BACKGROUND OF SUFIS AND SHIRDI SAI BABA. THE SUFI SAINT

Simplicity, renunciation, equanimity simple living, reliance on Cod such are the attributes to a true 'Sufi1. Sri Shirdi Sai Baba possessed all these attributes and considered to be a Sufi Saint by his life time Sufi Saints Hazarath Bannemia (Avadhutha) and Abdul Baba etc.,

In brief, the origin of the Sufi and background of the sufism ("Tasawwuf") is to be known from Islamic tradition as under.

According to the consensus of public opinion, however} the word of sufi is derived from 'Soof' which means wool. Because, the prophets, walees and great saints of the past generally used to wear cloth made of wool, therefore Islamic mystics foil owed their sacred tradition and used the same dress of wool and were called sufis (wearers of soof). The first person to assure the title of sufi was said to be Abu Hasham Kufi.

Strictly speaking, the Arabic word Sufi like the Sanskrit word 'Yogi’, refers only to one, who has attained the goal, neverthless, it is often applied by extension to intiate who are merely travelling towards spiritual path.

Imam al Chazali of Iran, played an -distinguished role in the history of Islam and Sufism. Through his exordinary intelligence, he became perfect in theological knowledge at the age of 28 and became the principal to Nizamia University of Baghdad. He attained world wide prominence by coming in contact with various religious scholars, martyrs and intellectual giants of his day. These free thinking lecturers were preserved in many volumes by scholars and intellectuals. But, the mystical writings of great sufi like Bazazid, Bastami Junaid changed his attitude and made him bid good bye at one stroke to all the high offices, honour and riches. He donned a woolen blanket and renounced all attachments to the world. And thus, Imam Al Ghazali became a sufi dervish at the age of 38 by keeping the knowledge of sufism in practice.

He brought not only the deeper meanings of the verse of Quran but also showed with copious quotations from the traditions of the prophet may the words of the sufis in this deeper sense and meanings were not antagonistic to the scriptures of the Islam but were in consonance with them. It was infact he who brought the ascetic and quietist sufis to take to the training of emotions through 'Sama' (Quawwalis). He used to say that having entirely surrendered my own free will to God, my heart had no longer felt any distress in renouncing wealth, fame, honour, society or my children.

His last minute of his life are recorded as under. It was Monday Imam Ghazali woke up hale and healthy from his bed in the morning offered oblations and his namaz. He then called his coffin cloth and touching it with his eyes, spread his feet arid lo people found that he dead and gone no pains, no last minute excruciatious of death. In this way, Imam Al Ghazali had given a firmed and assured place to the sufism in the church of Islam (Islam means the religion of universal love and peace).

Hazarath Khwaja, Muinuddin chist popularly known as 'Khwaja Gharib Nawaz' was the founder of chistia order of sufis in India. He was one of the most outstanding figures in the history of Islamic mysticism. On completion of his academic theological education courses, brilliantly in 5 years, he became a devoted mureed of Hazarath Khwja Osman Haroomi of Harvan, a great sufi mystic of his time. After full 20 years hard training in Islamic mysticism under this great Pir-o-Murshad (religious master), Hazarath Khaja Muinuddin was once again divinely inspired from Mecca and Madina to go to Ajmer (Hindustan) to preach the gospel of universal truth and brotherhood through sufism. He arrived India at the age of 52 and settled down at Ajmer in the teeth of staunch opposition and conducted his sacred mission to all over the country from there in 44 years before passing away in 1236 A.D.

These noble teachings to his beloved Khalifas are worth mentioning here as to how, our Shirdi Sai perfectly followed them in his routine day to day life and praised by several Muslim saints like Bannemiah, and Syed Jalahuddin of redhills, and Fakir Shamsuddin of Aurangabad. ''Love all and hate none' , mere talks of god and religion will not take you far. Be surcharged with peace and joy and scatter them where you are and where ever you go. Be a blazing flame of truth, be a beautous blossom of love, and be a soothing balm of peace. Never seek any help, charity or favours from any body except God.  Never go to the courts of kings but never refuse to bless and help the needy and the poor, the widow and the orphan if they came to your door. This is our mission of peace to serve the people of Hindustan carry it dutifully so that I as your pir, may not be ashamed of any sort comings on your part before the Almighty God and hold predecessors in the silsila of the day of kayamath. The message of sufism is not for muslims alone, it is universal message for the emancipation of humankind.

Practices of sufi saints :

The following are the practices of sufis in order to harness all feelings and emotions in establishing communion with Allah.

(a)       Ziikre-e-jehr reciting the names of Allah loudly, sitting in the prescribed posture at prescribed times.

(b)       Zikr-e-Khafi reciting the names of Allah silently.

(c)        Pass-e-Anfaas -- regulation of breath.

(d)       Mura quabu, absorption in contemplation.

(e)       Chilla - forty days of spirtual confinement in a lonely corner or cell in prayer and contemplation.

The efficiency of audition parties (sama) in attaining a mystic heart to the infinite and eternal was emphasized. Some chisty mystics notably Hazarath Fariduddin Ganj Shakar and his Pin 0 Murshad Hazarath Khaja Quatubuddin Bhakthar Kaki believed in Chillo - E - Makoos (inverted chilla) also, one who practice this tied up a rope to his feet and had his body lowered into a well and offered prayers in this posture in forty nights.

The above spiritual practise was also made by Shirdi Sai Baba through his guru advice as was informed to his devotees by him in his life time. Recently, Avadutha Venkaiah Swamy of Colagamudi, (Nellore District) Andhra Pradesh,was also practised to get spirtual powers.

Further   the   sufi  must  give  his   love  and   sympathy indiscrimately to all creatures of tgod like irrespective of all religions.  For him, service means whatever he does, he does it for the sake of God without expecting rewards.

Behaviour of the sufi saint :

The behaviour of the sufi follows the hints as under.

(1)       A sufi must staunchly adhere to the commandments of God and traditions of the prophet.

(2)       A sufi must necessary maintain cordial relations with the public indiscriminately.

(3)       A sufi must seek the company of other great sufis as far as possible.

(4)       A sufi must we! come all who came to him with love and due regard.

(5)       If a sufi under takes a journey, it should be strictly for the sake of God (i.e) for Hajee, Jehod, seeking of knowledge or visitings the tombs and shrines of saints.

(6)       A sufi must eat very little like a patient and his food should have been procured by honest means. He must try to avoid invitations from the worldly people.

(7)       A sufi must never go to the courts of kings and must refuse to accept any kind of rewards or gratification's for his maintenance.

(8)       A sufi must walk in all humility without the slightest tinge or pride or vanity.

(9)       A sufi must sleep a little as possible in orderto save time for his devotional duties.

(10)     A sufi must observe silence because silence is better than speech. But if he must speak taking in favour of God and truth is always better than silence.

(11)     Bachelor ship for a sufi is against Sunndh (Sariath Law) but if he wishes to be aloof of world then it is his ornament,

Hazarath Nizamuddin Aulia of Delhi, who also celibate sufi saint. He magnatized the people towards truth, righteousness and discipline by his noble teachings, exemplary personal conduct and in undiscriminating love, so that, most of the people surrendered themselves voluntarily to obey his commandants. Shirdi Sai Baba also preached the concept of one God through word and deed. Though Sai shed his mortal coils in 1918, yet he even today responds to the earnest yearnings and prayer of all people in distress. Thousands of people of different religions and nationalities ,are becoming Sai devotees each day having came under the fold of this magnanimous grace and experiencing some sort of thrilling miracle in their lives. So that, now, Sainath be living force, an eternal light of inner guidance to seekers. Like, Hazarath Nizamuddin, who made the miracle that the water as oil in the lamps in the nights, while the labours completing the construction of Baoli (a tanker or reservoir of water), Shirdi Sainath also made the miracle of converting the water as oil. and lit several lamps in his life time in the Masjid (Dwarakamai) when no oil vendor offered oil to him. On perusal of Shirdi Sai routine life in the book Saibaba, the Master written by Sri Acharya E. Bharadwaja or Sai Satcharithra, it is found that the mystical practices and behaviours of sufi saints had been followed scrupulously by Shirdi Sainath in life time. The sufi practice of ‘Sama' was very much enjoyed by Baba in Takia. Saibaba also often attended to music, singing Kabir's, Arabic songs and his own bhajans and songs. At present, when we see the samadhi of Shirdi Saibaba it' reveals that his mortal frame was buried with Head at North side and his foot at South side. Actually, the Hindus would bury the dead body with Head at south side and foot at north side. The way of bury of the mortal frame of Shirdi Sainath is definitely like the nature of sufi saint in Islamic tradition. His wonderful miracles like converting the water into oil. (ii) Sleeping in one plank, which was holded with small rags by keeping lamps at all corners. (iii) Keeping the tile as sacred gift of Guru, through out his life. (iv) Spiritual practice of hanging him with rope as head downwards from a tree into a well, was also made by his former sufi saints in spiritual mystical training or practice.

A perusal of the Gospel of Sai Baba shows that Baba valued social ties and never condemned them. So that, the Sai Baba was the living emblem of Hindu Muslim unity. Baba’s prescription for peace and happiness was love all creatures, do not fight with any one, do not retaliate or scandalize any. If any one hate us, let us simply take to Namajapa and avoid their company. If any one talks ten words at us, if we reply at all, let us reply one word. Do not quarrel, retaliate or boundy words with any one. Do not gwe tit for tat.

Further, Baba did not support Hindu or Muslim orthodoxy or any other orthodoxy (for the matter of that, where it* was devoid or benefit and really stood in the way of spiritual enlightenment and advancement). He never destroyed the existing faith in an> religion but built upon it. He discouraged proselytism. He wanted each person to stick to his own religion, sampradaya his Guru etc., for getting enlightenment in spiritual path.

He enabled people to attain the fruitations of their efforts by gradually refining, inspiring and transforming their inwardness and most of them ended by seeing him as their god and Guru working for the achievement of their life goals which they could command anywhere and every where at any time. Thus Baba held the true religion based on love, equality, justice, the religion that raised us from flush to the spirit, the absorption into which must be the goal of all religious endeavor. In .his presence all religions were treated with equal respect and consideration and the feelings of the visitors were carefully respected. Eventually, Baba became the center of converging faith at Shirdi.

With the above foregoings facts, it is certain to say that Shirdi Sai followed the mystical ways of all the religions in his day to day routine life without disrespecting any religion verbally. The same mystical path ma^ be available in the sufi mysticism. Hence, Shirdi Sai was undoubtedly acted as perfect sufi saintr .Since his actions were also appreciated by several muslim saints and Hindu saints of his time.

M.K. ANANDA VENKATESWARLU, M.Sc.,

Asst.Comml.Tax Officer (Intelligence)

KURNOOL-3. A.P.