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`Seek God in yourself and others`

By Peerzada Salman 2018-04-14
KARACHI: It was disconcerting to see not many people paying due attention to some thought-provol(ing research papers read on the inaugural day of the two-day 4th international Sufi conference organised by the culture department of the govern-ment of Sindh at a local hotel on Friday. Also, no efforts were made on the part of the organisers to stop the buzz generated by constant chatting of some people at the entrance of the hall where the moot was taking place.

The first post-lunch session of the day was on `Sufi, peace building and globalisation`, and the first paper was read by Prof Dr Hugh van Slcyhawk of Germany, who focused on the topic `Dying before death on the path of tassawuf`. He said Sufis roamed far and wide in the world as religious mendicants, living among diversepeople, and as the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) was known to have treated members of other religious communities kindly and generously, they too in emulation of the Holy Prophet`s (PBUH) conduct, treated others kindly and generously.

Dr Skyhawk said Mansur Hallaj came to Sindh 17 years before his martyrdom in Baghdad and brought with him one of the everlasting statements of Sufism: `Only suffering and death can bring man closer to Allah...` Three centuries later a verse in Farsi by Uthman Marwandi (Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar) reflected the deep impression made by widespread popular accounts of Hallaj dancing onto the gallows: I`m Uthman Marwandi, the friend of Master Mansur People blame me, and I dance upon the gallows Dr Skyhawk said to exemplify the paradox of the necessity of suffering and death of Allah`s selected ones, Shah Abdul Latif chose the martyrdom of Husain ibn Ali and his loyal companions at Karbala. Of equal importance to verses of poetry in the formation of the Sufi culture of Sindh was the conduct of the Sufis who embodied the doctrine of dying before death and taught it to others through their heroic deeds. `They not only talked the talk they also walked the walk.

The second presentationofthe session was made by Dr Shahzad Qaiser. His subject was `Khawaja Ghulam Farid`s metaphysical principle of unity in diversity and its Sufistic role in the era of globalisation`. He said Farid believed that you should seek God within yourself as well as in others. If you fail to find God in the other, you have not found God in totality.

Four terms intellect, revelation, spirit and heart have created confusion in Western and Eastern worlds. From a metaphysical point of view all these terms are identical. If there is no love you can neither find yourself nor God. Quoting different verses by Iqbal and Farid he said if God is absent from our religiosity then it`s absent in our behaviour.

The next two presentations for the session were given by Dr Zulfiqar Ali Kalhoro (on `Mianwal tarigas of the Kalhoras: rituals and practices`) and Prof Kamila Junik (on `Amir Khusrau and the Sufi legacy in the 21st century`).

The second post-lunch session under the rubric `Transculturalism and Plurality` began with a brilliant research paper read by a PhD candidate in China named Bokhtar Bakozoda. The title of his thesiswas `Behind the veil of language: from philosophy of language towards Rumi`s mystical poetry`. He said reading Rumi`s work suggested all philosophical schools are not completely false but have bits of truth in them. The four major philosophies of language are: Structuralism the meaning of a word comes from the words that surround it Post-structuralism meaning comes from the use of language in a specific social context Pragmatism saying is action Hermeneutics there`s no escape from brackets of culture Bakozoda said Rumi`s poetry contained elements of all of these philosophical theories. For him, poetry is language. The poet draws a parallel between word and meaning as the connection between body and soul.

Citing a story The Tree of Life from the poet`s famous masnavi he inferred that for Rumi, all his poems originated from the same source.

The next presentation was given by Russia`s Lena Fedorova on `The idea of johar and zikr jahri`. It was about an age-old tradition of a circular dance in the Sakha (Yakut) region and its similarities to Sufi culture.