In fact, the soul of Islam has been protected by mystics like Ibn Arabi, who harboured the inclusivist and pluralistic spirit of Sufism.
Ibn Arabi, Spain’s brightest Muslim mystic also known as “Shaikh-e-Akbar” (the greatest Sufi master) wrote in his sacred book in Arabic Tarjuman al-ashwaq (Translation of Desires):
“My heart is capable of every form; it is a pasture for gazelles and a convent for monks, a temple for idols and the Ka’ba for pilgrims, and the tables of the Torah and the Quran. I follow the religion of love wherever its caravans are heading. Love is my religion, and love is my law.”
In fact, the soul of Islam has been protected by mystics like Ibn Arabi, who harboured the inclusivist and pluralistic spirit of Sufism. They professed and practised Islam as the religion of unconditional love (muhabbat-e-a’am). Both their deen (faith) and shariat (law) were translated into an inclusive love. Therefore, the extremist forces within Islam frowned upon their shrines and spiritual traditions, as they challenged their exclusivist philosophies. Recently, we witnessed the terror atrocity against the Sufi shrines like that of Sindh’s beloved saint, Hazrat Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sehwan. Popularly known as “Jhulelal”, Shahbaz Qalandar was a 13th-century Islamic mystic and poet who built the Sufi tradition of Sindh. He was also an ardent follower of Ibn Arabi’s path of unconditional love for eternal salvation. But religious extremists today are striking against the entire spiritual legacy of Qalandar in the region. It reminds us of the various similar tragedies in the history that give us a deeper insight into the dilemma.
Another Muslim mystic of the subcontinent, Hazrat Bulleh Shah, a Punjabi Sufi also suffered similar torment, all his life, from the fanatic clerics. Regrettably enough, he was persecuted even when he took his last breath. The fanatic clergy did not allow burying the dead body of Bulleh Shah in the Muslim graveyard. Three days passed after his death, but his remains were not buried. Finally, they had to be taken outside city limits for burial.
The reason why Bulleh Shah had to go through this painful suffering is crystal clear. He defied the religious narrative of fanaticism and hatred towards other faiths and, in the process, ran into trouble with the extremist clergy of his time. Furthermore, this Punjabi Sufi professed and offered the namaz-e-ishq (prayer for love), which is also castigated as deviance in the puritan Islam. In fact, the musically inclined experiences of Islam went beyond the head of the literalist Islamist clergy who sentenced Sufis to death with the charges (fatwas) declaring their writings and utterances as antithetical to Islamic shariah. On account of their non-conformist views like the notion of Wahdatul Wajud (unity of existence), these Sufis were declared apostates (murtad). They were punished and persecuted for being falsely accused of “deviation” (inhiraf) from the Shariat (Islamic laws).
But in reality, Sufis’ mystic traditions have been very helpful in our daily life, specially in overcoming the rigid, desiccated and monolithic religious narratives that have seeped into our society. At a time when human life is bartered for petty polemics of religion motivated by political gains, the essentially universal, non-conformist and inherently mystical outlook can only rescue us from this crisis dressed in religion.