Dr Fatima Hussain said the current intellectual propensity was to debunk religion on the pretext that it had been a cause of bloodshed throughout history and served to divide, rather than unite people. “My personal opinion, as a student of comparative religion, is quite different since all religions of the world took birth with a noble intent,” she said, adding, it is only when they became pedantic and were increasingly institutionalised to sanctify political and economic designs considered repressive and hence abominable.

She said many Sufis were highly sceptical of such practices, charging them with not having any essential links with Islam. Sometimes, individuals described themselves as Sufis but not as Muslims, responding to the universality of ecstatic mystical experience and the particularity of Sufi routes to that experience, she added.

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Mysticism has assumed role of popular religion, says Indian scholar Dr Fatima Hussain

* Dr Fatima Hussain from Delhi University, India, delivers lecture on ‘The Tradition of Mysticism in Subcontinent’

* PAL chairman calls for introduction of Sufism as a subject

March 26, 2009

ISLAMABAD: In the present global context, when formal religions are often not only being ridiculed but also viewed as a deterrent to social cohesion, the role of popular religion in the form of mysticism has assumed a new dimension.

Renowned history scholar from Delhi University, India, Dr Fatima Hussain, expressed these views while delivering a lecture on “The Tradition of Mysticism in Subcontinent” arranged by Pakistan Academy of Letters (PAL).

She said in today’s strife-torn society, oblivious to rising or plunging GDPs, happiness came as a premium. The overwhelming desire to possess is an indicator of a consumerist culture propelled by the unbridled growth of capitalist enterprise, she said, adding, neo-imperialism has fanned conflict everywhere, forcing people to take up violent means to seek redressal from injustice. People of different religious, racial and national affiliations view each other with suspicion, she added.

She said the current intellectual propensity was to debunk religion on the pretext that it had been a cause of bloodshed throughout history and served to divide, rather than unite people. “My personal opinion, as a student of comparative religion, is quite different since all religions of the world took birth with a noble intent,” she said, adding, it is only when they became pedantic and were increasingly institutionalised to sanctify political and economic designs considered repressive and hence abominable.

She said many Sufis were highly skeptical of such practices, charging them with not having any essential links with Islam. Sometimes, individuals described themselves as Sufis but not as Muslims, responding to the universality of ecstatic mystical experience and the particularity of Sufi routes to that experience, she added.

She said in the literary and linguistic landscape of South Asia, regional vernaculars flourished in a complex interplay with the language of the ruling elite. In this context too, Sufis played a very important role since they preached in the language of the common collectives, she said. While the religious and political elite talked down to people, the Sufis talked to the people, while imposing the conceptual structures of Islam through the use of popular ideas which were already in existence.

The Sufis teachings of human brotherhood, peaceful coexistence, egalitarianism and service towards humanity, provided fertile ground for bridging the gap between various religious and linguistic communities of South Asia, said Hussain.

She said Sufism and Tasawwuf was an almost impossible task; however for the sake of pedagogic convenience Sufism may be described as devotion to God and love for humanity to achieve the ultimate objective of closeness with God the ecstatic, rapturous and blissful state and finally ‘visal’ then annihilation in God.

Speaking on the occasion, PAL Chairman Fakhar Zaman said poets and writers of Pakistan had waged a great struggle against dictators. He called for revival of Sufi literature, which is essential for promotion of tolerance and peace in the society. He said PAL would hold the annual urs of all the Sufi saints in all major cities of the country. He also called for introduction of Sufism as a subject in schools and colleges.

Prof. Khawaja Masud said Sufism should be promoted in Pakistan.

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