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DAWN - Features; 29 October, 2004

October 29, 2004

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Sachal Sarmast's message of love

By Inayat Baloch

Sachal Sarmast's urs is observed on Ramazan 14 every year.

Sachal Sarmast was an ardent follower of wahdat-ul-wujood, a religious philosophy synonymous with 'Hamah oost' (there is no existence save the Ultimate Truth). 'Hamah oost' spread in the subcontinent through the teachings of Shaikh Abu Ali Sindhi and Bayazid Bustami. Embellished and adored by Shaikh Fareeduddin Attar and propounded and codified by Shaikhul Akbar Mohyuddin Ibnul Arabi, the mystic philosophy found conducive soil in Sindh and Punjab and many parts of India as most of the saints and sages of the subcontinent became dedicated disciples of 'Hamah oost'.

Negation of the self is the essence and spirit of wahdat-ul-wujood. Through negation of the self, a Sufi discovers his own self. At this stage he achieves and enjoys his union and communion with Eternity and is therefore glorified. Sufism only believes in the religion of love.

Sachal Sarmast is totally engrossed in wahdat-ul-wujood, and his poetry is replete with sayings and slogans of 'Hamah oost'.

He drew inspiration from Hussain bin Mansoor Hallaj, Fareeduddin Attar and Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi. The influence of Mansoor Hallaj on Sachal was so great that he also uttered 'Anal Haq', the same words as were uttered in ecstasy by his spiritual guide almost nine centuries before him.

When Sachal achieves his union with Eternity, he proclaims: "Don't consider yourself a servant, you are the master yourself."

He also says: "He is everywhere and in each and every phenomenon. He has come here just to witness His own manifestation."

Sachal lived a long life (1739-1829). During these 90 years, he witnessed turbulent times and political upheavals. The oppression of rulers and the narrow-mindedness, intolerance and hypocrisy of religious preachers created turmoil.

Nadir Shah invaded and looted Sindh the very year Sachal was born. This was the period when the Mughal dynasty in India was in the doldrums and ultimately came to an ignominious end.

After the Mughals, the Kalhoras became the rulers of Sindh but their rule had also ended by the tailend of the 18th century. The downfall of the Kalhoras paved the way for the Talpurs to take over the reins of power. The Talpurs too failed to overcome their internal discord and self-seeking acts of treachery.

The Britishers, who had started arriving in Sindh during the last days of the Kalhora rule as businessmen and traders, were experts in hatching conspiracies through their 'divide and rule policy' and succeeded in destabilizing the Talpur dynasty which ultimately opened the gates for the British rise in Sindh.

Thus, Sachal Sarmast witnessed the rise and fall of rulers from the Mughal to the Talpur period. As a saint and Sufi he realized that religious intolerance and narrow-mindedness practised by the mullah and perpetrated on the masses by the rulers had resulted in the debasement and degradation of human beings. It had brought man down to 'Asfala Safleen' (worst of the worst) from the lofty pedestal of 'Ahsana-Taqveem' (the best of Creation).

He therefore preached in his poetry love, brotherhood and human fraternity between Muslims and non-Muslims alike. He went many steps ahead to say that a Kafir, a Hindu and a Muslim - all were the same and belonged to the human race and fraternity of mankind. They could be befriended and won over only through love, tolerance and respect and not through hatred and acrimony.

He says:

The so-called pious and the elderly have misguided the masses,

Some prostrate and offer prayers and others worship in temples,

Lo! Those who believe in logic and wisdom,

Were not fortunate to touch the goddess of love.

Sachal does not abhor religion but simply discards intolerance, rancour and hypocrisy in the garb of religion. That is why he does not identify himself with a particular religion but showers roses of love and friendship on all irrespective of caste, creed and ideology. He says:

Kafir Momin Hikro, Sachoo Bor Biyai.

Kafir and Momin (unbeliever and the believer) is one and the same, only if you do away with dualism of existence.)

Sachal revolted against the prevalent social norms and traditions and believed that the so-called custodians of faith were themselves actively engaged in the exploitation of religion for their own motives. He rejected decrees (fatwas) of the mullah that were tailored only to suit a coterie of selfish time-servers and sycophants ready to do anything at the nod of rulers.

He wished to bridge the widening gap amongst people by eradicating hatred, and extinguishing the smouldering fire of fanaticism and sectarian belligerence.

In the days of Sachal the campaign of forcible proselytizing of the Hindus into the fold of Islam was in full swing and mullahs opposed to Sarmast used to send him sarcastic messages informing him of how many Hindus they had converted.

One day when a messenger gave him a message of this nature, Sachal smiled and told the messenger to convey his message also to the custodians of religion. The message was:

"You have been converting Hindus and making them Muslims. Have you ever converted a Muslim to become a Momin?"