Monday, March 8, 2010

Sayed Pir Mehr Ali Shah (R.A.): Knowledge, Tolerance, Balance & Moderation

Sayed Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra (Islamabad District, 1859 – 1937)

The life of one of the most illustrious of Islamic scholars and Sufis in the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent Hadrat Sayed Pir Meher Ali Shah of Golra  exemplifies what a poet has summed up in a beautiful Persian verse:

I do not ask thee to forsake the world
 only be with God - Remember Him - wherever thou mayst be

In the 25th generation, Hadrat Meher ‘Ali Shah descended from a scholar and sage of unequalled renown in the Muslim world, namely, Hadrat Shaikh ‘Abdul Qadir Gilani.   Having equipped himself with the knowledge of all aspects of the Islamic shariah (temporal code), Hadrat diverted his attention, in line with the family tradition, to the spiritual field. He was first initiated into his ancestral Qadiriyah sufi school by his father’s maternal uncle, Pir Fadal uddin. Later, for further spiritual elevation, he sought induction into the Chishtiyah Nizamiyah order at the hands of its leading contemporary light, Hadrat Khwaja Shamsuddin of Siyal Sharif (distt. Sargodha, the Punjab).

            Sayed Pir Meher Ali Shah attained rare scholarly and spiritual heights, imparted religious knowledge and guidance to thousands of seekers, and provided solace and prayers to the myriad others that thronged to him for this purpose. 

            Both as a scholar, a sufi, and a human being, Hadrat’s method was marked by that balance and moderation which is the essence of Islam, which distinguishes it from other great faiths known to man, and of which the Holy Prophet (PBUH) himself was the epitome and the perfect exemplar.

            In a long life fully and cleanly lived, Hadrat maintained an exquisite balance between his religious and secular obligations.

            In the former sphere, he imparted religious and spiritual light to hundreds of thousands; taught the famous Mathnavi of Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi, and the writings of Shaikh Mohyuddin Ibn-ul-Arabi; issued fatawa, authoritative rulings) on important religious issues referred to him; participated in scholarly religious debates when ever this became absolutely necessary; campaigned untiringly and effectively against movements seeking to disrupt the Muslim community; and indulged ceaselessly in meditation, prayer, and remembrance of the Supreme Being which is the essence of Islam.

            In the secular sphere, he maintained all family and other wordly relationships and did so in strict accord with the Islamic shariah.

            On religious issues, Hadrat’s approach, unlike that of some of his contemporaries, was based on absolute moderation and tolerance for points of view different from his own. 

            On those rare occasions when it became absolutely necessary to express his disagreement with others, he would do so very mildly and in the most refined manner so as not to give the slightest offence. For example, in relation to a religious scholar who was and is held in high esteem by a particular sect of Muslims, he once observed: “His scholarly greatness and his services to Islam are beyond dispute. However, on certain issues on which there is consensus among the Muslim ummah, he has chosen to adopt an extreme and a rigid stance. (cf. Mehr-e-Munir, op. cit. , p. 142.” 

            This attribute of Hadrat helps prove the truth of the view expressed by a present-day scholar that “there is a linear relationship between the depth of knowledge and the degree of tolerance.”

Carefully avoiding the extremes of the various sects that have created everlasting schisms in the Muslim ummah over the centuries, Hadrat exhorted his followers and others to always emphasise the points of union rather than those of disunity. Averse to petty sectarian controversies, he nevertheless did participated at times in debates involving fundamental religious questions concerned with the preservation of the pristine purity of Islam. 

For example, he stood up firmly against those new sects which tended to reject the Prophet’s hadith as an authentic source of the Islamic shariah and to rely on the Qur’an as the sole such source. He also strongly repudiated views involving the slightest disrespect to the august personality of the Prophet (PBUH) of Islam. 

Even in these matters, however, while he invariable clinched the issue with brilliant decisive points, he never indulged in the acrimony usually associated with such occasions. His fatawa (rulings) on religious issues were marked by the same moderation. Except for the Qadianis who blatantly infringed the fundamental Islamic doctrine of the finality of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), he never denounced any other of the parochial Muslim sects as kafir (infidel). Instead, he tried, most often successfully, to bring them round to the correct point of view through persuasion and patient argument. In brief, he sought to resolve rather than aggravate parochial differences, to promote love and understanding rather than fan hatred and acrimony, and to forge unity rather than foster schism.

Read more:

Poetry of Pir Mehr Ali Shah (R.A.):

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