Monday, May 16, 2022

What's Religious/Irreligious From The Sufi Perspective

By Sumit Paul, New Age Islam 16 May 2022 A professor friend of mine from Amritsar narrated an incident that happened a few days ago. My friend's friend sought the services of a famous architect in Amritsar who happens to be a Muslim. That friend needed to have an alcove at his home to keep his god's idol. For that, he requested the architect to come and have a look at a nearby temple. That architect refused point-blank, calling it Shirk (sacrilege) for a Muslim even to enter a temple premise. Now, the second example is even more bizarre. I wished my Hindu friends ' Eid Mubarak ' as is my wont on the just concluded Eid. None replied. They (Hindus) didn't even visit the houses of Muslims to have Sheer-Khurma. I've no such silly hang-ups. I went and gulped down nearly 10 bowls of Sheer-Khurma at the houses of my Muslim friends who jolly well know that I've no religion and no god but I've a sweet-tooth. And all being much senior to me, I got Eidee from them. These two episodes reveal religiousness and irreligious behaviour. How'll you define being religious and being irreligious? Will you consider that Muslim architect's behaviour religious? Well, from a narrow perspective of religio-scriptural understanding, that Muslim architect was absolutely right as his Islam abhors even to look at idols! He's a Saccha Musalman, a Momin at that. Right! And my Hindu friends are also right from their perspective not to visit a Muslim's place to have Sheer-Khurma as it might desecrate their pristine Sanatan Hinduism as nowadays, exclusivity is the key to religiosity. So much so that they refused to wish me back when an apatheist like me wished them Eid Mubarak. All these individuals are true, rather faithful, from their religious perspective but I'm afraid they fail as humans because their strict, nay fossilized, religiosity hurts someone. There's a beautiful couplet in Persian, " Gar Sad Hazaar Laal-O-Guhar Mee Dahi Cha Sood/Dilra Shikastah Na Ke Gauhar Shikastah " (You may try to give thousands of pearls and rubies to expiate your (hurtful) behaviour/But remember, you broke the heart, didn't just break a gem; in other words, a broken heart cannot be mended by any means). ' True religiosity is universal empathy', wrote Jalaluddin Rumi Balkhi, who welcomed even the idol-worshippers, Aatish-Parast (fire-worshippers, Zoroastrians), atheists, believers and people of all hues as the offspring of the Almighty. This is lofty religiosity. No condescension, but let me tell you very candidly that most of the religious believers, not just Muslims, haven't understood the broader meaning of being religious. They just divide people into two clear divisions: Religious and non-religious or religion-haters. Alas, so limited is their vision. Khorasan-born Jami wrote in Dari (Afghan variant of Persian): Shee Az' Mastaz Nee Kafir (No one is a Kafir or infidel for me). This is all-encompassing religiosity that doesn't pontificate. I remember, many moons ago in Tehran, I was a part of a group that mainly discussed religious issues. All were Shia Muslims (often far more gentle and less quarrelsome than the Sunnis; I'm being outspoken). My entry was never frowned upon. One day, someone called me a Kafir. Gobsmacked, I quoted Iqbal's famous mystic couplet in Urdu and simultaneously translated that into Persian: Kaafir Ki Ye Pahchaan Ke Aafaaq Mein Gum Hai/Momin Ki Ye Pahchaan Ke Gum Uss Mein Hai Aafaaq (An infidel is lost in the quotidian vortex of the world/But the mundaneness of this world is itself lost in the existence of a Momin). Going by this exalted definition of a Kafir, even a Muslim could be an infidel, if he's lost in an everyday whirlpool of life's frivolous pursuits. But we, esp. all Muslims, erroneously think that anyone other than a Muslim is an infidel. Such benighted thinking! I feel pity. The moment my Shia Muslim friends heard the explanation to Iqbal's Urdu couplet, they all apologized in unison and the person who called me an infidel, started crying. This is religiosity. All those Muslim friends understood that they had no right to call me an infidel despite having no religion and no faith in Allah or any esoteric power, fabricated by humans. But here in India, when one 'gentleman' called me names and gallingly asked the editor, " Does he pay this boor to write on his website," no other Muslim protested, let alone apologized, or showed solidarity with me. Only one non-Muslim individual felt bad and snubbed that 'gentleman', who used outright unacceptable language for me, that too on a common platform. This is rank irreligiosity on the part of that unrefined Muslim man and also the mild irreligiosity in the collective behaviour of other learned Muslim readers and contributors who chose to stay silent and look askance. But it was my religiosity in the words of Fariduddin Attar, ' Challenge the ideas, not the individuals.' I didn't challenge the uncouth 'gentleman' and kept mum. So, tell me, who's more religious, yours truly or that 'devout' Muslim who resorted to abusive language? Great Persian mystic Khaqani says, ' Wherever you see injustice, raise your voice against that. This is your religiosity. This is your spirituality.' But did any Momin come forward and protest, stating that abusing someone is irreligious and un-Islamic behaviour? Yet, to all these learned but blinkered Muslims, I'm a Kafir and a religion-basher. So, no need to defend such an irreligious person! Remember the words of Yaas Yagana Changezi, who could have been a far greater poet had he not wasted his time and energy in lambasting Ghalib all the time: Kah Na Kabhi Uss Shakhs Ko Munkir-E-Zaat/ Paa Liya Jisne Khud Mein Khuda Ka Saath (Never call that person an atheist, who has found the god within). Not just Muslims, but all humans need to have a Universal Vision and an All-Embracing outlook to go beyond being living and moving badges of this faith and that faith. Insaniyat Sab Se Bada Mazhab Hai. Humanity is the greatest faith. All man-made bogus faiths are subservient to it. Aadmi Pahle Insaan Ban Jaaye Ghaneemat Hai (It's enough to become a human in the first place). To quote Ghalib, " Bas Ke Dushvaar Hai Har Kaam Ka Aasaan Hona/Aadmi Ko Bhi Mayassar Nahin Insaan Hona. " So very true. By the way, the Arabic word, Insaan is the desired form of a human approved of by god almighty because Insaan has an in-built UNS (Love in Arabic). So, its literal meaning is: One who loves all. That's your religion. To love all. Don't remain an Aadmi (Dam: to breathe) who merely survives, breathes and dies unlamented and uncared for. ---- An occasional columnist for New Age Islam, Sumit Paul is a researcher in comparative religions, with special reference to Islam. He has contributed articles to world's premier publications in several languages including Persian. URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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