In today's Kashmir Shah-i-Hamdan is relevant from various perspectives , chief among them is growing menace of manufactured religious sectarianism ,economic deprivation and mismanagement, absence of skilled native man power , misrule and miss governance, observance of rituals rather than the spirit of religion and so on and so forth. I would rather exclusively focus on his take on sectarianism, which is posing a grave threat to our unity, and forces over which we have no control are fueling communal harmony at present as it.
Sectarianism follows from the perception that one's ideological group alone has access to the whole truth and key to divine mysteries. Sufis are well-known for rejecting sectarianism and even tolerating other faiths. Shahi Hamdan was primarily a sufi and challenges sectarianism. A look at Chohul Asrar reveals his intoxication for the one Absolute, obliterating all divisions.
However, this does not mean he was not a missionary of Islam. Being a missionary is not incompatible with being averse to sectarianism. Sufis , in fact, have been the key agents in spreading Islam. As Thomas Arnold has shown in the Preaching of Islam. But nevertheless they have been cordial to non Muslims or other sects and not to talk of other maslaks. Closer home , we see Shaiekhul Alam asking Muslims to shun Hindu mores but at the same time pleading for communal harmony. Saints are against making religion an ideology and imposing it on people blindly. They are only for moral revolution and their very presence exudes heavenly joy., peace, and lofty moral emotions. Saints come for Wasl and not Fasal. Name any Sufi with whom his neighbours, his brothers in faith or non –believers were not happy.
In today's Kashmir we find religion packaged into rival ideological schools , all claiming to supremacy and exclusive access to truth. In Mir Sayed Ali Hamadani , we find only the song of the One- so beautifully portrayed in Awrad- i –Fatheya and a plea for seeking moral perfection. See Dhakhirat-al-Muluk and you will find its first chapters devoted to moral qualities of a ruler. .He is not discussing correct belief but what concerns him is correct practice. In fact .Islam is primarily faith and not belief system. It emphasizes Aamali –saleh for salvation and not reciting a particular creedal system. So Hamdani asks us to compete in perfecting ethics and not proving niceties of belief systems or one's interpretation of Tawheed.
Hamdani is a poet , an intoxicated Sufi above all. We need to foreground this poetic and mystical aspect rather than the legalist in him. Making a fetish of legalism has ruined us. Till this date it is debatable to which legal school he belonged to. He did not emphasize the legal point of view , but the point is, he is above all, a man of God who in Rumi 's words is beyond belief and heresy .What Shahi Hamdan , therefore has to say is something that dislodges our complacency. He blasts us with the dynamite of love so that nothing remains of the ego that could assert the 'I' and' cry holier than thou'. As Chuhal Asrar puts it, our journey here is most fundamentally existential and socio-political issues come only afterwards. This journey is traveled alone and best traveled by those who dive deeper into themselves with the help of a spiritual master. But how many of us have taken up this journey and thus have seriously worked for purification of self or transcendence of ego. I will refer to Hamdani's spiritual mentor Ibni Arabi and explain his position to state Hamdani's position. Ibni Arabi and other traditional authorities in mysticism have made a case for plurality of approaches to God.As God is the only reality , the existence that is one manifest in countless forms , we cannot afford to escape Him.He has commanded that he alone should or is worshippedIbni Arabi builds on this verse to argue that only God is worshipped by all who worship.Idols are merely names.Religions are responses to a transcendent reality that refuses to be named or articulated in language or thought. Our Shiekh echoing Sufis and mystics of other traditions has put this point in his own way.but with a "There is one God but with a hundred names.There is not a single blade of grass which does not worship Him".The fact of his being a devout Muslim did not prevent him from being open to inspiration from people of other faiths as well as is evident from the story of the peasant girl called Bhawani who earned her livelihood carrying water to a village and spending all her earnings on feeding her birds while she would starve herself. In her memory Nund Rishi prayed to God.:
That little girl in a small village
Who quenched the thirst of the thirsty
Flew in the high heavens with her pet birds
Bestow on me my Lord, the same grace.
Iqbal says in this same connection:
Mun ki dunya mein na paya, pandit wo Mula ka raj .
Ibni Arabi gives the most universal definition of Muhamadan where this becomes not a designation of a particular historical community but the very name of universality and perfection.It is the name of a station theoretically available to everyone , attainable to the select few. Who travel on and on , perfectly realizing all stations until they arrive on the station of no station in which one has nothing of one's own and therefore morrors the Real most perfectly and is not defined by any particulart divine name or attribute but brings together all stand points or stations.(Twinch 2004)
Mohamdan saints give each created thing what is due to it on the basis of seeing it as a unique self-disclosure(Tajali) of the absolute Haqq .Real and the manyness of creation that allows them " to give each thing that has a Haq its Haqq as demanded by the Prophet(Chittick 1998). For him a Mohamadan is one who realizes the perfection of all the prophets- an ideal worth emulating for every man and who can assert that he is truly a Mohamadan and who can be more inclusivist than a Mohamadan in this sense? He demands as Qunawi puts it, that one should perceive each thing only through that thing itself and in as much as one is identical with each thing and thus one is the attribute of every attribute and the quality of every essence and one's act is the act of every actor.(Nafahat 265).The highest station of no-station demands disengaging oneself from all qualities., bonds , limitations and constrictions and standing non-delimited Wujud i,e., to be absolutely open to the Real with no imposition or will of one's own.It is what Jesus calls the poverty of spirit and other Scriptures such as Bhagwat Gita detachment.His vision of the unity of Being demands ,in short , transcendence or cessation of all inequalities and distinctions of caste , creed ,color, class,race,gender, nationality, regionality etc.He demands the sacrifice of which thinks in terms of its rights over and against the rights of others."I" must be annihilated in fanna so that one mirrors Existence or God and flows with the wholeness or Tao. Ibni Arabi thus demands demands nothing less than universal compassion and encountering the other with infinite humility and care- an ideal which Levinas attempts to appropriate.
The following passage is a particularly detailed and important expression of this understanding which is at the very foundation of all his writing.In this passage is summed up essential Ibni Arabi and central message of all integral traditions as masters of traditions formulate it .Here is the basis for ethics on which all traditions are united i.e., transcendence of lower self to subsist in the divine self. This is his formulation of the theory and objective of mystical discipline. Here is also a manifesto for co existence of traditions or plurality of modes of experiencing or relating to the divine:
Now you must know that if a human being (al insane) renounce their personal aims take a loathing to their animal self (nafs) and instead prefer their Sustainer\teacher(rabb), then the real will give( that human being ) a form of divine guidance
in exchange for the form of their carnal self... so that so that they walk in garments of Light. And( this form) is the Shariah of their Prophet, while some see it in the form of their( spiritual )state.
Ibni Arabi says in the Kernel of the Kernel " You will be all if you make nothing of yourself" .This is the golden rule that allows to know all truths and achieve all perfections and absolute certainty. Modern man especially the academician , the philosopher of religion ,
the phenomenologist is more interested in speculation about truth or or God or neutral "objective" idle inquiry than being inclined to sell everything including the dearest self as Jesus would say, or make nothing of himself for the sake
of truth. That explains why there is so much knowledge and so little wisdom today and why he is farther from God and nearer to dust. It is only by becoming nothing ,by absolute detachment that one can attain the central point , the still centre of existence where lasting peace and felicity lie. The friend does not tolerate the duality as Ibni Arabi reminds us and comes to live in the sanctuary of a perfectly polished mirror of the heart.
Ibni Arabi is a great ethical philosopher . I quote some of his maxims which speak volumes about the subtlety and profundity of his ethical thought which aligns him with the great tradition of ethics represented in both Semitic and non Semitic traditions. The following are from The Mantle of Initiation and the last two are from his Book of Spiritual Advice :
i Do not condemn any of those addicted to carnal appetites, Do not urge leadership upon anyone , do not hold down your children to serve your own interests. Take no joy
in a reputation flattering to yourself spreading among the general public ,even if you deserve it.
ii. Care nothing for the ignorance of him who does not know your worth., rather it is not seemly that there be any sense of your worth even in your eyes.
iii. have no desire that people should listen to your speech.
Iv . Be not anxious to give answer to anything displeasing said about you.
vi. Be content with God's decree not necessarily with everything decreed but with Decree itself. And receive with joy whatever may come from Him.
\And your heart should be at peace with them.
and long suffering.
viii. Pardon the one who has harmed you i.,e do not even defend yourself.
ix. In general you should hold a good opinion of everyone and your heart should be at peace with them.
Mysticism is nothing but self discovery and there is no mystery mongering in this arduous journey that demands strict discipline and going within. Neither ritual not mindless repetitions of certain formulae or mental gymnastics can do the trick for the seeker. God is not sold in the market places , in mosques or shrines or in music parties.
Remembrance of God is the royal road to mystical heaven or beautitude as Shiekh says:Zikri haq par zev dith talus \ dev raz henz yi zalus kun ( Remember God by joining tongue and palate \ Perhaps the King would unveil Himself).Finding God needs perfection of ethical discipline and that is what is lacking in most of the would be travelers on the path." Juuri rousti jahazi torum \morum chek , rish to moh (without sailor I drew my boat to shore \Conquered jealousy and pride).
For finding God nothing is needed except attending to the basics , purifying heart , watching breath and keeping watchful eye over the desiring self.. The Shiekh denies in his reply to Bum Sad that he had any formal guru or peer and that he read only kalima and took care of five prayers. He realized the meaning of the fundamental doctrine of faith after sacrificing the self for the Existence , the non self "La illah ill llah shee korum \wahee korum panun pan\ wajud travith mojud sorum\hrmukh wuchum panun pan"(I practiced the shahadah\Burnt the self \Abandoned the self to realize the Real\And everywhere I saw myself)
Thus mystics like Hamdani would pose the following questions to sectarianists:
Do you have tasted God\ paradise or are you talking from hearsay.
Fath and heresy are not to be theologically understood.
One must see and desire only One.
(Professor of English Literature, University of Kashmir, writer and columnist and Chairperson of Kashmir Centre of Social and Development Studies an advocacy group)