Harsimran Kaur ON Oct 28, 2022 IN BOOK REVIEW, IN SEARCH OF THE DIVINE (LIVING HISTORIES OF SUFISM IN INDIA) BY RANA SAFVI-NON-FICTION
The divine beholds us and guides us.
Who we are to interject in the working of the creator?
He holds no bounds, no obligations and no validations.
Who are we to form judgements of him who is a mystery?
He has no prejudices or any inclination to divide.
Who are we to indulge in fissiparous tentacles that bite humans off their privileged soul?
He who says ‘I knowThou’ is a fool wandering mercilessly in search of the divine.
For he is obtained not by kerfuffle of ‘Thou is this, Thou is that’ but by the acceptance of his ‘oneness’ and his prevalence as a ‘universal power’.
Religion is a unique phenomenon – a kind of refuge for people with a tagliatelle of similar behavioural tarragon and tenacious beliefs.
Is God and religion different threads woven together or are the mesh of the same thread?
Can God and religion be equated? If the answer is ‘NO’ then are we looking at individualistic divergence of understanding our perpetual existence in this universe?The main purpose of religion is to bind the emotions of each under its carapace to connect to the divine.
So, how do we reach the divine?
The ways are numerous and the path is hard-reckoning, for connecting to the high power requires admonishing the inner ego and ingratiating the soul to meditate on the divine leaving behind the debris of solipsism.
One such path is Sufism—a mystic oration of one’s spiritual journey to reach the divine. It’s an agglomeration of devotion to the high power, a meditative trance where the being is absolved of the worldly affairs, providing the soul with a reflection of true self—a mystical journey; incarnate and incorporeal.
I knew a bit about Sufism through the readings of Guru Nanak (the first Gurus of the Sikhs) who too led a life of spiritual devotion and abhorred the provisions of caste and creed. He believed in contemplating the ‘Bani-the sacred word’ to connect to the divine. His Muslim contemporaries, especially the Sufis, referred to him as a ‘True Muslim’.
And, now I have the privilege of understanding Sufism through ‘Rana Safvi’, the author of ‘In Search of the Divine—Living Histories of Sufism in India.’ Her conspicuous effort to elaborate on the context of Sufism has unequivocally created a fundus to absorb the following:
- Islamophobia, a deplorable term, has created an influx of irrational prejudices against the Muslims and their world. The Hindu Right Wing has frequently fibrillated the essence of Islam by making a mockery of its belongingness and the facetious Mayfair by creating falconry of ‘cow vigilantes’ and the recent ‘architectural schadenfreude.’
- Islam is about the message of Allah revealed to the Prophet, and how Quran with its esoteric meanings is a palpable guide to a living, which is a prophecy in itself.
An enigma, Sufism juxtaposes itself to a subtle ordinary life bereft of grandeur and pageantry. It infuses a parlance of Spartan meditative alliance with the divine to search for the inner beauty of spirituality. Through its literature, poetry and doctrines, Sufism enables one to find ‘Allah’ in the inner spectrum of life and how through his guidance, the imperfections of life can be altered.
Rana Safvi, through her prolific research on the advent of Sufism, its origin and how it has become the beacon of light for many, overwhelms us with her visits to various dargahs. Her fastidious writing on their relevance and an extensive talk on different ‘silsilahs’ and their extraordinary attributes leaves one spellbound. She has assiduously focussed on saints and their respective shrine—followed by a belief that the diseased can be cured with the latter’s miraculous powers.
The book is not about interpretation of ‘Islam’ as a religion but talks about universal brotherhood, honesty, harmony and connecting with the divine, which is an intrinsic part of Islam—all this beautifully corroborated by Sufi mystic; an indissoluble part of Islam.
The enigmatic stories and relevance of various ‘silsilahs’ is paramount to understand the concept of Sufism. Well-structured and expatiated in accordance with relevant research, Rana Safvi presents a cornucopia of ‘silsilahs’ of ‘The Chistis’, ‘The Suhrawardis’, ‘The Qadriyas’ and ‘The Naqshbandis’.
In today’s world, when ‘Islam’ is seen as a threat, the book goes back to the revelation of ‘Quran’ to the Prophet and the emergence of future clans to fulfil the spiritual goal.
An insight into the life of Sufi saints and their perfunctionary goals to search and connect to the divine!