Religion and Reality - G. M. Syed  - All Rights Reserved to G. M. Syed Institute of Social Sciences Sindh©


By nature, I am a man of strong, feelings. That is probably why I have been deeply inclined towards religion. There was a time when I was a strict observer of prayers and fasts. My chief practices were night vigils, prayers, rigors of self-confinement, visits to the shrines of saints, association with dervishes, seeking guidance from sublimated spiritual men, making offerings, persuading people to offer prayers, constructing mosque, preaching religion, etc.
All the time, conventional religious beliefs and prejudices clouded my mind. I believed that my own salvation and that of the whole mankind lay in being deeply religious. Those who did not agree with my viewpoint, I considered them accursed and doomed. However, I began to shed my prejudices when I was exposed to the followers of other religions, held discussions with them studied their scriptures and pondered over reality in its broader context. Thus, the veil of hatred and narrow-mindedness, which had obstructed my vision, was lifted. Finally, there appeared big cracks in the isolated fastness of my Puritanism.

An account of this change and its cause has been given in my book entitled My Story in My Words. (Apni Kahani Apni Zibani)  Suffice it is to say that, in addition to Sir Syed Ahmed Khan’s religious approach and his belief, the scientific, stud of materialism, history and philosophy, broadened my vision. At last, the experience of temporal love changed the course of my feelings. Thirty-five years ago, I related this experience in the closing pages of my essay entitled "Worldly Stages" (Majaazi Marhalay) in the following words:

Love had played its magic on me. Diversity was lost in Unity, yet an inner voice told me that it was not my final goal. Gradually, the evanescence of life dawned upon me and I perceived that ‘I do not love the temporary’. It was the stage when the sordidness of sensual desires became clear to me, and finally, craving for lust subsided. Feelings too, lost their intensity. I reverently said good-bye to wordy love. Then I started looking for a higher object for devotion. That was indeed a painful task. Before that, I had seen Reality in its worldly shape and it was somewhat comforting. Now all was blank and the invisible was the higher object. Nothing appealed to the eyes as an acceptable substitute. Restless was the heart. At last, I became an ascetic. I renounced the world. Free of all temporal bonds, I began to devote my time to the contemplation of God. During the days of my renunciation and devotion to God, I perceived a new image of worldly love. My heart began to throb. I had been long in pursuit for that object. This time it appeared in the form of an ideology rather than an individual. It led me from unity to diversity. "Formerly, Marvi was pining for her beloved, Khet. However, afterwards, in place of Khet, she began to remember her relatives and countrymen. Marvi was a native of Thar. Her love had centered round her people. My country is Sindh; my love revolves round my countrymen. This was a development of worldly love. In other words, the feeling of love remained the same, but the beloved changed; intoxication was the same, but the pleasure was different; the wine was the same, the cup-bearer was different."

After that, the change that occurred in me can be measured from my addresses to various societies of the Sufis in Sindh. On the occasion of the conference held at the village called Dhuthro, I declared:
"Man's material and spiritual development is not possible without creating a spirit of universal peace and tolerance. For this, the land of Sindh has an exemplary message: a truly generous respect for mankind. Our venerable ancestors and great saints regarded it as real worship and, for centuries, our people have been a living, proof of the truth and success of this message."

"It is a fact that the Valley of Sindh has always been an island of tolerance for conflicting faiths and cultures. I dwelt at length on this aspect in my address as President of the Reception Committee of the All India Muslim League's session held at Karachi in 1943. Some passages from it are being reproduced here. Friends’ Glorious has been the past of this land. I hope its future will also be the same. Due to a variety of reasons, the history of this region has been glittering indeed. This land is the birthplace of several ancient civilizations; the archaeological remains at Mohen-jo-daro are a witness to this fact. Several ancient races intermingled here. The relics of Dravidians, Aryans, Semites and Mongols are easily to be found here. Like the mingling of different races, am amalgam of different religions and philosophies took place here, this is not to be found elsewhere. Buddhism was born in India, but it flourished here. When Islam appeared in Sindh, Buddhism was still extant. The people of this place had not yet forgotten Gautam’s teachings on Nirvana. Islam added a positive element to the teachings of Buddha.

"The philosophies of Vedanta and the Unity of God (Wahdat-ul-Wajud) first interacted on each other in this land. The principle of Unity influenced the thinking of the Hindus, reducing their interest in idolatry. Similarly, being influenced by the spiritual and common popularity of the bhajan and kirtan the Muslim dervishes made music part of their discipline. Thus, the Hindus and the Muslims came nearer to each other and were tolerant of each other. The teachings of Bhagat Kabir and Guru Nanak are a shining proof of this tolerance. Shah Abdul Latif of Bhit has a distinguished place as a teacher of the unity of human brotherhood and religions. It is due to this that the inhabitants of the Valley of Sindh, professing different religions and beliefs, are living together with love and amity. Religious or sectarian prejudices, caste differences and the impulse for violence are absent in this land as perhaps nowhere else." I spoke of the greatness of this land to my distinguished guests not to refresh their memory: my Object was to propose some ways for making the future of this land bright.

"Gentleman! It is not unknown to you that the collective life of humanity, passing through various stages of evolution, is advancing towards its final goal, and this goal is the unity of thought and action. It is my firm conviction that religious, ethical and philosophical ideas, politico-economic forces and movements, have served as so many means of achieving this important objective. History is a witness to this evolutionary struggle through which scattered and small families developed into clans and a combination of various clans in their turn became nations. "

In different periods, groups of human beings have used different methods, of achieving units among themselves. As a fundamental and common value, the unity of language, culture, belief and other interests have played an important part in creating such unity.

"Popular ideas in the modern age have led to conflicts instead of promoting peace. Instead of laying stress upon the foundations of unity, they, give importance to peripheral matters. Beyond doubt, these relative values have unified large groups in the past; but at last, history rejected them as counterfeit coins."

"Unless some lasting solution is found for rooting out political, economic and religious prejudices, there can neither be lasting peace nor unity in the world. To reach this goal, it is necessary to have mental discipline and ability, which is cultivated in a particular environment and with a specific historical tradition. The people of Sindh are most suited for it, because they have set a living, example of tolerance and fellow feeling. Therefore, their example deserves to be followed."

"This is not only in the present day world that the people of this place, despite their religious, sectarian and political differences, have a sincere and whole-hearted respect for humanity. This is a Centuries-old tradition here. History bears testimony to the fact that all the races and cultures which come to this land, got integrated. All the beliefs and ideas which had converged here, lost their exclusivism and finally they blended into each other with love and amity." "I hope that this tradition will not only continue but will grow from strength to strength. The land of Sindh has to play a significant role in the achievement of a last peace in the world."

I expressed these ideas, my faith in Sindh’s message of love has grown only firmer. What are the ideological moorings of this message? How have our saints made us grasp them? I spent the greater part of my life trying to find an answer to these questions. Therefore, this book represents the essence of my long pursuit of truth.

My findings may be regarded as personal conclusions of a truth-seeker. People have the right to agree or disagree with me, in the light of their own knowledge and experience. I do not claim a monopoly on truth. To err is human; and I am a human being. However, whatever I have written in this book, I have done with the utmost honesty. The ocean of truth ‘is a collection of unlimited drops. The vast garden of ideas has borrowed its beauty from flowers of a million hues. This effort may be regarded as one such effort at garnering truth.

I have a feeling that the orthodox will not like my ideas. It is possible that they may brand me either a renegade or a communist. Similarly, perhaps those young men may not be able to digest my ideas, which were exploited and misled in the name of conventional beliefs. Thus, they are disgusted with religion and are now inclined towards materialism. There is every likelihood that some may call me a conservative or a ‘Sufi mullah’. In this connection, I deem it necessary to state that, by getting this book published, I do not mean to woo people to my ideology, nor do I intend to irritate any one. My sole objective has been to call a spade a spade and to state facts in its barest form as I happened to observe them. Therefore, the title of the book is suggestive. As the poet says:

[I cry even if my wails go unheard].

I hope that believes in the Qur'anic tenet: "For me my faith, and for you yours" and the progressive men reposing their belief in the freedom of expression will read these words with an open mind. I understand that all religious, philosophies, ideas and branches of learning are parts of that Omniscient Being called God. If a person gets a drop out of this Unbounded Sea, he can justifiably be proud of his good fortune. However, if one has his fill, even then he cannot claim perfection. The possession of Absolute Knowledge is not for any single individual to claim.

[Whichever way I went, I saw wonders without end and the path (to truth) is limitless].

Wisdom is acquired through continuous contemplation, knowledge, experience sublimation of self and action. According to my ability, I too have endeavored to garner some pearls. Jewelers may evaluate them as precious ones or mere shells. However, without much fear of the censure of critics, I am presenting to my readers the results of the efforts of a lifetime. According to the theory of evolution, each age has brought about new revelations. In future, too, this process is likely to continue. Hence, to regard any religious or worldly law as final or any faith or doctrine as lasting is against the fundamental principle of the laws of evolution. I see the light of truth in every religion. I consider all religious beliefs as part of Nature. The fundamental aim of all religions is to promote peace, progress and prosperity of mankind. In my view, a Sufi should not necessarily be the follower of any particular theology. He can make use of every religion, philosophy, learning and experience. However, a Sufi is essentially non-committed. His love transcends every law and limit. He believes in:

[Every country is mine, since it belongs to my God].

To me, Sufism is like a lovely bouquet radiating love and truth: a bouquet in which flowers of various hues and fragrance are beautifully assorted. The Sufi culls from all religious beliefs, philosophies and branches of learning the underlying unity of the scheme of things. He cannot imprison himself in a narrow cell. He sincerely follows the saying of the Prophet: Accept the good wherever you get it from and reject all that which bad.

The Sufi perceives a purpose and a plan in the creation of the universe. He considers knowledge and vision to be the essence of all religions. He deems all that as unnatural, which leads to hatred, enmity, disturbances, violence, chaos and confusion. To raise the voice of truth against all such things is the very aim of a Sufi. As an ordinary traveler on the path of Sufism, I am presenting this book with this objective in view.

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