This post was included in the first e-magazine of Rationalist Society of Pakistan.
I stepped up to the open space, gazing at the sky filled with clouds. It was noon, yet it seemed late evening. The cool air ruffled my clothes and attempted to dislodge my cap. It should have known the Sufis don’t break off that easily. They adapt to the change, like water that fills up the cup or take the shape of palm in your hand. Sufism is the flow of Allah’s beauty through your mind and soul, the appreciation of His creation and feel of His divine blessings throughout your existence right to the core.
The cool air ruffled my clothes again. Maybe it was telling me about its existence, that air is also Allah’s creation and not a distraction. I let it pass from my conscious mind and felt the flow. It was moving in a pattern, a pattern of serenity, of flowing beauty and grace, of power and tranquility, of love and insanity. The air had stories, long forgotten and badly remembered, biased and accurate, peace and war, love and hate. I took it all and felt the ages and their stories, the rise of empires and their crumble to dust, the might of sword and the boom of canon, whisper of seductive lie and sound of bitter truth.
I took it all and let it flow, and in the confusion of ages and the stories … I heard him.
It was Rumi, recitation of poetry that has survived centuries and still lives in the hearts of millions world over. The air vibrated, swirling around my focus on Rumi, trying to gauge me to listen more to its stories. I ignore it and kept on listening to Rumi and the tranquility his words brought.
And then the rhythm began, slowly as Rumi words flew like a boat gliding over the silvery surface of a calm river. Energy welled up to strengthen my body as it began to flow like water, like the Dervish of the old who would move to the sound of nature and love, of peace and tranquility, of heart and soul for Islam. And like the Whirling Dervish of the old I tilted my head to right with my eyes closed, my right hand raised at sky and left facing the Earth and began the chant of life, circling, whirling, flowing like water caught in the whirlwind. I flowed in all forms and none, I embraced life and death and gathered love and despair, I was the earth and the sky, I was the bird and the ant, the leaf and the larvae. I was a thing of living and thing that never took breath. I was solid as rock and soft as flower. I was the essence of this world and bathing in the blessing of my Lord Almighty.
But the wind wasn’t done with me. It was whispered and circled around my focus. It lied and uttered truth. It blew from Sahara and blew from Antarctica. It was the tornado and the poisonous fume. It continued to blow and swirled around me, countering the way I moved until it said what my conscious could not pass and I collapsed in a heap.
I heard the cries and wails of the devastated. I heard the anguish of the educated and misery of the illiterate. I felt the bleeding of the onlooker and bewilderment of concerned ones. I felt the hunger of the greedy and patience of hungry. I experienced the luxury of rich and discomfort of poor. I felt disinterest of powerful and hope in weak and I could not bear it anymore.
I asked the wind to tell me whose story it whispered. It blew around me in mocking; playing for it finally got my attention. I pleaded begged and wiped tears that flowed down my face. I asked the wind to tell the story it whispered for it was too new, its greed tainting, its anguish cutting, its hope burning, its despair slicing, its hate scorching and its pity insulting. It was too new to be a story of the old, too entangled to be of simple mortals, too narrow to be of progressive, too wide to be of zealots. It was tiny as pin and wide as a mountain. It was a story of sweetness of the greatest scent and bitterness of the foulest medicine. It was of valor and heroics, of cowardice and backstabbing. It had believers of Islam and liars with the hands on Quran. It had fathers seeing their daughters leave with husbands after marriage and it had brothers pimping their sisters away without an ounce of shame. It was a story of construction and destruction, of falling sky and cracking earth and it was all searing my soul away.
I asked the wind where the story happened. It blew silently around me. It didn’t say anything for a long time. I kept on waiting, it kept on blowing. Finally, it whispered…
I tell the story of love and despair, of hope and anguish, of rose and thorn, of life and death, valor and cowardice not of forgotten times but present. I tell of thieves becoming lords and lords vanishing in abyss. I tell of nameless enemies and unknown friends. I tell of legends and myths, of right and wrong, justice and injustice …
I tell you of Pakistan.
You cannot dance Sufi, you cannot dance. You dance for the joy of your Lord when Sufi shrines in Pakistan get destroyed by nameless enemies. You dance for love when woman is rendered as a commodity than a human being. You dance for the sky when fire falls from it to kill Muslims daily. You dance for freedom when countless mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters cry, wait and plead with lords of the land asking about the whereabouts of their loved ones. You dance for your Lord Almighty when followers of Islam kill each other without an ounce of remorse. You dance like flowing water when devastation of water submerged half the nation. You dance for power when Lords of the land ignored the plight of the weak, left them like vulture feed and buried their women alive like the Pagan customs before Islam.
You cannot dance Sufi, for while you dance the destruction continues and it will soon devour the whole humanity of the nation. For while there is hope, there is possibility of light in the darkest corner.
Then what should I do if not dance. How can I bear this anguish you whispered me? How can remove these poisonous clouds off my brethren?
You cannot do anything except pray, whispered the wind. They are beggars, made this way through decades. Let them find the strength in their feet, the iron in their will, the rod in their spine, the height in their spirits, the truth in their hearts and destiny in their hands. Let them find their way of which they went astray.
They have the strength of Maula Ali in their arms yet they feel not. They have the knowledge of Abbasi caliphate but they are clueless. They have poetry of Rumi in the hearts yet they find darkness in wait. They have strength of Quran in the soul yet lies and deceit guide their lives. They have Iqbal’s guidance but rolled off to opposite path. They have words of Jinnah but they heed of utters of foreign lords. They have role model of Prophet Mohammed yet they bow down to thieves. They are beggars waiting for pity and pittance. They have to rise and be what they are meant to be.
Until then, you cannot dance Sufi. You cannot dance.