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Women and
gender justice

Women and gender justice / Presentation

Islam - Sufi

Photo by Heiner Heine / imageBroker / Alamy

Islam - Sufi

Celebrating womanhood

Young Muslim women in a joyous mood, in the true Sufi spirit of unity and oneness.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy

Living together in harmony

by Yasmeen Iqbal

Sufism has been present in India for at least a thousand years. It emphasised syncretic values, literature, education, and entertainment. The common people were attracted to Sufi teachings that were mystical in nature and included cosmic harmony, love, and compassion. The Sufi preachers played an important role in the spread of Islam in India through their tales and folk songs, love for God and the Prophet. Sufism emphasised peace and tolerance and was against communal conflict. Sufism continues to be central to mystical Islam in India. (Editor's note)

I was born into, and brought up, by a beautiful family that followed the Sufi tradition. It was a family that welcomed all kinds of people into its midst. So I grew up with Muslims, Hindus, Christians; as well as fakirs, sadhus and nuns; people from the lowest caste and those who were driven to penury because of injustice in the system. All of them enriched my life enormously and made me who I am today. The seeds of equality, love, trust, unity and harmony had been sown deeply into me throughout my childhood. I was attracted by the idea of the oneness of the human family, in all its diversity. I believe in what Rumi said: Unity is what I sing, unity is what I speak, unity is what I know, unity is what I seek.

The street we lived on had a big black bull that I was very afraid of. My granddad told me that this was Nandi and he was not to be feared. He belonged to Lord Shiva, who lived in the beautiful temple on the same street. It was a temple with stone sculptures of elephants and lions and I played many temple games here with friends, ate ‘prasadam’ and soaked myself in the devotion inherent in this sacred space.

Women from different backgrounds and religions came to our living room and we listened to stories, sang songs and exchanged harmless gossip. They also supported one another in their moments of pain and distress and helped with household chores. I heard stories of powerful women who contributed to the Prophet Mohammed’s life, stories of Mariam and Prophet ‘Isa’ (Jesus) and of the goddesses Lakshmi, Durga and Saraswati. I learned to revere all these women.

The school I went to was Catholic, and when exams came I prayed to Jesus. Rumi also said: In every religion there is love, yet love has no religion.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.

Arundhati Roy