Sufi meditation. Photo: YouTube
Sufi meditation. Photo: YouTube

Like any other country, Pakistan is not a monolithic entity. It has been changing and transforming but, unfortunately, it is nearly always projected as a country where only radical mindsets prevail. Its love for peace and harmony is disappointedly overlooked.

The centuries-old stream of Sufism runs deep in Pakistani culture and its people. The presence of various Sufi orders and their huge following in the country are reflective of this fact. These orders have been promoting peace and interfaith harmony. However, the endeavors of the Azeemi Sufi order are particularly laudable, which have been transforming Pakistan through meditation.

Today, meditation has become hugely popular in Pakistan. At present, there are almost 60 meditation halls that have been set up by the Azeemi Sufi order. Each Thursday and Friday, meditation is performed in these halls where men, women, and children participate in large numbers.

The number of participants grows manifold at an event of special importance. For instance, the number of participants reaches thousands in the annual Spiritual Workshop in Central Meditation Hall Karachi. On many other gatherings such as Adam Day, which the order marks as a day of celebration of one common lineage of entire mankind, the number of participants is also large. In this way, the meditation centers have become the avenues of celebrating and furthering interfaith harmony.

The Azeemi Sufi order has an altogether different outlook on religion and spiritualism if compared with the prevalent orthodox and radical ideologies of Islam. The patriarch of the order, Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi, who is truly an ambassador of peace and harmony, established a chain of meditation halls all across Pakistan. At first, he established a hall in Karachi in 1980, and afterward laid down a network of meditation halls across the country and spread the movement to international level. His meditation halls attracted highly educated and intellectual people, men and women alike, from all sects and religions.

These meditation halls are modern-day Khanqahs where not only the followers of the order but people across religions are invited. So they are a place for spiritual retreat, character reformation and revival of the spirit of interfaith harmony in Pakistan

Through these halls, he presented meditation as a multidimensional tool of acquiring inner peace, curing physical and mental illness, and learning the art of mind and spiritual sciences. It is refreshing to see that he is against any form of gender discrimination. Along with men, he put women in charge of the meditation halls. He worked toward understanding the significant place of women in the society. That is why he wrote a book, 101 Women Saints, which busts the prevalent myth that woman is in any inferior to man in either intellectual or spiritual abilities.

In these halls, meditation is being used as an instrument of transforming one’s pattern of thinking. The pioneer of color therapy in Pakistan, Khwaja Shamsuddin Azeemi believes in bringing change within. And the change can be brought about when a person abandons the false notions of absolutism and when he undertakes the journey of exploring the world present deep down himself.

He maintains that an individual who doesn’t know himself cannot truly know anything else. He has used various meanings and platform to encourage a neutral pattern of thinking. He is a prolific writer who has authored more than 80 books and numerous pamphlets. He is also the editor of two magazines, The Spiritual Digest and the Neutral Conscious (Qalandar Shaoor), which are very popular in Pakistan. It is because of his earnest efforts that, in 2015, The Watkins Mind Body and Spirit, added his name to its 100 most Spiritually Influential  Living People List.

These meditation halls are modern-day Khanqahs (buildings designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood) where not only the followers of the order but people across religions are invited. So they are a place for spiritual retreat, character reformation, and revival of interfaith harmony in Pakistan. These modern-day Khanqahs have become a place where the downtrodden of society – the liberals, the secularists, and the adherents of any ideology – are treated without any discrimination and judgment. The meditation hall is the Khanqah of a Sufi who has opened his arms for everyone who is willing to look within and merge itself in the neutral yet universal consciousness.

It is true that Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq’s legacy of radical ideologies still haunts the country but it is equally true that Sufis’ legacies and teachings have always emerged as a counter-force to his legacy. Sufism is a school of thought that can bring people of various nations together leading. Yet it is necessary that the evolution of Pakistan must be highlighted in national and international media. The evolving face of Pakistan, in terms of mind and spiritual sciences, is worthy of being presented proudly to the world.

Ume Farwa is a Researcher in India Study Center (ISC) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI), Pakistan. She is a proponent of Global IR and Spritualism as a new pathway in IR discourse and practices. She is a humanist and advocates for the rights of woman and man as well.

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