Contra Sufism

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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  1. Agreed. It is power politics that shapes and interpret our faith because of ignorance at large in our part of the world. Once the jehadis were the darlings of the power game along with industrialization of Heroin production. Now that game is over and Sufism is pushed forwarded so that people should go into slumber and unable to resist the military and economic terrorism. Jahadis once the darlings have become terrorists now. Jahadis are facilitated at night to carry out their activities and killed at day time to appease the power centers. This third forces’ games (Mullah-Military) oanimoon has gained a new phenomenon. Sandwiched are the ignorant.

  2. Sufism had been a major source of spiritual enlightenment for centuries. Intermixing power politics with religion can lead the society into rampage as we are facing it with Islam. So pushing Sufism in the sphere of power politics will dismantle its pure notion and will likely to create imbroglios over its interpretation. The way the the Capitalistic powers manipulated Jihad against the Soviet occupation was a live example of it.
    Thus we are again going to commit the same mistake because of our ignorance and bird-eye view of it. I think in the long run this will be causing a disruptive implications and a stereotypic view of our religion.

  3. Agreed with Aziz for his possible geo-political power threats but I don’t beleive that the sufism can be moulded into the desired shapes of political manouvering just like Jihad. Sufism, in its real essence, ‘THE PHYLOSOPHY OF BEING’ so it encompasses intellectual aspects of life and beyond life in a logical manner. Sufism is not just a ‘damadam mast qalandar rock n roll phenomenon’, but it’s all about human philosophy through extreme use of intellect.

    If we look back into the history, we find that IBNE SINA, AL-HAYAN and many more popular muslim scientists of the medieval times had gone through the delicate issues of phylosophy by studying ARISTO, PLATO and their contemporaires and were able to translate their very intellectual theory into a practical interpretation of medical science, physics, astrology, chemistry and vice versa.
    The present emphasis on sufism (in my opinion) is a response to the image created by the west about the Muslims (manufactured extremists) whether from the time of UMMAYAD, ABASIDS or AMERICANS???
    The moderate muslims understand that the current blaming on tthe ideology has nothing to do with its pure ‘IJTIHADI’ beleif and hence, they try to project their very spritual essence of sufism that was discouraged by the forces of ‘SATAN’ throughout the Islamic history.
    It is ‘Sufism’ where whole world will come under one umbrella.

  4. I heard this man, Aziz studied London but he is speaking against religion of Islam. He should not do that because education people guard religion not distort it. It is very sad the writer is not fulfilling his duties as an educated person. In addition, i heard he never writes anything about Hunza and always writes on topic not related to beautiful valley of Hunza. I request him to concentrate more on our area than to write difficult english on topic which has nothing to doing with our area.
    Second issue is that sufism made us Ismaili Muslim. Nasir Khisraw and bu Ali Sina were sufis. my question to Aziz is he rejects these figures? it appears he does not know what to believe in. that is why he speaks against everything and cannot give us any solution. If he does not give solution than he should not write. Just to write because he studied abroad is to impress people without sincerity. I am sorry for the writer if he get angry with my comment but he needs to hear his readers.
    Asim Barcha

  5. I would like to thank Aziz Ali Dad for touching such a crucial as well as a critical issue of Muslim history and civilization. The ship of Muslims history/civilization has passed through different phases by focusing on different dimensions of human faculties in different contexts. There has been relatively, a sense of tension between heart and head or emotion and intellect in the Muslim societies. When it kept its balance it touched the peaks of development. On the other hand when it lost its balance it faced turbulences. Still the debate is there to prove the authority of the either sides.

    Today, Muslims are not facing only intellectual challenges rather there is stagnation in other dimensions as well, as moral, esthetical etc.

    Extremism cannot be associated only with religion rather there have been/ are other types of types of extremists (political, ideological rational, scientific etc.) rejecting other dimensions of knowledge/ human faculties to prove their own understanding . However, today research has identified a multiple dimensions of human intelligences and all of them are considered important for a developed human society.

    In our society such issue usually remains out from the realm of discussion and debate. Thanks to Aziz for writing such thoughtful article and providing opportunity to reflect and discuss.

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