Dr. Thomas Dahnhardt focuses on the evolution of the Indian lineage of the Naqshabandiyya, generally known as the Mujaddidiyya, in Indian Sufism as an example of the intense spiritual symbiosis between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Based on a field study among the Hindu and Muslim representatives of the Naqshabandiyya lineage, he presents a social and historical study of the Naqshabandiyya Mujaddidiyya, surveying the various masters of the tradition and taking up specifically the establishment of a new khanaqah of the Mazhariyya branch of the Mujaddidiyya in Old Delhi, one of the most important Naqshbandi centers of the tradition in the Indian subcontinent. The work goes in detail into the emergence, doctrines and methodology of the Hindu offshoot of the Mujaddidiyya Mazhariyya along with creation of regional sub-Hindu branches.
The book would be useful to scholars of inter-religious studies, Sufism and Indian religious traditions as well as general readers interested in the process of integration of traditions in the process of integration of traditions and communities.
This book and his author have the merit of unearthing for the benefit of scholars an important component of Indian culture, which uptil now has remained practically unknown. This book and his author have also the merit of opening up a spiritual treasure which chronicles, politics, and ideology utterly ignore.
After ascertaining the social and historical background of the cultural components involved, viz. a lineage of the Naqshbandiyya Mujaddidiyya on one side and the contemporary heritage of the sant-tradition on the other, and furnishing a biology of single members of this peculiar initiatory chain, the research concentrates on the theoretical elaborations which, from a doctrinal point of view, stand at the base of the synthesis operated by the figures directly taking part in this process. Special attention is given to the possible parallels traceable in the symbols and metaphors traditionally employed by the respective perspectives of Sufism and Yoga in formulating their cosmogonical and metaphysical theories. This predominantly Gnostic point of view is then integrated by a description of the methodological aspects arising from this theoretical back-ground. The concluding part of the study is concerned with a brief description of different sub-branches within the Hindu environment which began to develop from the mainstream lineage over the last fifty years and sharing the gradual process of cultural absorption and progressive Indenisation of a corpus of teachings originally pertaining to an orthodox Sunni environment.
Especially in the wake of recent developments such as the destruction of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in December 1992 and the constant political tension between the two newly emerged nuclear powers India and Pakistan over the Kashmir issue, the present situation of that area and the division of its societies along communal lines have attracted the world's attention. Major stress is thereby laid on the dividing factors which have led to an increasing distance between Hindus and Muslims over the last century. If these certainly represent a continuous feature in the twentieth-century history of the subcontinent, it is nevertheless equally true that this situation does not reflect the whole reality and relegates many fertile contacts between these two communities to the margin of attention.
In the wave of enthusiasm for the secular policy pursued by the Republic of India after Independence in 1947, many indigenous scholars had begun to exalt the glorious past of the India's middle ages during which an intense symbiosis involving many charismatic personalities on both sides stimulated and produced some of the finest cultural achievements in Indian history. These ranged from the development of an Indo-Islamic architectural style and the distinctive tradition of north-Indian classical music to widely acclaim poetic currents and a richly blended cuisine, all of which survive in various forms till the present day and contribute much to the attractive picture of India's exotic culture.
Less attention has been given outside academic circles to the often intense spiritual contacts between the elite representatives of both traditions, operating from the top and reaching down to the level of popular understanding, where they have largely contributed to the creation of a common basis for a peaceful cohabitation of the members of both religious groups. It was in this field too that India's extraordinary capacity of assimilation has given rise to some extremely stimulating examples of collaboration and synthesis transcending the numerous divisions that characterise the religious, social and ethnic peculiarities of each tradition.
From the thirteenth century AD onwards, the devotionally oriented bhakti movement provides us with a series of outstanding saints, both Hindus and Muslims, who were drawn by their sincere love arising from the depths of their longing hearts to experience the immutable Divine truth and were able to bridge the gap between their respective communities by stressing that common aim all sacred traditions have described since time immemorial. Culminating in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries with Kabir and Guru Nanak, both pertaining to the nirguna current that emphasises the unqualified, transcendent aspect of the Divine while openly mocking the rigid ritualism of priestly orthodoxy as narrow-minded and hypocritical, many of these sants, although hailing from the lower sections of society, were able to maintain a truly synthetic vision that goes beyond the formal barriers of institutionalised religion. Basing their teachings on the assertion of an underlying common human ground, irrespective of the religious and social background and any erudite expertise in the holy scriptures which if cultivated in its purest aspect of love for God and the world would allow every earnest seeker to experience the presence of his Lord and thereby render meaningless any religious discrimination. Their nearness to the people was expressed in their poetry using the simple and straightforward style of the north-Indian vernaculars used in their poetry. They there by contributed decisively to the formation of a multi- cultural and multi-religious society long before modern secular' ideas began to penetrate into the subcontinent from the Western world.
As a matter of fact, for century’s religious hatred, intolerance and communal divisions were phenomena largely unknown to Indian society. If ever, they remained mostly confined to the sporadic initiatives of zealous rulers or governors eager to promote their image as firmly orthodox Islamic potentates. It was with the beginning of the modern age introduced to India during the colonial period that many indigenous intellectuals grew up in the imported educational system of their foreign rulers started to reinterpret the teachings of many religious and spiritual leaders of the past in a key that contrasted with the traditional perspective and which was prone to promote a growing division between the two communities. Although initially this did not reach down to the hundreds of thousands of Indian villages where Hindus and Muslims had since long shared the anxieties and needs of common life, they nevertheless began to gain ground in the circles of the nascent Indian bourgeoisie. Later, during the years of struggle for political freedom and assisted by the increasingly efficient means of propaganda, these ideas gradually penetrated further down to the masses. This process of growing division led eventually to the partition of the subcontinent into two separate nations: an almost entirely Muslim Pakistan oriented along lines of religious cohesion, and a secular India whose Western styled Constitution reflects the concern of its founders to guarantee freedom of expression to its innumerable religious groups.
The rise of a nationalistic ideology with both communal and secular dimensions which accompanied India's passage during the later nineteenth century from a feudal society for hundreds of years governed largely by Muslim dynasties to a colonial system concerned with imposing a modern European mentality, is an impressive example of the impact of this process. It demonstrates at the same time impressively the loss of influence of traditional authorities on policy and society.
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