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Contextualising Sufi Islam in today’s India

Sufi Islam is often contemplated as mystical form of religion Islam. While shunning materialism, it emphasises on the practice of self-introspection and search of God through enlightenment of one’s inner-self (the Soul). This practice of inner enlightenment liberates one from the worldly belongings and inculcates in him ‘purity’ and ‘Sacredness’ until the indifferences between the God and Soul vanishes away (tasawwuf). The Sufi Islam believes on the doctrine of Tarikat- the phenomenon of religious orders and Guilds. These have exercised a commanding influence on the development of secular and pluralistic culture in religiously diverse countries like India. It has cherished tolerance and diversity as something exogenously given, which unsettles extremism in every form.

In today’s troubled India, where political space has been hijacked by extremist ideologies squeezing the space for secularism and religious tolerance hence opening up societal cleavages and taking us back to dark ages. In order to secure the ‘secular space’, Sufi Islam provides an alternative. While reading Sufi-lslamic thought, history bears witness that it has always sought to create a unified platform shunning religious, sectional and sectarian differences. Sufi Islam thought its history has emphasized on the principle of living and cherishing the diversity of the countries its adherents have entered. In Indian context, Sufi Islam has upheld the principle of mutual respect between religions. “Networks established by early Sufi saints in India demonstrated their fidelity to the Islamic concept of peace between differing systems of belief (Schwartz, 2017).

Sufi Islam is one of the notions, inherited from Muhammad, the prophet of Islam. It is believed that the prophet never got annoyed or displeased for any personal affairs but forgave all the personal sufferings bestowed by his enemies. As historically, Muslims have retained serene relations with other religions in India, Sufi Islam’s conceptions should be envisioned as a way to advance that peace and harmony.

Sufism’s emphasis on serving the mankind through spiritual selfdevelopment has proved phenomenal in Indian Context as it has been looked upon as wedging the sectional gap because of the fact that it has been seen not as a sect of Islam, but a way of life. Furthermore, its adherence to cultural syntheses can provide a basis for Hindu Muslim unity which the country lacks at this moment. Even though the Sufi Islam recognises the fundamental disagreements between theological traditions but believes that these could be dealt with through peace and mutual understanding. In the current Indian political atmosphere the religious traditions particularly Hindu-Muslims need to reconsider the principle of peace and mutual understanding so the democratic sphere functions smoothly and principle of mutual harmony is kept upheld.

“Sufism is the voice of peace, co-existence, compassion and equality; a call to universal brotherhood” Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India)
The Sufi tradition has been present throughout India. Its saints and scholars have always contended the fanatical and extremist interpretations; be those of Islamic theologians or of the scholars of other religions. Their focus always has been on the unity of faiths in defence of India’s unity, integrity and diversity. Within Islamic tradition, Sufi Islam anticipates that Muslims must do away with doctrinal issues and sectarian differences so that Islam’s message of peace is observed with its followers and spread throughout world.

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