Photographs from World Sufi Forum:17-20 March 2016

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Why are Indian Wahhabis angry with Modi for promoting Sufism?: DailyO

The PM is the only political leader in India who understands the dynamics of the Muslim problem.


Uday MahurkarLOGO (2)



The leaders of the Wahhabi section of Indian Sunni Muslims represented by the Deoband school, the missionary body Tablighi Jamaat, and another Wahhabi stream, Ahle Hadees, were into their familiar game of accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of dividing the Muslim community recently, soon after Modi extolled Sufism at the World Sufi Forum in Delhi and called for encouraging it to counter radical Islam, leaving a deep impression on a series of Sufi scholars who were present at the meet.

The first salvo was fired by Maulana Arshad Madani of the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUI), a Deobandi outfit. He accused Modi of dividing the Sunni Muslim community (Sunnis are divided into Wahhabi and Sufi sections in South Asia) by promoting Sufism. Next, a series of Urdu publications controlled by Wahhabis made the same allegation against Modi. Significantly, in the past one year, this was the third time that the Wahhabis were attacking Modi on the issue. The last two attacks followed soon after Modi met two different Sufi delegations in 2015.

What is the difference between Wahhabism and Sufism?

The attacks on Modi are, in fact, rooted in the internal religious dynamics of the Sunnis of India who form 85 per cent of the total 17 crore Muslim population in the country, and are divided among themselves into Wahhabi and Sufi sections, with the former constituting 35 and the latter 65 per cent of the 14-crore-plus Sunnis in India.

An intense struggle has been going on between the two factions for the past many decades with the Saudi Arabia-supported, powerful Indian Wahhabis working overtime to convert their fellow Sufis into Wahhabism in what is a battle of two religious ideologies – one moderate and inclusive, and the other orthodox and exclusive.

Significantly, the Sufis who are also known by two other names in India – Ahle-Sunnat and Barelvi – worship saints and celebrate Prophet Muhammed’s birthday as against the Wahhabis, and believe that Allah can’t be reached without the intercession of the souls of the Muslim saints buried in dargahs.

Sufism in India and Pakistan is symbolised by the dargahs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer, Nizamuddin Auliya in Delhi and Baba Farid in Pakistan. These are among the dargahs of hundreds of Sufi saints in the Indian subcontinent which are worshipped by Sufis as well as Hindus by laying chadar on them in what is the symbol of a truly syncretic culture.

On the other hand, the Wahhabis, driven by the radical ideology of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) of Saudi Arabia, believe that there can only be direct dialling between the believer and Allah because seeking intercession of a saint – a third party – in reaching out to the Almighty is akin to guru puja. They believe the practice of dargah worsip is an import from Hinduism and therefore un-Islamic.

Terrorists come from among the Wahhabis only and not the Sufis

Interestingly, all the terrorists in the world invariably belong to the Wahhabi stream while not a single terrorist comes from the Sufi stream. But only a minor section of the Wahhabis have taken to terrorism or have sympathised with terrorists, others understanding the pitfalls of terrorism. The arrival of the ultra-Wahhabi Islamic State (ISIS) and its medieval vandalism has created a scare amongst a big section of the Wahhabis about their survival in the wake of the world zeroing in on their ideology. This has further strengthened the moderate faction amongst the Wahhabis. The biggest symbol of this is the welcome that Prime Minister Modi is getting in Wahhabi countries like Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE).

How Wahhabis convert Sufis and how riots strengthen Wahhabism

But in India and Pakistan, the old game of Wahhabi preachers to convert impressionable Sufi youths into the Wahhabi fold continues. The communal clashes between Hindus and Muslims help the Wahhabi strategy. In Hindu-Muslim riots, it is the Sufis who largely bear the brunt of Hindu aggression in reaction to acts triggered by the Wahhabis. For example, in the 2002 Gujarat episode the Muslims who killed the 59 karsevaks at Godhra were Wahhabis and those who faced Hindu ire later, in reaction, were largely Sufis. How the Wahhabi conversion game operates is indeed interesting.

When the Sufi victims of communal riots land up in relief camps the Wahhabi preachers woo these riot victims with the aggressive brand of Wahhabism and convert them. The Wahhabi clerics’ missionary zeal and convincing power, backed by funds create an ideal platform for conversion in these situations.

Interestingly, the Sufi victims of the communal riots are told that they are facing the ire of Allah because they are following un-Islamic practices. The Wahhabi funds are often used in the form of subtle inducements to convert the Sufis who succumb to this ideology in those delicate phases.

No wonder then that incidents like the 2002 Gujarat riots and 1992-’93 Mumbai riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid have strengthened Wahhabism in a big way, as these unfortunate episodes have been exploited by sections of Wahhabis to convert Sufis into their fold. In fact, that is how Wahhabi population has increased in India from less than ten per cent at the time of independence to 35 per cent now.

Interestingly, another factor that strengthened Wahhabism in India was the patronage that it got from the Congress since the days of the freedom struggle when the Deobandis, since they didn’t believe in territorial nationalism, shook hands with an unsuspecting Congress and Gandhiji and earned the label of “patriots” in the process. That’s how Abul Kalam Azad, a Wahhabi and a follower of the Deobandi school, could become the president of Congress twice. His second innings was in the most crucial phase – between 1939 and 1945 at the time of Second World War.

So it is was not surprising that Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad attended the massive anti-RSS/Modi rally organised by Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind (JUI) of Arshad Madani in Delhi last month in a vain bid to cash in on the artificial anti-RSS atmosphere built by the leftists with the support of a section of the media which, however, on the ground, was quite hollow.

The nationalist claims of the Indian Wahhabis are best exposed by the speech given by the late JUI leader Maulana Hussain Ahmed Madani in the 1945 JUI conference at Delhi which has been very precisely quoted by historian ZH Faruqi in his book The Deoband School and the Demand for Pakistan and also by reformist Muslim writer Hamid Dalwai.

Madani opposed the demand for Pakistan in that conference saying that he didn’t want Islam’s right to convert non-Muslims remain restricted to a small part of undivided India called Pakistan, thus clearly underlining that the Deobandis or Indian Wahhabis pitched for India against Pakistan since they were against territorial nationalism as they thought Islam’s right was to convert the entire world.

This is what Madani said in the 1945 conference: “It is the non-Muslims who are the field of this Tabligh (propagation and conversion) of Islam and form the raw material for this splendid activity. We are opposed to Islam’s right to do missionary activity to a particular area (read Pakistan).”

How Congress and Gandhiji helped strengthen Wahhabism

It is the one-sided secularism of Gandhiji that created room for the Wahhabis to enter the Congress and play their strategic game unhindered after the Mahatma shook hands with the pan-Islamists by supporting the Khilafat movement launched in 1920 by pan-Islamist Muslim leaders, including the Wahhabis for the reinstatement of the Khalifa of Turkey who had been unseated by the British. Once the Wahhabis earned the label of patriots, the patronage from the Congress helped them grow after independence and come up with the famous Qazmi Bill that proved to be a blow to Sufism.

The Bill which came soon after independence had a deep bearing on the growth of Wahhabism as it clubbed the Wahhabis and Sufis together under the label of Sunnis in what was a strategic move by the Wahhabis who controlled the levers of power in the ruling Congress at that time.

The power to appoint members on State Wakf Boards that controlled dargahs was given to the state governments. And since state governments, till only a few decades ago, were mostly of the Congress, a vast majority of the members appointed on the Waqf boards were Wahhabis. So in a unique and unjustifiable situation, the Wahhabis came to control the dargahs in which they didn’t believe, and according to allegations by many Sufis, started taking steps to erode Sufism through the backdoor.

When the Sufis protested against giving the control of dargahs to the non-dargah-believing Wahhabis through the backdoor, their protests fell on deaf years, thanks to the pro-Wahhabi Congress establishment. In some cases, the allegations of the Sufis that the Wahhabis were openly eroding Sufism was borne out by powerful evidence as in the case of the dargah of Dorabshah Baba in Navsari near Surat which would have been completely destroyed by the Wahabis but for the support of the BJP government in Gujarat.

What Wahhabis fear the most under Modi

The Sufis are demanding that since the Wahhabis don’t believe in dargah worship, the current Sunni Wakf Boards should be renamed Sufi Wakf Boards and their charge be exclusively given to the Sufis while floating a new Wakf Board for the Wahhabis in every state. Mohammed Hamid, president of the Sufi tanzeem, IMAN (Indian Muslim Association – Noorie) said: “Why should those who don’t believe in dargah worship control dargahs? It is a very legitimate demand of the Sufis.”

What the Wahhabis are fearing the most now is that the strengthening of the Sufis will embolden them to place this demand before the Central government and a sympathetic government might give in to their demand which has all the logic when it comes to evidence. Plus, the Sufis’ argument that the control of dargahs can’t be allowed to remain with those who don’t believe in dargah worship can stand scrutiny even in the court of law. No wonder then that a possible loss of control of the dargahs would shatter the Wahhabi dream of wiping out Sufism from the entire Indian subcontinent.

How the Wahhabi march slowed down in the Indian subcontinent

When the situation goes out of control it seeks natural channels for remedy. Wahhabism got a unexpected lift when Russia invaded Afghanistan in late-1979 and the then Pakistan president Zia-ul-Haq, a Wahhabi himself, used the opportunity to spread the ideology while seeking American help in the anti-communist drive.

The first stage comprised the training of mujahideens at Wahhabi madrasas in the North West Frontier Province with the help of America to fight the communist occupation of Afghanistan. Little did America know it was creating a Frankenstein. Eventually, the very Wahhabi fighters who were trained with American help started targeting America in an upsurge of ultra-Wahhabism which, in turn, started producing suicide bombers.

That’s how anti-America ultra-Wahhabi movements in the form of Taliban and Al-Qaeda surfaced. In Pakistan, the final upshot of these developments was that the ultra-Wahhabi suicide bombers started targeting Sufi shrines and mosques in the country in a bid to wipe out Sufism.

But what then happened was the most unexpected, and it pointed to how natural remedies are created in a hopeless situation. In what was a ripple reaction to the destruction of Sufi shrines the peace-loving and scattered Sufis, moved by the challenge of survival, started defending and uniting themselves and making their presence felt.

The consolidation of the Sufis slowly but effectively started curbing the conversion of Sufis to Wahhabism. By 2011, the conversion rate of Sufism to Wahhabism had greatly slowed down because of the awakening of Sufi youths to the dangers of Wahhabism both in India and Pakistan.

This was was best demonstrated by the turnout of lakhs of Sufis in the birthday procession of Prophet Muhammed (Wahhabis consider this procession un-Islamic) in both India and Pakistan in 2011. The turnouts were one of the biggest in both countries in many years and indicated an awareness amongst the Sufis about the Wahhabi threat.

Why Modi is the best bet for the Wahhabis

A senior officer in the prime minister’s office (PMO) very bluntly told a delegation of the Sufis recently that describing all Wahhabis as terrorists was unacceptable to the prime minister as he firmly believed that a very small section of Wahhabis had taken to terrorism or sympathised with the terrorists.

He was only reiterating what Modi has indicated in the past: while he would promote Sufism he would also like to take the moderate Wahhabis along who are genuinely against terrorism. Modi’s stand is just and is borne out by evidence. The first clue to the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts was provided to the police by a Wahhabi.

So not surprisingly, Modi is the only political leader in India who understands the dynamics of the Muslim problem and has some vision on how to tackle it. The only correction Modi needs to bring in himself is that he has to be more pronounced in his disapproval when BJP leaders like Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sakshi Maharaj and Giriraj Singh tend to equate and condemn all Muslims by their senseless statements.

Clearly, Modi is the best bet for even the moderate Wahhabis in India.

Sufism set the tone for religious co-existence:Sunday Guardian Live

By RAZIUDDIN AQUIL | 19 March, 2016
The belief that a soul can achieve union with God brought Sufis into conflict with Islamic orthodoxy.

The political use of Sufism is not a new thing. Rulers have always tried to invoke popular religion and spirituality for the legitimation of their power. Conversely, men of religion and spiritual leaders have also tended to intervene in matters of politics and governance.

Historically, in India, interactions between political and spiritual domains have created conditions for general public weal through inclusive political theory and practice, as well as recognition of shared and pluralistic cultural traditions with space for diversity and difference. Sufism has contributed immensely to these processes, marking India’s civilisational achievements with peace and tolerance as defining features. It is important that these virtues of Sufi-oriented Islam are highlighted, especially in these times of hatred and violence.

Sufis or Muslim holy men styled themselves as lovers of God. The early Muslim mystics, who were often charismatic leaders with popular appeal, were eventually organised or institutionalised in silsilas, or orders, branching into quite a few competing strands. To start with, the living Sufi master (referred to as sheikh, khwaja, pir) guided followers or visitors at his dwelling place (khanqah/jama’atkhana), but later the shrines (dargahs) of Sufis of previous generations became important and grew into places of pilgrimage, eventually carving a whole sacred geography of Sufism, called wilayat.

What distinguished Sufism from other forms of Islam was its belief that a human soul could achieve union with God, a belief later formulated in the doctrine of wahdat-ul-wujud (unity of existence, or monism as a reality). This doctrine often brought Sufis into conflict with Islamic orthodoxy (represented by the Sunni Hanafi ulama or theologians). The latter believed that God was unique and therefore to suggest that a human’s soul could achieve union with God was to imply that there was no distinction between God and human beings. It is for this reason that we find that even before Islam came to India, Sufis were persecuted for heresy. Sufis were also targeted by the ulama for their occasional indifference to formal religious practices such as regular congregational prayers (namaz/salat), instead focusing on meditations and spiritual exercises which included music.

Sufis played a significant role in the growth and development of the vernacular literature (Urdu, Hindi, Deccani, etc). Their contribution to the spread of poetry and music is equally notable (mahfil-i sama or qawwali). Sufi orders such as the Chishtis used song and dance techniques of concentration and for creating spiritual ecstasy. The wahdat-ul-wujud and several forms of meditation brought the Sufis spiritually very close to certain strands of non-Muslim religious traditions. For example, Advaita Hinduism claimed that atma (a human soul) and parmatma (God) were one and the same, a theory similar to wahdat-ul-wujud. Similarly, Sufis found much to learn from Hindu spiritual disciplines such as yoga, which influenced their techniques of meditation such as pranayama (breath control).

If Sufis learnt from non-Muslim traditions, the local, Indic, traditions (local, foreign, Indic are sensitive categories which must be used with care), were also powerfully affected by the principles of Islam as represented by the Sufi saints. In the teachings of Kabir and Nanak one can see the clear imprint of Sufi Islam. The criticism of idol worship, of useless ritual, emphasis on equality, emphasis on one God, are all to be traced to Sufism. Its greatest contribution to Indian culture is considered to be the example it set in the field of religious and cultural co-existence. Indian Sufi orders showed that Muslim and non-Muslim religious traditions could prosper side by side and learn from each other.

In conclusion, Sufis dedicated themselves to the love of God, which in turn meant love for all His creations—translating into charitable endeavours, blessings and benediction, and notions of egalitarianism; service to humanity through feeding (langar), healing (jhar-phuk, blowing and touching, charms and amulets), etc., were considered a better form of worship than ritualistic prayers; control of the lower self, nafs, and cultivation of the heart, qalb, through a variety of meditational-cum-bodily practices and withdrawal from this-worldly demands, tark-i duniya, with the same kind of intensity as the madness of Majnun and yet superior to him, for the latter sacrificed his life for a perishable Laila, whereas Sufis devoted themselves for an eternal God. In an ecstatic love for God, Sufis could also sing and dance, not in a vulgar manner, but in the most aesthetically sophisticated forms developed through centuries of practice, teaching all along the virtues of tolerance and peace. When Sufis passed away, celebrated as marriage or union with God, Urs, they left behind memories to be cherished forever. The shared legacy of Sufism coupled with inclusive political practices have shown it is possible to address the aspirations of a variety of people, leading to peaceful co-existence in what is aptly referred to as unity in diversity.

Destitute Dinosaurs: Indian Express

Published: 27th March 2016 Modi with delegates at World Sufi Forum

For any movement or leader to come of age, they have to seize the moral high ground. The Congress was baptised on the moral high ground of non-violence and the freedom struggle. It converted this advantage by turning its soul slogan, secularism, into a parthenon of tolerance and governance. Last week, the party faced its nemesis in the form of the World Sufi Forum. PM Narendra Modi, long portrayed by it as the merchant of death and the incinerator of Muslims, swept the minority championship rug from under their secular feet when he declared Sufism to be Islam’s greatest gift to mankind. On March 17, speaking at Vigyan Bhavan, he addressed a vast forum of global Islamic leaders, “When we think of the 99 names of Allah, none stands for force and violence. At a time when the dark shadows of violence are getting longer, you are the only Noor or light of hope. When young voices are silenced by guns on the streets, yours is the voice that heals.”

In one elegant and expansive stroke, Modi made the Indian Left-over secularists look orphaned of all legacy. All their years of marketing the Gujarat riots as Modi’s opera had gone waste.

Around the same time, when Kashmiri separatists were trying out the Pakistani High Commissioner’s biryani, also present in New Delhi among the 200-odd global Islamic leaders was Dr Tahir-ul-Qadri who has demonstrated many times his power to bring Pakistan to its knees. At the time two Kashmiri student punks were praising Afzal Guru and equating him with secularism, the crowds at Ramlila Maidan were roaring the names of international Sufi leaders from Egypt, Pakistan and Iraq, who ascended the stage one by one to speak out against terror.

Thus, for the first time after the BJP came to power, it acquired the moral high ground of leading a government that stood for protecting moderates, including Muslims, all over the world, leaving a disconsolate opposition trapped in the marsh of its own manipulations. A man they had pilloried as a Right wing fanatic was championing the right of all men to live free from fear. A leader who was castigated for refusing to wear an Islamic cap offered by a mischievous secularist at a public function was wearing his moral credentials like a feather in his cap. What went wrong with Sonia’s plans?

Little had the Congress perceived that the super-Hindu nationalist was already trapping them with his silence towards their hysterics. By refusing to engage them over Ghar Wapsi and intolerance on their own turf, Modi was building his own moral high ground. By advocating the Sufi pacifist cause, he segued the voice of over 14 crore Indian Sunni Muslims with his own, thus granting Moditva a halo of tolerance. A powerful Wahhabi imam howled that Modi was dividing Indian Muslims by supporting Sufis. He missed the point that if Modi was consolidating the peaceful Indian Muslim as a force against terrorism, which is mainly sponsored by Pakistan, it would only win him global accolades as a sane, moderate voice against the greatest evil that haunts mankind. And not like one of the hypocritical weak-kneed European PMs who keep sacrificing their citizens at the altar of accommodation, but as a leader ready to act against the enemy by carrying the sane world with him.

The Congress and other secular desperados need to realise that a war is not won by losing temper and rousing the inner ape. It is won through strategy. Their greatest nightmare is coming true. As their secularism stands exposed, Modi has hijacked their strategy and platform too. What they stand to lose next is their moral high ground.

The parameters of Modi’s Muslim outreach are finally becoming

PM’s address at a Sufi conclave, and his upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia, hint at his evolving views towards Islam.

On March 17, less than a week before the horrific terrorist attacks in Brussels, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the World Sufi Forum in Delhi. There, he eloquently spoke of the “… 99 names of Allah, none [of which] stand for force and violence, and that the first two names denote compassionate and merciful. Allah is Rahman and Raheem.”

Modi added: “Those who spread terror in the name of religion are anti-religious.”

Much has been said about the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board’s maiden attempt at holding an international conference, with a little help from the Modi government. Some Muslim scholars, notably Tauqeer Raza Khan of the Barelvi school, have wondered why Muslims would want to sup with a man “accused of killing 3,000 Muslims in Gujarat”, while Arshad Madani, who heads the allegedly pro-Congress faction of the Jamiat-Ulema-i-Hind, asked if one “section of Muslims is being held close and others being ignored,” by the state.

Several critics have also pointed out the obvious discordance at the heart of Modi’s policy, which is that it is very well for the prime minister to spend time with a few hundred Sufi scholars over an evening, but what was he planning to do about allaying the fear and insecurity of Indian Muslims?

Despite the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri last year, and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria’s recent demands that hate-speech related charges against local Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders be dropped, Modi continues to maintain a stony silence.

Muslim outreach

Nevertheless, the parameters of the prime minister’s Muslim outreach are slowly beginning to emerge from conversations with people who have knowledge about these initiatives.

First of all, Modi’s scheduled visit to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on April 3 on his way home from the nuclear security summit in New York (on the margins of which he will meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif) is a key link in the chain that connects Modi’s evolving views towards Islam, both at home and abroad.

Modi realises that when he breaks bread with the leaders of the House of Saud, which is also the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina, a powerful message will be sent back to Sunni Muslims in India who comprise about 120 million of the country’s 170 million Muslim population. This will significantly burnish his credentials.

At the Sufi conference, Modi not only spoke eloquently about the peaceful message of Sufi Islam (“Sufism became the face of Islam in India, even as it remained deeply rooted in the Holy Quran, and Hadis. Sufism blossomed in India’s openness and pluralism”), but also about the power of moderate Islam in countering the horror of terrorism that has been unleashed in its name.

“At a time when the dark shadow of violence is becoming longer, you are the noor, or the light of hope,” Modi said at the Sufi Forum. “When young laughter is silenced by guns on the streets, you are the voice that heals.”

With the assault in Brussels at the hands of Islamist jihadists still ringing in the world’s ears, Modi definitely hopes to be representing the world’s third-largest Muslim population when he meets the Saudi leadership. Here it is worth noting that Belgium’s 11.2 million population has spawned 451 Belgian jihadists in Syria and Iraq in contrast with 23 jihadists from India.

“India’s 170 million Muslims and the uniqueness of Indian Islam could teach the 29 million Wahhabi Saudis a thing or two,” a government official said on condition of anonymity.

India’s Islamic inheritance

So as Europe grapples with terrorism, several intelligence chiefs have been trooping to Delhi to ask why and how India keeps its own Muslims safe.

“In the Indian sub-continent, Islam expanded not only against the blade of the invader’s sword, but also through roots that Sufi orders, like the Chishtis, put down in this soil,” said the government official. “[It kept] taking from Hinduism and giving back, until it emerged a uniquely syncretic religion that was inherently tolerant because it had to survive in an alien land.”

The Sufi conference, held at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan and at the Ramlila Maidan over four days, was attended by about 150 representatives of the Sufi khanquahs or orders, the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Baghdad and Syria, as well as a few thousand Muslims, who full-throatedly cheered Modi’s denunciation of terror in the name of Islam.

With the weight of this conference behind him, Modi believes his upcoming meetings in Riyadh will serve as a reminder to the world that India, not Saudi Arabia, is the leader of a much larger and much more diverse Islamic inheritance.

Certainly, there is a churning in the heart of Sunni Islam in West Asia as manifested in the Arab Spring revolutions as well as in the growing belief in several kingdoms that non-state actors (read, terrorists) cannot be allowed to hijack Islam’s moderate message. Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nayhan agreed with India during his recent visit to Delhi that “Indian and UAE models act as strong bulwarks against the forces of extremism and radicalism”.

Certainly, too, Modi has come a long way from the time he undertook a Sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad in 2011 when he was Gujarat chief minister. There, he refused to wear a skullcap offered to him by Imam Shahi Saiyed, a Muslim cleric from a small dargah in Pirana village on the outskirts of the city. At the time, he explained away his refusal by saying: “If a skullcap is a symbol of unity, then why is it that Mahatma Gandhi didn’t wear any.” He also told the cleric to offer him a shawl instead, which the cleric did and which Modi accepted.

But since he became prime minister nearly two years ago, the Modi government has supported several religious-cultural initiatives, indicating his faith in the inherent strength and stabilising influence offered by India’s religions. Last year, the Vivekananda Foundation – formerly headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, a close advisor of Modi’s – held a conference on the confluence between Hinduism and Buddhism. Earlier this month, the prime minister spent quality time at Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s World Culture Festival in Delhi. The Sufi conference, said to have been supported by Doval, has been in the works for a while.

As to why the prime minister continues to maintain a stony silence around Hindutva groups targeting Muslims, BJP leaders have little to say. Many say that it is not his style to speak up publicly. Others believe that the successful Sufi conference and the Saudi visit are messages to the majoritarian right wing. “Samajhdar ko ishaara kafi hai (Intelligent people understand signals),” they said, adding: “By interacting with Muslim leaders for over two hours at the Sufi conference, the PM has indicated that he is the leader of all Indians.”

India can be an honest broker in West Asia:Hindustan Times

Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times| Updated: Mar 08, 2016

During a meeting with UAE Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in New Delhi in February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Islamic State (IS) cannot be tackled through military means only. Instead, Modi said, any counter-offensive against the group should be preceded by a sociological and psychological analysis of those who are attracted to the IS’ ideology. The Crown Prince agreed to the PM’s proposal and added that the UAE was opposed to extremism since al-Qaeda days and it had also sent troops to Afghanistan to fight Osama bin Laden.

Aware of Modi’s plan to travel to Saudi Arabia on April 3, the Crown Prince conveyed the willingness of the Gulf countries to join hands with India against terrorism. While the UAE is a frontline State in the battle against the IS, India is starting to feel the impact of this radical ideology with a section of Sunni Muslim youth eager to join the IS’ Caliphate.

India’s security agencies have identified 28 youth fighting for the IS in Iraq and Syria, out of which six may have been killed. Recently, 22 people were arrested for acting on behalf of the IS in India, taking the total number of radicalised youth beyond 100. India is finding it hard to counter this spurt in radicalisation because its intelligence agencies are understaffed at the field level.

It is in this backdrop that the Modi government is promoting a four-day World Sufi Forum (WSF) from March 17 to 20. The meet will be attended by more than 200 international delegates from Pakistan, the United States, Britain, Canada, Egypt and Turkey, and over 100 papers will be presented. The event, which is being organised by the All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, will showcase India’s Islamic heritage that rejects violence and supports inclusivity.

Led by Sufi scholars such as Canada-based and Pakistan-born Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, the WSF will spread the spiritual and universal message of Islam. Sufism could be a strong counter to the IS troopers as it never pursues political power or tries to change social structures.

Instead, Sufism stands for multiplicity, tolerance, acceptance and love.

Musicians such as Nizami brothers will highlight the cultural aspect of Islam and spread the message of inclusiveness through qawalis.

This counter-narrative will not end with the WSF: Later this year, scholars from Deoband are organising a conference to expose the IS.

Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia — on his way back from the nuclear security conference in Washington — should be seen in context of the country joining hands with the West Asian powers to prevent radicalisation of youth and eradicate extremism.

With seven million Indians in West Asia (two million in Saudi Arabia), Modi must ensure that the Indian convergence is linked only to terrorism and not to any sect or a country.

Although Chinese President Xi Jinping did the balancing act when he visited Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran in one year, Modi does not need to do so as India’s relation with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Israel are independent of each other and transparent.

While trying to prevent radicalisation within India, Modi needs to reach out to both Saudi Arabia and the UAE to ensure that the two Sunni-dominated states do not become gateways for Indian youth to join the IS. This convergence has started to bear fruit with friendly West Asian countries keeping an eye on Indian youth. These countries have state-of-the-art cyber interception technologies and they have often acted as warning systems against threats emanating from the IS or other terrorist groups against India.

The cooperation with Saudi Arabia would also restrict the movement of Pakistan-based jihadi groups, which have acted as a strategic arm of the State in targeting India with hardly any ideological baggage.

Even though Saudi Arabia heads the 24-nation coalition to counter extremism, it needs India’s support to ensure that the campaign to counter the IS is not limited to any particular faith or ideology.

With the security of its seven million citizens as its priority, India can act as an honest broker since it has time-tested links with all major powers in West Asia on counter-terrorism.

India’s Islamic traditions can remind the world that the fundamental principles of the faith can be expressed in different ways without any dilution of the core religion. This character is evident not only in India but also in Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics.

This broad-based front to contain, restrict and then eradicate the IS cult is the need of the hour as it has the potential to take advantage of the existing geographical-political vacuum in West Asia and can also redefine existing relationships among nation states and non-State players.

The Modi government is rightfully concerned about youth radicalisation and understands the larger threat that emanates from a certain section of the Indian Muslim clergy and pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatists since radical thoughts transcend geographical boundaries.

Modi is correct in saying that the IS cannot be tackled only through military offensives. Its rabid ideology must be challenged by a counter-narrative that is inclusive, and India must lead that movement by example.

श्री श्री के उत्सव के बाद नरेंद्र मोदी अब ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ की भी शान बनेंगे: ABP News

मुकेश कुमार सिंह, वरिष्ठ पत्रकार | Last Updated: Sunday, 13 March 2016

श्री श्री रविशंकर के ‘विश्व सांस्कृतिक उत्सव’ के बाद दिल्ली में उदारवादी मुसलमानों का भी एक बड़ा जलसा ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ होने वाला है. प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी 17 मार्च को दिल्ली के विज्ञान भवन में इसका शुभारम्भ करेंगे. ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ में इस्लामिक आतंकवाद के बढ़ते ख़तरों से निपटने की दीर्घकालीन और बहुआयामी रणनीति पर चर्चा की जाएगी. दिल्ली में पहली बार हो रहे चार दिन के इस आयोजन में भी क़रीब 200 विदेशी प्रतिनिधियों के शामिल होने का अनुमान है. 20 देशों से आने वाले ये मेहमान सूफ़ीवादी इस्लाम के जाने-माने विद्वान हैं. ‘ऑल इंडिया उलेमा एंड मशाइख़ बोर्ड’ (AIUMB) के बैनर तले होने वाले इस आयोजन का समापन 20 मार्च को दिल्ली के रामलीला मैदान में विशाल रैली करके होगा. रैली में एक लाख लोगों के शामिल होने का दावा है.

वहाबी, जहां इस्लाम का सबसे कट्टरवादी स्वरूप है. वहीं, सूफ़ीवाद, इस्लाम का सबसे उदारवादी चेहरा है. भारत में सदियों से सूफ़ीवाद की जड़ें बहुत गहरी रही हैं. अज़मेर के ग़रीब नवाज़ ख़्वाज़ा मोईनुद्दीन चिश्ती, दिल्ली के हज़रत निज़ामुद्दीन औलिया, आगरा में फ़तेहपुर सीकरी के सलीम चिश्ती, मुम्बई के सैय्यद हाज़ी अली शाह बुख़ारी जैसी हस्तियां उन सैकड़ों इस्लामी सन्तों में शामिल रही हैं जिन्होंने सूफ़ीवाद को इस्लाम का असली रूप माना. इसमें आपसी भाईचारे और प्यार-मोहब्बत के पैग़ाम को ही असली इस्लामिक व्यवहार बताया गया है. लेकिन हाल के दशकों में जिस तरह में सऊदी अरब, सीरिया और इराक़ जैसे देशों में पनाह पाने वाले वहाबी कट्टरवाद का प्रभाव बढ़ा है उसने उदारवादियों को बहुत बेचैन कर रखा है.


दुनिया भर से ये आवाज़ें उठती रही हैं कि उदारवादी मुसलमानों को आगे आकर ग़ुमराह लोगों को सही राह दिखानी चाहिए. इसीलिए अब सुन्नी सूफ़ीवाद में यक़ीन रखने वाले इस्लामी विद्वान ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ के तहत एकजुटता दिखाएंगे. तय हुआ कि सूफ़ीवाद के सन्देश को नयी ऊर्जा देने के लिए भारत को चुना जाए. इंडोनेशिया के बाद भारत में ही दुनिया के सबसे ज़्यादा मुसलमान रहते हैं. सदियों से भारतीय मुसलमान यहां की विविधतापूर्ण विरासत का हिस्सा रहे हैं. कट्टरवाद के सिर उठाने का सबसे ख़राब असर इन्हीं उदारवादियों पर पड़ा. लिहाज़ा, सूफ़ी तीर्थस्थलों और मुसलिम धर्मगुरुओं, उलेमाओं, इमामों और मुफ़्तियों का शीर्ष संगठन AIUMB ने तय किया कि वो दुनिया भर में असली इस्लामिक सन्देश से भटके हुए लोगों को रास्ते पर लाने के लिए अपनी मुहिम तेज़ करेगी.

इन्हीं इरादों के साथ अगस्त में प्रधानमंत्री निवास पर नरेन्द्र मोदी से AIUMB के प्रतिनिधिमंडल ने मुलाक़ात की. इनकी अगुवाई AIUMB के अध्यक्ष हज़रत सैय्यद मोहम्मद अशरफ़ ने की. तब प्रधानमंत्री मोदी ने इन लोगों से सवाल किया था कि क्या वजह है कि मुट्ठी भर कट्टरवादियों के आगे उन करोड़ों उदारवादी सूफ़ी मुसलमानों की आवाज़ दब रही है जो सदियों से अमन और भाईचारे का पैग़ाम देते आये हैं. तभी मोदी ने AIUMB को इस्लामिक आतंकवाद के ख़िलाफ़ उदार मुसलमानों को आगे लाकर दिल्ली में विशाल जलसा करने और दीर्घकालिक रणनीति बनाने का मशविरा दिया था. मोदी ने तभी ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ में ख़ुद हाज़िर होने और विदेशी प्रतिनिधियों को वीज़ा वग़ैरह में सरकार का पूरे सहयोग देने का भरोसा दिया था.


चार दिवसीय ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ के शुभारम्भ के लिए विज्ञान भवन को इसलिए चुना गया क्योंकि वो वैश्विक आयोजनों के लिए देश का शीर्षस्थ स्थान है. वही दिल्ली का सबसे बड़ा सम्मेलन स्थल है और वहां के सुरक्षा इंतज़ाम सबसे उम्दा हैं. लेकिन 18 और 19 मार्च को तमाम सूफ़ी विद्वानों की परिचर्चा दिल्ली में लोदी रोड स्थित इंडिया इस्लामिक सेंटर में होगी. वहां देश भर से आये मदरसों के विद्वान, दरग़ाहों के ख़ानक़ाह वग़ैरह अपने रिसर्च पेपर्स पेश करेंगे. इनके संकलन से हज़ार पन्नों की एक क़िताब तैयार की जाएगी. इसमें इन बातों को विस्तार से बताया जाएगा कि कैसे कट्टरवादी लोग अपने निहित स्वार्थ के लिए क़ुरआन की भ्रष्ट व्याख्या करके मुसलमानों को बहका रहे हैं.

इस्लामिक झंडे तले जिस ढंग से दाइश और आईएसआईएस का प्रचार किया जा रहा है, वो पूरी तरह से इस्लाम के उसूलों के ख़िलाफ़ है. ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ का मक़सद उन लोगों और संगठनों के दुष्प्रचार को बेनक़ाब करना भी है जो विदेशी पैसों की बदौलत भारत समेत दुनिया के तमाम देशों में नफ़रत और असहिष्णुता फैला रहे हैं. ऐसी हरक़तें पूरी तरह से मानवाधिकारों के भी ख़िलाफ़ हैं. इससे सारी दुनिया में इस्लाम की छवि को गहरा धक्का लग रहा है. इसीलिए ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ के आयोजक चाहते थे कि उनके वैश्विक आयोजन में प्रधानमंत्री नरेन्द्र मोदी के शामिल होने से सारी दुनिया में क़ायम भारत की उदार छवि और मज़बूत होगी.

20 मार्च को दिल्ली के रामलीला मैदान में होने वाली रैली को मुख्य रूप से पाकिस्तान से निष्कासित सूफ़ी विद्वान डॉ ताहिरुल क़ादरी, शेख़ हाशिमुद्दीन अल-गिलानी (बग़दाद), शेख़ अफ़ीफ़ुद्दीन अल-जिलानी (इराक), स्टेफ़न सुलेमान स्वार्ज़ (अमेरिका), शेख़ मोहम्मद बिन याहया अल-निनोवी (अमेरिका) जैसे लोग सम्बोधित करेंगे. उम्मीद है कि ‘विश्व सूफ़ी फ़ोरम’ इस्लामिक दुनिया पर गहराये कट्टरवाद के काले बादलों को हटाने की दिशा में एक यादगार शुरुआत बन पाएगा.

Sufism can fight ISIS, spread true message of Islam:Dailyo

15-03-2016LOGO (2)

Hazrat Syed Ashraf

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer Sharif established the Chishti Sufi order in the subcontinent and famously said, “Develop river like generosity, sun like bounty and earth like hospitality”. He defined Sufism as a path to maintaining moral excellence which one must be observed towards all creatures in the interest of peace and well being of mankind. This is the message that continues to motivate Indian Sufi communities.

Islam in India spread through the Sufi message of brotherhood, equality and peace. Contrary to popular perceptions, the majority of Indian Muslims are followers of Sufi traditions. These are the silent majority of peace-loving Muslims.

In the early 14th century, during the life of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, the great Chishti Sufi Master, Delhi became one of the most important centres of Islamic learning in the world. Radical ideologies have historically been unknown on Indian soil where the Islamic discourse was shaped by the khanqahs (hospices) of the Sufis, that dominated the Indian landscape from Kashmir to southern India.

Unfortunately, much has changed in the last few decades, with Islamic theology being distorted to spread extreme radical ideologies through various networks. The reason for hosting the World Sufi Forum (WSF) has risen from the urgent need to counter these radical ideologies. It is the first time that traditional Sufis from various dargahs in India are coming together with national and international Sufis and scholars of Sufism.

Radical outfits such as the ISIS can be defeated not just militarily, but by countering this diseased ideology through counter narratives of Sufism, which contains the essence of classical Islamic teachings.

Terrorism has devastated many countries including Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. India continues to be a victim of terror attacks and there is genuine fear of Indian youth being misled into becoming part of international terror networks. The internet is being used to lure innocent young people into radicalisation by poisoning their minds with hatred of the other.

Sufism with its message of universal love has the capacity to change minds and hearts. The history of Sufism in India, and the continuing traditions have something to offer the world. People of all faiths, creed, class and backgrounds visit dargahs. This represents Sufism’s true universal message of brotherhood. Traditions at dargahs in India tell the story of the country’s composite culture, where many of the customs are indigenous and local in nature.

The WSF is an initiative in presenting the Indian model of Islamic pluralism to the world. It is an effort to bring about awareness of the true peaceful message of Islam that allows for diversity in devotional expressions. The WSF is hosting over 200 Sufis and Sufi scholars, that will be discuss issues facing Muslim communities, with a special focus on how we can together steer away our young people from becoming victims of terrorist propaganda and recruitment.

All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board, (AIUMB), the organisers of the WSF, have for many years been engaged in addressing various problems facing Indian Muslims. We are committed to establishing quality educational institutions and easy access to welfare schemes for the minorities by the government. The AIUMB aims to ensure proper representation of Sufi organisations in government bodies like the Waqf Board etc that have been formed to look after the interests of Indian Muslim communities.

Unfortunately, before the formation of the AIUMB, there has been no umbrella body that includes caretakers and custodians of the dargahs to safeguard the interests of the majority of Indian Muslims, who are devotees of Sufis. On the contrary, bodies that usually claim to speak for Indian Muslims and more known for issuing fatwas with an alarming frequency, actually represent a minority of Indian Muslims.

One has to just visit the famous dargahs like that of Khwaja Gharib Nawaz, or other known dargahs in any part of India to realise to which school of thought the majority of Indian Muslims believe in. We are hopeful that we succeed in our endeavours to bring about positive changes and discover new ways of contributing to nation building.

Prime Minister Modi Hoists the Banner of Sufism for All The World: The Huffington Post

Mar 22, 20165594a19c1d00001f003d0e49

March 17-20 several hundred Sufi shaikhs and scholars gathered in Delhi for the first Sufi World Forum. Syed Salman Chishti, one of the key organizers of the event, said to me, “Sufis have been gathering in small communities all over India and Pakistan, all over Africa and the Middle East, without knowing much about each other and without uniting their efforts. I want these people to meet and realize that this is a worldwide movement, that our voices need to be heard today when a counter movement is gaining in strength. One hundred years ago most of India was Sufi.”

I had just finished giving a plenary talk when a young woman came to me and said, “Please, can I have just five minutes with you. It is urgent and I am desperate. I have traveled all the way from Kashmir to meet someone from Rumi’s tradition.”

“I am a university student and I want to be a writer, but I have no one to talk to at home. The situation is very bad. The Salafis have increased in the last five years, especially. They are everywhere. Even many of my friends have been convinced by their propaganda.” This was just one of many encounters that made me more aware of the spread of militant pseudo-Islam in certain parts of the world, especially among the young and impressionable who feel that a war is being waged against Islam. Most Americans are unaware that before 9/11 the extreme political parties of Islamism were being marginalized throughout the Muslim world. The knee-jerk, or some might say engineered, “War on Terror” changed all that and has given extremists an excuse to propagate hatred and violence.

I was still in the glow of the previous night’s address by Prime Minister Modi. Yes, glowing from what would in the end be one of the best talks at this event, delivered by a man that I had little sympathy for previously. In fact I had the impression that Narendra Modi was a Hindu fundamentalist who had presided over massacres of Muslims in Gujarat and who was selling India out to global corporations while traditional, sustainable lifestyles were being decimated by GMO agriculture, privatization of water, and so on. I’m not an expert on these matters, but that was my impression.
The talk that the Prime Minister gave would have been worthy of the most articulate Sufi shaikh both in its criticism of religious fundamentalism and in its spiritual depth. At the very least, he had found a superb speechwriter (I would eventually meet the young man who crafted some of these words) and to his credit it was a message of global significance. It remains to be seen how this talk will be walked.

The following are some selected passages from his address to the Forum: “You represent the rich diversity of the Islamic civilization that stands on the solid bedrock of a great religion. It is a civilization that reached great heights by the 15th century in science, medicine, literature, art, architecture and commerce. It drew on the immense talents of its people and also Islam’s engagement with diverse civilizations—ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Africa; the Persian, Central Asian and Caucasian lands; the region of East Asia; and, with Buddhism and Indian philosophy and science. As it enriched itself, it also enriched the world. It set, once again, an enduring lesson of human history: it is through openness and inquiry, engagement and accommodation, and respect for diversity that humanity advances, nations progress and the world prospers.

“And, this is the message of Sufism, one of the greatest contributions of Islam to this world. From its origins in Egypt and West Asia, Sufism traveled to distant lands, holding aloft the banner of faith and the flag of human values, learning from spiritual thoughts of other civilizations, and attracting people with the life and message of its saints.

“Sufism reflected the universal human desire to go beyond the practice and precepts of religion for a deeper unity with the Almighty. And, in that spiritual and mystical enquiry, Sufis experienced the universal message of the Almighty: That perfection in human life is reflected in the qualities that are dear to God. That all are creations of God; and, that if we love God, we must also love all his creations. For the Sufis, therefore, service to God meant service to humanity.

“Just as it once came to India, today Sufism from India has spread across the world. But, this tradition that evolved in India belongs to the whole of South Asia. That is why I urge others in the region to nurture and revive this glorious heritage of ours. When the spiritual love of Sufism, not the violent force of terrorism, flows across the border, this region will be the paradise on earth that Amir Khusrau spoke about.

“This is an extraordinary event of great importance to the world, at a critical time for humanity. At a time when the dark shadow of violence is becoming longer, you are the noor, or the light of hope. When young laughter is silenced by guns on the streets, you are the voice that heals.
“Terrorism divides and destroys us. Indeed, when terrorism and extremism have become the most destructive force of our times, the message of Sufism has global relevance.”

These days if a few extremists enact some atrocity, we will hear about it. The strategy of terror is to create the maximum horror through random, isolated acts. But if two million loving souls gather annually in Tuva, Senegal, you very likely have never heard of it. Nor are we aware of the millions of souls who annually flow through the shrines of the great Sufi saints, at Rumi’s dergah in Konya, at the tombs of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer Sharif, or that of Nizamuddin Awlia in Delhi, experiencing an energy of solace, peace, and love.

As Rumi said, “Come, and keep on coming, even if you have broken your vows, come yet again; our is not a caravan of despair.” Or in the words of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, “The Almighty holds dear those who love Him for the sake of human beings, and those who love human beings for the sake of the Almighty.” Or in the words of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, “Of all the worships, the worship that pleases the Almighty God the most is the grant of relief to the humble and the oppressed.”

In all the different lands where Sufis of different cultures quietly pursue their work of spiritual realization and service to humanity—Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, Pakistan, India, the Arab world, Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America—Sufis are becoming more aware of each other and realizing the urgent need to transform the ideologies of hatred and violence with the spirit of love.

The four-day World Sufi Forum, inaugurated by the Prime Minister and attended by delegates from 22 countries, concluded with the declaration of the 25-point agenda by the All India Ulema and Mashaikh Board before an outdoor gathering of an estimated quarter million people.

At World Sufi Forum, Leaders Call For Peace, Condemn Violence:NDTV

Written by Snigdha Basu | Updated: March 21, 2016

 At World Sufi Forum, Leaders Call For Peace, Condemn Violence
 Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri said Pakistan and India have a common enemy – terrorism.
NEW DELHI:  Four-day World Sufi Forum in Delhi which witnessed gathering of prominent Sufi leaders from across the world made a unanimous call for peace and compassion. At the meet, Sufi leaders from Canada, US, UK, South Africa and Pakistan condemned terrorism and violence.

Over the last four days, Sufi scholars, intellectuals and academicians have discussed ways to spread the message of peace as advocated by Islam.

On its concluding day at Delhi’s Ramlila Ground, the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board (AIUMB) urged the government to promote Sufi literature, music and culture countrywide. Speaking to NDTV, AIUMB President Syed Mohamed Ashraf said, ”We request Sufi centres to be built in Delhi and in all state capitals. This will help people learn and practice Sufism.”

The AIUMB also released a charter of demands seeking national integrity. In its 25-point agenda, the Sufi outfit demanded that teachings of Sufism be introduced at all levels of modern and religious education across schools and universities.

Addressing the forum, Pakistani-Canadian cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri said, ‘Pakistan and India are not enemies, they have a common enemy-terrorism’.

The Sufi leaders condemned terror groups like Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS and appealed to the people to shun extremist organisations that misinterpret the Quran.

At the conference, a special focus was laid on women rights in Islam. Women leaders, artists and writers also participated on a talk on Islam and the role of women as peacemakers.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended the inaugural ceremony of the four-day meet at Vigyan Bhawan. Denouncing terrorism, the Prime Minister had said Allah has 99 names and none of them stands for violence.