Deep in the forest on the Island of Maui – one of the five main islands of Hawaii, as if a thousand miles away from civilization; I am walking along the marked trails humming one of my favorite Mahia folk tune and the orchestra play in the back ground – the sound of nature with each beat of the breaking branch and the whistling flute as the wind passed through clustered leaves fig trees. Then suddenly a distant sound of vocal chorus synchronizes into this orchestra. I follow this mystic call that somewhat resembled like a Sufi kalam but in a language unknown to me and as I approached a waterfall, a group of local people comes into sight, sitting on a log over a rivulet playing music and reciting Sufi poetry, I am caught in a surprise.
I introduced myself to the group and got to know that most of the people were Sufis enjoying fun filled hours in the close comfort of Mother Nature where the tip of the skyline shimmer like a diamond on the jagged heights of the forest giants. They were non-Muslims and my supposition made a U turn that Sufis may not be related only to Islam. Today, Sufis are found, other than in the Islamic states, in some parts of India, South-east Asia, Europe (Britain and France) and in the USA.
I sit with them to share knowledge on Sufism in the USA and further discussion revealed that Sufism is recognized multi-religious roots and also germane to people belonging to all faiths. According to notable scholars, the philosophy of Sufism is clearly ascribed in the teaching of Islam. However, according to other beliefs, it also relates to Buddhism. A number of historians claim that the foundation of Sufism is accredited to the teachings of Abraham or Zoroaster. Scholars believe Sufism to be the secret teaching within all religions and many claim Islam the “shell” of Sufism. According to a distinguished Sufi writer: Ali el-Hujwiri, “the Prophet Mohammed himself said that he who hears the voice of the Sufi people and does not say aamin is recorded in God’s presence as one of the heedless.”
The word Sufi is derived from a Persian word meaning wisdom, while another, interestingly suggest that from the Greek word, Sophia! According to a renowned Sufi scholar, Sufi Inayat Khan, there are no traces of the origin of Sufism,. According to him, great Sufis have appeared at different times and have founded schools of thought. The characteristic Sufi signature is found in widely dispersed literature dating back 2nd Century B.C. Archeologists say that although their most obvious impact on civilization was made between the eighth and eighteenth centuries A.D., the beginning of traditional Sufism is believed to have followed during the life of Prophet Mohammad (AS) and thus, a large number of Sufis in the world today are Muslim. However, there are traces of pre-Islamic roots of Sufism that dates back to the early Christian spiritualists of Syria and Egypt.
In 712AD, Mohammad Bin Qasim conquered Debul and during the Muslim period, Uchchh became the center of Islamic studies in the South Asia. There are a number of tombs of famed Sufi Saints and Scholars in Uchchh, notably the tombs of Syed Jalaluddin Bukhari and his family. These structures bearing Islamic architecture style were added by a number of domed tombs, which included Baha Al Halim by his pupil, the Suharwardiya Sufi saint Jahaniyan Jahangasht (1307–1383) – the second for the latter’s great-granddaughter, Bibi Jawindi, in 1494, and the third for the latter’s architect. Sufis are still active as ever. They number some fifty million. Sufi Inayat Khan (1882-1927) was instructed by his teacher to convey the way of the Sufis to the West and in 1910; he linked a “message of spiritual liberty” which reflected the universal nature of Sufism.
The Way of the Sufis is a philosophy based on opening ourselves beyond personal preferences that guide us to value cross-cultural and interfaith peace-building initiatives. It is a continuing process that our inner life needs to harness a lifetime in the world – a process that our minds listen to our hearts – this would guide us to tolerate, help others and sought a balance between self-preservations and a source of benefit to others.
A “character of healing,” is a character based on virtues in life like respect, kindness, compassion, and patience. To nurturing these qualities within us require an inward process of self-analysis and let go passing on a judgment to another. This will develop into virtuosity in engaging the world with warmth and care.
People following the way of the Sufi tend to live a full life through spiritual beliefs and abstaining form worldly greed. They perform pilgrimage, practice regular prayer, which is an absolute form of meditation, thus in the right direction towards a balanced life with all the colors of happiness and suffering. Some of the Sufis also perform musical meditations, which induces a sense of inner peace and spiritual union. Another characteristic of the Sufi Way is a continuous process of finding ways to inspire change: within and reforming a better world.
Sufism is not a sect and not bound by a religious creed. Sufis don’t have sacred city, no monastic organization and no religious channels; however, there are some cities that became known as the main center of Sufism, such as Uchchh Sharif and Multan in Pakistan. They may regard themselves as a breed of people who recognize one another by certain natural talents, habits and a quality mind set.
The traditional way of the Sufis is to be “in the world, but not of it,” free from ambition, greed, pride and adhere to custom, or being inspired of persons higher in rank—that is the Sufi’s ideal.
Sufis respect the rituals and religious festivities as long as these farther the brotherhood of man. A Sufi claims to be enlightened by actual experiences: “he, who tastes, knows” and not by philosophic argument. The very phenomenon of conscious evolution is of Sufi origin.
A prominent Sufi poet, Ibn ‘Arabi narrates the universality of Sufism in Garden Among the Flames:
A garden among the flames!My heart can take on
Any form:A meadow for gazelles,A cloister for monks,For the idols, sacred ground,
Ka’ba for the circling pilgrim,the tables for the Torah,the scrolls of the Qur’an.My creed is love;
Wherever its caravan turns along the way,That is my belief,My faith.
Sufi scholar, Jalaluddin Rumi, expressed Sufism in his “Only Breath” (translated by Coleman Barks)
Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not HinduBuddhist, Sufi, or Zen. Not any religion
or cultural system. I am not from the Eastor the West, not out of the ocean or up
from the ground, not natural or ethereal, notcomposed of elements at all. I do not exist,
am not an entity in this world or the next,did not descend from Adam and Eve or any
origin story. My place is placeless, a traceof the traceless. Neither body or soul.
I belong to the beloved, have seen the twoworlds as one and that one call to and know,
first, last, outer, inner, only thatbreath breathing human being.
Some of the great Sufi Saints:
Hazrath Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani RA (d. 5831208) titled Ghousal Azam, Piran-e-Pir – a scholar, reformer
Hazrath Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti RA (d. 6331236) known as “Khwaja Gharib Nawaaz” (the Benefactor of the Poor)
HAZRATH KHWAJA QUTBUDDIN BAKHTIYAR KAKI RA (d. 634/1237) a symbol of patience and forbearance despite hardships in life
HAZRATH BABA FARIDUDDIN GANJ SHAKAR RA (d. 661/1263) A mantle of spiritual leadership, his mazar at Pak Patan, Pakistan
Hazrath Amir Khusro RA – a great Sufi, a wealthy merchant who gave up all, an intellectual giant of many languages, an artist, a prolific author, a genius musician (he invented the Sitar), a versatile composer.
Sheikh Bahauddin Zakaria, also known as Bahawal Haq was born at Kot Kehror, a town of Layyah District near Multan, around 1170.
Shah Rukn e Alam, the Grandson of Shaikh Bahauddin Zakaria.