The importance of love
KARACHI: The importance Sufism — the mystical dimension of Islam — places on love as well as the role it has played in influencing life in general and culture in particular in Pakistan was discussed at a seminar held at the Goethe-Institut here on Saturday.
Both German and Pakistani scholars presented papers at the seminar titled ‘The path of Sufism: mysticism, poetry and music’. Dr Jurgen Wasim Frembgen spoke on ‘The Sufi message of peace and tolerance: lived Sufi-Islam and local religious syncretism in Pakistan’. Dr Frembgen is the chief curator of the oriental department at the Museum of Ethnology in Munich and a private lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Munich.
He noted that in the West, there is a generalised notion that Sufism is the Â“liberal, soft version of Islam”. Quoting another scholar he said that Sufism is the last refuge of the people of Pakistan; the other option is the Kalashnikov.
“Sufism stands for tolerance, peace and love. That is why it is persecuted. There has been a de-emphasis on Sufism in the Muslim world,” he said. Talking about what he termed “Sufi-inspired folk Islam,” he said this sort of belief system emphasised the joy of life and the celebration of culture. He held out the devotion people have towards Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar as a symbol of this.
He observed that the figures of the Qalandar — a Muslim mystic — and Jhulelal, the Hindu deity associated with the Indus River, had been reconciled and that the temple to Uderolal, another name for Jhulelal, shares the space with a dargah. “The space is shared peacefully by all communities”.
Dr Frembgen said the mystical interpretation of the faith accepts “the accommodation of differences and is tolerance in practice. It does without the absolutistic notions of right or wrong. It is a women-friendly religion”.
Coming to the cultural and artistic aspects of shrines, the scholar said that “shrines are a panorama of perceptions. The aim of Muslim art is to unveil beauty. There is a hadith that states God is beautiful and He loves beauty”.
He added that the Sufi ethos was best exemplified by the motto of the Chishty order: love for all, hate for none.
“Folk religion is the invisible backbone of religion. Folk Islam challenges antagonism and confronts communalism. Sufi Islam says love is the most important thing; all other things are of less importance,” he noted.
Omar Kasmani delivered a talk on ‘Re-imagining devotees: inventive agency and the complex subject of Sehwan Sharif’. Mr Kasmani has recently concluded his Master’s degree at the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London. Among other things, he focused on the use of technology by devotees during rituals at Sehwan as well as the motives and methods of aspiring pirs at the dargah.
Dr Durre S. Ahmad and Peter Pannke also spoke. A documentary — Road of the Troubadours Â– was also screened.