Volume: 14, No: 01 ; January-2020
Any person who has knowledge of both outer and inner life is a Sufi – describes Hazrat Inayat Khan, a Sufi philosopher. Some scholars state the word Sufi is derived from the word safi – pure and that’s what Sufism teaches.
Sufism is a way of life in which we discover how to live a deeper identity. Beyond the already known personality, that deeper identity is in harmony with all that exists. This deeper identity, or essential self, has capabilities of awareness, action, creativity, and love that go far beyond the superficial personality abilities.
Sufism is a mystical form of Islam, a school of practice that emphasizes the inward search for God and shuns materialism. It has produced some of the world’s most beloved literature, like the poems of the 13th century Iranian poet Rumi.
In other words, Sufism implies that for the attainment of God intense devotion is needed in the individual. Devotion is reflected in love, and love for the Almighty can be expressed through three fold activities on the part of the individual i.e. poetry of love towards God, music of love towards God and dance of love towards God.
Sufism derives its inspiration from Islam. While Islam is about external conduct and observance of religious rituals, the Sufism seeks inner purity.
Main Features of Sufism:
- According to Sufi saints, God is the beloved of the lover (‘Mashook”) i.e. the devotee and the devotee is eager to meet his beloved (God).
- The Sufis think that love and devotion are the only means of reaching God.
- Along with Prophet Muhammad, they also give great importance to their ‘Murshid’ (master) or ‘Pir’ (Guru).
- Devotion is more important than fast (Roza) or prayer (Namaz).
- Sufism does not believe in caste system.
- Sufism emphasizes upon leading a simple life.
- Sufi saints usually preach in Arabic, Persian and Urdu.
- The Sufis were divided into 12 orders each under a mystic Sufi saint – prominent Sufi Saints.
The Divine connect Sufism, as the mystical dimension of Islam, preaches peace, tolerance and pluralism, while encouraging music as a way of deepening one’s relationship with the Creator. Based on the mystical branch of Islam, Sufi music seeks to unite listeners with the Divine. In Sufism, the term music is called “sa’ma” or literary audition. This is where poetry would be sang to instrumental music; this ritual would often put Sufis into spiritual ecstasy. The common depiction of whirling dervishes dressed in white cloaks comes to picture when paired with “sa’ma.”
Many Sufi traditions encouraged poetry and music as part of education. Sufism spread widely with their teachings packaged in popular songs accessing mass demographics. Women were especially affected; often used to sing Sufi songs during the day and in female gatherings
In Sufism, music is regarded as a means for the believer to get closer to the divine. Sufi music therefore is the music of the ‘soul’ by the ‘soul’ and for the ‘soul’. Qawwali is the most common form of Sufi music.
Sufism came to India
Sufism has an illustrious history in India evolving for over 1,000 years. The presence of Sufism has been a leading entity increasing the reaches of Islam throughout the subcontinent. Following the entrance of Islam in the early 700s, Sufi mystic traditions became more visible during the 10th and 11th centuries of the Delhi Sultanate.
A conglomeration of four chronologically separate dynasties, the early Delhi Sultanate consisted of rulers from Turkic and Afghan lands. This Persian influence flooded the subcontinent with Islam, Sufi thought, syncretic values, literature, education, and entertainment that has created an enduring impact on the presence of Islam in India today.
Various leaders of Sufi orders, tariqa, chartered the first organized activities to introduce localities to Islam through Sufism. Saint figures and mythical stories provided solace and inspiration to Hindu caste communities often in rural villages of India. The Sufism teachings of divine spirituality, cosmic harmony, love, and humanity resonated with the common people and still does so today.
Influx of Sufism in Awadh
Before the arrival of the Nishapuri Nawabs of Awadh, nearly three hundred years ago, Lucknow experienced an influx of Sufi saints. Sufis believe in the purification of soul and attainment of virtues through meditation. Like the yogis they shun worldly pleasures and wealth by keeping their desires to the barest minimum. Sufis lead a strictly disciplined lifestyle and some of their mystical practices extend over long periods and require them to abstain from taking food and water. People were soon impressed by their simple living, spiritualistic devotion to God and particularly because they were not averse to other forms of worship, the Sufis had a large following in Awadh. Devotees thronged at their aastaana (abode) in large numbers to pay respects and seek their intervention for fulfillment of their long cherished desires and warding off their ills and sufferings.
Earliest Sufi saints
Sheikh Qawam-ud-din and his disciple Shah Mina are two of the earliest Sufi saints who have their tombs at Lucknow. Sheikh Qawam-ud-din belonged to Kara in Allahabad district and had performed pilgrimage to Mecca on foot seven times and was titled Haji-ul-Harmain. Shah Mina was originally named Mohammed and was the son of Qutub-ud-din Siddiqui, who was a relative of Sheikh Qawam-ud-din. The Sheikh had a son who was named Mina, whom he dis-inherited because he did not approve of his son joining the services of the King of Delhi. Qutub-ud-din, blessed by the Sheikh, begot a son whom he named Mina. Qawam-ud-din adopted the child as his disciple and on his death-bed in 1436, nominated him as his successor. Mina’s fame as a ‘miracle man’ spread far and wide and he came to be known as Shah Mina. His aastaana became crowded with devotees and the crowded area around it began to be called Mina Nagri. (Lucknow was then just a small town, and besides the names like Akhtar Nagar and Alakhnau that it had, it was also known as Mina Nagri. Shah Mina died on 23rd Safar, 870 AH (corresponding to 1479 AD). His date of death is recorded in a Persian inscription of 884 AH (mentioned in the proceedings of Asiatic Society of Bengal of 1873).
Both the tombs of Sheikh Qawam-ud-din and Shah Mina were there near Machchhi Bhavan on its east and south-west, respectively. The abodes were demolished with the Machchhi Bhawan by the British, during their conflict with the rebels (freedom fighters) during 1857-58. The graves were however spared
Lucknow Charbagh station has a Sufi Dargah of Khamman-Peer, nestled between the two railway tracks, a place of worship where each engine driver bows down in respect before leaving or entering the train station – irrespective of the religion they belong to. Devotees came in droves, particularly on Thursdays, to seek blessings of the ‘peer’ (saint) owing to their indomitable faith in the Muslim saint. The 950-year old shrine is of Muslim saint Shah Syed Qayamuddin, also known as ‘Khamman peer baba’ by devotees. There are several folklore about the saint that surface up indicating only the degree of faith devotee repose in him.
Dewa Sharif: Sufi dargah
Under the influence of Sufism, India is abode to many Sufi shrines which are famous for its serenity. One such Sufi Dargah is Dewa Sharif – a sacred place which enshrines the tomb of syed Haji Waris Ali Shah – Waris Ali Shah or Sarkar Waris Pak was a sufi saint from Dewa – a place located in Barabanki near Lucknow, who was also the successor of the Qadriyya–Razzakiyya Silsila (sect). He is suggested to be from the 26th generation of Hazrat Imam Hussain and was born in 1809.
He is considered to be one of the most famous Sufi saints, revered equally by people of all religions.
His father’s name was Sayyad Qurban Ali Shah whose tomb (mazar sharif) too is located in Dewa. Haji Hafiz Sayyad Waris Ali Shah at a very early age showed an extraordinary inclination for a religious life: even in his extreme childhood, he was regarded as amazingly proficient in his knowledge and practice of religion.
Waris Ali Shah lost his parents at the tender age of 3 and the burden of his upbringing fell on the feeble shoulders of his grandmother. At the age of five he started learning ‘Quran’ and committed it to memory. To the amazement of his tutor, Waris Ali Shah could say his lessons correctly even after reading his books. He preferred solitude to books and often slipped away out of doors to spend long periods in retirement and contemplation. He was never seen playing with children of his age and took pleasure in giving them sweets and distributing money among the poor. It soon became evident to those around him that he was not quite of the earth. His brother-in-law Haji Syed Khadim Ali Shah who lived at Lucknow took charge of his education and initiated him in the mysteries of occult science, giving him the necessary training.
Not only Muslims, even Hindus held Waris Ali Shah in high esteem and regarded him as a perfect Sufi. He was the first Sufi to have crossed the seas and visited. A Spanish Noble by the name of Count Galaraza came all the way from Spain to visit him and had an interview with him at Dewa.
Waris Ali Shah died on 7th April 1905 and was buried at this spot in Dewa which took the shaoe of a monument built in his memory by his followers. The place represents communal harmony even by its architecture. It was constructed on a pattern, blending the Hindu and Iranian architecture. It is to be noted that Hindus along with Muslim devotees made a significant contribution to the construction of the mausoleum. The silver platted spire was donated by Raja Udit Narain Singh of Ram Nagar, the silver covering on doors was done on behalf of the rulers of Kashmir and the entire marble flooring was completed from the Estate donated by Thakur Pancham Singh of Mainpuri. The mausoleum is indeed a symbol of communal harmony as preached by the Saint.
The Dewa Fair
Every year ‘Urs’ calledas ‘Dewa Fair’ is being held at the scared tomb in the month of ‘Safar’ (October – November) attracting devotees in large numbers with its non-stop divine celebration and qawwali recitals. The Fair which sees footfall from all parts of the country irrespective of religion to the mausoleum of the great Saint, comes in full swing with the ceremony of Chadar presentation on the tombs of Haji Waris Ali Shah and his father. Pilgrims carry embroided sheets of Silk to place on the tombs of Haji Sahab and his father Haji Qurban Ali Shah.
Qawwalis and devotional songs are recited all the way by professional singers as the procession wends its way to the mausoleums. Special stalls are put up at the fair – selling bangles, pottery, and handmade items. A grand cattle market is also set up during the fair. Cultural programs like mushaira (recital of shayaris), kavi sammelan (poets meet), and sufi performances are also organized.
The fair celebrates this spirit of unity between people of all castes and religions which marks the very essence of Dewa Sharif.
We take you into the mystical Sufi world on our Tour ‘Thursday Sufi Sojourn’. On this private tour, you understand the mystics of Sufism and spend an hour in solace at the Dewa Sharif shrine while your ears are filled with soulful devotional music, Qawwali.
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