Sufi Islam Versus Salafi Islam
Dawn, 14 Feb, 2009
Recently, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani lauded the role Sufi Islam could play in keeping the society away from religious extremism. Lest we consider this a personal bias, since he represents the Sufi tradition himself, similar sentiments were expressed by others as well. One such example is the 2007 RAND Corporation paper, Building Moderate Muslim Networks, which identifies Sufi Islam as one of the potential forces within an Islamic society that must be strengthened to fight the rising intolerance, extremism, and violence in Muslim societies. Although the RAND report pertained to the Middle East, it could be equally applied to Pakistan, which suffers from a high risk of religious conservatism often bordering on extremism.
Pakistan, in fact, makes an interesting case study for the battle between Sufi Islam and the much more rabid Salafi Islam for two obvious reasons. First, it is a country with equally dominant traditions and institutions of Sufi Islam that were critical in spreading the religion in the Indian Subcontinent. For that reason, many argue that Punjab, especially southern Punjab, which has drawn international attention particularly after the Mumbai attacks, cannot fall to Salafi Islam because it is a hub of Sufi – or what is popularly known as Barelvi – Islam. The wife of Pakistan’s ambassador to the US, Farahnaz Isphani, expressed such views a few months ago in a CNN interview. Second, unlike Turkey, where Sufi institutions were throttled by Kamal Attaturk, or Saudi Arabia, where the state shut down similar institutions to accommodate Salafi Islam, Sufi traditions have continued to thrive in Pakistan.
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On Sufism, see
Sufism - sufis - Sufi Orders By Dr. Alan Godlas
Garden of Truth: The Vision and Promise of Sufism, Islam's Mystical Tradition - By Hossein Nasr
Pakistan's mystical Islam thrives - BBC
On Salafism, See
Salafi - From Wikipedia