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  Books   15 Feb 2017  The soul of Sufism

The soul of Sufism

THE ASIAN AGE. | GEETHA JAYARAMAN
Published : Feb 15, 2017, 12:13 am IST
Updated : Feb 15, 2017, 6:31 am IST

Pakistani author Reema Abbasi spreads the message of unity and love by Khwaja Moeenuddin Chishti in her latest book.

Pakistani author Reema Abbasi
 Pakistani author Reema Abbasi

At a time when the world is looking at Islam and Muslim regions with a wary, concerned and suspicious eye, Pakistani journalist-turned-writer Reema Abbasi feels the message of Sufism — unity, love, diversity and pluralism — has become the need of the hour. In her new book titled Ajmer Sharif: Awakening of Sufism in South Asia, she talks about the teachings of Khwaja Moeenuddin Chishti and his silsila.

Reema says, “The inspiration to write this book was to give a message different from the existing perceptions about dargahs under Islam. At times like the present, when terror is sweeping the world, messages by Sufi saints like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti hold much relevance.”

The award-winning journalist who has worked with The News International, The Herald Magazine and the Dawn newspaper, travelled to India extensively for this book and discovered things that reflected the Sufi saint’s teachings. She shares, “Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, also known as Gharib Nawaz (benefactor of the poor), was a people’s person. His teachings counter the whole hardliner Islamist acts, those kind of fundamentalist elements and the very severe message that is going out to the world. I think Sufism gives a very beautiful and all encompassing message, which is generally not perceived of Islam. For instance, Chishti made his daughter a ‘caliph’ rather than one of the sons, setting an example for others to treat girls and women respectably.”

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Her well-researched work traces the spiritual journey and mystical influence of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, describing his life and times, the Mughal emperors who were his devotees, and his enduring legacy.

Reema, recipient of the 2003 Gender in Journalism Award from Unesco and the 2014 Rajiv Gandhi Award for Literary Personality of the Year, believes that terrorism in Pakistan and elsewhere has a lot to do with poverty. She explains, “Poor people become easy targets of religious fundamentalists across the world. Even madrasas (religious schools) are exploiting the poor. Parents are often given money to send their children to madrasas, where they are indoctrinated.”

With this book, she aims to spark a discourse that dispels intolerance towards any faith and shuns the concept of religious power. “There is a lot to learn from his life and his teachings. Madrasas want to dominate Sufism but I am sure that with the fighting spirit that Pakistan has, we will reclaim Sufism,” avers Reema.

The author who has previously written Historic Temples in Pakistan: A Call to Conscience plans to write fiction in the future. “I have worked on numerous non-fiction books, it’s time to challenge myself and weave a magical tale,” Reema signs off with a smile.

Tags: sufism, reema abbasi, khwaja moinuddin chishti