Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sikh-Sufi Relations: Interview with Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri [ old news ]

Interview of Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri

by Yoginder Sikand in Qalandar: Islam and Interfaith Relations in South Asia

February 2003

Memories of the carnage of 1947 are still deeply etched in the minds of many Muslims and Sikhs, moulding the ways in which they view each other. As a result of this, as well as of a selective and highly skewed understanding of the history of the relations between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal Emperors, many Sikhs view the Muslims as inveterate ‘enemies’, and vice versa. In the process, the more positive side of the complex history of Sikh-Muslim relations has been almost totally forgotten. How many people, for instance, recall that Guru Nanak’s most trusted and closest disciple and companion, Mardana, was a Muslim and remained a Muslim till he died? That Nanak himself is said to have traveled to Mecca on the Haj? That the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib at Amritsar, the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, was laid by none other than a Muslim Sufi, Hazrat Miyan Mir? And so on….

In this interview, Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri, the custodian (sajjada nashin) of the shrine (dargah) of Hazrat Miyan Mir in Lahore, talks to Yoginder Sikand on the little-known history of the close relationship between the Sikh Gurus and the Muslim Sufis....Excerpts:

Could you tell us something about Guru Nanak and his relations with the Muslim Sufis?

As I see it, Baba Nanak Sahib did not intend to establish a new religion of his own. One of his principal aims was to build bridges of love and harmony between people of different faiths and communities, exhorting them to serve the one God. Now, in Arabic, one who surrenders himself or herself to God and God’s Will is called a ‘Muslim’, and this is why many Sufis consider Baba Nanak Sahib to have been a true Muslim. The Udasis or accounts of the travels of Baba Nanak Sahib tell us that he traveled to Mecca for the Haj. He is also said to have spent six long years in Baghdad, which was then a major centre for the Sufis. Here he studied with many leading Sufis of his day, and it is said that he was presented by the Sufis of the city with a turban as a token of respect and honor. In Baghdad , in the courtyard of the shrine of Hazrat Bahlol Danaai, a famous Sufi, there is a shrine which mentions that Baba Nanak Sahib stayed there. The shoes, the Muslim-style prayer mat [ja-namaz] and the blanket of Baba Nanak and the copy of the Holy Qur’an which he used to regularly read, are also preserved there.

Baba Nanak Sahib’s chief disciple was Mardana, who remained a Muslim till he died, and he served Baba Nanak Sahib for sixty-four long years. Mardana’s descendants still live in Lahore. They describe themselves as Sikh-Muslims.

Besides Mardana, did Guru Nanak have any other Muslim disciples?

Yes, he did, for the Muslims of his times saw him as an accomplished Sufi. Thus, when he finally passed away, his Hindu and Muslim disciples started quarreling among themselves as to whether his mortal remains should be burnt or buried. When they removed the cloth that covered his body, they discovered, much to their surprise, that his body had disappeared, and all that remained in its place was a handful of flowers. The Hindu and Muslim disciples then disposed of the flowers in their own way. This happened at a place called Kartarpur, which is now in Pakistan, not far from Lahore. The shrine complex in Kartarpur still remains a major centre of pilgrimage, and is presently administered by the Punjab Awqaf Board.. It has two sections, one containing a Hindu-style shrine, and the other a Muslim-style structure. Many local Muslims, and occasionally, pilgrims from India, still come to the shrine, to ask for Baba Nanak Sahib’s blessings.

How did Hazrat Miyan Mir get chosen to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple?

Hazrat Miyan Mir was one of the most pious Muslim Sufis of his times, a leading Pir of the Qadri order that traces its origins to the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace be upon him] through Hazrat Abdul Qadri Jilani of Baghdad. Hazrat Miyan Mir came to Lahore from Sind when he was around twenty years old. This was the time of Guru Ram Das Maharaj, the fourth Sikh Guru. Now, the Sikh Gurus, like most Sufis, believed in the doctrine of wahdat-al wujud or the ‘unity of all being’, seeing the light of God in every particle of God’s creation. Hence, Hazrat Miyan Mir would often go the Guru Ram Das Sahib’s home in Lahore to listen to his spiritual discourses. It was there that Hazrat Miyan Mir befriended the Guru’s son, Guru Arjan Dev Maharaj, who became the leader of the Sikhs after his father’s death. At this time, the Sikhs were not a separate, well-established community. Rather, in line with the teachings of Baba Nanak Sahib, they were a loosely organized group of Hindus and Muslims united in the quest to travel on God’s path.

Guru Ram Das Sahib had purchased a large plot of land in Amristar and built a tank there, and had forecast that a holy shrine would be established on the spot and that its foundation stone would be laid by what he described as the ‘best person of the time’. After his demise, when Guru Arjan Dev-ji became the Guru, he decided to build the Harminder Sahib, what is popularly called the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, on the spot. In accordance with his father’s wishes, he decided to request Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib, whom he considered to be the most pious and God-fearing man of his times, to lay the foundation stone of the shrine.

Accordingly, Guru Arjan Dev Sahib sent a party of 101 of his followers, bearing a palanquin, to Lahore to bring Hazrat Miyan Mir to Amritsar to lay the foundation stone. In the meanwhile, the Hindu diwan or prime minister of the Mughal governor of Lahore, Chandu Mal, heard of the Guru Sahib’s plans. Now, he, like many other Brahmins, was scared at the rapid expansion of the Sikh movement among the ‘lower’ castes, fearing that if the ‘lower’ castes were all to turn Sikh the stranglehold of the ‘upper’ castes would be threatened. You won’t find this in the history books, because those who have written the history of the Punjab have deliberately concealed it. But this is what I have heard from my elders. In order to draw away the ‘lower’ castes, who were joining the Sikhs in droves, he established what he called the ‘Ram Rahim’ movement. As soon as he heard about the Guru’s plans of inviting Hazrat Miyan Mir to Amritsar, he sent one of his deputies, a Brahmin who called himself as Ahmad Das, to Hazrat Miyan Mir, seeking to convince him not to lay the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib. Instead of helping the Guru, he said, Miyan Mir should co-operate with Chandu Mal, for Chandu, too, he insisted, believed that ‘Ram and Rahim are one’. But Hazrat Miyan Mir rebuked him, saying, ‘The Ram you believe in was not God himself, but a mere mortal—the son of Dasrath, the father of Luv and Kush, while God has neither parents nor children’. And then he said, ‘People can be united only on the basis of the love for the one formless God, and this task Arjan Dev is doing best and so I shall help him’.

It is said that Ahmad Das and his followers attacked the caravan in which then Hazrat Miyan Mir was traveling to Amritsar. Although they failed to kill Hazrat Miyan Mir, they injured several of his followers as well as some of the men whom Guru Arjan Dev Sahib had sent to accompany him from Lahore.

What happened in Lahore then when Hazrat Miyan Mir arrived?

After his arrival in Lahore, Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib stayed with the Guru for two weeks, during which time he was given the honour of laying the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib. The story goes that after Hazrat Miyan Mir placed the stone, the mason picked it up to place it in a straight line. When Guru Arjan Dev Sahib heard of this, he was very angry and said, ‘How can you change what a true man of God, a true dervish, has decided? Because of what you have done, the foundation of this shrine will always be shaky’. And this is why the Golden Temple has been attacked so many times till now.

Shortly after, owing to Guru Arjan Dev’s growing prestige, the diwan Chandu Mal instituted a series of false cases against him and had him arrested. He ordered him to be placed on a hot iron plate and had burning sand poured over his head, just outside the fort in Lahore in full view of the public. Hazrat Miyan Mir rushed to his rescue, saying, ‘My friend, just give me one word and I shall cause the thrones of Delhi and Lahore to come crashing down’. But the Guru Sahib answered, ‘This is the will of God, and I must give an example to the people, or else how will they know what true martyrdom is?’. On Hazrat Miyan Mir’s intervention, however, the torture was stopped, but a few days later the Guru Sahib breathed his last. Then, when the Mughal Emperor Jahangir heard about what Chandu Mal had done to the Guru Sahib, he had him arrested, and arranged for him to be dragged by the neck through the streets of Lahore, after which he died.

What about Hazrat Miyan Mir’s relations with the successor of Guru Arjan Dev?

Guru Arjan Dev Sahib was succeeded by his son, Guru Hargobind Sahib, who was then a young lad still in his teens. Soon after he was made the Guru, he came to Lahore to meet with Hazrat Miyan Mir, who, after all, had been one of the closest friends of his father. The story goes that as the young boy was dismounting from his horse, Hazrat Miyan Mir stopped him, saying that he should place his feet in his hands instead. And so, the Guru placed both his feet in Miyan Mir’s outstretched hands. Hazrat Miyan Mir did this to stress that the true Sufi is one who is humble and has no trace of egoism left in him. Also, he wanted to publicly acknowledge the high spiritual status of the Guru Sahib and to show that only a true dervish can really respect another true man of God.

Later, when because of political enmity, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir had Guru Hargobind Sahib arrested in Gwalior, Hazrat Miyan Mir was instrumental in getting him released, after which the Guru sahib then went with him to Lahore and spent some time with him.

What role did Hazrat Miyan Mir play in the conflict between Guru Hargobind and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb?

Unfortunately, the story of Aurangzeb has been totally misinterpreted and in the history textbooks he is portrayed as an evil religious fanatic. Actually, he was nothing of the sort, and his policies were dictated essentially by political motives and interests, and not by religion. That is why many of his top military officers were Hindus. Likewise, it is wrong to say that the Sikh community was set up to defend the Hindus from the Muslims. If that were true, then how is it that the Sikh Gurus had such close relations with the Muslim Sufis? No, in actual fact, the conflict between the Gurus and the Mughals was purely political and had nothing to do with religion whatsoever. Moreover, the early Sikh Gurus had much closer links with the Muslim Sufis than they had with the orthodox Hindu Brahmins.

Aurangzeb came to the throne by imprisoning his father, Shah Jahan, and waging war against his elder brother, and the rightful heir to the Mughal throne, Dara Shikoh. Dara himself was a great Sufi and a disciple of Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib. He was the first to translate the Upanishads into Persian, and it was his translation which was used by later European scholars to render them into various European languages. Because Dara was a disciple of Hazrat Miyan Mir, who, in turn, was a close friend of Guru Hargobind, when Aurangzeb declared war on Dara, Dara fled to the Guru, seeking refuge with him. The Guru gave him a sum of 500,000 gold mohurs, with which Dara was able to rebuild his army. Yet, in the end, Dara was caught by Aurangzeb’s agents, and Aurangzeb ordered him to be killed. Then, Aurangzeb set about eliminating all those who had supported Dara, fearing that otherwise they might oppose his rule. And so he sent his forces against the Guru Sahib, for instance, and also ordered the beheading of a famous Muslim Sufi of Delhi, Sarmad Shahid, who was a friend of Dara’s. Aurangzeb also ordered the destruction of several Sufi shrines, fearful that these might emerge as centers of popular opposition to his rule. Because the family and followers of Hazrat Miyan Mir had supported Dara Shikoh and Guru Hargobind against Aurangzeb, they were forced to flee from Lahore and they took shelter elsewhere. My own ancestor, Hazrat Abu Saeed Fatehullah Masum, who was Hazrat Miyan Mir’s successor, fled to the Guru at Amristar. The Guru granted him refuge and a large plot of land in the village of Dharamkot Randhawa, near Amritsar, where he spent the rest of his life, and was buried there.

In short, then, there is absolutely no truth in the argument that Aurangzeb or other Mughal Emperors were against the Sikhs because of any religious prejudice, or else why would the Sufis, who are the most pious of the Muslims, have supported the Gurus? Rather, it was entirely a political conflict, because the Emperors, sections of the Mughal nobility and the ‘high’ caste Brahmins found the growing Sikh movement among the ‘lower’ castes a threat to their own rule.

Given the historical role played by Hazrat Miyan Mir in promoting love and harmony between people of different communities, what role do you envisage for Sufis today in helping build bridges between Muslims and others?

Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib would often say, Karni Parvan Kya Hindu Kya Musalman, which means ‘In the path of effort [for God], there is no difference between the Hindu and the Muslim. The Holy Qur’an tells us that God has sent prophets to all peoples of the world, and they all taught the same basic faith, which, in Arabic is called al-Islam, which simply means ‘submission to God’. Now, India is such a huge country, and so how could it be that God did not send any prophets here? He must surely have, and this is why some Sufis believe that perhaps Rama, Krishna or Buddha might have been messengers of God. The Holy Qur’an also tells us that the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] had been sent by Allah to fulfill, and not to negate, the teachings of the previous prophets and to correct the wrong beliefs and practices that had crept into the religion of those who claimed to be their followers. This understanding of universal revelation, I feel lays a very firm foundation for inter-religious and inter-communal dialogue, which today is really the need of the hour. Unfortunately, few organized efforts are being made by Sufis in this regard today.

As the custodian of the shrine of Hazrat Miyan Mir, himself something of a pioneer in the field of inter-faith dialogue, how are you trying to carry on with his mission?

I don’t wish to talk about myself, but since you have asked me I shall answer. I run a school in Lahore, and many of our teachers and students are Christians. On Christmas day I invite my Christian friends, including priests, to come to the dargah and join them in praying to God. I also often visit Sikh gurudwaras in the United Kingdom, where I address Sikh gatherings, reminding them of the teachings of the great Gurus and Sufis, and their message of love for all of God’s creatures.

One last question. Have you ever visited the Golden Temple yourself?

Unfortunately, I have not had the chance, although I would love to. After all, Hazrat Miyan Mir laid the foundation stone of the shrine and so we do have a centuries-old association with it. But now, given the relations between India and Pakistan, it has become so difficult for Pakistanis to travel to India.

President offers prayers at Sufi Shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti

President offers prayers at Sufi shrine

Jaipur | November 17, 2005, from Webindia123.com


President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Thursday offered prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer.
On a daylong visit of Rajashan, Kalam also offered a "chadar" at the shrine, where he had come to seek blessings after filing nomination papers for the presidential election.

Earlier in the morning, Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje received the president at the Sanganer airport here.

After a few minutes stopover, he flew by a helicopter to Todgarh town where he interacted with school children who were happy to see the dignitary in their midst.

Kalam, who was given a traditional welcome by Todgarh citizens, talked to the children and asked them about facilities being provided to them at their school.

Rajasthan's medical and health minister Digamber Singh was also present on the occasion.

Kalam also met women of a local self-help group (SHG) and inspected a school building project, which was being taken up under "Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan" or universal education programme.

Parvathy Paul, Sufi singer: An interview

Parvathy Paul, Sufi singer, on the upcoming Sufi music festival.

By Anil Sadarangani - Nov. 17, 2005 The Times of India

What is so special about Sufi music?

It's the most truthful performance one can witness. I can talk to you about a Sufi singer and tell you when she is playing her instrument, she is giving it her all, but you have to see it to know it.

She is in unity with all. There is nothing to hide anymore. When you get into that state of being, she (or he) has to give everything away. There is no time to think. When someone sings for hours on end, the body becomes light.

It's then when one is connected to Sufi music. It has inspired a lot of people. Also, just look at the condition of the world. Don't you think it's time we listened to music that gives us a feeling of universal love?

How excited are you at being a part of the Sufi festival to be held in Mumbai on November 19 and 20??

I am very, very excited to be in Mumbai and be part of the Ruhaniyat. It's a very special festival for me. I am a resident of Trivandrum but I live between Bengal and Trivandrum.

That is because most of my teachers and ashrams are based in Bengal and whenever I get time to practise, I go there. My husband is Malyalee.

What made you take up Sufi singing?

As a child, growing up, I knew about this music tradition because Bengal is full of it. Then I've always interacted with people from this genre of music. When I was 16 I was really moved by this.

What happened was that as I was about to take admission in Shanti Niketan, I saw a blind man on the road singing a Sufi song.

His song was was so full of light and brightness that it created another world for me in that moment, it took me beyond the world. I knew my path was already there, I just had to take it. I've been singing for 12 years now.

anil.sadarangani@timesgroup.com

Sufi Singer Shafqat Ali Khan: Interview

Soulful Strain: Sufi exponent Shafqat Ali Khan’s draws upon Amir Khusro’s works for his new album.

Meher Fatma in cities.expressindia.com , Nov. 16, 2005

Shafqat Ali Khan had to cut his India visit short. The popular San Francisco-based Sufi singer of Pakistani origin was to enchant the audience with music of the Sham Chaurasi Gharana in Delhi, at The Qutub Festival last week.

The festival was cancelled following the death of former President K R Narayanan.

But Khan, who plays the Indian harp Surmandal, had more than one reason to keep himself busy in India. The singer has just completed recording six songs for an album titled The Tilted Hat for Muzaffar Ali. ‘‘The six songs have been sung in Persian and influenced by Hazrat Amir Khusro’s work,’’ informs Khan, who produced his first album in India way back in 1995 when he collaborated with Bappi Lahiri for Awara Sur (HMV). Khan has also sung for a Bollywood film, slated for release next year.

Belonging to the eleventh generation of a family that is known for their khayal singing, Khan trained under his father Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, who originally hailed from a small village in Eastern Punjab.

While the artist has often experimented with ghazals and east-west fusion during his concerts abroad, he prefers to stick to classical singing. ‘‘I make it a point to sing in the language of the region I am visiting. For my concerts abroad, I include a lot of ragas and less of lyrics as it’s easier to follow,’’ says Khan, whose has been singing in Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Punjabi.

While talking about his experience in India, Khan says ‘‘I always get the same warm response to my performances in India and Pakistan because people share the same taste and culture’’. In the past, Khan has entertained music lovers with animated jugalbandis with Indian artists like Zakir Hussain, Rabbi Shergill, Sukhwinder Singh and Hari Haran. But these performances are mainly held in the west, which has a large following in sufi music.

The musician who has been drawing full house since his first performance at The Punjab Music Festival in 1980, says it’s difficult to break away from a family tradition. ‘‘I have to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the musical tradition alive,’’ says the musician.

With that in mind, he is already training his two sons, Faizan and Nader Ali Khan, to take lessons in sufi singing. But, oddly, he has no plans for his daughter, Huriya, to take up singing. ‘‘Girls never sing in our family. Unlike here, gayakis do not draw respect in Pakistan,’’ says Khan who prefers to stick to societal norms.

Symposium: slam in the Contemporary World: Fethullah Gulen Movement in Thought and Practice

'Religion has a Strong and Constructive Role in Society'

By Ali H. Aslan , Houston
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
zaman.com


“Islam in the Contemporary World: Fethullah Gulen Movement in Thought and Practice” was the subject of a symposium that was being held at Rice University for two days and served as a scientific and scholastic feast ended Tuesday.

During the first session of the last day titled, “Social Context of Sufism,” Zaman daily columnist Mr. Ali Bulac termed Mr. Gulen as a “civilian reformist” (islahatci) and an “iharmonizing leader” adapting a civilian Islam approach. Today in Turkey, it is impossible to conduct sociology without touching upon Mr. Gulen’s mission, Bulac claimed. "Perhaps the only contribution of Turkey to the global process is the schools and educational activities inspired by Fethullah Gulen."

Karen Fontenot from Louisiana Southern University said the Turkish Sufism Gulen represents is a “type of Islam” that could be adapted any where in the world. Along the history, the contributions made by Turkey for Islam to become a “universal religion” were also voiced by Fontenot. Heon Kim from Temple University pursuing his doctorate degree on the Gulen Movement described Mr. Gulen’s line as “Sufism without (tariqah) sect.”

At the “Islam and Democracy” session, Alp Aslandogan from the University of Texas talked about Gulen’s ideas on improving democracy in a way to satisfy one’s spiritual needs. Janse Schlubach of Central Oklahoma University shed light on the similarities between Imam Ghazali and Gulen in regard to tolerance. Greg Barton from Deakin University said some wrongly classified Gulen’s social conservatism and profound spirituality as a “civil society movement”, and his charisma as an “Islamist” or "tariqah" (religious sect); Barton also noted similar progressive Islamic social movements exist in Indonesia as well. Ian Williams from Central England University said the Gulen Movement is not an organization that can be defined in terms of a sect, pressure group or a grouping of hierarchy but it has traces of a social movement. Moderator Bekim Agai questioned how Islam and Democracy could be brought together as he pointed out that the Gulen Movement became successful in secular Central Asia but has not entered the non-secular Arab world.

Marcia Hermansen from Loyola University in Chicago at the session on “Media, dialogue and community” placed the concepts of "community" in this movement under microscope. The Movement, which has begun as a small circle around Mr. Gulen in Izmir appeared as a service to mankind in the fields of education, religious, and inter-cultural dialogue in particular as being the basic focal point of the 1990s. Today, hundreds of schools have been opened by this group, said Hermansen, spread throughout the world and their dialogue activities are expanding in a way to include America’s largest cities.

‘Gulen adopts his Sufism concept from the Quran’

Mustafa Gokcek from the University of Wisconsin emphasized that the basis of Mr. Gulen’s Sufism understanding lies in the “Quran and Sunnah”. Emphasis on the action is the greatest contribution of Mr. Gulen to Sufi literature according to Gokcek, who also said Mr. Gulen approaches many issues criticized by Orthodox Muslims with tolerance. Doctor of Theology Adnan Aslan on the other hand said Mr. Gulen has prepared a ground for a “new theological language” in line with modern conditions needed by today’s global society.

An academic assessment of the two-day symposium came from Professor Dale Eickelman. He pointed out that those who defend that religion has no role to play in modern society are mistaken; on the contrary, “religion plays a very strong and constructive role in society, the solidarity Movement in Poland, the Christian movements in Latin America, and the Gulen Movement are perfect examples, the professor said. There are many subjects regarding Gulen Movement that requires deeper research.

At a closing dinner, students received awards for their winning research projects. Jill Carroll of Boniuk Center at Rice University spoke about the success of the symposium and reiterated her warm welcome for such organizations. Individuals, who most likely would not have received an education if not for the Gulen Movement, today hold responsible positions in society and that is no small thing to achieve; it is incredible, Carroll said. Journalists Avni Ozgurel and Fehmi Koru, Professor Dogu Ergil from Turkey, and Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz from Britain attended the symposium as observers.

The Rishi Sufi Order of Kashmir: Kashmir's Gift to Mysticism

Kashmir’s gift to mysticism

Fida M Hassnain
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 from dnaindia.com

Reflexions

From 8th to 13th century, Central Asia, Iran and Arabia witnessed a mystic movement known as Sufism. At the time, Shaiva philosophy was popular in Kashmir. Progressive Buddhism in the shape of Mahayana had also arrived in the Valley by then.
The three movements met in Silsila-Rishian, or the Rishi Order, which is indigenous to Kashmir.

The standard-bearer of this order is Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali (1378-1438), alias Nund Rishi, the patron saint of Kashmir.

He taught humanism comprising fear of God, love of mankind and service to fellow human beings. He eschewed the terminology of any particular faith and had a harmonising influence on society.

For the serious seeker, he recommended true love and devotion. Devotion means complete and exclusive absorption in God and indifference to all else. The lover, according to him, is one who cares neither for spiritual nor fleshly pleasures and depends only on God. Nund Rishi writes:

There is one God/But with a hundred names/There is not a single blade of grass/Which does not worship Him/First I became certain that there is no God but God/Then I made myself acquainted with divine revelation/When I was able to recognise my own self/I was able to recognise God/Both loss and gain became identical to me/The distinction between life and death disappeared.

The Rishi Order, set up by Nund Rishi, is a simple code of leading a spiritual and social life. It desires of man to lead a contented, simple and purposeful life. Its followers abstain from dogmas and rituals.

The Rishis preached universal love, abstinence from worldly things and striving for realisation of God. The Rishis did not isolate themselves from the masses but played the role of social reformers. They raised their voice even against oppression and pressed the rulers to rule with justice, often risking imprisonment. The Rishi Order is Kashmir’s contribution to world thought. The shrine to Nund Rishi stands at Charar-e-Sharief, near Srinagar.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based Sufi scholar.)

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Sufism, and al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda tightens its grip in Iraq

By Syed Saleem Shahzad in AsiaTimes Online, Nov. 15, 2005

KARACHI - The death of former Iraqi vice president Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri marks a turning point in the Iraqi resistance. Command of the movement will now almost completely be in the hands of al-Qaeda, which will further cement its moves to fight a global war against America under a unified, open command.

Douri, 63, was one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides and the most senior figure in the former regime still at large - he was number six (king of clubs) in the US's pack of cards denoting its most wanted people. The US had offered a US$10 million reward for information leading to his capture.

He died after a long battle with leukemia, according to a statement from the Ba'ath Party - which the Americans have officially dissolved in Iraq. The statement continued: "After 50 years he spent in the militant struggle and in the resistance, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri quits his horse going to the mercy of the Almighty God."

Douri was a Sufi Muslim and a practicing sheikh (spiritual guide) of two major Sufi schools, Rafahi and Qadri. As a Ba'athist as well, he was a trusted comrade of Saddam.

Though Saddam disliked such practices. every Monday he would hold a congregation for his disciples at his residence in Tikrit, where they would recite Sufi rituals. At Friday prayers in Baghdad he would eloquently hold court in Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gillani's mosque. Saddam thought that his close comrade from Oaja village near Tikrit was setting the wrong precedents for the secular image of the Ba'ath Party.

However, Douri and his Sufi circle turned out to be a most useful tool when Iraq was invaded by US in 2003.

Douri was the one who established coordination between the Ba'ath Party, the Iraqi Republican Guards and local Islamic groups, not only in Fallujah and Baquba, but also in northern Iraq, especially in Kirkuk.

As many senior people around him were gradually arrested, including Saddam, Douri remained at large, mostly in northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra and Kirkuk. At one time he escaped to Syria, but returned.

One of his sons, Ahmed, became the main financial organizer of the resistance.

For a long time Douri was the acknowledged driver of the resistance, but in the past few months little was heard of him. The speculation in the resistance was that he had either died, or once again gone to Syria. His illness was well known - he traveled with a mobile medical unit that was able to change his blood wherever required.

Douri's absence over the past months coincides with the period in which Islamic groups prevailed over the Iraqi resistance and effectively took control. After Douri, there is no one of his stature or knowledge to lead the remnants of Saddam's era. They have little option but to stick with the command of the Islamic groups.

.....[the remainder of the article deals with al-Qaeda....

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com

Sufi and Mystic Music Festival, Mumbai (India)

Music sans frontieres: Sufi festival comes to town

Shridevi Keshavan
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 23:29 IST

The wanderers are here to strike roots in the city’s soul. With the 5th Sufi & Mystic Music Festival — Ruhaniyat — round the corner, Mumbai will play host to about 200 artistes coming from far and wide for this unique festival. Imagine witnessing the wandering minstrels from Bengal, Sufis from Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan, and Punjab and a number of other fascinating musicians sharing a platform.

The festival, organised by Banyan Tree, is spread over two days. It is the brainchild of Mahesh Babu, director of Banyan Tree. The festival began five years ago with no sponsors.

“I have been interested in Sufi music since the past 10 years. I would go to the remotest dargahs in Gulbarga, Gwalior, and other places to listen to authentic Sufi music,” says Babu, who is thrilled to be organising the festival.

Sixty per cent of the artistes featured in the festival are new.

“This year we have Sansi Women from Assam who have travelled to Pakistan extensively, but will be coming to India for the first time,” explains Babu.

Besides this, the highlights are performances by Zikr-e-Rifayi, fakirs from Hyderabad, who were discovered at a dargah in Hyderabad.

The major attractions, however, are performances by the Wadali Brothers. They have been performing for Banyan Tree since the last 10 years.

Parvati Baul, a baul singer, who has gained international acclaim, apparently performed in India for the first time for ‘Ruhaniyat’.

“Most of the artistes know only their language. We are looking at holding the festival in four other cities — Bangalore, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Pune — as well,” adds Babu.

The festival will be held on November 19 and 20 at the Horniman Circle Gardens, Fort, from 6:30 pm onwards. Donor cards, valued at Rs 300 per day, are available at Rhythm House.

Mystic line-up
This year’s Ruhaniyat will feature:
Zikr-e-Rifayi: Fakirs (Hyderabad)
Baul songs: Parvathy Baul, Madan Vairagya and Laloo Fakir (Bengal)
Sufi Kalam and mystic compositions: Sansi women, Kachra Khan, Padmaram et al (Rajasthan)
Sufi Qawwali: Sabri Brothers (Jaipur), Wadali Brothers (Punjab)
Sufiana Ghazals: Vithal Rao (Hyderabad)

Sufi Shrine Visitation in Afghanistan Today

Blue locks replace string in an ancient Afghan tradition

Monday November 14, 2005 (2314 PST) from PakTribune

AFGHANISTAN, November 15 (Online): All over central and south Asia, the graves of Sufi teachers have been turned into ziarrats, or shrines. (Sufism is a branch of Islam that emphasizes love.

In most of these shrines, men and women come to pray at the side of the grave and tie strings or head scarves to the shrine as a reminder to the saint to put in a good word for them with God.

According to tradition, visitors run their hands over the strings as they pray to see if one comes loose and falls down.

If it does, they believe that both their prayer and the prayer of the person who tied the string will be answered.

At this particular shrine, in the village of Band-e Amir in central Afghanistan, worshippers leave padlocks instead of strings. Presumably it’s more difficult for a padlock to open than for a string to become untied.

The shrines in Afghanistan range from a few hundred to 600 years old. The most popular may belong to great warriors, kings, poets, or martyrs of past wars.

The assumption is that somebody who lived a good life and died heroically will have better access to God, so they are revered. This reverence of gravesites is a distinctly Sufi tradition.

The Taliban tried to stop the tradition of worship at gravesites, calling it a form of idol worship or polytheism. But the Afghans kept doing it anyway.

End.

Sufi Ideas and Current Issues: An Interfaith Dialogue Panel

Praise for Inter-Cultural Dialogue Efforts

By Ali H. Aslan , Chicago
Published: Sunday, November 13, 2005
zaman.com

Interesting panels and activities were held in the second and final day of the symposium titled, “Inter-Cultural Dialogue” in the Chicago city of the US.

In the “ Sufi Idea and Current Issues” panel held in the Chicago University Club, Marcia Hermansen from Loyola University, Doctor Thomas Michel from the Vatikan Inter-Religions Dialogue Secretariat, Scott Alexander from the Catholic Theological Union and Asma Afsuriddin from Notre Dame University made speeches.

Marcia Hermansen made an extensive description of Sufi movements from a historical and social perspective. Dr. Thomas Michel searched for an answer to the question whether Fethullah Gulen is a Sufi or not. Saying that he sees Gulen’s Sufi teachings as “the accumulated wisdom of Muslim saints”, Michel told Gulen is a discipline who presents Sufism’s “service to humanity” program. According to Michel, while “personal transformation” is more important for Said Nursi, Gulen finds “social transformation via education” at least as important as this. Scott Alexander who defined the “great jihad” concept, which means ones struggle with his own self, told Gulen focused more on the “society” than the “individual” when compared with Nursi. Alexander defined those who make crisscrosses by forcing the cultural border as “inter-cultural mujaheeden”. He said the biggest mujaheedens of the last era were Gandhi, Cathy Kelly, Pope II Jean Paul and Fethullah Gulen. Asma Afsuriddin examined the concept of patience and modesty.

Former National Education Minister Mehmet Saglam, Azam Nizamuddin and Paul Parker from Elmhurst College, and Zeki Saritoprak from Carroll University participated as speakers in the panel titled “Gulen Movement and Interfaith Dialogue.” The president of the panel was Professor Nelson Kiang from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Describing those who construct schools in Turkey as well as abroad with Gulen’s inspiration as “the heroes of education,” Professor Mehmet Saglam said, “I congratulate all of them. They really are busy doing something of the kind that has never been dreamt of before. I wish I was younger so that I could participate in what they are involved in.”. Azam Nizamuddin, a leading intellectual member of the American Muslim group, described the Gulen movement as a subject that has been removed from cultural as well as historical studies upto now. This is so, Nizamuddin thinks, partly because the notion of Islam has been treated in the academia as ‘some political ideology’ rather than as a set of religious as well as moral values. Another reason for this is, in Nizamuddin’s opinion, the difficulty of putting Gulen under a single heading: Gulen has characteristics that some Sufis have, and some do not. He is not a sheikh, for instance. Likewise, it is not possible to think of him as some typical Islamic scholar. Gulen does theological studies of world religions from the Islamic point of view, Nizamuddin thinks. “Here they are,” said Nizamuddin in response to the question of where the moderate Muslims are, which is a common concern of the American people.

Paul Parker said he views the notion of suffering as an integral part of inter-religious dialogue. The life that Gulen leads is a perfect example of the difficulty of inter-religious dialogue, stated Parker. Parker drew an analogy between Gulen and Martin Luther King, the American leader of civil society and an ecclesiastic, in terms of the hardships they both suffered. “Both of them paid the price of being good,” said Parker. “If this isn’t a gesture of solidarity with the world’s children, then what is it?” Parker asked in relation to the growing number of schools being opened for service in foreign nations.

Zeki Saritoprak said during his presentation, in which he referred to the bases of Interfaith Dialogue in the Quran and its place in Turk-Islam tradition, “Gulen accomplishes the message brought in early Islamic history.” Nelson Kiang noted that Gulen’s thoughts are practiced in the schools successfully. He also noted that he finds the science education in these schools “perfect” as a professor at MIT and there is no controversy between religion and science. Nelson noted that there is no ethnic or religious discrimination in Gulen’s schools and added: “The American educational system has a lot to learn from these schools.”

Hindu priest takes care of a Dargah in Rajasthan (India)

A Hindu priest takes care of a Dargah in Rajasthan

Salampur | November 13, 2005 4:17:19 PM IST from webindia123.com

A Hindu priest takes care of a Muslim Dargah, a Sufi mausoleum, in Rajasthan, showcasing yet another example of communal harmony and brotherhood.

Rajni Kant Mishra, the Brahmin priest, who lives in Salampur area, 25 kilometers from Ajmer, originally hails from Uttar Pradesh. He has been serving the Baba Badam Shah dargah for the last four decades with the full support of his family members.

Baba Badam Shah never favoured any discrimination in society on communal basis and this inspired Mishra to serve dargah. "His teachings do not portray differences between religions. No religion is bad. All religions talk about humanity. There is no discrimination between the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs and the Christians. He believed that all are creations of God," says Rajanikant.

Devotees from different communities visit the Dargah during Ramdan, the holy month of Muslims. It is believed that a visit to this Sufi's mausoleum fulfils one's wish.

Mishra regularly visits the temple of Lord Shiva housed at the same compound and performs the rituals there too. He believes God is one and can worshipped in any form. Initially, he had to face resentment from his family and friends for serving in the Dargah, but they too visit the shrine now. "Initially, I had problems from family and friends. But when they saw that I am convinced, they stopped saying anything. Today they too come here and I have a large number of friends and relatives visiting the place," he added.

Laying a perfect example of communal harmony, 60-year-old Mishra now wishes that his next generation too carry on with the same work. (ANI)

Bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide

Bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed in Newkerala.com Nov. 11, 2005

Modern India is a land not of a solitary religion but of diverse religions. The state does not sponsor or foster any one religion at the expense of others. This is in keeping with the greatness of India, which through times immemorial has been the cradle of composite culture.

Sufi texts record that after saint Kabir - the inspired poet-weaver of northern India - died, his lovers and the connoisseurs of his 'dohas' (couplets), both Hindus and Muslims, fought for the claim of cremating or burying his last remains. As the quarrel started to rouse communal passions, an elderly gentleman requested both communities to cover the saint's body and wait till next morning.

Astonishingly, when the sheet was taken off, the warring communities found that in place of the body, two heaps of flowers were kept. The Hindus cremated the tulsi flowers while the Muslims buried the jasmine heap, and the problem was sorted out. The moral of the story is that the two diverse cultures of Muslims and Hindus are inseparable and need to run like the parallel lines of a railway track - always together socially but also retaining their religious identities that are separate.

The minority community needs to be led by an unquestioned leadership of deeply religious persons who will stamp out any chances of flaring communal flames. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a deeply religious Muslim leader, a renowned Islamic theologian like Maulana Maududi, but communal harmony was dearest to him. He never stirred Muslims to political action through their faith.

Former president Zakir Hussain, who devoted his life to Jamia Millia, did not take that platform to espouse a communal cause; nor was another former president, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, that sort. Today the Azads, Fakhruddins and Hussains would have been needed to counter inflammable propaganda.

Just before the dismemberment of the subcontinent, the Muslim peasant in Bengal participated as joyously in the village Durga Puja as his Hindu neighbour. In Bangladesh, Hindus celebrated Eid. If entire Muslim villages in Malaysia can watch the Ramayana performed on stage, there is no reason why they cannot do the same in India or include Hindus in tazia processions and Karbala enactments.

Meena Kumari, Nargis, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz played the role of the devoted Hindu wife with sindoor on the forehead umpteen number of times. What about bhajans sung in Muhammad Rafi's sonorous voice? Should we ban his cassettes? Should we stop seeing a Dilip Kumar or an Aamir Khan or a Salman Khan film?

Likewise, after namaz when the Muslims stepped out of the mosques, in almost all the walled city locales of India, one could observe Hindu men and women standing with their sick children to be blessed after the prayers. A maulvi sahib used to wake up a panditji for his morning ringing of the temple bells or for sounding the shankh. Our composite culture has been the way Sir Syed once described India - a beautiful bride whose two bewitching eyes were the Hindus and the Muslims!

According to "Muraqqa-e-Delhi" of Nawab Dargah Quli Bahadur, Mughal emperors consumed only Gangajal. Their celebration of Holi, Diwali and Dussehra is well known. If the rulers were Muslim, the economy was run by Hindu administrators and officers. Muslim monarchs trusted Hindu accountants. In the military field if Aurangzeb had brave Rajput generals, Shivaji trusted only Muslim generals.

The Sufi saints like Sheikh Muinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and other pirs like Haji Malang in Mumbai are highly revered by all Indians irrespective of the faiths they follow. The rath percolated in the Muslim society as the tazia. The Lord of the Seven Hills of Tirupati was given a Turkish wife - Thuluka Nachiyar in the temple of Srirangapatnam. How long will the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Shiv Sena deny this history?

There is no danger of India becoming a Hindu theocratic state so far as we have secular and peace-loving Hindus, and fortunately they outnumber the 10 percent or less bigoted and rabid ones. One hopes the Hindu majority will prevail. Likewise, the Muslim leadership has to interpret its sacred texts to explain the role of a Muslim citizen as a useful, participating minority member of a state. The distinction between the mosque and the state or theology and religion needs to be clarified so that it can be understood by the meanest intellect.

What hurts Indian Muslims is that in spite of the community having repeatedly asserted its identity as Indians, it finds its patriotism being suspected. In fact, during the Afghan war and the jehad call after that not one Indian Muslim went to Afghanistan to fight there, though there were many from Pakistan and even Bangladesh. Despite umpteen Muslim leaders, ulema and commoners having sacrificed for the nation, their allegiance is in question. Every time there is a communal divide, Indian Muslim have to get their certificate of loyalty renewed!

About a decade ago while in London, I reacted vociferously as an Indian to the telecast of the Babri Masjid demolition while a Guardian (December 7, 1992) headline declared: "Hindu terrorism!"

I maintained that just because a rowdy section of the Hindus had demolished the mosque and indulged in an orgy of violence and rioting, the entire community could not be generalised as terrorists. The truth is that more than 80 percent Hindus are secular. Had these level-headed Hindus gone the VHP way, not even one Muslim would have survived in India.

When lip-serving and self-serving Muslim politicians start indulging in pseudo-secularism, it boomerangs and a chain reaction is triggered. Hindus are made to believe the myths that the "rabbit-like" breeding Muslims will one day outnumber them and that the popularity of the ghazals of Ghalib, qawwalis of the Sabri brothers and poetry of Mir, Zauq, Iqbal and Faiz are dangerous signs of the coming social and political domination of Muslims.

Muslims are told on the other hand that rituals like applying tilak in a state ceremony will defile their religion in the same manner as the use of coconut and diya during important ceremonies. Once in a while, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was smeared with tika at a national ceremony, and Dawn of Karachi printed the photograph with the caption saying that likewise one day Azad would be proselytised into Hinduism! But neither Ghalib nor his ghazals are compulsorily Islamic nor tilak or diya necessarily Hindu. These are all part of an Indian ethos, a result of the conglomeration of multifarious faiths and cultures. For centuries, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in India have shared common customs like those on the occasion of a birth, a death or a marriage.

The responsibility to stop communalists and pseudo-secularists, who are present in equal measure in the majority and minority communities, lies with all of us. Muslims should take care of their rabble-rousing elements, shake up their leadership and substitute it with devoted, pragmatic and sincere leaders willing to solve the real problems of the community without mobilising them on emotional and religious lines. In the same manner, balanced Hindus too must not give more rope to the likes of the VHP or the RSS as these organisations have no right to speak on behalf of the entire Hindu community.

Secular Hindus should realise that their overwhelming advantage in the power structure - an 80 percent majority in the electoral base - has ensured that their cultural interests are never to be threatened by any combination of forces or the so called jehad. They should realise that some of their leaders who spread communal hatred will take them backwards by aggravating ethnic, clan, caste and regional rivalries. They should realise that the centuries old tolerant milieu of India is the creation of Hindu sages in ancient times, which predates the arrival of Muslims and the birth of Sikhism in India. It is the prized legacy of us all that is in essence Indian.

(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a writer on social, religious and educational affairs. He can be reached at firozbakht@rediffmail.com)

Sufi Music at the Barbican (London) in Ramadan

Ramadan Nights, Barbican / LSO St Luke's, London

Review by Michael Church
Published: 09 November 2005

Popular, mystical, based on love, Sufism makes music its route to the divine. The Barbican's decision to devote two of the three concerts in its Ramadan Nights season to Sufi performers - complementing Channel 4's excellent documentary - was perfectly timed.

And it was a coup to get Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's nephew Rahat as the main qawwali singer, plus two lesser-known groups from Lahore. The dervish minstrel Sain Zahoor and the dhol drumming brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain had not played in Britain before; bringing the music they play at Pakistani shrines, they were living reminders of the religious pluralism - Muslims side by side with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians - which their art celebrates.

But the opening concert was the kernel of the operation: a two-hour ritual by Sheikh Habboush and his Al-Kindi Ensemble. Al-Kindi may be seasoned international performers, but they are just one of dozens of Sufi groups from Syria: as they assembled on stage at LSO St Luke's, chatting and tuning up, they might have been at home. But the moment the flute and zither commenced a duet, followed by the first sung invocation, the atmosphere changed to one of excited urgency. Sheikh Habboush sang in a timbre which was a reminder of how close Arabic singing can be to the "cracked" flamenco sound; when the first whirler began - one hand pointed aloft to collect blessings from God, the other pointed down to distribute them to mankind - the whole thing acquired unstoppable momentum.

The zither - played by the virtuoso Julien Weiss - spun its dusty miasma, and the flute became the embodiment of that lovely Sufi idea whereby its sound becomes the lament for its separation from the reed-bed. As the ritual moved from peak to peak of excitement, and finally reached ecstasy, one had the feeling that these men were being borne upwards by the music.

What can one say of Algeria's rai-king Khaled, who packed out the Barbican the next night? That he sang as he always does, with muscular vigour and impish charm; and that, while the North African members of his audience had a ball, the non-Arabic speakers were not sure how to respond.

Popular, mystical, based on love, Sufism makes music its route to the divine. The Barbican's decision to devote two of the three concerts in its Ramadan Nights season to Sufi performers - complementing Channel 4's excellent documentary - was perfectly timed.

And it was a coup to get Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's nephew Rahat as the main qawwali singer, plus two lesser-known groups from Lahore. The dervish minstrel Sain Zahoor and the dhol drumming brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain had not played in Britain before; bringing the music they play at Pakistani shrines, they were living reminders of the religious pluralism - Muslims side by side with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians - which their art celebrates.

But the opening concert was the kernel of the operation: a two-hour ritual by Sheikh Habboush and his Al-Kindi Ensemble. Al-Kindi may be seasoned international performers, but they are just one of dozens of Sufi groups from Syria: as they assembled on stage at LSO St Luke's, chatting and tuning up, they might have been at home. But the moment the flute and zither commenced a duet, followed by the first sung invocation, the atmosphere changed to one of excited urgency. Sheikh Habboush sang in a timbre which was a reminder of how close Arabic singing can be to the "cracked" flamenco sound; when the first whirler began - one hand pointed aloft to collect blessings from God, the other pointed down to distribute them to mankind - the whole thing acquired unstoppable momentum.

Letter from Sultan Abd ul-Hamid to Sufi Shaykh concerning Zionism

The following is a translation of a letter (which may or may not be authentic; hence it could be a fabrication like the infamous *Protocols of the Elders of Zion*) purporting to be written in 1911 by the last Ottoman Sultan, Sultan Abd ul-Hamid, to the Shadhili Sufi shaykh, Mohammad Efendi Abu Shamat, on the subject of the pressure brought on him by the "Young Turks" to establish a Jewish State in Palestine. This translation resides on islam.ru , a Russian Islamic website.
-----

In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful! Let Allah, the God of the Worlds, be praised. Let there be peace and blessings upon the Prophet Mohammad, missionary of the God of the World. I address the respected sheikh of the Shazali tariqat Mohammad Efendi Abu Shamat, the healer of the souls and the flasher of the hearts, the outstanding man of his times. After the greetings I want to say that I got your message of this May 22 and I thank Allah that you are in good health.

My lord, God being my helper, I devote days and nights to reciting virds and I ask to always remember me in Your prayers. Let me share with You, and with lucid-minded people, my worries in respect of one very important question:

I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them "Young Turks". "The Committee of Unity and Progress" (Ataturk was one of its leaders, the comment of the translator) obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end they offered me 150 mln English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them.

" If you offer me all the gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won´t agree to give you the land. I have served the Islam and the people of Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, for more than 30 years, and I won´t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grand fathers –Ottoman sultans and caliphs".

After my definite refusal they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn´t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter. I kiss Your noble hands and hope that You won´t refuse my respect for You. Greet all our brothers and friends, oh, my excellent teacher. Forgive me for such a long letter but I wanted You to be informed.

Peace, blessings and mercy of Allah upon You.
Verger of the believers, Abdul-Hamid ibn Abdul-Madgid.
29 Ramadan 1329.
September 22 1911.

Lohangi Hill (Madhya Pradesh, India): A hill pulls diverse faiths together

A hill pulls diverse faiths together

by Rohit Ghosh
India Times, Nov. 3, 2005

An ancient tomb, a temple, two mosque-like halls, a Buddhist structure and a few other old constructions atop a hill in Madhya Pradesh make for a shining symbol of communal harmony.

The hill, known as Lohangi, lies in the middle of the bustling township of Vidisha, 54 km from here. It never fails to catch the eye of a visitor, appearing rather like a big mole on a plane landscape.

The tomb of an unknown Sufi saint and the Annapurna Devi temple draw the devout from far away. And people of different faiths visit both sites.

"The tomb is many centuries old," says Kamla, a Hindu who came from Bina to pay obeisance at the temple and the tomb. "We were childless and came here for prayers that were answered. Now I come here quite often."

Two halls built of stone columns and slabs that bear calligraphy in Arabic are located on the hill. Some Muslims living around Lohangi feel they are the remains of a mosque.

But the upkeep of the structures other than the tomb and the temple is poor, and locals are hardly aware of the importance of the heritage.

A densely populated area on the foothills now surrounds Lohangi and one has to wade through the locality to reach the hundreds of stone stairs that lead to the top.

"It is a big attraction for both local residents who treat it as a picnic spot and tourists but we are not aware about its history," says Mujeeb Khan, who lives in the Kiri area in Vidisha.

"It is very old. The tomb and the other structures must have been built before the Mughals came," he says. He often visits Lohangi to pray at the tomb.

The huge stone structure kept on a base near the temple and the tomb looks like part of an Asoka pillar.

The unique hill is visible from everywhere in the city and even outside.

"The hill needs to be developed properly but, due to the dense population in the base and lack of cleanliness, visitors are often turned off," says Sanjay Jain, a youth.

"People who go to the temple pray at the tomb as well," he adds.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On Jalaluddin Weiss: Wine, women, and Arab music

Wine, women and Arab music

Peter Culshaw meets the French convert who has become a leading light in Syria
November 3, 2005 in arts.telegraph (UK)

Jalaluddin Weiss welcomes me into his extraordinary 14th-century home, a former emir's palace in the old Syrian city of Aleppo.

His house has become almost like a shrine, so he is used to the odd (often very odd) visitor - in the last few weeks, he's had round-the-world cyclists from New Zealand, Black Panthers from New York, a Syrian Orthodox bishop, bearded bin Laden supporters and numerous members of the secret police.

While I'm there, I meet the personal assistant of the Grand Mufti, some dervishes, and a group of Syrian doctors. They have come round to hear Weiss play on his qanun, the Arabian zither of which he has become perhaps the leading exponent.

Jalaluddin is Weiss's Muslim name (after the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Rumi). The 52-year-old was born "Julien", in Paris, but is one of those often eccentric Europeans who become so fascinated with Arabian culture that they go native.

As a teenager, Weiss studied classical guitar, then became a hippy and dropped out, spending a year in Morocco and another in Guadeloupe. When he returned to France in 1974, he heard the Iraqi musician Mounir Bashir playing the oud, an Arabic lute, and "became entranced by his playing. It was an evening that changed my life."

Weiss ended up studying with Bashir in Iraq, and composed a Baghdad Suite in his honour. He found that he both enjoyed and excelled at playing the qanun, and his studies took him around the Arab world, "sitting at the feet of the masters" in Tunis, Istanbul and Beirut, before he bought his current house 12 years ago.

In Aleppo, an old, car-free town that has barely changed in half a millennium, Weiss founded a music group, the Al-Kindi Ensemble (named after a philosopher of music), which has released 20 CDs and worked with some of the greatest Arabic musicians.

One of the main reasons Weiss was drawn to Arabic music, he explains, was that he had come to hate "the straitjacket of 12 notes imposed by Western music, where everything is standardised.

On the qanun, there are several strings for each note." He has extensively researched and recorded 16th- and 17th-century Arabic music, and has had a customised qanun built which enables him to play in the styles of different Islamic musical traditions.

His conversion to Islam was, he says, "partly social - I wanted to be more than an outsider and become part of the Sufi community here". I get a glimpse of that community when I accompany him to hear Sheikh Habboush, his partner on the latest Al-Kindi CD, sing in the local mosque.

After the imam delivers a coruscating sermon on the evils of Israel, the US and England, and says that Bush and Blair will be damned for eternity, a couple of excitable members of the congregation want to know what a couple of infidels are doing among them.

Sheikh Habboush tells them to relax, that Jalaluddin is one of them. Another, seemingly more friendly, quizzes me. "I am a friend to Islam," I say, as diplomatically as I can.

We sit next to the sheikh, who sings beautifully and with great passion - unfortunately, once the PA system is on at full blast, his voice is horribly distorted.

A whirling dervish with a white cloak begins to spin in front of us, a dream-like image of grace and weightlessness. One arm is extended and the other pointed to the floor, to receive grace from Allah and to distribute it to humanity.

After the ceremony, we go to the sheikh's house. As soon as the muezzin call signals the break from the Ramadan fast (Aleppo is one of the few places that still uses real singers, rather than tapes), we are served tea and dates.

Habboush is not just Weiss's musical partner - he is also his spiritual guide. Weiss, who is divorced, explains to the sheikh that he is in love with a Turkish girl and doesn't know what to do. Habboush explains that Weiss is supposed to marry the girl before sleeping with her.

I ask the sheikh whether he thinks Weiss will progress far on the Sufi path, and perhaps one day become a sheikh himself. He pauses, before venturing: "Perhaps he could become some kind of priest for pimps…" Habboush roars with laughter, and we all join in - Weiss a little uncomfortably.

While he may not be the most devout Muslim (expecting a Frenchman to give up women and wine would perhaps be a tall order), Weiss's spiritual path is through music. He has been, the sheikh agrees, a wonderful exponent of Arabic music - and for that, much will be forgiven.

Turkish Alevis and Sufism

Turkey’s Alevis fear secularism under threat (November 1, 2005) in *Dawn* [Pakistan]

By Jon Hemming

YENICEKOY (Turkey): Everyone in the Turkish village of Yenicekoy is Muslim. They have a mosque, but no one goes there. It is Ramazan, but no one is fasting. Turkey’s Alevis are one of Islam’s most liberal sects. They sing and play mystical music at religious ceremonies attended by men and women. They drink alcohol, do not fast and do not go on pilgrimage to Makkah.

Long oppressed under Ottoman rule, the Alevis say they still face discrimination, even though the government has officially championed religious freedoms and human rights as it bids to gain membership to the European Union.

In a country where most Muslims belong to the Sunni group and Islam is tightly controlled by Ankara’s Religious Affairs Directorate or Diyanet, the Alevis say they have been neglected.

“The Diyanet is the state’s religious institution, but only represents Sunni beliefs,” said Fevzi Gumus, general-secretary of the Alevi-Bektasi Federation. “The existence of the Diyanet is incompatible with the secular nature of the state.”

Alevis are loosely related to Shia Islam and number between 12 million and 20 million of Turkey’s 70 million citizens.

“Alevis are not officially recognised as a religious community, they often experience difficulties in opening places of worship and compulsory religious instruction in schools fails to acknowledge non-Sunni identities,” the European Union said in its 2004 report on Turkey’s progress toward accession.

The criticism is expected to be repeated in this year’s report due on Nov. 9.

“It is certainly one of the long-standing issues for the European Commission in the context of minority rights and religious freedoms,” said one EU diplomat.

Ankara began its long-delayed accession talks on Oct. 3. It must bring its laws and regulations into line with those of the EU in several areas before it can join.

Turkey has already made wide-ranging reforms aimed at bolstering human rights and individual freedoms as part of its EU bid. But the EU says the reforms must be fully implemented.

Alevis warn that despite its officially secular status, Turkey is in danger of becoming a Sunni state.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Sunni Islam and refuses to recognise Alevi meeting places, known as cemevi, or to give them the same state aid as mosques receive.

“Alevism is not a religion. If it were a religion, it would need places of worship,” Erdogan said two years ago.

Izzettin Dogan, chairman of one of Turkey’s leading Alevi organisations, said Alevism was the “original essence of Islam.”

“Have a clean heart, a good heart, love humanity, don’t do anything bad to anyone ... the biggest sin for Alevis is to hurt someone else, to do an injustice to someone else,” said Dogan, who is a member of the Cem Vakfi group.

Alevis say their beliefs are a synthesis of mystical Islamic Sufism, some Christianity, Zoroastrianism and pre-Islamic shamanism brought from Central Asia as the Turks began their westward conquest of Anatolia from the 11th century onwards.

At an Alevi cemevi in a rundown area of Istanbul, hundreds of people kneel in a circle, men on one side, women on the other, praying and singing along to the seven-stringed guitar-like saz. The men and women rock back and forth, entranced by the haunting rhythm and religious chants.

The music and mixing of the sexes, banned in religious services by mainstream Islam, have led some to say Alevis are not Muslims at all and accuse them of conducting sexual orgies.

“According to their understanding, men and women can’t be in the same place, if they are it means some sort of revelry is going on, it can’t be a place of worship,” said Dogan.

Since the secular Turkish Republic replaced the officially Sunni Ottoman Empire in 1923, Islam has been kept firmly under state control. Imams are paid and told what to preach by the Diyanet, which controls some 76,000 mosques.

The Diyanet employs around 100,000 people. Its 2006 budget will be larger than those of the Interior and Foreign ministries and equals about a third of the state funds spent on health.

The Diyanet spends no money on Alevis and, according to members of that group, does not employ any Alevis.

“The Diyanet is a like a state within the state,” said Dogan. “How can you believe in freedom of religion when you use the taxes collected from all of us and give it only to Sunni Muslims? ... The secular state is becoming a Sunni state.”

The Diyanet has a simple answer: if Alevis are Muslims, they should go the mosque.

It has built mosques across the country, some in Alevi villages like Yenicekoy, a small farming community on the rolling plains of eastern Thrace, west of Istanbul.

“There used to be an imam at the mosque, but he left because there was no congregation,” said villager Sedat Ozturk.

In the nearby Alevi village of Cesmeli, men sit smoking and drinking tea, ignoring the dawn-til-dusk Ramazan fast and listening to the call to prayer from the mosque next door.

No one stirs from their seats.

The imam is alone in the mosque, but determined.

“I made the call to prayer 10 minutes ago, now I shall pray,” he said.

—Reuters

Imam Dawoud Kringle responds to criticisms against Deadly Kristin

Imam Dawoud Kringle, of the band Analogue Fakir, responds to various criticisms targeting Deadly Kristin

After an excerpt of Deadly Kristin's interview at Hail Metal was posted at Blabbermouth.net, a firestorm of criticism was leveled at her by numerous readers who, presumably, are Heavy Metal afficionados. In the midst of those comments, listed below the excerpt, Imam Dawoud Kringle posted his illuminating response.

COMMENT | Kristin and I
posted by : mysticjaz
11/1/2005 10:10:26 PM


Peace,

I am Dawoud Kringle; the sitar player / musician with Analogue Fakir, Kristin's project. I am also one of the two men who introduced her to Islam. I was the one who gave her the Qur'an. I am also an Imam / Islamic Chaplian with the New York City prisons.

I read the comments with great interest. Those who spoke in favor of Islam came with brief but reasoned arguments. As for the others,,,

As you sit in the comfortable anonymity of the internet, and have only conjector to formulat an opinion on Islam and on Kristin, I find this to be indicative of the sad state of affairs of the world and of humanity.

I will not appologize for the actions of terrorists because I DO NOT ACCEPT THEM AS BEING REAL MUSLIMS! I do a great deal of work in the prisons to counteract the mindet of terrorism (and probably put myself at considerable risk. I don't care). I could easily quote chapter and verse to prove that what Al-Qaeda, etc. are doing violates every single scared article of Islamic Faith. And in my sermons, writings, and occasoinal appearences on radio, I often do.

I am a Sufi. But I am also a peaceful warrior. I believe that Jihad should be fought within one's own heart.

Kristin and I became friends and started discussing our respective lives. She asked me questions; and I answered them to the best of my ability. Her decision to walk the Sufi path was hers and hers alone. I have no power to convert anyone. I advise her, but I do not judge her (if you truly understand Qur'an, you'll know what I mean.)

To the Satanists, I truly pity you. You have accepted the lowest of animal nature and turned your back on what it truly means to be human: while believeing yourself to do the opposite.

To the athiests; the word "athiest" comes from a Greek root word meaning "One who is ignorant and unaware". If this is how you wish to describe yourself,,,

And to those who malign and slander Kristin - from the comfortable anonymity of the internet, I say this: You don't know her. I do. She is a kind, perceptive, strong, intelligent, creative, and insightful woman whom I have great respect for. If you're challanging her on the level of either intellect or morality, you're way out of your league!

I pray that what I wrote here brings light to dark places and truth to dispell lies and ignorance.

Ma'a Salaam,
Imam Dawoud Kringle

Heavy Metal Vocalist, Deadly Kristin, on Sufism and Islam, etc.

Interview with Deadly Kristin from Dreamlike Horror

Interview questions by Militia

HailMetal.Com: Greetings Deadly Kristin!!! I hope that you can spare some time to answer a few questions that we have lined up for you. This may give us and our readers a clearer indication of your past and contemporary life.

Deadly Kristin: Salaam, I am here at your service, so go ahead...

HailMetal.Com: I`d like to start with a question which was on everyone`s mind for a long time. Have you converted to Islam and how do you combine the religion (or Sufism) in your case with Satanism?

Deadly Kristin: Wow, we begin with a very sharp and good question. I cant say I have converted as I didnt have any religion prior to Islam. My mind had always been troubled by existential questions since when I was a kid. I have always been deep and always questioned what I was being told. I wanted to think with my own head as most of the things adults were saying didnt make sense to me. I started to observe life around me, the human behaviour, I started to study science, philosophy, astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry and builded myself a culture. I observed nature and the laws that rule it, I spent nights in deep meditation wondering about the meaning of life, the meaning of death, the creation of the universe. I put together the pieces of the big puzzle and I saw what all these sciences had in common. Starting from that basis I began to formulate my own theories on life, on the universe, on everything. In these years I spent hundreds of beautiful hours talking with intellectual and educated people from different countries, different cultures and different backgrounds. We discussed existential topics and exchanged views and ideas. I exposed my own theories which were often considered very interesting and valuable. Still some things were driving me insane as in my theories I had some gaps, some things to which I still didnt have an answer. I couldnt see the totality of things because in my head I was denying the concept of divinity, of a surpreme entity that dominated the creation. I didnt think there was a god because of the multitude of bad and unfair things that happen in this world. I was thinking: if there is a god, why doesnt he show himself, why does he allow these things to happen?

At a point of my life I even thought that if there was a god then he must have been good and evil at the same time. That would have been the only explanation to everything. To why we are given life and then it is taken away from us, to why we have to go through injustice, pain and suffering. To why we are given the blessing of having a family and lovely people around us and then we see them die, leaving us in total despair and agony. When I first met Abdullah Hamzah of Celt Islam Soundsystem and Dawoud Kringle, who are now my best friends and band mates in Analogue Fakir, we started talking about all this. They were the first people I was talking to who could not only understand perfectly my theories, but could also fill me in where I had gaps. They introduced me to sufism and to Islam. When I started to read the Qur`an I was very curious and eager to see if I could find something similar to my theories there...and not only I did find it, I even got to know more about what I had assumed and found the answer to all the questions that always troubled my heart. Believe me, I am someone who doesnt get influenced very easily, I was the biggest non-believer and I always based my theories on matter of facts not on dogma. The Qur`an is an incredible source of information on life itself and its meaning. You can read precise and scientific details on how the universe was created, on the laws that dominate it, details on the relation of time and space, of the phases of development of embryos! Plus also incredible important revelations for oceanology, astrology etc. The Qur`an was written in 610 A.D., in a time where science was very basic and technology didn`t exist. The funny thing is that modern science is discovering NOW, at the present moment what already was explained in the Qur`an about 1.400 years ago! The theory of the big bang for istance, the very recent discovery that the universe is actually in constant expansion (and not stable and immobile within its limits like it was always thought), the also very recent theory of the Big Crunch, which says that one day the universe will collapse on itself and return to the condition of its origin the one that originated the big bang.

All this and more is written in the Qur`an and there is no doubt for me that is the word of God, because any other explanation wouldnt be possible. If you are interested in reading about the scientific miracles of the Qur`an I can reccomand this wonderful website: miraclesofthequran.com. As far as my old idea of God that could be good and evil at the same time, Allah represents this very well. He is the infinitely merciful but also an incredible punisher. The bad things that happen in life are tests on people and everything happens for a reason. The reason why a lot of evil and disgusting people get all the money and power is to give them the illusion they are sufficient to themselves and increase their lack of faith. The more they have the more they become ungrateful, the more they become their own gods, the more they become arrogant...and the greater punishment will have in the afterlife, which is the real life, not this one.

As far as satanism I never claimed to be a satanist. In fact in the past I didnt even believe in Satan just like I didnt believe in God as I thought they were just an invention of christianity. I wrote anti religious lyrics in the past because I was very pissed off at people who claimed to be religious and they dont even know what their religion is about. They just believe in what they have been told and they dont use their heads. I dont have much appreciation for people who are like sheep and dont use their brains. My choice for Islam was motivated and studied for long. On another note you may want to realize that most bands use "satan" as a symbol of rebellion, as a metaphore.
They dont go out and slaughter goats and rape babies during black masses. If they do they are really stupid. To my eyes who adores satan was just as dumb as someone who adored Jesus Christ or any other god. For the same reasons I told you before.

HailMetal.Com: How did you go about finding this particular religion and while on that matter explain to us who Analogue Fakir is?

Deadly Kristin: I guess I already have answered how I got close to Islam in the previous question. Analogue Fakir is an islamic jungle dub project with very dark ambient atmospheres based in England. It is a mystical and deep project whose sounds can really wake up feelings and emotion inside. Despite the fact that is an electronic project I would consider it kind of extreme for the darkness of sounds and pretty strong approach. In the band we are all Sufis and best friends, very close to each other on a mental, social and spiritual level. That´s why the project is so intense. It features me on vocals, Abdullah Hamzah on keyboards, percussions and programming and Dawoud Kringle on sitar. We also have our friend Purple Dave doing some keys.

HailMetal.Com: Just to clarify, as you have embraced Sufism, what does it really mean and does it involve anything `ritual` for the lack of a better word?

Deadly Kristin: Sufism is not just a philosophy related to islam, it is a way of being. Many books have been written on Sufism, by non-sufis, but how can they understand something that they are not, something that is not part of their hearts? Sufis live in this world yet they are not part of it. To the Sufi material things mean nothing, gold and dirt have just the same value. Sufis are people that have attained mystical enlightment. I do not belong to any tariqa, that means to any specific Sufi Order, though the one I feel closer to me is the one of the Mevlevi, The Whirling Dervishes, founded by the dorable and great Sufi Master and poet Jalaluddin Rumi. They have ritual dances, ritual chants.

Another important "ritual" for the Sufis is the dhikr. It is a gathering that can go on for many hours where the Sufis chant and move in circles or stepping side to side, creating an hypnotizng and very intense energy and union that can lead people to reach mystical ecstasy. It has an immense power and should be done only by people who can control themselves otherwise it could be too overwhelming.

HailMetal.Com: I was not aware that you`ve turned toward Techno Trance music (an electronic project?). How did this eventuate?

Deadly Kristin: More than techno trance I would say electronic music in general, as I dont have a favourite genre nor I can say to be a big fan of any band in particular, apart from Celt Islam Soundsystem and Analogue Fakir of course. I started in 2003, doing some guest vocals for Kaiaphas (now Dj Zhyin) that needed some vocals for his psy-trance tracks. I really liked the result and I felt like challenging myself with something new that I had never had done before. So I created a project called Noctem Dk with another metalhead friend of mine, an extremely talented musician called Noctem (who also appears as guest on a Dreamlike Horror track). We both had never done electronic music before, so we just started to play something, almost just for fun...we recorded a few songs and they turned out really good! In fact we received such a good response that we are now considering to record a whole album!

HailMetal.Com: Is black metal still your preferred sub genre of music?

Deadly Kristin: No and it hasnt been for a few years now. I got tired of it as it has been abused and commercialized all over the world. It ended up spawning millions of norwegian clone bands that all looked and sounded the same. Most of all I got tired of the crappy attitude of the people who listen to black metal. Black metal was born under specific circumstances in the 90´s in Scandinavia. Funny how it came to America now, 20 years later. I still like very much heavy metal and hard rock. I am taking a break from death metal at the moment has I have been listening too much to it for the past 15 years eheheh. I still like it though.

HailMetal.Com: As mentioned Aphazel and you are currently involved in Dreamlike Horror. Tell us all what Dreamlike Horror is and how do you find it to be working again with Aphazel?

Deadly Kristin: Dreamlike Horror is my personal project that I founded in `99 together with Aphazel. Although our first record "Delightful Suicides" has just been released Dreamlike Horror is not a new project. The album was recorded part in 1999-2000 and part in the winter of 2004. It took so long time because it was a project that we did for ourselves and we were not sure if we wanted to release it as it was such a personal project. The music is very intense, dramatic and emotional, just like the lyrics. It could be defined as a mixture of gothic, dark ambient and classical music with a horror touch. I am not really working with Aphazel, the new songs of Dreamlike Horror have been composed by each of us separately. I would love to work with him in person but it is very difficult as we both have very busy lives and we now live in different countries. I admire Aphazel very much, he is not only an amazing and talented musician but also a really great person with an outstanding and mysterious personality.

HailMetal.Com: Not long ago have you parted ways with Ancient. In your words what caused the split?

Deadly Kristin: I didnt want to leave the band. Ancient was a very important part of my life and after so many years with them they were like family to me. I still miss them very much and a part of me still doesnt realize that is a chapter of my life that is now over. They decided that I could no longer stay in the band when I moved to Sweden. Unfortunately for personal reasons I had to let them down for shows sometimes and that definitely affected the life of the band. Having me in a different country would have made things even more complicated. I understand and respect their decision and wish them the best of luck.

HailMetal.Com: As I said you are now collaborating with Aphazel. Will this prompt you for an Ancient reunion (you coming back)? I`m still hopeful!

Deadly Kristin: Ancient hasnt split up, they still exist and they keep touring, having great shows. As far as me singing again in Ancient it may happen sometime in the future as guest vocalist, it would be nice to hit the stage again with them. On the other hand I dont think I will be part of the band again. Especially not now that I took a new direction for my life.

HailMetal.Com: I`ve read somewhere that you`re currently working on or have finished a book that you`ve been writing for quite some time now. Please if possible disclose some information of what your writing is all about and whether the will be available for purchase some time down the track?

Deadly Kristin: The book is a collection of my philosphical theories that I have been writing since I was a teenager. The work was very delayed because last year I lost the most important chapters of the book in a hard-drive crash. I was very upset and I didnt dare re-write everything again. It takes a lot of time and I have been very busy, especially with the album of Dreamlike Horror and my new electronic projects. On top of all this I also embraced sufism which kind of filled in the gaps I had in my theories and completed them. This would mean, if I was to publish it, I would have to go through the book again and re-write some parts with my new eyes. I may go on with it someday, but I dont think i will do it anytime soon as I am recording two albums at the moment. When the day comes you will see the news on my official site.

HailMetal.Com: As many may not know you also work as a teacher. What do students think about your extra curricular activities outside and do you find teaching to be rewarding? Does it give you richer experience and do you apply it to your writing (in terms of music).

Deadly Kristin: I see that you are very well informed. Good. I have to say that teaching is a perfect job for me. I teach italian at a highschool here in Sweden, italian is my mothertongue as you may already know. I love teaching and it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I also love my students. They are great, though occasionally some of them try to flirt with me which embarasses me a little. We laugh a lot and there is a very relaxed and cool atmosphere in class. They dont know about my musical career as I dont mention it. They know I have been involved in the media and that i sing but they dont know anything about me releasing records and all that. I like to keep separated my private life and my job. I think it is better this way as they are two separate worlds. Yes teaching is definitely rewarding but it doesnt have any influence on my music.

HailMetal.Com: Dreamlike Horror are signed with Sleaszy Rider Records. It`s quite a funny name for a record company, is it not? Have they helped the band much since the beginning? I would imagine internet these days helps out a lot as a promotional tool particularly for self funded releases (which is the case with most unknown bands now days).

Deadly Kristin: I think Sleaszy Rider is a very cool name. The founder, Tolis is a nice person and he is a great fan of glam metal hence the name of the label. He has been doing a good job and now he got a contract for distribution worldwide with Emi which was a big step forward. If you want to check out the label site here is the address: www.sleaszyrider.com. Yes the internet gives great exposure for sure. I just wish people would buy more records instead of downloading the albums for free all the time from the internet. That would definitely help the musicians.

HailMetal.Com: Poetry is a big part of your life no doubt as you have been doing just that since you were very little. How do you see our planet and what would you change about it, if given an opportunity and a large sum of money (to get you going)?

Deadly Kristin: Our planet is in danger. Human beings are trying to destroy the beautiful paradise we were given and they are polluting it, trying to modify its natural balance. No wonder that so many natural catastrophies have been happenning. But nature knows how to take back what was taken away and knows exactly how to re-establish its balance. Everything was created in perfect harmony and in the right measure. It is people who destroy what was orginally perfect. What bothers me the most, apart from the situation of the natural environment, is the perverted insanity of certain people. Those are the people who for istance play "god". They decide to clone animals ( and I am sure even human beings), they bring back to life pets that have been dead, they make the sickest experiments. This is just wrong! Not to talk about all these wars around the world, the greed of people, money that can buy everything, a society that is based on making money, aiming at positions of power and everything that seems to count is to appear. Look at the model of woman they show on tv and on the magazines! They made all the teenagers become hanorexic. Look at all the artists and people on TV! There is noone who is ugly, they all look perfect like photomodels. Then they had to invent "extreme make over", to show the world that if you dont look good you are disgusting, you are worthless, you are an outsider! You are cut off from social life! I think this is tremendously disgusting. People should concentrate on their spiritual life and on their values that they have lost. But no, they all just look at appearance and material things that will bring them just the delusion of a temporary satisfaction. If I could I would change all these things and take back the moral and spiritual values we have lost. People of today disgusts me.

HailMetal.Com: What has been your greatest goal in your musical or even creative career, general life, and so on, thus far?

Deadly Kristin: I havent been too ambitious. I dont aim at money or at success. I just wanted to express myself artistically as I have so much inside. I dont even expect people to understand or love what I do, though it would be nice of course. What I do, I do it for myself, for my spirit, for the love of creating something that is beautiful, meaningful and gives me emotions.

HailMetal.Com: You have of course traveled a fair bit. Even though you`ve been asked this question several times before, we`d like to know which out of the countries that you had visited is your favorite? Of course I have to encourage you to visit Australia at least once in your life as it is undoubtedly (and I can personally vouch for this having been in most countries across the world) one of the best countries in the world.

Deadly Kristin: I have travelled all over Europe and all over Usa but still there are so many places in the world that i would like to visit. The countries that I love the most are Norway and England. I have lived one year in Bergen, this wonderful ancient Viking town in Norway, by the sea. No other place I have ever seen has left such a mark in my heart like Bergen. There is a very special atmosphere there...it feels just unreal. Nature is wild, the bay is wonderful...the harbour with all the fishermen, the medieval wooden houses, all colored and leaning one over the other...the beautiful people...the constant rain, the smell of wet grass. I just love Bergen. Maybe one day I will live there again, who knows. England is also very charming. The english people are very social and polite, I find them exquisite. The landscape is marvellous with all the green hills and the sheep. It looks so peacefull and beautiful. The houses are also lovely. I may move there in the future. I am going there as often as I can.

HailMetal.Com: Is Dreamlike Horror touring at this stage? Where is your next stop?

Deadly Kristin: No, we are not ready to play live at the moment, though we may prepare a live set for the future. I would like to perform live with Dreamlike Horror. But we need to hire some session members as since the project is made of only 2 people who play everything, it is impossible to reproduce the music live, unless we get some guest musicians. Difficult to put this together as me and Aphazel live very far from each other, but I guess at some stage it will be done.

HailMetal.Com: When is the album coming out and can you share with us your favourite tune from the album? Will the album be available on the net?

Deadly Kristin: The album which is called " Delightful Suicides" is already on the market. If you dont find it in the stores you can order it directly from us. www.dreamlikehorror.com.
Yes I think you can order Dreamlike Horror online on several mailorder sites. I also own a mailorder in case you want to check it out www.hellfire-club.com. I dont have a favorite tune on the album, I like all of them.

HailMetal.Com: Thank you so much for this chance. We all appreciate it. If you would like to add anything else feel free Kristin! Thanks.

Deadly Kristin: I just would like to thank you for the wonderful interview and for the very interesting questions you asked. Thanks for supporting me and my music! Cheers!

Deadly Kristin`s Official Site - DeadlyKristin.com
The Official Dreamlike Horror Website - DreamLikeHorror.com
Ancient Official Website - AncientBand.com
Sleaszy Rider Records - SleaszyRider.com

Hazrat Bulbul Shah: 1st Great Muslim Sufi Saint of Kashmir

HAZRAT BULBUL SHAH

- Monday, October 31, 2005
Newsline From Jammu and Kashmir Government
(Courtesy: Department of Information and Public Relations)
-

Ist Great Muslim Sufi Saint of Kashmir

Hazrat Sharaf-ud-Din Abdul Rehman Bulbul Shah laid foundation of Sufi and secular culture of Kashmir in the year 1320 A.D. historians, scholars and intellectuals are of the opinion that like other great civilizations of the world. The origin of Sufi civilization of Kashmir worldwide known as Kashmiriyat lies in the philosophy of brotherhood and mutual love respectability as propagated by Bulbul Shah commonly known as Amir-i-Kashmir and Baadashah-i-Kashmir. Wheather he was actually born in Kashmir and later on received religious education in Turkistan and Bhagdad or he was actually born in Turkistan and later on visited Kashmir where he permanently stayed till his death is subject to various scholarly opinions. However, it is clear that like other great Sufi saints of Kashmir his grave and shrine is present in the Valley.

During the time of Bulbul Shah three distinguished religions Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam had impact in Asia. Bulbul Shah propagated synthesis of all three religions and introduced message of peace as enshrined in Islam in such a manner that all luminaries of Hinduism and Buddhism were influenced by him, particularly Prince of Kashgar and Ladakh Rinchen Shah who is known as Renzu Shah as per history written by Khawja Dedmari, G.M.D. Sufi’s “Kashier” page 119 and other chronicles.

Renzu Shah was born Warrior, brave bold and protector of people. He had heared about miseries of Kashmir which was plundered and ravaged by Mangols and Tatar’s under tyrant commander Dulcha. Dulcha had ordered burning of Srinagar, raping of women and killing of entire men folk. King of Kashmir Samha Deva escaped out of fear. It was Renzu Shah Ranchana who saved people from tyranny and was titled as lion among men (Sher-i-Kashmir). The title symbolizing Kashmiriyat was given to other great leaders of Kashmir as a symbol of being protector of people. Impressed by bravery and people friendly approach of Renzu Shah, Hazrat Bulbul Shah blessed the king. He adopted Islam under the influence of Bulbul Shah alongwith his Ministers and majority of the subjects. His wife Kuta Rani inspite of her Hindu faith was daily attending their Peer-i-Murshed Hazrat Bulbul Shah, who spread message of love and peace. The Valley after span of terror let loose by Tartars, witnessed era of tranquility, love and peace during period of Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah who assumed the name of Sultan Sadar-ud-Din. His son Khawja Hyder instead of Kingship preferred Sufi way of life.

As per research conducted by scholars and historians Bulbul Shah was accompanied with other pious saints particularly Bulbul Kamal-ud-Din, whose grave is between Chakoti and Uri road, Bulbul Jalal-ud-Din whose grave is between Harwan Buddhist Monastery and Nishat Garden and Hazrat Kamal Sahib who was buried just out side the palace of King Renzu Shah. The Palace of King is presently constructed as college and new Women’s College building has been converted at the ancestral site, while as graves of both Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah (Rinchana) are located at Bulbul Lankar Nawa Kadal, on the other side of the Palace. The Bulbul Shah’s shrine is first Muslim Sufi shrine of Kashmir which has its intellectual influence upto Kashgar.

Bombings cast a shadow on famous Sufi shrine

Bombings cast a shadow on famous Sufi shrine

By Zafri Mudasser Nofil, Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) The bombs exploded far away, but the weekend terror attacks have thinned the crowds - slightly though - even at the revered shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya here.

In the narrow, chock-a-block lanes around the Sufi shrine, people are talking about the Saturday terror that snuffed out 59 innocent lives and left more than 200 injured.

The bustling markets of Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj have no thread to bind Hazrat Nizamuddin except for the crowds. And unlike in the first two places, the visitors to the shrine are mainly Muslims.

The festival spirit is very much on, and the aroma of kebabs, fried chicken, raw meat and roses add to the religious fervour.

With Ram[a]zan on and Eid round the corner, the shops around the shrine were full of life until the blasts occurred. Though the hundreds of shopkeepers and small-time vendors report a dip in sales, they hope that the blessing of the 12th century 'auliya' (saint) would put things back on track.

'As today is a Sunday, we were anticipating a heavy rush. But there was a slight fall in numbers,' an official at the shrine said.

'It may be due to fear but things won't take much time to return to normal. The blessings of the auliya will help,' the official told IANS.

The owner of Nasir Iqbal Restaurant admitted a marginal fall in business. 'But people are coming though not as we expected,' he said.

A couple from Ghana walked out of a guesthouse and politely declined to speak. Two brothers from Jammu and Kashmir - Hanif and Masood Qureishi - came out of Karim's quite satisfied.

'The food is real good,' remarked Hanif, who said they here for business.

The brothers, who come from a region that has seen plenty of violence, did not read much into the Delhi blasts.

'It's sad that such things are taking place in the country,' Masood said, hoping that all will be normal soon.

But Mohammad Ali, the kebab seller, and Akram, who sells 'itr' (perfume), claimed it was business as usual.

Ali was busy as ever, mounting the masala-dipped meat on the fire and, after a few minutes, laying them out on plates with chutneys and salads.

Akram, who waited near the shrine, put his best perfumes on people who came out after prayers.

Abdul, who sells flowers, was humming a ghazal. His business, he said, was also 'not that satisfactory' Sunday.

A couple from Kolkata - Himangshu and Nibedita Chatterjee - came to pay obeisance to the Nizamuddin Auliya.

'We were planning to go to Ajmer, but cancelled the trip due to the blasts. So we are here,' Himangshu said.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Sikh-Sufi Relations: Interview with Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri [ old news ]
7 comments:
Interview of Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri

by Yoginder Sikand in Qalandar: Islam and Interfaith Relations in South Asia

February 2003

Memories of the carnage of 1947 are still deeply etched in the minds of many Muslims and Sikhs, moulding the ways in which they view each other. As a result of this, as well as of a selective and highly skewed understanding of the history of the relations between the Sikh Gurus and the Mughal Emperors, many Sikhs view the Muslims as inveterate ‘enemies’, and vice versa. In the process, the more positive side of the complex history of Sikh-Muslim relations has been almost totally forgotten. How many people, for instance, recall that Guru Nanak’s most trusted and closest disciple and companion, Mardana, was a Muslim and remained a Muslim till he died? That Nanak himself is said to have traveled to Mecca on the Haj? That the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib at Amritsar, the Golden Temple of the Sikhs, was laid by none other than a Muslim Sufi, Hazrat Miyan Mir? And so on….

In this interview, Makhdum Syed Chan Shah Pir Qadri, the custodian (sajjada nashin) of the shrine (dargah) of Hazrat Miyan Mir in Lahore, talks to Yoginder Sikand on the little-known history of the close relationship between the Sikh Gurus and the Muslim Sufis....Excerpts:

Could you tell us something about Guru Nanak and his relations with the Muslim Sufis?

As I see it, Baba Nanak Sahib did not intend to establish a new religion of his own. One of his principal aims was to build bridges of love and harmony between people of different faiths and communities, exhorting them to serve the one God. Now, in Arabic, one who surrenders himself or herself to God and God’s Will is called a ‘Muslim’, and this is why many Sufis consider Baba Nanak Sahib to have been a true Muslim. The Udasis or accounts of the travels of Baba Nanak Sahib tell us that he traveled to Mecca for the Haj. He is also said to have spent six long years in Baghdad, which was then a major centre for the Sufis. Here he studied with many leading Sufis of his day, and it is said that he was presented by the Sufis of the city with a turban as a token of respect and honor. In Baghdad , in the courtyard of the shrine of Hazrat Bahlol Danaai, a famous Sufi, there is a shrine which mentions that Baba Nanak Sahib stayed there. The shoes, the Muslim-style prayer mat [ja-namaz] and the blanket of Baba Nanak and the copy of the Holy Qur’an which he used to regularly read, are also preserved there.

Baba Nanak Sahib’s chief disciple was Mardana, who remained a Muslim till he died, and he served Baba Nanak Sahib for sixty-four long years. Mardana’s descendants still live in Lahore. They describe themselves as Sikh-Muslims.

Besides Mardana, did Guru Nanak have any other Muslim disciples?

Yes, he did, for the Muslims of his times saw him as an accomplished Sufi. Thus, when he finally passed away, his Hindu and Muslim disciples started quarreling among themselves as to whether his mortal remains should be burnt or buried. When they removed the cloth that covered his body, they discovered, much to their surprise, that his body had disappeared, and all that remained in its place was a handful of flowers. The Hindu and Muslim disciples then disposed of the flowers in their own way. This happened at a place called Kartarpur, which is now in Pakistan, not far from Lahore. The shrine complex in Kartarpur still remains a major centre of pilgrimage, and is presently administered by the Punjab Awqaf Board.. It has two sections, one containing a Hindu-style shrine, and the other a Muslim-style structure. Many local Muslims, and occasionally, pilgrims from India, still come to the shrine, to ask for Baba Nanak Sahib’s blessings.

How did Hazrat Miyan Mir get chosen to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple?

Hazrat Miyan Mir was one of the most pious Muslim Sufis of his times, a leading Pir of the Qadri order that traces its origins to the Holy Prophet Muhammad [may peace be upon him] through Hazrat Abdul Qadri Jilani of Baghdad. Hazrat Miyan Mir came to Lahore from Sind when he was around twenty years old. This was the time of Guru Ram Das Maharaj, the fourth Sikh Guru. Now, the Sikh Gurus, like most Sufis, believed in the doctrine of wahdat-al wujud or the ‘unity of all being’, seeing the light of God in every particle of God’s creation. Hence, Hazrat Miyan Mir would often go the Guru Ram Das Sahib’s home in Lahore to listen to his spiritual discourses. It was there that Hazrat Miyan Mir befriended the Guru’s son, Guru Arjan Dev Maharaj, who became the leader of the Sikhs after his father’s death. At this time, the Sikhs were not a separate, well-established community. Rather, in line with the teachings of Baba Nanak Sahib, they were a loosely organized group of Hindus and Muslims united in the quest to travel on God’s path.

Guru Ram Das Sahib had purchased a large plot of land in Amristar and built a tank there, and had forecast that a holy shrine would be established on the spot and that its foundation stone would be laid by what he described as the ‘best person of the time’. After his demise, when Guru Arjan Dev-ji became the Guru, he decided to build the Harminder Sahib, what is popularly called the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, on the spot. In accordance with his father’s wishes, he decided to request Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib, whom he considered to be the most pious and God-fearing man of his times, to lay the foundation stone of the shrine.

Accordingly, Guru Arjan Dev Sahib sent a party of 101 of his followers, bearing a palanquin, to Lahore to bring Hazrat Miyan Mir to Amritsar to lay the foundation stone. In the meanwhile, the Hindu diwan or prime minister of the Mughal governor of Lahore, Chandu Mal, heard of the Guru Sahib’s plans. Now, he, like many other Brahmins, was scared at the rapid expansion of the Sikh movement among the ‘lower’ castes, fearing that if the ‘lower’ castes were all to turn Sikh the stranglehold of the ‘upper’ castes would be threatened. You won’t find this in the history books, because those who have written the history of the Punjab have deliberately concealed it. But this is what I have heard from my elders. In order to draw away the ‘lower’ castes, who were joining the Sikhs in droves, he established what he called the ‘Ram Rahim’ movement. As soon as he heard about the Guru’s plans of inviting Hazrat Miyan Mir to Amritsar, he sent one of his deputies, a Brahmin who called himself as Ahmad Das, to Hazrat Miyan Mir, seeking to convince him not to lay the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib. Instead of helping the Guru, he said, Miyan Mir should co-operate with Chandu Mal, for Chandu, too, he insisted, believed that ‘Ram and Rahim are one’. But Hazrat Miyan Mir rebuked him, saying, ‘The Ram you believe in was not God himself, but a mere mortal—the son of Dasrath, the father of Luv and Kush, while God has neither parents nor children’. And then he said, ‘People can be united only on the basis of the love for the one formless God, and this task Arjan Dev is doing best and so I shall help him’.

It is said that Ahmad Das and his followers attacked the caravan in which then Hazrat Miyan Mir was traveling to Amritsar. Although they failed to kill Hazrat Miyan Mir, they injured several of his followers as well as some of the men whom Guru Arjan Dev Sahib had sent to accompany him from Lahore.

What happened in Lahore then when Hazrat Miyan Mir arrived?

After his arrival in Lahore, Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib stayed with the Guru for two weeks, during which time he was given the honour of laying the foundation stone of the Harminder Sahib. The story goes that after Hazrat Miyan Mir placed the stone, the mason picked it up to place it in a straight line. When Guru Arjan Dev Sahib heard of this, he was very angry and said, ‘How can you change what a true man of God, a true dervish, has decided? Because of what you have done, the foundation of this shrine will always be shaky’. And this is why the Golden Temple has been attacked so many times till now.

Shortly after, owing to Guru Arjan Dev’s growing prestige, the diwan Chandu Mal instituted a series of false cases against him and had him arrested. He ordered him to be placed on a hot iron plate and had burning sand poured over his head, just outside the fort in Lahore in full view of the public. Hazrat Miyan Mir rushed to his rescue, saying, ‘My friend, just give me one word and I shall cause the thrones of Delhi and Lahore to come crashing down’. But the Guru Sahib answered, ‘This is the will of God, and I must give an example to the people, or else how will they know what true martyrdom is?’. On Hazrat Miyan Mir’s intervention, however, the torture was stopped, but a few days later the Guru Sahib breathed his last. Then, when the Mughal Emperor Jahangir heard about what Chandu Mal had done to the Guru Sahib, he had him arrested, and arranged for him to be dragged by the neck through the streets of Lahore, after which he died.

What about Hazrat Miyan Mir’s relations with the successor of Guru Arjan Dev?

Guru Arjan Dev Sahib was succeeded by his son, Guru Hargobind Sahib, who was then a young lad still in his teens. Soon after he was made the Guru, he came to Lahore to meet with Hazrat Miyan Mir, who, after all, had been one of the closest friends of his father. The story goes that as the young boy was dismounting from his horse, Hazrat Miyan Mir stopped him, saying that he should place his feet in his hands instead. And so, the Guru placed both his feet in Miyan Mir’s outstretched hands. Hazrat Miyan Mir did this to stress that the true Sufi is one who is humble and has no trace of egoism left in him. Also, he wanted to publicly acknowledge the high spiritual status of the Guru Sahib and to show that only a true dervish can really respect another true man of God.

Later, when because of political enmity, the Mughal Emperor Jahangir had Guru Hargobind Sahib arrested in Gwalior, Hazrat Miyan Mir was instrumental in getting him released, after which the Guru sahib then went with him to Lahore and spent some time with him.

What role did Hazrat Miyan Mir play in the conflict between Guru Hargobind and the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb?

Unfortunately, the story of Aurangzeb has been totally misinterpreted and in the history textbooks he is portrayed as an evil religious fanatic. Actually, he was nothing of the sort, and his policies were dictated essentially by political motives and interests, and not by religion. That is why many of his top military officers were Hindus. Likewise, it is wrong to say that the Sikh community was set up to defend the Hindus from the Muslims. If that were true, then how is it that the Sikh Gurus had such close relations with the Muslim Sufis? No, in actual fact, the conflict between the Gurus and the Mughals was purely political and had nothing to do with religion whatsoever. Moreover, the early Sikh Gurus had much closer links with the Muslim Sufis than they had with the orthodox Hindu Brahmins.

Aurangzeb came to the throne by imprisoning his father, Shah Jahan, and waging war against his elder brother, and the rightful heir to the Mughal throne, Dara Shikoh. Dara himself was a great Sufi and a disciple of Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib. He was the first to translate the Upanishads into Persian, and it was his translation which was used by later European scholars to render them into various European languages. Because Dara was a disciple of Hazrat Miyan Mir, who, in turn, was a close friend of Guru Hargobind, when Aurangzeb declared war on Dara, Dara fled to the Guru, seeking refuge with him. The Guru gave him a sum of 500,000 gold mohurs, with which Dara was able to rebuild his army. Yet, in the end, Dara was caught by Aurangzeb’s agents, and Aurangzeb ordered him to be killed. Then, Aurangzeb set about eliminating all those who had supported Dara, fearing that otherwise they might oppose his rule. And so he sent his forces against the Guru Sahib, for instance, and also ordered the beheading of a famous Muslim Sufi of Delhi, Sarmad Shahid, who was a friend of Dara’s. Aurangzeb also ordered the destruction of several Sufi shrines, fearful that these might emerge as centers of popular opposition to his rule. Because the family and followers of Hazrat Miyan Mir had supported Dara Shikoh and Guru Hargobind against Aurangzeb, they were forced to flee from Lahore and they took shelter elsewhere. My own ancestor, Hazrat Abu Saeed Fatehullah Masum, who was Hazrat Miyan Mir’s successor, fled to the Guru at Amristar. The Guru granted him refuge and a large plot of land in the village of Dharamkot Randhawa, near Amritsar, where he spent the rest of his life, and was buried there.

In short, then, there is absolutely no truth in the argument that Aurangzeb or other Mughal Emperors were against the Sikhs because of any religious prejudice, or else why would the Sufis, who are the most pious of the Muslims, have supported the Gurus? Rather, it was entirely a political conflict, because the Emperors, sections of the Mughal nobility and the ‘high’ caste Brahmins found the growing Sikh movement among the ‘lower’ castes a threat to their own rule.

Given the historical role played by Hazrat Miyan Mir in promoting love and harmony between people of different communities, what role do you envisage for Sufis today in helping build bridges between Muslims and others?

Hazrat Miyan Mir Sahib would often say, Karni Parvan Kya Hindu Kya Musalman, which means ‘In the path of effort [for God], there is no difference between the Hindu and the Muslim. The Holy Qur’an tells us that God has sent prophets to all peoples of the world, and they all taught the same basic faith, which, in Arabic is called al-Islam, which simply means ‘submission to God’. Now, India is such a huge country, and so how could it be that God did not send any prophets here? He must surely have, and this is why some Sufis believe that perhaps Rama, Krishna or Buddha might have been messengers of God. The Holy Qur’an also tells us that the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him] had been sent by Allah to fulfill, and not to negate, the teachings of the previous prophets and to correct the wrong beliefs and practices that had crept into the religion of those who claimed to be their followers. This understanding of universal revelation, I feel lays a very firm foundation for inter-religious and inter-communal dialogue, which today is really the need of the hour. Unfortunately, few organized efforts are being made by Sufis in this regard today.

As the custodian of the shrine of Hazrat Miyan Mir, himself something of a pioneer in the field of inter-faith dialogue, how are you trying to carry on with his mission?

I don’t wish to talk about myself, but since you have asked me I shall answer. I run a school in Lahore, and many of our teachers and students are Christians. On Christmas day I invite my Christian friends, including priests, to come to the dargah and join them in praying to God. I also often visit Sikh gurudwaras in the United Kingdom, where I address Sikh gatherings, reminding them of the teachings of the great Gurus and Sufis, and their message of love for all of God’s creatures.

One last question. Have you ever visited the Golden Temple yourself?

Unfortunately, I have not had the chance, although I would love to. After all, Hazrat Miyan Mir laid the foundation stone of the shrine and so we do have a centuries-old association with it. But now, given the relations between India and Pakistan, it has become so difficult for Pakistanis to travel to India.
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President offers prayers at Sufi Shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti
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President offers prayers at Sufi shrine

Jaipur | November 17, 2005, from Webindia123.com


President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Thursday offered prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer.
On a daylong visit of Rajashan, Kalam also offered a "chadar" at the shrine, where he had come to seek blessings after filing nomination papers for the presidential election.

Earlier in the morning, Rajasthan Governor Pratibha Patil and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje received the president at the Sanganer airport here.

After a few minutes stopover, he flew by a helicopter to Todgarh town where he interacted with school children who were happy to see the dignitary in their midst.

Kalam, who was given a traditional welcome by Todgarh citizens, talked to the children and asked them about facilities being provided to them at their school.

Rajasthan's medical and health minister Digamber Singh was also present on the occasion.

Kalam also met women of a local self-help group (SHG) and inspected a school building project, which was being taken up under "Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan" or universal education programme.
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Parvathy Paul, Sufi singer: An interview
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Parvathy Paul, Sufi singer, on the upcoming Sufi music festival.

By Anil Sadarangani - Nov. 17, 2005 The Times of India

What is so special about Sufi music?

It's the most truthful performance one can witness. I can talk to you about a Sufi singer and tell you when she is playing her instrument, she is giving it her all, but you have to see it to know it.

She is in unity with all. There is nothing to hide anymore. When you get into that state of being, she (or he) has to give everything away. There is no time to think. When someone sings for hours on end, the body becomes light.

It's then when one is connected to Sufi music. It has inspired a lot of people. Also, just look at the condition of the world. Don't you think it's time we listened to music that gives us a feeling of universal love?

How excited are you at being a part of the Sufi festival to be held in Mumbai on November 19 and 20??

I am very, very excited to be in Mumbai and be part of the Ruhaniyat. It's a very special festival for me. I am a resident of Trivandrum but I live between Bengal and Trivandrum.

That is because most of my teachers and ashrams are based in Bengal and whenever I get time to practise, I go there. My husband is Malyalee.

What made you take up Sufi singing?

As a child, growing up, I knew about this music tradition because Bengal is full of it. Then I've always interacted with people from this genre of music. When I was 16 I was really moved by this.

What happened was that as I was about to take admission in Shanti Niketan, I saw a blind man on the road singing a Sufi song.

His song was was so full of light and brightness that it created another world for me in that moment, it took me beyond the world. I knew my path was already there, I just had to take it. I've been singing for 12 years now.

anil.sadarangani@timesgroup.com
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Sufi Singer Shafqat Ali Khan: Interview
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Soulful Strain: Sufi exponent Shafqat Ali Khan’s draws upon Amir Khusro’s works for his new album.

Meher Fatma in cities.expressindia.com , Nov. 16, 2005

Shafqat Ali Khan had to cut his India visit short. The popular San Francisco-based Sufi singer of Pakistani origin was to enchant the audience with music of the Sham Chaurasi Gharana in Delhi, at The Qutub Festival last week.

The festival was cancelled following the death of former President K R Narayanan.

But Khan, who plays the Indian harp Surmandal, had more than one reason to keep himself busy in India. The singer has just completed recording six songs for an album titled The Tilted Hat for Muzaffar Ali. ‘‘The six songs have been sung in Persian and influenced by Hazrat Amir Khusro’s work,’’ informs Khan, who produced his first album in India way back in 1995 when he collaborated with Bappi Lahiri for Awara Sur (HMV). Khan has also sung for a Bollywood film, slated for release next year.

Belonging to the eleventh generation of a family that is known for their khayal singing, Khan trained under his father Ustad Salamat Ali Khan, who originally hailed from a small village in Eastern Punjab.

While the artist has often experimented with ghazals and east-west fusion during his concerts abroad, he prefers to stick to classical singing. ‘‘I make it a point to sing in the language of the region I am visiting. For my concerts abroad, I include a lot of ragas and less of lyrics as it’s easier to follow,’’ says Khan, whose has been singing in Hindi, Urdu, Persian and Punjabi.

While talking about his experience in India, Khan says ‘‘I always get the same warm response to my performances in India and Pakistan because people share the same taste and culture’’. In the past, Khan has entertained music lovers with animated jugalbandis with Indian artists like Zakir Hussain, Rabbi Shergill, Sukhwinder Singh and Hari Haran. But these performances are mainly held in the west, which has a large following in sufi music.

The musician who has been drawing full house since his first performance at The Punjab Music Festival in 1980, says it’s difficult to break away from a family tradition. ‘‘I have to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the musical tradition alive,’’ says the musician.

With that in mind, he is already training his two sons, Faizan and Nader Ali Khan, to take lessons in sufi singing. But, oddly, he has no plans for his daughter, Huriya, to take up singing. ‘‘Girls never sing in our family. Unlike here, gayakis do not draw respect in Pakistan,’’ says Khan who prefers to stick to societal norms.
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Symposium: slam in the Contemporary World: Fethullah Gulen Movement in Thought and Practice
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'Religion has a Strong and Constructive Role in Society'

By Ali H. Aslan , Houston
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2005
zaman.com


“Islam in the Contemporary World: Fethullah Gulen Movement in Thought and Practice” was the subject of a symposium that was being held at Rice University for two days and served as a scientific and scholastic feast ended Tuesday.

During the first session of the last day titled, “Social Context of Sufism,” Zaman daily columnist Mr. Ali Bulac termed Mr. Gulen as a “civilian reformist” (islahatci) and an “iharmonizing leader” adapting a civilian Islam approach. Today in Turkey, it is impossible to conduct sociology without touching upon Mr. Gulen’s mission, Bulac claimed. "Perhaps the only contribution of Turkey to the global process is the schools and educational activities inspired by Fethullah Gulen."

Karen Fontenot from Louisiana Southern University said the Turkish Sufism Gulen represents is a “type of Islam” that could be adapted any where in the world. Along the history, the contributions made by Turkey for Islam to become a “universal religion” were also voiced by Fontenot. Heon Kim from Temple University pursuing his doctorate degree on the Gulen Movement described Mr. Gulen’s line as “Sufism without (tariqah) sect.”

At the “Islam and Democracy” session, Alp Aslandogan from the University of Texas talked about Gulen’s ideas on improving democracy in a way to satisfy one’s spiritual needs. Janse Schlubach of Central Oklahoma University shed light on the similarities between Imam Ghazali and Gulen in regard to tolerance. Greg Barton from Deakin University said some wrongly classified Gulen’s social conservatism and profound spirituality as a “civil society movement”, and his charisma as an “Islamist” or "tariqah" (religious sect); Barton also noted similar progressive Islamic social movements exist in Indonesia as well. Ian Williams from Central England University said the Gulen Movement is not an organization that can be defined in terms of a sect, pressure group or a grouping of hierarchy but it has traces of a social movement. Moderator Bekim Agai questioned how Islam and Democracy could be brought together as he pointed out that the Gulen Movement became successful in secular Central Asia but has not entered the non-secular Arab world.

Marcia Hermansen from Loyola University in Chicago at the session on “Media, dialogue and community” placed the concepts of "community" in this movement under microscope. The Movement, which has begun as a small circle around Mr. Gulen in Izmir appeared as a service to mankind in the fields of education, religious, and inter-cultural dialogue in particular as being the basic focal point of the 1990s. Today, hundreds of schools have been opened by this group, said Hermansen, spread throughout the world and their dialogue activities are expanding in a way to include America’s largest cities.

‘Gulen adopts his Sufism concept from the Quran’

Mustafa Gokcek from the University of Wisconsin emphasized that the basis of Mr. Gulen’s Sufism understanding lies in the “Quran and Sunnah”. Emphasis on the action is the greatest contribution of Mr. Gulen to Sufi literature according to Gokcek, who also said Mr. Gulen approaches many issues criticized by Orthodox Muslims with tolerance. Doctor of Theology Adnan Aslan on the other hand said Mr. Gulen has prepared a ground for a “new theological language” in line with modern conditions needed by today’s global society.

An academic assessment of the two-day symposium came from Professor Dale Eickelman. He pointed out that those who defend that religion has no role to play in modern society are mistaken; on the contrary, “religion plays a very strong and constructive role in society, the solidarity Movement in Poland, the Christian movements in Latin America, and the Gulen Movement are perfect examples, the professor said. There are many subjects regarding Gulen Movement that requires deeper research.

At a closing dinner, students received awards for their winning research projects. Jill Carroll of Boniuk Center at Rice University spoke about the success of the symposium and reiterated her warm welcome for such organizations. Individuals, who most likely would not have received an education if not for the Gulen Movement, today hold responsible positions in society and that is no small thing to achieve; it is incredible, Carroll said. Journalists Avni Ozgurel and Fehmi Koru, Professor Dogu Ergil from Turkey, and Dr. Ihsan Yilmaz from Britain attended the symposium as observers.
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The Rishi Sufi Order of Kashmir: Kashmir's Gift to Mysticism
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Kashmir’s gift to mysticism

Fida M Hassnain
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 from dnaindia.com

Reflexions

From 8th to 13th century, Central Asia, Iran and Arabia witnessed a mystic movement known as Sufism. At the time, Shaiva philosophy was popular in Kashmir. Progressive Buddhism in the shape of Mahayana had also arrived in the Valley by then.
The three movements met in Silsila-Rishian, or the Rishi Order, which is indigenous to Kashmir.

The standard-bearer of this order is Sheikh Noor-ud-din Wali (1378-1438), alias Nund Rishi, the patron saint of Kashmir.

He taught humanism comprising fear of God, love of mankind and service to fellow human beings. He eschewed the terminology of any particular faith and had a harmonising influence on society.

For the serious seeker, he recommended true love and devotion. Devotion means complete and exclusive absorption in God and indifference to all else. The lover, according to him, is one who cares neither for spiritual nor fleshly pleasures and depends only on God. Nund Rishi writes:

There is one God/But with a hundred names/There is not a single blade of grass/Which does not worship Him/First I became certain that there is no God but God/Then I made myself acquainted with divine revelation/When I was able to recognise my own self/I was able to recognise God/Both loss and gain became identical to me/The distinction between life and death disappeared.

The Rishi Order, set up by Nund Rishi, is a simple code of leading a spiritual and social life. It desires of man to lead a contented, simple and purposeful life. Its followers abstain from dogmas and rituals.

The Rishis preached universal love, abstinence from worldly things and striving for realisation of God. The Rishis did not isolate themselves from the masses but played the role of social reformers. They raised their voice even against oppression and pressed the rulers to rule with justice, often risking imprisonment. The Rishi Order is Kashmir’s contribution to world thought. The shrine to Nund Rishi stands at Charar-e-Sharief, near Srinagar.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based Sufi scholar.)
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Sufism, and al-Qaeda
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Al-Qaeda tightens its grip in Iraq

By Syed Saleem Shahzad in AsiaTimes Online, Nov. 15, 2005

KARACHI - The death of former Iraqi vice president Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri marks a turning point in the Iraqi resistance. Command of the movement will now almost completely be in the hands of al-Qaeda, which will further cement its moves to fight a global war against America under a unified, open command.

Douri, 63, was one of Saddam Hussein's closest aides and the most senior figure in the former regime still at large - he was number six (king of clubs) in the US's pack of cards denoting its most wanted people. The US had offered a US$10 million reward for information leading to his capture.

He died after a long battle with leukemia, according to a statement from the Ba'ath Party - which the Americans have officially dissolved in Iraq. The statement continued: "After 50 years he spent in the militant struggle and in the resistance, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri quits his horse going to the mercy of the Almighty God."

Douri was a Sufi Muslim and a practicing sheikh (spiritual guide) of two major Sufi schools, Rafahi and Qadri. As a Ba'athist as well, he was a trusted comrade of Saddam.

Though Saddam disliked such practices. every Monday he would hold a congregation for his disciples at his residence in Tikrit, where they would recite Sufi rituals. At Friday prayers in Baghdad he would eloquently hold court in Sheikh Abdul Qadir Gillani's mosque. Saddam thought that his close comrade from Oaja village near Tikrit was setting the wrong precedents for the secular image of the Ba'ath Party.

However, Douri and his Sufi circle turned out to be a most useful tool when Iraq was invaded by US in 2003.

Douri was the one who established coordination between the Ba'ath Party, the Iraqi Republican Guards and local Islamic groups, not only in Fallujah and Baquba, but also in northern Iraq, especially in Kirkuk.

As many senior people around him were gradually arrested, including Saddam, Douri remained at large, mostly in northern Iraq, including the cities of Mosul, Tikrit, Samarra and Kirkuk. At one time he escaped to Syria, but returned.

One of his sons, Ahmed, became the main financial organizer of the resistance.

For a long time Douri was the acknowledged driver of the resistance, but in the past few months little was heard of him. The speculation in the resistance was that he had either died, or once again gone to Syria. His illness was well known - he traveled with a mobile medical unit that was able to change his blood wherever required.

Douri's absence over the past months coincides with the period in which Islamic groups prevailed over the Iraqi resistance and effectively took control. After Douri, there is no one of his stature or knowledge to lead the remnants of Saddam's era. They have little option but to stick with the command of the Islamic groups.

.....[the remainder of the article deals with al-Qaeda....

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Bureau Chief, Pakistan Asia Times Online. He can be reached at saleem_shahzad2002@yahoo.com
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Sufi and Mystic Music Festival, Mumbai (India)
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Music sans frontieres: Sufi festival comes to town

Shridevi Keshavan
Tuesday, November 15, 2005 23:29 IST

The wanderers are here to strike roots in the city’s soul. With the 5th Sufi & Mystic Music Festival — Ruhaniyat — round the corner, Mumbai will play host to about 200 artistes coming from far and wide for this unique festival. Imagine witnessing the wandering minstrels from Bengal, Sufis from Gujarat, Assam, Rajasthan, and Punjab and a number of other fascinating musicians sharing a platform.

The festival, organised by Banyan Tree, is spread over two days. It is the brainchild of Mahesh Babu, director of Banyan Tree. The festival began five years ago with no sponsors.

“I have been interested in Sufi music since the past 10 years. I would go to the remotest dargahs in Gulbarga, Gwalior, and other places to listen to authentic Sufi music,” says Babu, who is thrilled to be organising the festival.

Sixty per cent of the artistes featured in the festival are new.

“This year we have Sansi Women from Assam who have travelled to Pakistan extensively, but will be coming to India for the first time,” explains Babu.

Besides this, the highlights are performances by Zikr-e-Rifayi, fakirs from Hyderabad, who were discovered at a dargah in Hyderabad.

The major attractions, however, are performances by the Wadali Brothers. They have been performing for Banyan Tree since the last 10 years.

Parvati Baul, a baul singer, who has gained international acclaim, apparently performed in India for the first time for ‘Ruhaniyat’.

“Most of the artistes know only their language. We are looking at holding the festival in four other cities — Bangalore, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Pune — as well,” adds Babu.

The festival will be held on November 19 and 20 at the Horniman Circle Gardens, Fort, from 6:30 pm onwards. Donor cards, valued at Rs 300 per day, are available at Rhythm House.

Mystic line-up
This year’s Ruhaniyat will feature:
Zikr-e-Rifayi: Fakirs (Hyderabad)
Baul songs: Parvathy Baul, Madan Vairagya and Laloo Fakir (Bengal)
Sufi Kalam and mystic compositions: Sansi women, Kachra Khan, Padmaram et al (Rajasthan)
Sufi Qawwali: Sabri Brothers (Jaipur), Wadali Brothers (Punjab)
Sufiana Ghazals: Vithal Rao (Hyderabad)
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Sufi Shrine Visitation in Afghanistan Today
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Blue locks replace string in an ancient Afghan tradition

Monday November 14, 2005 (2314 PST) from PakTribune

AFGHANISTAN, November 15 (Online): All over central and south Asia, the graves of Sufi teachers have been turned into ziarrats, or shrines. (Sufism is a branch of Islam that emphasizes love.

In most of these shrines, men and women come to pray at the side of the grave and tie strings or head scarves to the shrine as a reminder to the saint to put in a good word for them with God.

According to tradition, visitors run their hands over the strings as they pray to see if one comes loose and falls down.

If it does, they believe that both their prayer and the prayer of the person who tied the string will be answered.

At this particular shrine, in the village of Band-e Amir in central Afghanistan, worshippers leave padlocks instead of strings. Presumably it’s more difficult for a padlock to open than for a string to become untied.

The shrines in Afghanistan range from a few hundred to 600 years old. The most popular may belong to great warriors, kings, poets, or martyrs of past wars.

The assumption is that somebody who lived a good life and died heroically will have better access to God, so they are revered. This reverence of gravesites is a distinctly Sufi tradition.

The Taliban tried to stop the tradition of worship at gravesites, calling it a form of idol worship or polytheism. But the Afghans kept doing it anyway.

End.
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Sufi Ideas and Current Issues: An Interfaith Dialogue Panel
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Praise for Inter-Cultural Dialogue Efforts

By Ali H. Aslan , Chicago
Published: Sunday, November 13, 2005
zaman.com

Interesting panels and activities were held in the second and final day of the symposium titled, “Inter-Cultural Dialogue” in the Chicago city of the US.

In the “ Sufi Idea and Current Issues” panel held in the Chicago University Club, Marcia Hermansen from Loyola University, Doctor Thomas Michel from the Vatikan Inter-Religions Dialogue Secretariat, Scott Alexander from the Catholic Theological Union and Asma Afsuriddin from Notre Dame University made speeches.

Marcia Hermansen made an extensive description of Sufi movements from a historical and social perspective. Dr. Thomas Michel searched for an answer to the question whether Fethullah Gulen is a Sufi or not. Saying that he sees Gulen’s Sufi teachings as “the accumulated wisdom of Muslim saints”, Michel told Gulen is a discipline who presents Sufism’s “service to humanity” program. According to Michel, while “personal transformation” is more important for Said Nursi, Gulen finds “social transformation via education” at least as important as this. Scott Alexander who defined the “great jihad” concept, which means ones struggle with his own self, told Gulen focused more on the “society” than the “individual” when compared with Nursi. Alexander defined those who make crisscrosses by forcing the cultural border as “inter-cultural mujaheeden”. He said the biggest mujaheedens of the last era were Gandhi, Cathy Kelly, Pope II Jean Paul and Fethullah Gulen. Asma Afsuriddin examined the concept of patience and modesty.

Former National Education Minister Mehmet Saglam, Azam Nizamuddin and Paul Parker from Elmhurst College, and Zeki Saritoprak from Carroll University participated as speakers in the panel titled “Gulen Movement and Interfaith Dialogue.” The president of the panel was Professor Nelson Kiang from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Describing those who construct schools in Turkey as well as abroad with Gulen’s inspiration as “the heroes of education,” Professor Mehmet Saglam said, “I congratulate all of them. They really are busy doing something of the kind that has never been dreamt of before. I wish I was younger so that I could participate in what they are involved in.”. Azam Nizamuddin, a leading intellectual member of the American Muslim group, described the Gulen movement as a subject that has been removed from cultural as well as historical studies upto now. This is so, Nizamuddin thinks, partly because the notion of Islam has been treated in the academia as ‘some political ideology’ rather than as a set of religious as well as moral values. Another reason for this is, in Nizamuddin’s opinion, the difficulty of putting Gulen under a single heading: Gulen has characteristics that some Sufis have, and some do not. He is not a sheikh, for instance. Likewise, it is not possible to think of him as some typical Islamic scholar. Gulen does theological studies of world religions from the Islamic point of view, Nizamuddin thinks. “Here they are,” said Nizamuddin in response to the question of where the moderate Muslims are, which is a common concern of the American people.

Paul Parker said he views the notion of suffering as an integral part of inter-religious dialogue. The life that Gulen leads is a perfect example of the difficulty of inter-religious dialogue, stated Parker. Parker drew an analogy between Gulen and Martin Luther King, the American leader of civil society and an ecclesiastic, in terms of the hardships they both suffered. “Both of them paid the price of being good,” said Parker. “If this isn’t a gesture of solidarity with the world’s children, then what is it?” Parker asked in relation to the growing number of schools being opened for service in foreign nations.

Zeki Saritoprak said during his presentation, in which he referred to the bases of Interfaith Dialogue in the Quran and its place in Turk-Islam tradition, “Gulen accomplishes the message brought in early Islamic history.” Nelson Kiang noted that Gulen’s thoughts are practiced in the schools successfully. He also noted that he finds the science education in these schools “perfect” as a professor at MIT and there is no controversy between religion and science. Nelson noted that there is no ethnic or religious discrimination in Gulen’s schools and added: “The American educational system has a lot to learn from these schools.”
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Hindu priest takes care of a Dargah in Rajasthan (India)
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A Hindu priest takes care of a Dargah in Rajasthan

Salampur | November 13, 2005 4:17:19 PM IST from webindia123.com

A Hindu priest takes care of a Muslim Dargah, a Sufi mausoleum, in Rajasthan, showcasing yet another example of communal harmony and brotherhood.

Rajni Kant Mishra, the Brahmin priest, who lives in Salampur area, 25 kilometers from Ajmer, originally hails from Uttar Pradesh. He has been serving the Baba Badam Shah dargah for the last four decades with the full support of his family members.

Baba Badam Shah never favoured any discrimination in society on communal basis and this inspired Mishra to serve dargah. "His teachings do not portray differences between religions. No religion is bad. All religions talk about humanity. There is no discrimination between the Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs and the Christians. He believed that all are creations of God," says Rajanikant.

Devotees from different communities visit the Dargah during Ramdan, the holy month of Muslims. It is believed that a visit to this Sufi's mausoleum fulfils one's wish.

Mishra regularly visits the temple of Lord Shiva housed at the same compound and performs the rituals there too. He believes God is one and can worshipped in any form. Initially, he had to face resentment from his family and friends for serving in the Dargah, but they too visit the shrine now. "Initially, I had problems from family and friends. But when they saw that I am convinced, they stopped saying anything. Today they too come here and I have a large number of friends and relatives visiting the place," he added.

Laying a perfect example of communal harmony, 60-year-old Mishra now wishes that his next generation too carry on with the same work. (ANI)
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Bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide
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Bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed in Newkerala.com Nov. 11, 2005

Modern India is a land not of a solitary religion but of diverse religions. The state does not sponsor or foster any one religion at the expense of others. This is in keeping with the greatness of India, which through times immemorial has been the cradle of composite culture.

Sufi texts record that after saint Kabir - the inspired poet-weaver of northern India - died, his lovers and the connoisseurs of his 'dohas' (couplets), both Hindus and Muslims, fought for the claim of cremating or burying his last remains. As the quarrel started to rouse communal passions, an elderly gentleman requested both communities to cover the saint's body and wait till next morning.

Astonishingly, when the sheet was taken off, the warring communities found that in place of the body, two heaps of flowers were kept. The Hindus cremated the tulsi flowers while the Muslims buried the jasmine heap, and the problem was sorted out. The moral of the story is that the two diverse cultures of Muslims and Hindus are inseparable and need to run like the parallel lines of a railway track - always together socially but also retaining their religious identities that are separate.

The minority community needs to be led by an unquestioned leadership of deeply religious persons who will stamp out any chances of flaring communal flames. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was a deeply religious Muslim leader, a renowned Islamic theologian like Maulana Maududi, but communal harmony was dearest to him. He never stirred Muslims to political action through their faith.

Former president Zakir Hussain, who devoted his life to Jamia Millia, did not take that platform to espouse a communal cause; nor was another former president, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, that sort. Today the Azads, Fakhruddins and Hussains would have been needed to counter inflammable propaganda.

Just before the dismemberment of the subcontinent, the Muslim peasant in Bengal participated as joyously in the village Durga Puja as his Hindu neighbour. In Bangladesh, Hindus celebrated Eid. If entire Muslim villages in Malaysia can watch the Ramayana performed on stage, there is no reason why they cannot do the same in India or include Hindus in tazia processions and Karbala enactments.

Meena Kumari, Nargis, Waheeda Rehman and Mumtaz played the role of the devoted Hindu wife with sindoor on the forehead umpteen number of times. What about bhajans sung in Muhammad Rafi's sonorous voice? Should we ban his cassettes? Should we stop seeing a Dilip Kumar or an Aamir Khan or a Salman Khan film?

Likewise, after namaz when the Muslims stepped out of the mosques, in almost all the walled city locales of India, one could observe Hindu men and women standing with their sick children to be blessed after the prayers. A maulvi sahib used to wake up a panditji for his morning ringing of the temple bells or for sounding the shankh. Our composite culture has been the way Sir Syed once described India - a beautiful bride whose two bewitching eyes were the Hindus and the Muslims!

According to "Muraqqa-e-Delhi" of Nawab Dargah Quli Bahadur, Mughal emperors consumed only Gangajal. Their celebration of Holi, Diwali and Dussehra is well known. If the rulers were Muslim, the economy was run by Hindu administrators and officers. Muslim monarchs trusted Hindu accountants. In the military field if Aurangzeb had brave Rajput generals, Shivaji trusted only Muslim generals.

The Sufi saints like Sheikh Muinuddin Chishti, Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and other pirs like Haji Malang in Mumbai are highly revered by all Indians irrespective of the faiths they follow. The rath percolated in the Muslim society as the tazia. The Lord of the Seven Hills of Tirupati was given a Turkish wife - Thuluka Nachiyar in the temple of Srirangapatnam. How long will the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Shiv Sena deny this history?

There is no danger of India becoming a Hindu theocratic state so far as we have secular and peace-loving Hindus, and fortunately they outnumber the 10 percent or less bigoted and rabid ones. One hopes the Hindu majority will prevail. Likewise, the Muslim leadership has to interpret its sacred texts to explain the role of a Muslim citizen as a useful, participating minority member of a state. The distinction between the mosque and the state or theology and religion needs to be clarified so that it can be understood by the meanest intellect.

What hurts Indian Muslims is that in spite of the community having repeatedly asserted its identity as Indians, it finds its patriotism being suspected. In fact, during the Afghan war and the jehad call after that not one Indian Muslim went to Afghanistan to fight there, though there were many from Pakistan and even Bangladesh. Despite umpteen Muslim leaders, ulema and commoners having sacrificed for the nation, their allegiance is in question. Every time there is a communal divide, Indian Muslim have to get their certificate of loyalty renewed!

About a decade ago while in London, I reacted vociferously as an Indian to the telecast of the Babri Masjid demolition while a Guardian (December 7, 1992) headline declared: "Hindu terrorism!"

I maintained that just because a rowdy section of the Hindus had demolished the mosque and indulged in an orgy of violence and rioting, the entire community could not be generalised as terrorists. The truth is that more than 80 percent Hindus are secular. Had these level-headed Hindus gone the VHP way, not even one Muslim would have survived in India.

When lip-serving and self-serving Muslim politicians start indulging in pseudo-secularism, it boomerangs and a chain reaction is triggered. Hindus are made to believe the myths that the "rabbit-like" breeding Muslims will one day outnumber them and that the popularity of the ghazals of Ghalib, qawwalis of the Sabri brothers and poetry of Mir, Zauq, Iqbal and Faiz are dangerous signs of the coming social and political domination of Muslims.

Muslims are told on the other hand that rituals like applying tilak in a state ceremony will defile their religion in the same manner as the use of coconut and diya during important ceremonies. Once in a while, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad was smeared with tika at a national ceremony, and Dawn of Karachi printed the photograph with the caption saying that likewise one day Azad would be proselytised into Hinduism! But neither Ghalib nor his ghazals are compulsorily Islamic nor tilak or diya necessarily Hindu. These are all part of an Indian ethos, a result of the conglomeration of multifarious faiths and cultures. For centuries, Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians in India have shared common customs like those on the occasion of a birth, a death or a marriage.

The responsibility to stop communalists and pseudo-secularists, who are present in equal measure in the majority and minority communities, lies with all of us. Muslims should take care of their rabble-rousing elements, shake up their leadership and substitute it with devoted, pragmatic and sincere leaders willing to solve the real problems of the community without mobilising them on emotional and religious lines. In the same manner, balanced Hindus too must not give more rope to the likes of the VHP or the RSS as these organisations have no right to speak on behalf of the entire Hindu community.

Secular Hindus should realise that their overwhelming advantage in the power structure - an 80 percent majority in the electoral base - has ensured that their cultural interests are never to be threatened by any combination of forces or the so called jehad. They should realise that some of their leaders who spread communal hatred will take them backwards by aggravating ethnic, clan, caste and regional rivalries. They should realise that the centuries old tolerant milieu of India is the creation of Hindu sages in ancient times, which predates the arrival of Muslims and the birth of Sikhism in India. It is the prized legacy of us all that is in essence Indian.

(Firoz Bakht Ahmed is a writer on social, religious and educational affairs. He can be reached at firozbakht@rediffmail.com)
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Sufi Music at the Barbican (London) in Ramadan
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Ramadan Nights, Barbican / LSO St Luke's, London

Review by Michael Church
Published: 09 November 2005

Popular, mystical, based on love, Sufism makes music its route to the divine. The Barbican's decision to devote two of the three concerts in its Ramadan Nights season to Sufi performers - complementing Channel 4's excellent documentary - was perfectly timed.

And it was a coup to get Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's nephew Rahat as the main qawwali singer, plus two lesser-known groups from Lahore. The dervish minstrel Sain Zahoor and the dhol drumming brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain had not played in Britain before; bringing the music they play at Pakistani shrines, they were living reminders of the religious pluralism - Muslims side by side with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians - which their art celebrates.

But the opening concert was the kernel of the operation: a two-hour ritual by Sheikh Habboush and his Al-Kindi Ensemble. Al-Kindi may be seasoned international performers, but they are just one of dozens of Sufi groups from Syria: as they assembled on stage at LSO St Luke's, chatting and tuning up, they might have been at home. But the moment the flute and zither commenced a duet, followed by the first sung invocation, the atmosphere changed to one of excited urgency. Sheikh Habboush sang in a timbre which was a reminder of how close Arabic singing can be to the "cracked" flamenco sound; when the first whirler began - one hand pointed aloft to collect blessings from God, the other pointed down to distribute them to mankind - the whole thing acquired unstoppable momentum.

The zither - played by the virtuoso Julien Weiss - spun its dusty miasma, and the flute became the embodiment of that lovely Sufi idea whereby its sound becomes the lament for its separation from the reed-bed. As the ritual moved from peak to peak of excitement, and finally reached ecstasy, one had the feeling that these men were being borne upwards by the music.

What can one say of Algeria's rai-king Khaled, who packed out the Barbican the next night? That he sang as he always does, with muscular vigour and impish charm; and that, while the North African members of his audience had a ball, the non-Arabic speakers were not sure how to respond.

Popular, mystical, based on love, Sufism makes music its route to the divine. The Barbican's decision to devote two of the three concerts in its Ramadan Nights season to Sufi performers - complementing Channel 4's excellent documentary - was perfectly timed.

And it was a coup to get Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's nephew Rahat as the main qawwali singer, plus two lesser-known groups from Lahore. The dervish minstrel Sain Zahoor and the dhol drumming brothers Goonga and Mithu Sain had not played in Britain before; bringing the music they play at Pakistani shrines, they were living reminders of the religious pluralism - Muslims side by side with Hindus, Sikhs and Christians - which their art celebrates.

But the opening concert was the kernel of the operation: a two-hour ritual by Sheikh Habboush and his Al-Kindi Ensemble. Al-Kindi may be seasoned international performers, but they are just one of dozens of Sufi groups from Syria: as they assembled on stage at LSO St Luke's, chatting and tuning up, they might have been at home. But the moment the flute and zither commenced a duet, followed by the first sung invocation, the atmosphere changed to one of excited urgency. Sheikh Habboush sang in a timbre which was a reminder of how close Arabic singing can be to the "cracked" flamenco sound; when the first whirler began - one hand pointed aloft to collect blessings from God, the other pointed down to distribute them to mankind - the whole thing acquired unstoppable momentum.
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Letter from Sultan Abd ul-Hamid to Sufi Shaykh concerning Zionism
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The following is a translation of a letter (which may or may not be authentic; hence it could be a fabrication like the infamous *Protocols of the Elders of Zion*) purporting to be written in 1911 by the last Ottoman Sultan, Sultan Abd ul-Hamid, to the Shadhili Sufi shaykh, Mohammad Efendi Abu Shamat, on the subject of the pressure brought on him by the "Young Turks" to establish a Jewish State in Palestine. This translation resides on islam.ru , a Russian Islamic website.
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In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful! Let Allah, the God of the Worlds, be praised. Let there be peace and blessings upon the Prophet Mohammad, missionary of the God of the World. I address the respected sheikh of the Shazali tariqat Mohammad Efendi Abu Shamat, the healer of the souls and the flasher of the hearts, the outstanding man of his times. After the greetings I want to say that I got your message of this May 22 and I thank Allah that you are in good health.

My lord, God being my helper, I devote days and nights to reciting virds and I ask to always remember me in Your prayers. Let me share with You, and with lucid-minded people, my worries in respect of one very important question:

I left the post of the ruler of Caliphate only because of the obstacles and threats on the side of people who call them "Young Turks". "The Committee of Unity and Progress" (Ataturk was one of its leaders, the comment of the translator) obsessively insist on my agreement to form a national Jewish state in the sacred land of Palestine. But in spite of their obstinacy I strongly refused them. In the end they offered me 150 mln English pounds in gold, but again I refused and said the following to them.

" If you offer me all the gold of the world adding it to your 150 man, I won´t agree to give you the land. I have served the Islam and the people of Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon him, for more than 30 years, and I won´t cloud the Islamic history, the history of my fathers and grand fathers –Ottoman sultans and caliphs".

After my definite refusal they decided to remove me from power, and after that they told me that they would transport me to Salonika and I had to resign. I praise my benefactor who didn´t let me bring shame on the Ottoman state and the Islamic world. I want to stop at this. I praise the Almighty once again and finish my letter. I kiss Your noble hands and hope that You won´t refuse my respect for You. Greet all our brothers and friends, oh, my excellent teacher. Forgive me for such a long letter but I wanted You to be informed.

Peace, blessings and mercy of Allah upon You.
Verger of the believers, Abdul-Hamid ibn Abdul-Madgid.
29 Ramadan 1329.
September 22 1911.
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Lohangi Hill (Madhya Pradesh, India): A hill pulls diverse faiths together
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A hill pulls diverse faiths together

by Rohit Ghosh
India Times, Nov. 3, 2005

An ancient tomb, a temple, two mosque-like halls, a Buddhist structure and a few other old constructions atop a hill in Madhya Pradesh make for a shining symbol of communal harmony.

The hill, known as Lohangi, lies in the middle of the bustling township of Vidisha, 54 km from here. It never fails to catch the eye of a visitor, appearing rather like a big mole on a plane landscape.

The tomb of an unknown Sufi saint and the Annapurna Devi temple draw the devout from far away. And people of different faiths visit both sites.

"The tomb is many centuries old," says Kamla, a Hindu who came from Bina to pay obeisance at the temple and the tomb. "We were childless and came here for prayers that were answered. Now I come here quite often."

Two halls built of stone columns and slabs that bear calligraphy in Arabic are located on the hill. Some Muslims living around Lohangi feel they are the remains of a mosque.

But the upkeep of the structures other than the tomb and the temple is poor, and locals are hardly aware of the importance of the heritage.

A densely populated area on the foothills now surrounds Lohangi and one has to wade through the locality to reach the hundreds of stone stairs that lead to the top.

"It is a big attraction for both local residents who treat it as a picnic spot and tourists but we are not aware about its history," says Mujeeb Khan, who lives in the Kiri area in Vidisha.

"It is very old. The tomb and the other structures must have been built before the Mughals came," he says. He often visits Lohangi to pray at the tomb.

The huge stone structure kept on a base near the temple and the tomb looks like part of an Asoka pillar.

The unique hill is visible from everywhere in the city and even outside.

"The hill needs to be developed properly but, due to the dense population in the base and lack of cleanliness, visitors are often turned off," says Sanjay Jain, a youth.

"People who go to the temple pray at the tomb as well," he adds.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

On Jalaluddin Weiss: Wine, women, and Arab music
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Wine, women and Arab music

Peter Culshaw meets the French convert who has become a leading light in Syria
November 3, 2005 in arts.telegraph (UK)

Jalaluddin Weiss welcomes me into his extraordinary 14th-century home, a former emir's palace in the old Syrian city of Aleppo.

His house has become almost like a shrine, so he is used to the odd (often very odd) visitor - in the last few weeks, he's had round-the-world cyclists from New Zealand, Black Panthers from New York, a Syrian Orthodox bishop, bearded bin Laden supporters and numerous members of the secret police.

While I'm there, I meet the personal assistant of the Grand Mufti, some dervishes, and a group of Syrian doctors. They have come round to hear Weiss play on his qanun, the Arabian zither of which he has become perhaps the leading exponent.

Jalaluddin is Weiss's Muslim name (after the 13th-century poet Jalaluddin Rumi). The 52-year-old was born "Julien", in Paris, but is one of those often eccentric Europeans who become so fascinated with Arabian culture that they go native.

As a teenager, Weiss studied classical guitar, then became a hippy and dropped out, spending a year in Morocco and another in Guadeloupe. When he returned to France in 1974, he heard the Iraqi musician Mounir Bashir playing the oud, an Arabic lute, and "became entranced by his playing. It was an evening that changed my life."

Weiss ended up studying with Bashir in Iraq, and composed a Baghdad Suite in his honour. He found that he both enjoyed and excelled at playing the qanun, and his studies took him around the Arab world, "sitting at the feet of the masters" in Tunis, Istanbul and Beirut, before he bought his current house 12 years ago.

In Aleppo, an old, car-free town that has barely changed in half a millennium, Weiss founded a music group, the Al-Kindi Ensemble (named after a philosopher of music), which has released 20 CDs and worked with some of the greatest Arabic musicians.

One of the main reasons Weiss was drawn to Arabic music, he explains, was that he had come to hate "the straitjacket of 12 notes imposed by Western music, where everything is standardised.

On the qanun, there are several strings for each note." He has extensively researched and recorded 16th- and 17th-century Arabic music, and has had a customised qanun built which enables him to play in the styles of different Islamic musical traditions.

His conversion to Islam was, he says, "partly social - I wanted to be more than an outsider and become part of the Sufi community here". I get a glimpse of that community when I accompany him to hear Sheikh Habboush, his partner on the latest Al-Kindi CD, sing in the local mosque.

After the imam delivers a coruscating sermon on the evils of Israel, the US and England, and says that Bush and Blair will be damned for eternity, a couple of excitable members of the congregation want to know what a couple of infidels are doing among them.

Sheikh Habboush tells them to relax, that Jalaluddin is one of them. Another, seemingly more friendly, quizzes me. "I am a friend to Islam," I say, as diplomatically as I can.

We sit next to the sheikh, who sings beautifully and with great passion - unfortunately, once the PA system is on at full blast, his voice is horribly distorted.

A whirling dervish with a white cloak begins to spin in front of us, a dream-like image of grace and weightlessness. One arm is extended and the other pointed to the floor, to receive grace from Allah and to distribute it to humanity.

After the ceremony, we go to the sheikh's house. As soon as the muezzin call signals the break from the Ramadan fast (Aleppo is one of the few places that still uses real singers, rather than tapes), we are served tea and dates.

Habboush is not just Weiss's musical partner - he is also his spiritual guide. Weiss, who is divorced, explains to the sheikh that he is in love with a Turkish girl and doesn't know what to do. Habboush explains that Weiss is supposed to marry the girl before sleeping with her.

I ask the sheikh whether he thinks Weiss will progress far on the Sufi path, and perhaps one day become a sheikh himself. He pauses, before venturing: "Perhaps he could become some kind of priest for pimps…" Habboush roars with laughter, and we all join in - Weiss a little uncomfortably.

While he may not be the most devout Muslim (expecting a Frenchman to give up women and wine would perhaps be a tall order), Weiss's spiritual path is through music. He has been, the sheikh agrees, a wonderful exponent of Arabic music - and for that, much will be forgiven.
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Turkish Alevis and Sufism
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Turkey’s Alevis fear secularism under threat (November 1, 2005) in *Dawn* [Pakistan]

By Jon Hemming

YENICEKOY (Turkey): Everyone in the Turkish village of Yenicekoy is Muslim. They have a mosque, but no one goes there. It is Ramazan, but no one is fasting. Turkey’s Alevis are one of Islam’s most liberal sects. They sing and play mystical music at religious ceremonies attended by men and women. They drink alcohol, do not fast and do not go on pilgrimage to Makkah.

Long oppressed under Ottoman rule, the Alevis say they still face discrimination, even though the government has officially championed religious freedoms and human rights as it bids to gain membership to the European Union.

In a country where most Muslims belong to the Sunni group and Islam is tightly controlled by Ankara’s Religious Affairs Directorate or Diyanet, the Alevis say they have been neglected.

“The Diyanet is the state’s religious institution, but only represents Sunni beliefs,” said Fevzi Gumus, general-secretary of the Alevi-Bektasi Federation. “The existence of the Diyanet is incompatible with the secular nature of the state.”

Alevis are loosely related to Shia Islam and number between 12 million and 20 million of Turkey’s 70 million citizens.

“Alevis are not officially recognised as a religious community, they often experience difficulties in opening places of worship and compulsory religious instruction in schools fails to acknowledge non-Sunni identities,” the European Union said in its 2004 report on Turkey’s progress toward accession.

The criticism is expected to be repeated in this year’s report due on Nov. 9.

“It is certainly one of the long-standing issues for the European Commission in the context of minority rights and religious freedoms,” said one EU diplomat.

Ankara began its long-delayed accession talks on Oct. 3. It must bring its laws and regulations into line with those of the EU in several areas before it can join.

Turkey has already made wide-ranging reforms aimed at bolstering human rights and individual freedoms as part of its EU bid. But the EU says the reforms must be fully implemented.

Alevis warn that despite its officially secular status, Turkey is in danger of becoming a Sunni state.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has its roots in political Sunni Islam and refuses to recognise Alevi meeting places, known as cemevi, or to give them the same state aid as mosques receive.

“Alevism is not a religion. If it were a religion, it would need places of worship,” Erdogan said two years ago.

Izzettin Dogan, chairman of one of Turkey’s leading Alevi organisations, said Alevism was the “original essence of Islam.”

“Have a clean heart, a good heart, love humanity, don’t do anything bad to anyone ... the biggest sin for Alevis is to hurt someone else, to do an injustice to someone else,” said Dogan, who is a member of the Cem Vakfi group.

Alevis say their beliefs are a synthesis of mystical Islamic Sufism, some Christianity, Zoroastrianism and pre-Islamic shamanism brought from Central Asia as the Turks began their westward conquest of Anatolia from the 11th century onwards.

At an Alevi cemevi in a rundown area of Istanbul, hundreds of people kneel in a circle, men on one side, women on the other, praying and singing along to the seven-stringed guitar-like saz. The men and women rock back and forth, entranced by the haunting rhythm and religious chants.

The music and mixing of the sexes, banned in religious services by mainstream Islam, have led some to say Alevis are not Muslims at all and accuse them of conducting sexual orgies.

“According to their understanding, men and women can’t be in the same place, if they are it means some sort of revelry is going on, it can’t be a place of worship,” said Dogan.

Since the secular Turkish Republic replaced the officially Sunni Ottoman Empire in 1923, Islam has been kept firmly under state control. Imams are paid and told what to preach by the Diyanet, which controls some 76,000 mosques.

The Diyanet employs around 100,000 people. Its 2006 budget will be larger than those of the Interior and Foreign ministries and equals about a third of the state funds spent on health.

The Diyanet spends no money on Alevis and, according to members of that group, does not employ any Alevis.

“The Diyanet is a like a state within the state,” said Dogan. “How can you believe in freedom of religion when you use the taxes collected from all of us and give it only to Sunni Muslims? ... The secular state is becoming a Sunni state.”

The Diyanet has a simple answer: if Alevis are Muslims, they should go the mosque.

It has built mosques across the country, some in Alevi villages like Yenicekoy, a small farming community on the rolling plains of eastern Thrace, west of Istanbul.

“There used to be an imam at the mosque, but he left because there was no congregation,” said villager Sedat Ozturk.

In the nearby Alevi village of Cesmeli, men sit smoking and drinking tea, ignoring the dawn-til-dusk Ramazan fast and listening to the call to prayer from the mosque next door.

No one stirs from their seats.

The imam is alone in the mosque, but determined.

“I made the call to prayer 10 minutes ago, now I shall pray,” he said.

—Reuters
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Imam Dawoud Kringle responds to criticisms against Deadly Kristin
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Imam Dawoud Kringle, of the band Analogue Fakir, responds to various criticisms targeting Deadly Kristin

After an excerpt of Deadly Kristin's interview at Hail Metal was posted at Blabbermouth.net, a firestorm of criticism was leveled at her by numerous readers who, presumably, are Heavy Metal afficionados. In the midst of those comments, listed below the excerpt, Imam Dawoud Kringle posted his illuminating response.

COMMENT | Kristin and I
posted by : mysticjaz
11/1/2005 10:10:26 PM


Peace,

I am Dawoud Kringle; the sitar player / musician with Analogue Fakir, Kristin's project. I am also one of the two men who introduced her to Islam. I was the one who gave her the Qur'an. I am also an Imam / Islamic Chaplian with the New York City prisons.

I read the comments with great interest. Those who spoke in favor of Islam came with brief but reasoned arguments. As for the others,,,

As you sit in the comfortable anonymity of the internet, and have only conjector to formulat an opinion on Islam and on Kristin, I find this to be indicative of the sad state of affairs of the world and of humanity.

I will not appologize for the actions of terrorists because I DO NOT ACCEPT THEM AS BEING REAL MUSLIMS! I do a great deal of work in the prisons to counteract the mindet of terrorism (and probably put myself at considerable risk. I don't care). I could easily quote chapter and verse to prove that what Al-Qaeda, etc. are doing violates every single scared article of Islamic Faith. And in my sermons, writings, and occasoinal appearences on radio, I often do.

I am a Sufi. But I am also a peaceful warrior. I believe that Jihad should be fought within one's own heart.

Kristin and I became friends and started discussing our respective lives. She asked me questions; and I answered them to the best of my ability. Her decision to walk the Sufi path was hers and hers alone. I have no power to convert anyone. I advise her, but I do not judge her (if you truly understand Qur'an, you'll know what I mean.)

To the Satanists, I truly pity you. You have accepted the lowest of animal nature and turned your back on what it truly means to be human: while believeing yourself to do the opposite.

To the athiests; the word "athiest" comes from a Greek root word meaning "One who is ignorant and unaware". If this is how you wish to describe yourself,,,

And to those who malign and slander Kristin - from the comfortable anonymity of the internet, I say this: You don't know her. I do. She is a kind, perceptive, strong, intelligent, creative, and insightful woman whom I have great respect for. If you're challanging her on the level of either intellect or morality, you're way out of your league!

I pray that what I wrote here brings light to dark places and truth to dispell lies and ignorance.

Ma'a Salaam,
Imam Dawoud Kringle
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Heavy Metal Vocalist, Deadly Kristin, on Sufism and Islam, etc.
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Interview with Deadly Kristin from Dreamlike Horror

Interview questions by Militia

HailMetal.Com: Greetings Deadly Kristin!!! I hope that you can spare some time to answer a few questions that we have lined up for you. This may give us and our readers a clearer indication of your past and contemporary life.

Deadly Kristin: Salaam, I am here at your service, so go ahead...

HailMetal.Com: I`d like to start with a question which was on everyone`s mind for a long time. Have you converted to Islam and how do you combine the religion (or Sufism) in your case with Satanism?

Deadly Kristin: Wow, we begin with a very sharp and good question. I cant say I have converted as I didnt have any religion prior to Islam. My mind had always been troubled by existential questions since when I was a kid. I have always been deep and always questioned what I was being told. I wanted to think with my own head as most of the things adults were saying didnt make sense to me. I started to observe life around me, the human behaviour, I started to study science, philosophy, astronomy, biology, physics, chemistry and builded myself a culture. I observed nature and the laws that rule it, I spent nights in deep meditation wondering about the meaning of life, the meaning of death, the creation of the universe. I put together the pieces of the big puzzle and I saw what all these sciences had in common. Starting from that basis I began to formulate my own theories on life, on the universe, on everything. In these years I spent hundreds of beautiful hours talking with intellectual and educated people from different countries, different cultures and different backgrounds. We discussed existential topics and exchanged views and ideas. I exposed my own theories which were often considered very interesting and valuable. Still some things were driving me insane as in my theories I had some gaps, some things to which I still didnt have an answer. I couldnt see the totality of things because in my head I was denying the concept of divinity, of a surpreme entity that dominated the creation. I didnt think there was a god because of the multitude of bad and unfair things that happen in this world. I was thinking: if there is a god, why doesnt he show himself, why does he allow these things to happen?

At a point of my life I even thought that if there was a god then he must have been good and evil at the same time. That would have been the only explanation to everything. To why we are given life and then it is taken away from us, to why we have to go through injustice, pain and suffering. To why we are given the blessing of having a family and lovely people around us and then we see them die, leaving us in total despair and agony. When I first met Abdullah Hamzah of Celt Islam Soundsystem and Dawoud Kringle, who are now my best friends and band mates in Analogue Fakir, we started talking about all this. They were the first people I was talking to who could not only understand perfectly my theories, but could also fill me in where I had gaps. They introduced me to sufism and to Islam. When I started to read the Qur`an I was very curious and eager to see if I could find something similar to my theories there...and not only I did find it, I even got to know more about what I had assumed and found the answer to all the questions that always troubled my heart. Believe me, I am someone who doesnt get influenced very easily, I was the biggest non-believer and I always based my theories on matter of facts not on dogma. The Qur`an is an incredible source of information on life itself and its meaning. You can read precise and scientific details on how the universe was created, on the laws that dominate it, details on the relation of time and space, of the phases of development of embryos! Plus also incredible important revelations for oceanology, astrology etc. The Qur`an was written in 610 A.D., in a time where science was very basic and technology didn`t exist. The funny thing is that modern science is discovering NOW, at the present moment what already was explained in the Qur`an about 1.400 years ago! The theory of the big bang for istance, the very recent discovery that the universe is actually in constant expansion (and not stable and immobile within its limits like it was always thought), the also very recent theory of the Big Crunch, which says that one day the universe will collapse on itself and return to the condition of its origin the one that originated the big bang.

All this and more is written in the Qur`an and there is no doubt for me that is the word of God, because any other explanation wouldnt be possible. If you are interested in reading about the scientific miracles of the Qur`an I can reccomand this wonderful website: miraclesofthequran.com. As far as my old idea of God that could be good and evil at the same time, Allah represents this very well. He is the infinitely merciful but also an incredible punisher. The bad things that happen in life are tests on people and everything happens for a reason. The reason why a lot of evil and disgusting people get all the money and power is to give them the illusion they are sufficient to themselves and increase their lack of faith. The more they have the more they become ungrateful, the more they become their own gods, the more they become arrogant...and the greater punishment will have in the afterlife, which is the real life, not this one.

As far as satanism I never claimed to be a satanist. In fact in the past I didnt even believe in Satan just like I didnt believe in God as I thought they were just an invention of christianity. I wrote anti religious lyrics in the past because I was very pissed off at people who claimed to be religious and they dont even know what their religion is about. They just believe in what they have been told and they dont use their heads. I dont have much appreciation for people who are like sheep and dont use their brains. My choice for Islam was motivated and studied for long. On another note you may want to realize that most bands use "satan" as a symbol of rebellion, as a metaphore.
They dont go out and slaughter goats and rape babies during black masses. If they do they are really stupid. To my eyes who adores satan was just as dumb as someone who adored Jesus Christ or any other god. For the same reasons I told you before.

HailMetal.Com: How did you go about finding this particular religion and while on that matter explain to us who Analogue Fakir is?

Deadly Kristin: I guess I already have answered how I got close to Islam in the previous question. Analogue Fakir is an islamic jungle dub project with very dark ambient atmospheres based in England. It is a mystical and deep project whose sounds can really wake up feelings and emotion inside. Despite the fact that is an electronic project I would consider it kind of extreme for the darkness of sounds and pretty strong approach. In the band we are all Sufis and best friends, very close to each other on a mental, social and spiritual level. That´s why the project is so intense. It features me on vocals, Abdullah Hamzah on keyboards, percussions and programming and Dawoud Kringle on sitar. We also have our friend Purple Dave doing some keys.

HailMetal.Com: Just to clarify, as you have embraced Sufism, what does it really mean and does it involve anything `ritual` for the lack of a better word?

Deadly Kristin: Sufism is not just a philosophy related to islam, it is a way of being. Many books have been written on Sufism, by non-sufis, but how can they understand something that they are not, something that is not part of their hearts? Sufis live in this world yet they are not part of it. To the Sufi material things mean nothing, gold and dirt have just the same value. Sufis are people that have attained mystical enlightment. I do not belong to any tariqa, that means to any specific Sufi Order, though the one I feel closer to me is the one of the Mevlevi, The Whirling Dervishes, founded by the dorable and great Sufi Master and poet Jalaluddin Rumi. They have ritual dances, ritual chants.

Another important "ritual" for the Sufis is the dhikr. It is a gathering that can go on for many hours where the Sufis chant and move in circles or stepping side to side, creating an hypnotizng and very intense energy and union that can lead people to reach mystical ecstasy. It has an immense power and should be done only by people who can control themselves otherwise it could be too overwhelming.

HailMetal.Com: I was not aware that you`ve turned toward Techno Trance music (an electronic project?). How did this eventuate?

Deadly Kristin: More than techno trance I would say electronic music in general, as I dont have a favourite genre nor I can say to be a big fan of any band in particular, apart from Celt Islam Soundsystem and Analogue Fakir of course. I started in 2003, doing some guest vocals for Kaiaphas (now Dj Zhyin) that needed some vocals for his psy-trance tracks. I really liked the result and I felt like challenging myself with something new that I had never had done before. So I created a project called Noctem Dk with another metalhead friend of mine, an extremely talented musician called Noctem (who also appears as guest on a Dreamlike Horror track). We both had never done electronic music before, so we just started to play something, almost just for fun...we recorded a few songs and they turned out really good! In fact we received such a good response that we are now considering to record a whole album!

HailMetal.Com: Is black metal still your preferred sub genre of music?

Deadly Kristin: No and it hasnt been for a few years now. I got tired of it as it has been abused and commercialized all over the world. It ended up spawning millions of norwegian clone bands that all looked and sounded the same. Most of all I got tired of the crappy attitude of the people who listen to black metal. Black metal was born under specific circumstances in the 90´s in Scandinavia. Funny how it came to America now, 20 years later. I still like very much heavy metal and hard rock. I am taking a break from death metal at the moment has I have been listening too much to it for the past 15 years eheheh. I still like it though.

HailMetal.Com: As mentioned Aphazel and you are currently involved in Dreamlike Horror. Tell us all what Dreamlike Horror is and how do you find it to be working again with Aphazel?

Deadly Kristin: Dreamlike Horror is my personal project that I founded in `99 together with Aphazel. Although our first record "Delightful Suicides" has just been released Dreamlike Horror is not a new project. The album was recorded part in 1999-2000 and part in the winter of 2004. It took so long time because it was a project that we did for ourselves and we were not sure if we wanted to release it as it was such a personal project. The music is very intense, dramatic and emotional, just like the lyrics. It could be defined as a mixture of gothic, dark ambient and classical music with a horror touch. I am not really working with Aphazel, the new songs of Dreamlike Horror have been composed by each of us separately. I would love to work with him in person but it is very difficult as we both have very busy lives and we now live in different countries. I admire Aphazel very much, he is not only an amazing and talented musician but also a really great person with an outstanding and mysterious personality.

HailMetal.Com: Not long ago have you parted ways with Ancient. In your words what caused the split?

Deadly Kristin: I didnt want to leave the band. Ancient was a very important part of my life and after so many years with them they were like family to me. I still miss them very much and a part of me still doesnt realize that is a chapter of my life that is now over. They decided that I could no longer stay in the band when I moved to Sweden. Unfortunately for personal reasons I had to let them down for shows sometimes and that definitely affected the life of the band. Having me in a different country would have made things even more complicated. I understand and respect their decision and wish them the best of luck.

HailMetal.Com: As I said you are now collaborating with Aphazel. Will this prompt you for an Ancient reunion (you coming back)? I`m still hopeful!

Deadly Kristin: Ancient hasnt split up, they still exist and they keep touring, having great shows. As far as me singing again in Ancient it may happen sometime in the future as guest vocalist, it would be nice to hit the stage again with them. On the other hand I dont think I will be part of the band again. Especially not now that I took a new direction for my life.

HailMetal.Com: I`ve read somewhere that you`re currently working on or have finished a book that you`ve been writing for quite some time now. Please if possible disclose some information of what your writing is all about and whether the will be available for purchase some time down the track?

Deadly Kristin: The book is a collection of my philosphical theories that I have been writing since I was a teenager. The work was very delayed because last year I lost the most important chapters of the book in a hard-drive crash. I was very upset and I didnt dare re-write everything again. It takes a lot of time and I have been very busy, especially with the album of Dreamlike Horror and my new electronic projects. On top of all this I also embraced sufism which kind of filled in the gaps I had in my theories and completed them. This would mean, if I was to publish it, I would have to go through the book again and re-write some parts with my new eyes. I may go on with it someday, but I dont think i will do it anytime soon as I am recording two albums at the moment. When the day comes you will see the news on my official site.

HailMetal.Com: As many may not know you also work as a teacher. What do students think about your extra curricular activities outside and do you find teaching to be rewarding? Does it give you richer experience and do you apply it to your writing (in terms of music).

Deadly Kristin: I see that you are very well informed. Good. I have to say that teaching is a perfect job for me. I teach italian at a highschool here in Sweden, italian is my mothertongue as you may already know. I love teaching and it gives me a lot of satisfaction. I also love my students. They are great, though occasionally some of them try to flirt with me which embarasses me a little. We laugh a lot and there is a very relaxed and cool atmosphere in class. They dont know about my musical career as I dont mention it. They know I have been involved in the media and that i sing but they dont know anything about me releasing records and all that. I like to keep separated my private life and my job. I think it is better this way as they are two separate worlds. Yes teaching is definitely rewarding but it doesnt have any influence on my music.

HailMetal.Com: Dreamlike Horror are signed with Sleaszy Rider Records. It`s quite a funny name for a record company, is it not? Have they helped the band much since the beginning? I would imagine internet these days helps out a lot as a promotional tool particularly for self funded releases (which is the case with most unknown bands now days).

Deadly Kristin: I think Sleaszy Rider is a very cool name. The founder, Tolis is a nice person and he is a great fan of glam metal hence the name of the label. He has been doing a good job and now he got a contract for distribution worldwide with Emi which was a big step forward. If you want to check out the label site here is the address: www.sleaszyrider.com. Yes the internet gives great exposure for sure. I just wish people would buy more records instead of downloading the albums for free all the time from the internet. That would definitely help the musicians.

HailMetal.Com: Poetry is a big part of your life no doubt as you have been doing just that since you were very little. How do you see our planet and what would you change about it, if given an opportunity and a large sum of money (to get you going)?

Deadly Kristin: Our planet is in danger. Human beings are trying to destroy the beautiful paradise we were given and they are polluting it, trying to modify its natural balance. No wonder that so many natural catastrophies have been happenning. But nature knows how to take back what was taken away and knows exactly how to re-establish its balance. Everything was created in perfect harmony and in the right measure. It is people who destroy what was orginally perfect. What bothers me the most, apart from the situation of the natural environment, is the perverted insanity of certain people. Those are the people who for istance play "god". They decide to clone animals ( and I am sure even human beings), they bring back to life pets that have been dead, they make the sickest experiments. This is just wrong! Not to talk about all these wars around the world, the greed of people, money that can buy everything, a society that is based on making money, aiming at positions of power and everything that seems to count is to appear. Look at the model of woman they show on tv and on the magazines! They made all the teenagers become hanorexic. Look at all the artists and people on TV! There is noone who is ugly, they all look perfect like photomodels. Then they had to invent "extreme make over", to show the world that if you dont look good you are disgusting, you are worthless, you are an outsider! You are cut off from social life! I think this is tremendously disgusting. People should concentrate on their spiritual life and on their values that they have lost. But no, they all just look at appearance and material things that will bring them just the delusion of a temporary satisfaction. If I could I would change all these things and take back the moral and spiritual values we have lost. People of today disgusts me.

HailMetal.Com: What has been your greatest goal in your musical or even creative career, general life, and so on, thus far?

Deadly Kristin: I havent been too ambitious. I dont aim at money or at success. I just wanted to express myself artistically as I have so much inside. I dont even expect people to understand or love what I do, though it would be nice of course. What I do, I do it for myself, for my spirit, for the love of creating something that is beautiful, meaningful and gives me emotions.

HailMetal.Com: You have of course traveled a fair bit. Even though you`ve been asked this question several times before, we`d like to know which out of the countries that you had visited is your favorite? Of course I have to encourage you to visit Australia at least once in your life as it is undoubtedly (and I can personally vouch for this having been in most countries across the world) one of the best countries in the world.

Deadly Kristin: I have travelled all over Europe and all over Usa but still there are so many places in the world that i would like to visit. The countries that I love the most are Norway and England. I have lived one year in Bergen, this wonderful ancient Viking town in Norway, by the sea. No other place I have ever seen has left such a mark in my heart like Bergen. There is a very special atmosphere there...it feels just unreal. Nature is wild, the bay is wonderful...the harbour with all the fishermen, the medieval wooden houses, all colored and leaning one over the other...the beautiful people...the constant rain, the smell of wet grass. I just love Bergen. Maybe one day I will live there again, who knows. England is also very charming. The english people are very social and polite, I find them exquisite. The landscape is marvellous with all the green hills and the sheep. It looks so peacefull and beautiful. The houses are also lovely. I may move there in the future. I am going there as often as I can.

HailMetal.Com: Is Dreamlike Horror touring at this stage? Where is your next stop?

Deadly Kristin: No, we are not ready to play live at the moment, though we may prepare a live set for the future. I would like to perform live with Dreamlike Horror. But we need to hire some session members as since the project is made of only 2 people who play everything, it is impossible to reproduce the music live, unless we get some guest musicians. Difficult to put this together as me and Aphazel live very far from each other, but I guess at some stage it will be done.

HailMetal.Com: When is the album coming out and can you share with us your favourite tune from the album? Will the album be available on the net?

Deadly Kristin: The album which is called " Delightful Suicides" is already on the market. If you dont find it in the stores you can order it directly from us. www.dreamlikehorror.com.
Yes I think you can order Dreamlike Horror online on several mailorder sites. I also own a mailorder in case you want to check it out www.hellfire-club.com. I dont have a favorite tune on the album, I like all of them.

HailMetal.Com: Thank you so much for this chance. We all appreciate it. If you would like to add anything else feel free Kristin! Thanks.

Deadly Kristin: I just would like to thank you for the wonderful interview and for the very interesting questions you asked. Thanks for supporting me and my music! Cheers!

Deadly Kristin`s Official Site - DeadlyKristin.com
The Official Dreamlike Horror Website - DreamLikeHorror.com
Ancient Official Website - AncientBand.com
Sleaszy Rider Records - SleaszyRider.com
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Hazrat Bulbul Shah: 1st Great Muslim Sufi Saint of Kashmir
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HAZRAT BULBUL SHAH

- Monday, October 31, 2005
Newsline From Jammu and Kashmir Government
(Courtesy: Department of Information and Public Relations)
-

Ist Great Muslim Sufi Saint of Kashmir

Hazrat Sharaf-ud-Din Abdul Rehman Bulbul Shah laid foundation of Sufi and secular culture of Kashmir in the year 1320 A.D. historians, scholars and intellectuals are of the opinion that like other great civilizations of the world. The origin of Sufi civilization of Kashmir worldwide known as Kashmiriyat lies in the philosophy of brotherhood and mutual love respectability as propagated by Bulbul Shah commonly known as Amir-i-Kashmir and Baadashah-i-Kashmir. Wheather he was actually born in Kashmir and later on received religious education in Turkistan and Bhagdad or he was actually born in Turkistan and later on visited Kashmir where he permanently stayed till his death is subject to various scholarly opinions. However, it is clear that like other great Sufi saints of Kashmir his grave and shrine is present in the Valley.

During the time of Bulbul Shah three distinguished religions Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam had impact in Asia. Bulbul Shah propagated synthesis of all three religions and introduced message of peace as enshrined in Islam in such a manner that all luminaries of Hinduism and Buddhism were influenced by him, particularly Prince of Kashgar and Ladakh Rinchen Shah who is known as Renzu Shah as per history written by Khawja Dedmari, G.M.D. Sufi’s “Kashier” page 119 and other chronicles.

Renzu Shah was born Warrior, brave bold and protector of people. He had heared about miseries of Kashmir which was plundered and ravaged by Mangols and Tatar’s under tyrant commander Dulcha. Dulcha had ordered burning of Srinagar, raping of women and killing of entire men folk. King of Kashmir Samha Deva escaped out of fear. It was Renzu Shah Ranchana who saved people from tyranny and was titled as lion among men (Sher-i-Kashmir). The title symbolizing Kashmiriyat was given to other great leaders of Kashmir as a symbol of being protector of people. Impressed by bravery and people friendly approach of Renzu Shah, Hazrat Bulbul Shah blessed the king. He adopted Islam under the influence of Bulbul Shah alongwith his Ministers and majority of the subjects. His wife Kuta Rani inspite of her Hindu faith was daily attending their Peer-i-Murshed Hazrat Bulbul Shah, who spread message of love and peace. The Valley after span of terror let loose by Tartars, witnessed era of tranquility, love and peace during period of Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah who assumed the name of Sultan Sadar-ud-Din. His son Khawja Hyder instead of Kingship preferred Sufi way of life.

As per research conducted by scholars and historians Bulbul Shah was accompanied with other pious saints particularly Bulbul Kamal-ud-Din, whose grave is between Chakoti and Uri road, Bulbul Jalal-ud-Din whose grave is between Harwan Buddhist Monastery and Nishat Garden and Hazrat Kamal Sahib who was buried just out side the palace of King Renzu Shah. The Palace of King is presently constructed as college and new Women’s College building has been converted at the ancestral site, while as graves of both Bulbul Shah and Renzu Shah (Rinchana) are located at Bulbul Lankar Nawa Kadal, on the other side of the Palace. The Bulbul Shah’s shrine is first Muslim Sufi shrine of Kashmir which has its intellectual influence upto Kashgar.
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Bombings cast a shadow on famous Sufi shrine
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Bombings cast a shadow on famous Sufi shrine

By Zafri Mudasser Nofil, Indo-Asian News Service

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) The bombs exploded far away, but the weekend terror attacks have thinned the crowds - slightly though - even at the revered shrine of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya here.

In the narrow, chock-a-block lanes around the Sufi shrine, people are talking about the Saturday terror that snuffed out 59 innocent lives and left more than 200 injured.

The bustling markets of Sarojini Nagar and Paharganj have no thread to bind Hazrat Nizamuddin except for the crowds. And unlike in the first two places, the visitors to the shrine are mainly Muslims.

The festival spirit is very much on, and the aroma of kebabs, fried chicken, raw meat and roses add to the religious fervour.

With Ram[a]zan on and Eid round the corner, the shops around the shrine were full of life until the blasts occurred. Though the hundreds of shopkeepers and small-time vendors report a dip in sales, they hope that the blessing of the 12th century 'auliya' (saint) would put things back on track.

'As today is a Sunday, we were anticipating a heavy rush. But there was a slight fall in numbers,' an official at the shrine said.

'It may be due to fear but things won't take much time to return to normal. The blessings of the auliya will help,' the official told IANS.

The owner of Nasir Iqbal Restaurant admitted a marginal fall in business. 'But people are coming though not as we expected,' he said.

A couple from Ghana walked out of a guesthouse and politely declined to speak. Two brothers from Jammu and Kashmir - Hanif and Masood Qureishi - came out of Karim's quite satisfied.

'The food is real good,' remarked Hanif, who said they here for business.

The brothers, who come from a region that has seen plenty of violence, did not read much into the Delhi blasts.

'It's sad that such things are taking place in the country,' Masood said, hoping that all will be normal soon.

But Mohammad Ali, the kebab seller, and Akram, who sells 'itr' (perfume), claimed it was business as usual.

Ali was busy as ever, mounting the masala-dipped meat on the fire and, after a few minutes, laying them out on plates with chutneys and salads.

Akram, who waited near the shrine, put his best perfumes on people who came out after prayers.

Abdul, who sells flowers, was humming a ghazal. His business, he said, was also 'not that satisfactory' Sunday.

A couple from Kolkata - Himangshu and Nibedita Chatterjee - came to pay obeisance to the Nizamuddin Auliya.

'We were planning to go to Ajmer, but cancelled the trip due to the blasts. So we are here,' Himangshu said.
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