Following the Sufi Master in Letter Not in Spirit

THE Urs of Mir Sayyid Ali Hussayni Hamadani (RA), popularly known in Kashmir as Shah-e- Hamadan, is being observed with fervor and intensity at Khanqah-e-Maula in Srinagar. Urs usually refers to a death anniversary of a Sufi Saint and means union (visaal) of the saint with the beloved (God).

Shah-e-Hamadan- an itinerant wanderer (wanderings are typical of Sufis) was instrumental in bringing and spreading Islam in Kashmir and shaping the culture peculiar to Kashmir. Not only did he define Kashmiris faith and culture but he also redefined the political economy of Kashmir by altering the socio-economic landscape of Kashmir. He, with the help of his acolytes did this by imparting craftsmanship training to Kashmiris in as varied domains as carpet making, papier mache, calligraphy, shawl making and cloth weaving. In essence, Shah-e-Hamadan (RA), revolutionised Kashmir; he engineered a paradigm shift in the vale, and rendered Kashmiri consciousness as it evolved over the years and as it perhaps is now.

Shah-e-Hamadan was then not only a great Sufi mystic but also a veritable genius. His singular achievements have had social, political, and historical consequences and impacts that span centuries. Be it the Kashmir crafts that, besides the pristine beauty of the place have made Kashmir world famous, or the unique religio- cultural character and nature of Kashmir, the evolution and development of the Kashmiri psyche, and some of our healthy and salubrious social practices, Shah-e-Hamdans imprimatur and strong influence is writ all over these.

We owe a debt to the great personality that is irepayable.  Such is the great and sublime legacy left by Shah e Hamadan (RA).

But, alas, as Kashmir and Kashmiris undergo multiple transitions- social, demographic, political and economic- we appear to be forgetting, or to be charitable, un-remindful of the great man and his legacy. This is a tragedy of great proportions and, among other things, reflects how self absorbed we have become as individuals and as a society.

To make a brief digression here, Shah-e-Hamadan (RA) did not teach and advocate an Islam made people forego worldly affairs. While he made Islam central and pivotal to Kashmiri consciousness, he, by imparting livelihood training to Kashmiris, did not make them oblivious to worldly concerns. In this sense, besides giving us our religion, he also made dignified living a centre piece of his efforts. This corresponds and corresponded to the spirit of Islam. The point I am making here is that Shah-e-Hamadan (RA) recognised human needs as well as frailties and tailored his instruction of Islam according to these. He made it easy for Kashmiris. The question is: why are we becoming distant from his legacy and his memory?

Essentially,  we have become a self absorbed society. Self absorption is defined as preoccupation with one's own emotions, interests and situation. Self transcendence-one of the goals of religion and especially Sufi mysticism- is becoming a thing of the past. We are increasingly merely concerned about ourselves, and selfish, egotistical goals- themes against which Shah-e-Hamadan (RA) crusaded against. All this has repercussions on both our private and public lives and morality. This general drift of our society is alarming and ominous. A morality and religious consciousness defined by Shah e Hamadan (RA) and evolved over centuries is in danger of being frayed. This can only have negative implications and consequences in various domains as society, polity, psyche, morality and ethics. The void that may be filled by the gradual erosion of the teachings of Shah e Hamadan will be filled by negative themes and ideas impinging negatively on every facet of our society.

This needs to be pre-empted. The question is how?

Shah-e-Hamadan's great legacy can be revived by reclaiming the great mans ideas and beliefs and incorporating these into the fabric of our social and individual lives. This would naturally call for an introspection and catharsis. The starting point of this must be to collectively introspect  on the nature and drift of our condition , and undergo a process of catharsis that rids us off our malaises like self absorption. This must be followed by reviving and reclaiming the spirit of the teachings of Shah e Hamadan (RA) and applying these to our condition. Such is the genius and import of the great man's teachings that they are beyond space and time; they will have a resonance and appeal in modern times too. It is then high time that we take recourse to course correction and remedy. Let us not restrict our veneration for the great Shah-e-Hamadan only to Urs(es) but incorporate his message and teachings in our lives.

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