Also published in the Weekly Friday Times July 24 issue
The subcontinent during the 15th century witnessed the coming of age of a process that started brewing with the arrival of Central Asian Sufis, those eternal travellers who arrived in India with a message of Islam and mystic love. When Sufi thought, an off-shore spiritual undercurrent to the rise of Islam, met its local hosts, the results were terrific. There was no shortage of fundamentalists and communalists in that cultural landscape; and the gulf between alien rulers and the native subjects was a stark reality as well.
Nevertheless, a synthesis of sorts was navigated by hundreds of yogis, Sufis and poets of South Asia. Very much a people’s movement from below, the Bhakti movement articulated a powerful vision of tolerance, amity and co-existence that remains relevant today. This is many centuries before the suave, Western-educated intelligentsia coined the “people-to-people” contact campaigns. Yes, much has been lost in the tumultuous 20th century and perhaps these histories are irreversible. But a vast and complex common ground was nurtured by mystic poets of northern India, now comprising India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. […]
Yoginder Sikand writing at DNA
South-central Sindh isn’t quite a favourite holiday destination, but I spent a fortnight there while on a vacation in Pakistan. My host was the amiable, 70 year-old Khurshid Khan Kaimkhani, a noted leftist activist, author of the only book on Pakistan’s almost 3 million Dalits. Along with a friend, he edits the only Dalit magazine in the entire country.
Khurshid met me at the railway station in Hyderabad, Sindh’s largest city after Karachi. We drove to his small farm, on the outskirts of his hometown of Tando Allah Yar, a two hour bus-ride ahead. Several Bhil families live on the farm. “They are like my own family,” Khurshid says as Baluji, a tall, handsome Bhil man, manager of the farm, welcomes us in with a tight embrace. […]
When Sufi thought, an off-shore spiritual undercurrent to the rise of Islam, met its local hosts, the results were terrific.
Troubled by the ongoing middle east crisis, the destruction of Lebanon and the acrimony generated by the tragic Mumbai blasts, I am reminded of this poem by Kabir:
Allah and Rama
If Khuda inhabits the mosque,
then whose play-field is the rest of the world.
If Rama lives in the idol at the pilgrim station,
then who controls the chaos […]