In Search of The Divine: Rana Safvi's book enthralls, grips, opens door to the world of Sufis and Sufism for readers
Shams Ur Rehman Alavi
BHOPAL: Firstly, let me confess that when I opened Rana Safvi's book, I thought it'd take me at least a week to finish it.
What I expected was a scholarly and academic book. It is indeed scholarly, full of insights but what strikes is the beauty of the language, the flow and the manner in which the author makes the reader saunter into the world of Sufis and Sufism.
The journey to hospices across India and the Sufi practices in the major 'khaanqaahs' apart, this book brings to reader so much information and in depth knowledge about Islam, the world of mystics and the unique elements of communal harmony in our society, that the reader gets hooked.
Generally, when I pick up a book, I read 30 to 40 pages a day. However, Safvi has written it in such a lucid manner that her experiences bring a unique perspective and one gets totally lost into the book. I had to go to my hometown in another state and because I had begun reading and had got immersed in it, I took the book along and finished it within just a couple of days.
Are you aware about the Dargah where Lord Krishna is praised, repeatedly appears in Sufi poetry and is considered 'Arif Haqeeqat Shinaas' or the place where a Parsi woman who lit lamp for Hazrat Ali came? Have you heard about the Dargah where every newly added car to the police department cavalcade is brought, for the Sufi Saint's blessings?
The book tells us about Sufi views and interpretations, the mystical experiences and even reveals the finer differences, the Sunni and Shia views as well as different versions, in a fair and very balanced manner. All this and so much more is part of the voluminous but fascinating book.
Safvi's hard work is reflected on each and every page. She connects the reader to the subject with finesse and joins the dots with elegance, explaining how Sufism stems out of Islam. The book is written in a way that a reader who doesn't have much information about Islam or Sufism, will get acquainted and get sound knowledge about the subject.
Even for those who are well aware of Sufism, this is a book that brings interesting anecdotes, minute details and rare information. I'm not sure how much time she took in completing the book but it has so much information that it surprises the reader, at times, even overwhelms. The poetry and poets' works quoted in the book, have been translated in English as well.
Clearly, she has researched a lot, taken a long personal journey that has given her so much experience that it gets reflected in each chapter. In fact, one must say that she has accomplished a big task because already there were some books on Sufism, including academics like Annemarie Schiimmel.
But, 'In Search of the Divine' is a book that quenches your thirst and you feel enriched after reading it. One can only imagine the immense effort that is behind the book. It should, in fact, inspire people to delve deep into the subjects they focus on and write with similar passion that the writers' itinerary and info come alive in the text.
From her visits to Raisen and Jaora, Mumbai and Lucknow, Burhanpur and Aurangabad or the East, the doors to the world of Sufism open after the other as we read it. The book has chapters on Chishtis, Qadriyas and other silisilahs, brings to fore lives of Sheikh Abdul Qadir Jilani, Muinuddin Chisti, Bakhtiyar Kaki, Nizamuddin Auliya and the Sufi masters in different parts of the country.
The book also delves into Islamic history and offers a glimpse into the schism between Kings and the Sufis who came to conflict at times. It runs into 400 pages. After finishing it, I felt that it will surely become a 'must read' book for anyone who wants to explore Sufism and Sufi practices. Hachette India has published this book and it can be ordered online at Amazon.