I have found that there are contradictory views of Sufism within the Hindu community. David Frawley, in “How I Became a Hindu“, writes:
“While one can sympathize with the Sufis and more easily dialogue with them than the orthodox [Muslims], to think that Sufis don’t represent the vested interests of Islam is quite naive.”
He also points out that historically some Sufis historically have supported or even been involved in suppression and killing of Hindus, and with the destruction of Hindu temples.
On the other hand there are certainly Sufis who have had a positive non-exclusionist attitude. Rumi expressed this in this poem:
Love’s nationality is separate from all other religions,
The lover’s religion and nationality is the Beloved (God).
The lover’s cause is separate from all other causes
Love is the astrolabe of God’s mysteries
Dara Shikoh was another historical Sufi who sought commonality between Islam and Hinduism. There are many more examples, it is clear that not all Sufis had a negative attitude to Hinduism.Looking around the web, we can see that today there are some Sufis who do show genuine spiritual tolerance, and some that don’t.
The Mevlevi Order of America clearly follow in Rumi’s tradition, saying:
… We greatly respect all genuine traditions of belief and faith which seek to accept the responsibility of humanity to care for each other and our world. We firmly reject the actions of those who pervert the words of God to justify violence for political ends.
Sadiq Alam has a blog that shows great understanding of Hinduism. He writes:
There is great deal of misunderstanding that surrounds Hinduism and that is found mainly among people of the Book (Jewish, Christians and Islam). This is because Hindus worship in many gods and worship idols which seems polytheistic from external. But that is not the Soul of Hinduism. Hindus also acknowledge only One Supreme Being.
His blog is certainly worth a look, as here is a Muslim who would clearly be happier among Hindu Yogi than among Islamic fundamentalists. It serves as a reminder that you cannot condemn a faith because of the actions and attitudes of some followers.
An anonymous Sufi blog details a call by Phillipe de Vos for understanding between Hinduism and Islam. This call is rather condescending towards Hinduism, clearly seeing Islam as the superior of the two beliefs but does show an understanding of the unity behind different aspects of God, which he parallels with different ways that Allah can be manifest to the Muslim:
For the Muslim sometime the God presence come through his Majesty witch inspire respect as: AL JALAL and this is also for Hindu the SHIVA Presence…an other time He is coming through his name AL JAMAL, the beauty of God witch inspire the love and this is for Indu “VISHNU Presence”.
This shows a mid point in the various views of modern day Sufis. At the other extreme, blogs such as this blog which appears to be from followers of the Azeemia Sufi order show little attempt to understand other religions.
Those who prepared the outlines of religions of those eras themselves were not familiar with the facts of Realm of Behest. And, thus, they laid the foundations of the wrong beliefs, sorcery, witchcraft and monkism during the course of passing over to others the things learnt from their leaders. They used to declare the manifestations a source of original lights. Examples of such religions are the religions originating in the Babylon, Jainism and in the Aryan Religions Hindu Vedantism influenced many of them. Buddhism, too, finally ended up in monkism because of the similar attitude of the followers of Buddha. Mongoloid religions are also devoid of the shades of monotheism because of the same factors. Almost the same factors caused the Taoism associated with witchcraft and delusions. [bold added by me]
So, it is clear to me that though David Frawley is certainly correct in saying that it is naive to believe that Sufis have vested interest of Islam at heart, there certainly are, and have been Sufis who show genuine spiritual interest and enlightenment. These Sufis also show respect and tolerance towards other religions.
I think the message for Hindus is that Sufis should be taken individually. We should assume good faith, but be prepared for intollerance. In many cases we will be rewarded by closer understanding.
As I live in Britain the attitudes of Sufis has a particular importance to me. In July 2006 a group calling itself the Sufi Muslim Council was formed to counter extremism and to represent the tolerant spiritual British Muslims. They say they are ready for dialogue with all religious groups, including Jewish Groups. They have a very positive statement which includes the following passages:
Muslim extremists, like bin Laden and his affiliates–such as Omar Bakri and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri and their circles–must be condemned. Therefore, we stand up as Muslims in UK, declaring that we are not supporting any of these extremists, nor do we have anything to do with them. …
Some disruptive elements in our community will cry that we are “Western agents,” but we are not bothered by false accusations. We are not the sole or even the first voice raising these issues that are openly discussed in the Arab media.
SMC is not affiliated with any government, and recognizes that it has a duty to stand up and speak the truth. The unacceptable alternative is to let extremist organisations who now operate on our own soil continue to flourish with donations from unwitting British Muslims, destroying our community from within.
I think it is a very positive message that should be welcomed. We should still be prepared to find limitations in this groups tolerance, understanding and the value that they give to other religions. We should not assume that we will find these limits, however. This group does give us hope for peaceful coexistence in Britain.