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.