The Bad Sufi - the client faith of the American Empire Print E-mail
Tuesday, 26 January 2010 05:12
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Sufism - once just another variant of Islam, now bankrolled by Britain and the US as a 'moderate' form of the religion that could help counter extremism in Pakistan. But what is Sufism? Where did it come from? And what role does it play today? In the first of a two-part series on Sufism, Qalandar Bux Memon argues that modern Sufi leaders have become part of Pakistan's corrupt ruling elite, favoured by the West not for their 'moderation' but for their compliance.

Shrine of Sufi Pir Shah Daula, Gujrat - photo: Javad DuraniIt is often assumed that Sufism stands opposed to Wahhabism. Wrong. Sufism and Wahhabism, in fact, share a fatal characteristic – they are religions of the status quo. In Pakistan, Sufism legitimises barbarities of inequality and starvation – ‘do nothing, it’s god’s will’ - while at the same time justifying structures of oppressive power, Pirism and landlordism, rather like Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia. Contemporary Sufism, rather than being a solution to Pakistan’s problems, is the cause.

I was sitting at the shrine of Shah Kamal, Lahore, with the dhool beats and whirling dervishes dancing to connect to the ‘centre of the universe in themselves’, when a friend turned and pointed to an old German fellow sitting a few metres from us. “He just delivered a lecture on Sufism. He is an expert on the subject, and talked about how it’s a religion of peace and love.”

I replied curtly: “Have you ever been in love? Have you had your heart broken? What peace is there in that state? What peace was there when Mansur had his head chopped off on the orders of the Badgadi Emperor? What peace was there when Shah Inayat was fighting against the Mughal emperor for his life and that of his commune? What peace is there in Sassui’s peeling feet as she searches for her beloved through the desert of Sindh?” My friend agreed, and added: “But they pay me – I have to go along with them.”

But they pay me! The pay in this case comes to an institute based in a prominent university of Lahore funded by USAid and EU organisations. And indeed, scholars and journalists are handsomely paid to promote Sufism; to promote ‘soft Islam’, ‘enlightened Islam’, ‘moderate Islam’ – any Islam provided it goes along with the US invasions and murder of millions of people in the developing world, any Islam as long as it keeps the Arab lands languishing in the hands of tyrants of the school of Ibn Saud or Murark or the Jordanian Hashemites, any Islam as long as Blackwater personnel (or Xe Services or whatever new name they cook up) can go on extra-judicial killing sprees in the developing world.

Western and Pakistani policymakers think Islam can be codified as either a religion of peace and love and given the brand of Sufism, or as a religion of violent jihad. They think it is better, at this point in time, to promote the peaceful religion of Sufism. Note how the word Islam is taken out – Sufism is codified as not really Islam. Thus Sufism is considered a perfect native antidote to the violent religion of Islam.

Why are dollars, pounds, rupees and Euros going to promote Sufism? What is it about today’s Sufism that allows it to serve a purpose for the American empire, and what function does it play locally in Pakistan?

The answer was hard for me to stomach. I had spent much time researching aspects of Sufism, and I thought I’d found a touchstone from which to articulate a spirituality that was socially radical and politically challenging to Pakistan’s parasitic elite and the US/NATO invaders. Ziauddin Sardar, polymath writer and scholar of Islam, forced me to face the facts.

He called Sufism “docile”, acting as an opiate for the masses, with most Pirs/Syeds/Sufis amounting to nothing short of “confidence tricksters”. And indeed, Sufism is docile. A shopkeeper in Main Market, Gulberg, had an emblem of the Sufi saint Lal Qalandar hanging in his shop, which he had got from Sehraw Sharif, Sindh, the town where the saint is buried. He said that “what these people do not realise is that 80 percent of what we pray at the shrine [of Lal Qalandar] comes true.” A popular song sung across the Punjab at Sufi shrines tells women that if they light a lantern at the shrine of saints, their desire for a ‘son’ will be answered.

Items given by holy Pirs - threads, rings, blessings, and even sexual induction before marriage (in the case of a notorious Sindhi landlord/Pir) - are taken as altering the universe and leading to the granting of prayers of health, wealth, and other worthy claims by this mass of the wretched that is the Pakistani citizen. It is not only candles and lanterns that are lit at the shrines; money is exchanged and power is sustained. It is this power that has created a “docile” Sufism.

Pakistan is a vastly unequal society. Government figures put those below the poverty line at close to 40 per cent of the population, though the true figure may be closer to 50 percent. Inequity is the hallmark of the Sindh province of Pakistan, which is celebrated as “the land of the Sufis” and is where Sufis and Pirs hold power. A recent World Bank report noted that Sindh has the narrowest distribution of land ownership, with the richest one per cent of farmers owning 150 percent more land than the bottom 62 percent of farmers put together. Feudal landlords in vast parts of Sindh have holdings of thousands of acres, and most of them are Syeds or Pirs.

These lands were sometimes acquired during the Mughal era but were largely consolidated during the British colonial rule in India. The British, looking for local collaborators, found Sufi Pirs willing to oblige. Sarah Ansari, in her book, Sufi Saints and State Power: The Pirs of Sind, 1843-1947, notes: ‘The Sindhi Pirs participated in the British system of control in order to protect their privileges and to extend them further whenever and wherever possible.’

Today’s feudalists are keen to protect and promote “docile” Sufism to sustain their wealth and power – this time with US help. Wealth is created by a pool of landless serfs who toil thousands of acres for their spiritual masters, while seeing their own children starve. These serfs create the wealth that sends the Bhuttos and the Gilanis to universities such as Oxford and Harvard, while their children get “blessings” and threads of “Pirs”.

This stream of inequity from generation to generation is based on a lame theological idea, which nonetheless has been promoted by the Mughal Empire, the British Empire, the landlords themselves, and now by the American Empire, and thanks to such patronage has gained far more ground than the Taliban. It states that the prophet was given divine light/knowledge, which passes on to his descendents. These descendents append the honorific title of ‘Syed’ [literally, ‘master’], and claim divine and material privileges.

Pirs justify their superiority on a similar argument – they were given the light, and this light continues to radiate in their descendants. At a recital of the poetry of the radical Sufi Waris Shah held each year in Lahore, the descendents of Iman Bari Sarkar (a Pir) enter the arena to be received with awe and sought for blessings by the crowd. The recital stops and they are escorted to the front and seated. All eyes are on these holy men who are not only descendents of a Pir but also Syeds – thus, doubly blessed with ‘light’! And then they begin expounding their ideology: “We the Syeds get different treatment from God Almighty, for our good deeds we get double the reward compared to ‘murids’ [non-Syeds] who only get single reward for a single good deed … but, it’s not easy to be a Syed … [he laughs] … we have to suffer double the punishment for our any wrong deeds whereas you [non-Syeds] get only single punishment for a single wrong deed!”

There you have it! Our holy man explains why he has a Land Cruiser jeep and “non-Syeds” have donkey carts. He explains why most Pakistanis are living in poverty while he and his Syeds and Pirs are lapping it up in luxury. The lecture goes on: “If you are a Syed and descended from the divine chain then you are necessarily beautiful, and if you are not then you are not beautiful, and if you don’t believe me then take a look at….” Here he points to a Syed next to him, a fat fellow resembling Henry VIII, who happens to be a Pir and a Syed, a landlord and a politician. Alas, even beauty is co-opted to justify the power of these cockroaches that today form part of the Pakistani elite.

Pakistani prime minister, Syed Yousaf Raza GilaniContemporary Sufism is the ideology of Sindh’s landlords. It is the ideology that is used to uphold their wealth and despotism, and keeps millions in serfdom. A similar pattern is repeated throughout Pakistan. Given the lack of proportional representation and the vast inequality in power in each district between Pirs and the rest, it is almost always the case that elections flood parliament with Pirs/Syeds/landlords. The current Pakistani Prime Minister (Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani) and Foreign Minister (Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi) are examples. Both have the claim of being descended from Holy Pirs as the basis of their wealth and distinction.

As a result, we cannot expect parliament to challenge inequity and injustice in Pakistan. Parliamentarians know that lack of education, coupled with the obscurantism of contemporary Sufism, sustains their power. Like the British before them, the Americans don’t care about Pakistan’s growing multitude of serfs and the underclass, they don’t care whether the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister of Pakistan are deeply rooted in the cause of inequity and injustice in the country and part of the promotion of a system of starvation – a Sufism that tells people to take a blessing instead of demanding food, education, justice and liberty. Like the British, they will fund whoever furthers their interests.

We, however, must care.

Part two of Qalandar Bux Memon's series on Sufism, focusing on the history of Sufism and the positive role it could play, will be published on The Samosa in the coming weeks

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 January 2010 15:09
Comments (52)
disturbing article
52 Thursday, 04 March 2010 18:22
Salman Khattak
This has to be one of the most disturbing article I have ever come across . Sufism is a very deep aspect of Islam . It's a path to inward light , to enlightenment .
This article is portraying a people who renounced violence as some what culpable to the desires of colonialism or western powers . This is a completely ignorant view point devoid of any knowledge of Islamic or Western history .

It's a Marxist End's justify the means argument . I don't buy your view of history .
Sufism is Shirk - Zeeshan
51 Monday, 01 March 2010 16:23
I would say before making a statement kindly go and check the definition of word Shirk.
"Docile" Sufis in Pakistan
50 Saturday, 20 February 2010 21:56
From Al-Jazeera Qatar 2 nights ago. Talks about Ansar-el-Islam Sufi group that bombed Orakzai:

Presenter, Male #1
What are the latest developments on the blast that struck Orakzai?

Correspondent, Male #2
Yes Tawfiq. So far, all the available information is attributed to Pakistani security sources. More than 12 people were killed in the blast, which targeted a public place in the area of Orakzai. It seems that the main target was Deputy Head of the Lashkar-e-Islam, also known as the “Army of Islam,” Atham Afridi. In addition, more than 30 people were wounded in the blast, which was carried out by the radical Ansar-el-Islam Sufi group. The group is affiliated with the Deoband school of thought. The Lashkar-e-Islam and the Ansar-el-Islam are two rival groups that often engage in bloody conflicts. More than once, Pakistani authorities have deployed security and military forces in the region in order to restrain the two rival groups. However, today’s blast indicates that both sides are still capable of attacking each other.
sorry, but im not buying this
49 Thursday, 18 February 2010 17:09
To start with, its Shah Jamal and not Shah Kamal, Sehwan Sharif and not Sehraw Sharif, and Imam Bari Sarkar not Iman Bari Sarkar.
I agree with your critique of feudal and exploitative nature of the Piri-Muridi system in rural Sindh. You draw an analogy between the collaboration of the Sindhi landed elites with the colonial power during the Raj and what you see now as suspiciously good relations between the political heirs of that elite, the PPP, and the west.
Whereas the purpose of this analogy is clear, extending the critique to Sufism in general (which for example in Punjab, as I am sure you know, has not generated a Sindhi-type of feudal exploitation), seems unfair. That is, if it is Sufism and not the PPP and the west that you are criticizing.
Another remark regards the western money supporting Sufism: do you really think the amount the west gives to support "the docile Islam" stands anywhere near the millions in military aid to Pak Army? Maybe the "parasitic elites" in Pakistan may extend a bit beyond the Sindhi feudal lords…?
Plenty of Militant Sufis
48 Saturday, 13 February 2010 21:55
Take your pick, whether it be the shooting Sufis of Somalia or the Baathist Naqshbandiyya insurgency in Iraq (or many others), it is clear that "Qalandar" Bux Memon didn't do much homework before he posted this hasty collection of anti-american, western paranoia, pakistani apologia.

Hey Pakistan! You want to know whose war you are fighting? Your own! The one that keeps spilling out into the west with all your criminal munafiqun.

Want someone to blame? BLAME YOURSELVES!!! And blame your weaknesses which simultaneously coddle terrorists and corrupt politicians and generals.

The Americans are WAY WAY WAY down at the bottom of your huge list of problems.
A sour taste
47 Monday, 08 February 2010 21:58
Blake Ross
I bit into this tidbit about Sufism and found the content was rotten to the core, not Sufism.

We should be careful to clarify subjects rather than conjoin and convolute them. This is the major problem in all religions - a mesh of politics, imagination, myths and desires.

Sufism, among other spiritual disciplines, directly addresses this problem and should be the ANSWER to the problem of manipulation instead of the cause.

Anything, when incorrectly practiced or manipulated can be perverted towards personal gain.

Blame the perverts not the Path.
The Truth Hurts!
46 Thursday, 04 February 2010 17:30
Faisal Sheikh

Memon Sahib

A bitter if not poisnous 'tell all' of 'present day' Sufism which is rotten to the core across the globe.

'Pirism' which is implicit in your discourse' as enunciated by the great Iqbal (a bonafide & towering Sufi), is not Sufism / Tasawuff.

May Allah guide those in power help them to reform. Ameen. Suma Ameen.


Faisal Sheikh

ps - Looking forward to part 2.0
To all those who defend sufism in its entirity
45 Thursday, 04 February 2010 10:21
Please check out the following references from the books of famous deoband and sufi writers:

oh and by the way Shaikh Abdul Qadir Jilani was a true Muslim and that Qaseedah that is attributed to him, was never written by him.

Here it goes:

"The wife of Mullah Jalaaluddin Rumi thought that his sexual desire had vanished. The Mullah came to know of her suspicion in a special trance of revelation (KASHF). That night he went to
the wife and drilled her 70 times. (Please excuse the language) So much so that she asked forgiveness. (Manaqib-il-Arifain, p.70, by Shamsuddin Akhlaqi"

Now please witness how far these Mujaddith's of Deoband can go! See what garbage Mulla Ashraf Ali Thanwi is trying to unload. The same Thanwi whom other Mullahs call “Hakeem-ul-Ummat”!

28. He writes on p.110 in “Imdaadul Mushtaq”: There was a true monotheist. People told him if delicious food is part of the person of Allaah and feces too is a part of Him, eat both. Well, the Sheikh first became a pig and ate feces. Then he became a human being and ate food! Isn’t that height of "wisdom" of our wise of the nation!”

Recite the whole Qur'ân in one raka’ah like saints did! [That will amount to more than 50 times of the whole Qur'ân in a single day!] (Fazaael Namaz p.64.) Saints recite 2,000 raka’ahs every day. They keep standing the full one month of Ramadhan reciting the Qur'ân twice a day! (Tableegh-I-Nisab Fazaael Aamal)

The above mentioned quotes are just some fine examples of the kind of absurd beleives that are held by the sufis and deobands of Pakistan from their own references. These are obviously clearly oppossed to the Quran and Sunnah.
A Bad Samosa
44 Wednesday, 03 February 2010 04:22
Aly, I could not agree with you more.

Seems like I am not the only one who felt cheated out of an enlightening, inspiring and a worthy reading space on the Dawn pages.

Instead a degenerated article written by some Samosa website walla....what a waste of space and paper, not to mention total lack of ingenuity by DAWN....but don't loose hope...guess what will be the Garma-Garam samosa Wallas will be wrapping their delicious Samosa outside the Darbars and Mazars of Great have got it !!

If you must insist on writing write part 2 then can we have more facts about bank rolling evidence, names and all....instead of ranting on about corruption amongst politician which is no news.
Ignoramus is the word that comes to mind!
43 Wednesday, 03 February 2010 03:52
Were you going against the clock on this one?? Was there a submission deadline that you had to meet?
They say that one should keep one's mouth shut and let people think one an idiot....rather than opening it and proving them right! You unfortunately, chose to do the latter.

I think you should have done a little more research and soul searching before writing this article. Simply spending a half hour at Data Darbar and knowing the names of some political elites staring with 'Pir' was unfortunately not enough knowledge to have written on this topic.

Simply the fact that you have equated those who were responsible for converting much of the Sub-Continent (just as an example) to Islam by example, to our current crop of corrupt elite is enough of a reason for you to relinquish your membership of the PFUJ.

This was not a topic that you should have touched upon without at least a few years of in-depth and detailed study. I'm sorry to say but you came across sounding much more stupid than I'm sure you actually are.

'Research your subject'. One of the first rules of being a journalist. Try it one of these might be pleasantly surprised with the results.

Very disappointed to find out that a news organization like Dawn would think you worthy of being on their payroll.

Rating; A big fat zero samosa is still one samosa too much for you!
WRoNG TiTLE to the BAdLY Researched makes NO sense
42 Wednesday, 03 February 2010 02:45
The title should have Read
" BAD Journalists ...The Client of The American Empire

Sufism has been there for hundreds of years. Once the United and God Fearing Muslims ruled the Globe from the Sultanate of Usmaania to Spain and the corners of Africa and Asia.

Sufis or Sufism or their Mazzars or their vistors did not need Dollars or Dhirams then and nor do they need it need now. Infact the visitor donate the most in charity!!

Coming back to your disconnected article which starts by startling revelation as to how the Dollars are funding the cause of Sufism as an alternate solution to fundamentals of Islam...but then it miserably fails to develop this point of view further. It also fails to shows any evidence as to how its being funded?? How long its being funded? How much has been funded and through who?? Who are the major recipients? Has the facilities, roads etc of the Mazzars been upgraded to attract more people to promote such proposition??

Simply mentioning USaid is not panacea to anything and everything!

A blurr of confused personal thoughts!!

Its even more ALARMING to know WHY the heck DAWN allows such ill-researched articles to be published on their website. SURELY, Dawn must have social and ethical responsibility to ensure that it is not duped into being used as a PLATFORM for other sinister the "FORRAN ELEMENTS" to promote division and Disrespect to the Holly saints and Sufis.

But then this the manifestation of nepotism, corruption or inequality the writer tried to mentioned in the article. Is this where the Dollar are pumped into...entertaining and blessing the local Media Anchors to promote negativity in the name of freedom of media or in name of starting a stupid debate.

Rating from me : A big Samosa Zero.
Sufism is Shirk
41 Tuesday, 02 February 2010 09:25
Absolutely agree with the writer as Sufisim is not only distorting Islam but is promoting Feudalism. The fact that most of the Sufi decendants today are also the biggest Feudals itself proves all the wrongs done by this concept. The efforts being done by West to promote Sufism (for vested interest) are widely known.

With all due respect to the true spritual sufis, how come the sufis of today are allowing so much shirk and jehalat. One is shocked when he visits the shrines of Lal Shabaz or Ali Hijveri etc. People do literally worship the graves. All kind of ugly and henious activities go on... Why hasn't any present Pir/Sufi ever spoken against the wrong practices... I am sure the original (genuine) saints would never promote such shirk. Even in Karachi they had displayed hoardings saying "bej Pagara"...!

May Allah SWT help the Ummah!
Totally wrong analysis
40 Tuesday, 02 February 2010 08:35
munawar zaidi
The analysis of sufism presented in the article is simply wrong. How can you compare the Pirs like Moeen-ud-deen chisti, Lal shahbaz qalandar who led their exemplary life and hence inspired so many people that they even converted to ISLAM and their proclaimed current descendants who are just unable to carry on the good work of their forefathers.
Wahabism history shows that it stems from barbaric ideology supported by Britishers in Arab peninsula.
in essence wahabism denies Prophet Mohammad his due respect and importance in ISLAM and hence denying his progeny from legitimate right of guiding muslims after prophet. similarly opposing sufism , which connects people to Prophet and his progeny. its not difficult to understand that the sole purpose of wahabism is to oppose muslim's convergence on Prophet and his progeny (its not someone else will rather its God's will that prophet and his progeny should be followed as an example )
sufiism & the others
39 Monday, 01 February 2010 09:01
This is absolute madness in the society worshiping
graves of the PIR, Syed, or folowing barlwism all fake has nothing o do with Islam.
Pakistan is full of this madness and hense suffering for the reasons of these practices.sadly this is now spreading in UK through television operated by the Pakistanis.
where is wahabism is the following of very strict
Islam throuigh Holy Quran and Sunnah, there is huge differences, just as right and wrong.
Great books on subject of Mysticism and Sufi-ism
38 Monday, 01 February 2010 07:54
Please check out following books to better understand Sufism.

1)Mysticism in Islam:
by Khwaja Kamal-ud-Din

2) Philosophy of Sufi-ism (Tasawwuf) in Islam:
by Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian
Compiled by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad

3)Position of Sufi-ism (Tasawwuf) in Islam:
by Dr. Basharat Ahmad
Compiled by Dr. Mohammad Ahmad
Huminity is above all
37 Monday, 01 February 2010 01:55
Humanity is above all, but wahabis and supporter of terrorism thinks they are above and supper to all, They think word is created only for Muslims, but Sufis are against this thought they love to all East, West, North and South They love with human without the basis of their faith. They respect the humanity this is need of today please don’t divide the people and strength those who wants peace.
36 Sunday, 31 January 2010 16:10
obaid Qureshi
Thank you Qalander Bux for showing us what the Pakistani Pirs, Syeds, Makhdooms, etc. really are. They exercise slavery by scaring the poor and uneducated majority not only in this world but "the other world" they so solemnly believe in. This has been going on for centuries and nothing will change until the masses are provided with education. I wait for your second instalment.
Positive examples of Sufism
35 Sunday, 31 January 2010 15:50
"It's amazing how talking about tasawuf-sufism you never mention, Rummi or Hafiz,"

Hopefully, great individuals such as Rumi and Hafiz along with Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid, Rahman Baba, Nizamuddin Auliya, Mian Mir etc will be discussed in the next part of the article (along with the positive message of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who was briefly mentioned in the article above).
caution and respect for difference
34 Sunday, 31 January 2010 12:13
I would advise caution re any call for a true Islam and wiping out of other forms of Islam. It is vital for us all that diversity of Islamic culture, heritage and practice not just in Pakistan, but across the world is protected and respected. Islam has many faiths, traditions and communities within it and there are different versions and views and different indigenous Islamic cultures in different countries.

It should not be determined by clerics sponsored by foreign empire be it USA or Saudi. The point of this piece is to point out some practices that appear to be about money, power and inequality, not a criticism of all of Sufi traditions, that would be wrong and the writer clearly respects and values the Sufi traditions, it is the exploitation of them by some he is talking about here.
Finally someone speaks up against it!
33 Sunday, 31 January 2010 08:10
Rishadullah Shaikh
Read your column in Dawn and it is great to see that someone is coming out with the truth on this issue. The plague that has gripped Pakistan and the Muslim Ummah at large, in my view, is "Blind Following". The only Sufism I know of is the one that I see being practiced in Pakistan and if that is the case then it is smothered in Shirk and Biddah which in Islam are the two biggest evils. (Anyone who knows the Friday khutba which is read in Arabic would know this). Given this state of affairs it is no surprise our country and our Ummah is in such a mess! We need to come out with the call of true Islam which is a call to Tauheed and an elimination of Shirk and Biddah. That's what all the Prophet's did. They called to Tauheed. However most people think this is a theological debate and it won't solve much without opening an eye to the obvious negative consequences of shirk and biddah that have been hampering our society for so long.
Misleading article
32 Saturday, 30 January 2010 14:45
The author here has decided to taint Sufism with his obvious dislike of "Pirism", the bogus Pirs and corrupt zamindars of Pakistan. Which I admit MAY BE used as a method (amongst multitudes) to keep people 'docile'. But Wahabism is used the same way, as is fundamentalism, and Islam in general is used to this affect - does this make Islam as a religion guilty of keeping the masses ignorant??? Of course not!
There is a clear distinction between bogus Pirs and corrupt persons, and Sufism - to think otherwise is a sign of total ignorance!
Come on man, you've confused the two, and seeing inequality and poverty you have decided to come out with this misleading and dangerous article.
Tainting Sufism or trying to state that Sufism is NOT islam is wrong, and very untrue.
Sufism is an integral PART of Islam, as is recitation of the Quran, or any other Godly acts of piousness.
Perhaps the authors command of English or ability to express himself has confused matters?
Regardless, a pretty rubbish article as it stands.
Very Shallow analysis
31 Saturday, 30 January 2010 11:36
Ali Raza
Dear Author, I feel you article was as shallow as the Pirs and Faqirs like yousuf raza gilani you mentioned in your article.

It's amazing how talking about tasawuf-sufism you never mention, Rummi or Hafiz, instead you chose Yousuf raza gilani.

Makes me feel you have some personal issues with Irfan that you need to deal with.

I feel it is pointless to try to make you see what sufism is about after you superficial article, if you can't even understand the inner peace manzoor got from "anal-haq" even when he was hung, or the principles the shah innayat stood for when he fought, then my friend, folks like you can never understand love and peace. THe love you will be limited to knowing is the one you have with your girlfriends. Hate to tell you this but hopefully you will realize one day that fighting for peace and love, in essence, processes equity is far more important then the outcome equity you seem to seek. And that is what irfan is all about. But I guess you're the type of person who likes to find the meanings of words in merely dictionaries.

May you find your peace and love someday
30 Saturday, 30 January 2010 08:17
didn't see this coming. interesting comparison b/w sufism & wahabism - nicely highlights the nepotism and hypocrisy plague. thank you for writing.
29 Friday, 29 January 2010 07:11
Nazir Haq
Well don Qaladar sahib, but be aware you could be given Bad Duaa by any pir in Pakistan or thier Piran-i-pir America Sb. Some one may drand you as wahabee
Iffy Grasp of the issue
28 Thursday, 28 January 2010 21:42
Hamed Ross

Yes. Appropriate handle. Reflects your grasp of the topic.

My "hippy" (yet another superficial and broad stereotype) understanding of Sufism goes back 20 years of direct involvement with organizations that represent diverse sufi groups on 3 continents.

I have a basic understanding of sufism.

What the author has done here is nothing better than throwing out the baby with the bathwater. That is to say, stereotyping ALL Sufism as a reflection of Its pretenders and usurpers. This is not research, it is libel. Blind accusations.

In short and for your iffy education, many religions have an orthodox and an esoteric or spiritual counterpart. In Judaism, there is kabbalah. In Christianity, there are quietist and other mystical movements. In Islam, this path is called Sufism.

Sufism is less concerned with the outward observations of religious obligations and more centered towards direct experience of the Divine which command and justify those obligations. Sufis are required to perform the five pillars of Islam as all Muslims do, but they also seek knowledge and wisdom which comes from dhikr and nawafel. Sufis believe the seat of religious wisdom is in the heart and that is where their Lord speaks to them.

That enough for you, genius?
well done...
27 Thursday, 28 January 2010 18:44
Well done Qalandar on writing such an insightful article on the issue. Hamid Ross – don’t accuse the author of being a fundamentalist. At least Qalandar is willing to express his opinion and open up a debate.

You hippy remarks on ‘human frailty’ don't add much to the debate. Given your wide research on the topic can you enlighten us in on what the so called 'real/noble' goal of Sufism is?
26 Thursday, 28 January 2010 15:30
It is a shame that you have decided to examine Sufism through a prism of doubt and suspicion, linking it with people who wish to do harm to the very foundations of the religion we cherish and the nation we love.

In this day of political freedom and expression, it would be unfair to say, it is a crime the way you have portrayed a way of life cherished throughout the eastern and western world.

A system that bridges the existing gaps between stern and unyielding faiths, to that a welcoming and accommodating bosom of friendship and brotherhood.

Perhaps you have read but not understood the teachings of rumi, perhaps rather than approaching a fountain with your jug full, you could approach humbly with a jug empty. Perhaps then you could truly cherish how little it is you “think” you know, and how “Much” there is to learn.

It is indeed disappointing that through the marvel of mass-media, you will have misguided many and fuelled the engine of hatred and distrust even further.

It is indeed sad, when learned men act no better than barbarians. It is indeed sad when the educated & righteous fall from grace and in a moment of bestial rage act no better then feral beast’s intent on segregating communities and entombing their fellow man in a world (they see fit).

A very disappointed reader.
Dodgy websites
25 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 23:50
Aziz, I can't find a 370 million figure - what I can find is a 270 million figure, and a brief analysis shows that it's nonsense.

Here's the 'best' breakdown I can find for the 270m figure:

Even if we accept what are hopelessly unscientific methodology - "David Livingstone estimated that for every slave who reached a plantation, five others were killed in the initial raid or died of illness and privation on the forced march" - the fact is that of the purported 270m total, nearly half - 120m - are in Africa, and all are attributed to slavery, which was ultimately an exercise in economics. Given that the buyers of so many of these slaves were Christian, many of these deaths could equally be attributed to Christianity - which would be an equally absurd conclusion. So at a stroke, nearly half the total figure is unreliable. Someone more scholarly than myself could probably make inroads on the rest.

Sadly the internet is dominated by two things - porn and dodgy political websites. There are no doubt websites that will tell me that Muslims steal wives, eat babies, start intergalactic wars and made The Godfather III. The point is, they're all nonsense.
re editor
24 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 20:19
Aziz Tayyab
I am in no sense condoning athiests or followers of
any belief killing those who do not believe what they believe.
As for the numbers of non-muslims killed by muslims;
there are many websites that give the numbers at
about 370 millions; may be check out for yourself at
Re Aziz
23 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:19
"muslim have killed more than 300 million non-muslims"

That number sounds on the high side, but in any case, you could make a similar point regarding a number of religions - to say nothing of atheist regimes that cracked down on those who believed in *any* religion.
22 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 19:00
Aziz Tayyab
I agree with you believe what you believe and I believe what I believe; but the Demon allah did not
keep his own words and since the invention of islam,
muslim have killed more than 300 million non-muslims
by their own recorded historical accounts because they did not believe in what muslims believe i.e. in
allah theDemon,theDevil,theSatan,theAntichrist and
muslims find no problem in worshipping each others
asses or assholes and stones or walls of stones but if you carve the same stones into human,they
want to smash it into pieces.
but staying on the article topic,I have greatest of respect for pirs like data ali hajweri/lahori or baba fareed etc. they remind me of followers or
mureeds of a thief at night and a pir by day and
that you can believe in the biggest of lies like
islam and you do no evil, you can achieve spiritual enlightenment with the strength of your
Wahabism is the solution.
21 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 17:34
Mr. Samosa Wahabism is best religion in the world and we must use it to counter Sufistism. Mystism is nothing more than mysteriouism. Jiey Shah Abdul Wahab Al-Saud Al-Syed.
20 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:37
People are trying to analyse Islam with what pieces of the religion. There is no reality except that Islam is a religion reached humanity through Prophets sealed by Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and his family). For unbelievers, Quran has said thousand years ago "La'kum deen'o'kum, wali'ya deen"
reply to osman qazi
19 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 12:54
Aziz Tayyab
I wrote that islam is false; your reply assumes that
islam is true.
And no ,I am not a qadiani;never have been.
And sorry to have touched on your nerve by saying that sayyeds,qureshis are low cast hindu converts;
perhaps you know your background;I did not meant to
And name of the Christ as I said was/is yesu masih
which became yesu to jesu or jesus christ not isa or eesa;all knowing allah/mohammad either forgot
the real name or intentionally came up wih this to
sort of insult christ/christians muslim call eesaee.
Quran is nothing more than mohammad's recollection
of his childhood memories of the jew and christian
stories he heard from arab storytellers just b.s.
Your research is very premature and you should not make such tall claims
18 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 11:55
Ansir Ali Rajput

I am very surprised and amazed on very quick conclusion about a very delicate topic of Pakistani society which I have been trying to undestand for last ten years are so.

You have very premative knowlege about sufi-izm and I understand there some very opportunistic individuals who leverage on the bankwagon of sufi'izm and it many ways it is same many other culture but the true essence of sufi izm is yet to explored and understood.

Do not jump guns in your conclusions as opinion of journlist like you really has great impact on many who are emotionally envolve with sufi-izm
Rightly said
17 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 07:05
Mr. Memon, read your article in dawn and I must say that you are on the money.

You have correctly analyzed the issue and have rightly pointed out that the sons and daughters of these pirs and syeds are the ones who are benefiting with their degrees from Ivy league institutions based on what I will call "sweat money" derived from the hard work of the poor labourers who toil on their lands.

The term sufism has been used in a general context here and I would like to point out (which I'm sure you already are aware of) that not all forms of sufism are practiced this way in Pakistan. There are various silsilas (e.g. Nakhshbandi) which are only focused on the Shari'a aspects and have nothing to do with all that happens at the mazars etc.

I just hope that the publication of your article encourages people to think about this issue
Spot On, Mr. Memon
16 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 06:10
Imran Haider
Very well analyzed and written. It's unfortunate that people are taking your post as something against Sufism. How can someone miniaturize folks as grand as Nizamuddin Auliya, Roomi, Ajmeri, Jilani et al?

You have rightly noted that while Wahhabism was the favorite Islam of the West in the cold war, it is now Sufism, through which people are being expected to tranquilize themselves from Taliban-like influences. And yes, conferences are being held (money being spent) to promote Sufi Islam. It’s clear that the government, US and UK want people to drop Collective Islam and adopt Individualistic set of rituals – under the name of Sufism – to stave off any political or violent resistance.

But if Sufism is non-violent, then why has Sunni Tehrik taken up arms? And why do I receive text messages saying that Wahhabism is a product of American-Saudi alliance, and has to be eradicated for Islam's survival? Where has the Sufi tolerance for other religions and peoples gone? Anwer: Sufism is not violent or extremist; people are. The same is true for Wahhabis and Deobandis; for every sect.

Pirs/Sajjada-Nasheens/Makhdooms are into politics, governments, industries and agriculture. They are self-serving people who use the guise of Sufi Islam to justify their selfish usage of resources, money, land, and worse, people (read “subjects”). If love of people is what Sufis taught then why is the Southern Punjab belt so backward where these Makhdooms rule the roost?

Our people are indeed being neutralized by the “torch bearers” of Sufism, for accepting inequality, injustice, usurpation and exploitation as destined by God (as test, trial, “Aazmaa’ish”).

So, spot on, Mr. Memon. And I hope my note is not taken as against Sufi Islam as well.
Intersting and true
15 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 04:45
Iftikhar Sadeed
I have been to many Urus of sufis and peers in Pakistan. People smoking ganja and chars and dancing on their tombs and bowing in front of grave of the peer/sufi is common practice. Now I ask what Islam ask you to surrender yourself to a Peer or Sufi or bow to the grave? Sufism and Peerism is as unislamic as worshipping an Idol.
How can one with right working brain even think of this as an Islamic model? All tombs of sufis and peers should be flattened and should be treated as ordinary Muslims. May Allah have mercy on souls of these Peers/Sufis.
Our prophet Muhammad PBUH grave is not even a shrine and we dont dance and ask forgiveness from his tomb so why ask someone else's. Allah is our direct contact and we should ask Him directly, unlike, Hindus or Christians.
Political Pirs
14 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 04:16
Salman Latif
I do consider the possibility that there was a time when there were true saints and who really had 'light', if I may put it that way. However, as with most such men, cults conjured out of their followers. And the tradition follows to this day.

You mentioned two of our top government officials. There's more to that. PPP's Shah Mehmood Qureshi, N-League's Javed Hashmi and the oh-so-famous (and notorious)Pir Pagaro are all prime examples of how this Pir business has lend these men enough money and power to fight for political power. They fool the religious idiots with their claimed Syed lineage, and fulfill their material lust with the power the following of this lineage brings them. And naturally, the larger sections of their following comes from regions highly uneducated and hence prone to their bullshit.
oh behave!
13 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 03:31
"Ziauddin Sardar... ...scholar of Islam" lol
Sufis may be corrupt, but what are the alternatives?
12 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 01:04
A Kafir
Your point of view on Sufism is very interesting. I am a Hindu (Kafir), but I am always interested in dialogues on various Islamic spiritual practices. In my opinion Sufism is the most interesting aspect of Islam, because it is a practice that practices relative tolerance. I know of a lot of Hindus in India who go to Sufi shrines and they feel perfectly welcomed. As an alternative to Sufism, Wahabism or Deobandism - with its strict "Quran ya Talvar" approach - is pure terror! It is a faith that is based on extreme intolerance towards anyone who falls short of Sunni Islam. Wahhabis don't even shy away from prosecuting Shias or Ahmedis, forget about their prosecution of Christians, Jews, Hindus - who are just sub-humans and must pay jizyah to breathe in an Islamic republic. As an alternative the Sufi practices are much nicer, civilized, tolerant and lot more acceptable to our modern secular societies. That's why Sufism emerged in more integrated societies like Turkey, Persia, India, Northern Africa. Saudi Arabia never cared about integration, they just forcefully got rid of any opposition. Sufi practices may be corrupt, but Wahabi practices are just toxic. Their intolerance is unbearable even in the progressive Islamic republics of the world today. Without Sufism Pakistan will be Saudi Arabia (without the oil). Which really means no education for women, no tolerance for religious minorities, no scientific innovation, no progress - a country intellectually bankrupt.
Bear in mind...
11 Wednesday, 27 January 2010 00:02
...that this is the first of two articles on Sufism. The second part, which The Samosa will publish in the coming weeks, will look at the traditions of Sufism and the positive role it could play.
10 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:58
Hamed Ross
Your weak allegations that the West pays money to Sufis or to the promotion of Sufism is largely unsubstantiated BS.

What this article sounds like to me is hardliner, fundamentalist propaganda against Sufism, since these losers (you) have always detested the Truth and seek ways to justify and spread their deviance.
Hyperbole and Superficiality
9 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:51
Hamed Ross
"Qalandar" is a goof with as much right to speak about Sufism as GW Bush has to speak about Islam.

Sure, there are charlatans in every avenue of human pursuit: Sufism, wahhabism, politics, journalism for sure.

Human frailty. A perennial problem.

A *SMALL* amount of research would have shown that Sufism has a very noble and real goal in mind which does not concern pacifism, politics or hedonism of the hypocrits.

Writers bear the responsiblity to strive for truth. The Dawn article is nothing but infotainment. Qalandar should switch to comic books where he belongs.
Reply to Aziz
8 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:07
Osman Qazi
Aziz - read your comments and they seem to be a bunch of sweeping statements based on hunches rather than facts.

FYI - I am not really sure what you meant by quoting Hazrat Isa (AS) being a follower of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW) and linking that to fraudsters - but you need to do some serious reading around the fact of Hazrat Isa's (AS) return as an Ummati of Hazrat Muhammad (SAW). The emenient scholars have written books on this subject quoting from the Quran and the Hadith.

Unless you are a Qadiyani then its a different issue altogather.

Secondly, there are Arab Syed's and they call themselves Al-Sharif, Sharifi or Al-Hashmi, Hashimi, just for your reference, the Royal family of Jordan is one such example. Furthermore, till the very end of the Ottoman Empire, it was a prerequisite that the governor of Makkah-tul Mukarma and Madina tul Munawara be a decedant of the Holy Prophet (SAW) - same Syed/Sharif/Hashmi.

Lastly, please stop insulting low caste hindus who converted to Islam - they and there children are now Muslims and should be referred to as such and respected in a similar manner rather being treated with the same "untouchables" steroetype.
Essence of Islam
7 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 18:55
Osman Qazi
I must say that your article is a nice effort to identify the root causes of problems in our society.

However, putting the blame on sufisim for the corruption of religion is not fair. There are always people who use a certain school of thought for their own advantage, whether it be Wahabism or Tassawuf/Sufisim. If people don't follow Tassawuf completely its their own fault. Self declared sufis who don't even offer the daily obligatory prayers can never been considered the torch bearers of tassawuf but only wolves in disguise.

I urge you to be unbaised towards Tassawuf and instead try to highlight the misinterpretation of religious scripture and teachings of saints. It's similar to what the west is doing to link Islam and terrorism. Atleast we can do justice by not linking a certain problem to religion.

Tassawuf has always been the real essence of Islam - the tazkiyaa of the self - self control - is what the pioneers of tassawuf have taught and practiced. We should look at the lives of famous saints, rather than misguided so-called sufis.
6 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 18:04
Aziz Tayyab
After going through all aspects including sufi-izm i.e.piri/muridi of islam,I finally realised it's false according to it's own claims.I can give many
examples but here I will use only the one about the
Christ;first the name is wrong - it's Yesu Masih and
not Eesau who was son of Isaac,second the claim that
the Christ was neither killed nor crucified(quran)
and is alive making mohammad's claim to be His successor prophet a false claim because you do not
become successor of a living person.
Therefore,I would have to agree with the writer that all these pirs in pakistan are false and fraudulent.
As for the names like sayyed,qureshi etc. I am more than certain that these people are actually low cast hindu converts to islam and adopted these
titles to feel higher caste because there are no
arab sayyeds or qureshis etc.and these are typical
indian/pakistani names/titles.
sufism- I disagree
5 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:57
Your article may have hit home on a few issues but as far as clumping sufism with pirs and faqirs go, you're very wrong. The real sufi saints were preachers who promoted Islam by peaceful means and set their own lives as examples of how Muslims should be. This is in contrast to the modern day pirs we see who claim to have solutions to everything from poverty to aids and are in fact only looking for bettering their finances. Next time you go to a sufi's "urs"...ask around, any direct descendants present??? you won't find any because the real sufis of long ago never promoted anti-Islamic ideology like tombs, urs and whirling dervishes in marijuana induced trances, they promoted a peaceful form of Islam and humanity which is passed from generation to generation. There is, in fact, no such thing as a rich sufi family.
4 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 15:45
I read your column in Dawn and I must say that you are horribly misinformed about Sufism. You think that sitting at some "mazaar" makes you an expert on the subject? In fact, Wahhabism and Sufism are at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Wahhabism, which is an Islamic version of Christian Protestantism, emphasizes an over-reliance on rational proofs of God, much like the Calivinists and Lutherans. Sufism speaks of the experiential qualities of faith and does not care if it rationally fits in the brain or not. In fact, this same battle took place in the mind of the great Imam Al-Ghazzali who left his prestigious position at Nizammiyaa because he felt doubts about his faith. Only when he experienced God with the Sufis in Damascus did he say that he truly attained faith and wrote his treatise, Deliverance from Error.

The West went in the opposite direction and found itself at the door of atheism because it could not comprehend the nature of God. As Al-Ghazzali said, the brain cannot prove or disprove the nature of God. It is like asking a deaf person to explain the greatest symphony.

Your other tenuous claim is that Sufism is some tepid, defeatist group that attains millions of dollars from the West. I would wish! Are there beautiful masjids popping up in Pakistan that are "sufi?" In fact, the greatest propaganda in world history is the $70B poured by the Saudis to spread their religion of hate, which has spread to Pakistan. It was the "docile" Sufis you may thank for actually having Muslims in India, Indonesia, Turkey, among other places.

I am afraid your reading is completely ill-informed.
Perfunctory education system
3 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 12:23
J Malik
The original pirs might have been some pious individuals who brought in the message of love etc, however, their so-called descendents are sycophants without a doubt. The crux of problems Pakistan is facing lies in the wiseman's saying: "All it takes for evil to prevail is for a good men to do nothing". My suggestion to all you good educated folks who can identify right from wrong to be more pro-active. Take for instance pirs, records, document, make videos of these bastards while they are in their act. You have to learn how to be close to them and then provoke them, open them up, let their ugliness come out and then capture it using your ideas and the proliferate their sadistic behaviour, put it on YOUTUBE, MMS it to your friends, print it and distribute it everywhere. Destroy their fortes one by one.

Also, education system should include essays like the ones written above with case points made by real life examples. You have to proselitise to the teachers who are then in turn going to disseminate the right information to the generation in waiting. It is a generational process and will take atleast one generation but we have to start now.
Whats the difference???
2 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 11:30
I agree to most of the points you mentioned as far as the socio-economic system of Rural Pakistan is designed to keep the elite class away from all the troubles and hardships. However the point you try to highlight is that some how Sufism will bolster the feudal culture prevailing in Pakistan. My question is if you look into the history, the worst form of feudal system was established in Arab World under the flag of Wahabi Islam. Today, the deplorable situation of Muslims are in front of our eyes, who are living under the rule various so called noble kings who have the world's most extravagant life style!
The solution of the problem is reviving true Sufism which can't allow any form of injustice or discrimination to prevail in our society. As far as the present Pir, Gadda Nasheen(Machine) and Syed are concerned; they are materialistic people who are ready to cover them self in under any mask...(Sufism or Wahabism)!!!
1 Tuesday, 26 January 2010 10:19
Nabeel M Sher
Your thoughts are the real revolutionary thoughts that threaten the status quo of this society . The plague , the underlying plague we have been facing . I have been a vocal opponent of the same and your ideas are not new to me , but to see these ideas coming up and being published , I am relieved . I am relieved that there are people like you . But consequently with your chain of narratives you will finally talk about an alternative to sufism , please just ask your readers to read Quran and Hadiths and take them only to be the source of all virtues and wisdoms .

Once again , your efforts are deeply appreciated . Read your column at Dawn .

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