A Tamil Muslim Saint: Bawa Muhaiyaddeen

It may not be a well-known fact, but there are many Tamilian Muslims: in India, in northern Sri Lanka, in Malaysia and Singapore, and wherever Tamilians reside.

The greatest of them all in our time was a much-beloved Sufi shaykh, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen. He came from northern Sri Lanka, and spent the last part of his long life in Philadelphia, where he brought many Americans to an inner understanding of the spiritual peace of Islam. He spoke in Tamil, and always ended his discourses with the Tamil word anpu (love, affection). He was the author of several books, including Islam and World Peace, from which this quote is taken:

We are not Muslims if we discard someone saying, "He holds another belief. He belongs to a different religion. His color is not like ours." None of that matters; what we need is to be one. The only real difference between men lies in their conduct and actions, their qualities, and their faith, certitude, and determination. When these are correct, then men are one, with no differences. So, we must keep the good things and wash away the dirt. We must wash our innermost hearts until they become light. We must make all people one with us. The Prophet Muhammad explained this to us, but some of us who came to the world forgot the message Allah sent. We must learn to wash away our separations and become one again. That is true Islam. True Islam has never discarded anyone. Once we entrust the kalima to Allah, we will never again perceive anyone as different from us. We will begin to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Please visit the Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship web site to learn more....

Muhammad Raheem Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, a Sufi mystic, can best be remembered for his efforts to bring unity through understanding to the faithful of all religions.

Little is known of his early personal history. Records of his life began in the early 1900s when religious pilgrims traveling through the jungles of Sri Lanka first caught a glimpse of a holy man. They were overwhelmed by the depth of divine knowledge that he imparted. Sometime later a pilgrim invited him to a nearby village, and with that began his public life as a teacher of wisdom. Throughout Sri Lanka, people from all religious and ethnic traditions would listen to his public discourses. Many consulted him on how to conduct life's affairs, including public figures, politicians, the poor, and the learned.

In 1971 Bawa Muhaiyaddeen accepted an invitation to visit the United States. Here, once again, people from all religious, social, and ethnic backgrounds would join to hear him speak. Across the United States, Canada and England, he won recognition from religious scholars, journalists, educators, and world leaders. The United Nations' Assistant Secretary General, Robert Muller, asked for Bawa Muhaiyaddeen's guidance on behalf of all mankind. Time Magazine turned to him for clarification during the hostage crisis in 1980. Thousands more were touched by his wise words when interviewed in Psychology Today, the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Pittsburgh Press. Wherever he went, he tirelessly answered the many personal and mystical questions that people brought to him until his death on December 8th, 1986. For fifteen years, M. R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen authored over twenty books, and the Fellowship he founded recorded thousands of hours of audio and video discourses. The Bawa Muhaiyaddeen Fellowship now serves as a thriving community dedicated to studying and disseminating the vast treasury of his teachings.

The name Muhaiyaddeen literally means 'the giver of life to the true belief.' And indeed Bawa Muhaiyaddeen did spend his life awakening and strengthening faith in God within people's hearts. Though he was an unlettered man, he was able to guide and inspire people from all walks of life. Many scholars and leaders from the Hindu, Christian, Judaic, and Islamic communities considered him to be a true saint.

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