(Interactive session on 22.03.2014)

                                                            Keynote address by Mr. R. K. Gupta

(Other participant speakers: Mr. A. K. Sengupta, Asim K. Banerjee, Ms. Sharmila Bhawal, Mr. Amitava Tripathi, Dr.Santosh Ganguly, Dr. Santosh Ganguly, Mr. Paritosh Bandopadhyay, Mr. Ramesh Chanda, Mr. Sarada Ranjan Das, Mr. P. C. Jha, Mr.Jogendra Singh)

                                             [Devotional song by Ms. Sikha Majumdar & Ms. Kavita Chanda]

                                                   Anchor, Introduction & Conclusive Remarks: Asish K.Raha




Love and detachment in mundane sense are self-contradictory as love implies a sense of attachment while detachment suggests lack of it. Therefore, it is difficult to conceive that a person can be both a lover and yet detached at the same time in relation to another person. To be more precise, the question is if I love a person, can I be detached from that person.

In spiritual domain, detachment from material comforts, objects as also any living being is often mandated and prescribed with a view to enable the seeker to attain the Highest Truth viz. God-realization. The purpose underlying such mandate is to render the mind singularly devoted to or concentrated upon God. With that objective in view, it is customary to treat any attachment to mundane world as a distraction. True love, to protagonists of renunciation or detachment, is love for God only and nothing else.

In the above perspective, the question that logically arises is how God is to be defined. Definition surely means limitation and how do we define the Infinite. According to Abrahamic tradition, God as the Creator of universes is distinctive from His creation, and can be defined as Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent, the qualification that none else can possess. By this exclusive definition of God we suggest that God is Infinite, and none of us can become God.  Thus when we say we love God, our love is meant to be directed to external God who is Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. Obviously if we love God, we at the same time cannot be detached from God. Thus the concept of detached love appears to be self-contradictory and irreconcilable.

If it is suggested that the person who truly loves someone, be it God or human, would be naturally detached from everyone / everything else, it may amount to propagating selfish love, thereby belittling love’s all-encompassing positive effect. Christ’s dictum – “Love thy neighbour” or Mohammed’s teaching for brotherhood surely do not speak of detachment. How then love can be reconciled to detachment?

Hindu Vedantic tradition contrary to Abrahamic tradition, however, offers an inclusive definition of God (Brahman). More precisely, when Vedanta says ‘God is One,’ the suggestion is that there is no other existence except God (Ekamevadvitiyam). In that sense, all of us are God in reality (Sohaham or aham Brahmasmi) sans realization. That being the Truth, there is no difficulty in taking selfless love for a fellow human as divine. In other words, love per se is divine. The difficulty lies in simultaneously accepting the prescription for detachment. If we find divinity in everything that exists, why should we detach our mind from this mundane world and why should we make a distinction between spiritual and mundane worlds. Vedanta says that mundane world is transient, and anything that is transient is not real. Corollary to above premise in present context is that true love is not transient but ever-lasting. But, how can love become ever-lasting unless both the subject and the object are permanent? This problem of transient love can also be overcome by attributing divinity to the subject and the object, entangled in true love. But the problem still persists at the core. If everything that exists is divine, why should we detach ourselves from it? Our subject today is all about this perplexing question, with specific reference to Sufism. 


Love –  the force of attraction 

Love is the most fundamental force with the characteristic quality of attraction existing in all living and non-living beings. While the love in the gross matter manifests as the gravitational force and is governed by the Law of Gravity, in the living beings love manifests in various forms. Today’s topic, however, relates to love in spiritual sense i.e., the love of a devotee for the Divine. This force of love keeps on constantly exerting its pressure on things to move towards and merge with the beloved. The gross matter is continuously attracted towards other material bodies be it the tiniest particles or the celestial bodies and the soul inherently urges to merge with the Supreme Soul. Big or small, living or non-living, this fundamental force of love exists universally.

This force of love would have had its way and everything would have merged with the Origin, the Creator, if there were no movement. The universe would have collapsed because of the gravitational force if the tiny particles and the celestial bodies were not revolving in their orbits. Similarly the soul also would have merged with the Supreme Soul, if it were not for the fulfillment of Almighty’s desire that the soul through movement should gain experience, feel the pain and sufferings of others, acquire compassion and thereby shed the feeling of separate existence (ego) and ultimately realise the Truth of the unity of existence. The universe exists because of His desire; it is His ‘leela’ (the divine play) in which every living creature is rejoicing, oblivious of the true nature of things and the real purpose of life. It is only a few to whom He reveals the secret of His love and takes them to their Original State of Love.

Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji, a great Sufi saint (1900-1960) has said, ‘love is quenching the thirst on the physical plane, but thirst is not love. The human being is love, and Love loves the human being. To realize Love is to realize the God. If one sits before the open fire, it warms him. There is no effort on his part. Those who have realized the Truth are like this fire and their company ignites the warmth of love in the hearts of seekers. God realized Himself in the heart of Hearts of the human being. It is like the ocean and waves; they disappear and are here. When we realize, Love disappears. We cannot give shape or name to Love. The deeper one goes, the more it disappears. It radiates from every part of the body.’  


The desire to become perfect

Love can be expressed as the desire to become perfect, to remove all imperfection. This is true of the love at the physical plane as well as at the spiritual plane. At the physical plane, eyes love to see a beautiful thing, ears love to listen melodious songs, nose loves to smell flowers and so on. It is this lacking in the sensual perceptions, which is desired to be fulfilled and is called love for that thing.

At the spiritual plane, one desires to remove imperfection of one’s conduct. The love for the saints of God is explained because of their perfection in conduct and, therefore, people are attracted towards them. The love for God is also explained similarly, God being the most Perfect. He has created the universe and He runs it perfectly. One, who does not understand it, lives in the world with anguish, pain, suffering and sorrow; he lives miserably. One, who has this knowledge, also lives like an ordinary person in the world, but he lives with the understanding that the world has been created by the God, the Lord of the universe, who is running it perfectly. This understanding makes him live happily in the world in accordance with His desire and it results in love for God, reflecting in universal love.  


Love for God 

All the religions lay stress on love for God, but it is difficult to understand what is really meant by love for God. For most religions the love for God is expressed in obedience and worship. The true nature of love, however, needs to be understood. One loves oneself the most; it is a fact of life experienced by everyone some time or the other. One loves oneself the most because of his identification with one’s own self. If one loves somebody else, it is because of the reason that he starts identifying himself with that other person. For example, the mother loves her child because she identifies herself with the child, so much so that she feels the child as a part of her own existence. On the contrary, the child has no identity of its own, for its ego has not yet grown; the child knows nothing except the mother, being completely dependent on her, which explains its love for the mother. As they both grow, the child starts acquiring his own individuality and the mother also starts recognizing child’s independent existence. The degree of love starts getting affected.

 When one talks of love for God this sequence is reversed. One could consider God as the mother of all mothers and the seeker as the child, who has to traverse the path from a state of grown up ego to the state of complete dependence on God i.e. surrender unto Him. With the complete surrender of the ego one acquires the spiritual knowledge that his essence is the essence of God i.e. the duality starts disappearing and one starts realizing that his reality is nothing but the Reflection of God. With this realization one reaches the state of Unity i.e. the state of Oneness. In this state there is no difference between the love, faith and enlightenment. This is the true knowledge. When this realization dawns one’s self exists no more.


Love for the spiritual Master 

The love for God has, therefore, to be understood as the complete Unity with the God. But then the God is Absolute and for most people it is difficult to surrender, to love something so abstract. Most people, therefore, need the help of a spiritual Master. The Master has a physical body and is like them. The disciple can perceive Master’s existence through his own senses. It is easy for him to surrender his ego at the feet of his Master. The love for the Master gradually leads the disciple to the realization that there is no duality between the Master and the God. The face of the Master is only a mask behind which lies the Reality.

One can consider the Master like the river that is continuously flowing towards and merging with the ocean. At the point of merger there is no difference between the river and the ocean. On merger with the ocean the river loses its identity, its independent existence. It becomes one with the ocean. The disciples who are like small watercourses by merging themselves with this river i.e. the Master can reach the ocean i.e. the God. On their own it is not only difficult but almost impossible for the small watercourses to travel through all this distance without the fear of being lost on the way. Their merger with the river paves the way for them to merge with the ocean. This is the easiest and the nearest path for the seekers to reach their destination. It is for this reason that the Sufis lay stress on the love for their Master.

The great Sufi Master Bayazid (8th Century AD) also said that ‘love for the friends of Allah results in their love for you. The Almighty looks at the hearts of His saints and if He will see your name engraved in their hearts, He will forgive you.’ It is for this reason that the Sufis love their Master the most.  Their love for the Master lifts them to a state of bliss and presence in the heart of their beloved. Muhammad az-Zahid, a great Naqshbandi Sufi Master narrated an incidence concerning his Master Sheikh Ubaidullah al-Ahrar. Once his Sheikh fell sick and asked him to get a doctor from Herat.  One of his co-disciples Maulana Qassim requested him to fetch the doctor fast, as he could not withstand the suffering of his Sheikh. It took him thirty-five days to return with a doctor.  On return, however, he found that his Sheikh was well and Maulana Qassim had died.  He asked his Sheikh about the sudden demise of Maulana Qassim, who was so young. Ubaidullah al-Ahrar said, ‘When you left, Maulana Qassim came to me and said, ‘I am giving my life for your life.’ I asked him not to do that but he said, ‘O My Sheikh! I didn’t come here to consult you. I have made the decision and Allah has accepted it from me.’ Ubaidullah al-Ahrar said that he couldn’t change his mind. The next day he became sick with the ailment of his Master, which was reflected on him. He died and Ubaidullah al-Ahrar got well without the help of a doctor.


Love for all creatures 

In unity with the God what exists is only the Reality of the God and one sees the existence of the God alone in all beings. His love takes the form of Divine love for all beings. The love for God does not mean hatred towards the world; rather it results in the understanding that the others need to be treated in the same manner as one would himself like to be treated. One cannot be saying that he loves God by neglecting his duty towards the others. The mother cannot be justified in neglecting her child for the sake of performing her pooja and similarly a king cannot be said to love God if he spends all his time in worship and refuses to protect his people from the enemy. The real love for God is to do one’s duty with utmost care and attention, while at the same time remaining in His Presence i.e. taking it to be a Divine order to discharge his obligations most faithfully. 


Supremacy of love 

The great Sufi Master Bayazid established supremacy of love by saying that ‘the Almighty can be approached only through love.’ The love for the beloved reveals his secrets in the heart of the lover and conversely the knowledge of the beloved produces in his heart the love for the beloved. The knowledge of the true beloved i.e. the God is a source of tremendous happiness. As in the case of worldly knowledge, the more complicated an issue is, the more pleasure one gets in understanding and resolving it. Similarly in the spiritual world, the knowledge of the God being the highest, one, who seeks to acquire His knowledge moves on the path of bliss.

In regard to supremacy of love, the great Sufi Master Mahatma Ramchandraji (1873-1931) has also said that ‘love is such a thing which crosses the limits of the Seven Skies.’  His disciple Thakur Ram Singhji (1898-1971) also used to say, ‘Love is all encompassing.  The Almighty can be realized only through love.  The illiterate Gopis had won the love of Lord Sri Krishna only through their unfettered love.’ The true love brings in enlightenment.  In fact there is no difference between Love and Enlightenment.  Love is God and the purpose of acquiring knowledge is to know the God. Love is the culmination of knowledge and it is the height of enlightenment. 


Ekatmata, faith and surrender 

The true meaning of love thus is ‘ekatmata’ (oneness) i.e. complete merger with the beloved and cessation of the duality.  There is no scope in love for the separate existence of the lover and the beloved. As soon as the feeling of duality between the Master and the disciple vanishes, one starts seeing His manifestation everywhere in the entire universe.  Selfless love gradually turns into devotion, which makes one identical to one’s beloved.  The disciple (the lover), however, is imperfect, and, therefore, it is the Master (the beloved), who being perfect, merges with the disciple and takes him on the path of love. We have references in the mystic literature:

‘Jab mein tha tab Hari nahi, abHari hai mein nay

Prem gali ati saankri, ya mein do na samay’

(Till I existed, God was not there.  Now only He exists and I am not there. The path of love is so narrow that it has no place for the two.)

In the satsang (spiritual assemblies) of Hajrat Baqi Billah (16th Century AD), a renowned Sufi Sheikh (Delhi), Masters of other Silsila (Sufi Orders) together with their followers also used to participate. Once when all of them were engrossed in deep meditation, all of a sudden Hajrat Baqi Billah stood up. His body was trembling and it appeared that he might fall. One of the persons got up and gave him support. After a little while when he was somewhat composed, one of the Masters present in the assembly very politely enquired ‘Hajrat Qiblah (your honour) – what blessing have you received from the Almighty today that you are prepared even to sacrifice your life for it.’ Hajrat Baqi Billah replied, ‘Brother, what can I say. When all were deeply engrossed in remembering the Almighty, my eyes opened for a while. I saw a dog passing in front of the door. This dog resembled the one, which used to visit the abode of this slave’s Master. My Master used to feed the dog with the food left over from his own dish. This slave used to feel jealous of that dog and used to think that dog to be more fortunate than him. Seeing this dog, I was reminded of my Master and that dog and I was overpowered by the flux of love. I, therefore, could not control myself.’ On listening to this explanation, the Master who had asked this question himself got into such a state of ecstasy that he remarked, ‘Hajrat Khwaja Sahab, only you can be a Sheikh (Master).’ He then loudly uttered ‘Allah-o-Akbar’ and abandoned his life in that state of ecstasy.  

The essence of love lies in complete faith and surrender to the beloved. Rabia of Basra, the first and the most famous of the women Sufi saints, followed the path of tawakkul i.e. complete dependence on God. When asked if she loved Prophet Muhammad, she is stated to have said that the love for God in her heart has left no room for anything else. She struck down the Ayat relating to hatred towards Saitan from the Holy Qur’an, since there was no place left for any hatred in her heart. She also regarded all rituals as meaningless, including visitation to Kaaba. One of her greatest contributions to Sufism was her conception of prayer, which she considered as a free and intimate supplication to God. 

Hazrat Rabia was born in a poor family.  She became orphan at a very young age. Her family was scattered by a famine and she was sold as a slave for a sum of only six Dirhams.  Her master had put her on to the job of looking after the household affairs, which kept her busy throughout the day. She performed her duties with utmost sincerity and in the night when she retired to her room, she used to engage in offering prayers to her Lord. One night her master happened to see her absorbed in prayers through a window of his house. He saw Rabia grossly engrossed in prayer and a beam of divine light engulfing her. Deeply impressed by it and a little bit frightened, her master set her free the next morning. Rabia then devoted herself to the love of God, living a life of extreme poverty.

Prayer for Rabia was a free and intimate communion with the God. For her the ritual of offering the prescribed prayers (Namaz) and other religious observances were of no merit. The true prayer for her was to be in the presence of God. She did not offer prayer in expectation of any reward or for avoiding punishment. She used to pray: ‘O my Lord, if I worship You from fear of Hell, burn me in the Hell, and if I worship You with the hope of paradise, exclude me from it; but if I worship You for Your own sake then withhold not from me Your Eternal Beauty.’

Rabia’s dependence on God was complete. She is considered to be a great exponent of complete trust (tawakkul) in God. She refused to accept any assistance or help from any one. She considered it to be a shame to ask for worldly things from the God to whom this world belongs. There was, therefore, no question for her to ask for anything from them to whom it did not belong. She had the firm faith that how He, who provides for those who envy him, could be expected not to take care of those who love Him?  He does not refuse sustenance to one who abuses Him. How then shall He refuse sustenance to one whose heart is overflowing with Love for Him? She had, therefore, turned her attention completely away from the world. Rabia also did not allow people to visit her as she considered that they might relate to her what she did not say or do.  She did not approve of any miracles to be related to her. People used to say that she finds money at her place of worship and that she cooks her food without fire and so on. She, however, refuted all such attributions made to her and said that she felt happy in living in the condition in which the Almighty kept her. Thus her existence itself had become a living prayer to the Almighty.


Love knows no barriers 

The story of Sheikh Sanan in the book Mantiqu’t Tayr (Conference of Birds) written by the great Sufi Master Fariduddin Attar, of whom Maulana Rumi said; ‘Attar traversed the seven worlds of Love while we are standing only at the corner of one street’, reflects the idea of the supremacy of love in a very touching manner.

Sheikh Sanan had devoted his life to serving God and His creation. He had four hundred faithful disciples living with him. One night, Sanan had a dream in which he saw himself bowing to an idol in the city of Rum. He ignored the dream initially but when it recurred, he decided to visit Rum. His disciples also insisted on accompanying him. All of them left for Rum and after some days they arrived at the outskirts of Rum, near a temple. At the temple Sheikh Sanan heard a heart-touching female voice singing a sad love song. On following the voice, Sheikh Sanan saw a young beautiful Christian girl singing that sad song. Her charming beauty overpowered Sheikh Sanan’s heart. In a moment his heart slipped away from his hands. He was dumbfounded and felt as if he had no existence of his own left any more. He could stand on his feet no longer. He sat down with tremors rocking his body. The fire of love made him forget all about himself.

The fire of love incapacitated Sheikh Sanan so much that he forgot that he was a Sheikh of so many disciples, who were witnessing his strange condition. Nothing was important to him anymore except seeing the face of that young girl again. The young girl had left the temple without noticing the Sheikh but Sheikh Sanan decided to stay there through the night in the hope of seeing her again the next morning. His disciples tried to persuade him to go to the city with them but it was of no avail. The pain of love was growing stronger and stronger in Sanan’s heart. He was crying in this agony. His disciples were confused, unable to understand how their Sheikh could behave like that. 

Sheikh Sanan was possessed by the love for the Christian girl. Nothing existed for him except his beloved. The next day came and then the night, the Sheikh could not have a glimpse of the girl again. He became exceedingly restless. His disciples tried to take him out of this obsession. They asked him to perform ablution for clearing his soul, offer prayers (Namaz), and to repent for his sin. The Sheikh answered that they knew nothing of his condition and that he had done his ablution with the blood of his heart for his beloved.  He was repentant not of his love but of his Sheikhood.  He regretted that he did not fall in love earlier and said that his prayer now was only for her.

Not understanding what their Sheikh had said the disciples requested him to forget everything that had happened and to go back with them to Mecca and its Kaaba.  Sanan replied that his Mecca now was that temple where he found his love and its Kaaba was his beloved, the Christian girl. His disciples asked him whether he had no shame uttering these words and what face would he show to the God?  The Sheikh replied, ‘The God himself has made me to fall in love. How can I act against His will?’

The helpless disciples left their Sheikh at the temple in the hope that time will heal the heart of their Sheikh and they found a nearby place for themselves. They thought that perhaps their Master might change his mind and return back to Mecca with them. Days passed in waiting both for the Sheikh and the disciples. Sanan started living on the path opposite the temple from where he could see the girl crossing him in the hope that one day she would notice him. He started addressing her with an imaginary name in his poetry, which he started composing as a result of pain of love in his heart and he would sing the same in sad melodies.

At last, one day the girl noticed him and asked him why he was living there on a street, without home, in the company of dogs. Sanan replied that he had fallen in love with her and would stay there until she responded. The girl was astonished looking to his old age enough to be her grandfather and asked him retortingly whether he was not ashamed of himself to fall in love with a young girl.

Sheikh Sanan was unperturbed. He replied eloquently that love knows no age.  Whether young or old, love pierces the heart of the lover the same way. Not knowing what to say, the girl asked him to abandon his Shakhhood, convert to Christianity, drink wine and renounce his faith in his holy book and all obligations hereunder to be eligible to deserve her favour.

For Sanan, his only faith was his love. He did what the girl had demanded of him gladly. He sang and danced with rejoice proclaiming that he had become nothing for love; he had lost his honour in love and asked the young girl what more he could do for her? She was more than amused. She asked him to buy her gold and ornaments and if he had no money, not to waste his time on her. The Sheikh replied that he had nothing left with him except his heart that too he had already given away to her. He could not live in separation and would do anything she desired of him. The girl put her condition to be his wife that he should look after her pigs for one year. If he tends the pigs to her satisfaction, she would be ready to become his wife on completion of one year. The Sheikh gladly accepted her wish and took up his residence in the pigsty and started tending the pigs with love and care.

Sheikh Sanan’s disciples were utterly disappointed. Their faith in their Sheikh was completely shattered and their hearts were broken. They were confused and they did not know what should they do now? Should they stay in Rum or should they return to Mecca. They asked Sheikh Sanan what should they do? Did he want them also to convert to Christianity as well? They will stay with him, if he asked them to do so. Sheikh Sanan, however, told them to do whatever they wanted and that he wanted nothing from them.  If any one asked them about him, they should tell the truth.

The disciples returned to Mecca. They had no courage to tell anything about their Sheikh to anyone. However, one of their colleagues who could not go to Rum, being on journey, on return to Mecca and not seeing their Master, asked his colleagues about him.  They told him the entire story from the beginning to the end.

On listening to what had transpired, he asked his colleagues how dare they judge their Sheikh as having done something wrong? He cried for his Sheikh from the depth of his heart. He told his colleagues that they did not know the etiquettes of the path of love. If they truly loved their Sheikh, they should have remained with him and followed him.  If the Sheikh had torn off his Sufi robe and put on a cincture, they should have done the same. They should have stayed with him in the pigsty. He said this is what the true love demands.

This faithful disciple remembered and cried inconsolably for his Sheikh day and night. On the fortieth day he had a vision.  He saw his Master Sheikh Sanan standing in the presence of God with a dark cloud of dust from the temple hanging between Sheikh Sanan and God. Suddenly, the dust blew off and the Divine Light embraced the Sheikh. Then he heard an eternal voice saying: ‘When the fire of Love burns one of all his possessions, only then he becomes worthy of seeing the Eternal Beloved. Nothing has any value in the creed of Love except the selfless love. Until the mirror of the soul is cleared of the dust of existence one cannot see the reflection of the True Beloved in it.’

When he told of his vision to his colleagues, all of them decided to proceed to Rum, where they found their Sheikh with his forehead on the ground in salutation to the God. Sheikh Sanan had travelled beyond religion and was liberated from all bondage. He had truly become nothing in the love of his True Beloved. The Sheikh had become one with his true Beloved. He was silent but filled with bliss. The disciples gathered around him and all of them started back for Mecca.

Meanwhile, the young girl also had a dream. She saw a glimpse of the Almighty in her dream. She had realised that it was He who was the true Lover. It aroused an intense desire in her heart to be united with that Eternal Beauty. The pain of love and separation had also captured her heart. It was now revealed to her that it was only the Sheikh, who could show her the way to the Eternal Beloved.

She rushed to meet the Sheikh and on learning that he had left for Mecca, ran into the desert in order to catch up with the Master. The pain of love had melted her heart, which was pouring down in the form of tears from her eyes.  For days together she ran barefooted in the desert, calling to her Master with love and devotion. The fire of love had reduced everything in her to ashes leaving nothing behind.

Sheikh Sanan had known in his heart that she was running in the desert to see him. He sent his disciples to look for her. On seeing the great Master, the young woman threw herself at his feet. Holding his feet firmly, she said, ‘My Master, I am burning with love. I am dying to see my Beloved, who has disappeared after showing a glimpse and arousing this fire of love in my heart. I cannot see Him anymore. Help me to see my Beloved again.’  The Sheikh took her hands gently and looked into her eyes deeply as if he was peeping into her soul, conducting it to her Beloved through his own soul. The young girl met her destiny. She screamed, ‘O Beloved, I cannot bear Your separation any more’ and with these words she united with her Beloved leaving her mortal remains behind.

Sheikh Sanan stood still for a while and then said, ‘They are fortunate, who reach their destiny and meet with their Beloved. They live eternally in union with Him.’ He then paused for a moment and added, ‘But those who are left behind to guide others to their goal must sacrifice their bliss of communion for the sake of His pleasure!’

A disciple on whom this secret is revealed that the God loves his Master is definitely the recipient of God’s grace. A story is related. A King had ten wives who wanted to know whom did the King love the most. They asked the King. The King showed them a ring and said that next day, whoever of them has the ring, is his most beloved wife. In the night the King got ten similar rings made and sent one each to each of his wives. Now, if someone else other than the wives of the King knows this secret definitely he is the dearest to the King. So is the disciple to whom it is revealed that the God loves his Master.

Love of God is given to all since it is He who has given birth to all. Existence itself is the manifestation of His love. The Sufis consider human beings to have the highest place in His creation.  But the perfection of human beings lies in becoming a ‘complete man’ (Insanu’lkamil).  The Qualities and Attributes of the Almighty reflect prominently in a complete man. All creatures endeavor to evolve as complete man, as one could realize the Supreme Being only after that. The journey of all creatures started from the Supreme Being and will end with reaching back to Him. The period spent in the process is the ‘period of being’ (DauraneWajood). It is, therefore, not possible that His highest creation, the man is devoid of love. This love, however, does not surface till the heart is cleaned and it reflects that love like a mirror reflects the light of the sun.

Initially the Sufi wayfarers considered it necessary to live a life of ascetics and hermits, with immense fear of God. They, therefore, spent their time in meditation and in the remembrance of God to overcome their ego. Gradually, however, they realized that ego could be sacrificed only through love. Without love one cannot stand firmly for long. History is full of such examples where ascetics have fallen to their ego. Famous Sufi Jami has said, ‘you can adopt any method to shelve your ego but love is the only way which definitely protects you from ego.’ Sufis believe that Love is God. It is the gift of the God. It cannot be learnt from the human beings. It can be acquired only through His grace. For the Sufis love is the only way to realize the God. They consider the entire creation to be His manifestation and, therefore, unless one has love for all the creatures, one cannot claim true love for God. Someone has said, ‘there can be as many ways to realize the God as are there the number of atoms. But the simplest and the fastest way to realize Him is to serve His creation.’ Thus, the Sufi, on the one hand endeavors to clear his inner-self, and on the other he renders selfless service and derives happiness in comforting others.


Selfless love           

Sufis consider Uns (selfless love) for God as the shortest way to reach Him. The mother loves her son with no self-interest; she does not look at his vices or his goodness, nor does she live on any hopes from him. Even if she has any expectations, which are belied, her love for the son does not become any less. It is possible that at times the mother may get annoyed with the son but it does not mean that her heart would not melt seeing him in any difficulty. If one loves God in the same manner then there is no veil left in between. The only veil is that of self-interest, if that is not there, all the distance is travelled and one reaches his destiny immediately. Mahatma Ram Chandraji has stated in his book ‘Mazhab Aur Tahqiqat’ on the basis of his personal experience that there have been such great persons, who in their lives never engaged themselves in any spiritual practices, no jikr, no meditation, no contemplation, no worry about crossing spiritual stages, no desire of achieving salvation, peace or any such thing nor even to realize the Truth, but because of their intense love for their Master in their hearts and following his order to the hilt without caring for the result or their own interest in it, they have become one with their Master. Mahatma Ram Chandraji has further stated that he would not have believed it if in his own case his experience was not something similar. He, however, has cautioned against exhibition of superficial love to cover up for ones lethargy, which would lead him nowhere. 

Prophet Muhammad was asked once to which religion did he belong and it is said that Jesus Christ was also asked the same question. The fact is that all saints, all prophets belong to the same Religion, the Religion of the Lovers of God.


Adab in love 

It is also important to mention that Sufis attach a lot of importance on proper ‘Adab’ (respect or etiquettes), particularly till the duality does not cease to exist, as reflected in this couplet:

Khamosh a dil bhari mahfil me chillana nahi achcha,

Adab pahla karina hai mohabbat ke karino me

            (Be quite o! my heart, it is not proper to cry in the presence of others; for the lovers observing proper etiquettes is the first necessity)

            (The story of Bulleh Shah and Hazrat Inayat Shah is related)

            Of course when this feeling of duality ceases to exist, there remains no veil between the lover and the beloved. We have known the examples of the great saints like Andal Rangnayaki (who used to wear the garland herself before offering it to the Lord), Shabri (who tasted the berries before offering to Lord Ram) and Vidur’s wife (who forgot to cover herself and ran to receive Lord Krishna, Who threw His shawl to cover her up). Till such a state of mind is achieved it is important to observe proper etiquettes.

            It may thus be said that the root of love lies in duality but it flourishes and blooms in unity or absorption in the beloved.


Detachment – a state of mind 

As regards detachment, ordinarily detachment is taken to mean no attachment with anything or anyone. For Sufis, however, detachment is a state of universal attachment, where one acquires the state of love for all, nothing pulling him towards any particular thing or being. In fact attachment exists when one is pulled particularly towards something or someone. When there is no special attachment and one acquires the state of universal attachment, it could be said to be the state of real detachment. Detachment for Sufis does not mean being unconcerned or unmoved. Sufis consider detachment as the state of ‘Istagna’ i.e., a state of such affluence, such abundance that one completely becomes oblivious of that thing. For example, if one acquires multitude of money, would one be mindful of losing or acquiring a few coins? He would be in the real state of detachment from money. 

            Thakur Ram Singhji in this regard used to say that the true detachment is a state of mind. It is not the renunciation of the world. Whether one lives in one’s home or in the jungle, the real objective is self-realization. When all the faculties are diverted towards the Almighty, the true feeling of detachment also develops. If, however, something, live or material, induces a reaction, one may either try to detach himself from that thing or the easier method of achieving the objective is seeing the reflection of the Almighty in that thing. In this context, Thakur Ram Singhji used to narrate a story:

Once a King got attracted towards a beautiful girl. He insisted upon meeting with her. The girl asked the King to see her after a week. When the King reached her house after a week, what he saw was that the girl had become very weak and her beauty had lost the charm. The King enquired what had happened to her and how had she lost her charm. The girl indicated the King to go to the next room. The King went to the next room, but could not enter it, as the room smelled badly with human excreta filled in pots. When the King tried to cover his nose and mouth, a maid standing nearby asked him “why are you condemning the very thing which you wanted. The beauty of the body is only on the outside. Inside the body, it was this excretion only but as the body is covered with the skin, it neither smells nor does it attract flies.” The King was shaken completely. He understood the message and developed a feeling of detachment. Through this story Thakur Ram Singhji used to explain that the King neither renounced his Kingdom, nor did he withdraw from his duty but what he renounced was his ill thoughts and his attachment with the girl. 


Everything belongs to God 

In simple words garnering a firm belief that everything belongs to the God is true detachment in the real sense. The story related to Shams Tabrez, the spiritual Master of Maulana Rumi is related. Once Mahatma Shams Tabrez was passing through a place where a young boy had died and his mother was crying inconsolably. Some people who knew Mahatma Shams Tabrez spotted him and requested him to give life to the dead body. Seeing the pathetic condition of the mother, Mahatma Shams Tabrez ’s heart got filled with compassion. He asked the dead body “Kum-be-Ijnillah” (get up by the order of the Almighty), but the dead body did not respond. Mahatma Shams Tabrez then kicked the dead body ordering him “Kum-be-Ijni” i.e. if you do not get up by the order of the Almighty, get up by my order. The dead body immediately got up. This matter reached the ears of the Emperor of Multan who held Mahatma Shams Tabrez to be a Kafir and ordered his skin to be peeled off. The Emperor’s servants were afraid of Mahatma Shams Tabrez and could not dare touch him. Seeing their condition Mahatma Shams Tabrez himself caught hold of his skin by the hair on the head and ordered his skin to leave his body. The skin of his body from toe to head came into his hand which he handed over to them and went away.

On hearing this incidence another Fakir came to Multan and asked a goldsmith to make a ring for the finger of the Almighty. On being asked by the goldsmith he showed his own finger for the measurement. The goldsmith was stunned. He told the Fakir that a few days ago another ‘God’ has lost his skin and now it is you who want to lose life by showing your finger as the finger of the God. The Fakir, however, started shouting more loudly as he had deliberately entered into this discussion. Listening to this dialogue many people gathered there and the Emperor also was informed of this new incidence. The Emperor called the Fakir and told him “look, I am prepared to give to you whatever you want, but do not utter these words like a Kafir.” The Fakir told the Emperor that before asking for anything he wanted some of his questions to be answered by the Emperor. The Emperor agreed to answer him. The Fakir asked the Emperor, what are those things which the Emperor was authorised to give him.

Emperor: All the land, treasure, animals, servants, army, the palace etc. everything is mine, which I can give to you.

Fakir: Who owned all these things before you were born.

Emperor: These were owned by my father and prior to him by my grandfather and so on.

Fakir: When these were with your father, he would also be claiming them to be his and similarly your grandfather must also be claiming them to his.

Emperor: Yes. They must be claiming so and after me my son or who-so-over will be the Emperor will claim them to be belonging to him.

Fakir: Then think over and tell me from where have these things originated and where shall these end.

Emperor: What is there to think about? All the things, the entire world has originated from the Almighty and these shall end also in the Almighty. I am fully convinced of it and this is also, the truth.

Fakir: Ok, then be alert and be firm on your words. If what you have said is true, then whose skin was it which was peeled off and whose finger is this for which I was asking the goldsmith to make a ring?

The Emperor was speechless. He bowed his head down and started thinking. If he admitted that the skin belonged to the Almighty, he will be charged of the offence of getting the skin belonging to the Almighty peeled off. Besides, the claim of the Fakir to make a ring for the finger of the Almighty also was right as everything belonged to the Almighty. The Emperor fell at the feet of the Fakir begging him to be pardoned. He requested the Fakir to explain him the difference between a devotee and a Kafir. The Fakir explained that a Kafir claims everything to be his own or belonging to others, forgetting the Almighty; whereas a devotee takes everything to be belonging to the Almighty and acts accordingly. The Emperor had understood his mistake.


Renunciation- subtle ego 

Renunciation also involves exercising subtle ego. Shams Tabrez used to roam about bare headed. On being asked why his head was not covered, Shams Tabrez is stated to have said:

            “Sar barhana, nestam daram, kulhi char tark’

Tark-e-duniya, tark-e-ukva, tark-e-Maula, tark-e-tark”

(This means – my head is covered with four crowns. First, renunciation of the world (tark-e- duniya); second, renunciation of the heaven (tark-e-ukwa); third, renunciation of the God (tark-e-Maula); and fourth, renunciation of the will power (tark-e-tark) through which the first three renunciations were made).

In regard to ‘renunciation of the God’, Thakur Ram Singh ji explained that ‘tark-e-Maula’ does not mean to forget the God or to be an atheist. It really means to stop searching for the Almighty since the Almighty always lives in the heart of the devotee and is so close that it is difficult to differentiate between ‘Him’ and oneself. When one experiences that he and the Almighty are one and the same, then what is left to be searched? Who is to be searched? The desire to find ‘Him’ then vanishes. By ‘tark-e-tark’ one should understand renunciation even of the sense of renouncing. Such a person is the greatest and an absolutely contended person.

My Master Thakur Ram Singhji also used to say:

“Jab se miti hai chahat, fulon ko sunghane ki,

Sare jahan ke gulshan, mere hi ho gaye’

(Ever since I have given up the desire to smell the flowers, all the gardens of the world have become mine)


No conflict between love and detachment           

Thus, there is no conflict between love and detachment. A true lover loves the Almighty and, therefore, the entire creation, no space left in his heart for hatred towards anyone. Similarly, one who is truly detached considers everything belonging to the God and, therefore, sheds the feeling of ‘me and mine, you and yours’, which is the root- cause of all evils and hatred.



The questions we raised in Introduction regarding compatibility of love with detachment stand resolved. There is indeed no conflict between the two when we construe true love as self-effacing and non-possessive. It is this self-effacement and non-possessiveness that makes the lover detached, even from self, and unites the lover with the beloved in spirit. Bhakti (devotion) movement of Sri Chaitanya in 15th century epitomized this selfless and detached love for the divine (Sri Krishna). When the mind gets fully absorbed with the thought of the beloved, even to the exclusion of self, the love gets transformed into detached love. We need not get into the debate whether mundane love can become selfless or divine. Suffice it to say, love is mundane when it is self-centric, and divine when it is selfless. Obviously when love is selfless, the question of possessing the beloved as one’s own does not arise. When self is effaced, sense of attachment disappears and the perfect unity between the lover and the beloved is established. 

An anecdote of how passionate love of a queen of Magadha, named Ahalya, wife of king Indradyumna, for an ordinary subject called Indra, transcended physical limits and pains has been depicted in yoga Vasishtha by sage Vasishtha to Rama. When their love was exposed, the king punished them severely in various ways, first by throwing them into ice-cold water in winter, then into a large frying pan, under the feet of an elephant, and lastly lashing them with rods, straps and hammers. But each time they came out smiling as if in blissful merriment. When asked to explain how they survived such punishments, this is how they explained the phenomenon:

 “O King, no torture can separate us. The world is full with the form of the other. We view the whole world as full of ourselves. We see our beloved in every shape and form. We are in the enjoyment of bliss and so we are entirely unconscious of our body. We do not experience any pain. We will not feel the slightest pain even if the body is cut to pieces. When the mind is intensely attached to an object, it will not experience any pain. No power on earth will be able to divert this mind from its beloved object. All these bodies originate from the mind only. Mind does everything. It is the highest body. Even if this body perishes, the mind will take fresh bodies quickly according to its liking. If this mind is destroyed beyond resurrection through Atma Jnana (wisdom of soul), then only will bodies stop cropping up.”

The king realised the truth of their statement and banished them from his kingdom so that they might live together elsewhere. Sage Vasishtha concluded his story with following annotation:

“The body with various organs is no other than the mind. This universe also is nothing but the mind. If the mind perishes, both body and the universe will vanish.” [The above anecdote is taken from ‘Stories from Yoga Vasishtha’ by Swami Sivananda]

The above anecdote from Yoga Vasishtha helps us in understanding how in all-absorbing love two souls transcend physical barriers and sensation, and become one, and why Mansoor Al-Hallaj, a great Sufi saint, did not exhibit any sign of pain when he was executed by the orthodoxy in the gallows for blasphemy for shouting Anal Haq (I am the Truth). Mansoor Al-Hallaj was no exception. Several Sufi saints even to this date have been and are being persecuted by the orthodoxy for their all-encompassing love for humanity and divine ecstasy, often misunderstood and mis-construed as blasphemy. 

Absorption in love with the beloved is not a unique Sufi concept. Nor is the concept of detachment or of detached love peculiar to Sufism. On a spiritual plane, these concepts were well known to all ancient religions. Bhagavad Gita, in verse 10, chapter 5, compares a detached mind with a lotus leaf. Just as a lotus leaf does not get wet even while immersed in water, a detached mind does not get affected even while engaged in action. At the same time, in verse 32, chapter 6 of Gita Sri Krishna pronounces to Arjuna as follows:

            Atma-aupamyena sarvatra samam pashyati yah Arjuna I

            Sukham va yadi va duhkham sa yogi paramah matah II

            [O Arjuna, that Yogi is the greatest who identifies self with others in their grief or pleasure]

Uniqueness of Sufism lies in their pursuit of love to attain the Truth. It is not a religion in a normative or ritualistic sense. Even though some well known Sufi saints have engaged in converting their followers to Islam, Sufi philosophy in general does not believe in conversion or discrimination on grounds of religion, sex, race, caste or creed while pursuing the path of love for uniting with the Divine.   



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  1. RKGupta says:

    My compliments to Mr. Raha for putting the material on the web so quickly and in such a well organised and thoughtful manner.
    During the discussions some aspects of Sufism regarding its origin, secular nature and related issues were raised. I am posting a very brief rejoinder on these issues:
    Sufism is as old as humanity. Traditionally, however, Sufism has been associated with Islam. It is so because Islam provided it the fertile land to flourish through its formula ‘La-Ila-Lillah’, which meant there is nothing except God, which also has been the proclamation of all religions, including Hinduism, but put forth again so strongly by Prophet Mohammad.
    Although Sufi saints existed even before Prophet Muhammad, but before the Prophet they were not called Sufis. It was only after a few centuries that they were called Sufis. According to Qushayri (988 AD) and some other scholars like Shihabuddin Suhrawardi, the term ‘Sufi’ was first used at the end of second century Hijri i.e. in the early ninth century AD. The term Sufi did not find a mention either in the Sihah-i-Sittah compiled in the 9th and 10th century AD or in the Arabic dictionary, the Qamus compiled in the early 15th century AD.
    It is said that Prophet Muhammad had a lot of regard for the Sufis. He fed them and asked his companions to do the same. * Ali-el-Hujwiri is quoted saying that Prophet Muhammad himself said: ‘He who hears the voice of the Sufi people and does not say ‘amin’, is recorded in God’s presence as one of the heedless.’ **
    (*John A Subhan in ‘Sufism-Its Saints and Shrines’)
    (**Idries Shah in ‘The Sufis’)
    It is believed that a large number of prophets of God preceded Prophet Muhammad. In Islamic traditions, the number of prophets is put at 124,000 and that of messengers of God at 313. The Qur’an mentions twenty-seven of them excluding Prophet Muhammad. Names of twenty-two out of these twenty-seven prophets are found in the Old Testament (Adam, Noah, Abraham and Moses being the four prominent names), and three in the New Testament (Zacharias, John the Baptist-son of Zacharias and Jesus). The other two being Dhul Karnayn and Lukman. ***
    (***Benjamin Walker in ‘Foundations of Islam’)
    Maulana Rumi has said quoting the Qur’an that ‘Prophets tell the people that if all the seas are turned into ink to be consumed in writing the Qualities and Attributes of the Lord, the seas would dry up but the praises of the God cannot be completely written down.’ The whole of the Qur’an, however, is transcribed in ink worth a little money. So, the whole of the knowledge is not this alone, for, even before Prophet Muhammad and his Qur’an, there were prophets like Moses and Jesus Christ and others and the words (knowledge) of God existed.
    Sufism, to its followers meant to acquire the inner knowledge, the enlightenment that could enable them to realise the Truth, which is also the underlying objective of all the religions. This being central to all religions, the Sufi fundamentals existed in all religions and, therefore, Sufism travelled beyond the borders of religion. The essential of Sufism found an expression in all societies trying to achieve perfection. Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji used to say that not all the occult knowledge is given out at one time. As the humanity progresses, more and more knowledge is received. It is also stated in the Qur’an (15:21), ‘We possess the treasuries of everything but We bring it down only in a known quantity.’ It is also related to Prophet Muhammad that he said that the Qur’an contains in it the knowledge of the ancients and the moderns.
    The Sufis have been assimilating in themselves the best of various practices and thoughts in order to achieve the perfection. It is the ancient wisdom. According to Dr. S.S.Radhakrishnan, ‘Wisdom is not to be confused with theoretical learning, or correct beliefs, for ignorance is not an intellectual error. It is spiritual blindness. To remove it we must cleanse the soul of its defilement and kindle the spiritual vision.’ For the revelation of wisdom one needs to purify his heart and sacrifice his ego.
    Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji has also said that, ‘the way of training of Sufis is not exclusive to them alone; in the Srimadbhagwadgita it is described in a similar way. Except that the Sufis developed a system of tavajjoh (transmission of spiritual energy from heart to heart by focusing one’s attention), which is the only difference.’*
    (*Irina Tweedie in ‘Daughter of Fire’)
    The great Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order, Hajrat Maulana Shah Fazl Ahmad Khan (19th–20th Century AD) has said that this occult science of Sufi Saints in fact belonged to the ancient Hindu saints, which was lost in oblivion by them and is being now reintroduced amongst them.In this context it is important to mention that Lord Sri Krishna states in Chapter 4 (Shloka1 and 2) of the Srimadbhagwadgita that ‘this knowledge was given in the past to Vivaswan. From Vivaswan, it passed on to Manu and Manu passed it on to Ikshwaku. This knowledge thus passed on in succession from one to another, but was lost in oblivion with the passage of time.’’
    Dr. Chandra Gupta, a Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order, also used to say that this method of spiritual practice was prevalent amongst Hindus in the past. He related it to Lord Sri Krishna, who was known as the ‘Yogeshwar’, being the greatest Master of the ‘Anahat Nad’. His flute in reality represented the ‘Anahat Nad’, which echoed in the form of heartbeat in the hearts of thousands of Gopis and Gwalas, who were devotees and were fortunate to receive His grace.
    It is important to mention that this wisdom is revealed not as a theoretical knowledge but was a transmission from Lord Sri Krishna to Arjun from heart-to-heart. This revelation took place in the battlefield, where undoubtedly there was no time at the disposal of both Lord Sri Krishna and Arjun to enter into any intellectual discourse at the physical plane. This wisdom is also not a sermon of book-knowledge for a man to sit in the comfort of his house and to contemplate on it and thereby achieve the understanding or the realisation. Lord Sri Krishna asks Arjun to act in one of the most difficult situations of fighting against one’s own kith and kin, leaving his self behind and with perfection. This exactly is the Sufi way, to live consciously and learn through practice and participation and through one’s own experience. It is a positive way of living in action and not that of an idle.

  2. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, my hearty compliments for your excellent discourse on Sufi love & detachment, followed by an explanatory note on the origin & genesis of Sufism. However, a few doubts still persist which require clarification.

    First, you have stated that though the sufis existed before Prophet Muhammad they were not called Sufis. “According to Qushayri (988 AD) and some other scholars like Shihabuddin Suhrawardi, the term ‘Sufi’ was first used at the end of second century Hijri i.e. in the early ninth century AD.” You have further stated: “It is said that Prophet Muhammad had a lot of regard for the Sufis. He fed them and asked his companions to do the same. * Ali-el-Hujwiri is quoted saying that Prophet Muhammad himself said: ‘He who hears the voice of the Sufi people and does not say ‘amin’, is recorded in God’s presence as one of the heedless.’ Now the question is – If the Sufi people were not known as Sufi, how the Prophet referred to them as ‘Sufi’? If he did not use the term ‘Sufi’, which could have been a later addition, how were the ‘Sufi’ addressed by the Prophet?

    Second, is Sufism a sectarian movement which has been institutionalized? How people are inducted into Sufi sect? Who determines whether a person is a Sufi? Is there any ritual prescribed for the Sufis to follow?

    Third, does Sufism permit religious conversion? If yes, what is the difference between a religious preacher and a Sufi saint? If not, does a Sufi saint continue to be Sufi even after converting people or encouraging conversion to a particular religion?

    Fourth, given the fact that the term ‘Sufi’ was first used in early ninth century, the question is: was this name given by outsiders who were not Sufis, or it was used by the Sufis themselves to denote their sect? What is the meaning of the term?

    Lastly,there were mystics in all regions and all countries, in all ages, as you have rightly pointed out. In India they were known as Kriya Yogis, Hatha Yogis etc. In Tibet region they are known as Vajra Yanis. In Judaism, prior to Christ, such mystics were well known by different names. Are the Sufis another sect of mystics or descendants of those various sects. What is the standing of Sufis to Christian theologist?

    Shall be thankful if you can throw further light on the subject with reference to above posers.

  3. RKGupta says:

    I thank you for all your posers, Sir, which are very relevant and give me an opportunity to add on the subject, though a bit lengthy.
    Before the Sufis came to be known as Sufis, they were generally wrapped in blankets or used to wear coarse woollen cloak and were, therefore, known as ‘blanket wearers’ or ‘Kamal-posh’. The Kamal Posh went to every prophet of their time. A tradition goes that they went also to Jesus. No one, however, could satisfy them completely and they were told to do this or that. But when they went to Prophet Muhammad, they were completely satisfied and, therefore, they stayed with him. When the ‘Kamal Posh’ were with Prophet Muhammad, he only looked at them without saying anything to them. He created love in their hearts (transmitted the knowledge of Truth from his heart to their hearts) and that is why they were completely satisfied.
    The early prophets were monotheists and they brought the message of the one true God. They wished to reform the society and opposed idolatry. Some of these prophets, who all suffered persecution as a result of their effort to reform the society included Shoayb in the north-west Arabia, Hud in the Southern Arabia and Salih in the western Arabia. It is believed that the Arabian tribes, who refused to listen to these prophets, were also destroyed in natural calamities due to their opposition to the prophets and adamancy to follow the path of their forefathers. The tribe of Madyan in northwest Arabia, who rebuffed Shoayb perished in an earthquake. The tribe of Ad in the southern Arabia was punished by a drought for not listening to Hud and the tribe of Thamud in western Arabia is also said to have perished in an earthquake due to their rejection of Salih as a foolish imposter and as a man bewitched.
    The pre-Islamic monotheists, commonly known as Hanifs, are believed to exist widely amongst Arab tribes from about the fifth century AD. They did not believe in idol worship and openly disapproved of idolatry and desired to restore the religion of Abraham. They were the seekers of Truth, who engaged themselves in the search of Truth and believed in the unity of the Supreme Being. They laid a lot of stress on one’s own conduct; living a moral life; compassionate and sympathetic behaviour with others, especially with those in need; on taking care of widows and orphans and helping the poor and sick. These ideals had their influence on Islam and some of these basic concepts of Islam had already started finding acceptance by the learned and thoughtful people. Some of the Prophet’s companions including his relatives were also deeply influenced by such thoughts.
    Some of the religious groups that were most influenced by these thoughts in the Arabian Peninsula were Zoroastrians, Jews, Christians and Sabians. The Sabians included many groups of people including those who followed some of the ancient religions. The Jews and the Christians had a huge following in the Arabian Peninsula before the advent of Prophet Muhammad. As the tradition goes, the Jews first settled in the parts of northern Arabia in the time of Moses. Historically, however, they settled in Arab about three centuries before Prophet Muhammad. There are references of Arabs converting to Christianity from early periods, many of whom were well renowned. The spread of Christianity was witnessed across the whole of the Middle East. It was around the same time that is, around three centuries before the advent of Islam, that both the Jews and Christians took the Arabian Peninsula in their fold in a big way. They generally lived peacefully together, except that one Jewish king of Himyar invaded a neighboring flourishing Christian community and persecuted them, forcing them to adopt Judaism else threw them to a burning trench.

    The Christians were divided in various sects due to dissension amongst them. One of the sects was Manichean. Their followers were endowed with the qualities of zeal, integrity, devotion and sincerity. They also possessed knowledge of astronomy, medicines and mathematics. Many Muslims employed them owing to these qualities. Another sect, the Nestorians carried their religious doctrines far and wide, setting their centres at various places. Many devout Christians spent their lives in the service of sick and poor and in helping the needy. They also opposed the custom of burying the girl child alive that was prevalent amongst the Arabs during those days.
    Some of the Christian monks started living in small monastic communities dedicating their lives in search of the Truth. These monks were highly regarded by people as they devoted themselves to prayer and meditation. They provided the travellers a place to rest for a while on their long journeys and comforted them by providing shelter and hospitality. These monks generally offered prayers five times a day and at times they spent the entire night in offering prayers. While meditating, they generally covered their heads so as to avoid getting distracted by external disturbances such as noises and sights. Some of them also practised prostrations (Sijda) and put their heads on ground as a mark of salutation to the Supreme Being. The marks on the forehead so caused by salutation were generally regarded as proof of a monk’s piety.
    It is believed that Prophet Muhammad had interactions with several of such monks and he appreciated their way of life, their devotion and humility. This also had an influence on his ideology, although he did not approve of the monastic life. Many of the Sufis who favoured monastic life were of the view that monastic life was to please the God and was divinely ordained but the way it was practised had become corrupted.
    The effort of Prophet Muhammad was to unite the Arabian tribes, make them believe in one God, reform them and to give them a religion adapted to their own requirements. In order to evolve them as a perfect society, they were asked to follow the Qur’an. The essential ingredients of Sufism are, therefore, found in abundance in the Qur’an. The mystical tendencies exhibited by some of Prophet Muhammad’s companions and friends also find justification and support from the Qur’an. The tendency of renunciation of worldly pleasures and intense fear of God and His judgments was profoundly manifested in the Sufism of these early Muslims.
    The very early period of Islam witnessed it as a religion of reconciliation and concord with people being gently persuaded rather than being coerced into it. However, the infidelity and impious rule of the Umayyad immediately following the first four caliphs, created such political and social conditions that many Muslims became disgusted and adopted to asceticism and a life of seclusion to seek peace of soul. Towards the end of the first century Hijri, there were many who moved beyond the life of ascetics and seclusion to contemplation, to vision and to ecstasy. The life of austerity and poverty, which was hitherto conceived essential for gaining access to paradise, came to be reconciled as an expression of devotion to God. Not only that, gradually the focus shifted from material wealth to the lack of desire for possession i.e. a true detachment from all worldly things. Most of them were, however, orthodox Muslims in their beliefs and practices. They had yet not distinguished spirituality from the religion and laid great emphasis on the teachings of Qur’an and Traditions.
    The Sufis in the period immediately after Prophet Muhammad spent their lives in fasting and in observing the rules of Sharia (the Islamic code of conduct), giving up the worldly pleasures-wealth, fame, feasts and women-and spent their time in solitude away from the society, seeking anonymity, hunger and celibacy. They usually lived on scanty food and wore little clothes. They were more concerned with the punishments and rewards for the infidels and the believers. In the ninth century AD, however, the Sufis recognized that spiritual progress couldn’t be achieved by following Sharia alone. It was necessary for guiding their conduct, but not enough. They started adopting various spiritual practices over and above Sharia, known as Tariqat (the path). They considered following Shariat and Tariqat essential to reach the Haqiqat (the Truth).
    The early caliphs conquered large areas, accumulated lot of wealth and became supreme political powers of their time. This resulted in many ancient centers of learning and particularly the traditional schools of mystical teaching also falling under their stronghold. Buddhism by that time was firmly rooted in the Central Asia that had come under the empire of Islam together with Northwest India.
    The external contacts had their impact on various Sufi practices. They adopted and evolved a variety of practices (apparently different from the ritual prayers) to enhance their spiritual experiences and to attain the state of ecstasy. Some of the people, while still remaining within the Islamic fold, started following an unorthodox way of life, as a result of which the orthodox Muslims considered them as being ‘outside the law’. These people started to believe that for the realisation of the Truth, it was not necessary to conform to a strict religious discipline. They believed more in the internal practices than observing outer rituals of offering prayers, observing fasts etc. One could perform a pilgrimage without taking a step out of the house. It is said that the great Sufi Master Bayazid while about to proceed for the hajj pilgrimage met an old man who said to him, ‘Circumambulate around me seven times. It is the same as going around the Kaaba and will save you time and trouble’. Bayazid complied with it and returned home. For them the real idolatry was blind adherence to the rituals. Many of the Sufis, therefore, did not stick to the Sharia and adopted the radical rules of their own.
    This evolution of Sufi thinking was greatly influenced by many factors including emergence of Mutazilis-a rationalist group within Islam, Batinis-an esoteric group, Bisheriyas-an antinomian group; christological sects like the Gnostics and Manicheans and the mystical groups like the Hermetics and Neoplatonists. Sufi mystics are reported to be visiting monasteries of Christian monks, studying their devotional literature and having discussions with them on spiritual aspects. Many Sufis claimed their teachings were known even before the advent of Islam. They believed that these were received and handed down from antiquity through various saints and prophets in the form of knowledge transmitted from heart-to-heart.
    The Sufism as we see it today has evolved as a synthesis of various thoughts. The advent of Islam, with the proclamation of Prophet Muhammad of the unity of the Supreme Being i.e. there is no god but one God, had the greatest influence on the Sufis of post-Islamic period. Mahatma Radha Mohan Lalji has said that the doctrines of Islam, not the religion, were the highest, the most perfect teaching, ‘There is only one God and nothing else besides Him.’ The way it was presented was so perfect.
    By the end of eighth century AD, Sufism had evolved to a great extent as an unorthodox way of realising the Truth. Some of the early great Sufis were Hasan of Basra (d 728 AD), Wasil ibn Ata (d 749 AD), Abdullah ibn Maymun (d 760 AD), Ibrahim ibn Adham (d 777 AD), Rabia of Basra (d 801 AD), Maruful Karkhi (d 815 AD), Khabit (820 AD), Abu Sulaiman Darani (d 830 AD), Ahmad ibn Harith al Muhasibi (d 857 AD), Dhul Nun Misri (d 859 AD), Abu Yazid Bistami (d 875 AD), Hussain Mansoor Hallaj (d 992 AD), Abu Sa’id (d 1049 AD), Omar Khayyam (d 1123 AD), Sanai (d 1131 AD), Ibn Arabi (d 1240 AD), Maulana Rumi (d 1273 AD) and Hafiz (d 1389 AD).
    Many of the Sufis propagated the ideas of Sufism by their poetical eloquence, which cut across religious and political boundaries and rocked one’s inner conscience. Maulana Rumi, Hafiz and Amir Khusro are some of the prominent names in this regard. Hasan of Basra is considered to be one of the most revered early Sufis who was at the spiritual head of the line of succession of the three most prominent Sufi orders, namely the Qadiria, the Chishtia and the Suhrawardia. He was an exponent of the esoteric teachings of Islam. A staunch believer in free will, he laid a lot of stress on learning. One of his disciples, Wasil ibn Ata formed a group of rationalists and free thinkers, known as Mutazilis. Similarly Abdulla ibn Maymun’s followers formed the Batini (esoteric) sect, which allowed a liberal interpretation of the Qur’anic texts, ascribing to them much deeper meanings.
    Rabia of Basra, the first and the most famous of the women Sufi saints, followed the path of tawakkul i.e. complete dependence on God. Mamun son of Harun al-Rashid, an Abassid caliph, recognized importance of religious discussions in the early ninth century AD and encouraged such discussions by the representatives of various creeds. In the eighth-ninth century AD theosophical and Gnostic speculations started finding place in the thoughts of various Sufi Masters such as Maruful Kharki, Abu Sulaymanu’d Darani and Dhul Nun Misri. ** This was the period when works of Greek philosophers such as Pluto, Aristotle and Perphyry were translated and studied.
    (**Professor Nicholson in ‘A Literary History of Arabs’)
    This period witnessed a rationalistic movement, which influenced Sufism to take a new form and absorb in it the characteristic features of theosophy, Gnosticism and pantheism. Dhul Nun Misri (d 859 AD) was a learned person, who often experienced conditions of ecstasy. He considered devotional music to be a divine influence, which could help one attain unto the God. He was a free thinker. On suspicion of heresy he was imprisoned by the then caliph Mutawakkil but was later released and held in high esteem. He is credited by Jami in Nafhatu’l Uns to be the first person to profess the tenets of Sufism.
    Abu Yazid al-Bistami (Bayazid, d 875 AD) was one of the greatest Sufi Masters of the ninth century AD, who was the first one to speak about the reality of fana i.e. annihilation or merger of one’s identity completely with the God. He said that one could not reach the Almighty either through the renunciation of the world, as the value of the lower world to Him was like the wings of a mosquito, or through tawakkul (trust in God), as He never betrayed the trust of any one; one could, however, enter the Presence of the God only through God. He also spoke about his realisation that it was not true that he remembers Him; he knows Him; he loves Him; and that he seeks Him. He said that His remembrance of me preceded my remembrance of Him; His knowledge about me preceded my knowledge about Him; His love towards me was more ancient than my love towards Him; and He sought me in order that I may begin to seek Him. According to him the only way to reach the God was to ‘leave yourself and come’ i.e. leave one’s self interest, to leave everything else other than the God behind. The pantheistic features of Sufism are attributed to Bayazid.

    Hussain ibn Mansoor Hallaj is held as one of the greatest early Sufis, who was imprisoned, mutilated and hanged and finally mutilated and burnt for his famous uttering ‘Anal Haq’ (I am the Truth), considering that this was a claim to divinity and, as such blasphemy. Many of the Sufis of the time felt that Hallaj had breached the trust of God in revealing His secret and they did not support him. This is reflected in the couplet:
    ‘Saja suli ki hi mansoor ko wajib thi,
    Kisi ka raaj kyon khole kisi ka raajdan hokar’
    (The punishment of being hanged and beheaded was appropriate for Hallaj, as he had no right to disclose the secret of someone, who held him in trust.)
    The later Sufis, however, praised him. Maulana Rumi went even to the extent of saying that Hallaj’s utterance of ‘Anal Haq’ was the height of humility. If one says, ‘I am the slave’, it means existence of two, the Master i.e. the God and the slave that is the self. But in saying ‘I am the Truth’ there is no other existence except that of God. The existence of self has vanished completely. This is the complete merger of the self in the God. This is the height of humility to be completely annihilated into the God. People, however, do not have this understanding and, therefore, they are not able to appreciate it. * The explanation of the utterance, ‘Anal Haq’ (I am the Truth), in the state of fana is given by the example of the red-hot iron rod. In the fire, the iron was red hot. It said, ‘Come on I will burn you. I am fire,’ but when it got out of fire it was the same iron, hard and cold.
    (*Dr. Bankey Bihari in ‘Fiha Ma Fiha’-Table Talks of Maulana Rumi)
    Sufism was also greatly influenced by the broad mindedness of the Kashmiris, a composite of Hindu-Muslim culture, especially in the 15th Century AD. The famous Sufi saint Sayyedali Hamadani from Hamadan in Central Asia had visited Kashmir around 1437 AD and spent about six years in Kashmir spreading the message of Islam amongst Kashmiris. He had interaction with Yogini Lalleshwari, a famous saint and devotee of Lord Shiva. She was married in Kashmir. Her mother-in-law and later even her husband turned against her and started harassing her. As a result, she left her house and started wandering here and there, devoting herself completely to Lord Shiva. She got so engrossed in her love for Lord Shiva that she did not care even for clothing herself. People used to throw stones at her and ridicule her. In her eyes, however, no one was a man except Lord Shiva and she saw every human being as Lord Shiva’s beloved. When she spotted Sayyedali Hamdani, she uttered, ‘Purush’ (man), ran away and jumped into a burning Tandoor (a large earthen oven). Sayyeddi Hamadani followed her and reached the spot. People thought that she would have burnt to ashes, but she came out of the Tandoor, dressed in green attire on calling by Sayyaddi Hamadani. Both of them were deeply impressed with each other, resulting in a synthesis of Vedanta, bhakti and Islam.
    It is also reported that Mir Muhammad Hamadani (Son of Sayyeddi Hamadani), who was a determined protagonist of Orthodox religion had held a debate with Shaikh Nooruddin Wali, who was opposed to brutal bigotry. Dehat bibi, a disciple of Shaikh Nooruddin Wali brought about a final reconciliation between the two, blending the best of Islam and Vedanta. It is also said that Mir Muhammad Hamadani thereafter honoured Shaikh Nooruddin Wali with Khat-e-Irshad (letter of acceptance). This resulted in propagation of non-violence and respect for all faiths. The ideal of life was considered to purify the soul, have love, regard and trust in the humanity and to achieve a perfect harmony of co-existence. There appeared a close resemblance between the life styles of Sufis and Hindu saints as well as Buddhist monks. *
    (*Firoz Bakht Ahmed)
    As regards conversion, my comments are based on my personal knowledge. The Sufi tradition was given to my Master’s Master (Mahatma Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj-alias Janab Lalaji Sahab) a Hindu, by his spiritual Master Maulana Fazl Ahmad Khan Sahab (alias Huzur Maharaj). Mahatma Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj is the first Hindu Sufi, who was duly authorised (through a written authorization, confirmed by the saints of various traditions including Hindus, Kabir-panthis, Nanak-panthis and so on) by his Master to be a Sufi Master and to transmit this knowledge to others. He, Maulana Fazl Ahmad Khan Sahab, lived a very simple and pious life and had no prejudice against any religion or caste. Persons from all classes and all religions including Hindu, Muslim and Christians used to visit him. He used to say to Hindus, “You have come to me to seek spiritual knowledge. Do that and live in accordance with the requirements of your society. Your relation with me is not worldly but spiritual.” He was the first person in this Order, who without any discrimination spread Sufi tradition amongst the Hindus. He was completely free from religious bias and never participated in any religious debates or disputes, nor did he ever criticise any religion. If someone criticised any religion in front of him, he would leave that place. He pronounced that spirituality is one but religions are many. One should follow the dictates of one’s religion and should not be guided by religious prejudices. The social or religious rituals do not bind spiritual life. If anyone suggested that he would convert and adopt Islam, he used to feel very upset. He disapproved of conversion, rejecting it outright. He used to admonish the person concerned, “Now you are not worth visiting me. I shall not allow anyone to put a spot on me. You should continue to abide by the dictates of the religion which you belong to and attain spirituality.” Once one of his Hindu disciples adopted Islam. When he reached before him, Hujur Maharaj told him that he was no longer fit to come to him. Hujur Maharaj asked him to readopt the Hindu traditions, the religion in which he was born.
    I would, however, like to add that gold ornaments are also gold but not 24 carat gold and unless one acquires that purity, traces of impurity may reflect as religious or other prejudices.

  4. RKGupta says:

    I am taking the liberty of adding another rejoinder explaining how Sufism entered in India giving a brief introduction to some of the more popular Sufi saints of India:
    India has always been a land of great saints and free thinkers, which has been assimilating in its fold various cultures and thoughts from time to time. It is the land of ancient wisdom, where Sufism in its true spirit has flourished from time immemorial. However, in the current context of Sufism, it could be worthwhile to mention that Islam entered into India through the Sea route, through the land route from Persia into Sind and through the Khyber Pass. It is believed that the Sufis must have also used these routes, which were used by the Arab traders and military commanders.
    The first great Sufi saint to visit India (undivided) was Ali el-Hujwiri popularly known in India as Data Ganj Bakhsh. He was a disciple of Muhammad al-Hasan al Khuttali who was connected with Junayad of Baghdad. He came to be known as Data Ganj Bakhsh after being addressed so at his tomb by Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, the great Sufi saint of the Chishti order. Ali el-Hujwiri is considered to be the first authoritative Sufi writer who wrote several books on Sufism. His most famous book is Kashfu’l Mahjub, the first book on mysticism in the Persian language. Born in Ghazna in Afghanistan, around 1000 AD, he travelled from Syria to Turkistan and from the Indus to the Caspian Sea. During his journeys, he came across many saints and had deliberations with them. He received knowledge both from Abul Qasim Gurgani, a great Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order and Khwaja Muzaffar.
    His Shaikh asked him to go and settle in Lahore. According to the description in Fuwaidu’l-Fuwad (a compilation of the sayings of great Sufi Master Khwaja Nizamuddin-Auliya of the Chishti Order) he was initially reluctant to go to Lahore as one of his co-disciples Shaikh Hasan Zanjani was already there. On insistence by his Master, he proceeded to Lahore. On entering the city of Lahore he witnessed the burial of Shaikh Hasan Zanjani, who had just passed away. He settled near Bhati Gate in Lahore, where his tomb is situated.
    Ali el-Hujwiri continued to be greatly revered by all the saints of India, even after his death. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti is believed to have paid a visit and offered prayers at his tomb on his arrival to India. It was during this visit that he paid respects to Ali el-Hujwiri by addressing him as ‘Ganj Baksh’ i.e. the munificent one which also meant ‘Data’ (giver) in Hindi, thus he came to be popularly known thereafter as ‘Data Ganj Baksh’.
    Ali el-Hujwiri spoke of ‘fana’ for the first time in India. Hajrat Bayazid (Abu Yazid Bistami a great Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order) was the first person to speak about ‘fana’ (Annihilation or the complete merger of one-self with the Almighty) and Abul Qasim Gurgani, who was one of the teachers of Ali el-Hujwiri, was a successor in line of Bayazid. He, however, compared annihilation (fana) to transmutation of the qualities of all things by burning fire to its own qualities, yet leaving their essence unchanged. He laid stress on following the Sharia but advocated observing sobriety and caution. In his view the true meaning of Islam could be found in the essence of Sufism.
    The Chishti Order of Sufis, which is now indigenous to India, was the first of the four main Sufi Orders, namely Chishtia, Qadiria, Suhurawadia and Naqshbandia, to be established in India. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti introduced the Chishti Order in India, sometime in the middle of the 12th century AD. He was eighth in the line of succession from the founder of the Chishti Order, Khwaja Abu Ishq Shami Chishti. The devotees of this order practise chilla i.e. they observe seclusion for forty days during which they refrain from talking beyond what is absolutely necessary, eat little and spend most of their time in prayers and meditation. Another Characteristic of the followers of this order is their fondness for devotional music. They hold musical festival, and enter into ecstasy while listening to singing.
    It is said that once when Khwaja Muinuddin was watering the plants in his garden he saw Shaikh Ibrahim Qandozi. The very sight of Shaikh Ibrahim Qandozi deeply impressed Muinuddin. He ran out of the garden to receive Shaikh Ibrahim Qandozi and with great respect conducted him into his garden and presented to him some of the best fruits of the garden. Shaikh Ibrahim Qandozi was pleased with Muinuddin’s warm hospitality and his mannerism. He found him to be an eligible candidate to receive his grace and, therefore, transmitted to him his spiritual energy. This sacramental act of ‘transmission’ of spiritual energy was symbolized by an outward act of handing over a piece of bread, which Shaikh Ibrahim first chewed it himself and then gave it to Muinuddin for him to eat. This caused in one moment, a complete and lasting transformation in Muinuddin’s life. Khwaja Muinuddin thereafter sold all that belonged to him and distributed the money so realized among the poor and needy.
    After receiving the spiritual transmission from Shaikh Ibrahim Qandozi and disposing off his worldly possessions, Khwaja Muinuddin took upon the life of a wandering hermit in search of a spiritual guide. Initially, he spent a few years in Samarqand in learning religion and then he moved to Bukhara where he studied the Qur’an under the guidance of Maulana Hisamuddin Bukhari, a mystic and scholarly person. Khwaja Uthman Haruni, a famous Sufi Saint of the Chishti Order, however, initiated him, in the Chishti Order of Sufis in Harun. After receiving his authorization from his Master to train others in the Order, he was asked to go to India.
    It is believed that during his journey to India Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti met many of the renowned saints of his time including Shaikh Abdul Qadir Gilani (the founder of the Qadri Order), Abu Najib Suhrawardi and his son and successor Shihabuddin, the most renowned Sufi Saint of the Suhurawardi Order, Shaikh Abu Yusuf Hamadani a great Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order, Shaikh Shamsuddin Tabrizi, who was the spiritual master of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi and Shaikh Nasiruddin, a famous saint.
    Khwaja Muinuddin first entered in Lahore where he visited the tomb of Shaikh Ali el- Hujwiri (Data Ganj Bakhsh) and then from there he proceeded to Ajmer in 1165-66 AD where he finally spent the rest of his life.
    Many miracles are associated with Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti. It is said that annoyed with the king of Ajmer, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, he uttered, ‘I hand over Prithvi Raj alive in the hands of King Shihabuddin.’ A few days later in 1192 AD, Sultan Shihabuddin Muhammad Ghori conquered Ajmer and captured Prithvi Raj Chauhan alive. Sultan Muhammad Ghori attributed his victory to the blessing of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti and in his honour constructed a building in the brief period of two-and-a-half days, which is famous as ‘Dhai Din Ka Jhopra’.
    It is also related that Emperor Akbar was blessed with a son in answer to the prayer of a Chishti Sufi, Shaikh Salim, a descendant of the famous Saint Baba Farid. This resulted in Akbar’s devotion to Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti and he started visiting the Dargah of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti in Ajmer every year and distributing lots of gifts in his honour. He also named his son ‘Salim’ after the saint.
    Right from the beginning, Sufi saints were being highly regarded by the rulers. Muhammad Ghori had appointed Qutbuddin, one of his slaves (founder of the slave dynasty), as the Viceroy in Delhi. His successor was King Altamash, who professed his allegiance to the Chishti Order and gave it his royal patronage. He took Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki, more popularly known as Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki as his spiritual master.
    Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki was born in 1186 AD at Farghana in Isfahan, where he had the fortune of meeting his master Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti who was on his way to India, in the mosque of Abu al-Layth. He also had the fortune of receiving knowledge from Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi. He followed his master Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti to India. His reputation as a great saint, however, travelled faster than him. It is believed that he was a saint by birth and many miraculous events are associated with him. He acquired his name ‘Kaki’ (a man of cakes) when on demand from his friends, he put his hands in a tank of water and produced from there hot cakes to feed his friends. The name Bakhtiyar was given to him by his Master Shaikh Muinuddin, which means ‘a fortunate person’.
    When the news of arrival of Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki’s to Delhi reached the King, he along with his populace received him with great respect. They requested him to reside in Delhi. Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti also asked him to stay in Delhi and appointed him as his vicegerent. King Altamash offered him the Office of the Chief Qazi, which he refused and, therefore, Nazmuddin Sughra another disciple of Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti was appointed to that Office.
    It was around this time that the saints of Suhrawardi Order also started making in-roads into India. Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya of the Suhrawardi Order was the foremost of them, who was a contemporary of Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki. He was born in Multan in 1182 AD and was a grandson of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, the founder of the Qadri Order, through his mother. Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya was, however, initiated in the Suhrawardi Order by Shaikh Shihabuddin Suhrawardi and later asked to go to India. It is said that he was a highly accomplished saint. Many miraculous events are associated with him. However, some of his disciples, who were initiated in the Suhrawardi Order were deeply influenced by the Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki.
    His eldest son, Sadruddin succeeded him in the Order. It is related to him that he married the divorced wife of the then Governor of Multan, who in a state of intoxication had divorced his beloved wife thrice. In order to regain her, as per the Islamic law, she was to be married to someone and again to be divorced similarly for her previous husband to be eligible to remarry her. Owing to Shaikh Sadruddin’s high repute, his Qazi suggested name of Sadruddin to the Governor of Multan. Saddruddin married the lady but on her insistence to live as his wife, he refused to divorce her. Annoyed with Shaikh Sadruddin’s refusal to divorce his wife, the Governor announced death sentence for him but it so happened that on that night itself the Mongols killed the Governor and captured the city of Multan.
    It was in the time of Qutbuddin Kaki that devotional music was introduced in the Chishti Order, as a means of achieving the state of ecstasy. It was considered by him that the harmony of sounds stirs the heart of the listener and arouses in him the love for God. When these musical functions became very popular, the orthodox Muslims took up the matter with King Altamash to put a stop to it, as it was against the Shariat. King Altamash, however, found it very embarrassing for him to do anything in the matter on account of his loyalty to Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki on the one hand and the disapproval of Islamic laws for such functions on the other. He, therefore, did not intervene in the matter and such musical functions started gaining more and more popularity and acceptance by the common people.
    Shaikh Fariduddin popularly known in India as Baba Farid succeeded Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki. Although he received his formal education and knowledge from Shaikh Bahauddin Zakariya Suhrawardi, he was initiated in the Chishti Order by Shaikh Qutbuddin Kaki. Baba Farid lived a life of severe austerity and piety. He was very popular amongst the masses, who thronged him to seek his blessings. It is related to him that in his childhood, his mother used to hide some sweets under his prayer rug in order to induce him to offer prayers. One day she forgot to keep the sweets under the prayer rug but when Fariduddin, as usual looked for the sweets under the prayer rug he found plenty of sweets by the grace of God. Through this incidence he acquired the nickname Shakarganj.
    He is said to have married in old age to Princess Huzaira, the daughter of Balban, King of Delhi. Although she received a lot of wealth from her father in the marriage, she chose to follow the life style of her husband and donated her entire wealth to the poor. Baba Farid lived till about 1265-6 AD and died at the age of 93 years.
    One of the most renowned and revered Sufi saints, Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya was a disciple and chief successor of Baba Farid. Credit to a great extent goes to Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya and his disciple Amir Khusro to take Sufism to every nook and corner of India.
    Nizamuddin was born in Badaun in 1236 AD. At a very early age of five years he lost his father. His mother, who was a very pious lady, therefore, brought him up. It is said that at times they did not have any food to eat in the house. On such occasions she used to say to her son that ‘today we are the guests of the God’. Her trust in God was extraordinary. The young Nizamuddin was greatly influenced by this saintly character of his mother.
    At the age of twenty years, Nizamuddin heard from some one about Baba Farid, who had then taken Ayodhya as his abode. So impressed was Nizamuddin that he immediately set for Ayodhya and on reaching there he surrendered himself at the pious feet of Baba Farid, who took Nizamuddin immediately as his disciple. In due course, Baba Farid appointed Shaikh Nizamuddin as his Vicegerent and asked him to go Delhi.
    On coming back to Delhi the fame of Hajrat Nizamuddin started reaching far and wide. Lots of people started visiting him to seek his blessings. This made the King Mubarak Khilji somewhat apprehensive of his influence over the people and especially so as Hajrat Nizamuddin made it a point not to pay ceremonial visits to the King.
    King Mubarak Khilji used to hold a special court on the appearance of new moon when all the leading personalities of the city used to pay courtesy visit to him. Hajrat Nizamuddin, however, never visited the King even on these occasions. Once King Mubarak Khilji threatened to severely punish Hajrat Nizamuddin, if he failed to visit him on the next new moon. Hajrat Nizamuddin who used to frequently visit his mother’s tomb, prayed before her for the death of the King before the appearance of the next new moon.
    It so happened that at the appearance of the next new moon, a person named Khusru Khan killed King Mubarak Khilji. Later, Giyasuddin Tuglak in turn killed Khusru Khan. The new King also was apprehensive of Hajrat Nizamuddin, like his predecessor. He ordered Hajrat Nizamuddin to leave Delhi. It is reported that in 1325 AD, Giyasuddin Tuglak on returning from a successful expedition in Bengal, sent word to Hajrat Nizamuddin to quit Delhi. When the royal command was announced to Hajrat Nizamuddin he uttered, ‘Hanoz Dilli Dur Ast’ meaning Delhi is still far off. Giyasuddin Tughlak could not make to Delhi. At Tughlakabad, a pavilion erected in his honour fell over him and he was killed in this accident.
    Amir Khusro was a devoted disciple of Hajrat Nizamuddin. He was a poet who used Urdu for the first time to compose songs, riddles, rhymes and enigmas in common man’s language to reach their hearts. An incidence is related to Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusro. Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya, knowing his end was nearing had gifted away all his belongings to the poor. When he was left with nothing, an old Brahmin came to him and begged for help for the marriage of his daughter. Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya had already given away everything he had with him. He said to the Brahmin that he was late in coming to him. Nevertheless, Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya gave him his shoes, which he was wearing. The Brahmin was very upset, but he could not say anything to Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya. He was going on the way with a heavy heart. From the other side was coming Amir Khusro. He had gone on a business trip and had earned lot of wealth, which was laden on forty mules. Amir Khusro started smelling the fragrance of his Master Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya and he started looking for him. Soon he spotted the Brahmin as the source of that fragrance. He asked him whether he had met Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya. The Brahmin narrated the entire incidence to him saying that he could not get any monetary help from Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya and instead has received his shoes. Amir Khusro requested the Brahmin to give those shoes to him and in return to take all the forty mules laden with wealth. The Brahmin was more then pleased, so was Amir Khusro. Amir Khusro put the shoes with great reverence on his head and marched towards the abode of his Master. In the meanwhile Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya had left this mortal world for his heavenly abode. He had instructed his disciples not to let Amir Khusro enter that premise where his body was cremated, lest Amir Khusro will also sacrifice his life at his grave. Amir Khusro was, therefore, stopped from entering that premise. He obeyed his Master’s orders and did not go inside. However, he sacrificed his life in the grief of his Master outside the premises.
    Shaikh Nasiruddin, more popularly known as ‘Chiragh-e-Dilhi’, succeeded Hajrat Nizamuddin Auliya. He was also persecuted by the then King because of King’s fear arising out of Nasiruddin’s popularity. He died of stabbing by a person to whom he pardoned and arranged for his escape from the city. His tomb in Delhi is popularly known as ‘Chiragh-e-Delhi’. Muhammad Gesu Daraz, also popularly known as ‘Banda Nawaz’, in turn, succeeded him. Though born in Delhi, his father took Muhammad Gesu Daraz to Daulatabad. Later he came back to Delhi and was initiated by Shaikh Nasiruddin. In 1398 AD, he moved to Deccan, where Sultan Firoz Shah Bahmani received him with great respect. Muhammad Gesu Daraz died in 1422 AD in Gulbarga, where his tomb is situated. During his lifetime he wrote a number of books on Sufism and on Islam. One of his famous books is Sharah Tabsiratu’l-e-Stilihatu’s-Sufiya.
    It was around this time that the saints of Qadri Order of Sufis also took India as their abode. Sayyed Muhammad Ghawth, tenth in the line of succession from Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, the founder of the Qadri Order, settled in Uchh, which was also an abode of Sufi saints of Suhrawardi Order. The fame of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani had already reached India. Sayyed Muhammad Ghawth was, therefore, received well and the then Ruler of Delhi, Sultan Sikandar Lodi not only became his disciple but also gave his daughter in marriage to him. It is said that this he did on the orders of Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, who appeared in Sultan’s dream and asked him to marry his daughter to Sayyed Muhammad Ghawth. Hajrat Miya Mir (1550-1635) also acquired great fame in Punjab. It is well known that the Sikh saint Guru Ramdas had requested Hajrat Miya Mir to lay the foundation stone of Hari-Mandir Sahib in Amritsar.
    The Naqshbandi Sufis were the last to enter India. This Order of Sufism was introduced in India by Hajrat Muhammad al-Baqi Billah. The Order got its name after Muhammad Baha’uddin Shah Naqshband, a renowned Sufi Master. Baqi Billah was seventh in the line of succession from Shah Naqshband.
    Muhammad al-Baqi Billah was born in 972 H (1562 AD) in the city of Kabul in the land of Ajam, which was then a colony of the Sultanate of India. His father was a judge. From his early childhood Muhammad al-Baqi Billah exhibited signs of a great ascetic. He was a divine soul filled with love for the Almighty. He came to India in the first instance on personal business. Here he got interested in spirituality and, therefore, gave up his worldly life in the quest of spiritual knowledge. One day when he was reading a book on Sufism, his heart got illuminated with the divine-light. It is said that the soul of great Naqshbandi Sufi Master Shah Baha’uddin Naqshband sowed the seed of divine love in his heart and blessed him with the capacity to do jikr.
    Muhammad al-Baqi Billah travelled continuously until he reached the city of Samarqand. There he came in the contact with the Master of his time, Muhammad Khwaja al-Amkanaki. He stayed with him for three days. Muhammad Khwaja al-Amkanaki initiated him in the Naqshbandi Order, authorized him to take followers and asked him to go back to India to introduce the Naqshbandi Sufi Order there.
    Baqi Billah Sahab lived only for forty years. He had told his wife that he would leave this world at the age of forty, as the purpose for which he had taken birth had been fulfilled. This purpose was to accomplish fully his dearest disciple HJ Shaikh Ahmad Faruqi. At the time of his death, he remarked, “If the death is like this, then it is a great blessing and I do not desire to come out of this feeling.” He left this mortal world in 1603 AD. His mausoleum (Samadhi) is situated at Idgaah near New Delhi Railway Station.
    Shaikh Ahmad al-Faruqi, who is also known as the reviver of Islam, was born in the year 971 H., in the village of Sihar Nidbasin (Sarhind in India). He received his knowledge and education through his father and through many other Shaikhs of his time. At the young age of 17 years itself, he had been authorised to train followers in all three tariqats: Suhrawardiyya, Qadiriyya, and Chistiyya.
    It is said that the Prophet predicted his advent in one of his hadith. Shaikh Mir Husamuddin said, “I saw the Prophet in one of my dreams praising Shaikh Ahmad as-Sarhindi”. Amongst the saints who predicted his advent was Shaikh Amad al-Jami. He said, “After me will appear seventeen men of the People of God, all of whom are named Amad and the last one among them will be at the head of the millennium. He is going to be the highest of them and he is going to receive the state of Unveiling. He is going to revive this religion.”
    Shaikh Ahmad al-Faruqi has described one of his great experiences in his book and has named it as “Dayra Gazab Ilahi” or the vision of the ‘Almighty in All Encompassing Form’ (Viraat Roop Darshan). In this he has described at length various appearances of the Almighty, including the furious and the alluring ones, similar to that described in the Srimad Bhagvad Geeta by Arjun when he in the battlefield sees the divine universal appearance of the Lord Sri Krishna. Thereafter Shaikh Ahmad al-Faruqi has described in detail the journey further up from this vision and has mentioned that “I traveled to the highest destination, which is beyond description, for which I am profoundly thankful to the Almighty.”
    Another famous Sufi saint has been Bulleh Shah, who was an exponent of love and who graced the Punjab with his holy presence. Many interesting anecdotes are associated with him.
    I have already mentioned about Maulan Fazl Ahmad Khan Sahab, who introduced Sufism amongst Hindus in India and authorized Mahatma Shri Ramchndraji as the duly autorised Sufi Master of the Naqshbandi Order, through whom Sufism is now spreading widely in India and abroad.

  5. akraha1948 says:

    Guptaji, thanks for the genesis of Sufism right from its origin in Middle East to its gradual expansion east-ward with particular emphasis on India. Numerous anecdotes in your enlightening and informative account help explaining Islam in new light, which is rarely appreciated by people of other faith. You have not touched upon Shirdi Sai, known to be a great Sufi saint of 19th century, who was quite enigmatic about his personal faith and had exhibited his equipoise towards all known faiths. He, like Maulana Fazl Ahmad Khan Sahab, did not believe in conversion. You have dwelt upon at great length how Moinuddin Chisti, a great Sufi saint, was instrumental in the triumph of Ghori over Prithviraj in 12th century, thereby indicating that some Sufi saints like him participated in mundane matters such as taking side in a royal battle. Incidentally, Moinuddin Chisti was credited with conversion of largest number of Hindus into Islam. Thus we have both the examples in hand, i.e. the Sufi saints whose emphasis was exclusively on spirituality and not religion, and who did not believe in conversion, while the other Sufi saints who were more evangelical than spiritual, at least outwardly.

    As for the origin of Sufism, you have mentioned that though the name ‘Sufi’ came in circulation in 9th century only as a sect within the Islam, the Sufis, going by their spiritual leanings and practices, preceded Islam perhaps by several centuries. They were known as mystics in olden times who being deeply impressed by Mohammad embraced Islam.

    I would like to mention in the above context that mystics like the Sufis were in existence almost in all ancient civilizations. I may specially mention in this regard the Jewish Essenes in the Middle East and the Yogis in India and the striking similarities in their approaches to life, philosophy and esoteric practices.

    According to some scholars, the Sufis and the Essenes may have been one and the same mystic group. Both the Essenes and the Sufis, in their highest evolved spirit believed in oneness with God. Both were mystical and esoteric. From various sources, literary such as the 6th century account of Pythagoras who studied with the Essenes on Mount Carmel and became enlightened, the texts of the Jewish historian Josephus, and also recently deciphered Dead Sea Scrolls in Qumran, we have now gathered authentic information regarding Essenes and Nazarenes and have reasons to believe that Jesus was an Essene cum Nazarene. Probably the Essenes were the precursors, if not ancestors, to the sufis, given the fact that Judaism, Christianity and Islam share a common tradition, and their common link was that Ishmael and Yitzchak were the children of Abraham.

    According to Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely and kabbalistic oral tradition, esoteric teachings for Essesnes were primarily based on God’s instructions in tablets, brought down by Moses from Mount Sinai in the first instance, which were given to those who were spiritually ready. For those who were not ready for these esoteric teachings, the second set of tablets, containing the Ten Commandments, comprising the exoteric teachings, were brought down by Moses. The Essenes teachings based on esoteric content of God’s tablets, were passed on in course of time to King David, King Solomon, Samuel the Prophet, and to the prophets Elijah, Elisa, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Amos. It is believed that many of these prophets lived on the Mount Carmel and guided the people who gathered around them. This marked the beginning of Essene communities as far back as 600 BC. The initiatory prophetic mantra, according to the kabbalistic literature, was and still is YHWH. In all likelihood, the esoteric Essene teachings were spread through the prophets on Mount Carmel and thereafter through the secret societies of the Essenes, who lived in communities three to six centuries BC around Mount Carmel, at Lake Mareotis in Egypt, and around the Dead Sea starting around 186 BC. It is believed, based on substantial oral and written history, that John the Baptist as well as Jesus had been raised and educated in the Essene communities. The Essenes were not only in preparedness for the advent of Jesus on earth but also worked toward it to make it possible spiritually. One striking characteristic of the Essenes ascetics was that they were vegetarians on principle taking it as God’s directive not to cause injury to any of God’s creatures. The other important feature was that they gave supreme emphasis on light as the key to their access to the spiritual world.

    It would thus appear that the Sufis in all likelihood were spiritual descendants of the Essenes, if not one and the same. It is also a historic fact that the Essenes came in contact with the Buddhist and got influenced by its rich philosophical content, in 3rd century B.C when King Asoka sent his emissaries to the Middle East.

    The mystics in India in olden time were known as Yogis. The esoteric contents of some of those Yogas,known as Kriya Yoga, have been scientifically explained by Swami Yogananda, in his ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. He has explained the science of ancient Indian Yoga in the following way. One of the fundamental principles of science is that no material body whose mass increases with its velocity, can ever attain the velocity of light, viz. 1, 86,300 miles per second. Only a material body with infinite mass could equal, if not exceed the velocity of light. This principle, according to Yogananda is the cornerstone of esoteric knowledge or miracles in common parlance. In his words: “Masters who are able to materialize and dematerialize their bodies and other objects, and to move with the velocity of light, and to use the creative light rays in bringing into instant visibility any physical manifestation, have fulfilled the lawful condition; their mass is infinite.” The law of gravitation obviously has no effect on such master who is able to transform his body into weight-less infinite mass with a sense of identity with the Supramental or Pure Consciousness – ‘I am He’ (Sohaham). Free from matter-consciousness of three space dimensions and the fourth dimension of time and space, the Yogi transfers his body of light with equal ease over or through the light rays of earth, water, fire and air. It is thus that a Yogi can walk on water or through fire, or fly.

    The law of miracles is operable by any man who has realized that the essence of creation is light. The Yoga, by practising which the Yogi is able to transform his gross body into subtle body of light, or can separate his subtle body from his gross body, is known as the Kriya Yoga. Sri Krishna spoke of this Yoga to Arjuna, several millenniums ago (refer Chapter IV, verse 29, and Chapter V, verses 27-28 of Bhagavad Gita). Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras mentioned Kriya Yoga twice. It is said that one thousand Kriyas practiced in 8.5 hours gives the Yogi in one day the equivalent of one thousand years of natural evolution, and 3,65,000 years of evolution in one year. “The body of the average man is like a fifty-watt lamp,” writes Yogananda (ibid), “which cannot accommodate the billion watts of power roused by an excessive practice of Kriya.” Through regular practice and gradual increase, by reversing the flow of life energy from the outward world to the inner cosmos, the Yogi’s body and brain cells get re-vitalized by a spiritual elixir. He finally becomes master of his body and mind, fit to express the infinite potentials of cosmic energy, and achieves victory over the last enemy – Death (implying that the soul continues in body as long as the Yogi wills).

    It is believed that Jesus learnt the Science of Kriya Yoga in India during his unknown years. It was no wonder that Jesus’s weightless body of light could walk on the Sea of Galilee, and his transfiguration on the mountain was also a Yogic feat. Some eminent Sufi saints like Shams Tabriez and Moinuddin Chisti have demonstrated such Yogic power off and on, as have been recounted by you, Guptaji. Lord Shiva, Sri Krishna and Lord Buddha were known masters of this science of Yoga.

    Lastly, I must point out that there is a fundamental difference between oneness of God and wholeness of God. One who subscribes to oneness of God would firmly believe that God is the Exclusive One and it would amount to blasphemy to think that a man can become God (such as Anal Haq). On the contrary, the Vedantic concept of wholeness of God is all-inclusive. It postulates that all that exists, including the tiniest particle to the largest being or matter is nothing but manifestation of God. Pronouncements of realized souls, such as Sohaham (I am He), aham Brahmasmi (I am Brahman), Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma (All that exists is Brahman) and Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That) have been accepted and welcome in India from the time immemorial, and none has been persecuted for such pronouncements.

  6. RKGupta says:

    Thanks for your comments, sir, which in my opinion strengthen the fact that spirituality is the essence of all religions and the importance of religion lies in realising the Truth. Sufism as such is no religion but broadly refers to the lovers of Truth (God) and, therefore, a very wide term to include all those who are seeking the Truth. The only difference is that Sufis believe in a strong Master-disciple link and transmission of spiritual vitality through this link.

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