Sufism and Pakistani society
02 October, 2012
The undisputed dominance of Sufism over national life since the independence of Pakistan is undeniable. Ever since the conquest of India by Mohammad Bin Qasim in 711 AD, Sufi thinking has been very popular among the people. Sufi saints used to teach the message of Muslim brotherhood, tolerance, unity and respect for other religions, promoting Islamic values along the way and a vast majority of the people were drawn towards them. This approach was positive, calculated and in line with the historical need of the Pakistani nation — building the mindset necessary for independent thinking during the Pakistan Movement. Therefore, it can be said that Sufi thinking is an integral part of Pakistani thinking. When Pakistan came into being, the people, having a rich endowment of great Sufi saints and poets wanted to establish a progressive, tolerant and united Islamic society. Unfortunately, present day Pakistan is facing a very challenging situation in which extremism, terrorism, sectarian divides, corruption, exploitation, target killings and extortion have become overriding factors that undermine the very objective of the Pakistani social order. Sectarian clashes in Pakistan, which erupted in the early 1980s, reached their peak in the mid 1990s and continue to stain the security landscape of Pakistan. Data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) depict that, since 1989, 3,821 people have been killed in 2,601 different incidents of sectarian violence in the country. The most recent wave of sectarian violence has spread to Quetta, Kurram Agency, Karachi and Gilgit-Baltistan. This relentless wave of sectarian killings represents a formidable challenge to Pakistani society.
In order to fight the growing menace of religious extremism, sectarian divide leading to violent killings and ethnic intolerance, it is imperative to seek guidance from the teachings of great Sufi saints. For this purpose, our media must promote the principles of Sufism in order to bring peace, unity and brotherhood in religious seminaries, mosques and other worship places. This would also make people refrain from spreading provocative literature and materials, and making fiery speeches so that the feelings of other sects are not hurt. Bettering Pakistan's image requires putting our house in order first and creating a society that is progressive and tolerant in its outlook and behaviour.