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Sufi Mysticism and Bhakti
- Sufi Mysticism and BhaktiThe term "Sufi" derives from the Arabic word "suf" (meaning "wool") and was applied to Muslim ascetics and mystics because they wore garments made out of wool.Sufism represents a dimension of Islamic religious life that has frequently been viewed by Muslim theologians and lawyers with suspicion.The ecstatic state of the mystic can sometimes produce extreme behaviour or statements that on occasion appear to border on the blasphemous. The cause of this is that the Sufis can sometimes feel so close to God that they lose a sense of their own self identity and feel themselves to be completely absorbed into God. This in fact is the goal of the Sufi.Through following a series of devotional practices, which lead to higher levels of ecstatic state, Sufis aspire to realise a condition in which they are in direct communion with God. Ultimately the individual human personality passes away and the Sufi feels his soul absorbed into God.The origins of Islamic mysticism can be traced back to the 8th century. A consequence of the rapid spread of Islam under the Ummayad dynasty was the exposure of Muslims to a large number of different ethnic groups and the acquisition of considerable wealth that was the fruit of military conquest.The growing opulence of Islam was symbolised by the relocation of the capital of the empire from Medina to the more cosmopolitan city of Damascus.In reaction to the more worldly outlook of the Ummayads various groups and figures emerged who encouraged a return to the pure values of the Prophet and the Qur'an. One such figure, Hasan al-Basri (642-728), preached a rejection of the world and courageously criticised those in power when he felt that they were not conducting themselves according to the ethical standards of Islam.A second figure, Rabi'ah al-Adawiyah (d.801), cultivated the attainment of mystical union with God through the love of God. A third, and controversial, mystic, al-Hallaj (857-922), lived as a wandering preacher who gathered around him a large number of disciples.Such was al-Hallaj's sense of the intimate presence of God that he sometimes appeared to be identifying himself with God. He is reported to have made one statement - "I am the Truth!" - which caused such outrage that he was imprisoned for eight years and in 922 executed by crucifixion. Al-Hallaj's death illustrates in an extreme way the tensions that would characterise the relationship between Sufi mysticism and the Islamic legal authorities.Muslims of the Indian subcontinent prominently follow Chistiyya, Naqshbandiyya, Qadiriyya and Suharabardiyya orders. Of them the Chisti order is the most visible. Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, a disciple of Khwaja Abu Abdal Chishti, the profounder of this order introduced it in India.He came to India from Afghanistan with the army of Shihab-ud-Din Ghuri in 1192 AD and started living permanently in Ajmer since 1195. Centuries later, with the support of Mughal rulers, his shrine became a place of pilgrimage. Akbar used to visit the shrine every year.Turkic invaders into India were accompanied by four Sufi mystics of the Chistiyya order from Afghanistan: Moinuddin (d. 1233 in Ajmer), Qutbuddin (d. 1236 in Delhi), Nizamuddin (d.1335 in Delhi) and Fariduddin (d.1265 in Pattan now in Pakistan).During the reign of Muhammad bin Tughluq, who spread the Delhi sultanate towards the south, the Chistiyya spread its roots all across India. The Sufi shrine at Ajmer in Rajasthan and Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi belong to this order.Some Sufis under Chistiyya order were not against absorbing ideas from the Hindu Bhakti movement and used even Hindi language for their devotional songs. However, the orthodox Ulama with royal support insisted that Sufis go "back to Shariat" Even though Ulama had certain differences with Sufis over theological and mystic issues, the Shariat remained a cementing force between them.The Suharawardy order was started by Shihabud-Din Suharawardy of Baghdad and brought to India by Baha-ud-Din Zakariya of Multan. Suharawardiyya order of Sufism gained popularity in Bengal. The Qadiri order founded by Abdul Qadir whose tomb is at Baghdad. It is popular among the Muslims of South India.Baha-ud-Din Naqshband (1318-1389) of Turkistan founded Naqshbandi order of Sufism. Khwaja Mohhammad Baqi Billah Berang whose tomb is in Delhi , introduced Naqshbandi order in India. The essence of this order was insistence on rigid adherence to Shariat and nurturing love for prophet.It was patronized by the Mughal rulers, as its founder was their ancestral 'Pir' (Spiritual guide). "The conquest of India by Babur in 1526 gave considerable impetus to the Naqshbandiyya order". Its disciples remained loyal to the throne because of the common Turkic origin. With the royal patronage of most of the Mughal rulers, the Naqshbandi order caused the revival of Islam in its pure form.Sufi PracticesDhikr
Dhikr is basically about remembering God for all Sufis. According to Islam, one who engages in Dhikr has awareness of God. It basically includes chanting of God's name and reciting sections of the Quran. It has similarities with the Jewish Merkavah practice of meditation used tattain a higher level of consciousness. This can be done through singing, dance, meditative music, swirling, and etc.that finally leads to a trance.Hadhra
The Hadhra basically consists of various forms of Dhikr,songs and dances that are used to appeal God and Angels.The word Hadhra is Arabic and it means "Presence".Qawwali
In Sufism, Qawwali is the devotional form of music, which is common in Pakistan, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, etc. The Qawwali is known for its worldly appeal and transcends all bounds and limitations of countries and different regions. Some of the modern day masters of Qawwali are Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Sabri Brothers.Sama
Sama is an Arabic word which means listening. In Sufis, the holy ritual of whirling dance is known as Sama. It is basically an act of devotion that takes a person to a higher level of consciousness. The right kind of music invokes the right kind of emotion which is elated when one does the whirl dance. This helps in the process of contemplating the divine force.Khalwa
Khalwa basically refers to a kind of retreat that a person can experience under the guidance of a Sufi teacher. There is a belief in Sufism that all prophets must have retreated into seclusion at some point of time in order to derive inspiration and divine power. Thus, the Sufis practice retreat in order to concentrate on the divinity of the Almighty.When these sufi saints left this world their devotees put up impressive buildings over their tombs (Mazaars) most of which are attractive monuments of architectural beauty and subdued oriental splendour where Muslims, Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, and their beneficiaries pay loving homage to their immortal glory all the year round, and receive all sorts of benedictions even to this day.On the occasions of their death anniversaries, which are called Urs, the gatherings in many cases run from thousands to lakhs, according to the popularity of the saint.Religious ceremonies are performed on these occasions and the poor and the needy are fed liberally. Of the numerous sufi saints of India, Hazrat Khawaja Muinuddin Chisty of Ajmer , (the founder of Sufism in this country) Hazrat Makhdoom Allauddin Saabir of Kalyar and Hazrat Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakar of Pak Patan are the most celebrated.But each South Asian province from North to South and East to West has one or more monumental shrines of its own Sufi saints whose benedictions have left an impressive mark upon the people of those parts and whose blessings they still enjoy year after year.The next important feature of sufi belief was divine love. From the time of Rabia Al-Adawiya (died 801 AD). It had become the mainstream of sufi-ism while in Asia it had become the dominant feature of the popular Bhakti movement. Love they said was both the causes as well as the effect of gnosis. A person was likely to achieve gnosis as a result of divine blessing only when he had devotion for Allah.While a person who had achieved gnosis could not help being overwhelmed and overpowered by cosmic emotion (jazba) and divine love. Love, according to them was emotive force of life in fact raison d'être. This powerful emotion dominated every thought or sentiment, contemplative life, theology, ritual thought of heaven and hell and all else. "The heart of a mystic is a blazing furnace of love which burns and destroys everything that comes into it because no fire is stronger than the fire of love", says His Eminence Hazrat Shah Sufi Saleh Uddin Ahmed Chisty. Love implied an illuminative life a state of continued communion with Reality (haal). The object of life was indifferently described as apologetic vision (sometimes used in spiritual sense at others in a physical sense), nearness to Allah, annihilation (fana), everlasting life in Allah (baqa) and ultimately absorption or union (wassail). It was only on the achieves tranquillity by falling into the sea? Thus when the lover finds the beloved he no longer wails"The natural outcome of such an outlook was a religion of ecstatic fervor and intoxication (Sukr). Such an attitude of mind could best be produced by and then find satisfaction in liturgical practices (Azkaar-Zikr-e-khafi, zikr-e-jail), spiritual concerts or audition (sama), and other forms of auto hypnosis. Because of the efforts of Khawaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, Sufi Hameeduddin Nagauri and Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya of Delhi , 'sama' became a cranial feature of the Chishty silsila and brought it in occasional conflicts with the orthodox Ulama.The mystic belief in gnosis and love is usually accompanied by characteristic ethics. The Sufis had fully followed and systematized certain ethical concepts before Islam came to South Asia . The Asian Sufi-ism merely reiterated these beliefs although there was difference in the degree of emphasis. The basis of the Sufi attitude is that the Veil which hides reality from mankind is that of bashariyat, (creature hood).The nature of man consists of sensual, intellectual and spiritual features. Intellect, according to them performed a restricted function. The central pivot of spiritual life was the Qalb (heart) or the Rooh (soul). They were regarded as ethereal in nature and hence capable of communion with Allah. This function however could never be performed until the heart was purified of the dirt of sensual or lower self called in sufi terminology the nafs (appetitive soul). The struggle against nafs regarded as wholly evil, therefore, became one of the main concerns of the sufis.This implied an outlook of renunciation, penitence, asceticism, poverty, self-mortification and quietism-in short, other worldliness. This other worldliness was never interpreted strictly and the Chisty product recommended more an outlook of another-worldliness than actually going away from society.Rani nair
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