Volume - 2 : Issue - 3

Published : Jul. - Sep. 2003

Group : Spirituality

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KHADIM HUSSAIN SOOMRO on Sindh and Sindhi Sufism

Translated by Prem Matlani

Kado Mangh Kade – Jeean Lohar Lapeteo
Munhjo jeau jade – supryan sogho kayo

‘Joining link to link, like the blacksmith forms a chain –
Thy love holds me firmly forever.”

The culture of beautiful Sindh, nestling on the Indus – contemporary of the Ganga, Nile, Tigris and Euphrates’ civilizations is a bright chapter in the history of mankind, comparable to Babylon and Sumer.

I am at loss of words to describe the greatness of a 5000 year old civilization – Mohan-jo-daro, old Manchur Lake, the city of Sehwan – called Shivastan – being a centre for Lord Shiva’s devotees, Ranikot, Nerunkot and Kot Digi Forts, Kahn-jo-Daro and ruins of Aamri, all symbols of our great heritage.

Sir John Marshall, who was instrumental in the excavations at Mohan-jo-daro, was astonished to find that the city layout boasted a well laid out town planning scheme of houses, bylanes, drainage systems and included public swimming pools!

Further proof of a cultured and developed civilization was proven by the discovery of “the wheel” which played a pivotal role in the development of mankind and “the statue of dancing girl”, in the ruins of Mohan-jo-daro, signifying evolution in the field of fine arts. Sindhis have been propagating the message of peace and love from time immemorial. The absence of weapons of fighting only goes to further this aspect. G. M. Syed has elaborately described the culture, civilization, traditions, living conditions and the evolution of Sindh in detail in his book “Sindhu Desh, a study into its separate identity through the ages” and K. R. Malkani’s book “The Sindh Story” also reflects on this aspect. Due to this tolerant nature, Sindh has remained aloof from religious intolerance, racial hatred or untouchability.

Mr. Bill Clinton, ex-President – United States of America said, “America’s beauty lies in the amalgamation of people belonging to different civilizations.” But G. M. Syed has gone a step further and said that different civilizations not only made a mark on each other in Sindh but Sindh encouraged the meeting of different religions too which let to exemplary tolerance, rarely found in other countries.

Quoting from his book : “Nature has endowed this land with a great past. I am optimistic this land will have a bright future too. In the cradle of old civilizations Mohan-jo-daro speaks volumes about it. This is the land where many races intermingled. Daravar, Arya, Sami and Mongol races can easily be traced here. Not only did the races intermingle but different religions and philosophies influenced one another in such a way that the parallel of the same can be seen nowhere. Buddhism was originally born in Central India but was promulgated well in Sindh. Islam added affirmation (surrender and safety), Vedanta and oneness also interacted on each other in this land. On one side – oneness influenced the Hindu Yogis who decreased idol worship, while on the other side Muslims were impressed by the renunciation and included music in Sufism.”

“Hindu-Muslim faiths thus came close to each other by mutual harmony and respect. The teachings of Baba Guru Nanak are an outstanding example and outcome of this hypothesis. The Muslim Sufis propagated the founding of oneness in all regions under the guidance of Shah Abdul Latif and created harmony and mutual respect among the believers of various religions. The untouchability of India, can never be found, even if you search for it, in the daily life of Sindh.”

Dr. Burns describes Sindh : “There is no country in Asia or rather on earth that is so perfectly priest ridden.”

This philosophy got a boost from the Hindus and Muslims alike. Ibn-al-Arabi, born in Spain and who died in Syria provided it with a formal façade. He relied on quotation of Hadrat Ali “Arfatum Rabi ba Rabi” which means “I recognized God through God” (In Hindu philosophy Hadrat Ali is regarded as the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu). Sufi Sachal Sarmast says the same. “Sunlight is not seen by means of lamp but through the light of the Sun only.” Even before Ibn-al-Arabi a Hindu was instrumental in the propagation of Tassawuf (Mysticism). He later converted to Islam and called himself Bu Ali Sindhi. He then proceeded to Baghdad and inspired Jamaid Baghdadi and Bayazid Bistani and other Arab mystics.

You may ask what is “Tassawuf”? It is neither a religion nor a doctrine, but a philosophy, an attitude that preaches tolerance, care for the others’ existence, co-operation with each other, love, peace and co-existence.

This trend is inherent in the veins and arteries of the inhabitants of Sindh. For example the temple of Hinglaj is frequented not only by Hindus but also by Muslims. Lord Jhulelal is revered by Hindus and Muslims alike and even the caretaker priests at its shrine are Muslim Sindhis. When Shahbaz Kalandar died it was a Mirchandani of Sehwan who was assigned the job of covering the body of the Saint with a cloth. Even today two Hennas are applied by Hindus on his anniversary. One by Lalanji Ram and another by Assandas, nephew of Maharaj Laldas.

In charge of community meal ‘langar’ at the festival of Sufi Shah Inayat is a Hindu Sindhi. Swami Narain temple – Karachi at Bandar Road is frequented by Hindu Sindhis for worship while the Muslim Sindhis visit to devour its vegetarian fare. Divan Thakurdas’ food joint at Lakhidar, Shikarpur and another at Tariq Road, Karachi is visited by Hindus and Muslims alike. Saint Kanwarram’s renditions echo throughout Sindh even today. 20 million Muslims and 1.5 million Hindus of Sindh celebrate Eid and Holi jointly even 55 years after partition. The credit for this goes to the Sufi saints of Sindh who played their part in inculcating tolerance into the culture of Sindh.

I would like to present their poetry propagating “Sufi la Kosti” (Sufi is without prejudice) which is the best example of “Unity in Diversity.” Shah Latif says :
“Koren Kayaroon tuhnjoon – lakhani lakh hazaar
Jeeu har kanh jeea mein daishan dharoon dhaar
Preen tunhja paar, kehra chaee kehra chavan”
‘Thy person is multifaced
Thou prevail in every creation,
Though looks may differ
Words fail one to describe you –
O! Boundless God.”

This Sufi tendency is very much visible in Sindhi rulers like Rai Sahasi, King Chach, Soomras and Sammas who practiced tolerance. The example of King Dahar can be cited in this context, who preferred death than handing over his daughters to the descendants of Ummaiya Arab family in matrimony. He even ordered inscription of an Arab – Mohammad Alafi on one side of government currency.

Buddhism took birth in India and spread into Sindh. You even find centres of Jainism and places of lingam worship in Sindh. Karachi hosts Agiaries as well as Christian churches and synagogues. Baba Guru Nanak came out with new religious doctrines and the 10th Guru gobind Singh founded the Khalsa Panth. Hindu Sindhis too adopted it and called themselves Nanak Panthis. Main Gurudwara of Sikhs was built in Amritsar, which was destroyed time and again. It was then decided that the foundation should be laid out by a saint. It was Mian Mir Sehwani, who laid the foundation of the Golden Temple on Thursday Maangh 1st, Samwaat 1645 i.e. January 3, 1588 A. D.

It was Mian Mir Sehwani who was responsible for inspiring prince Dara Shikoh to become a Sufi. Emperor Akbar, who propagated ‘Deen-e-Elahi’ was influenced by two Sindhis, Mulla Farzia and Abdul Fazal. During Kalhro era in Sindh Makhdoom Mohammad Hashim Thatvi had issued religious edicts which were contested by Sufi Shah Inayatal Makhdoom Moin Thatvi. Shah Inayat had to lay down his life fighting religious bigotry.

Even Shah Latif had to confront the Kalhoras but he didn’t yield before them and finally the Kalhoras had to kneel before this person. In 1940 when riots, due to Masjid Manzil Gaah erupted in Sindh, Sindh premier Allah Bax Soomro preferred resignation than bowing before the communal Muslim League. G. M. Syed, though a Sufi by nature, took part in these riots, thanks to misbehavior of Congress but repented later. He tendered his public apology for the ill fated role he played in those riots.

We must ponder over the causes of the regretful incidents of the mid twentieth century which the Hindu Sindhis had to experience. I would like to quote Sir Hudo, Governor of Sindh (1942-1946) who said in his address to the Governors Conference on 31st August 1944 “Sindh doesn’t exhibit religious hatred, therefore Gandhi will throw over the Sindhi Hindus and Jinnah Sindhi Muslims, if it suited them.”

G. M. Syed, being President of Sindh Muslim League and chairman Action Committee differed with Jinnah in 1946 and said that problems of Sindh were local ones and he didn’t like interference from the centre. Senior Sindhi politician Nichaldas Vazirani tried his best to move the Congress leaders through his letters but all in vain. He repeatedly wrote to Sardar Patel that Sindh’s inclusion in Pakistan would make it permanently subservient to Punjab. The British, who didn’t like such tolerant attitude of Sindhis acted in concert with Congress and Muslim League to teach Sindh a lesson and included Sindh into Pakistan leading to the large scale uprooting and migration of original residents of Sindh – the Hindu Sindhis. Amils of Sindh, who were famous for their administrative acumen as well as Sindhworkis well known for their business skills had to leave their mother land.

In these circumstances G. M. Syed, Nichaldas Vazirani, Professor Ghanshyam and Sheikh Abdul Majid Sindhi approached Hindu Sindhis and urged them not to leave Sindh. But the machinations of communal people succeeded and Hindu Sindhis had to migrate. Even today there are 1.5 million Hindu Sindhis in Sindh compared to the 2 lakhs at the time of Parition. Should the Hindus have stayed back and faced the ordeal?

I put forth the major cause for this tragedy. We were divided vertically on religious lines. There were Muslim Sindhis and Hindu Sindhis – not just pure Sindhis, the inheritors of our ancestral rich heritage.

Sindh nation is older than religions and philosophies. Sindh existed when there was no religion therefore our love unto Sindh should be above these parochial considerations of cast , creed, faith and economic divide. A Sindhi book has discussed the role of Sindh in the independence movement. “I can still not comprehend whether it was independence or catastrophe for Sindh!”

I have been wandering for its solution and suddenly a thought flashed on the screen of my mind. Let us join our hands to offer sacrifice and please our motherland Sindh and pray to Shah Latif, Shah Inayat Sufi, Qalandar Lal Shahbaaz, Sachal Sarmast, Jhulelal, Sami and Bhagat Kanwarram to bless the land of our ancestors – SINDH.