The history of various religions coincides with the beginning of human life on earth. The scientific (logical) reasons assigned for the discovery of religion and the associated beliefs revolve around the concept that man found it difficult to explain the reasons behind different natural phenomena like the coming down of the rains, the appearance of the sun and the moon, the change of seasons, the existence of the mighty mountains and the like and as such attributed the divine powers to the different natural forces.
The Holy Qura’n, on the other hand, teaches us that every natural phenomenon and the events which unfold before us are subject to the will of All Powerful, Allah. We are made to believe that universe is moving as per a fixed divine law which, too, will perish at its appointed time like every other thing.
There exist differences between the votaries of different religions with regard to the religious beliefs but there is also a common thread.
There is, inadvertently, a broad consensus on the fundamental teachings which govern our lives. For example, every religion teaches its adherents to speak truth and abandon falsehood, avoid hurting others, not resort to stealing, be obedient towards parents and elders, avoid moral corruption, etc.
An overview of different religions makes it amply clear that the primary cause of the peoples’ aversion towards religion and the subsequent human sufferings were a concomitant of religious perversion.
The Brahmins made the Vedic religion their exclusive property and denied the admission to Shudras and women to touch or listen Vedas. They, further, subjected it to useless rituals, customs, and sacrifices beyond the comprehension of the common men and thereby completely changed its character.
It found a reaction in the 6th century BCE when people, en masse, embraced Buddhism founded by Gautam Buddha. The latter took into account the realities of time and made Buddhism a simple understandable religion. It won to its fold a considerable chunk of population through the efforts of dedicated and selfless monks and nuns.
However, with the passage of time, the Buddha’s prediction came true as the monks and nuns indulged in corrupt practices, put on elaborate dresses, accepted the cash donations and more importantly turned viharas (where monks and nuns resided) into the centers of immoral activities and the dens of moral corruption which eclipsed the cause of Buddhism in the land of its birth.
We witnessed a similar sort of phenomenon with the Christianity. Roman Catholic Church was an institution claiming Jesus Christ as its earliest founder and therefore its sanctity and authority came to be very much respected by all the Christians. However it developed cracks and became vulnerable with the passage of time. Reasons are not far to seek.
The Popes and the priests who considered themselves infallible, expected meek obedience from the people and the state, as well, to their authority, regarded any criticism against them as blasphemous, lived in luxury and did not strictly conform to the ethics such as celibacy, chastity and exemplary conduct. In their struggle for power and pelf they forgot all about the service to be rendered to God and mankind. As a consequence the institute of church came under heavy attack by the rulers, people with secular attitude, humanist scholars and the like.
Finally, Martin Luther donned the mantle of a reformer and his efforts were successful and as such Europe witnessed the division of Christian church after the religious movements of reformation also known as Protestant reformation. Time and again the infamous scandals have surfaced involving the religious personnel which has dented the faith of a common man and no wonder an increasing number of people in the Europe are becoming atheists or are turning towards Islam to find the spiritual cum religious solace.
Islam which owes its origin to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) triumphed over the lands and hearts with an amazing speed. Philip K Hitti wrote: “If someone in the first third of the seventh century had the audacity to prophesy that within a decade some unheralded, unforeseen power from the hitherto barbarous and little known land of Arabia was to make its appearance, hurl itself against the only two world powers of the age, fall heir to the one-the Sassanid- and strip the other-the Byzantine-of its fairest provinces he would undoubtedly have been declared a lunatic”.
While the Muslim commanders and soldiers carried the triumphant marches across the different parts of the world and unfurled the flag of Islam in the distant lands, it was left to a devoted band of Islamic followers known in the common parlance as Sufis to consolidate the Islamic faith in the hearts and minds of people.
It is pertinent to mention that the rich and the basic corpus of Islamic teachings and beliefs have remained intact despite the political upheavals and the schism Islam experienced at different stages of history.
In the expansion and the popular acceptance of Islam across the different lands of the world Sufism played a central role. The Sufis, by their examples, by words and conduct, set an ethical standard. They attempted to bridge the gulf between the orthodoxy and religion of faith and devotions. They played a silent but important part in the propagation of their faith more by their example and service, than through any efforts at importunate persuasion.
Some of the Sufis were scholars and men of vast erudition and acted as teachers. They won the hearts of the people by their love and liberalism, sincerity of purpose, charity, piety and social service. They shunned wealth and power and kept themselves aloof from the din and bustle of worldly life. But although the Sufis were generally liberal and broad-minded in outlook, they were puritanical in attitude and uncompromising on the questions of strict adherence to Islamic Sharia.
Further, Sufism was not to be made a means to livelihood. They stressed the importance of earning and many saintly people earned their livelihood by their professional pursuits and recognized the dignity of labour.
The important thing to be noted is the fact that almost all the Sufis were married but they did not shun the life of a householder.
Back home in Kashmir, the history of the Islamisation revolves around the charisma and benevolence of the noble Sufis known in the local parlance as ‘Wali kamil’.
From Bulbul Shah to Sheikh Nur-ud-din wali, and from Mir Syed Ali Hamdani to Syed Hamza Makhdoomi, every saint worked to alleviate the spiritual distress and turmoil, the people in Kashmir were going through. They exercised profound influence on the collective lives of people so much so that Mir Syed Ali Hamdani and his son, Mir Muhammad Hamdani were successful in motivating the respective Sultans to assert the Islamic character of the state.
And then we will always remain highly indebted to the benevolence and brilliance of Mir Syed Ali Hamdani who introduced many arts and crafts in Kashmir and thus heralded an era of a vibrant economy in Kashmir.
They exercised considerable influence on the kings, officials and nobles for the good of the people. The character of these pious souls and God loving people was such that they spread their fragrance throughout the length and breadth of valley and turned it into what we repeatedly hear and narrate as ”Pir waer”.
However, religious perversion is discernible in Kashmir, too, on different accounts. There has been a mushroom growth of religious institutions where, unfortunately, no requisite efforts are made to train the young buds on intellectual fronts and educate them in comparative religions and different sciences.
The only emphasis, it seems, is placed upon memorizing the chapters of Quran. Further the students are served the interpretations of a particular school of thought which virtually stunts their intellectual growth and locks them in a separate shell.
And no wonder we experience that instead of serving the religion these people actually do a great disservice to religion by harboring enmity towards the other religious groups (within Islam) and don’t even hesitate in issuing fatwas and spreading venom (surprisingly) from the pulpit of mosques and Sufi abodes (Khanqahs).
Needles to mention, whereas Islam permits and encourages healthy discussions and debates, it outrightly rejects anything which promotes hatred not only among its votaries but also against the followers of other religions.
Over the years, a new phenomenon is visible in the religious spectrum of Kashmir.”Pir Muridi” has attained the shape of a well-developed industry whereby the common folks are spiritually and materially exploited by the fake religious pirs.
In the truest manifestation of Sufism, a murid (disciple) visits his Pir (religious guide) to learn the niceties of religion in his earnestness to get closer to and earn the favour (mercy) of God. It had nothing to do with the money-minting and other un-Islamic practices perpetuated by the perverted form of Sufism as is experienced at present.
Nothing bleeds the heart more than to see the lofty ideals of Sufism being flouted by those who claim to be its standard bearers. A question may be asked to those religious scholars who boast of transmitting the true Islamic teachings: what purpose does it serve to Islam that instead of spreading love, harmony, brotherhood, insisting people to practice true Islamic teachings and the like, they don’t leave any stone unturned in belittling their ”opponents in Islam”.
There may be and there are some honourable exceptions but the major chunk belongs to the same ilk. Visiting our venerated shrines is increasingly becoming an enigma for the folks are subjected to a lot of inconveniences in the name of earning religious merit, not warranting a mention here.
One can find these days the sign boards displayed the merits and spiritual prowess of a “saint” or “Baba”!
The infamous moral scandal which surfaced in 2013 involving a self-styled Sufi Gulzar Ahmad Bhat aka Gulzar peer should be an eye opener for all of us. One really wonders how the said devil-personified human was able to attract a good chunk of girls to his ”religious seminary” and what really motivated his followers to believe him, given the fact that he couldn’t even read properly the verses of Holy Qura’n.
The need of the hour is to expose him fully and the other persons of his ilk and serve them a stern punishment for they play with the delicate religious susceptibilities of the people at large and at the same time discredit an institution which is held in deep reverence here in Kashmir.
Ironically, he claimed to be from the Rishi Silsila (the local and the most popular Sufi order of Kashmir found by Sheikh Nur-Ud-Din). Needless to mention the rishis were God-fearing men who pressed themselves in the service of humanity and presented Islam in a form which was easy for an average mind to comprehend.
Abul Fazl, the biographer of Mughal king, Akbar, has lavished praises on them for the simplicity and honest of their character. A true Sufi and for that matter a true Muslim lives a life of humility and can never be carried away with the desire to let his religious knowledge and prowess be made public through his agents and the mass media (as was done by Gulzar ‘peer’ and his agents).
Our predecessors, religious divines, scholars and Sufis, were able to impress with their behaviour, selfless service, and sincerity of purpose, noble character, piety and the like, the streams of people who evidently accepted and enjoyed the fragrance of Islam.
On the contrary, we, on the one hand, are losing our own brethren to other religious faiths and on the other don’t desist from issuing religious decrees against our own religious folks!