A Battle for the Soul of Pakistan

Beena Sarwar in The Wire:

ScreenHunter_2600 Feb. 19 17.04I wonder if the bangle sellers outside the shrine are alive. I still have some chunky glass bangles I bought, bargaining more for the sake of it than to save money.

Did the woman bouncing a little girl on her shoulders, chanting and dancing to an inner beat before the drums sounded, go back last Thursday? Did they survive the blast?

I saw them one Thursday last April when I went to Sehwan Sharif with friends from India who were in Pakistan to attend a wedding. Every week, the day before the Muslim holy day, Friday, draws the most crowds at the Sufi shrines that dot the landscape across South Asia.

Devotees believe that you only go to the dargah – the shrine built over the grave of a revered religious figure – when you are “called” to do so. I have been “called” to Sehwan Sharif several times.

These Sufi dargahs are a symbol of the region’s syncretic culture – the unique blend of Islam with local cultures. It was the Sufi philosopher-poets’ teachings of peace and love that led to the spread of Islam in the sub-continent. It is what today’s hard-line Islamists who draw their stark puritan ideology from Wahhabi teachings, are trying to counter.

More here.