15 Aug 2015: Sacred Spaces—A Journey with the Sufis of the Indus

Title-Sacred-Spaces

The writer’s vision builds on the centuries-old Sufi tradition of conveying mystical messages of love, freedom and tolerance, of building cultural and spiritual bridges between people of different faiths.

Sufism, although originating from Islam, is not a separate denomination, as its doctrines can be found within both the Sunni and Shi’a sects, encompassing a wide section of adherents from the devoutly orthodox Muslims to moderates and mystics. “Historically”, writes Samina, “Sufis and Sufi institutions have played a key role in the transmission of Islamic ideas and practices in the region. Consequently, most South Asian Muslims have traditionally understood their faith through the lens of Sufism. Sufism in South Asia has affected the lives and thoughts of a wide spectrum of individuals—from emperors and statesmen to philosophers, calligraphers and musicians.” Indeed, the expressive practices and creations of Sufism—poetry, music, dance, calligraphy and architecture—have touched the hearts of millions in the world. Its embracing worldview is immensely influential even with non-Muslims, particularly those in the ‘West’, and are found within the works of writers like Gurdjieff and Doris Lessing.

sacred-2In Sacred Spaces: A Journey with the Sufis of the Indus, Pakistani artist and educator Samina Quraeshi relies on memory, storytelling, image-making, and a rich body of photographs and works of art that reflect the seeking heart of the Sufi way, to provide a locally inflected vision of Islam in South Asia. This unique account of a journey through the author’s childhood homeland reveals the deeply spiritual nature of major centres of Sufism in Pakistan and northern India. Her vision builds on the centuries-old Sufi tradition of conveying mystical messages of love, freedom and tolerance, of building cultural and spiritual bridges between people of different faiths. It provides a locally inflected vision of Islam in South Asia that is enriched by art and by a female perspective on the diversity of Islamic expressions of faith. Illuminating essays by contributors Ali S. Asani (Images of South Asian Sufism), Carl W. Ernst (Islam and Sufism in Contemporary South Asia), and Kamil Khan Mumtaz (The Architecture of Sufi Shrines) provide context to the journey.

Divine knowledge is revealed to Lovers,
What do Mullahs and Kazis know about it?

Hear, O Kazi! The refuting argument of Love
We have love and you have knowledge,
How can you be reconciled with us?
Sachal Sarmast (1739–1829), a Sufi poet from Sindh