Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sufism & Secularism

Sufism belongs in spirit to the modern age. It has an affinity with it; it is in tune with secularism, with the modern thirst for objective knowledge

The founders of the Sufi tradition came from mixed urban populations, and their ideals of tolerance were born out of a daily interaction with people of other faiths. They created heterogeneous multicultural traditions and absorbed influences from mnay sources and cultures thus inviting the accusations from puritanical Isalm about Sufism's being a heresy.

Sufism is not a heresy but its an immensely adaptive and universal creed.Sufis were far ahead of their time as they accepted any faith into their fold.
The tolerance that Sufis advocated for on a spiritual level has been accomplished by many Western societies based on a practical need.The Sufis’ interfaith exchange could be resurrected to encourage interfaith harmony.


Sufi mystics lived in multicultural societies, where some of their followers were Sikh, Hindu or Muslim. Bulleh Shah famously stated “

Somewhere he is called Ramdas and elsewhere Fateh Muhammad
This dispute is from the eternity
Once the quarrel between them was settled
Something else came out of it.”
Bulleh Shah breaks down the divisions between Hinduism and Islam to claim that all holy men belonged to the human order and should thus be embraced by all humans equally. Sufis belonging to the Chistia School held such a tolerant and inclusive view, that some of their writings were included in the most holy of books for Sikhs.

Sufi Separation of Mosque and State:

Sufis encourage disciples to separate their politics from their spirituality in order to maintain purity of both. Sufism decrees that the Mosque and State must be separated, but not in order to preserve the State, but in order to preserve religion or spirituality itself.

Shah Hussain stated: “Kings are busy in their kingdoms, the moneylenders are collecting their debts and the tiller is concerned about his village. We only seek the pleasure of our Sain (Lord, Beloved).”

Sufi Rejection of Rituals:In many ways, the Wahabi Islam adopted by many, focuses greatly on the rituals of the faith rather than attempting to espouse the spirit of their religion. These styles focus on outward appearance rather than on a spiritual introspection.

In response, Bulleh Shah would yell, “burn the prayer mat and lota (earthen pot)/ Don’t take the prayer rosary and holy stick/Lovers are announcing over and over/Leave the kosher and eat non-kosher. Oh Bullah drink wine and eat kebobs, burn the fire of your bones under [them]. Rob the robber of robbers”. Rather than merely adopting the rituals and appearances of piety, Sufi mystics say one should emulate the ideas of equality and love for humanity that their Prophet (PBUH) imbued.
This rejection of rituals as a means to enlightenment is a concept that could greatly serve many Muslims, it would give them the ability to critically examine their own spiritual beliefs rather than relying on dogma or rituals.

Rather than relying on a ritualistic form of militant Islam that creates identity crises, the Muslim community should study the tolerant and open ideas of Sufi mystics.


  1. We should watch out with calling Sufism the the ‘modern’, ‘light’ or ‘open’ version of Islam. Like the ney master Kudsi Erguner says in his conversation on Sufism with the Halal Monk: "Sufism is pure Islam just like any other form of Islam. So you can’t try to solve the problem between the West and Islam – which I actually think is more a problem of modernity, capitalism, and geo-politics than of religion – by acting as if Sufism is less ‘strictly’ religious. There is no Sufism without Islam and there is no Islam without Sufism. Today, however, people want to create a new sort of Sufism, which relates more to commercialized spirituality and New Age."

    Nonetheless I certainly agree that the ideas of many Sufi mystics are very worthwhile adhering to.

  2. I have been reading your blogs , very insightful.

  3. Hi Sophia,
    Greetings from India!
    We are a small organisation Sufi Kathak Foundation, working towards educating people through arts. This Foundation is founded by Manjari Chaturvedi, you can visit on our website

    We would like to associate with you on various projects related to Sufi Music and Dance. May we kindly request you to send us your details for an association with you.

    Warm Regards
    Manjari Chaturvedi
    email id: