Can University Produce Dervish?


By Shazia Anwer Cheema

All is set for establishing Research Hubs for promotion of Sufism, science, and technology all over Punjab, and first of its kind is already inaugurated in Lahore.

The name of Center is after Moroccan Sufi Abu al-Hasan ash-Shadhili who is also known as Sheikh al-Shadhili. He was the founder of the Shadhili Sufi order.

In the subcontinent, popular Sufi Silsalas (Orders) are Chishti Order, Naqshbandi Order, and Qadiriyya Order.  While Shadhili Order has been popular in the Maghreb and Egypt.

Available areas of work of this center include research on Islam, Sufism, religious thought, interfaith harmony, and modern sciences like science and technology. The center will be linked with shelter homes, child protection bureaus, prisons, particularly women and juvenile jails, schools, colleges, universities, public, private, and religious educational institutions. The center would provide access to international libraries like Jstor, Oxford, and Cambridge.

This is pleasant news that such 380 degrees Center would be operational in Lahore offering course and degrees to masters and Ph.D. students. Teaching religious thoughts interfaith harmony, theology, the competitive study of religions can be found in several universities of Punjab but this Center will also offer degrees in Sufism. For my understanding can Sufism be taught in a semestral system, being divided into module/credit hours? I surf around and find few universities having Sufism Departments, mainly Islamic studies and Sufism.

While looking for a course outline I find out that only the theoretical background of Sufism is being taught. The prominent books in Sufism tradition and important figures introduction has been given. So for my knowledge is concerns Sufism is a journey that sometimes finds a destination and most of the time this journey is endless because Truth is not simple to examine if found. Sufi goes through the process of Kashf (unveiling) in this journey.

Kashf defines the state of experiencing an individual divine disclosure of Truth after ascending through spiritual struggles, and unveiling what has not been see-through simple practicing of religion. Kashf is etymologically linked to Mukashafa (disclosure). Disclosure is knowledge of things unseen behind the veils. The veil is blurriness between the accepted truth and the real truth. Sufi believes that whatever truth we know around us is Approximate Truth while the Truth is hidden and only purified hearts can find it.

There is no fixed rule or process to find Truth in Sufism. Different Sufis had explained different stages and processes.

Truth is found after going through stages (Manazal) and stations (Paraho or Astana), different schools of thought have marked different kinds of Manazal. Ishq (love) is the first requirement for the exploration of truth and Ishq needs total submission to beloved. Total submission is a state where nothing is shared with no one except with the beloved. Ishq is a prerequisite for the Islamic doctrine of Tawhid (Monotheism) but Tawhid does not only means believing in One God rather total submission to One God with sharing anything with anyone but just the God.

Most important and acceptable stages starting from Tawba (Repentance), it goes through different stations of the inner voyage including the Wara’ (Watchfulness), Zuhd (Renunciation), Faqr (Poverty), Ṣabr (Patience), Tawakkul (Trust), Riḍā (Satisfaction), Comparison to Ḥāl (Spiritual State) and Qualifications (Wasf— Maqqm–Station).

How can mentioned stages of Sufism be taught and attain in a span of two, three or even five years?  If yes, then how?

How one can learn in a classroom setting Tawabah repentance, how stages and components of repentance could be examined afterward?

To my understanding Sufism is the training of a lifetime, no institution can make one a Sufi, second for adhering to Sufism one does not need a controlled and contrived setting. My concern is that we are far away from the good old days where acceptance level was equal to being humane.

Millions have been spent to make us what we are today, intolerant, obsessive, and impulsive and tons of knowledge has been poured into our brains to make us anything but unlike a Sufi during the last forty-plus years. Who is going to tie the bell now by claiming that Sufism is a better institution? Who will debate about Treqat, and Shareyat?  Who will put his/her head under the sword of wahtat ul shahood and wahtat ul wajood?

Even historically Sufism is considered an Ajmi Ideology and always parallel and sometimes crossing to another Islamic sect.

I have no doubt we need Sufism to simmer down but I am on square one again; how? If by opening a university or academy, as an academic myself I am sure that Sufism cannot be taught in modules, in prescribed time with a defined outline. South Asian society is always considered the land of Sufis and Darvishes, this is another story of how it has been changed systematically over the last few decades.

In my humble opinion, we are far away from the point of becoming Sufis, Faqr and Darvish have been replaced with imposition and impatience. If somehow it could be reversed and in my lifetime I will be the luckiest person.

Note: The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She heads the DND Thought Center. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh  Email: shaziaanwer@yahoo.com

Central Desk
Central News Desk.

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