“Sufism isn’t the peaceful Islamic sect you think it is. It grew behind the shadows of swords.” … “Sufis ventured into only those territories where Islamic power was already established—they flourished under the shadow of emperors’ swords.”
This is the title and the tag line of the article by Faiyaz Ahmad Fyzie (medical Doctor by profession) published through India’s famous online News Portal, The Print, (as Opinion) on 1 June, 2022 11:15 am IST. This article has been translated from Hindi into English by Ram Lal Khanna.
Although, I considered the articles from “The Print” worth reading and to some extant as unbiased, objective and academic, but, this “naively” drafted “piece of misinformation and confusion”, persuaded me to change my stance. Let’s analyse the article thoroughly.
The “title” of the article hardly corresponds to a single line of the main content except for the opening couple of lines. This is lamentable on part of the author, who should have at least consulted the essential readings, not by Muslims but at least by non-Muslim scholars i.e., ‘The Preaching of Islam‘ by T. W. Arnold, ‘The Influence of Islam on Indian Culture‘ by Tara Chand and ‘Indian Islam’ by Murray T. Titus. “Islam spread (through preaching mainly by Sufis) even to the remotest parts of the globe and reached even to the places where its military might could hardly touch the ground,” argues Arnold in his Preaching of Islam, a statement that suffices to discredit the authors “impaired title”.
Even a layman would be able to lament on this deplorable and distorting title after reading these two sources that have been considered by the academics as comparatively unbiased and objective studies related to Islam/Sufism in Islam.
Beating around the bush, the author, disreputably distorts the actual historical facts pertaining the Origins and development of Sufism (a wrong Anglicized form of the word Tasawwuf ) and erroneously considers Sufism as “racist phenomenon favouring the progeny of the Prophet ﷺ” and tries to link Sufism with the political upheavals of the Formative period of Islam. Surprisingly, the author’s claim that “The position of Sufi/Wali can be assumed only by those whose lineage comes from Muhammad’s grandsons (daughter’s sons) Hasan-Husain” signifies the authors unfamiliarity with even the basic and simple texts regarding the historical development of Sufism.
The succeeding content related to “hierarchy of spirituality” and “Sufi Traditions and Sayyidism” clearly depicts the author’s lack of understanding at and his “disreputable” level of distorting and miscalculating the facts with his ingenuous and incoherent statements like, “Apart from being a Sayyid, there are other essential conditions that Sufism hinges on. For example, a Wali/Sufi/Pir (with a couple of exceptions) must be a male.”
An academician could only deplore on this statement of the author that “ In the Sufi tradition, there is also a process of giving khilafat (leadership), under which a Caliph bestows rights to one of his murids (disciples) for giving out baits who are later called the Caliph, Pir or Murshad of that Sufi tradition. Here too, the famous book of Hadith (based on Muhammad’s deeds and preaching) written by scholar Muhammad al-Bukhari has a reference to Hadith “Al-Aimtu Main al-Quraysh”, that is, a leader (Amir, Caliph) from Quraysh (Sayyid, Sheikh) community…This tradition has a specific context and scholars have explained its applicability and not a single source in Taṣawwuf regards such a proposition as mandatory in the spiritual path. Such an interpretation represents the ultimate level of miscalculation and incomprehensibility on part of the author.
The author fails in placing a coherent and objective statement with reliable references from the established literary corpus. Furthermore, there is hardly any statement where the author would have highlighted the actual “theme/title” that is in itself an indicator of his academic sterility. He has wrongly mixed up different themes without explaining a particular theme with appropriate academic approach. He seems to have concocted the whole content in his mind as per his personal, though erroneous, bidding rather than exhibiting an academic and objective style of explaining any discourse. Such article not only leads to the degeneration of academic ethos, objectivity and integrity but also may lead to chaos and confusion through distortion and miscalculation of the facts.
The academic community should, at least, take cognizance of such published material and should respond as per the requirements to safeguard the standards of academic integrity and objectivity.
Dr Mohammad Irfan Shah is Ex-Senior Research Fellow department of Islamic Studies, AMU, Aligarh.