A SOCIO-PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY OF PIRI-MURIDI.

Author:Younas, Sana
  1. Introduction

    Sufism has a remarkable history in Pakistan and in the South Asian region, emerging for over thousands of years. Islam is the state religion of Pakistan, observed by 97% of the population and the remaining 3% practice Hinduism and Buddhism (Haub and Kaneda 2013). Gurdwaras and Sikhism that are situated at Nankana Sahib (district of Punjab) and Hasan Abdal has spiritual attraction for Sikhs all around the globe. Sufis and saints have a great attraction for pilgrims from diverse areas. In Pakistan, huge numbers of shrines are located which include, Bahauddin Zakaria, Data Ganj Bakhsh, Shah Abdul Latif Bhattai, Baba Farid, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Shah Hussain, and Mian Mir where thousands of devotees gather. This religious gathering takes the form of a spiritual and religious experience (Iqbal, Ali, Shabbir, and Saleem 2016). The Sufi shrines have been maintained by the hereditary saints (Pirs) who continuously ruled a lot of inhabitants.

    Piri-Muridi (master-disciple) relationship is one of the most important dimensions of spiritual behavior among its all other widely spread dimensions, which have profound tangled origins in Pakistani society. In Pakistan, Piri-Muridi is basically characterized at two stages. The populist Sufism of the rural masses is the first stage which is connected with spiritual services and religious ceremonies that believe in the powers of intercessory saints, pilgrimage and great reverence at their shrines, and second stage is a spiritual relationship that binds the Pir (spiritual guide, holy man) and Murid (disciple) (Khan 2015).

    There is a prevalent misapprehension about Sufism that it is separate from true essence of religion and that it educates the rejection of the world (van Bruinessen 2009). As far as authentic Sufisim and Piri-Muridi relationship is concerned, this is not true. Sufism does not teach the rejection of the world, instead it teaches the rejection of worldliness. It has been found that the standard to determine the accurate ideology is that it must not deny any essential requirement of life. All aspects of life are taken into account by a suitable and momentous ideology. This is the case with Piri-Muridi. It awakens the deeper realities of human life, emphasized on the core values and ultimately provides suitable direction for all characteristics of life (Khan 2015). But with the passage of time and with the evolution of culture and science, there came changes in every sphere of life. Among them Sufism and Piri-Muridi institution is also one to mention. The causal factors for the growth and changes in the institution of Piri-Muridi are discussed in the subsequent sections.

  2. Causal factors for changes in Piri-Muridi

    Piri-Muridi is surviving to an extent that it is affected by changes in society in Pirs and Murids. Above all, Sufism does not survive in an empty space. Like any other religious discourse and practice, Piri-Muridi is affected and influenced by broader cultural, political, and social forces (Cassanova as cited in Malik 2007).

    2.1. Political and economic factors

    It has been found that as the Sufi rituals developed, a partial split occurred within Sufism as the spiritual authority passed from spiritual instructor to trained follower. The Murid anticipated the role of Pir as a spiritual mediator. The common example of such Pir is the concept of traditional Sajjada-Nishins (successors of Pirs). Moreover, as part of Ayub's (1961) modernization program, though most of the main shrines came under the control of government except the real organization of the shrines, the management of various religious activities, and the celebration of religious festivals continued under the supervision of the original Sajjadah Nishins (successors of Pirs). Further, it has been reported that some of these Pir's families used their spiritual power to get elections in the national and provincial governments (Hassanali 2009).

    2.2. Pir is not a mediator but rather a barrier (in path of God)

    According to Islamic perspective, if one has true faith in God, then one will approach Him in one's own personal way through formal prayer namaz or salat or dua (prayer) (Kabbani 2017). People having a strong belief will place their needs, difficulties, and wishes before Him and supplicate for His aid and help. On the other hand, people who follow Piri-Muridi institute ask for Pir's help. The belief that when the Pir prays on one's behalf, he stands between the individual and one's God. He is not a medium, as he claims, but a barrier. This is equivalent to preaching and encouraging an escape from God.

    2.3. Invitation to shirk (idolatry)

    Of all the damaging effects of Piri-Muridi, the most pernicious is the tendency to practice and encourage shirk (idolatry). According to Islam, shirk (idolatry) in all its varieties, is a sin beyond forgiveness. It includes the asking of favors from humans, dead or alive, ancestor worship, tomb worship, and the giving of loyalty to any ideology or 'ism' or concept which rejects God as the only source of all power, and therefore His Oneness (Aziz 2001: 148).

    Even though the institute of Piri-Muridi suffered from negative changes in the society, but the shrines of Sufi saints still have significant importance. Their social, political, economic, cultural, and religious importance will always be considerable (Abbas, Qureshi, Safdar, and Zakar 2013, Kreiner 2010, Platteau 2011). The tradition of visiting the shrines of Sufi saints for religious and spiritual purposes, fulfillment of desires and wishes, washing off sins, and Pir as a Waseela (medium between individual and God) has been a common practice since older times (Frembgen 2012).

    According to Brewster (2011) visiting the shrines has traditionally been considered as a source of purification of the soul, body, and attainment of spiritual rewards. The researchers in the field of Psychology did not address the nature of problems or needs which compelled the people to visit holy shrines or Pir' s places. The present study is unique in this sense to cover this gap. As per the available literature, following are the various reasons for inclination towards Piri-Muridi.

    2.4. Reasons for inclination towards Piri-Muridi

    Most of the followers of Piri-Muridi described their living situation as stressful because of scarcity of resources, poor interpersonal relationships, feeling that they will be dependent on their children and family in near future, health related problems, lack of inner satisfaction and peace and poor economic conditions (Pirani, Papadopoulos, Foster, and Leavey 2008). These troubles of life are considered to worsen their physical and mental health (Glik 1988). People feel great sense of pleasure and contentment after visiting their Pir or a Sufi shrine (Levin 2008, Rhi 2001). They offer mannat (vow) to fulfill their desires and wishes of life. Furthermore, they use the Sufi shrines to gain economic power, political support, and also social power and status (Veer 2002).

    Sufi shrines were in use for a variety of reasons (Farooq and Kiyani 2012). Most people who visit shrines belonged to marginalized segments of society (Abbas 2010, Ewing 1983) and they are usually of low socioeconomic status (Frembgen 2012). During the time when the eve of Urs (death ceremony of Pir) is near, all the followers of Pir and marginalized people including Hijras (transvestites), Malangs (religious mendicants), prostitutes, singers, etc. attend the ceremony with full enthusiasm (Chaudhary 2010). It has been found that Dhamal (spiritual dance) is also a feature of visitors of shrines particularly in the provinces of Sindh and the Punjab (Frembgen 2012). Many followers of Piri-Muridi visit these shrines and perform other rituals, which mainly include giving donations (money or kind). Most of the time free food is provided at shrines and it draws attention of poor people living in the nearby areas (Khan and Sajid 2011).

    In addition to that the shrines also attract tourists from different parts of the country. A variety of amalgamations of creative and multicolored religious carnivals are the major inducements for non-believers of Piri-Muridi, as well as the worldly sightseers (Nolan and Nolan 1992). Furthermore, the motive of some people other than tourism is also to manage their psychological problems (Levin 2008).

    The followers of Piri-Muridi had strong belief in the blessings of the Sufi shrines as they believe that their life is directed by the Sufis. They regularly visit the Sufi shrines. The visitors engaged in different rituals like offering of prayers, recitation of Holy Quran, donating free food, Dhamal (a Sufi dance sending devotees into a state of trance), Chaddar Charhana (Sufiritual) taking Taweez (amulet), tasting the salt, and eating sweets (Chaudhary 2010).

    2.5. Social factors affecting people's perception

    On the other hand, many devotees face problems in pursuit of getting spiritual healing through Pirs. A recent incident took place in Sargodha (city of Punjab) where a fake saint along with his four companions confessed that they killed twenty devotees with batons and knives because they feared that they had come to kill the shrine custodian (fake Pir). The suspect appeared...

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