by Aziz Ali Dad
The current vogue of Sufism among secular Muslims is connected with the power politics of our time. It is propagated that in the post 9/11 period Jalal ud Din Rumi has become one of the best-selling poets in America. The emergence of the Rumi phenomenon for ‘spiritual consumption in the United Stated’ has deep affinity with the propagation of Jihadi Islam in the decades of 1980s when the Afghan mujahideen were declared as “the moral equivalent of America’s founding fathers”. During this period, Sufism did not get support from power because it was not conducive to the power politics of the time.
After 9/11, the tectonic plates of power politics shifted and brought drastic changes in every sphere of life, including sociology of the production of knowledge. As a result, Sufism is being picked as a viable instrument to curb the rising tide of extremism among Muslims. The former president Gen Pervez Musharraf employed Sufism as a tool to serve the interest of power. Therefore, it can be said that the current support to Sufism is not necessitated by its essence but by the changing requirements of power politics in the world.
I am a fan of Sufi poetry, music, art and dance. What I am against is the employment of Sufism by power, in the words of Antonio Gramci, to maintain its dominance by securing consent through manufactured consensus on the one hand and total reliance of Muslims on Sufism at the expense of critical and philosophical thinking on the other. The latter has created bad faith among Muslims, which in turn causes Muslims to evade some of the intractable issues of philosophical discourse of modernity and post-modernity.
Some people may object to these views about Sufism on the basis that it disseminate message of love, and anything against it is tantamount to hatred of humanity. I think this is symptomatic of the mentality which has failed to cope with the challenges of the world and wallows in the ecstasy of subjectivity. Frederic Nietzsche finds origin of such attitude in the resentment of those who fail to change their world and develop an attitude that dubs antithetical action as bad. Philosophy has been coerced to remain in permanent exile from Muslim societies precisely because it was deemed against jurists, mystics and clerics. To get rid of intellectual poverty, it is the need of the hour to embrace philosophy as a legitimate knowledge to bring about a paradigm shift.
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