‘Tareeqat—7 Elements of Living Sufism in Pakistan’ comes from Dr Kamran Ahmad who has previously authored ‘Roots of Religious Tolerance in Pakistan and India’. Having had a PhD in South Asian Spirituality with international teaching experience of both Religion and Psychology, apart from extensive international travelling, exploring various spiritual traditions including several Sufi Orders, he is able to pull out the essential elements of spirituality that underlie the different religious forms, and identify them in the everyday life of Pakistan.
The book has an attractive cover showing an indigenous oil lamp burning in the middle of a carved wall opening in a shrine, introducing one to a spiritual journey. Its contents include the Introduction–essentials of spirituality along with its theoretical/historical base; 7 vital elements of our everyday spirituality i.e., Ishq, Rawabit, Tawakkul, Aks-e-Muqaddas, Rawadari, Wahdat-ul-Wujud and Jamaliat; Meezan (balance of all the elements); and finally, Reminders, embodying the crux of every element. The book also includes the Shadow sides of some of the elements, which tell us what damage can be done individually and collectively if an element of spirituality loses its balance with the other elements. Lastly, after each element of spirituality, useful exercises and practices have also been recommended that can enhance that aspect of spirituality further within our lives.
The message of the book is universally appealing and attempts to revive our 11,000 years’ old heritage of Sufism in the present society. Looking at the hatred, division and violence in our midst today, we need to actively preserve and reclaim our forgotten roots. It highlights the importance of love and heart matters, family and community relationships, submission to the will of a loving God, the Sacred as reflected in names and forms, pluralism and respectful tolerance, sacredness of everyday life, and beauty and creativity. All these spiritual elements experienced in daily life will ensure a peaceful society free of harsh judgments for others, resulting in intolerance and subsequent violence. The book rightly urges us to cleanse and open our heart to compassion and love; to bring our heart to life and soften and deepen it. It talks about the beauty of the life spiritually-lived, with love for all and prejudice for none.
‘Tareeqat’ is based on direct experiences with spiritual people and practices in this region and in other parts of the world. Even more than that, this book is based on an appreciation of the essence of the spirit in the everyday life of this land. Given the need today, it is an acknowledgement, a bringing to light, a seeing of that which already resides in the psyche and the spirit of the people of this land. The crux is to keep our heart and spirit alive, in a way that is the heritage and the pride of this land.
The author has conveyed his point of reviving our Sufi heritage very effectively. According to him, we do not need to re-learn our religion and spirituality. The spirit runs strong and deep in our everyday lives and relationships. We just need to recognize it for what it is, embrace it with love, and live it with pride, in its eternal flow, in its ever-changing forms! The book is a richly woven visual feast, decorated with magnificent images of our spiritual heritage (shrines, mosques, and diverse cultural and religious items) as well as excerpts of famous Sufi poetry. It reminds us of how little it takes to enrich our lives by mindfully incorporating our indigenous, lived elements of spirituality. Renowned social activist Dr Fouzia Saeed sums up the whole message of the book perfectly in these words:
“This book is exactly what we needed at this critical juncture in our cultural and religious lives. For me, the most beneficial part of the book is the practical guidance it provides to incorporate the 7 elements of spirituality in our lives. It is almost like a manual for rediscovering peace within us and in our society. This book touched the inner core of my soul.”