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    Posted on 20 April 2012
    CULTURE & SOCIETY  
    BOOK REVIEW

    ‘Sufism isn’t a fashion statement but a quest for union with God’

    Jashn-e-Khusrau unearths facets of Sufism that make the tradition dynamic, says Sadia Dehlvi

    Jashn- E  Khusrau

    Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection
    Roli Books & Agha Khan Trust For Culture
    Pages: 221


    The last decade has witnessed innovations such as Sufi Yoga and Sufi Kathak. Bare-chested men have been dancing at Sufi festivals marketed in the name of Khusrau. New age gurus continue to recycle selective writings of Mevlana Rumi and Amir Khusrau to produce what I call “bubble gum spirituality”. Such innovations make mockery of both Sufism and Hazrat Amir Khusrau, one of the great poets of the region.

    Sufism is not a fashion statement but a serious quest for union with God. Much like other religions, Islam too has a mystical dimension. This spiritual current, known as tasawuff, later came to be called Sufism. It represents the vibrancy of Islam in adapting to different cultures, allowing for diversity of devotional expressions while affirming unity of faith. In the subcontinent, this plurality is exemplified by the life of the towering 13th century Sufi Master Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and his beloved disciple Amir Khusrau.

    Produced by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection does not succumb to popular notions of Sufi traditions. It presents a genuine understanding of Sufiana Qawaali and its pivotal role in Zikr, remembrance of the Divine at sama mehfils, collective gatherings held to induce spiritual experience. The text focuses on how the Hindawi Kalaam of Khusrau, who venerates his mystic master, celebrates local language and cultures, defines the essence of Qawaali and gives it a universal appeal. Jashn-e-Khusrau, both the festival and the book, take Amir Khusrau to the place where he lies entombed, the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti, a place at the core of Delhi’s history and culture.

    The first essay by Sunil Sharma, who teaches Persian literature at Boston University, details the vast and diverse nature of Khusrau’s work. Regula Qureshi, the sole ethnomusicologist to work on genre of Qawaali, pens an insightful history of the popular genre. The third and final essay by Irfan Zuberi on art, artists and patronage of the Qawaals in Basti Nizamuddin, outlines the close symbiosis between the Qawaals and their patrons at the dargah. It rightfully calls for the conservation of the 700-year-old settlement, its traditions and monuments.

    The illuminated manuscripts in Jashn-e-Khusrau are sourced from museums around the world. Rather than just serve as decorative miniature paintings and calligraphies, these folios illustrate the literary work of Amir Khusrau and Amir Hasan, a fellow poet and disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin.

    The three CDs, elegantly cased within the folds of the book, are a compilation of the six Qawaali performances held by the Agha Khan Trust. The collection from the festival Jashn-e-Khusrau includes some of the best Qawaals from India and Pakistan, including Meeraj Nizami, Ghaus Muhammad Nasir Niazi, Muhammad Ahmed Warsi Naziri, Farid Ayaz and Abu Muhammad. Khusrau’s poetry is sung in the traditional style as across the dargahs of South Asia. The rendition and choice of poetry, both in Hindawi and Persian, are amongst the finest I have heard. The second part of the book has around 25 pages devoted to Kalaam, where the complete poetry of the recitals rendered in the CD are inscribed in Urdu with a transliteration in the Roman script, along with English translations by scholars like SM Yunu Jaffery, Saleem Qidwai, Paul Losensky and Sunil Sharma.

    Jashn e Khusrau: A Collection recounts Amir Khusrau’s contribution to India’s contemporary identity and continuing traditions. The wonderful pictures, essays, and Qawaalis make Jashn-e-Khusrau: A Collection, a treasure for lovers of Sufism and Qawaali.


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    Posted on 20 April 2012
 

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