Condemn The Fake Faith Healer, Not Kashmir’s Sufi Traditions

The reports that a fake dervish Gulzar Ahmad Bhat who operated under nom de guerre ‘Syed Gulzar’ would allegedly concoct Islamic injunctions to copulate with girls as young as 14 have been disconcerting and appalling, to say the least. Given the way he has been doing this reported shameless act, public outcry is very well comprehended. However, the way people are digressing from the core issue and hitting right, left and centre is not only mortifying, but also abominable and disgusting.

Such incidents involving, inter alia, doctors, academicians and politicos have been coming to the fore from time to time in the Valley and receiving well-deserved condemnations from various quarters of the society. However, people with ulterior motives are, regrettably, using the incident to attack a particular religious practice and a particular class. At this point, one can’t but agree with some religious heads, who believe that the incident is being used to further divisions in our society.

Needless to say, the ‘fake’ dervish, as far as information in the public domain is concerned, acted as a lone-wolf (though he must have had accomplices) who could have used any other practice to further his ‘spurious’ interests. He could have done similar despicable things in the garb of a teacher, a doctor, a journalist, a politician or an academician. But he chose Islam, which we all hold very close to our hearts and it was quite obvious, he would have to face the maximum ire. Otherwise, we know many politicians, doctors and academicians etc. who have been either caught on camera, or accused of doing similar acts. Still, they remain a part of our society as if nothing has happened, and we don’t hesitate to share space with them.

I remember an incident when a politician’s name, who was in Mecca for Umrah at that time, came up during one of court hearings in 2006 sex scandal. I believed at his arrival, which was just days away, none of his supporters would turn up. But quite contrary to my understanding, thousands welcomed him at the airport.

Coming to the main point, the fake faith healer, beyond a shred of doubt, has done an irreparable damage to the sacred relation between Peer and Mureed – a practice which noted scholar Ashraf Ali Thanvi (RA) describes like this: “Peeri Mureedi (Relationship of Islaah between Shaykh and Mureed) is the name of taking a pledge of obedience from the side of the Mureed (Salik) and taking a pledge of teaching and making Islaah from the side of the Shaykh.”

Immediately after the despicable incident made headlines, social networking websites, especially Facebook, where a new breed of intellectuals has taken birth, were full of abuses, not only for Bhat (though justified given the outrage) but for holy shrines, and Sufi saints – because of whom the ancestors of these very people entered the fold of Islam, bestowing them the proud feeling of being born-Muslims.

Being overawed by foreign ideologies doesn’t give these people any right to take cudgels at Sufi traditions. They have every right to practice Islam whichever they want to, but not at the cost of calling names and abusing their neighbours, relatives, friends and co-religionists with whom they don’t agree in matters religious.

Out of their superficial knowledge of religion, some people even quoted verses from the Qur’an, though naively, to justify their criticism for people who follow Sufi traditions. The same verses, which were revealed about polytheists 1400 years before, talked about pagans who would worship idols, but quite amateurishly these verses were used, as if people visiting shrines associated the saints as partners to Almighty Allah.

Tawasul or intercession is a practice that dates back to the times when Adam (AS) asked for forgiveness from Allah the Exalted for eating the forbidden fruit.

Hafidhh Ibn Taymiyyah writes: When Adam (AS) made a mistake, he made Du’a like this: ‘O Allah forgive my mistake with the Waseela of Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace). Allah asked the Prophet Adam (AS) (rhetorically) how he knew about Muhammad (May Allah bless him and grant him peace).

Adam (AS) answered: “When you created me, I lifted my head and saw: (LA ILA HA ILLALLAHU MUHAMMDUR RASU LULLAH) written on the throne. Therefore, I knew that this person must be of a very high status. Otherwise you would not have written his name with yours. Allah Ta’ala then said I have forgiven you. He will be the last Messenger in your children and I have created you because of him. [“Fatawa Ibn Taymiyya vol. 2 page 150″ also Tareekh Ibn Kathir in Story of Adam]

Even though this is not my topic right now, but I would quote couple of more references which establish how it is permissible to supplicate to Allah with the tawasul of Prophet (PBUH), good deeds and pious persons (abdaals).

Had they, when they had wronged themselves, come to you and asked Allah’s forgiveness and the Apostle had asked forgiveness for them, they would certainly have found Allah Most-Propitious, Most-Merciful. (Holy Qur’an 4: 64).

Coming to the point of spiritual healing, the practice, also called ‘Ruqya” is as old as Islam itself. The concept is simple: the divine positive energy is used to counter negative forces like black magic. One wonders why many Muslims who, believing in scientific marvels, take to modern healthcare to heal themselves of diseases and disorders, forget God’s own words in which He calls Surah Fatiha as Surah Shifa?

“…The devils disbelieved – they teach people magic…”(Qur’an 2:102)

“We reveal the Qur’an, which is cure and mercy for the believers…” (Qur’an 17:82)

Sayyida A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) narrates that whenever the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) would become ill, he would recite the Mu’awwizat (Surah al-Falaq & Surah an-Nas) and blow over himself. When his illness was aggravated, I used to recite these two Surahs (and blow my breath) over him and make him rub his body with his own hand, for its blessings. (Sahih al-Bukhari, no. 4728)

Coinciding with this ugly incident in Kashmir, a British soldier was hacked to death by two Muslim converts on a street in Woolwich and even though Muslim Council of Britain was quick to condemn the incident in the strongest possible terms, calling it “Un-Islamic”, in media reportage and on social networking websites, Islam was being targeted. Some so-called intellectuals even blamed Qur’an for justifying beheadings.

Even though it was a matter of deep concern, but one always knew these people live under a massive propaganda against Islam, and they are bound to suffer ethnocentrism and judge Islam wrongly. But more despicable was the way in which people in Kashmir (all Muslims) who have been living in this rich spiritual atmosphere, reacted worse than non-Muslims who don’t even know the ABC of this great religion.

One question that stares us in our faces, as a friend rightly pointed out, is why did we send our girls to an institution far away from their homes for so many days? Did we occasionally pay them visits to check how they were doing? What were the locals, under whose shadow such a shameful incident took place, doing? This should serve as an eye-opener as we have stopped minding things unless they affect our immediate family. A matter of introspection!

Then there is another group, which has used the ugly episode to take potshots at the ulema who have been organizing rallies across the Valley in honour of Prophet (PBUH). Given the conflict in Kashmir, it is quite probable that people will doubt that State might be encouraging a sect over other, but how does it justify that we start doubting the good work these people are doing?

The key to avoiding such incidents is tolerance. Only when we don’t unnecessarily blame other groups, who differ in our way of observing religious beliefs, of being Indian agents, we can defeat nefarious designs of the State and at the same time, promote Islamic values and prevent the divisions in our families and nation. Should we continue treading the opposite path, we will not only create more divisions but also bring bad name to our Prophet (PBUH) and religion.


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