One-Day Conference on Sufism, Peace & Democracy

“From Rumi till Khuwaja Fareed, all the Sufi saints were Muslims , have no doubt about that”, this was stated by Dr. Jawed Hassan Chandio, chairman Sariki Department, Islamia university of Bhalwalpur concluding the one day conference on “Sufism, Peace and Democracy” organized by Women Media Center Pakistan in collaboration with Rumi Love Foundation supported by National Endowment for Democracy yesterday 3pm at PC Hotel, Karachi.

Dr. Chandio, who talked about the history of Sufism in Punjab with emphasis on Khuwaja Fareed’s poetry and its impact in promoting peace in the region, said that “whenever there was a need to fight mullah , the Sufis did that with the weapon of Islam only”,

He said that the Sufis put great emphasis on culture and local languages. They communicated to people, the common man in their own local language. He shared that, “ Khuwaja Fareed was well versed in many languages including Persian and Arabic, but his ‘Biyat’ is in Sariki language. He opined that to revive the Sufi though in society, we must revive our local languages which have been neglected by the new generation.

Executive Director of Women Media Center, Fauzia Shaheen opened the conference with her welcoming speech and she said, “Pakistan is going through the war against worst terrorism and our forces are successfully carrying out military operation against terrorists with full regour; and if we want to make it sustainable, we need to spread the teachings of Sufism which simply means love and tolerance to have peace.”

The noted journalist Nazir Leghari, open the forum criticizing the state for creating the current narrative of extremist Islam. He said,” The religion that was sent for us has disappeared; the one that we see now has been imposed on us by the state.” The entire Muslim Ummah is seeing a very distorted version of religion, which is blood thirsty and kills human being with impunity, architecture and other reminiscent of old civilizations are being destroyed. He talked about the immense contribution of Sufism in the sub-continent for promoting love, peace and religious tolerance.

“ If we look at the history of Tughlaq era, we see a lot of bloodshed and terrorism, but we see the birth of some great Sufi saints and emergence of resistance from people in the same period as well. The Sufis fought the terrorism of Tughlaq dynasty. Their institutions provided refuge to the rebels who spoke against the tyrants.

Speaking on the occasion, Khadim Hussain Soomro, Chairman Sindh Sufi Institute, and author of Sufis of Indus Valley, quoted a report from the partition where a viceroy had written” for our divide and rule policy we have used an instrument that was cheapest and very dangerous-that was Mullah” .

Soomro said that the problem of clergy and extremism today is continuation of an old problem. He said while Mullah was used as a tool to break people, Sufism is a tool that can be used to unite. He said that Bulleh Shah has used example of birds to give message of unity. He translated a couplet:” there’s a great sign in the manner birds move in flocks, they don’t severe bonds, they foster love and co-existence”.

Talking about contribution of Sufism in the progress of society, he said “the biggest contribution is that most Sufi saints in the Indus valley created (Khanqah) an intuition, a place for people to meet for spiritual retreat and character reformation, which promoted free thinking, enlightenment, selfless love and created associations among people of all walks of life”.

Prominent Scholar and Professor, Dr. Huma Baqai also spoke on the occasion. She said, “The west either wants to separate the religion from the state, which, she said “was a good thing if could be achieved, or they want to dismiss it (completely) completely”. In her opinion, “both these positions are extreme as religion plays an important role in our lives”, adding, “there is a third solution and much viable: to revive Sufism.

Criticizing the west, she said “it is sad that they are telling us about the things which were once the part of our local tradition. “The extremists are attacking everything which gives peace to human beings. Throughout the history, Sufism has been targeted; even now they are persecuted in Chechnya”, said Dr. Baqai.

She was of the opinion that Sufism is not only love and peace, it is also Resilient, Defensive and if need be offensive as well.

Activist, writer and Researcher from KPK, Ali Arqam, also expressed his views on the impact of Sufism on Pashtun culture. Talking about Roshaniya movement in KPK, Arqam said, “The movement had strong impact on the cultural and political fabric of Pashtun society. He said that “it’s embedded in Pashtun literature and music even today”.

He categorically denied that the current wave of extremism in KPK has any organic roots. He said, “ this extremism discourse is imposed by the state, and there’s a strong resistance against it by the people, adding, “contrary to the popular belief, Pashtun literature, music and legacy of Rehman Baba all reflect the resistance and opposition of state imposed narrative which has created an identity of extremism with KPK, adding that this narrative needs to be questioned and retold.

Poetess and women’s rights activist Fahmida Riaz, also graced the program and shared her understanding of Sufism peace and democracy. “Sufism is the oldest school of thought. The need of justice and equality in societies gave birth to Sufi thought (Tasawwuf), which is the core foundation of Sufism, she opined. “This thought needs to be revived in our society”, she emphasized. When we talk about Sufism, we must also understand that Sufism not only promote love and peace, but also freedom of expression, a key element in Democracy.

Talking to WMC after the show, Maheen Kashif, journalist and former anchor of Geo, said that “Media should embrace the need of including Sufi teachings in its content and promote the message of Sufi philosophy through its programs. “ Our youth needs hope and Sufism gives hope”, she said.

Chief Guest of the occasion, Commissioner Karachi, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui expressing immense happiness said, “The importance of this program is so much in today’s situation that I couldn’t refuse the invitation” offering complete solidarity and support for the promotion of such programs in the future. He added that, “To integrate the teachings of Rumi to Iqbal in one program is a great achievement of Women Media Center the organizers of the event and will have a good impact on the youth present here.”

Talking to WMC before his performance, the Sufi singer who has performed in shrines in Delhi and many others in the region, said, “Sufi music is the music of soul. Its crux is its poetry, which is about love.” adding, “The problems in the world today is because we are away from truth and honesty. Sufism teaches honesty.”

He also informed that Sufi music always has one “Raag” and that’s why its rhythm is always very simple and touches the human hearts.

AllamIqbal’s sufi poetry was recited by Nazur-ul-hasan from NAPA faculty, amid huge applause as he delivered verses from Iqbal’s ‘Shikwa’. He reminded the audience of veteran Zia-Mohyeddin with his delivery style.

Concluding the conference Fauzia Shaheen, Executive Director and General Secretary of Women Media Center (WMC) expressing her gratitude towards the speakers and the audience. The program ended with a mesmerizing musical Finale by Aftab Khan and his team.

Press Release