Sufi Sarmad and Maulana Azad

Few know that Maulana Azad was an admirer of Sarmad, the naked saint beheaded by Aurangzeb.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2006 12:09 IST

Few knowthat Maulana Azad, our first education minister, who passed away this day 48 years ago, was an ardent admirer of Sarmad, the naked saint beheaded by Aurangzeb. Sarmad's enlightening influence shaped Azad's worldview on the underlying unity of all world religions, as evident in Azad's Tarjumanul-Quran and Wahdat-e-Deen.

Sarmad through his poetry comes out cleaner and more loyal and true to God than his persecutor:
Sarmad! Gila ikhtesar mibayad kard,
Yak kaar az ein do kaar mi bayad kard,
Ya tan be raza-ai dost mi bayad daad,
Ya jaan barahash nisaar mi bayad kard.

(O Sarmad! Shorten your complaint,
Of two choices, take one;
Either surrender your body to the will of your Friend,
Or offer to sacrifice your soul).

Azad, under the light of Sarmad's philosophy wrote that the path of God in every corner of the world was identical. "The Holy Quran tells us that all the prophets God sent, no matter at what time or in what part of the world, all gave the same lesson: Aalamgir Qanun-eSa'adat, meaning God's universal law of felicity. This law is the worship of one God through aamal-e-saaleh (deeds of piety)."

Sarmad in his state of ecstasy cast off all worldly shackles, in cluding clothes. Azad himself wore old, patched shervanis. Once, Azad's secretary Ajmal Khan pointed out the patches when Azad was leaving to in augurate the Sahitya Akademi, but Azad shot back that nobody would notice, they'd listen to his speech instead.

Indeed, when Gandhi and Nehru called on Azad in Kolkata during the freedom struggle, they found him in a torn kurta. Gandhi said gently, "Maulana Sahab! Agar kuchh mali bohran hai to bina jhijak bata dein." (If there is any economic crisis, kindly tell without hesitation). But Azad smiled and refused.

Sarmad's humanist voice speaks through Azad's writings: "Although religion is meant to unite people and show them the path of righteous living, it is ironical that frequently violence is perpetrated against innocent men, women and children in its name. No religion approves of prejudices, hatred, extremism and violence."

First Published: Feb 22, 2006 12:02 IST