani.
The first and foremost requirement of Sufism is the purification of the soul. The process is generally a long and difficult one. It consists of three stages.
The carnal soul :
In the first stage, one struggles against the carnal soul of nafs al-ammara as it is called by the Sufis. Nafs al-ammara is the tendency in man to disobey God, and to take pleasure in evil deed and thought. This inclines man towards gossip, backbiting, vain talk, pride, selfishness, lust, hatred and jealousy. The struggle to overcome nafs al-ammara involves the purifying of the body, tongue, mind and heart.
The reproaching soul :
When he has subjugated the carnal soul, nafs al-ammara, the Sufi enters upon the second stage of purification in which he is able to respond readily to the call of the reproaching soul which is called nafs al-lawwama. It is the nafs al-lawwama which reproaches man for his evil deeds and impels him to acts of mercy and generosity.
The contented soul :
After this stage has become firmly established in him, the Sufi enters the third stage which is known as the station of the contented soul, nafs al-mutma’inna. In this stage, the Sufi develops to the fullest the tendency to obey God and to act in perfect harmony with His commandments. Here the soul is reconciled with all other stations of the path, such as poverty, patience, gratitude and trust in God. Here the soul finds perfect satisfaction in being governed by the heart, the Divine spark in man. Here the Sufi becomes truly free from fear and grief.
One of the important phases of mystical experience which is attained by the Grace of God by a traveler on the mystical path is the state of fana, ‘extinction of the self in God’, which is the transition to the stat of baqa billah or the ‘eternal life in union with God.’ By passing away from self, the individual does not cease to exist, but is permitted to enjoy the supreme mystical experience in union with God. He is fully absorbed into the Love of God which give him an everlasting awareness of the all-pervading presence of God.
Adapted from the book ‘Sindhi ain Sindhyat’ by Ram Panjwani
Khial, a Hindu poet says :
He is one, He is Allah!
Shah Abdul Latif says :
The yogis have gone to Nani
These devotees of Shiva had gone to Dwaraka – the holy place
Poet Agha Sufi says :
I am Radha and you are Shyam
Why don’t you come and meet me?
For you there are so many ‘gopis’
But for me you are only one.
Poet Ram Says :
I became a Musalman
And recited the holy Quran
I went of fast
And performed Namaz
I followed the rules of Shariat also
But in the end, I found
There was no need of all these things
Because my beloved was just
Standing near me.
Those were the days, when Sufi poets commanded respect from everyone in Sindh and Sufistic thought dominated the minds and hearts of the common as well as the learned men. The age of Shah and Sachal represents the climax of Sufi achievement both theoretically and artistically. Today Sufism may prove inadequate to meet the requirements of modern man. It may not satisfy the arguments of the intellectual because of his being unable to retrace the pattern of thought and re-establish the moral and spiritual values of the sufistic poetry. But from the sixteenth to the beginning of the nineteenth century Sufism permeated Sindhi poetry in such a way that many Sindhis, even today will not accept a composition of a poet if it has no sufistic content.
The Iranian type of Tasawaf got synthesized in Sindh. Jethmal Parsram Gulrajani, a theosophist, who studied all the faiths and religions has said, “Out of the wedlock of escoteric type of the Sufism and Vedantism, a peculiar form of mysticism was evolved in Sindh.” Sindhi poets are the product of the twin forces of Persian and Indian mysticism. While the Persian poets make the lover go in search of his beloved, Sindhi poets have turned the heroines into ‘Radhas’ and ‘Meeras’ of the Bhakti cult. In India when Malik Muhmad ‘Jayasi’ followed the Persian mysticism, he sent his prince in search for her Punhoo, his Suhni swims across the river for her Mehar, his Moomal spends sleepless nights for her Rano and like Meera and Radha all his heroines yearn and pine for their beloveds.
Unlike Persian poets of the middle ages who were mostly court poets, Sindhi poets were not dependent on the goodwill of any patron. While Persian poetry was affected by dynastic revolutions and the poets of the caliber of even Hafiz Shirazi had to refer to the intrigues and slanders of rival poets, ingratitude of the monarchs and the generosity of their patrons, Sindhi Sufi poets were unaffected by all these excesses of power and wealth. Shah Abdul Latif of Bhitai, whose works are remarkably colloquial in tone and whose poetry is the supreme artistic expression of mysticism in Sindhi literature, received an invitation to visit the court of the then ruler of Kalhora dynasty but he shunned the honour and declined to pay respects to the ruler who afterwards became his devoted disciple. Sachal, ‘the intoxicated Sufi poet’ was openly hostile to Nawabs and rulers and bold against authority of any kind.
Sindhi Sufi poets used to follow the saying ‘Sufi-Lakufi’ – Sufis are without any religious dogmas or doctrines. The compositions of Sindhi Muslim poets make constant references to Hindu Gods and use material of yoga and Vedanta and those of Hindu poets to the beliefs and legends of Islamic faith. Sachal says :
With the flute on your lips
And trinkets around your feet
You are dancing
Aren’t you ashamed of stealing
The hearts of all?
The Sindhi Sufis accept even the ritual of singing, banned by the Islamic faith. Sachal’s Kafis were and are always sung with the accompaniment of dance. Shah considered Samaha (music) as the essential feature of his spiritual life. In his Sur Sorath, he mentions all the musical instruments of Sindh – Rababu, Surando, Changu Kumachu and in his Sur Ramkali he describes all the stages of Yoga, all the kinds of Yogis along with their musical instruments like Murali, Singri, Shankhu, Vajatu, Tanbooro, Ghindu, etc. One saying of Sachal epitomes the spirit of Sindhi Sufi poetry .
“My breath is connected with music, without it I cannot surivive.”
Adapted from the book ‘Sindhis Scattered Treasure’ by Popati Hiranandani.