Need for Revival of Sufi Social Culture in Kashmir

Humans are materialistic by nature. Greed to acquire and obsession for possession is rooted in their minds. Highly materialistic individuals strongly believe in amassing wealth to fulfil life goals. Materialistic values breed greed in them and, at times, they get thrill in displaying their affluence and/or arrogance. However, money cannot buy happiness. ‘People are lost in materialism. We are so much engrossed in working hard to meet the standards of materialism that space grew for Sufism. Today’s society is a consumerist society. Man is so busy that he doesn’t find time to think about himself.’ Everyone is commercialised. Our thoughts are stuck at obtaining everything. The more we want, the more we snatch. Balance diminishes when a few people start snatching everything from the rest. Sufism is a mystical form of Islam and sufis came for reformation. Its adherents use acts of devotion and contemplation to achieve a deeper understanding, knowledge and closeness to Allah. Sufis consistently strive to be aware of God’s presence, stressing contemplation over action, spiritual development over legalism, and cultivation of the soul over social interaction. In the entire subcontinent, Jammu and Kashmir has the richest reservoir of the Sufi tradition, a tradition which is an integral part of the people’s ethos and which informs their lives. The valley of Kashmir is a land of sufis and it is due to these great souls that ignorance is absent and there is moral and spiritual illumination everywhere. Their education made the people to understand Allah and Prophet (SAW) and follow them with devotion and sincerity. The epithets like ‘Pir Vaer’ or ‘Rishi Vaer’,illuminates the love and devotion of our ancestors for these spiritual tendencies. These Pirs, Saints, Fakirs were pious persons, spending most of their time in meditation and prayers. This spiritual path is very focused on the mind with practices aimed to clear the mental state, tame thoughts and attain a calm equilibrium. These cooling, meditative practices bring equanimity, tranquility and clarity of mind. Sufism is a path of spiritual advancements, an expansion of consciousness, leading to awareness of self and the universe. The substance of Sufism is selfless experiencing and actualization of the truth. The practice of Sufism leads to the development of innate spiritual and intuitive abilities. The mystical practices of Sufism are hot practices as they are working with the heart, and igniting the fervour of passionate, wild love. Andrew Harvey, describes the Sufi path, ‘It is a way to the heart of hearts, to the utmost direct intense experience of one’s sacred identity.’The essential message of Sufism is to remember God and serve others. The true practice of devotion is service. If you wish to serve the beloved, you must serve others. In selfless service, we begin to see ourselves clearly. The rough ego starts to be smoothed and we learn humility, tenderness, and love. Harsh judgments, arrogance, and divisive qualities are diluted in the river of our intentions to help others. Thus the twin pillars of Sufism are selfless service and love. Only one who loves can serve. Getting inspirations from these reverential people, Kashmiris were well noted by famous chroniclers and foreign travelers for their selfless services to others. Abul Fazl praised them as character-wise, ‘they were fine as theft and beggary were rare.’ They were good-tempered and had a distinct sense of humour and joke; hence, talkative, cheerful, and humorous. Their virtues were industrious, religiously tolerant and socially much tied. However, in 21st century we as part of the Kashmiri society forget the teachings of these spiritual guides and the responsibilities shouldered on us by these pious and spiritual mentors. Sufism as an amalgamation of humanism, spirituality and tolerance promoted Islam.The fusion of a human with each other to become the collective consciousness, moving the common good to happiness holistic, real-world and the hereafter.The Rishisstrengthened the culture of social responsibility and humanism.The Rishi movement was not confined to change of faith of people only but it turned to be all embracing movement bringing within its fold every aspect of life. The message of love and tolerance came to be recognized as another major icon of Kashmiri identity. Rishi tradition is an important manifestation of Kashmiri identity. Shaikh Noor-ud-din’s(R.A.) life was filled with love and compassion for people and contempt of this world, otherworldliness and purity of thought and action. As an ardent Rishi, Nur-ud-din(R.A.) stressed that a true Rishi must actively intervene in the world, take the side of the poor and the oppressed and crusade for social justice, based on the recognition of the equality of all human beings. Shaikh Nur-ud-din’s(R.A.) poetic compositions, replete and motifs based on the everyday life of the toiling people, his denunciation of meaningless ritualism and his scathing attack of social elites attracted larger number of Kashmiris into the Muslim fold. The social purpose of Rishis was to promote the harmony between the people irrespective of creed, colour, and religion. It was a perfect harmony which set the imagination of the people aflame. The message of harmony, as spread by the Rishis from time to time, created a reservoir of humanism which became the ideological fountainhead of the modern Kashmiri mind and gave a unique quality to the Kashmiri identity. The simplicity and purity of Shaikh Nur-ud-din(R.A.) have deeply impressed the Kashmiri who entertains the highest veneration for the saints. Sufis and Rishis of Kashmir believed that wherever possible we should be able to do things for the benefit of others without expecting anything in return and appreciation whatsoever for the actions. The Sufis not only make conversions but also promoted socio-economic welfare of the people in Kashmir. When Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani(R.A.) reached Kashmir he was accompanied by traders, artisans and businessmen who not only inculcated in them doctrines of Sufism but also paved the way for their economic advancement. The great master of Iran worked like a Mason to build the fate of the Kashmiri nation. Great and magnanimous as he was, he gave them education, wisdom, culture and religion. He was a dignified mentor of this beautiful valley. The people of ‘Iran-i-Sagir’ learn arts and crafts through his guidance. Thus Sufis and Rishis not only guided us about demureness, humbleness, lowliness, meekness and modesty but were much serious about the social and economic welfare of the people and didn’t let them in lurch.
There are ample examples of people sacrificing their wants (desires) during this pandemic to satisfy the basic needs of the weaker sections of society. Thus a ray of hope is there to overcome this greed and arrogance by spiritualistic philosophy of Sufism not only in the valley of Kashmir but throughout the world.
The 21st century witnessed the loss this tradition as the idea of social services and humanism has been replaced by capitalist materialism. Now people are more aware about profit, interest and gain and less serious for humility, tenderness, and love. There is no reason to give a list of social problems in our society as no one is ignorant to the extent to be lessened. Religion is not just some dry intellectual idea but rather basic philosophy of life, a teaching that makes sense to us, find through experience that it relates positively with our psychological makeup, get a real taste of it through practice, and adopt it as our spiritual path. The word ‘wealth’ is an amalgam of words ‘weal’ (well-being) and ‘th’ (the condition), meaning ‘the condition of well-being’. Well-being includes family life, social participation, leisure, health, financial security, work-life satisfaction, etc. As per ESRC Research Group on Wellbeing in Developing Countries, “Well-being is a state of being with others, where human needs are met, where one can act meaningfully to pursue one’s goals, and where one enjoys a satisfactory quality of life.” Thus the definition is compatible with the spiritual aspect of capitalist life. Sufism puts emphasis on individual practice and extends to all facets of a person’s life, economic as well as psychic. This rich heritage guided us properly in social responsibilities and the massage of Sufis and Rishis may be the best panacea for restoring social harmony in Kashmir. Andrew Harvey believes Rumi is our sacred guide for today’s troubled world and is one who can deliver us from the evils of capitalist materialism. In the 21st century, Amin Syukur reported, Sufism is required to be more humanistic, empirical and functional. Appreciation of teachings of Islam is not just reactive, but active and give direction to the attitude of human life in this world, whether it be moral, spiritual, social, economic and so on. And when Sufism became a breakout from the visible world to the spiritual world, it can be regarded as a reaction and social responsibility, the obligation to perform tasks and respond to social problems. The enthusiasm for Rumi’s poetry in the West evidenced the appetite among better-educated cosmopolitans for an apparently deconfessionalised, universalistic spirituality that can serve as a balm for arid materialism.The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the pursuit of spiritualism in those with materialistic tendencies. They are realising that materialism and spirituality can co-exist. People have become less conspicuous and wasteful in their consumption, and willingly share their possessions with those in need. There are ample examples of people sacrificing their wants (desires) during this pandemic to satisfy the basic needs of the weaker sections of society. Thus a ray of hope is there to overcome this greed and arrogance by spiritualistic philosophy of Sufism not only in the valley of Kashmir but throughout the world.
(The author is a freelancer. Views are exclusively his own)

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