India: An experience in the House of Islam

  • Joy Fernandes SJ

At the library of the Innayat Khan Shrine

At the library of the Innayat Khan Shrine

Fr Victor Edwin SJ Secretary of the Islamic Studies Association in Delhi, India, sends us this report.

Cultural diversity has emerged as a key concern in the pluralistic context of our county. Culture embraces the totality of people's life, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and art. Homogenization of cultures has strengthened religious fundamentalism. Cultural diversity strengthens universality, opening up multicultural spaces for dialogue resulting into possibilities for Interculturality.

Interculturality seeks rootedness in one's own culture, then into the culture of others, going beyond the social and religious boundaries. Intercultural theology demands profound respect towards other faith with the ability to listen and engage in dialogue. It challenges us to cross, or rather to plunge into unfamiliar realms.

With the study of Sufism we began our journey to immerse ourselves into the world of religious faiths and traditions. The lectures delivered by Prof Khurshid Khan, Dr Herman Roborgh and Dr Farida, besides our instructor Victor Edwin help clarify doubts and get to enter into the mystical worldview of Islam.

On 10 August we visited a Dargah, the final resting place of Sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan. It is situated in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Delhi's Nizamuddin basti, not very far from the Dargah of Nizamuddin Auliya. A modern Dargah, quite unusual for one I had seen earlier, surrounded with beautiful gardens and complexes, echoes the symphony of universal brotherhood. Dr Farida, the director of the Hazrat Inayat Khan trust helped us understand Sufism through her life experience and interaction with her Sufi mentor. When asked about mysticism and music, her spontaneous response was, "music is a prayer to the divine, which resonates in our very being, an effective conductor that transports the soul into universal worship". More Fascinating is the fact that Hazrat Inayat Khan was instrumental in popularizing Hindustani music and spreading the word of what he called "Universal Sufism" in the West.

Every Friday evening there is a traditional Qawwali performance at the Dargah. We were blessed to witness, as to how the sounds of a harmonium and compelling voices soaked in the aura of the place helps individual transcends all self restricting boundaries. Sufi way of life and music synergizes spirituality and culture for the interests of all of humanity. It was a moment leading me into deep harmony and syncretism of beliefs. A Big Thanks to Victor Edwin for organizing this memorable exposure, which brought sacred fusion in my understanding of different faith traditions.

Tags: Fr Victor Edwin, Islam, Sufi, Victor Edwin SJ, Joy Fernandes SJ

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