Srinagar: Sufism, or Tasawwuf, is an ideological belief system of the Islam mysticism that took off in the 7th century by mystics from the Central Asia who avowed that they had discovered the way to obtain knowledge of Allah. The term Sufi (meaning the “man of wool” in Arabic) was coined for these ascetics who wore coarse woollen garments known as ‘sufu.
Sufism is a corridor to expansion of consciousness and realisation of self and the universe as a whole. It unlocks the innate spiritual and intuitive abilities of the practitioner while bringing about a holy communion with God through a personal relationship with the Divine. They emphasised on seven stages to be one with God: Repentance, Abstinence, Renunciation, Poverty, Patience, Trust in God, and Submission to the will of God.
The unsteady economic conditions along with unrivalled social domination of the Brahmin class created space for a culture based on the doctrine of love, compassion, common identity, and submission to God regardless of caste and financial position. It introduced new arts that gave everyone an equal chance to earn livelihood, fight poverty, and social upliftment.
The prominent orders (silsilas) of Sufism in Kashmir are the Naqshbandi, the Qadris, the Suhrawardi, the Kubrawi and the Rishis. Besides the order of Rishis which have local origins, the other orders were brought in from Iran and Central Asia. Sufi saints quickly gained popularity on account of their devoutness and sincerity.
Kashmiris initially converted to this brand of Islam under the guidance of Sufis and further at the point of the sword by the Muslim invaders; although it is noteworthy to mention that Islam formed a new face taking up local beliefs, a synthesis of Advaita and Sufism. Its counterparts in Central and South Asia are world apart.
Kashmiri Sufism has a certain disposition, an amalgamation of reasoning of Islamic lessons and tantric methods of Hindu Shaivism.
At the end of the 9th century, Sufism was introduced as a ‘softer’ version of Islam which promoted the idea of ‘religious humanism’. It entered Kashmir with Hazrat Bulbul Shah of the Suhrawadi order who visited the valley during the rule of King Suhadev in the thirteenth century. After him, the mission was carried forward by Sufis like Sayyed Jalal-ud-din of Bukhara and Sayyed Taj-ud-din, who propagated it in the reign of Sultan Shihab-ud-din (1354-73). But the most influential of the Sufis was Mir Sayyed Ali Hamadani.
Sufism is indeed panacea to all kinds of present-day ills in the valley and needs to be practised at all levels in the society. It is knocking the Kashmiris to return to their roots.