Thursday, January 25, 2007
LAHORE: Amatullah Armstrong Chishti, who has written six books on sufism, said on Thursday that sufism is the guiding force for millions of people across the globe. Its essence, she said, is gentleness and tolerance.
Chishti was addressing a discourse arranged at the Lahore College for Women University (LCWU) by the Department of English on Thursday. Chishti said sufism was an immense concept. She said sufism and mysticism were purely Islamic concepts.
She said sufism could be traced back to the 12th century. She said Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was the first to propagate a perfect message of love, acceptance and open-mindedness, the central concepts of sufism.
Chishti said that with the passage of time, four main orders of sufism had emerged: Chishti, Qadri, Naqshbandi and Suhrawardi.
Education Minister Mian Imran Masood, the chief guest, praised Chishti’s efforts, particularly coming to Pakistan to spread the message of love. He said it was not easy to find any equal in the world to sufi poets Hafiz, Rumi and Ibn-e-Arabi. He added that the works of Bulleh Shah and Waris Shah were unmatched. He highlighted the significance of qawali, saying that it enriched the souls of believers and raised them to a realm of celestial serenity.
Chishti said that she found Punjab and Sindh most rich in sufi culture.
She said her journey towards Islam and then sufism was long and hard.
Chishti said that many years ago, when she was riding bicycles with her husband from Paris to North Africa, she observed several signs, which she believed were from God, telling her that she had a greater purpose in life.
She said that during her trip, she saw Muslims of all colours and races who would experience a sense of serenity while saying their prayers. This made her curious about this feeling. After her trip, she visited several libraries and spent thousands of hours researching various religions being practiced around the world, such as Hinduism and Buddhism. She said studying Islam was the last thing on her mind because of the propaganda against it, but as she went deeper into her research, she realised that this was the true path for her.
She said Islam made her feel calm and closer to her Maker then ever before.
She said if anyone wanted his or her soul polished and to know its depth, the person should walk the path of sufis, which takes one to a level closer to God.
LCWU vice chancellor, Dr Bushra Mateen, presented souvenirs and bouquets to the two guests. She said sufis had made great efforts to spread Islam in the subcontinent.
See A.A. Chishti's biography and a summary of her books at: http://www.amatullah.zikr.org/