Cultural norms in Pakistan and Sufism
The state of Pakistan is being consumed by violence of all sorts; ethnic, sectarian, tribal, political, etc. Thousands of people have died in the global war of terror alone not to speak of the deaths caused by religious bigotry or tribal disputes. Such brutal violence has shattered the moral fabric of the society and affected the sense of pride and nationalism among the people.
Not only that, we have also become a society where corruption, sleaze, extortion and exploitation have become the norms, where might is always right, where unthinkable acts do not shock the people and where religion is frequently distorted and misused to achieve ulterior designs.
While there are several causes to this slide into anarchy of killings and senseless violence, this was unthinkable when the country was created in August 1947. The founder of the country, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was strongly opposed to bigotry and violence of all kinds. In numerous speeches, he declared that the new state would be protective of the rights of all the people, including the several minorities living in the country. He had declared that non-Muslims including Hindus, Christians and Parsis are all Pakistanis and enjoy equal rights to others. The founder of the nation strongly believed in the importance of idealism, social equality, egalitarianism and fair play and was opposed to all kinds of religious, communal and ethnic divisions and prejudice and intolerance.
In a speech in Dhaka in 1948, the great Quaid said: “We shall treat the minorities in Pakistan fairly and justly. Their lives and property in Pakistan are far more secure and protected than in India and we shall maintain peace, law and order and protect and safeguard fully every citizen of Pakistan without distinction of caste, creed or community.”
On another occasion, he said: “Let me tell you that I shall not depart from what I said repeatedly with regard to the minorities. Every time I spoke about the minorities I meant what I said and what I said I meant. Minorities to whichever community they may belong; will be safeguarded. Their religion or faith or belief will be secure. There will be no interference of any kind with their freedom of worship. They will have their protection with regard to their religion, faith, their life, their culture. They will be, in all respects, the citizens of Pakistan without any distinction of caste or creed. They will have their rights and privileges and no doubt, along with it goes the obligation of citizenship. Therefore, the minorities have their responsibilities also and they will play their part in the affairs of this state.”
Unfortunately, it seems that we as a nation are forgetting the spiritual and Islamic values that Sufism has offered to the people of the Sub-Continent over the centuries. It was Sufis and Sufism that attracted hordes of people in South Asia towards Islam and its glorious teachings. The Sufis preached tolerance in society, respect for other people no matter what their religious beliefs or ethnicity were. They helped people without considering their origins, attitudes or way of life. They engaged in dialogue with harmony and deference for others. They abhorred violence and promoted the highest values of Islam without arousing animosity. It is no surprise that they are still revered throughout the Sub-Continent by people of all shades and colour.
Essentially speaking, a Sufi seeks to bind the fabric of community and preaches harmony. He gives a message that touches hearts and minds of all people.
History has shown that Sufis also guided rulers, both Muslims and non Muslims in the past. Their role in good governance can be utilised even today. In the present day, there is a need to revive the Sufi Islamic traditions in Pakistan to bring the society together that has been marred by pessimism and violence of all sorts.