How Muslim Sufis see Lord Ram and Ayodhya

Story by  ATV | Posted by  Aasha Khosa | Date 22-01-2024
Saryu riverfront of Ayodhya
Saryu riverfront of Ayodhya


Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi

As a madrasa student in Faizabad, I visited Ajodhya, the birthplace of Shri Rama in 2005. I was appearing for the examination called, Maulvi, as part of Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrasa Education when I met a friend from the city. In Indo-Islamic tradition, I knew that Ajodhya is a great place. Several prominent prophets and messengers of Allah were born and buried in the sacred land. The historic city and its sanctity also stand for Hazrat Sheesh (Prophet Sheth) and also Hazrat Nooh (Prophet Noah).

I also visited a grave locally known as “26 Gazi Mazar”, the grave of an unnamed Indian Prophet. The moment I entered the marked birthplace of Shri Rama, my mystical experience at the age of 15 experienced a new dimension. It was an exploration of India as the land of Ambiya (Prophets) and Awliya (Sufi saints), who were sent to the people of this ancient civilisation.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon Muslims in India to revisit the historic city. Mother India—Bharat or Hindustan—is the land of Rishi-Munis as well as Rusul (Prophets). Needless to state that every nation was bestowed with a Prophet according to the holy Qur’an: “And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger”.

In fact, India is the land to which Allah, in all probability, has sent most Messengers. If an ancient philosophy of religious pluralism (Sarva Dharma Sama Bhava) and peaceful coexistence of various faith traditions has been recorded here, the reason is not difficult to see. The Message of all Seers and Sages -from Rishi-Munis, Prophets, Mystics, to the Sufis—was One. Mahatma Gandhi interpreted this concept as the one that embodies the equality of the destination of the different paths followed by different people.

“The Truth is One but the Wise call it by many names”, says the Maha Upanishad. An over 5,000-year-old civilisation with various faith traditions, Mother India birthed Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism (along with other new variants of them) and widely embraced Islam which converged in a spiritual synergy of Sufism. And it was only in India where the pluralistic Persianite strain of Islam emerged with the coming of Sufi saints from Central Asia. There were some sages and mystics among them who saw Rasool (prophet) in Rama and Krishna. Take a look at the following flowing passage (Letter No. 14, Maqamat-e-Mazhari, Page No. 259) authored by Shah Ghulam Ali Dehlvi.

"This shows how our ancient indigenous Indic tradition was looked at through the prism of purely Sufi Islamic perspective. This book has been compiled in the light of the letters written by Mirzā Mazhar Jaan-e-Janan - “India and the Hindu community from a theological viewpoint.

In the Indian territories, Prophets and Messengers were sent by Allah Almighty. Their accounts are recorded in their books and several other signs and indicators tell us that the Hindu people had reached high culminations [in faith and spirituality]. The Divine mercy did not forget this vast land or its people and their state of affairs. Needless to say, before the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), every nation was bestowed with a Prophet, and every community was entitled to follow their own Prophet rather than anyone else”.

Mirzā Mazhar Jaan-e-Janan (1699–1780) was an authoritative Islamic saint-scholar of the Naqshbandi Sufi Order, which was established in India by Khwaja Baqi Billah. He was Delhi’s most prominent Naqshbandi master and instrumental behind the inclusive legacy and pluralist theology of Shah Ghulam Ali Dehlvi,the 19th century Sufi master of the Naqshbandi Order in Delhi. For Indian Muslims, Mirzā Mazhar Jaan-e-Janan (Soul of the Souls) and Ghulam Ali Dehlvi offer much to reflect upon, as proponents of Wahdat-e-Wahy (unity in scriptures and divine revelations) between the Qur’an and the Vedas.

Consider the crucial memoir as follows: He [Jaan-e-Janan] was staying at Sirhind (a city in Punjab popularly known as Fatehgarh Sahib). I sought and obtained the permission to visit the master. My heart was instantaneously enticed and ensnared by the charismatic saint. He tied the game of his heart to the saddle straps of my spiritual courser. I was particularly attracted to the teachings of his Exalted Presence [Jaan-e-Jana], that the Vedas were Holy Scriptures revealed by Allah, and that Shri Krishna and Shri Rama were Prophets; thus Jaan-e-Janan privileged the Hindus as the ‘People of the Book’.(As quoted in “The Mirror of Beauty”, By Shamsur Rahman Faruqi, 2014).

The Letter No. 14 in Maqamat-e-Mazhari examines the Vedic notion of Avatarvad, in accordance with the Islamic concept of Nubuwwat and Risalat (prophethood). Based on the Qur’anic verses such as “There is a Messenger for every community (Surah al-R’ad: 07) and “There was not a Nation without a warner” (36:06), the letter premises that Allah has created no community in the world without a Prophet, and that belief in all Prophets, not just one, is one of the six articles of the Islamic faith. It then looks at the main characteristics of the Hindu belief of Avatarvad and Prophethood from an Islamic perspective.

This terrain of thought in Indian Muslim theology was later leveraged and further accentuated by Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher popularly known as the Hakeemul Ummat in the Indian subcontinent. The Poet of the East (Shaer-e-Mashriq) took the temerity to proclaim the prophethood of Shri Rama and composed the following (Translated from Urdu) verses which speak volumes about his devotion for Rama:

The cup of Hind overflows with the wine of truth.

Philosophers of the Western world are its devotees.

The mysticism of her philosophers makes Hind’s star soar above all constellations.

Thousands of angels have descended to proclaim Hind’s name before the world.

And proud of his existence the discerning eye sees in Ram, a prophet.

The glow from this lamp of wisdom makes Hind’s evening more radiant

than the world’s daybreak. Valrous, brave, a master swordsman!

In purity, in love, Ram, was unmatched.

The bowl of India is full to the brim with the wine of Truth

All the philosophers of the Western world have acknowledged India

It is owing to the refined thinking of Indians

That India’s stature is even higher than the sky

This country has seen many people of an angelic disposition

Who have made the name of India recognisable in the world

India is proud of Rama’s very name

To the discerning he is Imam-e-Hind

Such is the miracle of the light of righteousness

That the Indian evening is brighter than the morning elsewhere in the world

Accomplished in sword-play, unparalleled in bravery

Matchless in purity and spirit of love.

The above Urdu couplets by Allama Iqbal constitute a part of his poetic work, Bāng-e-Darā (The Call of the Marching Bell), which is seen today as an extraordinarily unmatched tribute to the persona of Shri Rama.

As in Rama, his character was an example, so was in Sita—an ideal character for a husband-loving wife. Hazarat Inyat Khan, Indian Muslim Mystic and founder of Sufism in the West who was also father of Sufi Princess Noor Inayat Khan, hails the impeccable character of the divine couple—Shri Rama and Sita. He spoke in “The Sufi Message” on the Unity of Religious Ideals:

“The two were separated. Sita, who had followed Rama in his 12 (or 14) years of Vanavasa, roaming in the forest, was once left alone in the woods, for Rama had gone to fetch water. At that point, Sita disappeared, and only after great difficulty and grief were her traces found. She had been taken prisoner by Ravana. She had steadfastly lived for Rama in this captivity and would not yield to Ravana’s threats and temptations. Rama fought a battle with Ravana and brought Sita back home…..”

Then Hazrat Inayat Khan goes on to tell us the lessons that we must draw from this spiritual event: “This story shows how life is a struggle for everyone, to a greater or lesser degree. The outer nature of the struggle may be different for everyone, but at the same time, no one can live in the midst of this world and be without a struggle. In this struggle, the one who wins in the end has fulfilled the purpose of his life; the one who loses in the end has missed his purpose.

The life of Rama suggests that apart from spiritual strife, the struggle in the world is the first thing to face; and if one keeps to one’s own ideal through every and trial in life, one will surely arrive at a stage when one will be victorious. It does not matter how small the struggle may be, but it is the victory won at the end of every struggle, which is the power that leads man further on the path towards life’s goal. Man’s life, however great and spiritual, has its conditions, even the greatest man on earth. The most powerful soul will, for a moment, seem helpless. But it is not the beginning that counts. It is the end. It is the last note that a great soul strikes, which proves that soul to be real and true”.

Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi is founding editor of Word For Peace.portal