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A Tolerant Faith

Sohail Hashmi

By sadia Dehlvi
Harper Collins, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 252, Rs. 699.00


There is a sudden spurt of interest in Sufism among a section of our population that did not have such an interest a decade or two ago, and there are several reasons for this. Some were introduced to Sufism and its spiritual philosophical moorings through interactions with those who knew something about it and realized that the ideas of Wahdat-ul-Wujood had parallels in the Advait philosophy and it was this consonance that intrigued many to an extent that they got interested in exploring Sufism a little more. There were others who discovered Sufism through the West. Just as many had discovered Hindustani Classical Music when George Harrison began to learn Sitar from Pandit Ravi Shankar in the 60s, there are those who discovered Rumi, when there was a spurt of interest in Jalal-ud-din Rumi in the West particularly in the US, with several translations appearing within a short span. Rumi is incidentally known for centuries in our parts as Maulana Room and his poetry was quoted by Persian knowing Indians, till the 1950s and early 1960s, in conversations and writings almost as often as Mir and Ghalib are quoted by the Urduwallas. An introduction to Rumi in the last decade or so has led eventually and inevitably to Sufism and a kindling of interest in our own indigenous Sufis. But the biggest reason for this growing interest in Sufism stems from two impulses, the growth of religious intolerance and systematic attack on our tolerant traditions has prompted those who stand by the values of harmony and tolerance to look for inspiration in our syncretic traditions. The rise of majoritarian communalism and the systematic and frenzied attacks on all our secular traditions and on artists, writers, film makers, intellectuals especially historians for instance led Sahmat to start a campaign ‘in defence of our secular tradition’, a series of major concerts in big and small towns woven around the Sufi Bhakti tradition with Qawwals, Bauls, Kabir Panthis, singers of Punjabi, Sindhi, Saraiki and other Sufi and Bhakti texts from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh that foregrounded this tradition and led to many Indians revisiting their own forgotten traditions of inclusiveness and plurality. The second impulse leading to the increasing curiosity about the Sufis was the rising popularity of Sufi singers like Nusrat Fateh Ali and the almost mandatory Sufi Song in each Bombay film, in some way a response to the rising interest ...

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