Karachi: In their poetry, the Sufis of Sindh and Punjab always adopted the voice of a woman, because a woman’s commitment to her beloved is unparalleled.
“That’s why Bulleh Shah wrote ‘main ranjha ranjha kardi hun, main ape ranjha hoyi’. His beloved was God, and he loved Him like Heer loved her Ranjha,” said Sarwat Mohiuddin, a poet with expertise in Punjabi sufi poetry. She was the main speaker at a session titled “Talking about Sufism”.
“Generally in Urdu poetry, the poet is usually a male who writes the ghazal for his lady love but not in Sufism, where all poetry is from a woman’s perspective,” she said. In her hour-long talk she drew a brief history of Sufism in the subcontinent which began with Data Ganj Baksh in the 10th century. His disciple was Hazrat Bakhtiar Kaki, who was followed by Farid Ganj Shakar, who was then followed by Amir Khusro, the father of qawwali.
“The need for qawwali was felt in the subcontinent to preach Islam, because this was a society where the Hindus used the bhajan to worship. Qawwali in those days became a powerful way to remember God. The use of music was later on encouraged by Khwaja Mohiuddin Chishti.”
Mohiuddin gave a basic lesson in Sufism to the audience. “Sufism is divided in two parts: tariqat and zikr,” she explained. “Zikr is physically chanting God’s name and tariqat leads to the spiritual aspect. Spirituality comes with faqr – detachment from worldly affairs – and tawakul – total submission to God.”
“Ishq,” she said, “was something which defined Sufism. One prayer for the love of God is better than a hundred prayers which are mere rituals.”
“Dressing up like a fakir, or doing the sama dance – two icons which now represent Sufism in pop culture are misleading. Sufism is more of a philosophy, something which comes from within a way of life which has nothing to do with outward appearance.”
Contrary to popular belief, she said, the Sufis were well versed in the Shariah. “They had sound knowledge of Islamic law. Only if you know religion well, can you move a step forward and embrace Sufism.”
As the session closes, she exclaims: “It is hard to explain Sufism. It is something which can only be experienced. That’s why there is no rule book to Sufism, only poetry which flows like a river.”