Sunday, November 30, 2008

REFLECTION: Syed Zauqi Shah and India's religious secularism ...

In India, secularism is a deeply religious affair. So religious that people of all faiths are involved. It's common to see devotees of one faith showing their devotion at the shrine associated with another faith.

At Sufi shrines, you will see Hindus and Sikhs and Catholics and followers of other indigenous Indian faiths (yes, Catholicism is an indigenous faith!) sshowing their respects to the buried saint in much the same manner as their Muslim countrymen and women. After collecting their faiz (blessing), devotees feel moved to share this blessing with the line of beggars that often sit in a long line at the entrance. Hence all share in the blessing.

During a visit to Pakistan in the early 1990's, I picked up a copy of Mazamin-e-Zauqi, a collection of articles and correspondence in English by an Indian Sufi named Syed Muhammad Zauqi Shah. The book was published in 1948, hardly 12 months after Partition. Many of the articles were published in a Pakistani newspaper called People's Voice which started publication in December 1941 and barely lasted a few months. All in all, the book is 96 pages. I must have started reading it decades ago, and there is a book mark placed between pages 72 and 73.

The correspondence includes letters to Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, a British Muslim who translated the Qur'an. Syed Zauqi uses firm but polite language, objecting to some of Pickthall's renderings of the Qur'anic text. There is also a critical commentary on an essay written by Saeed Halim Pasha and entitled Reform of Muslim Society. Saeed Pasha served as Vizier-i-Azam (Prime Minister) of the Ottoman Empire during the period 1913-16 and was assassinated in December 1921.

Syed Zauqi Shah may have been a pan-Muslim nationalist, but his spiritual heritage was from the more ecumenical traditions of Indian tasawwuf. Hopefully when I finish the book (which hopefully will be in less time than a few decades!!), I'll be able to re-visit Syed Zauqi's work.

Syed Zauqi lived in a time when some Indian Muslims were enjoying the benefits of having their own homeland, whilst others were struggling to make their mark in what was left of India. Many Muslim nations had still not achieved independence, and Ottomans like Saeed Pasha were preaching a message of turning one's back on the West.

Words © 2008 Irfan Yusuf

Bookmark this on Delicious


Get Flocked

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments: