India’s mystics — both rishi-munis and Sufi saints — were able to go beyond the man-made religious boundaries only because they practiced Advaita or Wahdat-ul-Wujood (unity of being) at an experiential level and not just in academic discourses. But today we are deprived of that divine bliss as we engage merely in intellectual exercises on the spiritual experiences like the unity of existence (wahdat-ul-wujood), universal brotherhood (ukhuwat-e-insani) and a deeper personal relationship with the Almighty (wisal-e Ilahi). All these inclusivist Sufi teachings hold relevance only if we turn them into action, not just a discussion. These pluralistic messages were in practice in the Indian subcontinent at a time when the idea of religious tolerance was not even discussed in a large part of Western Europe.
While Muslims in India were inspired by the Sufi philosophy of Sulh-e Kul (reconciliation with all), Hindu mystics and real yogis were keen to share commonalities with adherents of the other faith traditions that they encountered in the subcontinent.
Just as the Qur’anic teaching of wasatiyyah (moderation) exhorted Muslims not to transgress the limits determined by Allah, adherents of Vaishnavism, Buddhism, Jainism and all other ancient faith traditions shunned violence, aggression and exaggeration in matters of religion and practiced moderation in all walks of life. They professed their faith as a luminous and universal body of spiritual truths that won their hearts. But at the same time, they renounced the practices of subjecting spirituality to any narrow and skewed religiosity.
The true practitioners of Sufism believe that the light of Allah is present in all His creations, and, thus, they must be respected not just as creations but also as “reflections” of God, something that is enshrined in the spiritual illumination of Wahdat al-Shuhud (unity of reflection).
The Sufi philosophy of Wahdat is actually derived from Tawheed, the basic Islamic tenet of monotheism. It is not just a metaphysical expression or poetic outgrowth of the Sufi way of being, thinking and behaving with others. In fact, it is intrinsic to the Qur’anic verses which are popularly known as “Ayat-e-Noor” (Verses of the Light). The early Sufi masters like Shaikh Shihab-ud-Deen Suhrawardi (12th CE) and Shaikh Sadra (16th CE) have written moving spiritual exegesis on these Qur’anic verses:
“He is with you, wherever you are” (57: 4)....“
God is the Outward and the Inward” (57:3)....
“He for whom wisdom is given, he truly has received abundant good” (2:269)....
“It was We who created man, and We know what dark suggestions his soul makes to him: for We are nearer to him than his jugular vein. (50:16)”.
What is self-evident in all these verses, particularly in the last one, is man’s great nearness to God (Qurb) which is perceived by the Sufi mystics as the unity of the being.
Thus, the beautiful concept of Wahdat-ul-Wujud is well-rooted in the Qur’an. Those who declare the adherents of this concept as heretics should delve deeper into the above verses and rethink their view of point....