A talk on ‘Sufism and Indian Islam’ by Hazrat Maulana Syed Mohammad Ashraf Sahab Kichhouchhawi, General Secretary, All India Ulama & Mashikh Board was held at Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) on 23 Apr 2012. The event, which was organized by the VIF in collaboration with the Global Foundation for Civilizational Harmony (GFCH), aimed at understanding and projecting the Sufi legacy in India of tolerance. It was opposed to the more extreme ideologies, which promoted terrorism, thus strengthening India’s social and religious harmony. The evening session, presided by Mr. Subhash Chandra, the founding Chairman GFCH and ZEE Television networks, was attended by a large number of people including social activists and religious enthusiasts, among others. Mr. Ajit Doval, KC, Director VIF welcomed the guests while Dr. Khawaja Ikram, Associate Professor at JNU's Centre of Indian Languages briefed the audience on the evolution of Sufism in India.
Mr Doval’s initial remarks, part of his welcome speech, stressed the global need to develop a greater understanding among all human beings, regardless of caste, creed or religion. He also underscored that Sufism, the inner, mystical dimension of Islam had contributed significantly to India’s rich cultural and religious legacy. Dr. Khawaja Ikram noted that while the tradition of Sufism preceded Islam, the major trends of Sufism could be found in many religions across the world.
Hazrat Maulana Mohammad Ashraf, the renowned scholar of Sufism, identified love for the entire humanity and unconditional devotion to the Almighty among the basic tenets of Sufism. Sufism stresses that purging of all base thoughts from the soul is a prerequisite for the attainment of higher spiritual goals. The self becomes complete only when Ilm (Knowledge) is fused with Isque (devotion). He however said that the primary reason for Sufism not being very popular is that it dwells more upon practice, less on theory. "The notion of heaven and hell doesn't affect a Sufi practitioner because fear of hell and greed for a place in heaven are trivial for a Sufi", the noted scholar observed. He further said, "In our society, people are segregated into different classes based on their religion, caste, and region. A place like India where language changes virtually every 50 kms, it is imperative that people live in harmony and respect and appreciate the diversity". Rejecting the notion that Jihad means offence, Hazrat Maulana asserted that it is essentially a form of defence, especially against the evil which is present within all of us. Mr Subhash Chandra wrapped up the proceedings and said that he felt personally motivated by the thoughts expressed by Hazrat Maulana and extended all possible cooperation in spreading the teachings of tolerance and harmony across the entire nation.
Report prepared by Sanjay Kumar