Communal harmony is a required facet for maintaining peace and tranquility in a multi-religious and culturally diverse country like India. For its continuation, a social fabric has to be nurtured connecting every person at the individual and the community level. At the institutional level there are constitutional parameters (the secular credentials) enshrined to maintain and promote communal harmony and thereby peace. But how much such parameters are upheld and cherished is debatable. Nourishment of communal harmony at societal level largely depends on socio-religious organizations shunning orthodox and purist outlook.
Sufi-lslam, particularly shrine based Sufism in particular, has worked phenomenally in promotion and spreading of communal harmony within Indian context. The shrine based Sufi Islam emerged as a cross-fertilization of religious, mythical, ethical and spiritual ideas. Without contradicting the monotheistic teachings of religion Islam, the shrine based Sufism significantly interacted with other existing Indian belief systems hence influenced the religious landscape and carved a distinct space for itself. Since the start of the second millennia, Sufism gained prominence in the religious landscape of India. The shrine based Sufis besides asserting their religion, claimed to be torch bearers of communal harmony and peace.
Sufism’s emphasis on serving the mankind through spiritual self-
development has proved phenomenal in Indian Context as it has been looked upon as wedging the sectional gap which is seen not as a sect of Islam, but as a way of life. Furthermore, its adherence to cultural syntheses provided a basis for Hindu-Muslim unity which the country lacks at this moment. Even though the Sufi Islam recognizes the fundamental disagreements between theological traditions, it believes that these could be dealt with peace and mutual understanding. 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 defense 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. The shrines not only imparted religious learnings but also compassion towards other faiths. Sufi shrines became the sites for inter-religious dialogue. The Dargah tradition shares close connections with the Hindu beliefs. Prominent amongst them includes the Nizamuddin shrine in Delhi, Ajmer Dargah in Rajasthan, Pir Hazarat Hamid Shah Auliya, Khwaja Bande Nawaz, Karnataka and Haji Malang, Maharashtra are some famous shrines.
Sufism in India thrived as a confluence of Arabic, Persian and native religious practices and socio-cultural environment. Since its advent, Sufism has blended well into the Indian society. It developed harmony with the Bhakti movement and some other Hindu religious movements. Sufism, shrine based, embedded perfectly into India’s pluralist culture. As asserted by various researchers, Hindus visit
Dargah taking them for holy places and also seek suggestions from the Sufi saints. Irrespective of the religion or spiritual orientation, people in India visit shrines to worship. Sufi shrines are also perceived as peaceful places which promote inter religious interaction and brotherhood, other than the shrines, Sufi rituals and music has also impacted a large number of people. In short, Sufism spreads religious harmony and brotherhood through its commitment to tolerance and nonviolence ideals of Islam as commanded by Quran. Sufism, altogether promises a way out to enhance the religious tolerant nature of a diverse society like India.
Mohmad Saleem Sheikh, Doctoral fellow, JMI.