Indian Sufi mystics adopted an inclusivist approach to the people of all faith traditions. They stressed the common grounds between Muslims and Hindus, for instance, to bring them closer to each other. This is precisely how they conceived and sustained the harmonious religious coexistence, spiritual syncretism and a socio-cultural alliance of shared values for centuries.
One such Sufi saint in India was Khwaja Shah Kalim Allah of Jahanabad, the ancient name of Old Delhi. Notably, he was the noble grandson of Ustad Ahmad Lahori, the architect of the emblem of love — Taj Mahal. But Kalim Allah emerged as greater builder of love in the truer sense. He propounded: “My ancestor’s job was to build palaces and edifices. But my responsibility is to build the hearts of the people.”
In his endeavour to connect the hearts of different peoples, he evolved his mystical treatise entitled, Kashkul-e-Kalimi (the bowl of Kaleem). The Kashkul or bowl used to be a symbol for the Sufi dervishes to indicate that they love to remain the poor beggars and seekers of their beloved Rabb — the sustainer and nourisher — far away from the worldly pleasures. More than a ritual expression, it was a sign of an inner spiritual eagerness to seek the devotion (ibadat) and the pleasure (rida) of the divine.
One of the various forms of expressing his longing for the divine that Khwaja Kalim Allah introduced was his notion of inclusiveness towards the adherents of all faiths. To give an impetus to this precept of religious syncretism in India, he often exhorted his disciples to follow the Persian proverb of the great Sufi poet Hafiz Shirazi:
“Haafiza gar vasal khwaahi, suleh kun ba khaas-o-aam, Ba Musalman Allah Allah, Ba Brahman Ram Ram”
It means: “O Hafiz, if you seek to achieve peace, be friends with all. If you are with Muslims, say: ‘Allah Allah’ and if with the brahmans say: ‘Ram Ram’.”
Thus, Khwaja Kalim Allah sought to weave the Indian generation of his time into a beautiful thread of spiritual synergy. In his mystical discourses in Kashkul Kalimi, he emphasised the necessity of a pluralistic and inclusivistic understanding among the Indian people to preserve their age-old diverse culture. At the same time, he also stimulated the moral consciousness and spiritual awakening in the minds of his disciples, including both Muslims and Hindus, as his closest disciple Shah Nizamuddin Aurangabadi has narrated.
Most remarkably, Kalim Allah has coherently elucidated the Chishti Sufi concepts of sim’a (ecstasy in mystical music), muraqaba (meditation), zikr (constant remembrance of Allah) and fikr (contemplation) in his writings like Maktubat-e-Kalimi (letters of Kalim Allah), Kashkul-e-Kalimi (bowl of Kalim) and Muraqqa-e-Kalimi (scrapbook of Kalim). He has noted that the Islamic prayers and meditation (muraqaba) have close resemblance to the yoga which could serve as beautiful example of harmony between the two religions in India....