Sindhi Sufism-Michel Boivin’s work

Sindhi Sufism-Michel Boivin’s work

Sharing is Caring-Spread The Love

Two aspects of Sufism

The author has pointed two main areas. And these are the important work is on Sufism in general and Sindhi Sufism in particular. Michel Boivin has highlighted the local nature of Sufism in the area.  And he has looked into the matter in terms of history. Moreover, he explained its changing complexion according to the demands of those changing times.

Michel Boivin works for sindh

There are two traditions within Sufism. One is the major and the other is the minor tradition. The major stands for Sufism developed in the Muslim heartland of Arabia.  And then developed in Iran.  But the minor tradition relates to all other areas and regions. The Sufic attitude influenced these regions. India had a major chunk of such areas. A region like Sindh is the focus of study by the author.

Language of Sufism cultural

He confessed that the language of Sufism is part of cultural ecumenism. The inclusiveness straddles most of the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent. It includes present-day Sindh, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Punjab, (both Indian and Pakistani). However, the main languages like Sindhi, Punjabi, Seraiki, Urdu, Hindi, and Gujarati are interrelated.  And they are similar with all their variants. And the unity of the region extends beyond the linguistic affiliation. The region’s cohesiveness is reflected in the recurrent design.  And themes of literary forms, music, and art of these cultures.

sindhi cultural dance

Sindh does indeed have a very distinct nuance within the larger spectrum of Sufism. Rather it would be wrong to label it as a deviation.  There is a bias relationship between the major or high tradition. The names have this intrinsic bias.  But then there is a need to liberate oneself from this equation of what is right and wrong. And to study it in its individual capacity. Sufism within the Indian context is unique in its nature.  It does not need to be compared to another tradition even if it is from sources closest to where Islam originated from.

Related Article: Sufi musical gathering and Sufi musical instruments in Chitral

Sufism has an existence other than Islam

So, to make Islam a product of one particular region or culture is a fallacy. And that has been followed or touted for too long. It is not so.  And it grew independently in line with the local conditions, environment, and intellectual challenges. To study one in relation to the other as judgment is thus superficial.

Sufism has an existence other than Islam

This also brings us to the other strand. It is in the view of placing it within the historical context. So, it has changed and evolved according to the demand of the times. There is no prototype or a fixed model but it has roots that have struck according to the realities of the age and era.

Sufism is in the context of time and place

Sindh Sufism is  very peculiar. Moreover, it has struck the local chord.  And also because it is still fulfilling a certain need. The need may not only be spiritual but also political, sociological, anthropological, and cultural. This book is particularly useful because it liberates Sufism from the conventional definitions.  And places it within the context of time and place.

sufi gathering

During the Arab rule, the first Sufis were ascetics.  Abu Ali al Sindhi was the mystical master. He introduced Bastami to some Hindu concepts. Bastami is the first exponent of the concept of fana. It is an Islamised version of the Hindu concept of nirvana. Mansoor Hallaj was the first who visited Sindh. But though many legends related to Hallaj occurred in Sindh. And there is no place in Sindh devoted to him.

Among the earliest ascetic figures associated with Sindh Sufism is Haji Turabi. And his shrine located in deltic Sindh close to Thatta and to the ancient town of Bhambhore. But it is very difficult to say who he was, a mystic, a warrior, or a governor. Pir Patho metabolically is a place where Pir Patho’s tomb stands.

Pir Patho’s tomb

The site is composed of two parts.  The cemetery where the tomb stands and presumably the mosque of Muhammid bin Qasim. The complex figure of Pir Patho is related to the Sumra rule in Sindh. And Sumras were in part converted to Ismailism and called Qaramitah spread as far as Multan. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked Multanin 1005. Similarly, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar (1274) was not in line with the sharia and these extreme orders were disciplined and later tariqats absorbed these orders.

The second wave of Sufism

It is possible that the second wave of Sufis came to Sindh to challenge the Ismalia power. Around that time, the first Suharwardi Sufis,  Bahauddin Zikria arrived in the subcontinent in the thirteenth century. Then Qadariyas and Naqshbandias in the sixteenth century institutionalized Sufism in Sindh.

The oldest literature found in Sindh prior is the Ismaili ginans of Pir Satgur Nur (1079).  Pir Sadruddin (1409), followed the first specimens of the ginans,  also the first composer of kafis. Most scholars in Sindh more or less accept Qazi Qazan as the author of the oldest known Sindhi poetry. And he gave a lot of importance to Sama. Similarly,  Shah Latif Bhitai was born. All these spiritual developments were removed from the legalistic interpretation of religion.

With the coming of the British, the Sindhi Sufism and language were formalized. And through the objectification of the printed word canonization took place. British represented Sufism devoted to constructing the classical culture. And it is based on Sufi Persian poetry similar to that of Greco-Roman classical culture. The educated classes in Sindh started to use their new skills in their own vernacular religious culture.  Thus consolidating the concept of Sindhi identity.

sindh religious culture

Historical Dictionary of the Sufi Culture of Sindh, Pakistan, and India
Author: Michel Boivin
Publishers: Oxford University Press, 2015
Pages: 358
Price: Rs 1495

Sindhi Sufism-Sindhi Sufi Kalam

Sindhi Sufi Kalam is available on youtube. One can also download Sufi Sindhi songs. One can also read about Sufi poetry and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai to understand Sindhi Sufism


Sharing is Caring-Spread The Love