Global Sindhis and World Peace
By Dr. Baldev Matlani
Since time immemorial, man has tried to impose his will, religion, language and culture on others, leading to war, massacre, destruction, annihilation and the creation of the term 'Clash of civilizations'. To counter this tendency of man, sages or wise men have always propagated tolerance and the need for peaceful co-existence.
Recent centuries saw the European domination of the world through colonialism and imperialism. Colonial ideas were closely connected to racism and slavery, on one hand, and to religious missionary efforts on the other. These three ideas or beliefs were intimately related both in theory and in practice. Missionaries accompanied colonial armies that enslaved or turned native peoples into bonded laborers.
In the colonial era, many Europeans thought that the white race was superior to all other races that were savages, particularly dark-skinned people, whose very skin color indicated something evil. They similarly thought that Christianity, the religion of the white man, was superior to all the religions of other races, which were primitive, polytheistic and unholy. Dark skinned people and devil worship were even equated in the popular mind. The civilization of white Europe was considered to be true civilization while civilizations even of venerable ancient cultures like India and China were deemed barbaric, akin to the superstitions of tribal peoples.
Today in most of the world, we have discarded colonialism and recognized its errors at least as an overt policy (often it continues in subvert economic forms, however). We have even more severely criticized racism and tried to eliminate it (though it too continues in various forms). Countries like South Africa that continued racist policies into the post-war era met with global scorn until they changed. The idea of the supremacy of the white race that was commonly accepted in intellectual, cultural and political circles in the West in the last century is now looked upon as backward and bigoted. However, the third component of colonial expansion—religious exclusivism—still flourishes much as it did in the previous centuries, though sometimes with a tarnished image, and is in many places as aggressive and intolerant as ever.
While colonial armies no longer go overseas, the missionary groups that used to accompany them still follow the same old paths and with the same worne out mentality. Missionaries are still trained to infiltrate and undermine foreign cultures and their different religions. They still have the same arrogance and sense of superiority over non-Christian beliefs, which they will not sympathetically examine at all. Evangelic preachers still preach hellfire and damnation, particularly to Hindus, who were seen by Christians as the most idolatrous of all religions in the colonial era and still are today. The missionaries are still living in previous centuries. While we honor the right of peoples to form their own governments, the missionaries do not honor the right of peoples to choose a non-Christian belief, which they deem as a sin against God!
Let us be very clear about the dangers of religious exclusivism that has spawned every sort of crusade, holy war, genocide and hostility through the centuries. The idea that only one religion is true and all others are false is akin to the idea that only one race is noble and all other races are inferior. It is akin to the idea that only one culture is civilized and all other cultures, even those with great literatures of their own, are barbaric. This idea of religious exclusivism is another nineteenth century prejudice, like racism, that is out of date in the planetary age. It reflects bigotry and narrow mindedness. It promotes communal disharmony and breeds violence.
This means that we should strive to promote pluralism in religion as a primary cultural and societal value, as part of real human rights and a truly culturally sensitive educational system. We must recognize that spirituality cannot be owned by any belief, church, savior or creed. We must learn to welcome a diversity in spiritual practices, respecting many paths to God or truth. In this process we must honor the many non-Biblical paths that have been trampled upon as unholy, become receptive to their wisdom and help restore their place in the world. We must realize that each individual should be free to find God in his or her own way and that no institution or belief is required for this.
The true religion of Sindhis is Sufism (Tasawuf), though normally we may hear that this person is a Hindu and that is a Muslim. Even when they offer prayers to their own God, Sindhis, in fact practice Sufism and thus it can be certainly said, that Sindhis are true Sufis. Religion has divided the people into various groups and they have enslaved themselves to their self-created religions. A man's love unto his religion or nation breeds hatred for others. A fascist trend creeps in as everyone would consider his religion to be superior to others and feels duty bound to lead people from other religions and convert them into his own, by whatever means, either by sword or with any lucre. All this has been going on since time immemorial in the name of God. History is replete with such instances of missionaries, the crusaders, Islamic expeditions and elimination of races altogether. The universal hatred has led many persons to simply deny the existence of God, which divides people into different factions. It is better to negate than to believe or seek peace through denial than acceptance.
Different interpretations of a single word divide people into various classes. In such a case, it is better to prioritize the humanity than entanglement within different interpretations. Sindh has been a battleground of different religions for many centuries. It is said, that around 1500 years B.C. Aryans entered Sindh through the hilly terrains of Khyber Pass. Then came Iranians, Greeks, Budhists and Arabs. Each one propagated his own religion. Around 1200 years of Islamic rule on Sindh caused heavy trials and tribulations for indigenous Hindu populace. They had either to convert or face the wrath of occupiers. Many indignities were heaped upon them which also led to heavy dislocation of Hindu people from Sindh to Punjab, Gujarat and Rajasthan, but they always yearned to come back to their motherland and whenever they found a sympathetic regime in Sindh, they returned back. Richard Burton, a British tourist who wandered through the length & breath of Sindh, mentioned in his book 'Sindh and the Races Inhabitants in the Valley of River Indus', that he couldn't understand as to why Sindhi Hindus prefer living in Sindh, despite all those indignities unleashed on them by its Muslim rulers. It must have been their inherent love for their country - Sindh.
History is witness to the fact, that Sindhis are basically humanists and harbor no ill feelings for anyone. The word 'Tasawuf' may have been invented some thousand years back, but these feelings have always remain intact with Sindhis. Basically, a Sindhi person has always remained a flag-bearer of love. Dr. H.T. Sorley has written in his book 'Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit, His Life & Works', that Sindhis didn't exhibit any military expertise. This area has not produced any invader worth mentioning in the history. Sindhis were hard-working and peace loving people but remained occupied with their local problems and their life revolved around ploughing their agricultural land and sustainance. Such an opinion from a world renowned scholar, Dr. Sorley clearly indicated the basic nature of a Sindhi person and his humanism. They never usurp others' rights and are content with whatever little they have. Sufism has always remained a basic tenet of their life. Most of the classical pieces of Sindhi literature revolve around Sufism. Shah Abdul Karim Bulri-a-waro, Qazi qadan, Khwaja Mohd. Zaman of Lanwari Sharif, Shah Inayat Sufi, Shah Abdul Latif, Sachal Saeen, sami, Rohal dalpat and many more poets have propounded different aspects of Mysticism and Tasawuf.
In Sindh, the two faiths i.e. Islam and Hinduism are often found mixed up in an un-usual way. A Hindu will become the Murid (disciple) of a Muslim Pir and vice-versa. So too, the same Pirs buried in different parts of the country are not only respected by individuals of both the religions, but Hindus will have one name and Muslims another, for them. Thus, the former venerate the river god as 'Zindah Pir' and the later call him 'Khwaja Khizr'; 'Lalu Jasraj' is converted into 'Mangho Pir' and 'Lal Shahbaz Qalandar' is offered prayers by Hindus as 'Raja Bhartari'. The Sindhis, whether Hindus or Muslims broadly follow the doctrine of Sufism. None adheres to a strict version of his own religion. Both are the most tolerant persons compared to other communities of Indian sub-continent. From the perspective of Devbandi school of thought, who is also termed as 'Wahabi' or 'salafi', Sindhi Muslims would not fit into the definition of a strict Muslim. Likewise, Sindhi Hindus would not toe the path of a strict Hindu, as they are least inclined to idol worship and generally follow the edicts of Sikhism; pray before the holy 'Granth Saheb' and regard it as their 11th Guru. 'Guru Granth Saheb' is full of couplets from Muslim Sufis, like Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Baba Bule Shah and Kabir etc. Baba Guru Nanak dev, considered to be the founder of Sikh religion was always accompanied by two persons, a Hindu named 'Balo' and a Muslim named 'Mardano'. Interestingly enough, so was the case with our own poet Hazrat Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai, with whom accompanied a Hindu named 'Madan' and 'Tamar', a Muslim.
When we look at the widespread killings, rape and wholesale destruction of property in the wake of Partition of India in 1947, we find the province of Sindh, an oasis of peace in the troubled desert of India. It was only in January, 1948 when Muslims from India migrated to Pakistan and the new dispensation of Pakistan dominated by Indian Muslim Prime Minister, Liaqat Ali Khan, who engineered widespread communal riots in Sindh to create a fear psychosis which led to migration of Sindhi Hindus to India Present day, world needs this trait of tolerance and co-existence which Sindhis have been propagating from the dawn of earlier civilizations.