Sufis are usually defined as peaceful, tolerant and moderate. Which is why it is not a coincidence to find that the Sufi leaders are working hard to promote love and peace worldwide. Their quest for well-being is not only related to the pain and suffering of 'the individual body', but it is also related to 'the social body' of family and kinship relations. It outlines a new kind of transnational engagement to reshape identities and connections.
The universal message of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273), the 13th century Persian Sufi mystic, stressed harmony as a hopeful alternative to the ignorance and lack of spirituality in modern times. Rumi envisioned a universal faith, embodying all religions, because he understood that the cause of every religious conflict is ignorance. Religiosity consists in something other than outward religions. Real belief is apparent only on the inside of a person, which is not visible. Therefore, through Rumi, the religion of love involves loving the eternal and invisible source of existence.
Syed Ahmedul Huq (1918-2011), an ardent follower of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, for which he was decorated with the title "Banglar Rumi", a researcher and a Sufi himself, became very much concerned with the world around him facing humanitarian and economic crisis, erosion of value systems, and lack of creative communication between groups, communities and individuals.
Therefore, he was genuinely motivated by the urge to promote inter-faith dialogue and transnational goodwill which, is resonated in his creative ventures relating to the world of Muslim mystics, particularly when he escorts the active and imaginative readers through improvised literary productions of the illustrious Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi.
The study and research of Sufi tradition by Syed Ahmedul Huq, himself a student of English language and literature, was instrumental in molding the imagery, symbolism, metaphors, tropes, and indeed the worldview, that informs all but the earliest Persian poetry. This poetry expresses the precedence of mercy in a pluralistic vision, by pointing to an expression of love, and it does this by the magic of beautiful language, enticing imagery and intoxicating rhythm.
Therefore, in this tradition, love alone is able to bring together all contradictory and varied qualities and to reinstate them in God's unity, which is the first principle of Islamic faith. Love is understood as the unifying divine power that is the unique prerogative of human beings, who alone were created in the full image of God.
When God's Spirit is at work in a person, amazing things happen. The person's whole life blossoms and bears beautiful fruit. And the most wonderful fruit of all is the giving and receiving of true love. People long to love and be loved. God wants us to really feel love for Him and for other people. Many people go through life receiving very little human love. However, God's plan is for every person to eventually experience love. His life flowing to him and through him so fully that each can honestly say, 'My cup runneth over with love'.
The Banglar Rumi, motivated by the connotation of comparative theology in the embryonic form of nation building process, which involved intercommunity goodwill, did not remain alone in the study of Sufism, rather he was encouraged to form an institution known as Allama Rumi Society in 1992, to keep the study ongoing.
Now, here and there, we are living in a different world of sectarianism in the form of prejudice, discrimination, or hatred, arising from attaching relations of inferiority and superiority to differences between and subdivisions within a group due to denominations of a religion, ethnicity, identity, class or region, for citizens of a state and factions of a political movement. The ideological underpinnings of attitudes and behaviours, labelled as sectarian, are extraordinarily varied.
Members of a religious, national or political group may believe that their own salvation, or the success of their particular objectives, requires aggressively seeking converts from other groups; adherents of a given faction may believe that for the achievement of their own political or religious project their internal opponents must be converted or purged. Sometimes a group that is under economic or political pressure will kill or attack members of another group which it regards as responsible for its own decline.
It may also more rigidly define the definition of orthodox belief within its particular group or organisation, and expel or excommunicate those who do not support this new found clarified definition of political or religious orthodoxy. The cause is only against the ones who wrong the people and tyrannise. The Sufis frequently quote from the Quran that Allah does not like the wrong doers and 'indeed for the wrong doers is a painful punishment'.
Finally, within the Islamic mystical tradition of Sufism lies an important perspective for approaching human rights. Sufism, while is usually perceived as only dealing with spiritual matters, actually expresses a distinct message of service to mankind, and thus should be examined within the discussion of Islam and human rights. Along with Sufism's emphasis on service, the Sufi message of unity with God, and specifically the message of recognising the existence of God in all creatures resonate soundly within the human rights discourse.
With these points in mind, Sufi philosophy heightens the importance of human rights, while also allowing for self-construction regarding issues of human rights, and should be considered as another approach within the Islamic framework that is highly compatible with international human rights. There lies the brilliance of Syed Ahmedul Huq, the Banglar Rumi, as champion of interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Mazid is a former secretary and chairman of NBR
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.