Tag Archives: sufism

@Narendramodi is wrong about Sufism. here is why:

Narendra Modi inaugurated the World Sufism festival – & praised it to heaven. But he was wrong on three sides:
1) Sufism today is just dance and singing with a sprinkling of very basic spirituality. In fact Sufism is defunct in India: in Kashmir, the last sufi shrine, Shrar-E-Sharif, was burnt in the 90’s by militants: and the so called sufi dargah of Ajmer, practices such a rigid Sunni creed, that every Pakistani President makes a pilgrimage there whenever they come to India (as well as all those stupid Bollywood Hindu stars – do Aamir Khan & Shah Rukh Khan go to Tirupati???)
2) what made Sufism different from Sunni Islam in India, was the influence of Vedanta & Upanishads. See how the only great Sufi scholar and saint Dara Shikoh, Aurangzeb’s elder brother (who should have rightly become emperor of India, as he was also Shah Jahan’s favorite), had translated the Upanishads in Persian and kept saying that Islam owed a lot to these ancient Hindu scriptures. Unfortunately, Dara was beheaded by Aurangzeb for apostasy. Today, Dara Shikoh, a true tolerant Muslim is totally forgotten, did not find mention in the world Sufi Forum that the PM inaugurated, while Aurangzeb is everywhere.
3) as the article below explains, Sufism was often used to convert Hindus and Sufis always believed in the supremacy of islam versus Hinduism. It is still so today
In conclusion, do you think, boys and girls that the PM reachiing out to Muslims will pay dividends & that Muslims will vote for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next sate and central elections???


Sri Aurobindo’s statue in UNESCO, Paris

Sri Aurobindo's statue in UNESCO, Paris

To Mrs Irena Bokova
Director General UNESCO
Paris, France

Dear Mrs Bokova,

We met once: I have been Le Figaro’s correspondent in South Asia for ten years
I was recently in UNESCO and saw the beautiful statue of Sri Aurobindo, India’s great avatar of the 20th century and got photographed in front of it (attached)
It’s a pity that the statue is not well oriented and unkempt, as it has value for millions of Indians
I am trying to organize with Dr Vinay Sheel Oberoi, India’s UNESCO representative, an exhibition on Dara Shikoh, who was a sufi saint of the 17th century that initiated a unique interfaith dialogue very much needed today.
I am attaching a brief below
Warmly yours
François Gautier
Rédacteur en chef La Revue de l’Inde
41 Jorbagh, New Delhi 110003, Inde.


Resuming publication of excerpts from my next book: “The History of India as it happened – and not as it has been written” (Har Anand, New Delhi) :

Let it be said right away: the massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history, bigger than the Holocaust of the Jews by the Nazis; or the massacre of the Armenians by the Turks; more extensive even than the slaughter of the South American native populations by the invading Spanish and Portuguese.
We shall quote from the French historian Alain Danielou, as well as the Dutch scholar Koenraad Elst who has written a very interesting book called “Negationism in India (see next chapter), and finally from Sri Aurobindo, who was one of the very few amongst Indian revolutionaries, who had the courage to say the truth about what was called then « the Mahomedan factor ».

“From the time when Muslims started arriving, around 632 AD, remarks Alain Danielou, the history of India becomes a long monotonous series of murders, massacres, spoliations, destructions. It is, as usual, in the name of “a holy war” of their faith, of their sole God, that the Barbarians have destroyed civilisations, wiped-out entire races. Mahmoud Ghazni, continues Danielou, was an early example of Muslim ruthlessness, burning in 1018 of the temples of Mathura, razing Kanauj to the ground and destroying the famous temple of Somnath, sacred to all Hindus. His successors were as ruthless as Ghazini: in 103O the holy city of Benares was razed to the ground, its marvelous temples destroyed, its magnificent palaces wrecked. Indeed, the Muslim policy “vis à vis” India, concludes Danielou, seems to have been a conscious systematic destruction of everything that was beautiful, holy, refined”. (Histoire de l’Inde, p.222)
In the words of another historian, American Will Durant:
“the Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilisation is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying within”.

But more horror was to come, for without any doubt the bloodiest Muslim deeds in India were done from the 14th century onwards, thanks to the Mughals, who today have been nearly raised to the ranks of great art patrons and benevolent rulers, bringing to India such treasures as the art of miniature painting, ghazals and Sufism.
For instance, Danielou points out that the sack of the magnificent city of Vijayanagar, which was like an island of civilisation, chivalry, and beauty, in the midst of a shattered and bleeding India, by Husain Nizam Shah, was an horror: “During nearly FIVE months, reminisces Danielou, the Muslims set themselves to the task of destroying everything, the temples, the palaces, the magnificent residences. The scenes of terror and massacre were unparalleled and mightier than the imagination can ever fathom. The victors grabbed so much richness in gold, jewels, precious furniture, camels, tents, girls, boys, slaves, weapons, armours, that there was not a single plain soldier who did not depart a rich man. And nothing remained after their departure of the most beautiful and prosperous city of that time, but smoking ruins”. (Histoire de l’Inde, p.251)

Babur was another ferocious conqueror, indulging in unnecessary massacres and his ultimate goal was the destruction and the enslaving of the Hindus. His successor, Sher Khan, was no better, ravaging Punjab, betraying his word to the Rajputs of Malwa, who were all massacred one by one after they had honourably surrendered. Women and children were killed by the Rajput themselves, knowing what would happen to them if they fell in Muslims hands. As for Humayun, History has treated him well, forgetting that he too, was a staunch Muslim. Under his reign, a terrible famine ravaged India, people were killed, erring miserably in their land. What happened to the beautiful land of Bharat, where once honey and wine flowed like an Himalayan delight?

Akbar was the exception in a sea of monsters, although he had his preceptor Bairam, and the regent Adam Khan killed, and was responsible for the great massacre of Chittor. In his 40 years of conquests, he too must have slaughtered his fair share of Hindus. Nevertheless, he was better than the average lot, maybe because his mother was Persian and he married Hindu wives. His intelligence, his love of arts, his interest for his people, his religious liberalism, make of him a unique emperor. Through his Rajput spouses, Akbar had a close contact with Hindu thought and he dreamed of a new religion that would be a synthesis of all creeds – and under him the Hindus were allowed some breathing space.
Unfortunately, his successors started again their policy of massacre and persecution of the Hindus. Jahangir, Akbar’s son, had Guru Arjun Singh killed. Jehangir was a warped personality, “he was moved by the shivering of elephants in winter, says Danielou, but had people he disliked whipped in front of him until they died. The story of how he had Husain Beg and Abdul Aziz, two enemies, sewn in the skins of a donkey and a cow and paraded in the city, has never been forgotten”. (Danielou, Histoire de l’Inde, p.269)

But the worst of the Mughal emperors must be Aurangzeb. He had his father imprisoned till the end of his life, ordered his brothers executed and his own son imprisoned for life. Aurangzeb’s religious fanaticism plunged India again in chaos, famine and misery. Aurangzeb was foremost a Sunni Muslim, puritan, unbending; he had the koranic law applied in its strictest sense, chased from the court all musicians and poets, banned all Hindu religious festivals and imposed the very heavy “jizya” tax on unbelievers. He thus made once more the Mughal monarchy highly unpopular and everywhere revolts sprang-up, such as the one of the Satnamis of Alwar. “Aurangzeb had them massacred until the last one, leaving an entire region empty of human beings”. (Danielou p. 278). Aurangzeb also battled the Sikhs and the Rajpouts. But it’s against the great Mahrattas, who spearheaded a Hindu renaissance in India, that Aurangzeb was most ferocious: he had Shambuji, Shivaji’s son and his Minister Kavi-Kulash tortured scientifically for THREE weeks and after that they were cut in small pieces till they died on 11 march 1689. Aurangzeb was also the first Mughal who really attempted to conquer the South. By the end of his reign, there was nothing left in the coffers, culture and arts had been erased and the Hindus were once more haunted by persecution.

Fortunately, by then the Mughal empire was already crumbling; but the woes of Hindus were not finished. Nadir Shah, of Iran attacked Delhi in 1739 and for one whole week his soldiers massacred everybody, ransacked everything and razed the entire countryside, so that the survivors would have nothing to eat. He went back to Iran taking with him precious furniture, works of arts, 10.OOO horses, the Kohinoor diamond, the famous Peacock throne and 150 million rupees in gold, (Danielou p.290). After that blow, the Mughal dynasty was so enfeebled, that India was ready for its next barbarians: the Europeans.


Dear friends, I have often been accused of being an anti-Muslim, but the fact is that I am a brought-up catholic and that before coming to India, I could not make the difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. I guess reporting in Kashmir opened my eyes. Yet I saw in Kashmir what remained of Sufism, before it was snuffed out by the militants.

Great souls, vibuthis, avatars, come and go, but something of their influence & message remains. Dara Shikoh, Shah Jahan’s eldest and preferred son, should have become emperor of India – and then the whole history of Islam – in India and may be in the world – would have changed. But he was beheaded by his brother Aurangzeb, and the more intolerant, violent side of Islam took over. Yet, Muslims in India still have it in them to go back to the Sufi, poetic, mystic, tolerant Islam that Dara had preached and which would usher a UNITED INDIA, where Muslims feel Indians first, while keeping true to their faith.


Hence FACT’s latest exhibition, honors this prince of Islam.

We plan to erect a special building for it. As you know, my foundation is always struggling for funds. Thus I appeal to you again to donate generously. FACT is a registered Trust with tax exemption. You can make a donation to: FACT, Account No: 04071450000237, IFCS code: HDFC0000407. We will mail you back your tax exemption certificate. For those of you who wish to donate in Euros, Pounds or Dollars, you can make a direct transfer to: Foundation Against Continuing Terrorism (FACT) Account No: 04071170000016, Swift code:  HDFCINBB

Thanking you




From an early age, Shah Jahan’s four sons, Dara Shukoh, Shah Shuja, Aurangzeb, and Murad Bakhsh, grew up in an atmosphere of bitter rivalry, writes Hambly, even though they were all children of the same mother, Mumtaz Mahal. In 1657, Shah Jahan became seriously ill. The expectation of an early death provoked the four sons into making a desperate bid for the throne. Only two candidates, writes Hambly, stood much chance of success — Dara Shukoh, who was 42 years old, and Aurangzeb, who was 39.

Dara Shukoh, Shah Jahan’s favorite and his heir, was a man of broad intellectual interests, writes Hambly. He was a Sufi and a religious eclectic who had translated the Upanishads into Persian.

Aurangzeb, notes Hambly, was well educated, knowledgeable in the traditional spectrum of Islamic studies, and strict in his religious orthodoxy. Aurangzeb had an acute sense of political realism and a fierce appetite for power. Although Aurangzeb’s personality was considered less attractive than that of Dara Shukoh, writes Hambly, Aurangzeb was the superior in both military talent and administrative skills.

Guru Nanak, Kabeer, Shaikh Ali Hujweri, Al-Beruni, Sheikh Nizamuddin Auliya, Dara Shukoh, Sheikh Qadiri, Mirza Mazhar Jani-I-Jahan, Jalal-Al-din Rumi…

As I did not look at this infidel’s face in his lifetime, I do not wish to do so now.”1 Aurangzeb is reported to have remarked when decapitated head of Dara Shukoh  was presented to satisfy him that no fraud or substitution had taken place. On Aurangzeb’s order Dara’s “corpse was placed on an elephant, paraded through the streets of the city a second time, and then buried in a vault under the dome of the tomb of Humayun, without the customary washing and dressing of the body.”2

Before his decapitation, such was the hatred of Aurangzeb towards his brother that after his capture, Dara Shukoh and his son were paraded through the streets of Delhi dressed in tattered clothes and seated on a miserable-looking female elephant.3

Dara Shukoh was executed not only on the charge of heresy and infidelity, but also for the crime of calling Hinduism and Islam ‘twin brothers’.4

The charge of Dara’s heresy and infidelity mostly stems from his dealings with the Brahminical and Islamic thought, his original work Majma’-ul-Bahrain (The Mingling of Two Oceans) and his translation of fifty Upanishads, Sirr-i Akbar (The Great Secret).

However, there is nothing in Dara’s Sufistic career to suggest that at any time he had renounced Islam. He was (along with his sister Jahan Ara) a Qadiri Sufi, believer in the Wahdat al-Wujud (Unity of Being) school of Sufism and a disciple of Sufi Mulla-Shah.

After his discourses with Baba Lal and other Hindu saints, yogis and ascetics, Dara Shukoh had come to believe that there was one and the same Absolute who was merely expressed in different forms in different religions. This was really nothing new. Similar ideas had previously been developed by Ibn ‘Arabi. It seems Dara was not familiar with the earlier comparison of the Nath terminology and Dvaidadavaitita-vilakshanvada and terminology of sufism and Wahdat Al-Wujud in Shaikh Gangohi’s Rushdnama. However, he worked independently on the same topic and in 1654-55 wrote the Majma’u’l-bahrain (Mixing of the Two Oceans).5 Dara drew parallels between the Hindu mystic and Islamic sufi terminology and was convinced that apart from verbal differences, the understanding of Reality of the two systems was essentially the same. He justified his conclusions on his interpretation of the ‘Light Verse’ in the Qur’an (24:35)6

Dara Shukoh divided the prophets in three categories and regarded the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad who he thought harmoniously blended the Absolute and the determined, the Colorless and the colored, and the Near and the distant was the “comprehensive prophethood”.7

According to Dara Shukoh, only such saints who combined Prophet Muhammad’s tasbih (immanence) with tanzih (absolute transcendence) were perfect. In this category he included the first four caliphs, Hasan and Hussein, a number of Prophet Muhammad’s companions and a host of sufis including his pir Mulla-Shah. Only one Hindu saint — Baba Lal Bairagi — was included in his list of “perfect saints”. 8 Even Kabir did not make the grade.

His other work Sirr-i-Akbar (The Great Secret) was the translation of fifty Upanishads. Study of the Upanishads satisfied Dara Shukoh’s intellectual curiosity in a way all other works had failed to do. He regarded them as fountainhead of Tawhid (Wahdat al-Wujud). He correlated them with the Qur’an and thought the latter to be commentary on them. He believed the Upanishads were the secret books mentioned in the Qur’an (LVI, 77-80)

That (this) is indeed a noble Qur’an

In a book kept hidden

Which none toucheth save the purified,

A revelation from the Lord of the Worlds.9

With the support of the Qur’anic verses that many earlier sufis had also argued that the ancient Indians had been recipient of the Divine revelation but Dara Shukoh asserted that the four Vedas were also Divinely revealed books and he regarded the “study of the Upanishads as the highest form of worship”. 10

The Majma’u’l Bahrain was Dara Shukoh’s most important work and was singled out by the Ulema as a justification for accusing Dara Shukoh of calling infidelity and Islam as ‘twin-brothers’ and condemning him to death.11

Did Dara Shukoh really call Hinduism and Islam as ‘twin-brothers’ or did he ever apostasize from Islam?

Rizvi maintains that “the work itself lies within the ideological framework of Ibn ‘Arabi’s teachings and asserts that the stage of universality and perfection was reserved for Prophet Muhammad, and that tanzih was harmoniously blended with tasbih only by his successors and the Muslims sufis, to whom alone were addressed the following words in the Qur’an:

Ye are the best community that hath been raised up for mankind. (3: 110) “12

In all his works there is no evidence of Dara Shukoh having renounced Islam or regarding Hinduism, independently on its own, as equal to Islam. His assertion of the Divine nature of the Vedas and the greatness of the Upanishads, he justifies only with the support of Qur’anic verses.

In his Safinatu ‘l-aulia, Dara gives glimpse of his Sunni orthodoxy. He had never denied the Prophethood or finality of the Prophet Muhammad , and as stated above, regarded Prophet Muhammad as the “perfect prophet”. He had never denied the validity of the revelations of the Qur’an. He was also convinced of the superiority of the first four Caliphs and graded them in the order they became Caliphs.13

He was a Qadiri sufi and believed in the superiority of the Qadiriya order started by Shaikh ‘Abdu’l-Qadir Jilani who he believed had received its rules directly from the Prophet.14

Dara Shukoh was conscious of his own scholarship and combined his personal spiritual interests to vindicate the universality of the Qur’anic worldview and to show how monotheism was echoed in classical Vedic and philosophical texts. He does not present the translation of the Upanishads as a means of religious syncretism of the Islamic and Hindu communities but claims that these are themselves Islamic texts as witnessed in the Qur’an and bearing witness to true and untarnished monotheism.15

Dara Shukoh begins the preface of Sirr-I Akbar by celebrating God and the revelations of the Qur’an, as well as paying tributes to his Qadiri preceptors. It is his “devotion to the Qur’an and a desire to more perfectly comprehend Tawhid that Dara is first drawn to the investigation of non-Islamic religious traditions.” In closing, he turns to the Qur’an again “for an omen of God’s blessing on his project”. More than half of the text of his preface of his translation is devoted to hope that it will be “perceived as an orthodox mantle of commentator.” 16

What Dara Shukoh was claiming was that like the Qur’anic revelations were an extension and completion of the Biblical revelations in the same way these were also an extension of the revelations of the Vedas. And as Biblical revelations stand superseded by the Qur’an so do the Vedic revelations. In claiming that the secret revelations mentioned in the Qur’an were the Upanishads, he clearly implied that the Qur’an is simply a continuation of the earlier revelations. In asserting the perfection of prophethood of Prophet Muhammad, he was also implying the perfection of revelations in the Qur’an. The Hindus were essentially Muslims, only they were not aware of this — a secret that he had unraveled.

Implications of such a scenario are far reaching as can be seen from the recent sermon by Shaykh Salih Bin-Muhammad Al Talib in a Saudi mosque.

In his sermon in the Holy mosque in Mecca, Shaykh Al Talib said

“Is it not time the People of the Book [Christians and Jews] pondered and acknowledged that Islam is a continuation of the messages that came before it and that it is the religion that God has chosen for the whole of mankind?”

He continued: “From the time of Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him, until the Day of Judgment, God will not accept any other religion or creed,” the imam says and cites the Qur’anic verse: “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” 17

Dara Shukoh had extended the concept the “People of the Book” to the Hindus also.

In Dara Shukoh’s case more was in play than just his views on the Vedas and the Upanishads. Aurangzeb’s animosity to Dara and the struggle for the throne was no hidden secret but it was as much the Mullahs who ultimately decided his fate. And Dara’s contempt of the Mullahs was a foregone conclusion.

Ridiculing the Mullahs he had written:

Paradise is only at a place where no Mulla lives,

Where no uproar or clamor from a Mulla is heard,

May the world rid itself of the terror of a Mulla.

May none pay heed to his fatwa

In a city where Mulla dwells,

No wise man is ever found.18

While on this subject, I also might add:

Many Muslim commentators assert had Dara Shukoh succeeded to the Mughal throne, Islam would have disappeared from India. This may actually be a false conclusion. Accession of orthodox Aurangzeb to the Mughal throne and his Islamic zealotry, probably caused more harm to the cause of Islam in India. His re-imposition of jiziya, decree to demolish Hindu temples, political and economic conversions and generally harsh measures against the Hindus caused widespread resentment against the Mughal rule which ultimately resulted in the empire’s disintegration.

Rizvi thinks “political fear and economic incentives during the reigns of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb had little effect on Islamic proselytization. Nevertheless between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries conversion of Hindus to Islam did occur on a considerable scale, due to successful prosyletizing techniques used by the new sufic orders and because of social factors inherent in the fresh wave of urbanization then taking place.”19

Though it is purely a matter of speculation today but it cannot be ruled out, given the nature of Hindu thought, it is quite possible that the approach adopted by Dara Shukoh might have proved to be more fatal to Hinduism than the harsh measures adopted by Aurangzeb. Once converted to Islam, the mild approach of Dara would have faded into oblivion, and India today might been just a larger version of Pakistan.

To conclude, there is no evidence of Dara Shukoh having renounced Islam or calling Islam and Hinduism as ‘twin-brothers’. Dara Shukoh was a Qadiri sufi in the Sunni tradition of orthodox Islam. He also regarded himself as wearer of mantle of Orthodox Sunni Islam. It is quite ironic the orthodox Mullahs led by Aurangzeb, in their zealotry, killed the golden goose that might have laid the golden egg of Islamic India.


1 Masum , 143b-145b; Bernier; 102, Tavernier, i.354; et al quoted in Jadunath Sarkar, History of Aurangzeb, vol. 1&2, Orient Longman, 1973, pp. 341 (quoted in footnote)

2 Sarkar, pp. 340

3 Rizvi, A History of Sufism in India, vol. 2, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1983, pp.128

4 ‘Alamgirnama, Calcutta1868, p. 432; Ma’asir-I ‘Alamgiri, Calcutta, 1870-73, p. 27; Quoted in Rizvi, pp.128

5 Rizvi, pp. 417

6 Rizvi, pp. 421

7 Rizvi, pp. 421

8 Majma’u’l Bahrain, pp. 101/56-57, Quoted in Rizvi, pp. 422

9 Rizvi, pp.423

10 Rizvi, pp. 423

11 Rizvi, pp. 422

12 Rizvi, pp. 423

13 Safinatu’l Aulia, p. 23, Quoted in Rizvi, pp. 132

14 Rizvi, pp. 134

15 Douglas L Berger, Oakmont Community College, IL., The Unlikely Commentator: The Hermeneutic Reception of Sankara’s Thought in the Interpretive Scholarship of Dara Shukoh, unpublished manuscript, pp. 2

16 Berger pp. 4

17 http://www.imra.org.il/story.php3?id=20089

Saudi Sermon: Time for Christians and Jews to Convert to Islam [FBIS (US Government service) Translated Excerpt] [With thanks to http://www.mideastweb.org/mewnews1.htm ]  Riyadh Kingdom of Saudi Arabia TV1 in Arabic, official television station of the Saudi Government, carries on February 27, 2004 at 0945 GMT a live sermon from the holy mosque in Mecca.

18 Diwan-I Dara-Shukoh, quoted in Rizvi pp. 145

19 Rizvi, pp. 426