Malangs: Twined Around Mystic Roots

The term, “Sufi” literally translates to “a person who has no worldly desires”. Sufis or for the lack of a better term, malangs, carved their way to this part of the world through Central Asia back in the sixth century when the Turks invaded parts of Central Asia. Since most of the population in this region followed Islam, therefore, malangs or Sufis were consequently associated with Islam. When in fact, shamanism has nothing to do with Islam. Essentially, shamanism is the art of freeing oneself from the confines of worldly desires and swiftly drifting into the realm of divine affection.

These malangs do not necessarily have one static place they can call home. One could even call them “Nomads of The Mystic World”. They carve their path to places where they find ecstasy; the ecstasy of divine love. You would find them in shrines, temples, mosques, or wherever their journey takes them. This practice traces back to the roots of Sufism or mysticism, where one seeks mystic contentment by simply slashing off the shackles of the material world. Malangs won’t always be found having a tangible form of worship or connection with their creator. Their way of drifting into divine affection could be singing, dancing, writing poetry, meditating, seclusion, zikir, etc.

Sufism is often mistaken as a sect of Islam when in reality, it’s an experiential journey towards mysticism that has no association with the principle teachings of Islam. Although, Sufis throughout Pakistan travel their way from shrine to shrine for festivals known as “urs”. The term “urs” is an Arabic connotation for “marriage”, making these “urs” a symbolic marriage between Sufis and the divine creation. As a tangible form of this spiritual worship, these Sufis could be often found dancing. This dance is called “dhamaal”. Dance is an integral form of connection in mysticism but dhamaal is specific to the South Asian context of mysticism. Dhamaal is known to be the way to exclude worldly thoughts in the arena of mysticism.

Sehwan Sharif, a small town in the province of Sindh is widely known as the mystic hub of South Asia as it is the home to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar’s shrine. Lal Shahbaz Qalandar belonged to the cast of mystics that played the most integral part in integrating Islam throughout the South Asian region. Each year, around two million pilgrims head to Qalandar’s shrine to be a part of the three-day annual urs marking the death anniversary of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. His death is celebrated by his mystic followers to signify the importance of a mystic rejoining the divine creation and therefore, completing the purpose of their mystic journey. 

As the world around us gets louder and louder, mystic Sufis get dissolved into the divine serenity while thumping to the beats of mysticism.


Faiz Ahmed Faiz – A Revolutionary Poet

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, a name known to the poetics in every corner of the world. A soft-spoken, well-mannered, and down-to-earth revolutionist who belonged to a Progress Movement initiated by writers and poets into the 1940s. This group of revolutionists believed in easing the suffering of their communities with the help of art and expression. The words inscribed by these revolutionists were solely written with the intention of empowering their audiences and overpowering the oppression with their activism. Faiz Ahmed Faiz happened to be one of the notable personalities of this movement. 

Born in the cold and breezy February of Sialkot during 1911, Faiz led a life closely knitted with art and literature. Although he was politically affiliated with the military briefly too, he eventually found his way towards his true calling. Faiz started off with romantic poetry as many poets do. He soon realized that there is a whole world of possibilities waiting for him to endeavor. He started becoming more and more aware of the political climate around him, his focus shifted towards that. And that is when he started being vocal about the oppression and exploitation of the masses around him, the aftermath of colonialism that had left strong marks of trauma. Faiz became the voice of the oppressed and he revolted against injustice towards the masses.

Bol, ke labh azaad hain tere

Bol, zubaan ab tak teri hai

Tera sutwaan jism hai tera

Bol, ke jaan ab tak teri hai – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Speak out! Your words are free.

Speak up! Your tongue is still your own.

Your body remains yours ramrod, erect.

Speak out! Your life is still your own. – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

This excerpt has been extracted out of a renowned revolutionary poem by Faiz. This poem speaks to the hearts of those who are oppressed, this poem is the roar of the hearts of those who are oppressed. One can simply say, Faiz became the voice of the voiceless. Although, his passion and compassion did cost him a lot. Due to his vocalness and knack for bringing peace to his community, he was construed as a rebel by the government and therefore, sent to prison for conspiring against the government for five long years. He did not take this detainment as a halt to his revolutionary movement, he wrote and published many empowering pieces from within the confines of a prison cell. He said, “Like love, imprisonment is a basic experience, for it opens many new windows for the soul.” 

Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s literary and revolutionary empowerment of the oppressed was at last a fruitful journey. Faiz’s ability to use literary art as a tool to achieve peace among the people of Pakistan made him the first Asian poet to be awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, the Soviet Union’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Not just this, he also bagged other awards including the Nigar Awards, HRC Peace Prize, Nishan-e-Imtiaz, and Avicenna Prize.


Indigenous Dances of the Subcontinent


Kathak has stemmed from both Islam and Hinduism but, it’s widely known to have evolved in the northern parts of India. The word kathak originates from the concept of kathakars or storytellers. Kathakars or storytellers of Northern India wandered around and communicated legends through the medium of music and dance. The way Kathakars communicated their stories through rhythmic foot movements, hand gestures, facial expressions, and eye work, Kathak evolved into a storytelling performing art. This performing art continued to thrive throughout India so much so that it was widely recognized by the courts and nobles of the Mughal era. By the time the colonial European officials arrived in India, Kathak already became famed as a court entertainment and was more of a fusion of ancient Indian classical dance form. And through the centuries, this classical dance form has been upheld by the masses in both India and Pakistan as a tool for storytelling. 


Another indigenous dance of the subcontinent is Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam is known to be the oldest classical dance in the Indian heritage. It is also labeled as the Mother of Indian Classical Dances. Traditionally, this dance style started being performed by solo women in the Hindu temples of  Tamil Nadu, and gradually, it traveled to other parts of South India. Theoretically, his dance style traces back to ‘Natya Shastra’, the ancient Sanskrit Hindu text on the performing arts. The performers of this art include a singer, a dance, and most importantly, a guru who directs the performance. This dance style became so submersed in the Indian temples that most of the sculptures and paintings now found in the temples of the 6th to 9th century are inspired by this dance style. Many ancient Hindu temples are embellished with sculptures of Lord Shiva in Bharatanatyam dance poses. Notable Bharatanatyam dancers like Arundale and Balasaraswati disseminated the dance form out of Hindu temples and established it as a mainstream dance style. Later the Tamil Hindu migrants revived this Hindu temple dancing custom in British Tamil temples during the late 20th century. In current times, this ancient classical dance form also includes technical performances as well as non-religious and fusion-based themes.


Jhumar originates from Balochi roots, performed by the tribals of Balochistan. It was then traveled into India by the traders of Punjab where it became a very popular dance form. It has now become a very eminent part of the Punjab folk heritage. It is performed in Punjab during the harvest season to reflect the happiness and wellbeing of Punjabi farmers. Sometimes, even acrobats are hired to perform this dance style and entertain the locals. Though it started as a dance of the harvest season, it’s no longer limited to just that. It is performed during melas (festivals), weddings, and many other celebrations. 


A Journey Fulfilled

Rumi’s Dargah at night

I reached Konya after midnight. I took a cab from the airport and went to the city. I only had a backpack and nothing heavy to leave in the hotel room so I decided to roam near Mevlana Rumi’s dargah. As I reached the dargah, I saw a public gathering which was being addressed by the Mayor of Konya. He was campaigning for Erdogan. Sahour was served to all the attendees. 

After Sahour, I went to Shams Tabrez’s Mosque (Shams Tabrez’s grave is located inside the Mosque) and offered Fajr prayers. While sitting there with my eyes closed, I fell into an hour-long peaceful sleep. Upon waking up I headed to my hotel room and slept for a few hours. I couldn’t sleep for long because my actual purpose of visiting Konya was yet to be fulfilled. I left the hotel and headed back to Shams Tabrez’s dargah. As a gesture of respect, I took his permission to visit his student, Mevlana Rumi. The short walk to Rumi’s dargah was full of anticipation because, in just a few minutes, I would finally visit the place I had dreamed of and waited for years. I felt peace, the kind of peace you feel once you take a break after a long journey, only to realize that the actual journey had just begun.

“Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere; they are into each other all along – Rumi.”

Small prayer area inside Rumi’s Dargah

Inside Rumi’s Dargah

Inside Rumi’s Dargah

All the words in the world cannot do justice to what I felt when I entered Mevlana’s tomb for the first time. All I can say is that the feeling was surreal and something that I have not experienced ever again.

At the entrance of the hall of Mevlana’s dargah, which has been converted into a museum, I saw people putting on plastic bag shoe covers. I asked the security in charge if I could take off my shoes and walk barefoot to which he insisted that I put on the plastic shoe covers. After a small argument, however, he allowed me to take off my shoes and go in barefoot.

I entered the hall and started looking for Rumi’s grave (there were other small graves inside the hall as well). When I couldn’t find it, I ended up in a small prayer place inside the hall. I saw a man offering prayers so I decided 

Rumi’s Dargah

to sit there for a while, but as soon as he finished his prayers, I stood up and went towards him. Expecting him to be Turkish, I tried to communicate with him using hand gestures and broken words. “Rumi? Mevlana?” I asked. To which he replied in a perfect English American accent, “It’s over there.” I was relieved to find out that this person was an Iranian-American and that both of us were in Turkey for the same purpose of visiting Mevlana for the first time. Together we tried to find the exact location of the grave. It took us a while to realize that the grave was covered with a plastic separation because of maintenance. 

I sat on the floor next to that plastic separation. My eyes were filled with tears. I complained to Mevlana about this unfair treatment. “Mevlana, this is not fair at all. After years of waiting, I received my call on such a day, when there is a wall separating us.” As soon as the words left my mouth, I realized that I was acting like a child, crying like a stubborn kid, and not happy with the privilege I had already been given. I gathered myself, closed my eyes, and surrendered my will by accepting the fact that this moment had nothing to do with the meeting of physical bodies; this was the love of souls and what I was seeking through this journey, was already inside me. Mevlana and I and all other souls have been created from the same infinite source of energy. 

Rumi’s Dargah

Mevlana is inside me, I am Mevalana. The simple law of attraction works here – “What you seek, is seeking you.” – Mevlana Rumi

After what seemed like hours, I stood up and headed towards the exit of the hall. There I saw the same person who had helped me find the exact location of Mevlana’s grave. I went to him and asked him his name which turned out to be, “Mohammad.” He told me he had not been to Shams Tabrez’s Mosque yet so I offered to show him all the places I had visited so far. He accepted my offer and we walked out to meet his two daughters, Haniya and Hadiya. After visiting the mosque, we continued looking for other interesting places. This family of three was so exceptionally kind and nice that I could not refuse their request of accompanying them to the various places they wanted to visit. Even though I was a stranger to them and they were strangers to me, we did not let that bother us and started talking about many things, including a Mosque in their neighborhood in Maryland, constructed by the Pakistani community, which I had visited during my stay in the US to attend the Moharram procession.

Entrance of Shams Tabrez’s Mosque & Dargah

Hussain & Mohammad outside Dargah

Outside Shams’ Dargah

We visited different places, and the more time we spent together, the more I was amazed by their kindness. Hadiya was very well organized; she had a whole list of things to do in Konya, while Hanya was more like her dad, just enjoying the moment. Muhammad did not let me pay for any site tickets and insisted on paying for the food as well. The day was nearing its end and it was time to say goodbye to these amazing people; we couldn’t add each other on social media as my phone’s battery died. I said goodbye, knowing that I would not meet them again. It was then that I understood that there are times when we should let people live forever in our memories and let the divine energy do its job of teaching us amazing lessons in amazing ways.

I returned to my hotel room and put my phone on charging. Suddenly I received a text message from one of my Indian friends. The message read,

“Ovais Sultan: Koi shakhs mile jo aam ho, aur jisme kashish ho, use musaafa zarur kijiye dargah k aas paas… Shayad koi khaas mil jaaye.”

Translation: If you meet someone at the Dargah, looking ordinary but having positive vibes or attraction, then do greet them; maybe you find someone special.

I smiled because I had already experienced just that.

This world is full of beautiful souls and whoever we meet comes to our life with a special purpose and they stay there till the purpose is accomplished. Sometimes the stay is long while other times it may just be to teach us a small lesson. We may never see these people again because their duty to us is complete. All we can do is to keep our doors open for everyone, for those coming in or for those going out. This is the purpose of our life – to be as transparent as possible and let the light pass through.

Graveyard outside Rumi’s Dargah 


Anataban Campaign: A war of Peace & Arts

Anataban campaign was initiated by a group of young Sudanese artists devoting their lives for combating the social injustice in their country and using all available resources for peace in their society. Anataban was founded in 2016 against the atrocities happening in South Sudan. It was used to promote the public’s emotion and peaceful co-existence in the Sudanese society.

What does the word Anataban mean?

The word Anataban means “I AM TIRED” in Arabic language as the word is of Arabic descent. It symbolizes the emotions of violence, anger, and misery of the members. Anataban consists of artists including actors, musicians, writers, visual artists, fashion designers, and comedians who have worked beyond the natural parameters to provide a platform for the youth of South Sudan to express their emotions and aspirations.

How did it all start?

South Sudan has a population of about 13 million and like most developing countries it lacks the basic necessities a country must have. A majority of the people live under extremely difficult conditions. In 2013, a civil war began in the country between two major ethnic groups, the Dinka’s and the Nuer’s. The war was characterized by armed forces and violence especially against women. They faced extreme sexual violence and killings. The war along with the lack of modern infrastructure led to a decrease in food production, poverty, and hunger in the society. It was then that Anataban was established as a form of expression by the artists for the people against the horrific civil war that affected the lives of so many. The campaign grew gradually and spread across the country. In an interview with the Guardian Anataban said that they were tired of everything that has happened, tired of the conflict between the two ethnic groups, tired of sitting in one place and seeing their country turn into ruins. They are tired of seeing their country, a place with a beautiful cultural diversity and natural resources, turn into ash just for the benefit of a few individuals.

What has the Anataban achieved so far?

In September 2016, Anataban took to the streets of Juda on the International Day of Peace, handing out white handkerchiefs, saying, “We are sorry for what we have done to each other”. In 2017 they launched the #BloodShedFree2017 campaign, the aim of which was to create a ceasefire in South Sudan. Anataban has used music and arts as vital tools for the promotion of peace. They released 2 songs; Ana Taban and Malesh, which hugely affected the masses. They also painted the streets of Juda to highlight the emotions of the people about the war, their experiences of the war, and to give hope for a better future.

What is the future?

Anataban has a strong artistry base and uses artivism to engage people and encourage peace.  The aim of the organization is to create a platform for the people to speak out, express, and have their voices heard. They want to create awareness regarding the struggles of the ordinary people, the insecurity of war, and to promote peaceful coexistence.


Theatrical Arts’ Journey Through Pakistan

The Mughal Raj over the subcontinent has left traces and marks of their dynasty in many significant ways, theatre just happens to be one of them. Theatre is an integral part of the rich Pakistani culture due to the regional folk traditions highly influenced by dance and music. The twentieth-century subcontinent primarily relied on a cinematic mode of theatre for entertainment, live theatre always remained secondary to the cinematic theatre. The same is the case in the twenty-first century. Pakistani viewers are glued to the fabricated screens of cinematic theatre.

Despite the greater influence of cinematic theatre, live theatre seeped its way into Pakistani theatre. Prominent writers like Saadat Hassan Manto are the founding fathers of Pakistani live theatre. Most of Manto’s works are political in nature, nonetheless, these pieces attract audiences for the depth and articulation involved. Post-independence, many artists struggled to find the right path towards Pakistani theatre, that is when small theatrical groups and unions were formed in the newly-born Pakistan.

For the two decades to follow after independence, the film industry and theatre industry flourished with the help of legendary writers like Manto, Khawaja Mueenddin, Khadim Mohyeddin, Imtiaz Ali Taj, and many others. In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Lahore was considered the heart and soul of Pakistani theatre. Theatrical streams of Lahore included two types. First was the college productions staged by Lahore’s Government College and Kinnaird College. Whereas, the second was productions staged by Lahore’s Alhamra Arts Council.

As time progressed, more and more theatrical groups and coalitions started forming. Theatre started thriving in Pakistan, despite the cultural and religious resistance. This resistance added to the drama element of the theatre. In the ‘70s, the Ministry of Culture was established in Pakistan. And with this establishment, came the renowned Lok Vira and Pakistan National Council for Arts (PNCA). But as political conditions in the country deteriorated, Pakistan fell at the mercy of dictatorship and so did the theatre in Pakistan. Creativity came to a halt during this phase under the oppression of censorship and Islamization.

Although, this attempt of incarceration actually ignited the flame of creativity in the artistic minds of Pakistan. The need for social change and peaceful reforms gave birth to groups like Ajoka Theatre and Tehreek-e-Niswaan. These groups played a number of socio-political pieces during this era and advocate peacebuilding, but, behind the closed doors of safety to avoid any incarceration or something even worse. Years passed and the political climate changed, theatre progressed and prospered.

Steadily but surely, theatre seeped its way into Pakistani veins. It can now be inherently found in many shapes and forms. Theatre is now part of the curriculum in some universities and colleges as well. With the establishment of institutions like The National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA), many creative minds have found the vessel to channel their creativity and spread the message of peace. Needless to say, theatre in Pakistan does have strong roots and still has a long way to go.


Truck Art: Ornament of The South Asian Culture

Truck art travels back to the 1940’s subcontinent where Sikh transporters started out painting portraits of Sikh Gurus on their buses, trucks, and lorries. That tradition transgressed into post-independence Pakistan when Muslim transporters penned down portraits of Sufis on their trucks and buses.

As time progressed, so did the art embellished on these trucks. Accessories became more and more conventional, while the slogans became more and more controversial. Bells, mirrors, chains, embellishments, fancy LEDs, 3D stickers, and everything imaginable. Drenched in bright and vibrant colors, these trucks more or less reflect the Pakistani vibrant culture and the diversity that comes along with it. All the vivid colors of these trucks symbolize the liveliness of Pakistani people and truck art becomes a souvenir to all the places it goes to from Northern areas to the southmost corners of Pakistan. 

To a passer-by, this might just merely be a visual form of art. But to these truckers, their truck art is a part of their pride and they wear their pride with immense dignity. Let’s look at it this way like everyone is eager to decorate their houses during the holiday season, our truckers put all kinds of decorations on their beautiful trucks. The only difference is that every day is Christmas day to them. And the sky’s the limit to them when it comes to Christmas ornaments. Be it jingles or chains or motifs, you will find it on these trucks. One would often come across couplets as well, couplets that leave a mark on your heart and mind. If you dive into this art of poetry jumbled up with visual arts, you would often find how this art reflects the hidden meanings attached to these notations. Notations like:

“Mera mazhab ishq ka mazhab jisme koi tafriq nahi

Mere halke me aate hayn Tulsi bhi aur Jami bhi”

With witty slogans and controversial poetry, truck art is no less than competition within the trucker community. Everyone wants to have the best truck art in town with perfect colors that complement the embellishment that come along with it.

Believe it or not, this art sometimes even becomes a form of political rivalry as well. Amusing banter slogans are inscribed on these trucks against the opposition parties. Hefty sums of amounts are spent on portraits of local politicians also. Bottom line is, this truck art is a lot more than just art, it’s a form of expression for the rich traditions of Pakistanis. 


Notable Pakistani Folk Singers



A renowned name among Pakistani folk singers, Reshma was discovered by a TV and radio producer while she was singing a folk song at the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar at the age of 12. She was born into the home of a nomadic banjara of Rajasthan, India. But, her fate displaced her away from her homeland into Karachi after the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Reshma rose to fame after having recorded her world-famous ‘Lal Meri’, a folk song sung to praise Lal Shahbaz Qalandar. She was not only listened to and loved by Pakistani audiences but also, the audiences across borders. She sang many times in India as well. She was also awarded several national awards as well as the most prestigious award of Sitara-e-Imtiaz by the president of Pakistan. After having lived a life full of fame, Reshma died due to throat cancer in 2013. 

Abida Parveen: 


The Sufi superstar of folk music, Abida Parveen was born into a family of renowned mystic singers. Her father, Ustad Ghulam Haider was a famous classical Sufi musician himself. Abida Parveen started singing at the age of three years old and was highly encouraged and trained by her father. From a very early age, she got acquainted with Sufism and thus, spirituality and mysticism got deeply rooted in her personality. This immersion still reflects in her style, her clothing, her music. Abida Parveen says, “The concept of being a man or a woman doesn’t cross my mind. I’m neither on stage, I’m a vehicle on stage for passion.”

Arif Lohar: 


Arif Lohar was born in a small town of Punjab, Lala Musa to a renowned folk singer, Alam Lohar. Arif Lohar started singing at a very early age alongside his father and older brother. He briefly joined the showbiz industry as an actor only to find out that it was not his cup of tea. Arif Lohar has predominantly mastered Punjabi folk singing. He is known for his unique singing style accompanied by a tong-like musical instrument called Chimta. His fame and music outreach is not limited to just Pakistan, he has performed several times across the UK and the Middle East. He has also been rewarded the highest civil award in Pakistan, the Pride of Performance Award by the Government of Pakistan.

Saieen Zahoor:


Originated from the small town of Delalpur, Saieen Zahoor had to free himself from the shackles of normality to set foot on the path of mysticism. Coming from a family of farmers, he did not really have anyone to guide him towards his spiritual journey. But, he received God sent help clues during his dreams where he saw hands reaching out to him from a shrine. Those dreams are what lead him towards his nomadic search for spiritual ecstasy. This search elongated his journey to every corner of Pakistan, and he finally found the shrine from his dream in Uch Sharif, the birthplace of Baba Bulleh Shah. He spent five long years at this shrine seeking spiritual guidance which then lead him onto his path of spreading spirituality through Sufi music. Saieen Zahoor is now a world-famous Sufi musician who has won BBC’s Voice of the Year 2006. He has traveled to many parts of the world spreading Sufism through music and the poetry of Baba Bulleh Shah. 


Qawwali and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan

The origins of Qawwali can be traced back to 8th century Persia. And in the later centuries, it gradually traveled to Turkey, Uzbekistan, and the Indian Subcontinent. Qawwali is a Sufi style expression of music, performed to stimulate religious devotion and closeness to the supreme deity. Predominantly, Qawwalis pertain to the religious praises of the Lord, the saints, the Prophet, and religious teachers. But, some Qawwalis are transcribed to spread the message of worldly love also. Traditionally, Qawwali unites phrases and passages from different poems to create a unified message of spiritual love and praise. Qawwalis are prominently practiced in the Indian Subcontinent, which is why most Qawwalis are in either Punjabi, Urdu, or Persian.

Qawwalis are not a solo experience, the lyrics, the setting, the props are designed to transmit a state of euphoria among everyone in the audiences including the performers. The performers include the lead singer, a couple of singers who follow the lead singer, a group of performers responsible for the rhythmic hand clapping, and instrumentalists responsible for traditional beats of tabla, harmonium, dholak, and sorangi.

It is close to impossible for one to think of Qawwali and not immediately associate it with the legendary Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan was born in Faisalabad on October 13, 1948, into the family of generational Sufi qawwals. Khan’s father, Ustad Fateh Ali Khan was also a famous Sufi qawwal. The mystic aptitude for singing was inherited by Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan as an heirloom. An heirloom that he then polished and presented for the world to be mesmerized. 

Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan devoted himself to qawwali ever since the first time he publicly performed at his father’s funeral in 1964. In a matter of a few years, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan had become a world-famous qawwal by touring many parts of Europe and the United States. He introduced people from across the world to the art of Sufi qawwalis and the euphoria attached to it. Until Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan started playing internationally, qawwalis were considered a purely religious expression. But, his many performances in secular environments helped transform this powerful, devotional form into an emblem of South Asian culture recognized around the world.


Arts – The Visual Essence of Mystic Language

Art is an integral part of any society – not only because of what it represents but also because of how it makes an individual feel. Art is the soul of many cultures and religions. To understand the depth of mystic principles and practices, art has been widely used around the world.

Mysticism and arts have always gone hand in hand. While it is true that the essence of mysticism does reside in arts, it is not that simple. A person needs extensive knowledge of both the subject matters to understand what is being discussed. Bernard McGinn, in his piece on mysticism and arts, said that mysticism and art have gone hand in hand in a strange manner because the conjunction is paradoxical and it involves a hidden and secret perception of God.

It is important to understand the contradictory nature of arts and mysticism. It is fairly easy to misinterpret one and the other.  Mystics have wrestled with arts as history has shown- what may not be evident in words may become clear in arts. What a person sees, they are more likely to believe than what they hear. It is this significance of arts in mysticism that gives a physical presence to the meaning of mysticism.

In Christian mysticism, the cross is a very important symbol, it represents the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the redeeming benefits of his passion and death. The cross is thus a sign of both Christ himself and of the faith of Christians. Art in Christianity has played a bold and distinguished role. From ecstatic vision to theosis, arts in Christian mysticism dates back to the 2nd century. Scenes from the bible, the Virgin Mary, the life of Christ, and many other visual representations in Christian arts give visual essence to the historical events and give the overall religion a physical presence. 

In Sufism the ritual of Sema or Sama, the whirling dance, is a form of art that presents the essence of God. The essence of His goodness, His beneficence, and His love for the people. Dhamaal, another representation, which is more common in Southeast Asia, is the act of spiritual cleansing. Calligraphy is also an expression of art in Islam that has become very famous as it provides a link between the religion and its followers of different cultures. Calligraphy is seen as the aesthetic expression of Allah’s messages. The origin of calligraphy can be traced back to the 7th century when it was used to write the Quran.

Art like mysticism, does not have any boundaries. Both promote peace and humanity. One concentrates on peace with oneself leading to peace among human diversity while the other promotes peace through the links it creates between mankind. Common art can be anything that looks beautiful but a true believer of the mystic values knows that there is no question that art truly is the visual essence of mystic language.