Bringing the diverse peoples of the world together in order to formulate a sustainable highway to peace is a crucial objective in these increasingly distraught times as, without any cohesive form of peaceful interaction, humankind, already in self-destruct mode, is destined to disappear from the face of this ‘outraged’ and fragile planet.
The basic Sufi concept of peaceful coexistence hinges on an all-embracing love of, and respect for, ‘everything’: the human race in its entirety, all other life forms and of planet earth itself. This love and respect is intended to bring about an all-enveloping harmony in which every single ‘body’ - animate and inanimate - is able to live and interact together for the long term benefit of all. There is no place for inequality or greed in the world of Sufism and certainly no place for warfare.
It is true to say that the much maligned ‘hippie’ movement of the 1960s was, in a small way, based on the Sufi principles of peaceful coexistence and there are many similar, if lower key movements, floating around today. But none of them have the intrinsically ‘powerful’ base that Sufism has slowly, yet surely, developed down through the centuries and which, if positively promoted, could be the answer to the myriad ‘wrongs’ plaguing our world today.
I am not going to discuss the historical origins of Sufism here, nor am I about to present a discourse on prominent past and present Sufi personalities, as it is far more pertinent to illustrate how Sufism can be wielded as a tool of peace.
When one looks at the state of our existing world, it is immediately apparent that insatiable human greed has caused a myriad of miserable problems: poverty, starvation, malnutrition, lack of water, lack of education and medical facilities, along with too many other problems to list here aside from the largest and most destructive problem of all - warfare - are all, in one way or another, the direct result of human greed and a greed which, if it is allowed to remain unchecked, has the potential to ruin all and everything necessary to maintain human life.
The sharing and caring qualities of Sufism, if and when they are correctly promoted and practiced, are the base from which the greed policies that are now dominant can be tackled and, one would hope, eventually dismantled and replaced by far more equitable, harmonious and, this is of extreme importance, sustainable systems in which respectful coexistence becomes the rule rather than the rare exception.
The obvious place in which to put Sufism into practice is right here in the Muslim world that is, sadly, increasingly being torn apart, even dismantled in some places, by Muslims themselves - with - in specific regions the misinformed and thus destructive ‘assistance’ of foreign interference in the guise of ‘aid’ or under the banner of ‘global security’ and ‘war on terror’ both of which are anything but!
Right here in Pakistan, to bring the issue home, is where one Muslim ‘sect’ fights, murders and otherwise harasses other Muslim sects, along with people of other faiths whose home this country is too. This ‘infighting’ and killing of innocent people is totally against Islamic tenants and needs to be stopped on an emergency basis before it erupts, as it has the potential too, into first provincial and then an all-out civil war in which more and more totally innocent people - men, women and children alike - are brutally killed in the name of one sect’s understanding of Islam over another’s. If, on the other hand, the basic tenants of Sufism are given prominence and are practiced, then all of the above can be both negated and avoided.
No doubt many readers will view this as ‘pie in the sky’; a totally unpractical, inapplicable and idealist ideology that should be laughed out of court so to speak and, as far as the uninitiated are concerned, this attitude is understandable. But our Islamic scholars, respected or otherwise, should be in a position to present practical Sufism - remember that this aspect of Sufism transcends race and creed - as an operable formulae for first local, then national, then international and ultimately global peace and prosperity, thus paving the way to harmonious existence for all and everything on an equitably sustainable basis.
n The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban.