As I navigated my way through the maze of lanes in Nizammudin West (Delhi), that led to the durgah of Amir Khusrow, I was appalled by the filth, and crass commercialization that seem to ooze from every corner of those lanes. ‘Could these lanes really lead me to the shrine of one of greatest Sufi poets of this continent …?’, I wondered to myself, struck by the irony of the fact that the final resting place of such divine a soul was now surrounded by the most base of human passions.
I began to reminiscent as I trudged along – ‘Who were these beings called ‘Sufis’ …?’. They were of flesh but without its weaknesses, ever lost in the love of the Divine. Yearning, seeking and then, rejoicing in the union with their Beloved. One cannot define Sufism, or for that matter mysticism, it would be like trying to hold water in a clenched fist. A true Sufi is in love with Love. Love that is all encompassing and infinite, for isn’t love another name for God? The great Sufi poet Rumi describes this Love as “drinking without quenching”. The essence of Sufism is to be in love with God with such intense passion that it leads to the dissolution of the Self (fana) and the lover becomes one with the Beloved.
It is in essence similar to the Bhakti Yoga of Hinduism. Complete love leads to complete surrender to the will of God. With the ego no longer an obstacle ‘illusion’ is replaced by ‘awareness’ of the divine nature of all things. However one cannot be initiated into Sufism by reading about it or practicing the various rituals associated with it or by contemplation. It is a spontaneous process like falling in love. It just happens to you by divine grace or not at all.
Historians describe Sufism as the mystical core of Islam, tracing its roots to Prophet Mohammad who is believed to have received two fold revelations – the one embodied in the holy Koran and the other in his heart. The former was meant for all and the latter was to be imparted to a selected few through a line of succession. However according to Sufis the essential truths of Sufism exist in all religions. Sufism is like river which has been flowing through many lands, imbibing the culture and religious beliefs of the region it flowed through.
As I reached the durgah, waving aside the various hawkers selling all kinds of ‘religious’ trinkets, I was in for a disappointment. The durgah itself seemed to have been robbed of its sublime aura by the decades of decadence that had befallen the people in charge of its upkeep. The so called ‘custodians’ of the durgah had become scavengers of faith. I returned home to my collection of Khusrow’s soul stirring compositions, they were now his only incorruptible legacy.
Notes: Nizamuddin, is a south-Delhi locality named after the dargah of the Sufi Hazrat Nizamuddin Awliya. Next to his grave lies buried his greatest disciple: Amir Khusro who was a poet, philosopher, musician, and linguist. Amir Khusrow Dehlavi (1253-1325) brought music to sufism and made it sing, blending folk and classical music, Amir Khusrow was the genius who through his love for the Divine, music and poetry, defined the pluralistic traditions of the Indian subcontinent. It is noteworthy that both Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusrow were against organised religion as they believed that the clergy were more interested in power than in spreading the word of God.
The image at the top is an artist’s impression of Amir Khusrow